-20: Looking 20 Years Back

20 Years

Once you reach a certain age it’s natural to want to share experience, lessons learned, and advice with those younger than yourself. I’m no exception.

I also realize how frustrating it is to have someone older tell you what you should be doing, thinking, or valuing. Experience based lessons or not, it’s just annoying, and presumptuous if you’ve not asked for the advice.

My solution? My blog.

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I Suck at Meditation (And So Can You)

I’ve been meditating on and off, though mostly on, since the summer of 2010 when I purchased a copy of 8 Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind. Change Your Life, by Victor Davich. It was an appealing, secular approach to meditation that helped me get started.

Several years ago I installed both the Headspace and Insight Timer apps on my phone. They’ve been my go-to tools for meditation ever since; Headspace for Andy Puddicomb’s gently guided meditations, and Insight Timer for those times when I’m just looking for a “do it myself” approach. Both are great, though it’s Headspace I’ve purchased for others as gifts.

What I realized, through, is that when it comes to guided meditation — the phase I happen to be in currently — I kinda suck.

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Word Power

Fuck.

Did that word offend you?

Did you react negatively?

Are you now so offended that you’ve unsubscribed and will never return to my blog?

Congratulations. You just gave that word — and all those who use it — much more power than they deserve.

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Denormalizing Anger

I Can't Take Much More Of This Shit
I Can’t Take Much More Of This Shit (via @effinbirds)

Everyone is angry.

Look around you. Everyone is angry about something.

It seems like everyone is angry all the time. About anything and everything.

Sure, politics and the state of the world take center stage, but it doesn’t stop there. From big things to little, it seems like everyone is angry and complaining about something.

Anger is the new normal.

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Helping Animals is Helping People

Helping Animals and their Owners in Emergencies

That’s the mission of a non-profit organization for which I volunteer: the Washington Animal Response Team or WASART.

We emphasize the “helping animals” part a lot. Our stories include horses being rescued from sticky situations — sometimes literally if they’re stuck in mud, perhaps more metaphorical if they’ve fallen and can’t get up — dogs that have gone over cliffs or accompanied owners on a hike only to discover that they can’t make it back on their own, or livestock and pets needing temporary shelter during wildfires or other natural disasters.

These are our stories. They’re what we do. They’re what you think of when you think of WASART.

There’s another part of what we do that is perhaps even more important, albeit easily overlooked…

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Bag Like an Artist

Groceries

I’m naturally pretty good with spacial things — I can imagine how physical things are in relationship to each other, how things go together, that kind of thing.

That eventually served me well at my first job, as as a bag-boy at a local grocery store. Putting things in bags was one thing; anyone could do that. Putting them in efficiently, maximizing how much goes in, keeping cold things together, putting fragile items on top, making sure the bag wouldn’t weigh too much –leveraging my spacial reasoning, these were things that came naturally to me. They still do.

To me it was as much art as it was work.

Which is how work really ought to be; certainly the best work.

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Showing Up is Over Half the Battle

Show up for your appointments

When we moved into our current home, over twenty years ago, we elected to enlist a service to mow our lawn and do some other basic maintenance on the large yard. We went through several services before finding one we would stick with for many years.

The most common cause of failure was actually very disappointing. While we expected the quality of the work to be the determining factor, it was something else entirely that had us more often than not looking for a new provider.

We ended up making our evaluation on what seemed the simplest of things: did they even show up regularly, as promised, to do the job?

Too many times the answer was “no”.

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Life

Life is Short.

Life is short. Death is capricious and random.

We had an unexpected death in our circle of acquaintances that drove that point home once again.

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Right & Wrong

Fight!

A hypothetical conversation with a hypothetical friend about a controversial topic…

Me: “If you believed CONTROVERSIAL POSITION(*), then you would have no other choice but to believe CONTROVERSIAL RESULT.”

Friend: “No I don’t. CONTROVERSIAL POSITION is wrong.”

