First off, I'd like to apologize to those of you who read my site with any regularity. Whether or not you know it, the last few weeks have been "interesting" in my life. Things haven't been quite the same around here. As I wrote three weeks ago in Flying as Therapy:

The last few days have been interesting (in the Chinese proverb sort of way) and educational (in a "I learned something about myself the hard way" sort of way), so the 2.2 hour trip was a good way to get out today.

That turned out to be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

If you're not interested in a bit of my personal life, please stop reading here. I know that a lot of you are here for tech stuff or flying pictures. This is neither of those.

Separate and Unequal

I've tried really hard to keep my life compartmentalized to some degree. I rarely write here about really personal stuff. I also rarely discuss such things at work. But that doesn't always work so well.

For the last 7-8 years (probably longer), my life has primarily been about a very few things:

  • Work (Yahoo!)
  • Writing (magazine articles, my book, and my blog)
  • Flying

The flying was a recent addition that restarted about 4 years ago. But together those three things consumed most of my life: work time and "free" time included. This is, I fear, partly a result of who I am and partly a result of living in Silicon Valley. The culture here rewards intensity and focus, often to the exclusion of other important things.

Keen readers are looking at my list of three things and noticing that there's something very important missing. That's right. All of my non-work friends have been flying friends. There really were no other relationships. (That's not entirely true, but it's also not worth explaining right now what the non-local exceptions were/are.)


There was a real hole in my life until recently. And it wasn't until recently that I understood that.

Please excuse my need to keep things a bit vague (see "compartmentalization"), but in the last few months that's been changing. As a result, I've been struggling with what some call "life balance." Struggling more than I realized until very recently. It's harder than I thought to change my patterns of thinking and acting. Even harder at times to make my words and actions match up. Hard to make room, despite the absolute best of intentions and beliefs. Hard to let myself be drawn out.

I've been quite surprised at the difficultly involved so far and I know there's more to come (or at least there ought to be). I've repeatedly let myself be guided by the wrong instincts, old beliefs, or held back by a stupid fear.

And you know what? It just plain sucks. And I have nobody to blame but myself.

I think I've managed to practically blast an even larger hole in the place of the previous one. :-(

I'd also like to apologize to the coworkers that I haven't been able to give 100% to recently.

Hopefully I'll be back to my regular self (or an improved version of me) before too long. But these things can take time. Until then things may be quiet around here a bit longer.

Finally, unless something dramatic happens, I'll be gone all of next week.

Posted by jzawodn at May 31, 2007 12:41 PM

Reader Comments
# Jeremy Johnstone said:

Good luck with your endeavor. Let me know what works for you (finding that happpy balance) as I badly need to find something myself!

on May 31, 2007 12:56 PM
# Tinu said:

I have to applaud you for being able to say Anything about your personal life in public. It's hard, I've been there. Totally get the compartmentalization thing. And the, wow, do I have any non-professional friends thing. I noticed you said you have no one to "blame" but yourself. I'm hoping you picked that word because it was the nearest one. It's hard enough without the guilt and ... for me it was shame. I had a hard time letting that go but when I did, it was like the difference between breathing pollution and inhaling mountain air.

It's just your journey. That's all it is and the hardest part of the whole thing is realizing what's been wrong. When you get the hang of it, correcting it will be easier than it seems. maybe a bit painful, but easy. Best of luck. I only say that because that's what you say... because I Know you'll come out the other side in fantastic shape.

on May 31, 2007 01:19 PM
# alice said:

Man, Zawodny getting emo on us.

on May 31, 2007 02:08 PM
# GilbertZ said:

Hey Jeremy,

Sorry to hear you're having trouble. Best of luck with everything.

on May 31, 2007 02:15 PM
# John said:

Congratulations! (I hope)

on May 31, 2007 02:16 PM
# Scott Clark said:

Good luck with it Jeremy. From what I can tell you normally give more like 150% anyhow.

on May 31, 2007 02:20 PM
# Bill said:

Have you ever read Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka? The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

I too remember the moment when I became painfully aware of the my own transformation. The one where in The personae I’d assumed at work had become who I was instead of who I was pretending to be. My 3 year old son met me on the front porch as happy as a son could be to see his father come home from work. As I came up the front steps he eagerly asked if I wanted to play with him on the trampoline, or as he called it “the jumping-keen”, in the backyard. Instead of dropping my bag inside the door and jumping with him until it was his bedtime, maybe even a little later, I told him I had work to do and I didn’t have time for him. He looked up at me and said with a genuine sadness that only children possess, “That’s OK Daddy. Maybe you’ll have some time for me tomorrow.”

