Friday, November 17, 2017

Wait! I don’t need to get pissed off?

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all”— Marcus Aurelius

The above quote is taken from the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.  Yep, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  Aurelius never wrote this or any of the other nuggets of wisdom found in the book with the intent of having it available for public consumption.  Aurelius didn’t even set out to write a book.  The book is made up of personal writings that he had completed during different periods of his life.  Basically we’re reading the great and powerful man’s journal.  The book Meditations now serves as a roadmap for something called Stoic philosophy.  Stoicism, as it’s called, is something that we’ll be talking about more and more going forward.  I’ve been reading about it quite a bit, it’s early philosophers, thoughts, and impacts on how I live today.  In short Stoicism helps put the Serenity prayer to use.  Understand and take action on those things that are within your control, and let go and don’t waste your energy or emotional capital on those things that are out of your control.  It’s a very logical and straight forward mindset.  I think that’s what is most appealing about it to me. 
Now to this quote specifically.  Don’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger.  Think about that for a second.  I know that at least for myself I’d probably need both hands and both feet to count the times during the last week when I got at least more than mildly irritated by some circumstance.  Perfect example, just the other day I’m on my way to pick the kids up from school.  There’s construction on a main road, and traffic needs to go from 2 lanes down to one.  There are plenty of cones and flashing arrows to tell all the drivers this is happening.  I work my way toward the spot where the lanes merge and everybody is in the proper lane.  You can guess what happens here.  A car comes speeding up on the right, cuts in front of all these people that have been waiting their turn and gets ahead of all of us.  I hate this!  What makes this person think their time is so much more valuable than anybody else’s?  Where does this person get off thinking they are more important than any of us?  I allowed this circumstance or event to get me really mad!  Mad to the point where I had visions of following this car and saying something so profound that they’d see the error of their ways, and vow to never do anything like that again!  Of course that’s a foolish thought, confronting them with words or more anger surely wouldn’t solve anything, but in the moment it would have made me feel oh so much better!  I mean that person needed to know that their little stunt cost me a precious 20 to 25 seconds!!  The outrage!  Anyway, this event happens, I get mad, and I start thinking about the quote at the top.  That person definitely didn’t care about what they did, and maybe they had a valid need to get a few seconds ahead.  The rest of the world didn’t care about what happened, hell the only other people that know are you guys reading this, and much to my surprise the Sun indeed did rise the next morning without so much as an ounce of concern for what had happened yesterday.  The more I think about this, the only person affected by this was me, and that’s because I let my emotions drag me around by the nose.  I didn’t need to allow that to happen.  The only reason that did happen is because I allowed it.  I could have just as easily felt that anger come up, noticed it, and dismissed it as being foolish and not worth my time, as there was nothing to be done to change the circumstance.  I’d have been much better off.  Reviewing pretty much every other circumstance where I was annoyed, irritated or generally angered over the last week, I was able to pretty much come to the same type solution.  It turns out I didn’t need to get pissed off.  Getting pissed off helped me absolutely zero percent.  There were definitely scenarios where there was action available for me to take, and when I take that action, suddenly circumstances aren’t so bad.  Then there were others where I could be mad as I wanted to be, and nothing was to be changed.  No sense in wasting perfectly good frustration there right?

Next time you get mad/angry/frustrated, sit with that feeling for a minute.  Ask yourself if the circumstance actually warrants it, or if you’re just getting pissed because that’s the default and easy thing to do.  Hopefully you find yourself with a lot more calm and peace.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hello Again….

