What I Learned Last Week (#5)

This week: a new approach to resumes, the art of tidying up, some geography fun, and more.

  • A new way to approach resumes: I’m officially on the hunt for work now, either with a company located in Scotland (or, ideally, in a role where I can work from anywhere), so I’m brushing up my resume and noticed pics of this service making it’s way around LinkedIn. It looks awesome and I think I’ll be giving it a go: http://enhancv.com
  • Marie Kondo, the KonMari method, and the art of “tidying up”: I heard about this method of keeping only things that spark joy before, and as we prepare to downsize significantly and have to decide what to keep, I was trying to find out more. Looks like there is also a Netflix show on it now.
  • I’m liking and listening to Mick Jenkins more and more: I’ve been digging his album from last year, Pieces of a Man, recently and came across this interview. I especially like this portion:

I think that my sanity is the most important thing to my art, and I feel that my relationships are the most important thing to my sanity. My relationship with God, my relationship with my girlfriend, my relationships with the people that are close to me, you know? The people that keep me grounded. And if you focus on all of the many things that you could be focused on to advance your career, while you could be “successful”, I’ve watched people close to me suffer before I was successful, because of that, and that was something I was not going to do.

But like I say, it’s hard work. Because it’s such a self-centered thing, it’s easier to do the other shit, honestly… even though that shit’s hard too. But making sure that you foster, and cater to, and water those relationships, and keep them strong. I think that people are only able to keep you in check if they’re at a certain level with you. If that level starts to fade, then their ability to do that becomes less strong, and I need people to do that for me.

So like I say, you gotta water that, it’s a plant. You gotta keep it growing. It’s something to be spoken about, it’s definitely something that I do a lot of. It’s not an easy thing to break up the environment and put focus into growing your communication and your perspective with the people that are close to you. It takes a lot of work. 

  • Some wisdom I came across while looking back at my notes: I noted this passage from the interview with Soman Chainani in Tribe of Mentors, as it rang true for me:

Meditation has taught me that most of the ideas, opinions, rules, and fixed systems I have in my mind aren’t the real truth. They’re the residues of past experiences that I haven’t let go of. What I’ve learned is that my soul doesn’t speak in thoughts at all—it speaks in feelings, images, and clues.

I had about geography: This article, and particularly the story map, was

Soman Chainani
  • I had some misconceptions about geography: This article from National Geographic, in particular this story map, was eye-opening. Did you know Venice, Italy is as far north as Minneapellos, Minnesota? London is in parallel with Calgary? The map is worth checking out.

A Drawing A Day

This experiment, during a summer break between junior and senior years of high school, is rooted in life skills I’m still trying to master.

I want to be an artist!

I would say this to myself and others while I was growing up. It was a big, nebulous goal that I actively worked on in fits-and-starts throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I loved the practice of art but also romanticized an artist lifestyle that I would surely one day realize. Why did I want to be an artist? What habits and techniques did I need to develop to get me there? I didn’t know, I just knew I like it. My goal proved effective on it’s own as a way to focus energy in a general direction, but I could feel that some things were left out. For one, I wasn’t very intentional about achieving my goal.

intentional (adj): done on purpose; deliberate.

I’ve generally felt that new years resolutions are only partially effective, similar to my experience with the goal of being an artist. The same way I’m put off by the question “where do you want to see yourself in 5-10 years”, resolutions tend to be, at least for me, at risk for being too big to wrap my arms around and too focused on a destination versus the journey. Instead of just having big resolutions/goals, I’ve learned that I have to first have solid principles that ground me as well as a set of good habits and routines that support the experiments necessary to improve and progress toward my goals.

The Experiment

I recently remembered an “experiment” I did when I was 16. It was the summer of ’96, and while my sister and I went to school in Seattle, in the summers we visited my Dad in Wyoming. This meant that I didn’t have the distraction of my classmates, and in a surprising moment of wisdom, I took advantage of that situation. I set forth a goal of spending an hour per day doing one drawing. The only real criteria I set was that the drawing is done completely in one sitting. I remember that I was really interested in becoming a better artist and I knew I had to practice in order to advance to the next level, but I wasn’t very disciplined at setting aside time and always felt like I needed an idea before I started. In turns out what I really needed was to get out of my own way. I obviously didn’t think of it in any deep way though, I just enjoyed drawing.

