Edition 37: My real family is pretty messed up. My chosen family is amazing.

Work ≠ family

If you Google “Work isn’t family” you come up with a bunch of recommended articles along the same line: Coworkers aren’t you family and they shouldn’t be. 

The NYTimes explains it this way: “It often means that boundaries get violated and people are expected to show inappropriate amounts of commitment and loyalty, even when it’s not in their self-interest.”

I’ve worked for several places that use the word family. I also worked for a (non-journalistic) place that made every employee read The Four Agreements. The founders would quiz you, randomly, as you ate a doughnut, on what the four agreements were.

These were not healthy relationships. 

Some of my best friends were made at work. We went on walks and we spilled our guts. I invited some work-related friends to my wedding, even.

But the problem outlined by all the “work isn’t family” articles has to do with guilt and expectations.

My father took me for a long walk one day after I was laid off, and he said he worked for the same company for 25 years. He got a pension and they promoted him multiple times. That’s not the case for you, he said. There’s no loyalty at work any more. Don’t do things for the company, do it for you.

I counsel folks I mentor the same way. You have to look at your career. “Family” shouldn’t hold people back from achieving or doing the things they truly want to do, even if it’s not related. No one should be guilted into taking on another assignment or staying late because they should take care of their “family” while their real family waits at home. 

You can be more than a team, too. You can be a cohort, a tribe, a gaggle, whatever you want to call yourselves, but mixing work and personal, work and family is where burnout starts and anxiety begins. 

You can also adopt someone from work into your family. But you need to have professional lines and space to grow beyond your job description, and so does your team. It also makes goodbyes (whether necessary or not) much easier for everyone involved.

Here’s a short list of things that are “family” oriented, but also realistic.

  • Have a set of shared values. I believe intensely in outlining what your values are because it leads to general understanding of why decisions are made
  • Be clear about goals. What do you want to do this month? This year? You can all work together better if goals are clearly stated. 
  • Build relationships. Spend time getting to know each other as humans. Know where people are coming from, and where they are. It’s often key to understanding how someone is reacting. This doesn’t mean you need to know everything about a person, just what drives them.
  • Communicate well. Something even real families struggle with. Have regular update meetings with legitimate updates. Be honest. Take time to explain, and to re-iterate. 


I have a standing desk and I still love it. Say what you will. 

But one issue I’ve always had with them if being able to stretch out and my feet getting tired. I’ve seen at SXSW and online these ridiculous skateboard balance things people use for standing desks that run somewhere around $100 or more. 

No way. Instead, I decided that a stability board, often used in physical therapy or gyms, is a much cheaper alternative. The one I have, from Amazon, was $23 and I am standing on it as I write this, stretching out my ankles. 

Reading // Eating // Using // Watching

I am slightly revamping this section. Do you like it? Hit reply and let me know.

Reading //
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee / Vox on why SoulCycle and CrossFit are sort of like religions / HuffPo on why oat milk is so hot these days

Eating //
Oat milk aside, I have been saving tons of money by making my own iced matcha lattes at home. This blueberry lavender almond milk from Trader Joe’s makes the experience as good as a $7 matcha latte from a fancy place.

Using //
Testing out Agenda as an alternative to Bear. It connects with your calendar. I’m so-so on it, good interface, nice workflow, but I can’t export easily.

Watching //
Whitechapel (Amazon Prime), which is from 2013 or so, but I have a soft spot for British crime shows about Jack the Ripper.