Hi everybody, I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I’ve left something here for you to chew on.  Part of that has been by design.  I didn’t want to write without having anything  meaningful to say.  I wanted to have a few life experiences to share.  I definitely accomplished that.  Since we last talked I got married, spent two weeks in India, and did all the other things a dad does.  I’ll be talking a lot more about the whole getting married thing, and the India trip, but today I want to talk about those things I haven’t really been doing over the past year.  I obviously haven’t been writing, at least here.  I haven’t been exercising like I should have been and I haven’t been spending the time I should on outside interests.  Sure, I can point to everything I HAVE been doing as a reason or excuse for those things I haven’t done, but those things would be just that, excuses.  I’m interested in accomplishing more and being more productive with my time.  With that said, why haven’t I done the things I know I should and in most cases want to be doing?  I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about this from different angles in other posts, and I guess you could argue that I haven’t really gotten anywhere, or I stink at taking my own advice regarding this subject.  I couldn’t really say you’re wrong. I would just say this is my latest attempt to wrap my hands around getting to where I want to be.  So what’s the answer?  What’s keeping any of us from eating the way we should?  or exercising as regularly as we should?  Pick your version of procrastination, what holds a person up from doing what’s best for them?   My thought is that it comes down to our aversion to discomfort.  Maybe better said, it comes down to how convenient it is to do what we should be doing.  I know that speaking for myself I can get in a frame of mind where I can come up with 45 different things I “should” get done before I go for that run I know should happen.  I can come up with a bunch of twitter articles I should read before I sit down with a thought of my own and write about that, and don’t get me started on who would save my clash of clans village if I wasn’t around to check on it for the 10th time today.

When it comes down to it, doing what you should is incredibly easy.  If you were to sit down with a 5 year old and have them ask you questions, the answers would be easy.  5 year old Bobby asks:  Should I eat this broccoli or this hershey bar more often?  Should I sit on the couch and watch a TV show or should I go for a walk or a run?   Should I bury my head in my phone and give in to another distraction or should I get something done off my to-do list?  You get the idea.  Answering these questions when it doesn’t mean you are taking immediate action is easy.  What holds us back is when answering those questions results in you having to act in accordance with the answer.  That adds a degree of difficulty for some reason.  It shouldn’t, but it does.  Over the last year I’ve spent some time listening to a man named Jocko Willink.  He’s got a great podcast and some interesting books out.  One of the main things he says is that “Discipline equals Freedom.”  Discipline is acting in accordance with how you’d answer those questions from the 5 year old.  Discipline means putting comfort and convenience on the shelf and doing what you know you should do.  Discipline takes care of that question of whether you “feel like” doing something or not.  Think how fit, healthy, and ahead of the game we’d all be if we quit asking ourselves if we felt like something or not, and just acted how we’d answer the 5 year old?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Reward

Why do you do what you do?  The obvious answer here is for food and shelter.  That’s too easy, you could do many things that would provide enough for the necessities in life.  Why did you choose to do what you spend the majority of your life doing?  Another question, why do you choose to do what you do with your spare time?  Why do you pick the hobbies you have?  For me the answer is pretty straight forward.  It’s for the reward.  The reward is that feeling you get when you’ve accomplished something you’ve worked for.  I’m not talking about easy day to day things.  I’m talking about accomplishing things you’ve struggled with or had to put some effort into.  In a work sense, I love solving big problems and making seemingly complex ideas appear simple and straight forward.  In regards to hobbies, I love the feeling of completing an especially long run or some other physical accomplishment.  As goofy as it sounds and on a smaller scale, finishing mowing the lawn or finishing shoveling snow does the trick.  That sense of accomplishment is an amazing thing.  
I think seeking out that sense of accomplishment is the secret to happiness.  The feeling we’re talking about isn’t something that happens every day, but it is something that we can take steps toward every day.  Taking those steps, being aware of the goal, and being cognizant of the process brings joy.  Knowing that what you’re doing today is part of something you want gives your day purpose.  Having that purpose and being aware of it makes all the difference in my eyes.  That’s what brings about happiness.

I’ve found that taking this viewpoint in figuring out your day is incredibly useful.  For example, this past two weeks I’ve been doing really well with getting out and running.  I’m searching out that feeling of reward.  I’ve also taken this into account at work.  Emails are piling up, requests for help continue to come in, but we’ve got big things we need to accomplish.  I set up my calendar so I can spend some time on those day to day activities that need to be done, but then I also block out time for those big ticket projects that are going to make serious and lasting impact.  When I know some time is going to be spent every day doing something that is going to have that impact, it makes it a little easier to get excited for the day.  In general it makes it a bit easier to get up in the morning knowing that I’m going to take some time early to think about the big things I want to accomplish.  Even if those “big” things are runs or some other seemingly insignificant thing, if it breaks you out of the gravitational pull of complacency, it’s a big thing!   All this isn’t to say that you’re going to make positive progress toward a goal every day.  Some days you’re going to have a bad run or workout.  Some days you’re going to look at a problem and be more confused at the end of the day than you were at the beginning.  Taking that step backwards doesn’t matter.  As long as you look to take the next one after the setback, you’re going to be just fine.  If anything, those steps backward make the reward that much sweeter.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Taming the Monkey Mind...