So, I got a sketchbook specifically for the task and every afternoon, sometime between 3pm-5pm, I sat down at the desk in my room and did a drawing. The subject of most of these were of superheros and heroic adventure scenes and high-flying car chases, and a lot of them are not very good technically (my figure proportions are way off), but I did it. I filled an entire sketchbook front-to-back with full drawings, and I “finished” them by spraying fixative on at the end (thus they wouldn’t smudge). They exist to this day. There is even one or two that I love.

I drew action scenes like this a lot. Seattle Five-0!
Landscapes and buildings, definitely my thing.
This is where I started to find my style.

The Result

Even though the habit of a drawing a day was simple in theory, it wasn’t easy. Sometimes I didn’t really want to draw, or didn’t feel like I had a good idea for what to draw, but regardless I sat and and drew something.

Until last week, I hadn’t thought about a drawing a day in years and was almost shocked when I remembered how much satisfaction, joy and energy it gave me as a teenager. A drawing a day was a step towards being something I wanted to be and was totally in my control. It required the simply the discipline to put a pencil to paper and move it. A purpose, goal and action aligned.

A drawing a day led me to ultimately pursue web design, begin a career in technology and was a precursor for my approach to other changes that have most positively impacted my life. Recent examples include experimenting with my diet (going 30 days without caffeine, alcohol, gluten, meat, etc) and another experimenting with mindfulness (starting with 10 min meditations a day for 30 days).

Experimenting with your life frees you to create differently, but you need to choose new causes (intentions) consciously. If you don’t choose different intentions consciously, unconscious parts of your personality (the frightened parts) will choose them for you, along with the consequences they will create for you.

Gary Zukav, from the article Intentions and Effects

As I reflect on the past year, I can see that I’ve been pretty good at setting goals (although I can always be better at making them more SMART) and am all-in on progress through experimentation for achieving those goals, but I still struggle with feeling buffeted about by things outside of my control and sometimes feel that I don’t have an internal compass. What’s open for experimentation vs not? How should I choose what to prioritize? How do I weather different challenges and emotions with confidence? What I’ve been searching for can be summed up brilliantly by the following:

“You might not always achieve success, but you can always behave honorably. You can act in alignment with essential values, attaining the peace of mind I call ‘success beyond success.”

Fred Kofman, from the book Conscious Business

The Next Level

My next step is to spend more time developing and refining my “why” (thank you Simon), also know as my principles, and lining up my goals and actions accordingly. Here’s the framework I’m (experimenting) with in order to be more intentional:

  1. Establish principles. I have a list of principles that I have been building and refining over the past year. These are the things that provide the foundation for my intentions and who I want to be. Want help figuring these out? Try this: write down three people you admire. Now write down 3+ traits each of them have that are the basis for your admiration. Those are the same traits you want to have and, I bet, already do. An example of a principle I have is to focus on quality over quantity, and a sub-bullet under that is focusing on on depth of experience vs a material goods.
  2. Set clear goals. I have a written list of goals, the things I’d like to explore or make happen. These build off of my principles and can and will change. An example of one of my goals is to be a self-published writer and an artist. Another is to move to Scotland with the family.
  3. Make progress be experimenting. I treat all my tactics as really small, achievable experiments. This is the path to achieving my goals, as they force action and naturally lend themselves to adaptation. Setting aside 60 mins to draw and write each day for the next 6 months is an example. Creating content for this blog with my wife is another.
  4. Reflect and refine. I try to do reflection on a weekly and monthly basis, it’s so important. Thinking about what’s worked and what hasn’t tends to feel like wasted time, as we want to just get on with the next thing. Spend more time here than you want to and it will benefit. After all, that’s how your principles came about in the first place!

In many ways setting goals is the easy part. The challenge is in knowing yourself well enough to set the right goals, and in having the discipline to sit down and work on them, one drawing at a time.

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