Mea Culpa

unicorn-peak-5631-crop-x400

So much for daily posting.

On the other hand, when one gives up an abstract personal development goal in favor of overcoming illness quickly, travel and spending time with good friends in beautiful places, is that failure, or success?

I’m back now.

A quick note about the picture: This image was found, not posed. A sad bunny lost his child in the making of this image.

Double Fatality

Last Tuesday, a car driven by a middle-aged woman veered across the double yellow line on a road nearby, and hit an oncoming vehicle head on. She was killed instantly and the driver of the other vehicle died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. His passenger was also severely injured.

The event hangs with me because it’s so easy to become complacent on roads near where we live. If there is an intersection which rarely has traffic, it’s easy to start cutting corners, and maybe letting the speed creep up in areas that we know well.

This was a startling reminder not to take things for granted on multiple levels.

Drive like you mean it.

Remember to do the things that are important because tomorrow someone could cross the double yellow line and you could be the one she crashes into.

Streak?

Is it weird to want to keep a streak going in the calendar on this blog when I post to my other one? Part of me simply wants to see all those boxes filled in when I actually post something, even if the “real” post is somewhere else. I posted yesterday too.

The streak is alive!

Entrance into Meditation – Josh Waitzken

What is the purpose of meditation?

The discipline teaches you to clear your mind, to develop discipline and focus. I always thought about it as enhancing my quality of life. Josh Waitzken uses it to train people to achieve high performance.

Of course, when you think about it, the connection is clear. And the tie between martial arts and meditation has always been overt. But have you really considered the power of mindfulness to lower your heart rate quickly during physical recovery, monitor your agitation and responses to aggression, or to think strategically in high pressure situations?

When Josh became a high-level performance trainer, he started trying to get his clients to try meditation. These powerhouse finance guys just rolled their eyes. But then, he started with physical performance.

He’d have them warm up, and then start cycling between heart rates of 170 and 140, asking his clients to focus on their breathing to get their heart rate down faster. Only once they were in tune with that – to the connection between their minds and their bodies – would he introduce the idea of meditation.

Josh is clearly an amazing guy with a lifetime of learning to deal with pressure and perform at a high level.

The chess prodigy who inspired Searching For Bobby Fisher (a movie which gets a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, by the way, if you’re looking for something to watch), he started learning chess at age 6, was beating chess masters by age 10, and was an International Master by age 16.

Although he hasn’t played chess competitively since 1999, he’s been busy with other incredible lifetime accomplishments. For example, he has many US national medals and a World Championship medal in Tai Chi Push Hands, and has a black belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. He’s also an author of two books, “Attacking Chess: Aggressive Strategies, Inside Moves from the U.S. Junior Chess Champion (1995)” and somewhat more recently ” The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance” (2008).

He’s also a proponent of the Wim Hoff method (even though a technical error almost got him killed while practicing it) and a guest on one my my favorite podcasts out there – The Tim Ferriss Show. You can catch Josh’s full interview there with many more interesting observations on everything from performance to parenting.

 

Clean (Part 1)

When watching other people clean, I have a deep sense of my own lack of domesticity. HK came over today to do her first cleaning. I was impressed with her easy movements and attention to detail – like cleaning was this relaxing thing that you could do with grace and style. Hm. Go figure.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate a tidy environment, but it seems to take so much additional effort to maintain that state that it seems both unprofitable and unrewarding.

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently purchased the audio version of Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” WC said that she really responded to the emotional promise of having an uncluttered environment, and I seem to be moving tentatively towards Minimalism, and an uncluttered tradition, so I thought I’d give it a try.

WC was right.

In fact, I also stopped listening to the book so that I could spend some time visualizing an uncluttered space, and the relaxed and uncluttered life that is supposed to go with it.

I’m not holding my breath, but it’s worth a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Learning To See

There is learning to read, and then learning to read. People don’t understand that although they learned to read when they were young, people who practice reading carefully are just better at it than people who don’t.

When I was in graduate school, I remember a fellow student shaking his head in wonder at how much information and understanding one of our professors got out of reading a paper. “I want to be able to do that!” he told me. And that’s a degree in the sciences. For my VIP with his degree in the humanities found the difference striking as well. Even as a graduate student teaching undergraduates, he was shocked at how poorly his students could read, until a friend pointed out that learning to read – reading well – was something that he’d learned in graduate school.

There are a lot of reasons that people pick up a camera. There are a lot of reasons that I’ve picked up a camera, but one of the things that I would really like to learn from the practice is learning to see.

I’m surrounded by outstanding natural beauty where I live, and landscape photographers flock to the area to take their shot of the iconic scenery, from iconic locations, within arm’s reach of another photographer taking basically the same shot. I don’t mean to minimize that experience in any way because there are many reasons to stand in a singularly beautiful spot, looking out over amazing views. And yet I find the ability of certain photographers to see beautiful and amazing things in a small town in the mid-west, or an urban jungle, or the everyday objects that mostly are too common to pay attention to mesmerizing. If only I could learn to see things the way that they do.

More so than the technical expertise of getting a vision to come through a camera lens, this is what I want to learn from photography.

160320-rancheria-flowers-santiago-IMG_9167-47-editx600

My friend, SR, is the one who noticed this patch of grass. She doesn’t have a fancy camera, and ultimately isn’t all that interested in f-stops or focal lengths, but her talent for noticing beautiful things consistently amazes me. As my colleague and grad school said of that professor – “I want to be able to do that.”

Now, how do I get there?

Late Night Hippo Party & The Setting Of Deadlines

Thanks to an aggressive deadline set by the HiPPO* in charge of his professional life, VIP is still at work at all hours this evening striving to meet an arbitrary deadline, and replacing a mostly acceptable product with a not-quite-finished product. When asked when he would be home tonight, VIP responded “I think I will be home Tuesday.” Since it’s still only Saturday, this answer displeases me.

Why? Why do we get ourselves into this position?

I understand the benefit of deadlines in some cases. They allow multiple members of a team to plan for when resources and people will become available for another project. And they also lead people to prioritize work to meet said deadline.

Unfortunately, just because something has a deadline doesn’t mean it’s actually a priority.

And if something can’t be done in X days, setting a deadline that pleases a HiPPO, doesn’t actually make the work any more possible.

Even having been recently introduced to the formal Hofstadter’s Rule, I don’t understand how it is that we keep doing these things to ourselves. How do I get better at estimating time? And how do I force HiPPOs to do the same?