What I Learned Last Week (#4)

A weekly list of things I learned, discovered, or was reminded of in the past week.

  • A reminder about how little time we have with those we love: I thought about the article The Tail End from Wait But Why as I was pondering the new year coming up, our planned move and how we may not see some people for a long time because of it. Also, if you want to do some existential pondering, check out The Fermi Paradox.
  • Different models for understanding who we are and who other people are: Enneagram and the Big Five (aka OCEAN) personality trait models. I think both of these seem like interesting ideas to explore. I use the word “ideas” purposefully, as any framework or model will have it’s flaws, but taking time to reflect on what makes you and others operate the way you do from different perspectives is a good use of time. For more info on Big Five, I’m going to check out Making Sense of People by Sam Barondes.
  • How personalized medicine is transforming your healthcare: This article from National Geographic really blew me away. We have had a couple friends staying with us over the holidays that are both doctors in the pharmaceutical industry and many of the stories in this article resonated with them. The continuous monitoring of your health and the ability to tap into the body’s immune system to fight disease, versus using drugs, were particularly compelling.
  • Another meditation app: I heard about Waking Up from Sam Harris on recent Tim Ferriss podcast and think I’ll give it a try. I want to experiment with a refresh of my daily practice and his approach sounds interesting.

Read this before you go back to work

To me by me. A reminder before going back to work after time away.

Hey there,

You are about to go back to work after some time off. Maybe you just finished the weekend or you were off for a couple of weeks for the holidays, it doesn’t really matter. You’re going to need to get back in the groove of things and it’s highly likely you will feel overwhelm along the way because it’s happened before. Many times. In fact, it always happens.

See if this sounds familiar:

It’s Monday and you are looking forward to getting back to work so you can get back to your routine (alone time, finally!), contribute to something with like-minded people and do meaningful work. You get up and do your morning workout and are feeling pretty good. You sit down before looking at mail or other inputs and start making lists and getting organized so you can be intentional and focused right off the bat. Hell yes!

Seems all good but quickly that to-do list gets long and you start realizing how much stuff there is that was left hanging before you left or that you’ve committed to doing to meet your goals. Then, you look at your calendar and realize how many things shifted around, how many new things are there and, shit, what you actually scheduled that you need to prepare for and you need be “on” for a meeting an hour. Along with that, you start looking through all of the emails, messages, notifications up, and holy shit there is zero time to sort through it before you are sucked into the “Hey, how was the break?” catch-up conversation and you never got to really think about things before your first meeting starts.

This is the tipping point. Recognize that feeling of overwhelm? Say hi. It’s here just like we knew it would be. Now you have a choice.

One path is to dig in and grind. You can try to catch-up while in your meetings, not being fully present, get through your unread messages, not fully comprehending them, and get a partial list of your to-dos down on paper, which adds to the feeling of overwhelm. Now you’re still feeling behind, and you feel bad for how you showed up in that meeting. This is the path of resistance.

The other path is to realize that beginning again will be a bit messy, and focus on doing things well versus doing things fast. Focus on being present, only reading or working on what you can do with full attention, connecting with people and asking them what you can help with, be ok with a lot of unread stuff. Stay centered on your intention and don’t sacrifice quality. This is the path of acceptance.

Which path will you choose? Here is a checklist of things that have worked for you in the past and that you should pay attention to:

  1. Set the right conditions up-front. Ensure your good autopilot is turned-on prior to arrival. Eat healthy, sleep well, exercise and take care of yourself the day before.
  2. Be intentional. Set your intention for the day and week, keep perspective (practice zooming out), manage your to-do list and limit work in progress.
  3. Stay present. Focus on making the next 5 minutes rock. Don’t worry about the future, it will take care of itself.
  4. Fly high. Don’t give any mental space to negativity, blame, or criticism. People will forget the problems of the day but they will remember the way you handled them.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. The golden role applies in reverse. How you treat yourself is ultimately the way you will treat other people.

That’s it, now go get ’em. You’re going to do great.

Love,
-Yourself

What I Learned Last Week (#3)

  • The art and philosophy of kintsugi: Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. A healthy perspective to apply to the story you tell yourself and how you relate to others.
  • A good reminder that the body is just as important (maybe more so?) as the mind:I’ve wasted a lot of time journaling on problems when I just needed to eat breakfast sooner, do 10 push-ups, or get an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes, you think you have to figure out your life’s purpose, when you really just need some macadamia nuts and a cold fucking shower.” – Tim Ferriss in Tools of Titans.

