Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Personal Evaluation

About this time last year, I declared 2008 to be the Year of Me. Sounds selfish, I know. You have to see it in context. My life had gotten to a crisis point. That sounds a little dramatic---we've invested the word with a thick layer of cultural adornment.

Here's the first definition of the word, according to the Dictionary...

a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.

And that's where I was standing at this time last year. It was a stage where the future would be determined and I knew it. So, I declared it the year of me. Not to be self-centered, but to recognize that I was at the end of the runway--a stage where regardless of whether I decided to take action, my life was going to change. And you know what is interesting about coming to the end of the runway. The only choices are to speed up or crash.

So, I decided to speed up. I decided to invest more time in things that made me happy...little things, like getting the video feed from MLB so I could watch more baseball. And, I took a special effort to recommit myself to reading--an engaged pursuit that cannot co-exist with pointless idling.

You know, the funny part is, I hit the end of the runway a lot sooner than I thought I would. But somehow, I had the fortune to have already gained some momentum, and when the time came, I was able to get the plane off the ground...and, later in the year (not to torture the metaphor) I was able to bring it in for a landing.

So, on those accounts, the year was a success. Many people have stared at what I did last year, and emerged less healthy and less secure. I know I have already given my thanks for this, because much of it was good fortune. While 2009 is setting up to be a challenging year, I am taking the same approach...speed or velocity.

So, for record-keeping if nothing else....

2008 goals

More Reading---25 books

I read 23 books. While not quite to goal, this is an excellent accomplishment.

More baseball-mlb online

I did this, and got good benefit. Watched lots of games online, and enjoyed a renaissance of my pleasure-affair with the game of baseball.

str8 Fantasy league

I did this. Didn't work very well, but I did it.

Finances:

Reestablish financial system

Manage finances through divorce

This was also successful. The initial financial transition has been effective. I am still in a serious financial hole, but I am holding my own for now. 2008 has to be considered a success on this measure.

Str8s

Establish foundation of hope

Tame the fear of the future

This was perhaps my biggest accomplishment of the year. My 2008 epiphany came when I was asked what my dreams were...and I realized I didn't have any. My dreams were to get through that day. So, I put together my vision of hope, and shared it with many people. I believe that might have been the healthiest thing I ever did, and was the moment I achieved the lift-off I needed.

Bring it in for a landing.....

I did this, too. I managed all the aspects, legal, emotional, and logistical, with care and organization. There was no need for fire trucks on the runway. Just worked my punch-list and got through it all.

Attend Str8s, Keep reaching out internally and externally

I did this. It meant a tremendous amount to me over the course of the year, and these people remained a significant emotional bulkwark. I am glad I reached out to them and it was good to have as a goal, because you have to go and get the support.

Maintain Harry through divorce

This went better than I could have expected. This is probably 80% the time and effort of being a good parent before this year, and 20% what we did this year. Still, through whatever combination of hard work and character, this has been a blessing. My greatest fear was that he would end up scarred, angry or sullen, and that has not happened. Of course, as with everything involved with parenting, you are only as good as the last day.

Avoid being reliant on others for feeling good

This was better. It wasn't great, but it was better. I found my inclination to let other people determine my feelings. The reflex is still there, loitering around my mind. But, at least I recognized it, and fought it.

Physical

Start diet August 10--nutrition, exercise, veggies

This is a pass, but a low pass. I did improve my nutrition a lot, and I did lose 13 pounds, and I am cooking good food for myself. Exercise, though, has fallen off the radar. I was doing OK at first walking, but in the winter, once I get home I can't force myself to get out. This is important for your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Personal

Make and meet outreach goal

This must not have been much of a goal, because I don't have the faintest idea what I meant anymore.

Resolution list

85% for year

I did do this for 10 months or so. It was based on the Happiness Project version of Benjamin Franklin's resolutions. I ended up losing steam and stopping. It isn't a bad thing, and it did help me get organized the night before work with coffee and lunch, but in general, I don't think I got the benefit out of it. My goals were either so global as to be unmeasurable or so specific as to be mundane.

Book

100 pages of copy

Well, I didn't make this one. But, progress was made and the project has not died.

Whew. I'm exhausted. Seriously. What a year to survive. I wish I thought 2009 would be easier, but I fear it might be harder. But, it is a good exercise, to look back and see what happened in a year. I couldn't have imagined it going any better. I have to dig just as deep to make it go as well this year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Enriching...

Ever since I read it, I have been energized by the following quote from Richard Branson, someone who, in general, I have thought was a blowhard. Anyway, this feels right to me...feels like a philosophy I can live.

Successful people aren’t in possession of secrets known only to themselves. Don’t obsess over people who appear to you to be “winners”, but listen instead to the wisdom of people who’ve led enriching lives—people, for instance, who’ve found time for friends and family. Be generous in your interpretation of what success looks like. The best and most meaningful lives don’t always end happily.

This is part of my plan for 2009...to focus on lifing an enriching life, by standards that matter to me and my son. With that in mind, I completed the following exercise. I identified behaviors which enriched me and behaviors which did not. I decided if I made a graphic like you see on the left, I would have an idea about what I needed to do, and a better warning when I was straying away from enriching behavior.

In general, the themes are obvious. Purpose over indolence. Action over avoidance. A commitment to the intellect.

It is unrealistic to think I'm going to only do the green things. But, if I can turn the lantern of 2009 GREENER, or even mostly green, it will have been an enriching year.

Something like this matters right now, because there is so much to be afraid of. In addition to my personal changes, you don't have to read very much to wonder how the storm gathering out there in the world is going to effect my ship. But, as the saying goes, if you are in the middle of the lake and a storm is coming, you can pray if you want to.

But row toward shore.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

This thought occurred to me on a Christmas Drive

Humility says it could be worse....
Hope says it will be better.

Friday, December 26, 2008

So, the hoopla dies...

And how did it go.

I think it went fine.

Was it different?

Yes, of course it was.

But, did you survive....yes.

And, truth be told, did you more than survive? Yes, you did.

It was a perfectly fine day. It was a fun day with your family, and you made it through the day without any serious meltdowns or anxiety. You had some time to think and reflect...which you did.

A step up the mountain.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas


to anyone who finds their way here. Appreciate the day, think of it as an opportunity to give and let others give, and an opportunity to prepare for a new year.

(Yarrow/Henry)
And the wisemen spoke of peace on earth,
Of harmony and struggle
Know you now a cycle's gone and a new one is revealed.
In the weaving of your fingers
In the whisper of a love that's born again
In the weaving of your fingers
In a promise that we made that never ends.

Well now each man is a pilgrim,
Yes, we all must make the journey
And it seems that time is telling us to be all that we can
To help lift up the fallen, we must sow the seeds of goodness
The torch is passed among us now to light the way of man.

For the heart of man's a palace
And his dreams are as the sunlight
They burn away the darkness, as they warm the freezing cold
As an eagle flying higher, as a river through the canyon
The diamond star shines down upon, a pathway to the soul

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Someday Syndrome

I'm really loving the Someday Syndrome, a great blog that is not filled with tips and hacks, but with motivating and empowering advice and empathy.

This post is great, an interview with Naomi Dunford, who has made a successful new life for herself. As a snippet, here's a great little bit of dialogue she had with her Mother when she was at rock bottom.

My mom: First, make yourself a cup of tea. Things are better with tea.

Me: I can’t make tea.

My mom: Why not?

Me: Because I’m in a ball on the bathroom floor.

My mom: Well then, the first step is to get off the floor.


