Insight 5/4/2020: ConfessionsBy Mike Rothman
It’s a sunny late spring day. Mike steps into the dank building and can smell the must. It feels old but familiar. Strangely familiar. The building looks the same, but he knows it’s different. Too much time has passed. He steps into the confessional and starts to talk.
Mike: Forgive me. It’s been almost 3 and a half years since I’ve been here. I’d say it was because I have been busy, which I have. But it’s not that. I spent close to 13 years here, and I had gone through a pretty significant personal transformation. As I was navigating the associated transitions, I guess I just wanted to live a bit and integrate a lot of the lessons I’ve learned behind the scenes for a while.
Confessor: OK. That seems reasonable. How’s that been going?
Mike: Pretty good, I’d say. I mentioned my new love (her name is Mira). We got married in mid-2017. I’ve packed my oldest daughter off to college last August and my step-son leaves for his college hopefully at the end of this summer. We’ve got a wonderful blended family and we’ve made some close friends as well. Physically I’m good as well. I’ve been able to maintain my fitness through intense workouts (thanks to OrangeTheory) and use the time in class as my mindfulness practice. And I just try to improve a little bit each day and live my life with kindness and grace.
Confessor: How’s work going? You mentioned being busy, but what does that mean? Everyone is busy.
Mike: That’s a good point. Culturally there is some kind of weird incentive to be busy. Or to look busy, anyway. Rich and I have been grinding away. Adrian decided to move on last December, so we’ve just kept pushing forward. Evidently cloud security is a thing, so we’ve benefited from being in the right place at the right time. But we spend a lot of time thinking about how work changes and the impact to security. We don’t quite know what it will look like, but we’re pretty sure it accelerates a lot of the trends we’ve been talking about for the past 5 years. I’m also happy to say DisruptOps is doing well (we closed a Series A back in late February). I guess I’m just grateful. I work with great people and I can still pay the bills, so no complaints.
Confessor: Hmmm. So you are in a good spot personally and the business is doing well. It seems that you used the time away from here productively. Why come back now?
Mike: I found that being here was a way of documenting my journey, for me. And that many of the people here enjoyed it and learned a thing or two. The fact is we are in the midst of a very uncertain time. Our society has undergone shocks to the system and we’re all trying to figure out what a “new normal” looks like. I don’t have any answers, to be clear, but I want to share my fears, my hopes, and my experiences and hope that we’ll all navigate these challenging and turbulent waters together.
Confessor: Fear. That’s a good place to start. What are you scared of?
Mike: Simply put, that COVID-19 impacts people that I love. We’ve been lucky so far, taking the quarantine seriously, but I am not taking that for granted and continuing to stay inside. Good thing I can come here virtually. Strangely enough, I have little fear regarding my own physical well-being. I made a deal with Mira that we’d be together for at least 44 years and I plan to make good on that deal. But our parents are old and in some cases, immunocompromised. We can’t control what other people do and whether they respect the threat or the science. So it’s definitely scary.
Confessor: How are you holding up mentally?
Mike: It’s tough. My head was spinning. I was consumed by the news and reacting to most every Tweet. It wasn’t productive. So I’ve started seated meditation again. I just needed to shut down my thoughts, even for a short time, and open up to possibility. To get into the habit of controlling my thoughts, my outlook, and my mood. Meditation helps me do that. And it’s hard to not be able to do the things we love and have no idea when things will return to some semblance of normal. You know, doing simple things that I took for granted, like travel. Mira and I love to travel and we’re very fortunate to go on very cool trips. We can’t see shows or live sports for the time being. That sucks. I also value the time I can spend with clients and at conferences. Who knew that the RSA Conference would be the last time many of us will travel for business for who knows how long? But you make the best of it.
Confessor: We’ve changed a lot in the time that you were away. There are new people here. Some have moved on.
Mike: It’s not like I’m the same person either. We’re all constantly changing. The goal is to navigate change in the most graceful way possible. I like to think my changes have been positive. I don’t need to act like a grump anymore, I was happy to leave that aspect of my persona behind. I think there is also something to be said about the wisdom of experience. I don’t claim to be wise, but I have a lot of experience. Mostly screwing things up. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue sharing that experience here and we can learn together. We’re in uncharted territory and that can be pretty exciting if you are open to the inevitable changes ahead.
Confessor: So when will you be back? And I suspect it won’t look the same, will it?
Mike: You are pretty perceptive. I always enjoyed that about being here. I’m going to aim to visit twice a month. Maybe more often when I have a lot to say. Maybe a little less often at times too. And yes, it will look a bit different. First off, I’m changing the name. Kind of. When I retired a few years ago, it was because the term incite didn’t fit anymore. But the idea of providing insight does. It’s really what I want to do. So that’s what we’ll call my periodic visits. So welcome back to the Insight.
Confessor: I have to say, I’m glad you’re back. It’s been way too long…
Mike: Thanks. It’s nice to be home.
Photo credit: “seeking confession” from Chris Booth