What I learned last week (#33)

Learned last week: life is a dance, the power of one push-up, Spielberg wasn’t good at school, and creativity is a lifestyle, not a skill.

Life is not a journey, it’s a dance: The point of a dance is to enjoy it, not to get to the end as quickly as possible, or even to finish. Getting everything set-up in the UK has felt like a race at times, and it’s hard not to feel like I should be constantly working on something that is helping us to progress towards being self-sufficient here. I’m trying not to though, I realize that most things are yet to be done and I hope that will be the case for a long time to come.


Quote I was thinking about:

You are who you pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut

What I was listening to: Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen has been great for waking up early with Sam (thanks Scott).


The power of intention: The Power of One Push-Up is about health measurement, but more broadly, it speaks to how those who do (any variety of) activities with intention are more healthy.

The speed at which you walk, for example, can be eerily predictive of health status. In a study of nearly 35,000 people aged 65 years or older in the Journal of the American Medical Association, those who walked at about 2.6 feet per second over a short distance—which would amount to a mile in about 33 minutes—were likely to hit their average life expectancy. With every speed increase of around 4 inches per second, the chance of dying in the next decade fell by about 12 percent. (Whenever I think about this study, I start walking faster.)

Another part:

Doing things that produce tangible, short-term results can lead to a domino effect of health behaviors. “If someone reads this article and starts doing push-ups, it would be a statement about their general conscientiousness and motivation,” says Joyner, “and that speaks to so many other health behaviors. People who follow guidelines, eat well, get their kids vaccinated—they tend to engage in other healthy behaviors.”


Spielberg wasn’t “good at school”: From the short The Education of Steven Spielberg Didn’t Involve Ivy. This connects with my recent read of So Good They Can’t Ignore You in that Spielberg built up a huge amount of career capital in film that he was able to cash in for a shot at the movies without a traditional education pedigree.

Spielberg’s grades were just too bad. He had a lot of C’s at Arcadia High School in Phoenix and then at Saratoga High School near San Jose. He hated school. He had dyslexia, then undiagnosed. He only wanted to make films.

His mother, a free spirit with artistic talent, gave him free rein. She “was so tolerant of her son’s lack of interest in school that she often let him stay home, feigning illness, so he could edit his movies,” McBride wrote. His father, although bothered by Steven’s grades, often did his science homework for him. Their impending divorce upset their son.


Favorite book excerpt:

Where you take [your creativity] is completely up to you but know that seizing it requires no specialized education or skills. It only requires the willingness to lay aside the bad habits you gained in school and at work and rethink your own learning processes and nurture your creative biorhythms so that you can start living a more creative life.

From The 7 Stages of Creativity by James Whittaker

Most things remain to be done

In between the constant doing-stuff/busy-ness of moving there have been many glimpses of why we came here and what awaits us when we pause and look around. Isn’t that the point?

The family and I are in full acquisition mode at the moment. As expected, setting up shop in Scotland has required endless amounts of admin and purchasing and “getting things done”. We are very much trying to keep things small and simple, but there are myriad things that a family of four needs and we’re knocking those off one-by-one in (what seems to me to be) short order. In under two weeks we’ve added a rental house, car and insurance, beds, kitchen table, couch, desk, bikes, new phone numbers, and millions of other tiny things to our list of possessions here. Oh and we’ve probably added a few pounds from stress eating while chasing two little ones down the aisles of you-name-it shop. At times it’s been a grind (example: four hours on the phone trying to get car insurance with no credit history), and there are times where I’ve periodically lost sight of why we moved over in the first place.

A quote seen at Ikea stating most things still remain to be done. A glorious future.

I spotted this while in Ikea yesterday and it has stuck with me. Although it feels like we’re doing stuff to get to an end goal (finally being able to sleep in our new place!), that will be another beginning.

In between the constant doing-stuff/busy-ness of moving there have been many glimpses of why we came here and what awaits us when we pause and look around, like this moment from the road to the farm where we live (the place we are renting is a house converted from a horse stable). It’s stunning.

I came across the following passage while writing this and it fits nicely to the topic. We chose to climb this mountain, and are fortunate to be able to have the means to climb it. Why not enjoy every moment?

Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.

From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

There is more to do and there always will be. A glorious future indeed!

Good mornings

As life has gotten more fluid and less predictable, I am finding a lot of magic in my 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.