Indeed. The first step is to get off the floor. Literally in this case, metaphorically in everyone else's.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yesterday was a challenge


Concorse A
Originally uploaded by k.l.macke
It was a challenge yesterday....

I dropped my son off at the airport with his mother so they could go to Florida for the next 10 days.

Suffice it to say that as I watched them walk into the airport terminal, my heart did a little flutter.

The fact that it was 6:45 on a Sunday morning, I was half-asleep and had a death-defying drive home probably helped take my mind off it.

It is the first Christmas morning I will not be with my son.

I am determined to keep my emotions in the sweet spot...missing him, as appropriate, but not feeling sorry for myself or wallowing in self-pity.

It is what it is. Being miserable isn't going to help. I have some projects planned, including:

  • Some nice cooking only I will eat. (Last night I made spaghetti Carbonara that was awesome).
  • A photo book project that will force me out of the house.
  • My 2009 planning and goal setting.
  • At least one date.
  • Christmas with my Mother, but resisting her invitations to spend more time there.
  • Some other writing.
  • Some nice cocktails for myself, but to enjoy, not wallow.
  • And, of course, it is bowl season, so lots of football to watch.

We'll see how it goes. One day at a time. The climb continues.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reading


I am an avid reader. And, last New Year's, in my Winter of Cncertainty, I decided that for 2009 (the self-declared "Year of Me" I was going to read more. I was going to read 25 books during 2008.

OK, so I didn't make it. But I did read 23 books.

Along the way, I learned:

1. The lives of Caravaggio, Steve Jobs, Joe Nuxhall, Buddy Cianci
2. What would happen if people disappeared from the earth
3. How people are trying to invent the next car.
4. A great political satire about George Bush
5. The role Ohioans played in the Civil War written by a man I know
6. Growing up in the mafia
7. The latest baseball insights from Bill James
8. The latest thriller from John Sandford, signed by the author
9. Bonfire of Vanities
10. How randomness enters into our life
11. How people innovate
12. The incredibly divisive era of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement
13. How Tony LaRussa thinks
14. The nuremberg trials
15. How the survey of the northwest territory changed the country
16. A hilarious first person tale of following self help gurus
17. The latest wisdom of Malcom Gladwell
18. The historic 1912 election
19. A hypnotic account of a man who tracks Falcons across continents

What a great way to tour the whole world.

And if I didn't have the goal of reading 25, I wouldn't have read 23.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Creeping back


This strong feel of depression and anxiety. It has found its way back. I am feeling increasingly bogged down. What's going on? Relationship problems, macro-fear over the economy, unsettled feelings for Christmas.

So, I guess after slowing climbing the first stages of Everest, I've reached the first sheer rock face that I have to actually climb. Forward momentum isn't enough. This will require special effort.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is Happiness Contagious

According to this Harvard study, it is. If this is true, I'm going to have to talk to my neighbor, who thinks he is Eminem and calls me "Dawg."

It would be something like.....

"Dude. You are bringing me down. Make me happy."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Not Me? Why Not Now?

  • Want to be happy?
  • Stop worrying?
  • Stop avoiding?
  • Stop dreading?
  • Take command?
  • Take action?
  • Achieve your dreams?
  • Live an enriching life?
  • Be at peace with your work?
  • Keep home a happy place?
  • Stop living for other people?

Why not me? Why not now?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If you need to be motivated....

And you have ADD, this should take care of you....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Interesting insight

Here's an interesting insight....

Someday Lesson: Happiness does not exist in autopilot mode. It only exists when you’re aware of it. Everything else is merely comfort.

It comes from the great blog called "someday syndrome" which is about procrastination, but really about the fact that we all hold ourselves back far more than the circumstances surrounding us do.

But I had never thought of the differences between being happy and being comfortable. When I read the seven habits, I took the little test they have in the back for what is at "the center" of your life, and there was no doubt, I was living a comfort centered life. Most decisions were pointed to what would make me most comfortable....or, least uncomfortable.

And, tying a bunch of things together, you need to live an enriching life, which is about bursting through your comfort zone and making decisions which let you "make and do" great things.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Update

Working my way through my Christmas list. Not a great day, though. Disappointed myself by not showing more energy at work...I'm feeling so lethargic. And everyday it seems like I hear about someone else losing their job. And, someone disappointed me today, and I suppose I didn't react real well to that.

I'm happy with how I am spending my time at home, and I'm doing a lot of thinking about my writing, which is a good thing, too. So, those are good. But I've got to be able to figure out how to stop wasting time at work and get things done. I just couldn't feel less motivated.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making my way

Not much to post lately. On Monday night, I had some pretty strong anxiety, but I re-committed myself to a step-by-step, action by action walk through what needs to get done, and things are seeming better. I'm not certain I'm fully in touch with everything that's going on right now, hiding inside the action, but a few things on my mind are:

  • I listened to Into Thin Air on a long drive Monday, and really enjoyed it. I know it has been controversial, but it was a great story. Very compelling. I personally think it was fair. There are no accidents in a situation like that, and people's actions do contribute, even in difficult circumstances.
  • I am continuing to think through my goals for next year, along the lines of Merlin's "done and made" and the Brandon "enriching life" motifs.
  • I need to figure out how to bring energy to what I am doing. This remains a difficult challenge at work.
  • Economic doom is literally everywhere, and closer than normal to me. I guess you just don't think about it, right?

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Christmas Tree is up....


And I love it...and its all mine.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Talk about a Reality Check

Merlin Mann is someone who I enjoy a lot. He has a very enigmatic wit and has a nice sarcastic edge to him...which I like. Anyway, he's been on a bit of a rebirth lately, taking a look at the proliferation of tips, tools, techniques and wondering if they are getting the way of people actually doing great things. And, were the changes being made sort of junk food changes rather than real, live, painful change.

A couple of passages seemed really relevant.

We can’t get good at something solely by reading about it. And we’ll never make giant leaps in any endeavor by treating it like a snack food that we munch on whenever we’re getting bored. You get good at something by doing it repeatedly. And by listening to specific criticism from people who are already good at what you do. And by a dedication to getting better, even when it’s inconvenient and may not involve a handy bulleted list.

If this strikes you as fancy talk, may I suggest that you approach the woman in your life who most enjoys sexual intercourse, and, in the nicest way possible, ask her whether she’d prefer to have congress with:

  1. a confident partner who has had a long career of safe and mutually-satisfying romps with a range of people who liked different things; or,
  2. a 50-year-old virgin who likes reading blogs about sex tips.

You know the answer, and so does she. There’s probably more than one reason that poor #2 is still just a well-read dilettante, but a strong candidate for the top spot would be how he’s allowed his ardor for acquiring “tips” to take the place of getting started in the actual, complicated, and sometimes very confusing craft of making ladyparts happy.


He says we need to look for evidence of things we have "done or made" to see if things are helping, or just contributing to the "ass print" on our couch.

Good stuff. The doing it angle is right in line with what I recently read from Malcolm Gladwell. You have to do something, he says, about 10,000 hours to get good at it. No short cuts, no quick fixes. Either you are the Beatles playing in Hamburg seven hours a day, or you are not.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Traditions

One of the things I want to get back is the holidays...the last few years have been anxiety ridden and depressing, and not as happy as they should be. I've worked hard to be happy, and I know not to expect too much, but I know I can expect more. Not that it was awful before...just that there is room between what there was an unattainably perfect.

So, my son and I went out and got some decorations for the apartment. Modest, but festive, and when the tree gets here...and it will be starting to look like Christmas.

Here are some pics....



Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cruising at 30,000 feet

I'm doing some thinking and planning...

