Monday, November 28, 2016

What I’m thinking about today…Frustration

I’m a computer geek by trade.  This writing thing is new to me.  Everything I’m reading about writing is to write a lot.  They say to write every day.  I’ve got too much going on to make that a reality, but here I am writing.  Today the thought on my mind is frustration.  I’m going to write about frustration.  It’s funny because over the long weekend I had been thinking a lot about gratitude, I thought I’d write about that now.  Instead I’m going in pretty much the opposite direction.  There’s a lot of frustration today.  It all seemed to start last night when I started thinking about work again.  I knew it was looming, I knew today would be hectic, as most days are lately, and I started to get that pit in my stomach.  The same pit I’d get when I was younger in school after Christmas vacation or an especially great weekend, and I didn’t want the real world to start again Monday morning.  That feeling carried over to this morning.  I guess you can say I didn’t start the week off in an especially great frame of mind.
Monday started whether I wanted it to or not.  The meetings started, the messages started coming in, the requests for everybody’s urgent matters started pouring in, and within an hour I had forgotten that I even had any time off at all.  It got to the point where I jumped from issue to issue all day and never really got anything accomplished.  Hence the frustration.  The good news is, I’m two paragraphs in on something to write about.  That’s worth something right?
I know what the answer here is.  It’s all stuff we’ve talked about before.  Take little pieces.  You can’t solve everything at once.  Struggle and get better.  Blah, Blah, Blah…  A lot of times in the middle of it, those are very hard things to do.  You end up freezing up and making the problem worse with a particularly unproductive day.  Just like at the end of good days, all you can do is walk away and hope to do great things tomorrow right?  In a sense, this is a lot like weight loss, you’ve got good days, and you’ve got bad days.  Whatever kind of day you’ve had, you can’t let it affect the next.  You need to show up and do what you need to do.  There’s a guy, a quite impressive guy, that’s I’ve started following lately named Jocko Willink.  I’ve heard him say it’s “discipline, not inspiration” that’ll help you get where you want to be.  Well today was definitely not a red letter day in either of those categories.  Here’s to working to make sure tomorrow is different…

Thanks for humoring me with the venting… 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What I’m thinking about today…Decisions

We’ve got a big project going on at work.  We’ve got a couple of them actually.  All these projects have tight timelines, too few resources, no room for mistakes, and all the other fun that goes along with work of this nature.  All things that most of us are far too used to.  There’s decisions that need to be made in order for each project to move forward, too often these decisions don’t come soon enough.
While I’m on calls where I need to concentrate I like to either doodle while I take notes, or I play Tetris.  For those of you who are either too young to remember Tetris, or have been living under a rock for the better part of the last 30 years, Tetris is a game where you’re given different shaped objects and you need to stack them to fill in lines.  As you fill in lines, they disappear and you’re given new pieces at a faster and faster rate.  You need to make decisions.    
     You can see the correlation.  Whether playing the game, or dealing with things in life, the more decisions you make, the quicker new decisions come.  In most cases you can deal with a bad decision that you’ve made, leaving gaps in Tetris parlance, you just need adjust the next few choices you make.  If you’re lucky, that bad decision is wiped out and you recover to fill in the gaps.  In the game, as you start getting toward the top, which at some point is inevitable for everyone, the music speeds up, colors change, and you can feel yourself physically tensing up.  I’ve noticed myself doing that same thing quite a bit while sitting at the computer at work.  I’ve got a bunch of decisions that need to be made, and they’re coming faster and faster.  I’m hoping just like in the game, I can take a breath, spin the pieces for a second to figure out the next few moves, and get things back down to reasonable levels.

In a post a few months ago, I talked about wanting a simple life where I would like to eliminate some decisions, like what to wear, or what’s for dinner on any given night.  I’ve also talked about how getting to a certain spot in life is through deliberate choices.  Decisions are important, but sometimes it’s not so much what the decision is, but that one is made.  Don’t get yourself bogged down on making the right choice, in a lot, if not most instances, you’re better served making a decision and moving on.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The little things...

Earlier this week Laura and I were sitting around talking and planning out our week, and in the blink of an eye we got ourselves all the way to the weekend.  We pretty much knew what we were going to be doing every hour of every day.  The sad part is the answer that we went through didn’t really change week to week.  We could have had the same conversation for the past year.  I’m sure this is pretty much common place for most of us.  Unless you’ve got some exotic job that takes you to the ends of the earth, things probably get monotonous.  Hell, I’m willing to bet that traveling to the ends of the earth could get monotonous as well right?  Shortly after having this conversation I walked into the office and outside the window I saw the leaves on the tree turning an amazing shade of red.  It was really cool to see.  The picture here doesn’t really do it justice, but it was amazing.  That’s when I figured it out.  For me at least, the cure for the day to day monotony is in the beauty that’s all around us.  These leaves aren’t going to be like this forever.  Seamus(call back to yesterday’s post) isn’t going to be around every day to entertain me.  There’s really cool things happening all around us.  They don’t have to be earth shattering, they just need to be noticed.  That’s what makes each day different, and amazing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Me and Seamus

You are about to read an article on a squirrel.  The reason you’re about to read this article is really beyond me.  Why on earth would you ever read an article with the first sentence this article had?  Yet, here you are still reading.  I’m writing an article on a squirrel because this was a really long and frustrating day, and this squirrel kept climbing up on the fence right outside my office window and staring at me.  If nothing else comes out of this article, at least I now know when to use staring vs. starring.  Seems like a no brainer now, but I’m man enough to admit that I googled it.  Anyway, the squirrel and I spent enough time together today that I figured I’d write about him.  Do you think the squirrel has a little squirrel notebook where he writes down his to-do list?  Do you think Seamus sits in his little squirrel house at night wondering what it’s all about?  Yes, Seamus is the squirrel, I named him, don’t judge.  For as much time as we spent together today, this is the best picture I could muster of Seamus.  Earlier, I saw him hauling what appeared to be a half sandwich up the tree in front, to what I can only assume is his penthouse apartment at the top of the tree in my front yard.  Seamus seems happy.  Today isn’t the first time we’ve hung out.  He’s always around here attempting to get into the garbage, or stealing the tomatoes Laura attempted to plant in the pot on the deck.  Seamus really likes tomatoes.  Sometimes, on days like this, I’m jealous of Seamus.  Seamus just gets to go about his life.  Now granted I don’t know how profoundly squirrels think or what they ponder, but for the sake of this discussion let’s assume squirrel thoughts are pretty much confined to two main questions:  Can I eat that? and Will that eat me?  At this point, this conversation can go one of two ways.  Direction one:  Everything is pointless, the damn squirrel doesn’t have to worry about stuff, why the hell should I?  Or the second, more sane direction:  Sure the squirrel doesn’t have anything to worry about, but Seamus will also never appreciate how easy life is with opposable thumbs, the thrill of solving a really hard problem, the beauty of the sounds a band can produce, or any of the myriad other amazing achievements or wonders this earth has for us.  While option one sure has it’s advantages when you are pissed off, there’s really no good end game there.  You want to go off and live in the forest without the convenience of tools and really live like a squirrel?  I give most of us a month at most with that. That may be generous given how the experts on Naked and Afraid tend to fare.  Obviously choice two seems to be the healthier approach.  Kinda like Spider Man, with great power comes great responsibility.  Well along with ability for achievement and higher thought, comes concern and stress over achievement and higher thought.
I guess the point of all this, is that next time you’re having a frustrating day think of Seamus.  Realize that you want to achieve something, and shitty days come along with achieving whatever your thing is.  Two last thoughts, one comes from by buddy Andy, for all the squirrels we see, you’d expect to see more squirrel poop wouldn’t you?  Second thought, How you feeling about wasting the last 3 minutes on a squirrel story?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In Defense of Intellectualism

