Wayne is a senior web developer at AvalonBay. He was a beekeeper for many years even though he was allergic to bee stings. Having survived that, he turned his attention to photography. Wayne experienced the allure of film and darkrooms briefly before the switch to digital.
Wayne and his wife Lisa moved to the Washington DC area in 2009. Now they travel and annoy their friends with happy Facebook posts, sketches, and photos. You can find him @thumeco.
Fear is an emotion that can effect you in the workplace just as easily as it can in a life threatening situation. For some people, the fear of public speaking can make them as fearful as if someone were to point a gun at them.
My fear was bees. This stemmed from my having an intensely allergic reaction from a bee sting as a child. I was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
Yet as a young adult, I decided to take up beekeeping as a hobby. The benefits of beekeeping seemed to outweigh the fear of being stung. I am a web designer and developer. The designer gives me a fascination of natural beauty. The developer adds a somewhat annoying love of the details (trivia).
First the trivia
- To produce a pound of honey a bee would have to travel a distance equivalent to flying around the earth twice.
- A single bee only lives long enough to produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey
- A good beekeeper can harvest 50 pounds of honey per year per hive
- Bees consume 8 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax
- In 1973 Karl von Frisch received a Nobel Prize for deciphering the Waggle dance. This is a figure-eight dance of the honey bee. By performing this dance, bees share information with the colony about the direction and distance to patches of flowers.
I read endlessly about bees. I got all the necessary equipment and one day a 3 pound package of honey bees arrived at the post office. The postal service was quite eager for me to come immediately and pick them up.
In brief, here are the preparations: You need a hive, which is a box filled with frames of wax to help the bees get started. The package of bees came with a queen in a separate box. The bees are loyal to the queen. It was important to keep the queen in the hive for a few hours. Otherwise she and all the bees would fly off and put a sad end to my first experience as a beekeeper.
You also need a smoker, a device you fill with scraps of paper and dried grass. You ignite it an let it smolder to create billowing smoke using the bellows on the handle. Smoke triggers the fear instinct in bees. Their fear reaction is to gorge themselves on honey so they can transport it away from the fire and start a new colony. When they are so engorged, it’s difficult for the bees to bend their abdomen enough to sting you.
I had my hive, my bees, my smoker and my protective gear. The gear consisted of a mesh hat, gloves, and overalls. I pulled my socks above the overalls so that bees could not crawl up my legs.
Reading is grand but it never prepares you for doing. The first thing that happened was that my smoker went out. I had to do the rest of the operation with bees quite capable of stinging. I successfully placed the queen bee in the hive. Next I had the rest of the bees to put in the hive. A three pound package contains about 12,000 bees. The box has a narrow opening so you must turn the box upside down and shake the bees into the hive.
The Supreme Moment of Fear
There is nothing equal to the sound of thousands of angry bees swarming around you. Bees who are willing to give their lives to protect the queen. One might think that was my supreme moment of facing fear and it nearly was. Yet in my moving about, one of my socks came loose and I began to feel bees crawling up my pant leg. THAT was my supreme moment of fear with the added surround sound of the bees swarming all about. Fear imbeds itself in your brain. Time stands still. I can still recreate this moment in my mind with all the emotion.
These are the turning point moments in life. “Fear serves two main purposes: it’s supposed to jack you up with enough adrenaline to fight a threat, and to etch the experience into your brain so you know how to avoid it in the future.” Should I turn and run or move forward? I continued on. It was my fault that these creatures were angry and afraid. It was my responsibility to care for them. I finished emptying the bees into the hive, and replaced the lid. I returned to the house and carefully rolled up my pants leg and brushed the bees away. I wasn’t stung that first day. I was stung many times in the years to follow but suffered no ill effects. I was a successful beekeeper for many years.
For those who like a moral to their stories, I found an anonymous quote that sums up the experience:
“Waiting to develop courage is just another form of procrastination. The most successful people take action while they’re afraid!”
Dealing With Post-Conference Blues
Have you been to a conference that pumped you up so much that you wanted to come back and change the world? I’ve been lucky enough to go to more than one like that. The most recent was the Smashing Conference in New York City this spring. I think I must have stayed awake almost the whole four days. Both the conference and New York City excited me. One morning I got up at 5:00 to walk through Central Park before the conference. I found that it was much larger than I imagined (778 acres). Over three hours later, I finally reached the top of the park to find that I was over 4 miles away from a conference that started at 9:00. Then I got my adrenaline pumping by taking a high speed cab ride through the heart of the city at rush hour. That was the perfect way to prepare my mind for the excitement, creativity, and inspiration that followed.
I returned to work ready to share knowledge and push forward some ideas for improvement. At first it went well. I gave presentations to Marketing and to my local Toastmasters club which were well received. Then I presented to my department and nothing changed. I had changed but I had not been able to supercharge my co-workers in any meaningful way.
While not unexpected, you can’t let other’s reactions discourage you. You can’t distill the essence of a conference into a single speech. Your best bet is to use that knowledge at work and soon people will be coming to you.
- The speeches are important as they force you to summarize your experiences and lay the foundation of the work to follow.
- The speeches also put the seed of an idea in the minds of management.
- This will bring more attention to your work. Use the last bit of post-conference energy to generate new energy and excitement.
You may be tempted to spend extra time working so that you can come up with the magic that will impress management. I would argue against this. It will work at first but once you start working overtime, you will find yourself succeeding at the price of your free time. You’re going to need that free time if you ever expect to be happy. The creativity sparked in the spaces outside of work will more than make up for any time lost at work.
We now live in a computer age where there is too much candy in the candy shop and we want to try every piece.
This is a wondrous time to live and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My first job in the late 1980’s involved sorting punched cards at a company that was behind the times. I had to wire boards by hand to punch extra information into groups of cards. Computer manuals filled up racks. Pages had strange notations like, “this page intentionally left blank”. This is what I refer to as The Dark Ages.
Today we deal with the explosion of new web tools that come to us daily. Smashing Magazine is a main source for me but I also listen to podcasts, read books, and try tools as they become available.
Drinking game for web devs:
- Think of a noun
- Google "<noun>.js"
- If a library with that name exists - drink
(This retweeted so many times, I don’t know the original source)
So how do you keep your head around all the new technology? You use another app. My current favorite is Evernote. It saves my information many different ways (email, mobile, images, screen captures, etc…). Now I have a huge repository of information and it’s all searchable.
Once you have a searchable collection of tools, how do you decide which ones to use?
“Aye, there's the rub”
If you use too many tools, you run the risk of creating a product you’ll never be able to maintain.
Even for this article I can't resist using a variety of apps on my iPad:
- Hanx Writer an app sold by Tom Hanks to make it feel like you're typing on an old typewriter (love the sound and feel).
- Hemmmingway App to help make my writing more bold and clear.
- iA Writer Pro for syntax analysis and because it's such an elegant tool.
What can we do to avoid burnout as our innate curiosity compels us to look at every new shiny toy that captures our eye? You need to incorporate some forced time off the grid each week.
I like to walk and I use an app called Fog of the World. It shows a satellite street map of the world. Everywhere but the places you’ve walked show as covered with fog. I was walking in the same places every day and the app helped me pick a different route and see more. Sadly, I wasn’t feeling relaxed. I was listening to technical podcasts while I walked. I was focused more on learning than in exploring reality. Once I turned off the podcasts, my brain was free to wander and both my mind and body explored. After coming back from these breaks, I was better able to pick the right tools for the job needed.
Life is crazy. Take some breaks. Enjoy the ride.