You're right....these things do take time. Last month I began a new job and where I am is a world away from where I was. Good luck healing.

on May 31, 2007 02:25 PM
# Randy Stewart said:


Sorry to hear about your difficulties... I had a huge revelation after my 5.5 years at Yahoo! and I realized how much Yahoo! had consumed my life. I guess I should restate, I realized how much I had allowed Yahoo! to consume my life.

I had accumulated a lot of time off, so I took it in one fell swoop and I spent a month in Australia playing the travel bum. I didn't think I could possibly take that much time off and find stuff to do with myself.

Needless to say, I did. Not only that, but I found the courage to do what I had originally wanted to do and that was leave the company and travel for some undefined period of time. A month after I left, I started dating Heather and married her a little more than a year later. I count myself as being extremely lucky for both being able to do what I did as well as knowing myself well enough that I knew I had to cut and run.

This isn't a dig at Yahoo! by any means, but while I was there I commuted 2 hours a day, gained a fair bit of weight and really didn't have many relationships outside of the company. It wasn't until I got my head out of there that I was able to see the world a bit differently.

I don't know specifically how you're feeling, I can tell you that I've been there. And it sucks.

I'm not telling you to leave the company, stop blogging, stop flying or anything, but when it was me, I needed a change. Better yet, I needed to take a real mental vacation to even come to that realization.

Anyhow, sorry for the ramblings. I don't know your exact situation, but I hope I've been somewhat helpful.


on May 31, 2007 02:41 PM
# said:

good luck .... and we better not see any more posts about desktop tower defense high scores ;)

on May 31, 2007 03:35 PM
# Vinny Lingham said:

Hey Jeremy

I'm going through a similar phase in my life. It's been fun personally for me, but realistically, it's been torment on my personal life. I spent 5 months away from home last year - just a bit too much to handle and after a few years at something, sometimes you just need a change.

Good luck and best wishes!


on May 31, 2007 03:46 PM
# M said:

Talented writer--One of the best pieces you've written: courageous, inspiring, relevant, provocative, moving, powerful, wow, I was moved to comment, thank you; good luck

on May 31, 2007 03:52 PM
# Damon said:

Hi Jeremy,

As one of the first blogs I ever subscribed to, you have been an inspiration to me and I have continued to follow your site ever since I first laid eyes on your mysql-fu.

Sorry to hear of the rough patches, but best of luck in balancing out your life. I too recently had a bit of an awakening and it's definitely tough, but I'm much happier for it!

on May 31, 2007 04:11 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


No, haven't read it. But sounds like an apt reference.


Thanks for the kind words. I'm looking forward to the day when things are better in line but just wish I knew for sure it was going to be soon.

on May 31, 2007 04:22 PM
# Manuzhai said:

Good for you. Hope it works out.

on May 31, 2007 04:24 PM
# Joe Zawodny said:

There will be hard (maybe not) choices ahead. I went through the initial stages of this a while back. I basically decided that 8-hours a day 5 days a week was what I was being paid for. So, I decided to leave work at work - no emails, no phone calls, no tinkering at home. Hobbies and family helped a lot. The past year or so I was experimenting with management. Over New Years I concluded that management was more than 9-5 M-F, a lot more hassles, and for very little additional reward. I don't have the ego to feed either which helps. Everyone has a different balance point and it does change with time. It is good to reevaluate things and set proper expectations. Improperly set expectations are the fundamental cause of disappointment and unhappiness. For me work needs to have meaning and that was another thing I changed over New Years. I've been pretty happy since then. Work is fun again and so is not working. Good Luck with the quest.

on May 31, 2007 04:44 PM
# (Not So) Young and Dumb said:

Hi Jeremy-

To quote our previous President, "I feel your pain". I gave 10 years of my life (80+ hours/week, not taking all the vacation I was entitled to, etc.) to my Silicon Valley employer.