I want my kids to be smart.  I want my kids to be intelligent.  I want my kids to have common sense.  I want my kids to be happy.  These seem to be pretty basic things that I would imagine most parents want for their kids, amongst other things.  Add healthy to the four I listed above, and you’ve probably got my top list.  This has been a subject I’ve thinking about for a while.  I’ve been wanting to write about this, but I’ve never really understood how, or exactly what I wanted to say, but watching the campaign, and ultimately watching the election results on Tuesday gave me exactly what I was looking for.  I was watching with the kids, and they were asking all the questions you’d expect people their age to ask, and it was good.  Time and time again during the night one of the pundits would bring up some stat talking about how one candidate or the other was doing “amongst College educated white women” or how another one was doing amongst “non college educated men.”   Now I understand the nature of statistics is such that you need to find ways to put people into smaller groups.  I get that level of education is a fairly obvious way of accomplishing this.  The issue that I take with it is the correlations people were drawing. “Well obviously Hillary is doing better amongst the college educated…” or “These poor non-college educated people they were manipulated and fell for what Donald was selling.”  Now before everybody runs off thinking this is some political piece and I’m going to be taking one side or the other, it’s not, and I’m not taking a side.  Well actually I am taking a side, I’m not happy that Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States, I am equally unhappy as I would have been if Hillary won.  I voted for Gary Johnson.  Yes I know he didn’t know where Aleppo was, much less that it’s a city.  I don’t care, even with the gaffes that he had, I felt he was still a better choice than either of the two major party nominees.  I felt like we could do better.  I felt like we could do much better…. and that’s what I want to talk about today.
How do we do better?  How do we raise the level of social discourse? How do we become a more intelligent society?  I think that’s the main question that needs to be answered.  We get a more intelligent society everything else falls into place.  Right now according to the U.S. Dept. of Education 14 percent of Americans can’t read, 19 percent of high school grads can’t read, and almost 50 percent read at or below an 8th grade level.  Take that with the fact that 27 percent of adults admitted to not reading a book within the last year.  If 27 percent admitted to not reading a book, what’s the percentage that actually didn’t read one?  45 maybe 50 percent?  The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the last survey first asked people if they could read before they asked if they actually read a book?  Now with all this talk about raising the intelligence of an entire population, I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to go to college.  Far from it.  I understand the world needs ditch diggers too, and ditch diggers don’t need a degree.  I would however contend that we do need ditch diggers with a decent head on their shoulders and some common sense.  Along these lines you may have heard of Mike Rowe, he’s got an amazing foundation (www.profoundlydisconnected.com) where he’s doing great work around getting people non college skills to be a productive member of society.  It’s a great foundation, please go check it out.  Back to this idea of raising intelligence.  How do we accomplish this?  I think it’s actually pretty straight forward.  We simply stop lowering the bar.  We expect more.  We expect more out of ourselves, we expect more out of our kids.  We engage in conversations where our goal is to learn something and not to talk next.  We maintain our curiosity.  We don’t shy away from asking questions.  We allow ourselves to feel insecure for a minute and ask the stupid question.  We turn off the damn TV and open a book or a magazine.  That long list still qualifies as straight forward right?

We raise our kids with the stated goal of making them productive members of society who have something to give back.  We share this goal and expectation with them.  How amazing would that be if every kid grew up understanding that the expectation on them is that they be productive members of society?  We do that for a generation, do we have another version of Hillary and Donald running for President in 32 years?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What I’m thinking about today: Experience

Experience is something you gain right after you need it.  
I love that sentence.  It’s a simple idea but has a pretty profound effect.  How can you or anybody else for that matter go into a new situation and know what to do with any sort of certainty?  The answer is you can’t.  At some point you’re faking it.  This goes back to a lot of things we’ve talked about.  You need to be ok with failing, you’re going to gain experience.  Once you do gain experience you’re going to have the opportunity to get better at that task and eventually master it.  On the path toward all those wonderful things, you need to be ok with being shitty at something… So, blah, blah, blah, words, words, words…All these things, we've talked about.  There’s all sorts of rah rah stuff that we can say to ourselves to feel better about what we stink at, what we just failed at, or to motivate ourselves for whatever lies ahead of us.  We get all that.  How can we use the sentence at the top of the article to help us today?  That’s what I’ve been thinking about, and that’s what spurred this discussion on.  I think the answer is that it grounds me.  Keeping that sentence in mind either gives me patience in explaining new topics to people, or sets my expectations when learning something new for myself.  It helps me go into most situations with a healthy viewpoint.  All this isn’t to say that I’m perfect at this, or that it’s something that I do all the time, but it is something that when I do get frustrated, or when I’m trying to get my arms around something that I go back to.   I guess the main thought from all this is to not be too hard on yourself because you don’t know something.  Chances are you haven’t had the necessity in life to know that thing up until now. No situation is too big for you, going into the situation with humility, common sense, and confidence will take you a long way. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