If it were up to me, I’d eat pizza in it’s various forms every day.  Maybe today I’d have it in a “pocket” with an Italian sausage from the hotdog stand down the street.  Tomorrow I’d have it with pepperoni and spinach.  The day after that I’d go deep dish.  The point here is that left to my own devices I’m going to satisfy my monkey mind and go for immediate pleasure, waistline and arteries be damned!  That’s why I’ve spent the last 20 minutes googling and sending recipes to Laura.  As like most of you, we’ve started the new year with our own set of resolutions.  One of those is to eat like we give a damn about ourselves.  I feel like this is a lot easier for Laura, she’s already content eating salads, tofu, and other horrible, horrible things.  The only time she eats bad is when I talk her into it.  I actually sent recipes to turn cauliflower into some god forsaken version of chicken wings and another to use sweet potatoes as toast.  I feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore.  Here’s the catch, rational minded Jason knows that he feels way better when he eats like this, he knows that food shouldn’t be used for immediate gratification.  Rational minded Jason also knows that eating until he’s stuffed and uncomfortable shouldn’t be a life goal.  I talk about rational minded Jason in the third person because he also thinks cauliflower could possibly be a substitute for a chicken wing.  Sometimes rational Jason can be an asshole.  Anyway, on any given day I can come up with a million excuses as to why having that extra slice isn’t the worst thing in the world, or why getting those lemon cookies at Jewel is a treat that I deserve.  Immediate satisfaction is so easy!  Now to make this all work, I have given myself one day a week where I get to indulge.  I get to eat whatever I want, no regrets, no guilt.  When that day is done, I’m back to taking the long view.  That day is glorious.  That day also gives me stomach aches, but it’s so worth it.  Granted I’m not even two weeks into this new lifestyle.  See how I did that?  I’m not dieting or depriving myself of anything, I GET to eat all kinds of healthy food during the week.  Oh the things we do to trick ourselves…anyway, I’m not two weeks in and there’s frustration.  There’s frustration for anybody making any sort of substantial change.  The monkey mind likes things easy, back to that whole immediate gratification thing.  The good news is I hope I’m stronger than to give in to the temptations, and hopefully before long when somebody asks me how I’m doing, I won’t immediately respond with STARVING.  Anyway, don’t give in to whatever cheat, shortcut, or silliness your monkey mind is talking you into and  you too can enjoy cauliflower instead of chicken wings, just like me!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Who would make a blind horse work anyway?

     “Don't worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon”  is something my dad would say to me for about as long as I can remember.  I always wondered where he got this and what exactly it meant.  Well a few years ago I found out he got this quote from John Madden of all places.  I’m really glad my dad stole this and didn’t try to use any info from Madden for the birds and the bees or something like that.  Ok, now I’m actually laughing out loud.  Picture your father doing a horrible John Madden impersonation trying to teach you about sex.  Yep, that could be an SNL sketch right there.  Anyway, this is a quote I’ve found myself coming back to time and time again through the years.  It came back to me again recently, so of course here I am sharing it with all of you.
This quote has significance for me in pretty much all aspects of my life.  If I’m dealing with work stuff, fatherly stuff, or personal stuff, when things get to be too much thinking of my dad saying this to me helps get me in a decent mindset.  It gets me to a place where I can handle things and puts everything into perspective.
Now I know the quote loses a little muster or significance knowing that it wasn’t originally from the old man, but just like I did here, I’m going to go forward saying the quote is dad’s even though he heard it from John Madden. As you can see here John Madden doesn’t know where he heard it either.  

I get that the argument can be made that a person who willingly loads a wagon that he knows is going to be pulled by a blind horse may not have the best grasp on the big picture.  I understand that.  I choose to look past it.  The thing of importance here and how this piece of advice helps me is in the focus I need to have on what I’m doing.  I can’t concern myself with what other’s jobs are, or what may be going on around me.  I need to be concerned with getting this wagon loaded.  That’s my job.  Whatever loading the wagon might be a metaphor for, that’s what I need to do.  Makes it pretty simple right?  Who knew John Madden and my dad could be so wise???

