For how much exploring I’ve done in California, so little of it has been south of Monterey. I’ve visited some of the “heavy hitters,” if you will – Joshua Tree, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Sequoia National Forest – but my tendency is to drive north of the Bay especially for shorter weekend trips. As a result, I’ve only been to California’s Central Coast once or twice and even then only briefly. Last weekend, however, Thomas and I drove four hours south to join a few friends who have been staying in Morro Bay, a beautiful coastal town just outside of San Luis Obispo.
Between Thomas’ school and job, covid, and our move to Berkeley, it’s been a while since we got out of town. Thomas has also been anti-weekend-trip because he “dislikes driving distances over two hours” but apparently when his football-watching and board-game-playing buddies are there, he’ll gladly make the trip.
Most of our road trips consist of me hogging the aux cord and playing my favorite music while he complains that it’s putting him to sleep. This time, however, we downloaded an audio book he needed to read for class and, with the help of the 1.5x speed feature, listened to the entire book on the drive there. While the book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, was assigned by his professor in the context of navigating policy negotiations, I listened to it through the lens of our marriage (“How can I win more arguments about what we should eat for dinner?”). It is, of course, one of those books where the negotiation framework presented is applicable to many things: relationships, business, communication, decision-making, etc. My general reaction to the book was, “I don’t think these guys needed to write a whole book to explain these concepts” (which is how I feel about a lot of “business” books) but it was interesting to think about how the principles applied to my job and relationships.
In general, the book’s concepts were straightforward and intuitive: don’t approach negotiations with a fixed position; rather, work to understand everyone’s interests and goals first and then identify possible options that can elicit mutual benefit. Nothing the book explained was new or surprising to me, though it did provide more structure to what I’ve already found to be successful in my job. Perhaps my biggest takeaway was that being a Product Manager is really just a lot of negotiation (which, again, is obvious if you take a moment to think about it). The authors’ principles for successful negotiation aligned with what I’ve seen from the best product managers when it comes to making difficult decisions or having tough conversations: identify everyone’s interests and stakes, understand everyone’s motives, lay out the problem first rather than jumping to solutions, make others feel involved in the decision-making process, etc.
…wow, gross, this is not becoming a “How to Be A Good Product Manager” blog, I promise! My worst fear (aside from mediocrity, death, and Thomas running off with a beautiful French woman) is becoming one of those LinkedIn influencers who thinks they have something revolutionary to say.
Anyway. We arrived a few hours later in Morro Bay and enjoyed the most relaxing weekend we’ve had in a while. It consisted of many of my favorite things: burritos, beer, sunrises, sunsets, ocean, friends, mint chip ice cream, music,
board games, and trails.
At the risk of getting too personal too quickly: it was the first time in a while I had few days where I didn’t feel bad about myself. For one, I wasn’t working and therefore didn’t have my usual thoughts of, “you’re messing up at your job,” “your career isn’t going anywhere,” “you should be doing more,” “your coworkers hate you,” etc. Next, I spent time doing only things I enjoyed rather than things I felt I should be doing or were doing as a means to an end. By which I mean: I went surfing and absolutely sucked at it and had the most amazing time ever. I drank beer and ate chips and tacos and ice cream and didn’t give a fuck what I looked like because that seemed so trivial in the grand scheme of my life. Lastly, and most importantly, I surrounded myself with people who made me feel good. I’m convinced there is no greater path to happiness than to seek out people who don’t make you feel like you need to be someone else, either explicitly or implicitly. Be honest with yourself about who – maybe through no fault or intention of their own – makes you feel bad or less-than or like you need to change, and remove them from your life. (This includes on social media, by the way.)
Though they might not realize it, the people with whom I spent the weekend are the kind of people who shift my mindset from “you should be doing this” to “who gives a sh*t if you’re not doing this or achieving that, life is so much bigger than how you feel about yourself.”
It never hurts to have the trees and waves and mountains to remind you of your insignificance either.