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.