On my mind today: Parkinson’s Law

Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law?  If you haven’t take a second and go read up on it a little.  It’s pretty interesting.  In case you didn’t go read the whole wikipedia entry, I’ll give you the reader’s digest version:  A task is going to take about as long as the duration given to complete it.  This can be taken and said a couple of different ways. Give yourself two weeks to complete something, it’s going to take the two weeks.  Give yourself two hours to complete something, it’s going to take the two hours.  I like thinking about things this way, it really helps put into perspective how much time I could be wasting on a daily basis.  My best example is feeding the dogs in the morning.  I am notoriously horrible at this.  I get up in the morning, start the coffee pot, and take the dogs out.  I think about feeding them, but I get distracted by an email or some other task.  I think about feeding them again, I even talk to them about eating(yes I talk to my dogs…A LOT)  Another distraction comes up.  This could go on multiple times.  Invariably Laura will come into the office, ask if I’ve fed them, shake her head and feed the dogs.  Her involvement took maybe 45 seconds.  I spent probably a good 5 minutes when you add up all the distractions or in this case, conversations.  This is admittedly a goofy example, but it illustrates the point very well.  I didn’t give myself a deadline or a due date, I let the task linger… Parkinson’s Law.
  My favorite way of thinking about Parkinson’s law is this:  My dad is retired.  He jokes with me that he “finds something to do, and makes it take all day”, this sounds really good to me.  Once and if I retire, I’d like to be able to do that.  I try to look my things to do as, the quicker I get these done, the more time I’m going to have for the things I want to do.  Key word there is that I try to do that.  I find that I’ve gotten really good at allowing distractions to pull me by the nose wherever they damn well please during the work day.  Usually it’s from one problem with work to another, but still, I’m allowing them to dictate the day and not seeing as many items as I could all the way to closure because I’m on to the next distraction.

How do I get better at this?  How do I close those tasks that I think I should be closing and then get out of my comfort zone again and attempt to get more productive?  If you’re facing the same or similar issues, how do you cut out the noise?  For me it’s a constant reminder that discipline is the key to getting things done.  I find it very easy to get in the mindset of either feeling productive or not.  Productivity isn’t a feeling, it’s a byproduct of discipline.  Just start doing work, don’t stop to check fantasy football, or check how your new tower is coming along in clash of clans.  There will be time for that later.  For now, put some work in.  I’ve found setting timers to be a useful thing here.  When I need to force myself to buckle down, I set the timer for 20 minutes and give myself a goal.  Or 30 or 60 mins depending on what I need to get done. Anyway, hope you found this useful or at least an interesting thing to think about.  Have a good weekend everybody!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Reactive to Proactive

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks feeling like Penny and Jack(Our fearless 4 legged protectors).  I’ve been spending a lot of time chasing my tail and feeling like I haven’t gotten anywhere.  I haven’t taken my own advice, I haven’t been able to just focus on one thing and see it through.  I have been allowing myself to move from task to task with very little completion.  So here’s what’s going to happen:
  • Going to spend at least 30 minutes every day do some physical activity.  Whether that be running, working out, or playing ball with the kids, I’m going to get up from this desk and move.
  • Going to spend at least 30 minutes every day doing non normal chores, there’s stuff that needs to be done every day, but there’s also that list of things I never get to.  Time to tackle them bit by bit.
  • Going to spend 30 minutes every day writing.  Whether that be writing everybody sees, or just writing for me, it’s going to happen.  Hopefully this equates to more posts here, and organizing other thoughts in my head.
  • When it comes to work, I’m going to ignore the long list of emails except for 2 times a day, focus on a list of stuff that needs to be done, and get things off my plate as quickly as possible.  Focus on touching things one time.  Do it right the first time, there’s no need to revisit.  The extra few minutes that may take up front will be worth it in the end.
  • As things come in, if I can deal with it immediately, I do that, otherwise it goes on the list.
  • Time to drastically reduce the amount of time spent in front of the TV.


This may be another list that most view as common sense.  I’m looking at this again as somewhat of a pep talk to myself.  I can get in front of all these things and make my life a lot less hectic.  Focusing on what needs to be done, and doing things to make my future self not have to deal with them will pay off.  I’ll keep everybody up to date as to how things go.    

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Competition…

      Laura and I are lucky enough to live in a very nice neighborhood just outside of Chicago.  We live in a neighborhood where a lot of people do quite well for themselves financially.  Nice cars, nice houses, and from the people that we met a few weeks ago at the block party, nice personalities as well.  We’re not necessarily well off financially yet, raising 5 kids has a way of making sure that happens slowly.  The good news is that Laura’s catering business is going well, I know, shameless plug, I’m sorry, but it’s the best food you can find!  My oldest boy is in the basement right now working on an application to one of the academy’s that our school district provides.  He’s working to get into the STEM academy, he’s in the gifted program.  My oldest daughter is taking AP classes in high school.  My twin girls are on one of the better soccer teams for their age in the state, and performing well in school, and my youngest is in a dual language gifted program where he spends half his day learning amazing things in Spanish. My point in talking about all this isn’t to brag.  All of this got me thinking about competition.  The other day the oldest boy was stressed about the application process for the academy and everything he had going on.  I’ve always tried to raise my kids with the sense that as long as they tried their best and worked hard, that’s all that really mattered.  Up until now, and truthfully for probably 85% of things in life, that will be enough.  If you work hard and try your best, things are going to generally work in your favor.  This still leaves that other 15% though right.  Obviously like most other statistics this stat is completely made up, but I think the number is at least somewhat accurate.  Anyway, sometimes, pick your percentage, your best and working hard aren’t going to be enough.  You’re going to fail despite your best efforts, or someone out there is going to work harder, or their best is going to be better than your best and you are going to miss out on something.  Competition.  This isn’t a new concept by a long shot.  I’ve written about competing against yourself and the differences between winning and success.  There are approximately 4,326,921,371 (more made up math) motivational memes on the internet just waiting for you to print out and put on the wall to make you feel ready to go out and tackle the day.  The thoughts around competition that I’ve been thinking about with all of this and what I said in the opening paragraph are around: Are we competing for what matters?  All these people in nice houses, would they be just as happy in a more modest house; or a more modest car?   What about the kids?  Would the girls be just as happy on a team that didn’t play at such a high level?  What about grades?  I’ve got 3 kids taking advanced classes, and two that are in regular classes.  Is one kid now more worthy somehow?  My favorite example of competition thus far has been while driving, does it really matter if that car coming up on my right sneaks in ahead of me when IT’S PAINFULLY OBVIOUS CARS ARE STOPPED AHEAD AND YOUR LANE IS ENDING!!!  That still really ticks me off…
My point here is that some competition doesn’t matter.  As much as it irritates me, the driving example doesn’t matter.  Houses, cars, and other nice to have things, those are obviously paid for with jobs, and as long as you love what you’re doing, there’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with something you like.  If you’re simply getting that new car or TV to keep up with Chuck next door, then you’re probably falling on the unhealthy side of competition.  What it really gets down to for me is, how do I frame things for the kids as they get older?  We’ve always talked about how an education is the key to everything in life.  Getting an education will allow them to do what they want to do.  Obviously there are always going to be people that are left out to find something else.  If the boy gets a spot in an academy that means there’s a spot another kid won’t be getting.  If he doesn’t get a spot, I would use that as an opportunity for a teachable moment talking about rebounding from failure and preparing for the next thing he wants.  I think that’s what is important in this competition discussion.  Are you competing for what you want?  The girls love playing soccer, and love having the competition and the challenge of playing new and tougher teams.  Win or lose, they are competing for the right reasons.  We encourage the kids to continue and “compete” against themselves in school because that’s going to open doors and opportunities.  Again, competing for the right reasons.  We’re going to continue to grow Laura’s business because she loves what she’s doing, and I love being able to help with the non cooking aspects of the business.  I know, two shameless plugs in one article…

