A Quick Thought On Your 2021 Calendar

2021 looks promising, although it did start off a little bumpy.  Since we’ll soon be getting back to life that includes more events and interactions with others, it’s important to remember that we are the ones who decide what events we allow on our calendars.

When you’re considering scheduling an event, make sure you’re not doing it out of a false sense of obligation, or because you feel you can’t say, “No” to something you really have no interest in doing. 

I would argue that our time is more valuable than money, because we can always get more money.  That’s is something we can’t do with time.  The limit on a day is 24 hours, we can’t get more.  The only choice we have is how we’ll spend the finite amount of time we’ve been given.  Therefore, we need to make sure that it is our priorities that fill our calendars in 2021, not someone elses.

Cast Your Gaze Beyond Today

With COIVD-related restrictions and choices an omnipresent reality of the 2020 holiday season, it’s easy to become frustrated by how abnormal everything is this year.  While it’s true that things look different this year, I want to encourage you that this is not how Christmas, or any other holiday, will look forever more.  Remember that this current state is indeed temporary.  Before we know it, we will be celebrating holidays with family and friends again.

My pastor signs all his emails with a phrase that I think is especially fitting for this year, “Believing the best is yet to come”.    I think that true.  We only have to be willing to cast our gaze beyond what’s happening today.

Time Travel

“But look at you, with the gift of memory. You can time travel to the good stuff just by closing your eyes & breathing.”  Lin-Manuel Miranda – “Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You”

I’m amazed at the number of memories each of us can carry between our ears.  What’s more amazing, is how quickly we can recall our favorite memories.  Within nanoseconds, we can be transported to an event, a person, or a place in time.  Lin-Manuel is right, our memories are indeed a form of time travel. 

I think the recalling of memories is best done in the in the company of others with the same shared experience.  To time travel with others via fond memories is a great blessing.  The only thing more pleasing than recalling fond memories, is creating what will become fond memories with others.

Let’s make sure that as we’re traveling through life, were constantly doing both: recalling our fondest memories in the company of others, and creating some new ones as well.

When the Tide Comes In

Last week my wife and I spent some time at the beach in Bandon Oregon.  The weather was unseasonably sunny warm for the Oregon coast in late November.  It was beautiful!

While in Bandon, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach.  One thing to be mindful of at the beach is the tide.  When the tide is out, there is so much to see and so much more beach available to walk on.  However, when the tide comes in, what’s available to explore and the volume of beach to walk on is significantly diminished.  We experienced that during high tide, when parts of the shoreline we walked during low tide were no longer accessible once the tide came in. Not to worry.  We simply looked at our options, adjusted our high-tide walk and had a great time.

Our experience with the tides in Bandon made me think how we often have high tides in our lives; when things change and what was once a normal part of our life is no longer available.  Sometimes these high tides are expected.  Other times they’re not.  Regardless, we get to choose how we respond to them. We can be angry and complain about what’s not available, or we can look with gratitude at what we still have available to us, make adjustments, and move forward.

That’s great news, because even when the tide comes in (as my recent walk on the beach reminded me) there are still plenty of options available to us.  We just need to see them.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett

Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful.  Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.

Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym.  Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life.  Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis.  (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form.  And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.

For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive? 
  • Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one? 
  • Are there habits we should stop doing?
  • Are there habits we need to cultivate?

We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen.  They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.

With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired.  It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with.  It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.

The Best You’re Capable Of

Whenever time or effort is required of me, either voluntarily, for work, or just for fun, I think it’s important to give the best effort I’m capable of within the given conditions.  I’m not a big fan of mailing it in.

Whether it’s carving a turkey at Thanksgiving, giving a presentation, or anything in between, why would we want to give anything less than our bet effort?  The effort we give our tasks sets the tone for how we approach life.  When we decide to offer our best, we are deciding that we want to show up and engage life.  We expect more than the minimum daily requirements, from life as well as from ourselves.

Besides, when we offer our best to the world, we are encouraging others to do the same.

Helping Those Behind You

This week, my team at work was interviewing for a senior-level data analyst member.  It’s pretty easy to tell whether someone has the technical skills to do the job based on the sample of the work they bring to the interview, as well as how they describe the work experience they’ve acquired throughout their career.  We had one candidate form a different department in our organization that is brand new in the field, with very little experience, but they sure stood out.

While it was obvious that this candidate didn’t have the necessary qualifications, I was impressed by the steps they had taken, and are scheduled to take, in order to educate themselves about data analysis.  At one point during the interview, they showed us a sample of a coding exercise they had done in school, and while, by their own admission, it was very basic, it is where we all start… at the very beginning. 

