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2008 in Retrospective: Mike Cottmeyer Edition

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: 2008 in Retrospective: Mike Cottmeyer Edition

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect. Somehow the prospect of a new year allows us to break psychologically from our past. The new year gives us an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and move toward a better tomorrow. Whether real or imagined there is power in this annual rite of reflection.

The Need to Change

Toward the end of last year I realized I was frustrated. My career had been a slow steady climb but was not yielding the results I had hoped for. Somehow along the way I had stopped playing to my strengths and allowed myself to start playing to others expectations. I needed something in my life that I could own, something I had created. I toyed quite a bit about going out as independent consultant but was not in a great position to take that kind of risk. The kids have to be fed… the mortgage has to be paid.

CheckFree had been a great gig for several years but I decided it was time for a change. Over the previous few months I had been building a relationship with some of the folks at VersionOne. Early December 2007, after several months of talking, I was offered a role on the VersionOne Services team. This was an opportunity to train and consult and fill my non-billable time with writing, community events, and speaking engagements. Taking this position allowed me to live out my desire to be an independent consultant within the confines of a small but well established company.

Over the past year I have learned that VersionOne is just the kind of gig I am cut out for. The day to day monotony of corporate America is just not my thing… at least not right now… and at least in the kind of jobs I’d been doing the past 18 years. I feel fortunate to have learned this about myself and that I had the opportunity to make a change.

There are some life skills I’ll need to develop to make this kind of role work over the long haul. The fun stuff is so compelling it is easy to lose sight of other things that must get done. I learned that I have to be more disciplined about leaving time to change a light bulbs, for balancing my checkbook, and mowing the grass. I need to be more disciplined about diet and exercise and getting enough sleep. I will have to find a way to turn off my work brain every now and again. My wife tries to tell me our life is not an agile project (although I am not sure I agree).

With 2008 just a week or so away… I’m thinking a lot about what I’d like to build on in the upcoming year and what I’d like to do better.

What Worked Well

While I did spend too much time on the road this year, I really enjoyed getting out and talking with customers. Having exposure to a broad cross-section of companies and leaders at every level of the organization has proven invaluable. These people have helped me sharpen my perspective and given me insight that is just not possible working with only one customer at a time.

These interactions have been the engine behind my writing and helped fuel my creativity. I can’t tell you how many times this year when I had nothing else to say that I was inspired by a client to do some of my best work. Blogging and writing has become a form of creative expression and I find myself compelled at times to write. Writing has helped me clarify my ideas and become more articulate expressing them. I am really happy with my body of work so far and look forward to building on it in 2009.

For as much time as I spent traveling this year, I can honestly say that my relationship with Kimi and the kids did not suffer. Catch me offline and you can check in with her yourself, I am confident she will agree ;-) As we move into 2009 I plan to continue my involvement with our school, with the Boy Scouts of America, and doing many more fun things with my wife and kids. We took some great trips and had some really good experiences. I look forward to more of these special times in 2009.

What I Want to do More Of

My friends and family give me tremendous grief over the amount of time I spend on Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately, they don’t even know about LinkedIn and Plaxo or I’d never hear the end of it. While at least people realize that blogging is part of what I do for a living… my wife is still concerned with the amount of personal information I publish about our family. I find it really hard to separate my personal persona from my professional persona… this is just what I do.

The emergence of social networking is really fascinating and I am excited about the idea of marketing my personal brand. Over the course of the next year I’d like to spend more time developing my message and being better at communicating my unique value in the agile idea space. I can’t be everything to everyone but I want to get really good at speaking to my target audience and understanding what they need.

Closely related to the idea of social networking and building a personal brand, 2009 is going to be about spending more time with my real network. You know… the one that has actual people in it? Relationships are going to be key to growing my presence in the agile community and I’d like to create space to actually talk with more people and share ideas face to face. Unfortunately for me and my family, that often means time out speaking and doing community events. My goal will be to make the very most of a lesser number of events.

One of the things that took a hit this year was my involvement in our Church. I am fortunate to have a rich community of people I really like and my soul needs to spend more time with them. One of my goals for the upcoming year will be to find a way to contribute. That contribution needs to be life giving and play to my strengths… without consuming an inordinate amount of time. I want to be involved, but I just can’t live there… it is easy to get sucked into doing everything.

Things I Need to do Less Of…

Travel is a necessary part of what I have chosen to do for a living but this year I need to be really careful about what I sign up for and how I pace myself. 2008 was pretty manageable until conference season hit and then I found myself in Toronto, London, Denver, and Orlando over two month period. That would have been fine except that I had to prepare content and do my normal work engagements during that time as well. The net result was that I was on the road, or frantically preparing to be on the road, about 80% for over four months.

My goal for the upcoming year is to be more careful about what I agree to do and how I time the events. This year I was like a kid in a candy store. I was unable to decide on what was important and unable to prioritize… so I tried to do it all. I am still living with the tummy ache from all that fast living. There are some things I would like to do in 2009 that I am just going to have to decline. It is all about prioritization, making good choices, and maximizing value.

In the upcoming year I need to do less procrastinating, deferring, and avoiding. This year I allowed a lot of noise and clutter to accumulate in my life… and that detracts from the joy of living. It is difficult to live in the moment when there is always something else to do or someplace else you need to be. Part of this is prioritization, part is just saying no, and part is being really proactive with those things I choose to let remain.

The Power to Change

Overall… 2008 has been a great year. I am not sure I would have changed a thing. Sure… there are a few things I could have done better… but each of those things taught me a valuable lesson that I really needed to learn. I am thankful for my job at VersionOne and all the great people I have met and worked with this year. I am thankful for my supportive family and a great network of friends, twitter followers, and blog subscribers.

There are days when I am surprised that anyone gives a damn what I have to say. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that any of you guys are willing to listen.

I believe in the power of change and I believe we all have the ability to create change in our lives. We can’t fix everything overnight. To me it is a matter of being at peace with where you are but still putting time and energy on where you want to be. Even small steps in the right direction can make a difference.

Have a merry Christmas, a fantastic holiday season, and a happy new year!

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Comment (1)

  1. Bob Williams


    Thanks for your energy and thoughtful work. I think you’ve found a nice niche and are able to leverage your strengths and passion.

    In 2009, listen to your wife, keep your faith, and follow paths that open before you.

    Merry Christmas and blessings for 2009.

    -Bob Williams


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