During this time, I had two failed relationships (mostly because of my work/travel schedule). No matter how well either lady thought she could handle my 'lifestyle', it turned out to be too much to bear.

During this time, I gained (slowly) 50+ pounds, became miserable to be around, and lost the love of my life. I have a quasi-healthy bank account balance to show for it, but that's about it.

To add insult to injury, after 'giving' those 10 years, freely, my employer recently changed a lot of policies/procedures/links in the management chain, and, I was told that I should start looking for a new job, because, "I've been here too long".

New management's philosophy = 2 years in any one job is the absolute maximum you should ever be there. Last quote in a staff meeting (to our 'senior' group) = 'the problem with you guys is that you know too damn much; you know why things won't work'. We need new blood (that won't question our insane decisions or talk back).

I won't have to work for several years, and probably will need at least 6 months to recharge.

"Don't give your life to anyone/anything that can't kiss you back" is my new philosophy.

on May 31, 2007 05:38 PM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

jzawodn said:
|> I'd also like to apologize to the coworkers that I haven't been able to give 100% to recently.

Dude, that statement shows that you still don't get it. It should be "Please get used to not getting 100% of my life. From now on, work gets only 100% of my work time."

In the long run it's better for Yahoo! anyway, because a well-rounded happy worker doesn't burn out, produces more with the time alloted, and stays around longer.

It took me a long time to figure that out, and when I did, Yahoo! cut me loose. I don't think you'll be moving to Japan as part of your "figuring it out," so you probably don't have to worry about being cut loose :-)

on May 31, 2007 06:50 PM
# SteveC said:

I have always believed life is a full circle, you know, like a ferris wheel. Each day you move some around the circle, some days faster or slower than others. When I'm riding high at the top of the circle, I've learned not to be too cocky, because at some point I'll be heading for the bottom. Likewise, when it feels like I am at the bottom of the circle and nothing is going right, I've learned not to be depressed, because the only direction is up! Have faith, and keep going. You'll find the answer!

on May 31, 2007 07:19 PM
# jr said:

Well,congrats on realizing something was wrong.

Most people love ruts. They love patterns and repetition. They go to the same restaurants, talk to the same people, do the same things time and time again because it's "normal". Sure, they talk a good game about how they love change and occasionally go out and do something different, but for the most part, they stay right where they are. It takes a different sort of person to actually be different.

I'm just as bad as anyone else, but I've tried really hard to make my patterns fall into areas that I love. I spend a lot of time online, but then, that's what I love doing. I play with peoples websites, because that's what makes me really happy.

But I'm weird (and incredibly lucky). My work is my play.

Growing up, we looked forward to recess. We looked forward to summers off and long afternoons. We played.

Go out and play, young man.

on May 31, 2007 07:42 PM
# Matt Cutts said:

Good post; let us know how it goes. If you ever want to get together and not talk about search engines or blogging sometime, I'd be up for that. There's got to be other things to do in Silicon Valley; maybe indoor sky diving:


on May 31, 2007 08:03 PM
# KatieJS said:

I have full confidence that you will pull through. Take the time you need to heal yourself. Work, friends, family and everything else can wait.

Let me know if you want to hang out and let me make you a homemade meal (or buy it at a nice restaurant and try to trick you that I made it). :)


on May 31, 2007 08:15 PM
# E. David Zotter said:

There are many tradeoffs in life.

This one seems easy.

Less work.
Less writing.
Less flying.

More girls.
More girls.
More girls.


-E. David Zotter

on May 31, 2007 09:44 PM
# Pete Wailes said:

Hey man. Sucks that things are so pants right now. If there's anything I can do give me a shout. And next time I'm over your side of the pond I'll buy you a cold one.

Take it easy.

on June 1, 2007 01:40 AM
# sylvia said:

A lot of support here in your comments... I'll just add a virtual *hug* from a stranger. Relying on the kindness of, etc.


on June 1, 2007 01:46 AM
# Percy said:

Hi Jeremy:

I'm one of those regular readers of your blog and I mostly lurk but this time I've come out of the shadows to leave a comment.

Sorry to hear that you're having a hard time. I hope that you do find the right work-life balance.