I don’t know if any of this will resonate with you out there but I hope it makes sense.  Obviously there are always going to be winners and losers, and that’s fine.  I hope you take the time to think about what you’re competing for, and that it matters to you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Keeping all the balls in the air…

I’m sure you are a busy person.  I know I’m a busy person.  Being busy people who read and write stuff like this, we are looking for ways to organize things better, have a better perspective, or just look for a better way of going about things.  The good news is there are more than a few resources out there for us to rely on.  A simple search of “productivity” or “life hacks” will yield enough reading material to keep all of us busy for the next several years, and I think that’s probably a conservative estimate.  The question is with all these available resources and so many people spending so much time thinking about this answer, how have we not cracked this yet?  Shouldn’t we be able to point to something like the pythagorean theorem, enter a bit of information and be productive?
The reason I bring all of this up is due to conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks about using my time.  With new responsibilities at work, the kids back at school, soccer back in full swing, and the rest of life going on, I’ve had a hard time doing everything I need and want to do.  I haven’t been running as much, although I did run today(we are starting a streak here!), I haven’t been writing as much, and just been in an overall funk trying to get everything done.  I obviously don’t want to continue this, and I want to succeed at everything and flourish with everything going on.  This is where that productivity theorem would be really handy.  I want to enter a few variables into a formula and magically have the productivity answer right in front of me.  It goes without saying that that’s not going to happen, but that’s what we all want with these hacks and all the other information out there right?  We want some sort of immediate sign or immediate sense of peace that the puzzle has been solved, or the finish line crossed.  Then when something doesn’t work, we’re on to the next book or article to see if that’ll make everything better now.   
The conclusion that I’m coming to is that things don’t work that way.  Productivity and feeling accomplished isn’t a finish line to cross, and it’s sure as hell not a straight line to get there.  There’s going to be bad days, less productive days, and amazingly fantastic days where you feel like you can conquer the world.  That whole range needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Every day isn’t going to be fantastically amazing, and every day isn’t going to be a throw away either.  Wherever a given day falls on that spectrum, you can’t beat yourself up or praise yourself too much for it, and you certainly can’t compare days.  Doing any of those things is a quick way to get yourself in trouble.  Each day is a new “game” of sorts.  Enter that day trying to win it.  Once the day is done, win, lose or draw, figure out what you can learn and move on.  Once that new day starts, there’s a whole new set of rules or obstacles that need to be taken into account and you do the best you can.
I’m sure everyone has heard the story of the professor with the jar.  Professor puts rocks in the jar followed by gravel, sand, and water. you can find the whole story here.  The point being there is a lot of room for a lot of things in our lives.  When we focus on, and identify the big stuff and make sure we’re completely present mentally for those things, having room for the smaller stuff becomes that much easier.  Focusing on those big things allows the sense of accomplishment I think we all need and are striving for and it makes sure that our days aren’t hijacked by small less important tasks.

To answer my question from the top of the article regarding a productivity theorem, I think it does exist.  I think the answer is mindfulness and being completely present in whatever task or activity you choose to do next.  Too often over the last month I’ve found myself at work worrying about home, or at home worrying about what I need to accomplish at work.  When I’m sitting there distracted, it’s really hard to get anything done.  That’s why I think the answer is presence.  To put it another way, presence and purpose.  Be all in on whatever you choose to be doing, and do it to the best of your ability.  Once done, move on to the next and do the same thing.  I know this is all easier said than done, but it’s my goal.  Let me know what you think, and I’ll let you know how successful I am with this.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Efficiency vs. Mastery

This is admittedly very similar to Be Shitty at Something.  In that last article I talked about something that we personally struggle with.  Whether that be running, or anything else you’re passionate about.  You need to be shitty at it before you can excel at it, and the mental approach to all of that.  This time around I’m talking about things we do in our day to day lives, whether that be work or personal that we maybe aren’t passionate about, and the tasks aren’t something we’re doing to better ourselves or for some sort of personal satisfaction.  I’m talking about tasks you do because you get paid to do them, or they are an adult requirement.  Now hopefully there is a fairly significant percentage of folks reading this that are thinking to themselves that they are passionate about the tasks they get paid to do.  On some of my tasks I feel that way, but there are still quite a few left on the table that I could never do again and be perfectly fine. (For you Office Space fans, think TPS reports).  These are the tasks I’m talking about today.
As some of you have followed, there has been a bit of turnover on my team at work lately.  With that turnover has come a steep learning curve for a lot of us that we’ve been having to hike up.  Obviously during this time different deliverables haven’t been making their way out the door quite as quickly as they once were, and this has caused some conversations amongst our team regarding how to solve this problem.  During this conversation something struck me.  We were trying to figure out ways to get efficient at something without even fully knowing what that something is.  After chuckling to myself viewing the problem in this light, the thought came to me, that you can’t have efficiency without mastery.  On top of that, any time spent on attempting to gain efficiency before you’ve gained mastery is a bit of a fools errand.
As I sat with this thought a little more, I began to think this is quite a bit like most of these time management slogans that seem to be steeped in common sense.  Of course you need to understand something before you can figure out how to do it better.  Then I thought of most of the conversations I’ve had at work or sat in on or listened to others share, and it seemed this little tidbit of info and acting on it would have saved quite a bit of time.  Take some time to understand something, get to the point where you can explain it in very clear and concise language.  Understand what can go wrong, what’s most likely to go wrong, and what’s the problem that this thing is actually solving.  Having those answers before you attempt to do something “better” will go a long way toward making sure better doesn’t set you back 3 steps.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Yep this is the spot…