Me: “That’s not the point. I’m not trying to debate CONTROVERSIAL POSITION, I’m trying to point out the mindset of the people that disagree with you.”

Friend: “It’s simple: they’re wrong.”

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“Get Up Early” is a scam. Do this instead.

Alarm Clock

One of the currently popular so-called productivity hacks is to get up an hour or two earlier to get your best work done first thing.

It’s a scam. In fact, it’s the exact same scam as Daylight Saving Time. While it might feel like you’ve created this new magical time that was just waiting there for you to take advantage of with its additional productivity, it comes with a cost that no one talk about. Either you must actually sleep an hour or two less, or you need to compensate by going to bed an hour or two earlier.

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Finding and Sharing Wisdom

Open Book on wood background

I’m reading Chip Conley’s book “Wisdom at Work” about reintroducing the wisdom of older, more experienced individuals into today’s fast moving and high-tech workforce. He coins the term “modern elder” for those with wisdom and knowledge to share with (typically) younger generations.

It’s great if you can have an individual to act as your mentor, which is exactly what part of this whole “modern elder” thing really is. It’s also cool if you find yourself in a position where you can act as a mentor by virtue of having experience that you’re willing and able to share in ways that are useful to others. I know I still, specifically, want both: even at 61 I’m looking for individuals from whom I can model and learn, and I’m looking for opportunities to share what I’ve learned with others.

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Whidbey Island Visit

This blog post is as much a test of some new technology as it is … well, another blog post.

In recent months I’ve been playing with and expanding my photography skills. It’s nothing new, really, I’ve been interested in photography since my high school days.

In that regard I haven’t changed nearly as much as the technology has. (Smile)

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Weight Loss and Meditation

Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you that you need one to do the other. Far from it.

But in reflecting on my goals and process I stumbled into a concept shared by both.

I don’t have name for it — or, rather, any name I assign seems too limiting — but I can describe it.

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Writing as a Constraint-Based Creativity and Critical Thinking Skill

Placing sometimes artificial constraints on an activity is a fascinating creativity technique. The canonical example might be that Dr. Suess’ book Green Eggs and Ham was written on a bet — a bet that an entertaining children’s story could not be written using only 50 different words. That constraint led to one of the best selling children’s books of all times.

Constraints breed creativity. Create some limits, and see what you can accomplish within them.

The very act of writing is, itself, a constraint. What can you accomplish within the limits of language?

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Everything is an Investment

“Mental models” seem to be the latest and greatest thing. Popularized by folks like Charlie Munger, Ray Dalio, and even the Mental Model of the Month Club, they’re essentially a higher level way of looking at life’s challenges, situations, and opportunities. The 80/20 rule, aka the Pareto Principle, is one example.

I recently realized that I’d developed a mental model of my own that helps me make decisions. I don’t have a fancy name for it, but it’s really nothing more than considering everything an investment of some sort. This, then, helps frame decisions based on expected returns.

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The Cost of Failure

We often judge opportunities based on the potential benefit or “up side” as it’s often called. If we do ‘X’ we get ‘Y’. Typically the risk we consider is simply not getting ‘Y’ if we fail to accomplish ‘X’.

I’ve come to rely on an additional approach to judging both opportunity and risk. I call it the “cost of failure”.

It’s quick, easy, and now one of my most important evaluation tools.

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Back. Up.

The moderator of one of the groups of which I’m a member posed the following (paraphrased) question:

“If you had a chance to send a message to 20,000 people in 100 words or less, what would you say?”

Took me about a second to come up with a two word response:

Back. Up.

There. 98 words to spare. (99 if I’d chosen “backup” instead. 🙂 )

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Where I Find Positive News

One of my hats is as the curator of the Not All News Is Bad web site and mailing list. Each day I post one positive story gleaned from recent news.

The criteria are rather simple: besides being relatively recent, the story should be something that most would agree is good news. At a more practical level it needs to make me smile.

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