  • My goals for next year....
  • How to make the holidays meaningful and start new traditions...
  • What my real dreams are.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving...

It is Thanksgiving. This has always been an important day to me. I always said that it was more important to me than Christmas--lower key, quieter, reflective.

As I was thinking about this post, though, I started to think about this exercise of expressing gratitude...and like anything, its kind of become just that--an exercise.

Put me on the spot and ask me what I am thankful for, and I almost invariably say the same thing: family, friends, health. Nothing wrong with being thankful for those things. But, it is a pat answer, and rarely the result of any real, hard thinking.

And you know what...its ironic, but by saying those things, I am saying I am most thankful for the things I most take for granted. To be fair, its been a long time since I lost a close family member, and my health is good, so maybe I'm not as thankful for it as I should be for those things.

People are also often told to be grateful for everything they have, because many people have it a lot worse. And, obviously, that's true. But any person on earth could say that. It represents something that's true, but doesn't reflect any insightful thinking. Its cheating your way out of the question, in my book.

I've been thinking hard about what I am thankful for--really and truly, digging deep. Is there something in there?

True gratitude is for things that were given to you. Gifts. Things you didn't earn. They may be things you took advantage of, things you made the most of. But they are things which were given.

It is now a quiet moment. The world is just still. Here is my thanksgiving:

  • I'm thankful I grew up in an educated environment and that I was able to get a good education. If there is any way to sleep in today's world, its because if you have an education, you have at least a shot at security.
  • I'm thankful for people giving me chances along the way. Those diverse opportunities have made me the person I am today.
  • I'm thankful the universe is forgiving. I didn't always get what I deserved, didn't always receive the full consequences for my human sins and failures.
  • I am thankful that people along the way touched me when there was nothing in it for them.
  • I am thankful for whatever forces have come together in my life to give me a soft landing this year. My life was crashing. Through a combination of forces that I may never understand, I found a place--and the people around me found a place--for a safe landing. Though I may never understand, I am grateful nonetheless.
We focus on ourselves because that is the only element we can control. But friendly winds and soft terrain aid us along the way. Without them, the trip might be more difficult, or it might be impossible. Today, I am thankful for all that has helped me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple Escape....

You know, I was feeling a little out of sorts today....tired, irritable, depressed and unsettled...hard to put my finger on it. Just not good. And not feeling the way I want to feel. Not refreshed, happy, or peaceful. Or thankful.

So I popped on the DVR, and you know what I found? I had recorded the Wedding Singer a while ago, and I started it up. Its mindless, I know. But you know what, it made me feel better. Lightened up my day, and gave me perspective on some things that have been dragging me down.

Its not a new idea. Mindless entertainment has been in society for as long as people had the ability to entertain each other. Sometimes, we can be too serious with our leisure times. Sometimes too much meaningful becomes, well, meaningless.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

As winter approaches....

I hate driving in it, but....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vacation

I have the next week off, and I am going to spend some nice quality "me" time. I'm not going anywhere, just relaxing times with me and my son, and, of course, the holiday weekend--my favorite holiday, and my day to be thankful, one of the most important things we can do.

My challenge will be to keep an eye on things at work--just to monitor and KNOW its ok--but not let it dominate my thoughts. Rest, get better, and truly relax and re-create. Read a couple books. Wild times.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Anticipating Problem

One of my biggest problems is that I look ahead all the time...sometimes with anticipation, and sometimes with trouble. Problem is, it keeps from relaxing and being at peace in the moment. For example, this week I had to be at work at 7:3o two days in a row...I hate it when this happens. I already have a long drive, and getting there an hour early really stinks.

All I could think about was how much I would dread it, and how tired I would be...how I already felt sick, and how terrible it was going to be.

In a similar vein, while I was at a football game, and it was snowing, I started to worry about the drive home, which was three hours later. And, it was taking my mind off enjoying what I was there to do. If you are doing to drive there and worry about driving home, you might as well not go!

Well, you know the answer.

I made the meetings. I was tired, but I was fine.
The drive home was no problem.

I have to figure out a way to stop doing this....to let myself enjoy the moments that are here and have some trust that it will be OK when it actually happens. It seems like the only way to find peace. This part of Mount Everest...and I am starting to make some progress.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell

OK, so Malcolm Gladwell's new book is out...and I was pretty fired up. I love Malcolm Gladwell, and I find everything he writes fascinating.

He's popular, so there has been some people coming out against him recently...being critical for over simplifying their academic work, or for his habit of coming up with catchy little names like thin slicing.

Which I guess explains why most academics aren't on the best seller list.

I guess I look at it this way. I find Malcolm Gladwell stimulating and interesting. I find his ideas to be easy to understand and relevant. That they are debatable only makes them more interesting.

When did this get to be a bad thing? I haven't reconfigured my entire life based on this writing. In fact, much of what he says is hard to apply, even in marketing.

But, I enjoy the act of reading his books. Is something wrong with that? He's filling the same part of my brain as Bill James did, and others, too. Interesting ideas that challenge the norm, and that get you thinking about the things you see every day and thought you understood.

A good thing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seth Godin....and its all a little bit too much

I listened to the free audible version of the Seth Godin book tribes, and, you know, I liked it OK.

Parts I liked:

  • The idea of tribes, and my idea that interest groups are the new geography.
  • The inspirational part--the part where you lead, not manage, etc.
  • The part where people are looking for leaders--desperate for them. I think this is true.

But, the whole "on the Internet you can do anything/only the quality of your ideas matters/if you have no followers, its your ideas shtick got tiresome.

And its about half the book.

A few notes:

  • Plenty of great ideas go unnoticed on the Internet.
  • The blogosphere is being taken over by the mainstream media.
  • You "do anything" without the Internet as much as you can with the Internet.

So, I guess I admire Godin for a lot of original thinking and some interesting ideas. But, this whole pollyannish Internet stuff gets a little tiring.

Remember: Thinking big is fine. You can think too big, too. You need to think big, and then translate that into action today--not another day of dreaming of being an opinion leader on the Internet. (Kind of like those guys in Knocked Up).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apparently, you can exercise too much.....

From the Ann Arbor Hands on Science Museum....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Poet Comes out at the Ann Arbor Hands on Science Museum

Went to the A2 hands on science museum today, and they had one of those word walls. The boys were off learning about gravity by climbing on a rock wall, so I wrote this poem.

Just for the record...they didn't have a magnet for every single word. Still, I didn't think it was all bad....


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Great Happiness Project Post

Hey, really cool Happiness Project post today. Its 10 Tips to Being Happier

I like them all, but I want to comment on one....

It talks about the need for exercise to boost energy and thinking (not to mention fighting depression). I also know this is true, but I have fallen off the beam on this one. Before I moved, I walked the dog every night for around 30 minutes, and that was good. I didn't have much choice, because the dog would sit and state at me every night until we went on the walk, so there was really no choice.

Now, no dog. I did OK at first, on nights when I did not have my son. I did get some time walking in, and I kept up with it. But, say in the past month, it hasn't gone so well. I have been feeling like I come home, make dinner, and then I just want to wallow in my "me time." Also, football presents a strong pull.

Obviously, I gotta fix this. This is defined by what you do, and if you don't want to be a couch potato, you have to prove it by getting off the couch.

For now, the goal is to walk on any day when I don't have my son, which would be half the days in any given two week period, and take longer walks on the weekends. Tonight is a perfect example...and tonight is the time to start.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great Blog

Found another great blog, calling Project Happily Ever After.

By Alisa Bowman, its well-written because she's, well, a writer. Like published and all that. Anyway, she says this, which I found powerful:

No matter what, know this: you are too good to live an unhappy life. Start your project today, so you can find your Ever After.