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Damit! It’s Sunday Night!

I remember being a kid and hating Sunday nights. Here I am 11 year old Jason, I just had two great, or hell, even two bad days off of playing and now I’m laying in bed dreading the fact that I have to get up for school in the morning.  School was just the last place I wanted to be, there was still too much playing I was sure I had to get done.  This was a common feeling back in those days.  The feeling was always that much worse after Christmas vacation, or some other long break.  Now I get to watch my kids experience that same thing as they get ready to go back to school tomorrow after Christmas vacation.
Whenever the kids complain about this I give them the same song and dance that I’d imagine most parents would say.  “It’s not that bad, and what’s not to like about learning?”, or try to empathize with them and say “It’s a necessary evil”  Either way it’s something they’ve got to do just we had to do it, and their children will have to do the same thing.

I talk about all this because I sit here tonight and I’ve got a bit of that feeling.  Nowadays the feeling is a bit different, but it’s there.  Now the feeling is a bit of frustration as I didn’t get through all the things I put on my ambitious “to-do” list on Friday.  I didn’t have all the fun I wanted to have.  There’s something something interesting to think about.  Do you EVER have all the fun you wanted to have?  I can’t imagine sitting around one day and saying “well, enough of that”.  Anyway, now the feeling is more about missed opportunities, or maybe better said, the closing of a window.  Tomorrow, the list of things that needs to be done grows a bit bigger, and priorities for tasks shift.  Outside of that the only changes, I think are in our heads.  At the end of the day every day is what we make of it.  Here’s to making Monday just as fun as Sunday!   I know that’s not possible, but I’m done worrying about the end of the weekend. Have a good week everybody.

Monday, January 2, 2017

It’s a New Year!

Welcome to 2017 everybody!  I hope the new year has health, happiness, and accomplishment for all.  I also hope you had the opportunity to enjoy the Holidays with family, friends, and loved ones.  The Stueck house had a great Christmas and New Year.  I think we’re the only house on the block to get kids a waffle iron and an inflatable T-Rex costume.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed all of it.
Now we’re into 2017 and of course that means time thinking about the past year and making those ever present New Year’s resolutions.  Or maybe you’re past the resolutions like our oldest daughter.  We were sitting around talking today and she says that she doesn’t get why she has to wait till January to do something.  I don’t have an answer for that, nobody has to wait to make a change, but I like using this time of year to reflect.  I like taking some time in January once the calendar has flipped and think about what I’ve accomplished over the past year, and what I want to accomplish over the coming year.  The past year has been an absolute great year for us, I asked Laura to marry me and she said yes.  The kids are happy healthy and doing well.  The business is going well.  Things really are good.  Now it’s time to think about those next steps.  I need to be running/exercising more, being more productive with my time, pretty much the same things that are going to be on 75% of new year’s resolution lists for people.  I’m sure you’ve got the same type things on your list, they all seem to pretty much come down to either being more or doing more fill in the blank.  Well during the family conversation today about resolutions, I got an amazing perspective from my 10 year old.  For this to make sense you’re going to need a little back story.  During the last few months Laura and I have had this sort of running conversation with the kids that we’re a family of “Doers.”  Something needs to be done, we do it.  We want something, we do what needs to happen to get it.  It’s been a good thing.  It sounds cheesy, but whatever, it’s worked for us.  Anyway, with that thought of being a “doer” in his head, the youngest says that our New Year’s resolution should simply be to be “have doner’s.”  Take a second on that one.  Go into your New Year looking to be a “have doner.”  What’s that?  you want to run today?  What would a have doner do?  They would have already done it.  You have a book that needs to be read?  Become a have doner and get it read.

For whatever reason I just love this idea, and like most great ideas it’s a fairly straight forward and simple one.  We’re simply taking the decision out of it.  Sure it’s easy enough to say that you want to run today, or that you want to get that closet cleaned out that makes you shiver every time you open it, but wanting to and doing it are two different things.  If you want to be a have doner, that decision is already made.  You can’t be a have doner and wonder if you’re going to do something.  You just need to do it.  I’ve been sitting with this idea for the better part of the day and it’s just great.  So the thought for the new year comes from my 10 year old.  Be a have doner.  Be a person that doesn’t think about getting things accomplished, just get things accomplished.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.