This person is excited to be on the journey and eager to learn about data analysis.  Toward the end of the interview, they humbly mentioned that they would be interested in any guidance, assistance, or mentoring anyone on the team would be willing to provide.  The team mentioned that they would be eager to offer any help they could.

After the interview was over, I had a career flashback.  In this candidate, I saw myself at the start of my career.  I remember being new to the filed, proud of the first basic code I had just written, while at the same time knowing that I had so much more to learn.  Fortunately, I still feel that way.

I was reminded of the experienced people who helped me grow my knowledge and gain the experience I lacked.  People like Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit.  These kind folks were extremely generous with their time, listening to my questions and helping me understand new and often confusing concepts.  They were willing to take the time to invest in someone who didn’t yet have much to offer, but who was eager to learn.  I am grateful for their investment in me.

Flash back to the present.  Ever since that interview, I’ve been thinking how quickly the time went from when I was someone with no skills, but a strong willingness to learn, to someone who can actually reach back and help someone coming up behind me.  I can think of no better way to honor Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit’s investment in me than reaching back and offering a hand to this person behind me. 

Enjoying What We Have When We Have It

I’ve really been enjoying summer this year, which seems odd due to this being the Summer of COVID.  Like many people, I’ve been working from home since late March, so my morning commute has morphed from a 20-minute drive into a walk through the neighborhood with my wife.  It’s been great!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love early sunny mornings in the summer.  The bright, calm, cool skies, coupled with the quiet, slow pace that exists before the world starts to wake up and get busy, is one of my favorite parts of summer.

As September has arrived, I am keenly aware that these beautiful mornings will soon give way to the gray, cold, rainy events that describe many late fall and winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest.  This certainty fills me with a sense of urgency to take advantage of these sunny mornings as much as I can before they’re gone for the season.  I don’t want to waste a single remaining morning, because as soon as rainy mornings are the norm, I’ll wish I had taken advantage of any sunny mornings I might have squandered in the summer.

Therefore, my plan is to enjoy them as much as I can while I still have them.  I want to look back on them this fall and winter with the satisfied feeling that comes from knowing I appreciated what I had when I had it. 

Is there anything currently in your life that will soon be gone, either for a season or for good?  If so, enjoy it while you have it.

Small Beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin […]”   ~Zechariah 4:10

The first stages of a new venture always seem small.  Whether it’s getting in shape, building and growing a business, pursuing an educational goal, building a new house, learning a new skill, or any number of big worthy pursuits, the initial steps are small and feel insignificant when compared to the overall goal.  However, it’s important not to poo-poo this stage in the process, because from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings are where great things start.

Very rarely (actually never, in my experience!) does a big goal start out as a great success in the early stages.  Significant results come slow initially, and require consistent effort over time… lots of time!  This is where people can feel like they aren’t making progress, become frustrated, and give up on their goal during the small beginnings. 

For this reason, it’s important to be aware that our big goals will grow from small beginnings, so we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed by them.  Small beginnings should be an expected, and even welcomed, part of the pursuit of our goals.

Is there a goal you’ve recently started that you’re feeling frustrated by?  Does the lack of perceived progress leave you considering giving up on your goal?  If so, I encourage you to look at this time as the small beginnings of your larger goal; much like the progress of the growth of a large oak tree.  Would you be frustrated with an oak that was only a few inches tall after a year?  Out of frustration, would you pull that young oak out of the ground and throw it away because it wasn’t a full-grown mature oak after such a short time?  Of course not!

Then why would we do that with our goals?

You Learn As You Go

I did it!  I potted and started pruning my first Bonsai tree.  Last week I wrote about how I finally caused something to happen to get me int Bonsai.  Now I’m learning that although I’ve discovered much about potting, pruning and shaping, there’s still a lot I don’t know, but that’s not keeping me from getting started.

After I got my juniper start, I was reading how to pot it and discovered that there is a lot written about the soil you should use.  Apparently, there are certain soil mixtures that work best for certain trees.  I found myself getting overwhelmed with what specific kinds of soil to use, where to get it, and whether I was making the right choice.  Ultimately, all these questions were keeping me getting the juniper potted.

Finally, after much reading, and little success finding the perfect soil mixture, I bought a plain old bag of Bonsai soil and got it potted.  Maybe the exact soil would have been a better choice, but for me, the more important point is to just get started and learn as I go.

My plan with learning Bonsai is to gather enough knowledge to take the next step… and then to take it.  I can always check my results and adjust my actions as I gain experience. 

I’m grateful we don’t have to have all the answers before we get started on a new endeavor.  For me, a lot of the fun comes from learning as I go.