Exactly true, and I think as relevant to me at the end of my marriage as for someone trying to save their marriage. And, of course, I love the project mindset.

This is a really inspirational website. I know it was probably intended more for women, but I liked it, too. The insights from someone struggling to learn to be happy are generally universal and often very instructive.

Check it out.

90%

Woody Allen apparently said that "90% of success is just showing up." I always thought it was Bobby Knight, but I guess it doesn't matter.

I've been thinking about that phrase a lot.

I used to think that it was pretty true. And, I have prided myself that after some pretty bad setbacks, I have always been at work the next morning, bouncing back.

And, I think it you really want to slice it up, the statement probably is true. Because 90% might be just showing up, but its usually the last 10% that sets people apart.

True as it might be, I'm not sure you really want to focus on it though. Because I think it can create a "go through the motions" mentality that isn't conducive to really high-level work or to a high quality of life. It can create an overall context of "checking things off a list" instead of creating high-quality, big idea work.

Or life.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"It defines a new population" of patients at risk.

There is a big Crestor study out, and I take Crestor, and it says that it greatly reduces the risk of heart attack even in people who appear healthy.

And, then, a Doctor from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit said something revealing (it is from Today's Wall Street journal):

"This takes prevention to a new level," said Douglas Weaver, head of cardiology at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, who wasn't involved with the Jupiter study. "It defines a new population" of patients at risk.
This, I suspect, is the ultimate goal of the so-called prevention industry. This has bothered me for a long time. They will lower risk numbers (like on cholesterol), creating a whole new class of people who are suddenly "sick."

Of course, risk is not destiny. Many of the people "at risk" could live on and not have an early, adverse outcome. However, the prevention industry doesn't know who those people are, so they treat everyone as sick. I wonder if they spent as much money on this as they do on creating new "populations" of people who are "at risk" whether they would actually be able to make the pool smaller (and more precise) and reduce how much people spend on medicine that isn't helping them.

I have always told my doctor that he treats me like a population. I am a 44-year old man with medically controlled cholesterol and blood pressure and a family history of heart disease. And, he treats me just as all the rest of the people with those characteristics are treated.

But, at the end of the day, there is no risk for an individual. An event will either occur or it will not. Add those up, and it creates all kinds of cool graphs, but these mean nothing to an individual. You either reach life expectancy or you do not.

In fact, think about this quote....the whole subject doesn't just define a whole new population. It gives the word "risk" a whole new meaning.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On being a hermit

I am a recovering introvert. That might surprise people who know me, because I can be pretty outgoing. But, the test is whether you draw energy from other people or not.

Not.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely on the far side of the scale. I am intovert-ish.

So, in my new life, I have been worried that I might tend to not get out of the house. And that wouldn't be good for me.

This weekend was a good example. I dragged myself to two different things I didn't want to particularly do.

It was, to be candid, a mixed bag. One was OK, but met its low/medium expectations. And one was an outright blast. Lots of fun, glad I went, feeling good.

I'm going to have to challenge myself on days I am alone to get out and do something, even if its only stopping for a cup of coffee and reading for a little while. Because, left to my own devices, I'll stay in here for days.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Re-charging the battery day

Today's a day to re-charge the battery. Its important for me. It is one of those "sweet spot" things where you can easily wallow and then feel like a jerk for letting the day slip away, but sometimes you gotta just pull the plug. Maybe the key is to feel like enough is under control and give yourself permission to shut down everything for a day.

I'm still feeling tired pretty much all the time....not the energy I am used to having. I don't think today is going to restore that, but let's see.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happiness Project Post

Excellent post over on the Happiness Project, which is one of my inspirations for this blog. Gretchen talks about things you do "for yourself" that might end up making you feel worse, like a treat that makes you feel weak or guilty, or taking a break from a commitment, like exercise.

Its an excellent observation. As with everythere, there is a sweet spot somewhere in there. Sometimes, you do have to take your foot off the accelerator. I went out for a special dinner Friday, and I did feel treated. But, that isn't always the way it works.

One other point I thought was especially valid was one about expressing anger, or "venting." I often fall into this trap, and I find myself spiraling into deeper and deeper anger the longer I talk. It starts to sound good, and you it starts to feed on the oxygen its getting, like a fire.

Of course, NOT expressing your anger isn't any good either. Bottling feelings up only causes problems.

I have been trying to do something else recently, though. As part of my trip up Mount Everest and my search for enlightenment, I am learning to think differently...to not give in to feelings of fear, anger, and resentment. At the end of the day, those things are all in your head, and you can maintain an the correct mixture of acceptance, peace, and action if you decide to.

Its not really about not expressing feelings of anger. Its about (as Gretchen says) staying calm and centered in the first place.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Enlightenment

You won't find enlightenment until you accept that unenlightenment is ripping a hole in your soul.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday morning message....


This message comes from a football coach. When Urban Meyer took over at Bowling Green, he took over a poor team with a losing mindset.

No fan of long-term re-building projects, Meyer told his team... "Why not us? Why now now?"

So, its Monday morning. Want to be happy? Want to change? Want to be a better person, a better employee? Want to do things you never thought you could do?

Think you can't possibly do it?

Why not you? Why not now?

What's going to happen to make it all work? You know the answer....nothing. You're who you are.

And if you're tired of living the old way...why not me? Why not now?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

At peace tonight

Good weekend....
Football...
Time to myself....
Time with my son....
Prepped for the week....
Treating myself to Zingerman's...(#24)
Time spent in the woods today, on a crisp Fall day...

And I walked outside Friday night to pay my rent, and I breathed in a big lung-ful of cool Fall air, and I thought, "You know what? All the stuff I was afraid of didn't happen. I spent years afraid my family would break up, years that are ripped from my life. Turns out the answer was not to resist the fears, but to survive their realization."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Richard Branson Wisdom....


Don't know what you think of him, but the final sentence of his new book is very thought provoking...

Successful people aren’t in possession of secrets known only to themselves. Don’t obsess over people who appear to you to be “winners”, but listen instead to the wisdom of people who’ve led enriching lives—people, for instance, who’ve found time for friends and family. Be generous in your interpretation of what success looks like. The best and most meaningful lives don’t always end happily.

Live an enriching life....pretty good mission statement, I would say. And, in your moments of choice, what if you asked yourself, what is the most enriching thing I could do right now?

There's another interesting point buried in there. You know, I read the book "When Pride Still Mattered" by David Maraniss, which is a biography of Vince Lombardi. I know this is heresy, but I don't wish I was him at all. Yes, he was a winning football coach. But, he was obsessed with his job, and a distant father and husband with no life outside football, and he died too young.

So, maybe its the quality of life...not the height of the ladder.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One of my odder goals


Last New Year, I was in a reflective mood. I named it the YEAR OF ME, not to be self-centered, but to signal to myself that this was a year when I had to change things to take care of me...so that I could be a better father, sure, but also so I wouldn't grow old and look back at life as wasted year on top of wasted year.

One of my goals....to watch more baseball. Why? Because baseball used to be a source of great pleasure to me. I could sit and watch a summer night melt away, listening to the Reds on the radio, and lose myself in the languid sounds of summer. I waited to read baseball books after the World Series was over, so I could have seamless, 12-month baseball in my life.

Lately, not so much. When listening to baseball, I have not been able to lose myself. Baseball requires an active mind...its action does not press itself upon you. I just felt like a step to peace was to reconnect with baseball.

I think I accomplished it. I had the MLB Video package, watched games on the web, on TV, and same some games in person. I read more about the game, followed pennant races.

