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Hemingway would approve

For the Last 9 months or so I have been carrying a Moleskine notebook in my back pocket. I am finding the practice to be indispensable in many situations and would encourage everyone that works in a knowledge or creative field to consider adopting the practice.  Here are a few things I have discovered so far:

1. You never know when you will need it. It’s amazing how often you can be pulled into a “quick” meeting that ends up making some major decisions that need to be documented. Carrying a journal at all times means you’ll never be caught flat footed.

2. The mind doesn’t stop thinking when you walk out the door, and that fantastic idea that you “will never forget” will often fade away the further you get from the point of inspiration. If it’s really important, stop and write it down.

3. When you fill up a journal, stop and reflect. A full journal provides a wealth of information on which to pause and reflect. These are good direction setting periods in the flow of life where you can evaluate how good you have been at staying on task recently.

4. Don’t stress about whether what you are going to write is “worth” writing down. This impulse is hardest to fight with a new journal. New journals are full of potential. Unfortunately we can let that potential keep us from starting anything. The first thing you write in your journal is the first thing you need to write that day. Maybe its a phone number, or a grocery list, or a note to remember to call your mom. No matter how mundane, write it down. Chances are it will be interesting in context later.

5. You only need one journal. I used to have 3 journals that I never used. When I consolidated down to one was when I really started using it. If you try to segment and categorize your journal around different segments of your life (work, home, gym) you often find yourself hesitating to write things down in the “wrong” place. There is no wrong place to write something down. Just get it committed to paper and organize it later.

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I told you so!

I told you so monkey!

One of the best feelings in the world is being vindicated, standing up for what you believe, being told “it will never work” and then when the final curtain is drawn, being able to say “I was right, I told you so”.

One of the worst feelings in the world is being cut down, standing up for what you believe, being told “it will never work” and when the final curtain is drawn, finding out they were right all along. It didn’t work. Everybody got it right except you.

I find this juxtaposition between “I told you so” and “being told so” fascinating. It is a source of endless conflict between couples, friends and coworkers. It is something we all experience on both sides and we know which side is the right side to be on, yet many of us don’t soften the blow when it’s our turn to be on the better side.

Why is it that the elation of an “I told you so” moment scrubs away all memories of “being told so”?

I think it exists in a temporary suspension of empathy. When we “win” we aren’t thinking of others and what our win means to them. We are feeling self-righteous. We are feeling on top of the world. And the best way to get just a little higher is to point out how someone else missed it.

On the flip side, when we get dunked on, we often aren’t thinking of how sweet it must’ve felt to pull one over on us. It’s not really a great time for self reflection. We aren’t really trying to figure out “how we could do better next time”.

So in each ITYS (I told you so) instance we have a party that is less open to criticism than normal, and one party more likely to gloat than normal.

What are we going to do?

Well, if you just lost, try to remember that sometimes it’s fun to win, and sometimes part of winning is gloating, and maybe next time, you know, try a little harder.

If you just won, remember that it sucks to lose, and you probably shouldn’t be a jerk about it, because next time it will probably be you that should have, you know, tried a little harder.

quote of the day: beauty

“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”
Buckminster Fuller

carry your own weight

I was walking to work the other day with a saddleback messengers bag strapped to myback when I noticed a trend that has been fairly common among city commuters.

Rolling Laptop Cases

To me, these laptop cases have come to symbolize a significant problem. In many respects we have lost touch with our ability to thrive physically. Carrying one’s own weight, literally, is something we have given up without much consideration to the consequences.

On a recent overnight trip to Phoenix Arizona, I decided to embark on an experiment. I would carry all of my luggage in my bare hands. No shoulder straps, no rolling wheels, just my hands and my gear. I got this idea in my head before I left for the airport so I had the luxury of packing with this requirement in mind, but I still needed to have business attire for 2 days, as well as enough equipment to present our software to 20 or so individuals during a “speed networking” event, as well as a presentation to a room of about 120+ people. Oh, and I wanted to get in a workout at the hotel that night.

The end result? Two bags, one made of leather holding all my technical gear (laptop charger, etc..) and one lighter bag holding my single change of business clothes and a pair of shorts and shirt for the gym. All the way through Sea-Tac Airport, through the Phoenix Airport, to the cab, through the hotel to my room, to the conference center, back to the hotel room, to the cab, back to the Phoenix Airport, through the Portland Airport to my connecting flight, through the Sea-Tac airport to the Light Rail station, through downtown Seattle to the ferry terminal, and on the 1/2 mile walk home from the ferry terminal I carried that weight in my bare hands.

In the world of rolling suitcases and rolling laptop cases, and luggage carts this seems somewhat ridiculous, and I’d be the first to admit that yes, it’s a little strange to embark on such a journey, but I learned something about myself in the process. Pushed to extremes, the extremest of extremes, if the wheel no longer existed, I could travel the world, using my bare hands if need be. I carried my own load.

For me, the lesson here is two-fold.

Firstly: We are never going to be completely devoid of physical challenges. Living in such a way that we can face these challenges when they appear will make us more confident. My example was contrived, but there could be many situations in which you would need to carry something heavy for a great distance. Carry groceries to the car, or home? Wood to the fireplace? Water from the well? My experience carrying my own weight for a few evenings convinced me that I could tackle those challenges if suddenly my life depended on them. It probably wont, but who said life works in completely predictable ways.

Secondly: We need less than we think we do, and the things we have can often become a burden. When I was forced to carrying my own weight, all of a sudden that second set of shoes didn’t seem quite so important. I’ll just wear the nice ones on the plane. That extra piece of electronics to keep me entertained on the plane? I’ll just bring a magazine instead. I can leave it in Phoenix once I finish it and the load will be lighter on the way home.

I would encourage everyone to embark on a similar experiment someday. If you live within “walking” distance from the store, try carrying your groceries home one day. You might need to stop a few times, it might not be a whole lot of fun, but having done it once you’ll know that in the future if the car is in the shop, you could still provide food for you and yours. And if you don’t have time to make it to the gym that day… maybe this could be your workout…

the truth

“A wanted truth is always stronger than an evidenced truth.”
Scott Adams

Sometimes Scott Adams blows my mind. This is one of those simple statements that is so dense with implication that it’s hard to take it all in. I had hoped he would expand on the idea, but he didn’t so I’m going to give it a shot.

When we choose to believe in something it starts to gain a sort of weight. New pathways are built in our mind and the more we experience the world through these new pathways the more cemented they become. If I believe “9/11 was an inside job” I begin to see little pieces of evidence that all work to reinforce my believe through a principle known as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.[Note 1][1] As a result, people gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased way.

via wikipedia

The longer we hold a belief the more we have time to build up these selective pieces of information that make the truth we know or desire seem all the more compelling.

Here are a few of my wanted truths. Some have supporting evidence, some don’t. What are yours?

  1. Eating too many grains makes you slow
  2. Honesty will be rewarded, the liars will be uncovered
  3. Moving your own body under your own power makes you happy
  4. Hard work is it’s own reward
  5. … but it also gets rewarded with money which is worth more
  6. Politicians will always pander
  7. Perfection is undefinable and unattainable
  8. We need each other
  9. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and it will be difficult