    Here’s a perspective on this from a powerful article in Outside from Christopher Solomon. The way he speaks about running really struck me on Sunday morning (right before I went on a run):
    Thoughts from the day—­current arguments, past heartaches, the sentences that resisted being pinned to the page—drifted past as if on a conveyor belt. I reached out and picked up each in turn, considering it from different angles.
    These runs rarely produced thunderbolts of insight. But by the time I got home, with streetlamps flickering to life, my brainpan had been rinsed. The world felt possible again. For me, these runs were almost like dreaming.

  • This quote is going to be important for the new year: Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” – Winston Churchill. We have a sketch of a plan for the next 6 months leading up to moving to the UK, but it’s certain to not go the way we think it is.
  • New music I’m listening to: Slow Machete – Ola Mala. This is the biggest surprise of all the new albums I’ve been going through last week. The backstory on it is mysterious and it’s hard to find info on the project. From SoundCloud:

    Slow Machete is a collaboration that came to life as Pittsburgh native Joseph Shaffer was recording Haitian choirs in 2009 and found himself with dozens of practice recordings and outtakes. These outtakes would be woven with downtempo and Cuban rhythms into what eventually became the debut LP Evening Dust Choir as well as the new EP Mango Tree.

A festive brute in my office lobby. Happy holidays!

To uproot or not to uproot?

That is the question.

Oh man, the weight of decisions as a parent can’t be underestimated.  I’ve always been fairly thoughtful and composed in any big decisions, but ADDING kids to the mix adds a hefty kettle bell to my arms.

Life in America right now (apart from the utter political craziness we are part of) is pretty awesome day to day!  #blessed #lucky #surreal We are probably middle class textbook – totally weird when you look in from the outside.  Married, Kids (one of each), 4 bedroom home, 2 cars….. healthy, happy.  So why change that?

A ton of reasons, all with different weight.  And whilst there is no obvious reason to uproot, all of our personal reasons leave us with an instinctual feeling that this is the way forward for our family.  And we are SO LUCKY that we are ABLE to make such a decision, and plan such a move.

So here goes our big family move from America to Scotland, where we will open new doors, new experiences, new adventures….. and lots of laughing as Nick uses his American words, and the Scottish take the piss! 🙂  Don’t worry babe, I’ve got your back (sometimes)!

*A few things the Scottish will find funny – Semi, Glasgow…..* more later in its own dedicated article!

Thank Your Reader

In living your story you can easily lose sight of who makes it possible. This is a reminder that practicing gratitude can help you see more clearly.

“If you are paying attention you can find truth and inspiration everywhere.” – Brené Brown

Having two young kids means you read a lot of children’s books and I’m amazed at how good many of them are. They way they distill powerful life lessons and wrap them in memorable artwork accompanied by a few powerful words is truly special.

In The Thank You Book by Mo Willems, Pig realizes she has a lot to be thankful for and that she better get thanking! So, she goes on a quest to thank everyone that she is grateful for (a noble mission), and she thanks literally every character in sight in the hopes of not forgetting anyone. She thinks she has everyone covered but her friend, Gerald, reminds her that she is still forgetting someone. After racking her brain she finally realizes she never thanked us, the reader. Without the reader, they wouldn’t exist, after all.

This lesson about expressing gratitude and recognizing the people or things outside of your bubble is something everyone can benefit from. Pig doesn’t realize who she’s missing until she slows down, listens to her friends warning, and zooms out of her everyday life to look at the big picture.

We all tend to forget the readers in our lives: the people that aren’t visible everyday, that we take for granted, but who make us who we are and allow us to exist in our daily life.

Who are these people or things in your life? Your parents? Your children’s  teacher? The barista or the cleaning guys for your building at work? Experiment with sending a note, thanking them or simply smiling, making eye contact and saying hi.

You might realize, like Pig does, that you have a lot to be thankful for.

Related:

  • Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey
    “The idea was deceptively simple: New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs decided to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. The resulting journey takes him across the globe, transforms his life, and reveals secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected.”