All part of peeling back the onion and figuring out how that person I was before found peace.

So, I write this tonight, because I kind of thought the World Series might end. I use to mourn that day..it was so hard to go from the excitement of the playoffs to nothing. I actually missed baseball.

Thanks to inclement weather, the Series goes on...which is to be celebrated. And tonight, a successful day under my belt (and two glasses of wine), I can look back and now I invested in me...in something that makes me happy and at peace, and I am more at peace than I was at any point last year.

And, hey, there's an opening day countdown on my web page already.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lifehack Mania

Every once in a while, its good to take a step back. As people metric and task their lives into oblivion, are they really making progress toward peace. Merlin Mann is a smart guy who is kind of going through this transformation, thinking better not more. Anyway, he posted a tweet that has to make any lifehacker think....

Yeah, well, maybe if the Buddha had Dashboard, he'd also check every 3 min to see if his MacBook Pro shipped. Wait. Let me do that one over.

Sometimes, we might be too into management and not enough into enlightenment. David Allen talks about this....the purpose of all of this is to free your mind up to find your place on earth...mind like water, is the concept. Allen is actually quite persuasive on this.

Some of us might be hiding from what we will find when our mind is like water, that's all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One of those days

It was one of those days...long week, very tired and stressed. Don't know what it was, but about noon I put all the problems to bed and suddenly felt very, very sick. Flu sick. I got my work done and left work early.

I had plans--a date in fact. I canceled it...and came home, slept, had a late dinner, and I'm feeling a little better right now. A little sick, but better.

You know what? What I needed tonight was downtime, not a date. I needed to totally shut everything down, sleep, watch a movie (All the King's Men, very good), and not have to talk to anyone or be on stage...to sit in my sweats on the floor and just let the motor wind down.

At one point, I thought all I needed was a woman who would date me. Now, I understand it may be more complicated than that...but I'm determined to keep an eye on what is working for me. And I understand...maybe I'm OK on my own.

An intense relationship is probably not going to work for me right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another step up the mountain

Yesterday was another decent step forward. First, despite strong levels of stress, I still let myself leave the office feeling good, and let me enjoy myself.

And I took another step forward. One of my issues is that I am a pleaser. Which is something that can be good, but also can have its drawbacks. It has been especially true of women. I have craved their approval that I often completely mold myself to earn their approval. Spent a couple decades doing that, in fact.

So, a situation arose with a woman I am starting to see. She wanted one thing, I wanted another.

But, I'm determined to learn to be the person I want to be--giving, caring, but asserting what I need for me, in my new life. I'm not going to fall into the same thing again.

So, in an email, I calmly, but without undue explanation, asserted what I wanted to do.

And you know?

  • She doesn't hate me.
  • She's still speaking to me.
  • She's glad to know what I am thinking.

Dang? Really? Who would have thought it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yesterday was better...

I had a hard day yesterday. Lots of pressure, unreasonable people, unreasonable demands, and stress. And, I had a high pressure assignment today.

But I kept my perspective, remained positive, laughed at some things, didn't take everything so personally, and left here feeling pretty good.

Do you know how liberating it felt? To have, even for one day, let myself feel good even when everything looked bad? To drive home NOT burdened by the cares of the world, but ready to enjoy some time to myself?

Liberating is the word.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning to be at Peace again

You know, as I go from day to day, its like peeling back layers of myself. I am trying to be at peace and happy, but I feel like someone who has been in a coma and has to learn to tie his shoes again. I can remember when I was happy go lucky, when the world's cares didn't tie me up more often than not...you know, when I could process stress and fear. When I felt capable, and trusted the universe.

I feel like I have to re-learn every skill involved in being happy...one by one. Everyday I think about something, and I try to file it away and enjoy the great weather and beautiful scenery here. But it is totally alien to how I live. I had no idea how much I lost.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting Audiobook

I've been listening to Waiter Rant in the car. Its a book that evolved from a blog chronicling the life of a "cynical" waiter, working in a strange industry and dealing with the public, which inevitably means interfacing with some pretty unpleasant, unhappy, and maladjusted people. Not to mention raunchy co-workers.

Its funny and outrageous, and a great behind the scenes look at a restaurant. We eat in these places every single week, but we don't always understand what's really going on.

But it isn't without substance. It really isn't a book about restaurants. It is a book abut the nature of work.

Its has adjusted my attitude toward work. It has me thinking a lot about work, and I came in today with a kind of peace I haven't had in a while. Such as:

  • I am looking at people differently, remembering that they have their struggles too. And, people don't deserve to feel unappreciated. And even when they disappoint you, there's a way to deal with that and make them feel appreciated.
  • I have been known to curse the heavens because of the assholes I have to deal with sometimes. I'm not alone in that, am I? Every human enterprise is wrapped up in the complex and imperfect web of humanity, for its beauty and its terror. Its like getting mad because it rains. You're going to deal with people who are pissed at the world. Get over it.
  • It helps to laugh about it.
  • Waiter doesn't let assholes hit at his self-esteem. I need to do that to.
  • And you know what? Its not bad to take a minute to laugh about it, too. Maybe not right away, but before it gets seared into your mind and gets hard wired.
Oh yeah. Unless I am treated abominably, I will never tip less than 20%. More on really small bills.

The best thing you can say about a book is that it changes how you look at the world.

Is this another step up Mount Everest. It feels like it today. At the top of the mountain is some kind of peace that lets me live happily and deal with the burdens of the world only in their time, and feel free when it is time to feel free. I'm under the same amount of stress as yesterday...but feeling differently.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pretty Crazy Day...

But, I think its another step up the mountain. It has been hard and stressful, but I have been proactive and diligent and good humored and kept things in perspective. And, along the way, some positive things have happened today. I have kept my self-image intact and tried to slog through the issues.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A revelation--and step one up the mountain

How I react to the world is all about how I feel about myself....do I think of myself as an assertive, positive force in the world....or do I see myself as a rudderless ship buffeted by the foul winds.

Am I a cause, or am I an effect?

When adversity strikes, who do I think it strikes?

  • A man who deserves adversity no more or no less than anyone else does, and who can deal with the next steps without anxiety or self-recrimination. A man comfortable with himself, his destiny and his faults, and not willing to take the blame for the world, just his part.

Or

  • A man who believes that he deserves everything the world dishes out to him and worse, who is destined to repeat his mistakes over and over again. A man worthy of his own scorn...and unworthy of being loved unless he does what others want.

I am afraid that too often it strikes the second person...and that my self-image and self-talk, while confident in good times, is anxious and fearful under stress. Anxiety leads to depression and avoidance.

I have begun to try and channel the first guy--like when I give a speech, I pause at the mic, and I collect myself, and I think, "be in command of this room." In my funny moments, I call it channeling my inner Dan Draper. I need to do that more. A deep breath, and a simple thought, "be in command of this situation."

There are lots of things coming up....Everest is standing there, and during the walk you will be placed under stress--not the least of which is during the holidays. So, today's first step up the mountain is to take command of myself when I am under stress....just today, just the next time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Its late at night

I should be in bed. Long, long day. Tired and unmotivated. Not a great day for my first trip up Mount Everest. Had about a half bottle of wine and a big glass of cognac. But, the mountain is there, right before me. And I'm going to get to the top. Which means, tomorrow, I am going to go up---however small.

Some things did go well. I have a woman who is pushing for a stronger relationship. In the past, I would have obsessed over disappointing her this week when I can't see her. And I do like her. I asserted myself positively, and didn't fall into all that co-dependency stuff. And lo and behold, she stuck with me.