I had a conversation recently with a friend and we were talking about how happy we were to be right where we are in life and doing the things we want to do.  I guess this kind of goes back to my previous post where I was talking about decisions that were made and how I spent the summer doing what I wanted to.  This conversation went a little deeper than that, and it got me thinking how being right where I want to be and doing just what I want to be doing didn’t happen by accident.  It happened through a series of very real and conscious decisions that sometimes, for me anyway, I just sort of let happen in the past.  
All of this isn’t to say I don’t have bad days, and yes sometimes there are specific things we as adults need to do(ie DMV, jury duty, or pick your poison), but talking life as a whole, being happy and good with where you are and what you’re doing.  That’s an amazingly powerful thing.  It’s not easy to get to, but once you’re there it is definitely worth the trip.  I’ve heard the trip described as “ruthlessly loving yourself”, or the ability to accept or initiate difficult conversations.  Whether those conversations are with others or with yourself, they are hard to have.  Seems being completely honest with yourself is one of the harder things to do in life.  This initially struck me as counterintuitive, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more truth I’ve found behind it.  The hard part comes in when you try to decipher between what you actually want, and what you think others think you should want.  Following the herd as they say.  Stepping out on your own and doing something different is challenging and it definitely takes a level of courage.  I’m not saying all of this to pump myself up, but rather put it in the light for people to consider.  It can be done, and my hope is that a person reading this may take solace in the fact that it’s been done before, and therefore they are capable of it as well.  
I believe the main ingredient in getting to this spot in life is self awareness, having a good understanding of who you are, what you want, and most importantly, being completely comfortable with all of that.  Shortcomings included.  This isn’t a free pass on the shortcomings but being aware of them is the first step toward correction.  Realizing that we all have shortcomings is also extremely helpful.  Realizing these things frees you from the pressures that can be applied from social norms or attempting to “keep up with the Jones’”  When it comes down to it, the only person you need to prove anything to is yourself.  Look yourself in the mirror every night and be at peace with who you see.  Everything else is just background noise.

Once you’re at that point, the rest is actually amazingly easy.  Once a person has a clear picture of what they want, the path forward really does open up in front of them.  It’s amazing how working toward taking this view on life has changed things for me.  Gone are the days of worrying if I am good enough or not.  Gone are the days of wondering what so and so thinks, or working to get that next material possession.  Now my days are filled with working because I like to solve big and interesting problems, writing because I like to share thoughts and spark discussion, spending meaningful time with the people I love and being present in those moments, and most of all living with a sense of knowing that I am where I want to be, doing what I want to do.  Here’s hoping something here resonates or sounds familiar to you.  Please forgive the toilet picture…I thought it was funny for this…

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My Summer “Vacation”

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for everybody to waste a little time with.  It’s been a busy summer to say the least!  I hope everybody got a chance to enjoy some time with family or friends during the nice weather and relax a little bit.  For me it’s been quite the wild few months.  Let’s start off with the biggest news coming out of my summer vacation… I got myself a fiancee!  This had been in the planning for a few months and I’m happy to report that Laura had absolutely no idea it was coming.  The look on her face when she realized what was happening is one of those moments that I’ll be able to paint a picture of for the rest of my life.  The most amazing part is that a group of 5 kids who were in on the whole thing from the start managed to keep the secret!  It really was an amazing night.
In other happenings we got to spend some quality family time in Wisconsin, and then Laura and I got to spend 4 days sans kids up north as well.  It was great to get some quiet time just the two of us.  Seen as how we got to play pretty hard this summer, that had to be accompanied by a bunch of hard work as well.  Obviously my hard work didn’t include writing, but we’re getting back to that now too.  A mentor I had worked with for a few years decide to move on to other opportunities earlier this summer and so that meant quite the uptick in my working time, but it was good.  I always talk about needing to get out of my comfort zone to grow, well this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.  
One thing that I kept coming back to over this summer while the different events were happening, was my frame of mind.  Some things I made sure to happen, others were forced upon me by the simple nature of things, but in most cases I feel like I was able to make the most of it.  I know that sounds cheesy and cliched, but there’s some truth to this.  Here’s another cliche for you, life is 95% how we respond to or handle situations.  I really like this.  This isn’t something I’ve always been good at, but I’m getting better and it’s something I like talking about so here we are!  Life happens.  Life doesn’t happen to us, or things don’t happen in life with the sole purpose of plotting against us, life just happens.  We can’t control that part.  It’s foolish to even try.  Good things are going to happen, and obviously we can try to steer toward those things as much as possible, but bad things are going to happen as well.  In the end very little control can be invoked there.  All we can control is our reaction to or handling of the things that we’re presented with.  Again, not claiming to be perfect but I have enjoyed this little stretch I’ve gone on here where I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about how I want my life to look, and understanding the how behind controlling that.  It’s reduced my stress, increased my enjoyment and satisfaction, and overall made this quite the excellent Summer Vacation.

Now back to school and hopefully to start running again!  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Love Hate Relationship with Wednesday

        I hate Wednesdays.  I hate Wednesdays because that’s the day the kids go back by their mom.  This is a tough thing.  It’s been over 4 years since we’ve been in this split household arrangement, and I still have a hard time with Wednesday and the chaos being gone.  This obviously got a lot easier when I found Laura and we began building what we have, and we’ve still got the oldest around, but a good measure of the chaos is gone and it takes me a bit to deal with it.
This is a subject I’ve been apprehensive to write about.  I don’t know if it’s because I don’t want people knowing too much about my personal life, or if I think people will think differently about me knowing that I’m divorced?  Or maybe it’s that this is about me and not some idea or noble thought.  This is just me complaining about my lot in life a little bit.  Although it’s not all complaints.  There is the love side of this relationship with Wednesday as well.  Having the kids safely with their mother does allow me some time to be Jason.  This is something I need to constantly remind myself of.  Laura helps with that as well.  Having this time to focus on work, or running, or whatever the case may be, helps me be a better father.  I still carry a lot of guilt with that time, but I know it’s something I need.  It’s something everybody needs.  For the longest time while the kids were younger I pretty much only identified myself as “dad”.  Being dad took up all my time.  Or probably better stated, I allowed it take all the time.  There was no requirement that it did.  I thought that’s what I needed to do.  But as with all things a balance needed to be made.  Sure I need to be dad, but I also need to be Jason for while.  Just like everybody, I need to spend some time doing those things that make me, me.   As you can see in a lot of respects Wednesday has come to symbolize the switching from “Dad” mode to “Jason” mode.  Listening to the last few sentences, I’m sure you can imagine the expanded issues that go on in my head with that transition.  What’s weird is that I’m much more comfortable in dad mode than Jason mode, so switching back on Friday or Monday is pretty easy.  
I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to ushering the kids off to go spend time with their mom.  I think it’s ok that I don’t.  This story in my head is just that.  When it comes down to it I’m living exactly the life I want to live.  I’ve met the love of my life, a woman that challenges me, calls me on my bullshit, and most importantly, I feel better spending time with her.  The life we are creating for ourselves and the kids cannot be beat.  Everyone gets along amazingly well, and six months into this whole living together thing, I cannot ask for things to be going better.  So I guess if that means I’m uncomfortable for a bit while adjusting to some alone time, that’s a small price to pay for the life you want to live.