I keep pointing people to "The Seven Day Weekend" (Ricardo Semler) every chance I get, so I'm doing that here as well. It's a book that really influenced my life and changed the way I think, so if you haven't read it, maybe it's worth checking out.

And, good luck with everything. Take a break from blogging if you have to but do come back because I'm sure a lot of readers, like me, enjoy reading your blog.

on June 1, 2007 01:51 AM
# Christian Cadeo said:


Good luck with whatever it may be. I have and will continue to enjoy your commentary regardless if it is about the industry or personal.


on June 1, 2007 03:37 AM
# Matt Alonso said:

Hey Jeremy,

Best of luck with everything man. In theory, balance seems like something that should be rather straight forward to achieve but it never proves to be that simple in real life.

Just don't forget that it is your life and you need to make yourself happy first and in doing so everything else will tend to fall into place. I wish you the best of luck with your endeavor.

PS - Sorry if any of that came across as philosophic or self-help BS; that wasn't the intention.


on June 1, 2007 04:59 AM
# jh said:

Hi Jeremy,

i am a regular reader of your blog. Get well soon !

Would be nice to read more about your journey on your blog (so please don't stop blogging in total).

Best Regards from Germany

on June 1, 2007 06:05 AM
# Duff said:

You're really a victim of the notion that society pushes on us that you can be whatever you want to be with no trade offs. Its a siren song that lures in alot of people like you (and me) and is difficult to escape from.

I remember reading another blog where the author wrote some really interesting and intelligent stuff. He posted almost every day and mentioned his personal life a little bit. I was thinking "wow, this guy has a big job and a wife and kids and somehow manages to get all of this stuff done, how does he do it?" The answer of course was that he wasn't able to do it -- he was ignoring his family.

The bad news is that you can't have it all. The good news is that when you treat yourself as a scarce commodity, its easier to focus on what is really important to you.

on June 1, 2007 09:07 AM
# Danny Sullivan said:

Don't spend the time on the blame game, Jeremy -- or feeling that you've let people down. You should take all the time you need to figure out the things you want to do in life, understanding that your friends, coworkers, readers and others will want only the best for you.

Often if I feel overwhelmed, I think ahead to a point I know I'll remember in a few days, weeks or months. Say it's a vacation trip I'll be going on. I'll think to myself that when I walk into the hotel, I'll think back to that point when it seemed like I never would get through everything and realized that somehow, I did. I call it time traveling, and I've found it really works.

However you get through things, just remember again that you have far more support than you might imagine and that no one is going to be feeling let down.

on June 1, 2007 10:20 AM
# Casper said:


As a long (!) time lurker I feel I might as well give it a long shot.. You mentioned Tim Ferris and the new book of his in one of your recent posts. I can't thank you enough for that, btw! The book is literally changing my life these days, and I assume (without having clue, of course) that you might find yourself in the middle of a similar process. If I'm right, welcome to a completely new perspective on life. If not, all the best of luck with whatever troubles you!


on June 1, 2007 11:47 AM
# blech said:


it doesn't surprise me that you would want to disengage a little. enthusiastic corporate participants tend to get disillusioned when the fortunes of the firm decline.

like chuck palahniuk said, you are not your job. its a simple statement that often takes valley types a decade or so to grasp. yahoo could be called microsoft next year. don't tie your heart to the company, it is just a legal structure to allow people to accumulate money, which is not always coincident with your happiness.

two recommendations. one, have a family. if you want to enthusiastically engage people, you will find a family more rewarding than a corporation. two, read philosophy focusing on your responsibilities in making your own life. start with kierkegaard and nietzsche.

on June 1, 2007 12:25 PM
# Ask Bjørn Hansen said:

What Jeffrey said!

Just the concept of "giving 100%" is idiotic. It's not a zero-sum game! It's just that when you just work work work then it looks that way.

(not that I, by any means, have figured out the balance yet ...)

- ask

on June 2, 2007 01:03 PM
# Dave B said:

The amount of feedback indicates that you were wrong when you said "I know that a lot of you are here for tech stuff or flying pictures."

I think a lot of us geeks appreciate a little humanity. Thanks for sharing yours.

Good luck.

on June 3, 2007 12:09 PM
# Jim Howard said:

As far as content goes, I'm also a flying geek, so either works for me.