How about that?

And, I'm continuing to try and meet new women, which is MY desire for my new life.

So tomorrow, a simple goal.

I'm going to be positive, and think about jumping hurdles, not resenting them.

This has been hard lately. The novelty has worn off from my new life, and (whoops) the old me is still here. Don't try to do too much, don't try to climb the mountain in one day. If I can do this--for one day--its a step forward.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is my Mount Everest?




I've already talked about my favorite line in "Oh the places you'll" go by Dr. Suess. Its, "your mountain is waiting."

Recently ran across a really similar thought in one of the best blog posts I have ever read...its called "How to be creative" on gapingvoid.

We're going to spend a few days on this rich and illuminating set of personal philosophies (are they finally in that mythical sweet spot?)

Catch this:


You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don't make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.This metaphorical Mount Everest doesn't have to manifest itself as "Art". For some people, yes, it might be a novel or a painting. But Art is just one path up the mountain, one of many. With others the path may be something more prosaic. Making a million dollars, raising a family, owning the most Burger King franchises in the Tri-State area, building some crazy oversized model airplane, the list has no end.

Whatever. Let's talk about you now. Your mountain. Your private Mount Everest. Yes, that one. Exactly.

Let's say you never climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself, "Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway" and take up stamp collecting instead?

Well, you could try. But I wouldn't believe you. I think it's not OK for you never to try to climb it. And I think you agree with me. Otherwise you wouldn't have read this far.

So it looks like you're going to have to climb the frickin' mountain. Deal with it.

My advice? You don't need my advice. You really don't. The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone would be this:

"Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists. That is half the battle."

And you've already done that. You really have. Otherwise, again, you wouldn't have read this far.

Rock on.


So what is my Mount Everest? Is it the book? No, don't think so. My private Mount Everest is really, really private. Its about altering the soundtrack of my life.

  • I wake up in the morning, and my mind is preparing for the day, looking at every single thing with dread or anxiety.
  • I meet a woman, have a nice time with her. She wants more, I'm not ready. I torment myself with fears that I am going to let her down or I have to keep her happy.
  • In times when I should be feeling good, I'm too often pre-occupied with things that make me feel bad...not all the time, but much of the time.

Fixing this is my Mount Everest. I'm 44, and I'm as independent as I have ever been. My happiness is less dependent on other people than it ever has been and ever will be. But I have to accept it, because right now, I am just choosing new people to control my happiness, and these are people with no commitment to me. At least with my ex-wife, we were married.

So, step one. This private Mount Everest exists. Climbing to the top will require the trip of a lifetime. And I'm going to take the first step right now.

When I am at the top of Mount Everest I will:

  • Take care of myself along with other people.
  • Stop letting other people determine my happiness.
  • Start letting myself feel good.
  • Stop dreading the hurdles. Take them in stride.
  • Worry about things in their time, and no other time.
  • Take action to close loops, create peace. If you avoid it, it owns you
  • Not necessarily in that order.
These may sound stupid. I mean, its not a novel or a screenplay.

But, it is so tall I can hardly imagine it being taller. It is literally the highest and most difficult thing I can imagine in my life. This habits are so ingrained, and I have tried to climb this mountain before, though I didn't know that's what it was at the time. And I didn't get to the first base camp before I came tumbling down again, or I ran out of oxygen, or whatever metaphor you want.

But let's be clear...I ran back down the mountain when it got a little steep and my focus wandered.

That's part of climbing a mountain. You gotta expect it to be steep. And you gotta climb everyday for a long time to get to the top.

So that's it. Today is the day I start my climb to the top of my own, private Mount Everest. Next, I will prioritize the first steps...what I need to do to get to the first base camp.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I really like the Happiness Project, and this post provoked some interesting thoughts for me....

One of the things I am learning is that there seems to be a sweet spot between any two competing philosophies.

  • You have to be committed to your path, but flexible enough to change.
  • You have to accept the things that happen to you....but, then again, many of our greatest minds never accepted things as they were.
  • We should learn to say YES to life....unless the real skill is learning to say no.

I guess the bottom line is that you can't bromide your life. You can't set up hard and fast rules to govern what you do and how you think.

The post linked above is about that, too. Here's the essence.....

I’m paraphrasing, but in part Dan Pink answered, “I never ask myself ‘What’s my passion?’ That question is too huge. It’s not helpful.”

I think that’s absolutely correct. One of my happiness-project resolutions is to “Think big,” but sometimes you can paralyze yourself by asking big, unanswerable questions.


This is actually a pretty big insight on its own. You can certainly think too small. Most people haven't figured out that you can also think too big. You can't see a beautiful painting on the ground if you are looking down from an airplane.

That's why I like GTD and the Weekly Review. Once a week you think big, occasionally you think even bigger, but, in general, you think in more manageable bites.

I often say, "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Do what you need to do today, and check in once in a while to make sure you are oriented to the right destination. The peace you get will help you live better along the way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wonder and worry


Watching a blank screen
Originally uploaded by ToastyKen
This might be my worst habit.

When I don't know about something, I wonder about it. Now, you could do two destructive things here.

* Assume everything will be OK.
* Assume everything will be a disaster.

I'm in the second boat...wonder and worry. If there's something out there that is undefined--and let's be honest, life is infused with ambiguity--I tend to assume that it will be a disaster. Not just ideal, not just bad, but a catastrophe. I just color in pictures with black.

So, I need to fix that, right? I caught myself doing it this morning, and I thought...hey, if you wonder, you don't have to worry.

What comes with this anxiety, though, is a fear that makes you not want to find out the real truth, since you are so sure its horrible.

So, instead of wonder and worry, you have two healthy options:

* Wonder and wait. (most things work out).
* Wonder and investigate.

Either way, torturing yourself over the unknown is not the action of a healthy person, especially in our complicated modern world.

This is really funny

Politics...if you didn't laugh, you'd cry. Watch this. Oh, and I really do believe laughter is the best medicine. Normal amounts of sleep might be second.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Great Podcast

I really enjoy the Dan Klass podcast, The Bitterest Pill. I won't go into detail about what it is all about, because it is very difficult to describe anyway. Click here if you want to know more.

He is a Dad, and he had a great Dad post. This won't do it justice, but he has a long and crazy day with his kids, and they're acting nuts, but he's trying to do some cool, fun Halloween stuff and everybody is having a good time, but, you know, the kids are pushing back now and then, and its kind of stressful too.

If you're a parent, you have been there. And you're thinking, I wish we were done with this.

Well, in this podcast, Klass realizes that it will be all over...sooner than we think. In his case, in 9 years, and in my case it will be over in six years. I was thinking this same thought this summer when I was standing in line at Mickey's Dairy Twist, our town ice cream stand.

My son has a heroin like addiction to Mickey's. And he is always bugging me to go. We go more than we should, and often I take him under protest. But, I looked at him the other night, in the glow of the big, bright awning they have, and he was so excited and wide-eyed...and then I thought, you know, soon enough you won't have anyone to take to the ice cream stand.

And when you do, you will feel a void, the searing pain of absence. So, don't feel it now, too, right? Feel the presence and the child-like excitement, loosen up a little bit, take things a little less seriously, and enjoy the ride. The park will close soon.

Moose out front will tell you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Life Crisis

OK, so in the past couple of days, really starting on Monday afternoon, I was faced with a serious personal crisis....life-changing. The kind of thing that in an instant takes everything you thought you knew about your life and throws it out the window.

I have been consumed by fear and anxiety. I was pulling out every self-talk thing I had...