That last sentence isn’t sitting well with me, but I don’t know how else to say it.  The goal here can’t be to rid yourself of all uncomfortable feelings.  I also know that the kids really enjoy their time with their mother.  This really comes down to me dealing with a feeling that I don’t like.  Everybody else in this scenario is just fine, and I’m very happy for that.  This could go into a long tangent but we’ll cut it off here.  Thanks for listening to my brief complaint.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sometimes the memory has to be enough

My oldest and I were in Milwaukee last week and we stopped to visit my parents.  My mom has this habit of sending me home with boxes of “so you don’t have to go through it when I’m gone” stuff.  I put that in quotes because those are her words not mine.  I wish she’d spend her time on other things but I’m thinking going through this stuff makes her happy.  Most of the time it’s silly stuff but every once in a while you get something that stops you in your tracks.  Thankfully this is one of those times.  
Have you ever heard a song or smelled something or whatever the impact is to the senses, but it takes you back and you can draw a picture of where you were and everything so clearly it’s like you’re there again?  I’d imagine most of us have.  Whether it be a first ball game you went to, your first crush, or just some random event that sticks out.  You remember every little detail.  Chances are you can remember the sounds, the smells, the sights.  This is what I got with what my mom had dug up.  She showed my a harmonica.
That harmonica sent me screaming down memory lane because it’s the harmonica my grandpa Stueck played for me the last time I saw him.  I was six years old when my grandpa passed, and I only have 3 or 4 good memories of the man.  This is easily the most vivid.  It was summer time and he was in his usual long sleeve flannel shirt tucked in and his cap on.  I wish I could remember the song he was playing, but I remember thinking how cool it was that I had a grandpa that could play the harmonica.  He was standing in the kitchen by the door.  He was a tall man for his generation and me being so little I remember my thoughts were always that him and my dad were larger than life.  I was standing in the doorway to the dining room between my parents just looking up in amazement.  I remember asking to hear more, but he said that was enough for now, and he put it in his shirt pocket.  We gave our hugs, and we were on our way.  33 years later, I can still go back there.
Of course all of this got me thinking, and the most prevalent thought that I kept coming back to was the power of memories.  In this case, that memory of grandpa playing is something that I go back to whenever I’m thinking about things like that, but seeing the harmonica made it all the more real.  Even though I never really got to know my grandpa, having that memory and being able to go back to that makes me feel like I’ve got a piece of him.  I cherish that. 

Memories are an amazing and powerful thing.  Obviously some memories are best left in the past, but for those fond ones, what a wonderful gift you’ve been given when you have something like that to look back on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Productive Quiet Time

I’ve talked about my love of quiet time on here before. There’s no new revelations there.  What I want to talk about now is making use of that quiet time.  In a house of seven of us peace and quiet can be hard to come by.  It pretty much just happens for me when I get up early for work and nobody else is up and moving yet.  I’ve grown to love this time.  I can sit outside and have a cup of coffee on occasion, get the flowers watered, or best of all sit and close my eyes and meditate for a while.
Meditation may sound like some goofy hippy kind of thing.  I know in high school, in gym class of all places, we had a segment on meditation.  20 years later and I wish I had done more than fall asleep.  Meditation has grown to be something I work to get into my daily routine.  I’m still letting it slide more than I’m taking the time, but when I do it, the results are immediate.  I leave mediation feeling a sense of calmness, the world slows down a bit, I’ve got a better perspective on things, and I feel ready for just about anything.

For me meditation is quite simple.  I just sit there and notice sounds around me for a few minutes, count my breath for a few minutes, then let my mind go wherever for a minute or two.  For the first two parts, when my mind goes off the given task I simply remind myself of what I should be focusing on.  It’s as easy as that.  I started attempting to go for 10 minutes.  I am now up to about 20 mins.  For the longest time I had this odd thought that meditation had to be in these weird poses trying to think of nothing.  Trying to think of nothing is an incredibly hard thing to do.  Go ahead, try it.  Force yourself to think of nothing.  You’re not going to have much luck.  Meditation became something that I psyched myself out of because I allowed it to grow bigger than it needed to be.  Meditation is not a complicated thing, and there’s no reason to over complicate it.  There are two apps that I’ve tried that really helped along the way. one is called calm, the other is headspace.  These are great ways to guide you through a few sessions to get the idea of what meditation is all about.  I hope this gives you enough curiosity to try mediation.  It’s a great way to make use of that wonderful peace and quiet.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Needs vs. Wants The parental version…

      I’m sitting here writing this right after Fathers Day.  Just like most of us, I spent some time yesterday thinking about my dad and the role he is playing in my life, and how I want to play quite a similar role with my kids.  I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly he did and how he did it.  It’s easy to say things like Dad has always been there for me, or he’s world’s greatest.  I’m sure most of us have the mugs to prove it, but I want to go a bit deeper than that.  I feel like of course dad was there when I needed him.  Most dads would be.  I want to think about what he did when either I didn’t notice he was instilling some lesson, or even when I just flat out didn’t want him around, and he just wouldn’t go away.  What did he do when it wasn’t blatantly obvious that helped me and my siblings become the people we are?  
I think the best way to summarize the answer is that my dad made sure I never needed for anything.  You always hear people describe a parent or something and they’ll say “So and so made sure that we never wanted for anything, he provided for us.”  There were plenty of things my parents made sure I wanted for.  I know I’m switching back and forth a bit between saying things like Dad or Father and parents.  For me in describing things like this it is hard to decipher between mom and dad sometimes.  Some times Mom would even play a bit more of the disciplinarian role because dad was at work. Sometimes that discipline would take the shape of “Wait till your father gets home!!” but she is a tough little lady.  Anyway I got off track a bit there.  The point here is that I want my kids to want things I can’t or won’t provide.  I want them to understand that personal accountability is something to strive for.  I want them to understand that a work ethic isn’t something that you can just decide you have one day.  I want the kids to understand the sense of pride one gets when pouring your heart and soul into something.  I also want the kids to understand how to deal with failure.  I want them to understand that the world isn’t fair, and that the world also owes you nothing.  All of this sounds like it would take the mother of all after school movies to instill in the kids.  The way my parents taught it is through example.
When I was going through my confirmation classes many years ago, my dad wrote me a letter talking about this very subject.  He talked about how it was his job to help shape my character and actions.  He talks about setting an example.  He talks about how that one time we got pulled over for speeding, he did it on purpose so he could show me how to interact with a police officer.  That was a fun discussion.  I think about all this now, and it was these examples that taught me so much when I wasn’t even paying attention.  It was things like watching my parents become involved with the community and joining the Lions Club. It was watching them work at project concern through church to help the less fortunate.  It was holding the door for the elderly person, or burying our American flag properly when it had gotten into disrepair.  There are countless examples that can be given of the small seemingly insignificant steps they took to go about things the right way.  Whether it be taking care of the chore that needed to be done after working 12 hours, or taking the time to talk with me after an especially hard day.  They took the hard road.  Consistently.  That’s what I want to pass on to my kids.