I certainly wish you luck in your life refactoring.

on June 3, 2007 02:52 PM
# Joe Hunkins said:

Good advice up there from Danny! Surprisingly few stressors survive the test of ... time.

on June 3, 2007 05:42 PM
# Leslie said:

Congratulations on the change, it is often un-welcome when it arrives but great in the long term. I hope it all works out for you.

on June 3, 2007 11:48 PM
# aj said:

Whenever I get like this I plan a camping trip, something about sitting around the fire..

on June 5, 2007 12:03 PM
# Dervala said:

Good luck, Jeremy. The phases that suck so often lead to delight.

on June 5, 2007 01:44 PM
# said:

* Work (Yahoo!)
* Writing (magazine articles, my book, and my blog)
* Flying
* Desktop Tower Defense?

on June 6, 2007 09:34 AM
# Silver said:

Jeremy - what a interesting blog topic, and how cool of you to share a bit of the high-level personal issue with us all!

I feel your pain, too. I'd also worked at a high-intensity job for a major corporation, doing both the development stuff and the managerial stuff. I didn't fully realize just how much of my personal life I'd sacrificed...

I can't completely blame the company, since a lot of it was voluntary on my part. I get easily hypnotized into working on puzzles of various sorts, so my enjoyable work sucked me in frequently.

But, the company also constantly pushes for more, more, more, without equivalent increase in personnel. And, they encourage people to put in extra time, and they ladle on a lot more projects than anyone can humanly do.

I just recently left my large corporate job of ten years for a small company. It was a hard decision, and felt odd to make the change, but it's been very beneficial for me so far. I'm in otherwise very good shape, physically, but I'd had to start high-blood-pressure medication 2 years back -- I'm even thinking I might even be able to wean off of it, since my general stress level has droppes so much. It's amazing how having a huge to-do list hanging over your head for so long can effect you, even if you've been able to handle it and keep surfing on the upside of the continual wave.

Sometimes making the big, dramatic change can work out really well - there's no gain in life without some amount of risk. The fear is that one will make a mistake and have a virtual wreck - but change and self-improvement may make the risk very worthwhile.

Good luck with your decisions, whatever they may be!

on June 8, 2007 01:35 PM
# Brandon said:

Hey, nice blog
I just seen it and have always followed google, it'll be interesting to see Yahoo's side of things. :)

I'll add you to my google home page :)

on June 9, 2007 04:53 PM
# J3FF said:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

- semisonic

on June 9, 2007 09:27 PM
# James B said:

Sounds like you need a pilot gf Jeremy.

Even better if she's a CFI ... free endorsements!


on June 10, 2007 12:52 AM
# David Beach said:

Hey Jeremy,

With the nature of this post, we have to use our intuition about what might really be going on. That's cool. But you should know that you have a lot of real friends out there.

One thing you hopefully realize is that you can't do everything. I'm learning that too. As you know I have a family, work for a start-up, write, and well.. drive back and forth from home to work. I don't have much more than that. I try to spend as much time with my kids as possible, but it's never enough. I don't have much of a social life and I miss a community. Or more importantly, I miss real, honest connections with people.

I get tired of talking about work, the industry, trends, and having to have an opinion on everything. I just want to hang out. Sometimes I just want to "be".

You should know that you have many friends, and many people that care about you. Not just for your talents, but because you're a good human being. It's okay to let some of those people in and talk about real stuff. To just "be".

Take care,


on June 10, 2007 01:57 AM
# Christian said:

Good Luck, Jeremy. And keep up the good work.

on June 12, 2007 01:11 AM
# Cade @ Write To Right said:

I have to say that this type of lifestyle where you lack balance is very similar to mine. I feel like I can't get a balance I like yet. I have gone from being social all the time to working relentless between a job, my blog, and business ideas. Balance has never been a good descriptive word for me, but somehow I am going to have to map this out. Any plans on how you look to overcome this?

on June 13, 2007 05:40 PM
# Jorge Grippo said:

Hi Jeremy,

Just to thank you for all that wonderful things I found in your writings, being this particular post so moving. I wish the best for you.

PD: I want to see a shot of Matt and Jeremy flying at sfbafly, :) !

on June 27, 2007 02:35 PM
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