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Parenting

Good mornings

Mornings are my favorite part of the day, and I typically protect them fiercely, to the point where I have been reflecting on whether I’m being well disciplined (my intention) or overly rigid (definitely not my intention). I’ve learned the hard way that morning routines are made to be disrupted, especially with young children in the mix. Add in moving to another country, leaving work and selling all belongings, including the bed you sleep on, and the idea of holding tight to a morning routine seems like a perfect recipe for unhappiness. So yeah, I’ve been trying to take a softer approach as of late.

The week before last, I spent a rare Friday morning with Sam because Kav wasn’t feeling good. She usually gets up to watch the kids on work mornings (she’s the best) but this morning I had the rare sense that I ought to forgo my routine to help out. I made coffee (for me) and poured milk (for Sam) and put on some music (Damien Jurado in this case) and we sat on the couch in mostly silence, he on my lap, watching the birds in the trees out back. The only break in silence between us being when a new bird flew into view, Sam pointing and saying, “Daddy Nick that birdie go high!” or “Not sunny Dad, cloudy”.

Eventually, Sam and I started in on some important topics, like which one of the Paw Patrol was his favorite (Marshall), which was mine (Chase), and the same for his Mom (Rubble) and sister (Sky). Vivian came down after a while and joined us, and they both pretended I was a pillow instead of a person, and tried to find ways to “get comfortable” on me that involved poking, prodding and wrestling me as much as possible. Once that slowed I got up to make breakfast, only to have them quickly grab on to my legs and hold fast while I walked around the kitchen, pretending to be some type of growth that couldn’t be easily shaken off.

Later, Sam followed me upstairs into the shower (he would stand in the shower all day if you let him), and we sang a few songs and used our fingers to draw fruit on the foggy shower door until we were wrinkly. In time Kav was able to take over and I resumed my regularly scheduled programming and went to work.

Fast forward to the past week. I got a surprise visit from Vivian just after 6am while I was starting my workout, and I subsequently spent the morning in my garage doing pull-ups (and other exercises) while Vivian took notes on how many reps I did and then made the numbers into animals in between sets while I rested. I varied the number of reps in my sets so that we could get different numbers and make interesting animal number combos. Instead of 10 reps each time, I did 8, then 12, then 9, then 13.

When I did my push-up sets she joined in too, doing 3 or 4 push-ups alongside me. She thought it was funny how my nose touched the mat each time and cracked up, making me also laugh in mid-rep, which surprisingly added to the challenge and seemed like it made for a better work out. When I reached for my towel to wipe off the sweat from my brow she told me her friends at school get really sweaty and sometimes “they come in from recess with their hair soaking wet.” Burpees were her favorite. Both because of the name (“It sounds like buuuuurrrp”) and because it had to be done “fast” (her own conclusion after watching me for a few minutes). During my cool down she flipped to a blank page of my notebook and drew a horse, and then a fence, and then I drew a cowboy and a squirrel, and we made up a story about what they were all doing together and going to do together next.

Eventually I resumed my regularly scheduled programming and went to work.

With all of the craziness of moving to another country, resigning from a place I’ve worked for 13 years, saying goodbye to a place I’ve lived for 27 years, and doing all the usual stuff that comes with trying to be a good husband, father and son, I would expect that I might not only be more stressed, but also be letting more of the smaller moments in life go unnoticed, and I’m trying to not judge myself to harshly for this. However, quite the opposite has happened, and I’ve found that my appreciation for the magic of everyday moments has grown right along with the craziness increasing.

As life has gotten more fluid and less predictable, my approach to my routine, and my mornings, is softer and more malleable. I am finding a lot of magic in it all. I’ve thought about both of these mornings every day since, and I’m paying attention to the one I am having right now.

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#26)

Good way to think about apologies (and relating to others in general): I thought Seth Godin’s Defective apologies post was spot on and I think the model of Empathy -> Connection -> Trust is very simple and powerful.

Consider that an effective apology has a few elements to it:

1. You know what sort of apology you’re offering.

2. You share your story with the aggrieved as well as hearing their story, thus becoming human, and then taking the time to help them feel seen by you.

3. You engage with the person who was harmed and find out, beyond being seen, what would help them move forward, noting that it’s impossible to make complete amends.

Thinking about digital minimalism and parenting: I recently listened to a 10% happier podcast with Cal Newport (a lot of it was about his new book, Digital Minimalism). On a recommendation I also checked out his blog, which is fantastic, and this article on how The Arizona Cardinals Now Give Their Players Phone Breaks every 20-30 minutes during team events caught my eye.

Many concerned readers sent me this article, and with good reason. It’s an extreme case of a techno-philosophy that I facetiously call the kids these days mindset, in which parents, educators, bosses and (it now seems) coaches shrug their shoulders when confronted with the impacts of highly addictive technology on young people.

Yeah, we can’t just shrug…

Most coaches would never tolerate a habit that was clearly harming their players’ physical fitness, regardless of how popular it was in the general public. The same standards should hold for their players’ cognitive fitness.

The broader point here, however, is that these standards should also extend to less obvious applications of this mindset, such as when a teacher concedes to student demands to replace written book reports with YouTube videos, or a parent shrugs off a child’s Fortnite addiction.