I’m sitting here now and I’m blessed with 5 kids that I get to help raise.  They may not appreciate it now, but I hope at some point they are able to look back and realize they never needed for anything either.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Things aren’t that easy…

       I’m amazed at the amount of people that think they are right. Like most of us, I spent a decent part of my Sunday being horrified by the stories people were recounting about the senseless tragedies that happened in Orlando over the past few days.  There are no words.  Watching some of the reactions got me thinking more about the first sentence above, which I’ve been pondering for some time.  It is truly amazing how many people think they are absolutely right about many things.  Obviously at times like this you hear more about gun control and what is wrong with people and everybody has a solution that can be boiled down to a slick sentence or a few bullet points and make it sound so easy.  Life is not that clear cut.  That was a rough thing for me to figure out.  There was a time where I felt like I had most of the world figured out.  I had a firm grasp on 80 - 85% of things in life, and there was maybe 10 % on either side of the spectrum that I wasn’t quite clear on.  You know, things like photosynthesis or what makes women’s purses so damned heavy.  Everything else I pretty much had a handle on.  Life was easy.  I had all the answers.  Then my world got turned upside down.  I was faced with divorce, and starting a life that was completely different than anything I had ever expected.  Up until that point I had built my life on being married, raising a family, and celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary just like my parents did.  That was one of those solid black and white things in my life.  Anything outside of that was failure.  Obviously this wasn’t true, and with time I came to see the complexities involved and realized what I had thought before was foolish.  There are many roads that lead to a successful family, just as there needs to be many roads that lead to a safer society.  So the question is how do we make all these people with the simplified beliefs and their pithy sayings realize those thoughts and ideas are foolish?
I’ve been sitting and staring at that last sentence for a few minutes now.  I’m laughing at imaging what some of the responses are.  I’m sure there are plenty of people that feel anger or any number of emotions when faced with the fact that their belief may be foolish.  The elephant in the room with this one is obviously religion.  How dare I call somebody’s religious beliefs foolish?  Well I’m not, depending on how hard you hold on to those beliefs.  Just for full disclosure, I was raised Catholic, and still believe we’ve got God and Jesus to thank for all that is around us.  That being said, I also believe that God likes religious fruits, not religious nuts.  I can’t take credit for that phrase, that came from a CCD teacher I had growing up.  I like it because it seems to embody the point I’m trying to make. Chances are you aren’t right, or at least not completely right.  I alway point to the story of The Tower of Babel.  There people began working together too well.  God decided he needed to spread people out and give them different languages.  Who’s to say he didn’t also give us different religions and that part was just left out?  Right there I gave enough reasonable doubt that our Hindi, Islamic, Jewish and whatever else friends are also correct. 
Now that we’ve got the religious aspect of the foolish thoughts out of the way, let me ask you a question. For this question you need to think of a belief you hold dear.  Something you wouldn’t consider to be in a grey area.  Take a second to think of something.  Now that you’ve got it, here is the question:  Can you think of any scenario where you’d condone acting exactly opposite of that belief?  Think hard.  For my example I used stealing.  I think stealing is wrong.  However if my children were hungry and I had no other means to put food on the table, I would steal it.  The possibility of me running out of other means is very slim, but in the scenario where I did run out, yes I would steal.  I’ve now come up with a scenario where that black and white thing in my life is a bit more grey.  Take what I believe to be the ultimate example, murder.  Whether it is right or not, I can come up with an example where I can justify it.  I’m also not alone there.  The Catholic church has gone back and forth on the topic of the death penalty a number of times.  With all of this being said, I think that you can see where I’m coming from when I say that absolute thoughts are foolish.
Right along with the foolishness of absolute thoughts is the desire to be right.  Most people really enjoy being right, myself included.  Who doesn’t like to feel that we’ve got all the answers and we’re the problem solver?  Do you see the problem here?  How can somebody have all the answers when most of the time the assumptions we’re making on the situation are completely false(foolish).  This is where the complexity of thought comes in.  There are no answers that can be boiled down to a simple sentence or a few quick bullet points.   Yet we end up electing our politicians based on who has the best sound bites.  No one has time to allow a candidate to sit down and explain a nuanced answer to a complex problem.  Now a days we’re either democrat or republican.  We’re either for gun rights or we think every single one should be taken away.  We believe our version of God is right and everybody else is wrong. As we discussed above, things simply aren’t black and white like that.  There needs to be room for detail.  There needs to be complex thought.  There needs to be disagreement and discussion.   I wrote a while back about wanting to disagree with people.  You can find that blog here(http://www.rebooten.com/2016/03/i-want-to-disagree-with-you.html)  I won’t rehash all of that, but it’s worth a read.  Discussion, intelligent nuanced thought, and civilized disagreement are the only things that are going to move us forward.
Hopefully by now I’ve got you at least considering the idea that long held beliefs may not be entirely accurate, and that developing simple solutions based on these beliefs are doomed to failure.  Where do we go from here?  My thought is that we begin by expecting more out of our children.  We ask them to challenge our ways of thinking.  We reward them for asking the tough questions and struggling to find answers.  We then begin to ask more out of our politicians, and work to find common ground.  Back to the gun example from above, even if you are the most ardent of the pro gun NRA, I believe that you can think of at least one person you’ve met in your life that should not be allowed to own a firearm.  We build from there.  We talk about the less politically charged topics in our day to day life and build consensus.  We talk about common sense and the greater good.  Disagreements are encouraged, resolution is sought, and we move on.  We let go of our need to be right and focus on our need to be kind.  We realize that if we all had all the answers, we’d be rich sitting in the Caribbean somewhere worrying about the ice meting in our drinks or something. That sounded bad, even if I were rich, I’d still care about this stuff, and I’d probably still be writing…

I could ramble on about things like this for quite a while, and truthfully if you’re still reading this, I’m pretty sure I owe you a beer, but here is what I hope you take away from all this: What are the beliefs you hold and what are the alternatives to those beliefs?  Also to what extent are you willing to go to in order to be right?  Is it worth it?  Can you think of an instance where you’ve given up the need to be right and sought to be kind?  Or better yet, where have you gone into a conversation feeling challenged in your thoughts and learned something?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Power of Absurdity

