Ten Years Later

On my last business post about the upcoming BPM conferences where I will be speaking, I accidentally typed “2001” instead of “2011” for the title. As I fixed up that little goof, it had me think about the past 10 years. 10 years ago, I was finishing off my last few weeks as an evangelist for FileNet, having given my notice at the beginning of August, and I ended it with a customer trip east just before the Labour Day weekend, swinging back through Toronto to see friends before my last few days at work in southern California. September 6th, I was out of there, putting all my belongings into storage, packing the necessities into the tiny trunk of my S2000, and heading north with the top down. Destination: Vancouver, by way of everyone who I knew on the west coast for a grand tour/extended farewell party, (Canadian) Thanksgiving with my bro in Vancouver, then off to New Zealand and Australia for a couple of weeks walkabout before deciding on what was next.

FileNet had been part of my mid-life crisis. Working for my own companies (one product, one services) for 13 years before joining FileNet in 2000, I had just shut down my 40-person services company and decided to take some time off. FileNet execs had a different idea, and convinced me to relocate from Toronto to Costa Mesa and create my own position there. I picked “Director of eBusiness Evangelism” as my title, worked directly for the president, and travelling to 14 countries in 16 months. I loved the job, the people and the travel, but poisonous corporate politics eventually wore me down, and I decided to call it a learning experience and move on. Hence the road trip, to meet up with all the great west coast FileNeters who I had worked with, then off to Australia to see the gang down there.

Five days later, things changed. I was in Lake Tahoe when the planes hit the towers, and heard about it when  a friend called me that morning from Sacramento, where we were supposed to meet that evening. “Turn on your TV”, he said. “I’m in a cabin in the woods, I don’t have one”, I replied. So he described the events of 9/11 to me, the towers having already fallen, before I headed for the main lodge where I spent the day watching the news coverage and trying to get word of NYC-based friends and colleagues.

With life seemingly frozen in time, I decided there was no better time to take a real break, like I should have done back in 2000 instead of joining FileNet: I spent a month driving up the coast to Vancouver, a leisurely 10 days there, then a trip to New Zealand and Australia that ended up lasting three months (after my host down there pointed out that I didn’t have a job, so didn’t really need to go back after three weeks as originally planned).

January 2002, I finally ended up back in Toronto, the city that owns my heart, picked up some consulting and did my third incorporation to form Kemsley Design. That turned into more implementation consulting work, business blogging, conference presentations and industry analyst cred, and I’ve been doing the one-person consulting gig ever since. I sometimes think that I have one last startup left in me, but really like the lifestyle of the independent consultant.

Kemsley Design hasn’t quite reached the 10-year mark, but it started with that decision 10 years ago to get out of a corporate culture that was bad for me. Happy anniversary to my decision to get back to doing the work that I love.

Schadenfreude x 3

Schadenfreude isn’t a word that usually comes up in my personal conversations, but it’s cropped up three times in the past few days, which deserves a post.

Sunday night, Ingrid called me: “Turn on the TV, your ex-husband is on 60 Minutes!” In the middle of serving dinner, I didn’t bother, then she called me back later to give me the blow-by-blow: his third wife has some weird form of depression (well, look who she married 😉 ) that required them to drill into her brain and attach some electrodes. Of course, three other people would subsequently call or email to tell me the same thing, thinking that I might have some sort of weird fascination with my ex, who is certifiably crazy, and his apparently somewhat disturbed wife. Ingrid made two comments to me that stuck with me: “You aren’t going to blog about this, are you?” (yeah, right) and “Well, you have to feel sorry for her.”

Actually, I don’t feel any such obligation. After I announced my intention to leave my ex but we were still living in the same house — and running a 40-person business together — we agreed that we would not see other people until we were out from under the same roof in order to try and preserve our sanity and the business. Within a few days, he made it pretty obvious that he wasn’t keeping to his part of the bargain, and even made it known who she was: Ms “I’m So Depressed” from 60 Minutes, no less, who he met at a Landmark course (also known as “nutbar central”). I left her a message explaining what he and I had agreed, appealing to any sense of goodness that she might have possessed, saying that it was going to be very hard to keep the company together under the circumstances. He came back to me the next day with a rant, claiming that I had threatened her, and the rest is history: with 51% ownership of the business, I decided to shut it down a few months later.

I have to say, I felt a frisson of satisfaction that after some years of fighting her depression by sleeping with married men and adopting babies from China, she’s still miserable. Uncharitable, I know, but I couldn’t help that brief moment of pleasure. I made the mistake of sharing it with Damir, who responded that the German’s have a word for that — schadenfreude, which means to derive pleasure from the misfortune of others (damn that European education!) — and that maybe I shouldn’t indulge in it. His comment made me think, and I managed to stop gloating and put the entire topic out of my mind.

The next day, I clicked through to a link on a friend’s site, and there is was — schadenfreude — although seemingly out of context, and now I can’t even find it there. My overactive imagination, perhaps?

Then on Tuesday, I read Rick Mercer’s blog, and there it was again, in reference to Conrad Black wanting to get his Canadian citizenship back again after rejecting us all in favour of becoming a Lord.

Okay, I get it. I’m stopping the schadenfreuding, already.