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


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


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 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 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.


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.


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 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....
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