I love coming up with the most ridiculous nonsense ideas I can.  It’s fun.  Most of the time I think I’m absolutely hysterical, and sometimes, rarely, if ever, other people think that way as well.  That part doesn’t matter, because as long as you’re entertaining yourself, what else do you need in this world right?  I’ve taken to it so much so that now I’ve got a soccer game I play with the kids where we literally make up the rules as we go.  If you come up with something and say it before the actual thing happens, it counts.  Let me give you an example.  I had been eliminated from the particular game we were playing, I decided that if I could moon walk across the goal box, I’d be allowed back in.  I stated the rule, moon walked across and I was back in.  At one point my oldest boy decided that hitting the cross bar was worth 300 points.  He hit the cross bar.  He won.  You get the idea, it’s one example of something goofy to get our minds working and laugh a little bit.  At first the kids were quite against this whole idea.  They were used to my antics with things like calling certain areas of the woods “Squatchy” seen as how I thought we might find big foot there, or other stupid stuff like that, but joking around about their beloved soccer?  How dare I!!!  After a few minutes of uncomfortableness they tried it and had a lot of fun.  I found this to be a pretty good analogy to my start down this path.  There was a time I would take most things in life too seriously.   It wasn’t fun.  Life was difficult, and there wasn’t a whole lot of joy.   Once I started looking for the humor in almost every situation, it’s amazing how much easier things got.  Now when a guy cuts me off on the road, I just think about the story he’s racing to tell his proctologist!
Obviously there are things in life that just are what they are, and difficult situations need to be addressed.  I’m not talking about those times.  I’m talking about the 90 percent of other times where your anger and frustration aren’t going to do a damned bit of good.  I’m talking about those times where you’re going to get frustrated, and let it impact a significant portion of the next hours or days, yet nothing will be done about it.  There’s really no need.  Whatever frustration exists is not going to be permanent and truth be told it’s way more fun to think of the escape plans the husband is making while his bitchy wife complains about the fact that the gruyere cheese isn’t fresh enough. 

Another thing this seems to help with is the fact that what others think of you, or what they think of anything else in the world is none of your business.  Again, a line needs to be drawn here, you see a guy eying up your daughter, you don’t laugh about the life she could potentially marry into, you yell as loud as you can that she is 16 and that’s still considered jail bait in this state!!!  Then you politely grab him by the ear and get him caught up with his wife and proceed to explain to her how the whole thing was probably  just a misunderstanding and that you’re sure the husband just thought your daughter didn’t have matching socks on, and that’s why he had to stare as long as he did.  See what I did there?  I took a hypothetical, made it real, and then twisted it back into a hypothetical!  I thought it was hilarious, I’m still laughing, and you’ve probably stopped reading by now…  My point with all of this is to say that we don’t need to take life so seriously.  Find the humor in it.  Search out absurdity and enjoy it.  Take the kids to find big foot one day.  Take the kids snipe hunting, have a yes day where the answer to every question somebody asks you is YES.  Make fun of yourself.  Enjoy everything you can.  If the humor isn’t immediately obvious, search it out.  You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

17 Years….and what do I get?

Yesterday was my 17 year anniversary at my company.  Granted the name of the company has changed 4 times, but I’m still sitting at the same desk.   My dad jokes with me about wishing I could keep a steady job.  He’s a funny guy.  Anyway, it got me to thinking, what have I accomplished in these 17 years?  I’m not running the place yet, which my mom thought would only take 5 or 6 years to get to.  Sorry Mom. I guess the main thing I have accomplished is that I’ve kept gainful employment for that whole time, and I feel like I’ve helped the given applications I support run more smoothly and helped people increase productivity.  I have also learned a few things. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to lead people, to be led, to understand I don’t know everything, and never will.  I’ve learned what great successes feel like and I’ve learned how to deal with failures. I’ve learned that I need to work on trusting others to do work, and to fight through the noise and find a path to productivity when feeling overwhelmed.   I’ve also helped raise 5 great kids over this timeframe.  All in all it’s been a very successful 17 years.  Oddly enough though, I still feel angst over what I haven’t done.  I’ve become a bit of a jack of all trades but a master of nothing.  That sounds a bit harsh and I don’t mean it that way, I just mean that my job hasn’t allowed me to put those 10,000 hours into one thing to become a master at it.  I guess that’s ok, obviously I’m not changing that now.  The thing I think about most is this is not where I thought I’d be come just about 40.  That’s a hard sentence to read back to myself, but it’s the truth, and I’d imagine most people feel that way in one regard or another.  There’s something you thought you’d get done or these big hopes and dreams that you had and the next thing you know 17 years have gone by and you’re not there.  In some respects you haven’t even started.  This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy where I am, far from it.  Without hesitation I can say that this is the happiest I’ve been in my adult life.  I’m just not done.  I know nobody told me I am, but I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want everybody to be reading another blog post in 17 years and I’m sitting in the same spot I am now.  If you’re taking the time to read stuff like this, you understand where I’m coming from.  It’s a good thing to want to continually move forward. Obviously that notion can be scary.  Especially since most of the time you don’t know what that next step is going to be, and for most people change is hard.
Over the last couple weeks I’ve been thinking about graduation speeches.  The girls had their 6th grade “recognition” the other day, and that added to my thoughts about this.  I was thinking there should be a graduation speech out there for those of us who aren’t graduating.  I guess I’m thinking those motivational posters with the kitten telling me to hang in there aren’t cutting it.  I’ve been thinking of that motivational speech for the rest of us.  What would that look like?  What would I say?  The more I think about it, I think this is it.  I was trying to write something all clever and slick, but it comes down to:  Life happens.  It happens quickly.  No matter what, time keeps marching forward, so if you’ve got something you want to accomplish, today is the day to start, take that next step, or change paths.  It doesn’t matter if you just graduated or have been working at the same desk for 17 years.  In both scenarios you’ve still got tomorrow in front you.  It’s just sitting there waiting for you to make something of it, or not.  

In a weird bit of irony it’s been a few days since I touched this blog entry, and in that time a lot has changed at work for me.  The boss that I’ve had over the last few years is leaving the company.  He’s leaving to spend more time with family and lead the life he wants to lead.  No one can blame him for that, I’m happy for him.  I hope later in my career I’m able and willing to make the same decision he has.  Anyway, he has been a great mentor to me and now it’s time for me to take that next step.  I don’t know what that next step is going to be, but I know it’s going to be one that gets me to where I want to be.  Two days ago I was dealing with the hypothetical question of what I’m going to make the next 17 years look like, now I’m presented with the very real scenario of making a conscious decision.  I just wrote that sentence and I don't believe it.  The decisions I had to make a few days ago and the questions presented were no less real than what I'm dealing with today.  Today just seems a lot more real because of circumstances.  Had this not happened at work, I would have just had an excuse to not take action as quickly as I feel I have to now.  There's a lesson procrastination lying in there.  I'm good at procrastination.  Anyway, this will end up being a good thing for me.  I'm not sure how, but I'll keep you posted as things play out.  For now I know I'm happy how I spent my last 17 years, and I am eager to see what the next 17 have in store.