Reinforcement for wanting to follow a creators path: Following the Cal Newport-tip above, I read this piece from the great Derek Sivers on How to change or build your career. In it he links to So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, which is going on my list along with Deep Work.

Looking for your passion, purpose, or calling is an example of the fixed mindset. You’re assuming that this is an inherent and unchanging thing inside of you, like trying to read your DNA or blood type. But you won’t find passion and purpose there, because that’s not where those feelings come from.

Passion and purpose are emotions that come after expertise and experience. The way to get them is to commit to the path of mastery, get great at something, and do great work.

A great career isn’t something you find — it’s something you earn when you’ve got rare and valuable skills to offer in return.

The new album from Flying Lotus is on point: This album has been my close companion for a bunch of work over the past week: Flying Lotus – Flamagra.
 

Favorite quote from the week:

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.

Herbert Spencer
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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#25)

The benefits of small teams: At Minecraft I’ve been working on a new features with a small team of 5 people (including me) and we’ve all noticed how we’ve been more effective and better organized in getting work done than any time in the last 9 months (when we were working as a team of 10). I recently learned that the military organizes this way as well, using fireteams. Teams of 4-6 seem to be the magic number by which people’s egos are able to coexist and individuals feel invested in the team instead of themselves.

A fireteam or fire team is a small military sub-subunit of infantry designed to optimise “bounding overwatch” and “fire and movement” tactical doctrine in combat. Depending on mission requirements, a typical fireteam consists of 4 or fewer members; an automatic rifleman, a grenadier (M203), a rifleman, and a designated team leader. The role of each fireteam leader is to ensure that the fireteam operates as a cohesive unit. Two or three fireteams are organised into a section or squad in co-ordinated operations, which is led by a squad leader.

Military theorists consider effective fireteams as essential for modern professional militaries as they serve as a primary group. Psychological studies by the United States Army have indicated that a soldier’s survivability and the willingness to fight is more heavily influenced by the desire to both protect and avoid failing to support other members of the fireteam than by abstract concepts or ideologies. Historically, nations with effective fireteam organisation have had a significantly better performance from their infantry units in combat than those limited to operations by traditionally larger units.

A Food Pyramid for Kids’ Media Consumption: I love the framework of this and think it makes a lot of sense. I want to create an infographic for it and hang it on the wall. 

The crazy ways that cars will change: The videos included in this article about how cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century are pretty cool. My daughter just turned 6, and she’ll be just at driving age when the year comes that they refer to most of this happening by (2030) .

Sun visors will become a thing of the past, with smart glass allowing us to control the amount of entering daylight at the touch of a button. The Mercedes F015 concept car’s doors even have extra screens that can function as windows or entertainment systems.

Many cars will be fitted with augmented-reality systems, which will superimpose computer-generated visualisations onto the windscreen or other suitable display areas, to ease the passenger’s nerves from relinquishing the wheel by showing what the car is about to do.

Favorite book excerpt:

Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results.

From The ONE Thing by Jay Papasan

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#24)

Favorite book excerpt: I finally got around to reading this and finished it last week. Great read.

We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

from Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

More thinking on right to repair and sustainability in tech: The AirPods are a tragedy offers a great perspective on where we are and what we should be thinking about. I’m also listening to music on wireless Bluetooth headphones as I write this. :/ (Thanks to Ben Tamblyn

Thoughts on reading, taking notes and remembering: I came across quite a few different tips for reading (non-fiction) last week, some in opposition to each other. I’m thinking about putting some of these into practice:

  1. A framework for taking notes and reviewing/revisiting them in The Top 3 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes While Reading
  2. The book How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
  3. Kevin Systrom’s system of first reading the table of contents to understand the basic structure, then reading the last paragraph of a section/chapter and the end of the book to get the basic arguments, then reading normally (assuming the interest is there). From Kevin Systrom — Tactics, Books, and the Path to a Billion Users.
  4. Naval Ravikant’s system of not taking notes, of scanning books and jumping into the parts that sound interesting, and of not worrying about finishing a book or even reading most of it, especially if it only has one main idea or is not particularly well crafted. From Naval Ravikant: The Angel Philosopher.

Men and parenting article that hits home: What ‘Good’ Dads Get Away With made me reflect on my complicities in our family dynamic. (Hat tip to Marcus Purvis)

Quote I was thinking about:

“What you do matters, but why you do it matters much more.”

Anonymous
Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#23)

Some profound advice on the meaning of life: I’ve read and re-read and shared Hunter S. Thompson’s Letter on Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life a bunch over the past week. It’s worth reading the whole thing (not long), but here’s the main message:

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
 
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Filing that away in the stuff I want to tell my kids folder…

Book I started reading: Picked up Keep Going by Austin Kleon by chance at a bookstore last week and it’s a potent little book. Here’s my favorite pic so far that about sums it up:

Speaking of keeping going and of finding a chosen way of life: Check out To Spain… and …then to France. This is my idea of a good trip and one I hope to emulate.

From https://mostlydrawing.com/2019/05/04/to-spain/
From https://mostlydrawing.com/2019/05/10/and-then-to-france/

Favorite book excerpt:

In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.

From Art & Fear by David Bayles, Ted Orland

New music for work: The artist djblesOne and his Soundcloud and Bboys Bboy Forever (on Spotify). It’s all break beat mixes, all flying jump kick-type energy, and it’s super conducive to getting shit done.