What I learned last week (#2)

  • There’s lots of music I’ve been sleeping on, as evident by KEXP’s Top 90.3 Albums of 2018: I’ve been swimming in new music since last week. Combing through all of the “best of 2018” lists made me realize how much I’ve been missing out on some great stuff this year. My favorite lists are KEXP’s Top 90.3 Albums, and the lists from their DJs, namely Troy Nelson, John Richards, DJ Alex as well as many others. My top albums of the year right are:
    • Kasamai Washington- Heaven and Earth
    • Against All Odds – 2012 – 2017
    • DJ Kose- Knock Knock
    • Curtis Harding – Face Your Fear
    • Black Milk – Fever
    • Pusha T – Daytona
    • Black Panther OST
    • TiRon & Ayomari- WET
    • Plus a few new albums I’m now all about as a result of this past week:
      • IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance
      • Children of Zeus – Travel Light
      • Mick Jenkins – Pieces of a Man
      • Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
      • Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People
  • A new book for the kids called The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell: Our latest discovery in kids books has been John Fardell and his two picture books “The Day Louis Got Eaten” and “Jeremiah the Jellyfish”. The illustrations are incredible and the stories are great. We change the names of the main characters to our names and pretend my daughter is saving her brother from the monsters. It’s fantastic. I’m now on the hunt for the first picture book he did, “Manfred the Baddie”.
  • How to cook my new favorite food, coconut bacon: I’ve never heard of this until last week, but apparently you can not only make it but buy it in grocery stores as well. It’s amazing. My wife and I experimented with a month of eating vegetarian this past September, and it’s continued through October, November and now December. Eliminating meat has been eye-opening as a way to expand our horizons of what’s possible in the kitchen, and we’ve loved it. Coconut bacon is a great example of why. I originally found it in the book Protein Ninja by Terry Hope Romero. It’s so simple, and so good, I don’t know whether I’d ever go back. Here is a similar version of the recipe from the book.
  • My son, Sam, telling Santa what he wants for Christmas: TRUCK TRUCK!
IMG_0008
My son, Sam, telling Santa what he wants for Christmas: TRUCK TRUCK!

Wife here!

I’m Kav.  I’m 41 years old, Wife of my soulmate Nick, and Mama to our 2 beautiful kids.  I was born in Trinidad, raised mostly in Scotland, and live in the greater Seattle area of the USA.

My husband loves to write.  I love to think, and then occasionally blurt out a whole load of stuff in one big mass.  We are about to uproot the family and move to the UK from America so finding a constructive way to put it all down, organize our thoughts well and capture all of our excitement, fears and hesitations ALONG the way MAKES SENSE.

I join my husband on this writing journey 🙂  

Maybe one day, our kids will read this.  And instead of being mad of us for making such big changes in their lives, they might appreciate the thought and emotion that went into our decisions.

We love you Vivian and Sam.  x

What I learned last week (#1)

  • I read Personal Kanban and started using Trello recently (thanks Marcus) and it’s really helped me to be more intentional and focused in my work and life. I have a Work Board and a Personal Board and also one for Project Red Lorry that my wife and I can both use. Is it working because it’s something new or because it’s a fundamental shift? Time will tell.
     
  • I need to try using Calm. Apparently it has a timer that will chime at certain intervals during unguided meditation sessions, which is my biggest gripe with unguided meditations on Headspace. Headspace is still my go-to (and apparently the reason Bill Gates is into meditation) but I’m curious to see how this works.
     
  • I finished The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawandeand thought it was an easy, engaging and thought-provoking read. Reflecting on it, one of the things that sticks with me is the chapter on The End of the Master Builder and the example of the “submittal schedule” in construction that serves as a checklist for communication tasks. This schedule checklist serves as framework for getting the experts together and figuring out problems together, agreeing on a path forward and documenting (“submitting”) what they decided. This got me thinking about similar frameworks in technology work and how important it is to be rigorously collaborative and decentralize decision making.
     
  • “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour. This one was timely. My Dad just retired a couple weeks ago (and my Mom a few months before that) and this comes close to expressing how I relate to the idea of retirement



I started this blog…

Let’s start at the beginning.

I started this blog because I enjoy writing about and sharing ideas. I started it not because I presume to have a wealth of original things to say, but because I am constantly learning new things that are useful to me in the context of my life and there’s something about documenting and rehashing those things  that’s helping them to stick.

I started this blog because I want to be a better writer and the only way to get better at something is to DO IT.

I also started this blog because my wife and I are moving with our two kiddos (age 2 and 5) to another country and I we’ll have a hell of a lot to talk about over the coming year that, at a minimum, will be cool to document and just maybe there will be some things that will also be useful to others. I started this blog to rope my wife and kiddos into contributing to a creative project with me and seeing what happens as a result.

I started this blog and now we write!