  • Thinking about Dan Gilbert, and knowing that my mind will compensate and it won't be as bad as I think.
  • Telling myself that there's no point to regretting what has happened in the past, and only a point in moving forward.
  • Telling myself to take responsibility for what I was facing.
  • Telling myself that people go through what I was facing all the time, and come out happy.

I don't know if any of this worked. I had tons of (probably appropriate) gut-level anxiety, but really only one full-fledged panic attack. So, I got that going for me.

And, I guess you would have to say I coped, right? I mean, I didn't curl up in a ball, kept working, all of that.

But, it was sure hard.

The crisis has passed, and apparently will not come to fruition. The relief was palpable. I don't know how I feel about how I did. It was classic fear and self-recrimination. But, again, there was no meltdown. Just a lot of looking into the abyss.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


What a great day it was today. One of the things I am working very hard on is enjoying good things, without letting cares of another day ruin every single moment of every single day, as is my habit. So, my son and I were touring our local parks (long story) and I got this shot at Curtis Park in Saline.

I love the Fall, and it was so wonderful to be out and about, feeling the cool air and getting some exercise, spending Father-son time. I'll have plenty of cares tomorrow....plenty. But, I did better today truly re-creating. Not entirely worry free, but instead of my thoughts being dominated by worry 80% of the time, it might have been 20% of the time.

And in that mind set, you can be at peace....and still perform. Probably better.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I've mentioned before what a tonic exercise is for me....


Took this on a long walk through Gallup Park last Sunday. Will look even better when the colors fully change.....it went directly to my heart.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Other people are not going to decide my mood...

To the best of my ability. So help me God.

On the Way to School


On the Way to School
Originally uploaded by CaptPiper
found this photo on flickr....great shot of a pretty little town and a good place to live. The lighted trees really make the downtown look special. Sometimes, we get used to how something looks and we don't notice anymore what beauty is around us. Then we'll travel across the state (country/world) to see a pretty little town.

Its kind of inspirational....quiet and anticipating, with possibility.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The struggling continues

I woke up twice last night with anxiety attacks, and then was very snappish to people at work. Then, I did some work, got out of the office on a sales call, and things started to come around. Then, I went on a walk tonight, and as I breathed the cool night air into my lungs and got my heart moving, things began to come around. Feeling much better now.

A few things are messed up. I need a point of beginning.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Point of Beginning

This is a very attractive concept to me....here's the story. The first Geographer of the US was embarking on an enormous project, one that might have been considered impossible to many: surveying the US from Pennsylvania west.

Wow. Untamed, unruly wilderness. Rivers, creeks, swamps. Animals, natives. Tough, heavy reliance on math. You get the idea.

How do you do something like that? Well, the first thing you do is find a place to start. And then you move to the second place. And the next place. And so on.

You deal with the challenges as they arise. But you don't (and can't) deal with them before you start. You put a starting point down, and go. And everything relates back to that point.

And it becomes a monument.

The picture here (courtesy Jimmywayne22 on flickr on creative commons license) is of a monument to the starting point of the US Public Land Survey, which began on this date in 1785.

A couple of things about the survey....it defined and tamed the unruly wilderness. And, the WAY they did the survey defined the future, because it created a nation of small landowners which is integral to our identity and character as a people. (This book, Measuring America, is a great story that teaches us how acts may end up being more significant than we think at the time).

So in our lives, maybe it should cause us to think.

  • Are my challenges bigger than those of the public land survey?
  • If I am facing an emotional wilderness that might as well be an abyss, how can I mark the territory?
  • What is my Point of Beginning? What concrete reminder of that place can I post, so I remember where I started?
  • Do I undetake ordinary acts with the idea that I don't understand what significance they may have in the future?
  • Am I delaying just because I don't know where to start?

Monday, September 29, 2008

So I spoke too soon

I talked a little soon about "my mountain is waiting" and how I energized myself out of bed this morning with my little mantra.

It was not a good day. I was petty, pissy, lazy and unproductive. Oh, and don't forget about self-pitying, perhaps the trait I hate worst of all.

Its 11:30 at night. And I know I let myself down today.

I know I can't change it. Its over.

Vince Lombardi once said, "it isn't how often you get knocked down. Its how often you get back up."

Or, after the Battle of Shiloh, Sherman approached Grant and said "Sir, we've had the devil's own day."

"Lick 'em tomorrow" said Grant.

So tomorrow is another day. It won't be like this again. I am the master of my destiny.

I think I broke my little toe

Yes, I know. There's nothing they can do for it.

Anxiety

On the good front, I woke up early this morning---like 4:30. In the past, one worry would have led to another and pretty soon I would have been up the whole time. I would arrive at work tired, and in a bad frame of mind.

I think between my meds and my hard work on self-talk and my identity, I've been able to calm these demons. They haven't gone away, they just aren't screaming at me all the time, and I can tell them to shut up.

When I did wake up, I uttered my new slogan: My Mountain is Waiting, which is from Oh the Places You'll Go.

I will say this: I am really worried for the future, the big-picture, 30,000 foot future, as it relates to my economic life in America in the coming years. I don't let it dominate my thoughts, but I am not confident.

All I can do is what is before me today.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Managing the Offense, managing your life

If you follow football, the phrase you keep hearing is that quarterbacks have to "manage the offense."

What does that mean?

It means the quarterback took the play, understood the objectives, what he information he needed from the defense to make the play, and how we could take what was available to have a successful play.

It also means that the QB left the huddle with a plan. Part of "managing the offense" is to look at what's the defense does, and adjust accordingly.

Sometimes it means calling a timeout if he needs to think about it.

It doesn't mean that its time to stress out because things were not as you suspected. It means you look at the situation, think about what your options are, and execute one of them effectively.

And then you go back in the huddle and do it again.

I'm not a "football teaches life" guy, and not because I don't think you can learn things from football, because you can. In fact, you will learn from any activity in which you push yourself against recognized standards of performance and commit yourself to succeeding, whether its sports, music, acting, politics, etc.

Enough to say that I am as much a "football teaches life" guy as I am a "concert piano teaches life" guy.

But, what if you took the concept of managing the offense, and you used it to manage your life.

You'd have a game plan....you'd know what you need to do and how to get there. You'd also have thought through what to do if things are different than you thought--what audibles to call when you get to the line.

And then you'd do it for the next play. And then the next.

As I'm feeling overwhelmed, as I am now, it seems like a good metaphor, a positive and competent way to handle the pressures of a day.

For example. I got a bill from my apartment for electricity (from before I moved in) that might have stressed me out at one time. Instead, I wrote a note explaining it, and walked it to their drop box right away.

First down, me.

Next play.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Take Care of others by taking care of yourself---or the selfish chronicles.....

This is a concept I find really interesting. When I was struggling with the end of my marriage, lots of people told me to take care of myself. I didn't want to do it, because I was busy shouldering the whole world. But I didn't start to really get better until I learned to take care of me. Like everything we talk about, there is a sweet spot here...you can't be too self-centered. But, if we are healthy, are we better able to make those around us healthy too?

This article in the Harvard Business Journal says we can. It makes sense. An unhappy, polluted personality is not going to be able to raise emotionally healthy children. I guess you have to learn to take care of yourself right along with everyone else.

Procrastination Costs Big Time

I am a terrible procrastinator. I am now, and I always have been. And, in some sense, I probably always will have those tendencies--under normal circumstances, that's the way I will always tilt.

But, I guess through your own effort you can move the needle from REALLY BAD to BAD, right? Or, from UNACCEPTABLE to ACCEPTABLE.

