Thankful (With Cheese!)

It’s been quite a month! I attended the League of Legends World Championships in Berlin (and brought my son, as a birthday present), which was awesome. I then followed it up with Riot’s first-ever global Talent Summit, gathering all of the Talent professionals at Riot Games from our seventeen global offices into one place. The Summit too was awesome. Since then I’ve been in the year-end buzzsaw, full of compensation reviews, 2016 financial forecasting, and holiday parties galore. Whew.

Speaking of holidays, tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and so I’ve been getting in touch with my deep wells of gratitude from this past year. Today’s post might be a tad cheesy, but who am I kidding? I’m sort of a cheesy fellow.

First and foremost, I am incredibly thankful for my wife and two kids. I haven’t always been a terrific husband or father through my working life, but this past year has been a high point on both the husbandly and fatherly front. My job means that I am away from home a lot, but the quality of time we’ve been spending together has been arguably the best ever. We laugh more. We share more deep feelings. We are genuinely sad to part and genuinely giddy to reconnect. I feel interwoven into my kids’ weekly activities and am courting my wife again despite eighteen years of marriage.

What could be causing this quality family time? Well…

…I’m also ridiculously thankful for Riot Games. This past year has been the most fun of my career, which is astonishing in part because I was coming off of two of my least fun years. Read most any of my previous blog posts and you’ll see why 2015 has been so great. Riot’s culture is fantastic. My bosses, Riot’s founders Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck, are two of the best humans I’ve met. I’m challenged at work, and also feel tremendously supported. I’m surrounded by gamer nerds all day every day, and make time to play constantly. If you’re not a passionate consumer of what your company does—if you’re not completely gung ho about your company’s mission—I think it’s worth stepping back and asking why you’re there. I’m sort of bummed that it took my half of my life to figure this obvious truth out, but am really, really happy that I eventually stumbled my way here. I officially love what I do and with whom I’m doing it.

I’m thankful for the Talent team we’ve been building over the past year. We’ve added a cadre of impressive leaders and “T-shaped” folks (meaning professionals who have deep expertise but also a lot of utility) at all levels and across our many sub-disciplines (recruiting, talent development, operations, rewards, etc.). The Summit was in many ways an official kick-off to this team as a team, and I’m excited for what this powerhouse group of folks can accomplish in the coming years. Despite lots of change they’ve continued to stay excited about their work and Riot. And one of the coolest indicators that we’re on the right path is that several times a week now I’m approached by Rioters from other teams wanting to join Talent. Super cool.

I’m thankful for League of Legends, and all of the ways it continues to surprise and delight me as a player. As I’ve mentioned before, League is a game that has brought my family together, and has inspired me to throw a ton of hours into trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to master it. What impresses me is how much the League team takes risks and is willing to change pretty much everything from season to season. It feels like a living, breathing environment. My son Jonah is obsessed with Surrender at 20 updates and League’s developing lore. He also finished the last season ranked Silver 4 in North America. Meanwhile, I’m working on my Diana game after reaching level 5 Champion mastery on Fizz, Brand, and Taric (the next Riot Rumble season kicks off in January, for which I’m thankful too). I’ve played a lot of other games, but League of Legends continues to hold my attention week after week.

I’m thankful for the Golden State Warriors and their record-breaking start to the season after winning the NBA championship last year. I’ve been a Warriors fan since 1998, and let me tell you that the last two seasons feel like nothing short of a miracle. They are such a fun team to watch. Sadly, I’ve also been an Oakland Raiders fan since 1991, which has been a lot more consistently frustrating. Thank you, Warriors.

Finally, I’m thankful for my health. In 2014 I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, which was due to both my stress at work and also unhealthy eating habits. It’s the first time I’ve ever started medication of really any kind. This year I’ve lost some weight, do regular meditation, and generally just feel a lot healthier inside and out. My most recent physical at my doctor’s office was stunning in its turnaround, and sure enough it looks like I’ll soon be coming off the blood pressure medicine. There’s some sort of virtuous cycle happening, where I am loving my job, loving my family, and also feeling better. I can pretty much draw double-ended arrows between all three of those things.

So yeah. Pretty cheesy, as advertised. I’m in a good place. At some point I’m sure to hit a rough patch, and when that happens I’ll write an equally dour and frustrated post. For now, though, everywhere I turn I’m finding a reason for gratitude.

If you’re in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving. Regardless, here’s hoping you find your own virtuous cycle, full of loved ones, fulfilling work, and healthy habits. Then you too can write with gooey, cheesy goodness!

-jms

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