For example, I got my energy bill over the weekend. In the past, I would have filed it away, and then dealt with it right before--or after--the due date. All the time, it would have been rattling around in my head....don't forget to write pay the bill, etc. And, if I was in an anxious state, bound up with my fears, I would have been afraid to open the envelope and begun to imagine how much it was for.

First, I have signed up for ebilling. When the bill arrived on Saturday, I logged onto DTE and posted payment, direct from my account, to be paid on the due date. The whole thing was done in 3 minutes.

Think of the time my brain would have spent on this issue. Paying the bill took the same time Saturday as it would have in two weeks. That time was already committed at some point. So nothing is lost by doing it now, and something is gained...a small amount of peace of mind and clarity.

This isn't the type of change that "changes everything" if there is such a thing. Its just one more habit to try and be at peace, so that life can be at its best.

Monday, September 22, 2008

View from my back....

Shot tonight, lying on my back near my apartment while my son played on the playground equipment. Beautiful fall day--the first day of Fall, in fact---and a moment you have to appreciate.

Terror

For the first time in a long time, I woke up early with a start, bolting up and sweating. Its certainly the first time since I moved out.

Probably par or ahead of the course. I have some debt issues which I need to manage.

A couple notes:

I got up and did something right away, which I might not always have done.
I had high anxiety for, let's say, 15 minutes.
I think I had a healthy response. I started to breathe, and then gave myself some self-talk about what I could do to try and manage the issue. And I got some steps identified--even some things that I had planned to do before I move.

This is a difficult issue--and financial management was destined to be my most difficult issue.

I'm tired now, and still having some lingering effects. I need to do enough to manage the issue effectively AND get it off my mind. In the past, I would have just tried to get it off my mind.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A backlash against GTD? Apparently so, based on this and this.

In a way, I know what they are talking about. As a former 7 Habits Guy, I sort of feel like you can end up in, as Covey says, the "thick of thin things."

The complaint is that GTD places a priority on project management, not on high quality thinking or innovation.

Taken one way, that's true. But, not if you ask yourself, WHY does GTD focus on project management. The whole idea is to manage your projects in such a way that they are not floating around your brain, polluting the atmosphere. This should in theory, free you up for two things that are tangentially related:

  • True leisure time (where Covey would say that you would sharpen your saw and truly re-create)
  • An ability to focus on innovation and creativity on the projects where it is required.

This is partly Allen's fault, because of his rhetorical focus on moving widgets. You have to be able to grasp the idea that doing some creative is moving a widget, and that it is moved until it's created effectively. What that will require you to be is less literal, and able to tolerate some ambiguity, which many people simply cannot do.

Second, Allen always made it clear that you could adapt his system to your needs. You don't have to do EVERY part of the system to be effective. I'm going to write about how I manage GTD and 7 Habits soon....suffice it so say that you can adapt it and make it work.

7 Habits never did it for me because it didn't help me manage the virtual blizzard of stuff in my windshield every day. But, I do believe the two philosophies can be accomodated. I use 7 Habits roles and visioning to create my overall direction, help me decide on projects, and help me ensure my projects do not simply reflect today's urgency. That's all part of my weekly review.

And then, I use GTD to manage those issues on an hourly basis.

To me, this all makes perfect sense. Different things for different people. But, you know what. You can't discard systems because they eventually butt up against the time-space continuum. You have to adapt them, using your own knowledge of your life. You cherry pick the things that represent timeless principles, and then move forward with velocity when needed, and float on the river when needed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Mountain is Waiting

So, a very good friend of mine (my rebound friend, in fact), gave me a copy of "Oh the places you'll go" by Dr. Suess shortly after my divorce. She told me to read it when I had some quiet time, but something to do.

She was right. I read it last night, and then I took a long walk.

It is an incredible book, a Gettysburg address for its simplicity and elegant use of language. Every part of it moved me, two parts made me feel like the top of my head had blown off.

One was the end.

So...
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

My mountain is waiting....that really moved me, made me want to get to work, and do for today what I needed to do to move my mountain.

The second is the paragraph about waiting....

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting, huh? Waiting for life to fix itself? Waiting for something, and when it happens, what? You'll wait for something else.

A wise book. Life is for living. Don't be reckless, but don't wait. Get busy living.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the Rebound


Ouch...so my first relationship post-marriage is falling apart. Well, I don't know how OUCH it is.

My advisors have all told me that I shouldn't rush into a relationship. Some (mostly women) have even told me I should wait a year before I leap into a relationship. Need to know myself better, not really ready to be a partner to another person, and wasting a year in the life of an otherwise innocent person.

Well, I didn't do it. Right or wrong. What we had was a good relationship, but I knew for about three months it wasn't going to work out. But, as long as no commitments were being made or no one was being led on, it was OK, right? And certain parts of it were great.

In fact, she taught me I could be attractive again, and I could be sexually vigorous again, and I could please a woman. And I could enjoy a woman's company. And we had some great, great times, way outside my comfort zone, where I need to be.

Well, our parenting schedules rarely mix, and we don't live close to each other, and we (apparently) were both wondering what whether something else was out there.

So we decided to see other people. Her suggestion, manipulated to look like it was my idea.

Mostly, its a relief. I was beginning to wonder how I could get out before it got too far and someone got hurt. And, it wasn't right long term.

Mostly its a relief, but it hurts a little. Maybe more. And I don't know why. I keep telling myself, I got what I wanted and she wanted it too...hmm, you mean sometimes people don't know what they want?

Anyway, there's fork in the road now:

  • Do I take my freedom with thanks, and retire from the stage for a while, at least until the end of the year? (This is what my mother-brain says I should do).
  • Do I jump right back in and start meeting people. (This is what my gut tells me to do). I even thought---what if I made a goal to go out with 20 women between now and this time next year??? Ambitious....would it make me happy?

I'm not going to worry that I'm not ready for a relationship. Everyone brings baggage to a relationship, its not a crime, so long as no one gets led on.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I am registered on an online site, but I haven't filled it all in yet. Maybe I'm not ready. During the last 18 months of my marriage, my mental health was FAR worse than I knew at the time. So, I feel ready, but maybe I am not.

There's no hurry. No rush. No pressure. But people say follow your gut, right? Could it really hurt anything?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Can we just say Yes?



I was at this movie and I saw this trailer, which is based on a very interesting premise (much like Liar Liar, another Jim Carrey Film). The Film is called Yes Man, and Carrey's character basically tries self-help through saying Yes.

Like telling the truth all the time, I suspect this has some potentially funny unintended consequences.

But it got me to thinking. Saying YES is one of those Ying-yang things. There's a correct balance, like between acceptance and discontent. In general, I have thought for a long time that what was holding me back was a difficulty saying NO, not yes. I would get in over my head because I wanted to please everyone.

But maybe not. Maybe I have failed to be as open to new adventures as I could be. They often say that when you are old, you regret what you didn't do.

Like I said, somewhere in all of this is a groove, where you have an upward trajectory, based on growth, but you are not pointing the trajectory so steeply that you cannot manage.

Also, (and here it gets really interesting), the more you say NO, the more you can say YES.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Laughter

Keeping my sense of humor is important. I have two sayings as it relates to this:

The secret to a happy life is to be easily amused.
The other secret to a happy life is to be able to amuse yourself.

So I was thinking this morning about the food I am eating lately. Specifically, I am not eating things I really, really like, such as sushi (because it is expensive) and fat (because it was making me sick). Then, I thought to myself, well, sushi and fatty foods are "sometimes foods" not "all the time" foods.

Which led me to look up this clip, as listed here. For anyone who grew up with Sesame Street, this one is a scream.