Thankfulness

Today is Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful. 

I am very thankful for my health. Knock on wood, I have dodged severe health issues. 

I am very thankful for my family. The household I grew up in had love and books, both of which, through zero effort on my part, set me on a good path in life. My kids and stepkids are awesome adults. My grandgoobers make me smile. 

I am very thankful for my job. My particular career interests have aligned with what society is willing to pay for. My coworkers care about their jobs, work hard, and have fun.

I am very thankful for my wife. We found each other when we were both lost and struggling. She is my anchor and support which allows me to take chances in the world and always have a safe place to come home to.  

I am extremely fortunate to be where I am in life. Much of it is not of my doing. Every day is a day to be thankful — that is something I’ll have to work on.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Yeah, I suck, but I’ll get better…

I subscribe to the Havard Business Review (HBR) Management Tip Of The Day. About half the time, it is something that is applicable to my situation. This particular one hits both my work and my writing. The underlining below is mine.

HBR Management Tip Of The Day
When You’re Learning, You Should Feel Uncomfortable
Being a beginner at something can feel awkward and embarrassing, especially if you’re used to being an expert. But those feelings are the inescapable growth pains that come from developing and improving. To get used to the discomfort, know that it’s brave to be a beginner. Exposing your weaknesses and trying new things takes courage. You can make the challenge a bit easier by looking for learning situations where the stakes are low — maybe a class where you’re not expected to be an expert or you don’t know anyone else. If it helps, tell fellow participants that you may mess up whatever you’re about to attempt. Your willingness to take risks may inspire others to do the same. And whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Keep pushing yourself, especially in the areas where you are accomplished, so you can get even better. If you are willing to feel embarrassment and shame, and even to fail, there’s no end to what you can do.
This tip is adapted from “Learning Is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable,” by Peter Bregman

As with many others, a large part of my difficulty with writing is the “I suck” thoughts that keep coming into my head. It is a constant battle to ignore those and just write. However, to some extent, it is true — I do suck. But I need to remember other things that are true.

  • I suck now when compared to my future writing skills.
  • The majority of people, when they start something new, suck compared to how good they are after they have been doing it for a while.
  • Comparing myself to those that have already paid their dues, put in their time, built their skills, it not a smart move. Should a high school gymnast compare themselves to Simone Biles? Should a new writer compare themselves to Maya Angelou? Of course not, they should compare themselves to how good they were last month and the month before. Learning from others is very good — comparing yourself to others is self-defeating.
  • Put in the time to learn a new skill, be patient with yourself, and, as the above tip says, don’t stop learning.

Hard to start writing
You’re your own worst enemy
Be patient and try

Laugh lines by age 40

Saw an ad on TV the other day for wrinkle removal. They called them crow’s feet or laugh lines.

I’m not going to get into the larger women, appearance, society conversation as there are better posts by smarter people covering that topic.

What I want to do is write in defense of laugh lines.

First, the name “laugh lines” actually indicate a significant cause: laughing. I think this is a good thing. Someone who laughs more is going to have laugh lines. Someone with laugh lines probably has spent a lot of their life smiling. Yes, they can be caused by squinting, but unless you are Clint Eastwood or never got the glasses you should have had, chances are they are caused by smiling and laughing. I also rule out psychopaths like the Joker for obvious reasons.

I have kids and that brings me to my second point. How do I know if I have been a good parent? Obviously, there is no test, no true/false checklist to answer that question. Realizing that there are lots of valid definitions of good parenting and lots of opinions, I humbly submit that someone having laugh lines by age 40 is part of my definition. A person that has smiled enough to earn them, is a person that has a decent chance of being in a good place.

My kids are not 40 yet but they seem on their way to earning laugh lines.

I hope when they get them, they don’t view them as a defect or something to fix. I hope they view them as a signal to the world that smiling and laughing is a regular part of who they are.

Signal To Noise: Managing what comes at you

In telecommunications, the concept of Signal To Noise Ratio has been around for a long time. The basic concept is the signal (what you are trying to communicate) and the noise (all the crap that isn’t the signal) are related. the higher the ratio of signal to noise, the better. High ratio: more signal, less noise. Low ratio: less signal, more noise.

A high signal To Noise ratio is clearly a good thing. Thinking about the concept, not the math, if we have better signal and less noise, we have better communication.

This post is mainly about receiving communication. This includes talking to someone, email, texting, social media, etc. Some of this is obvious: if you are trying to listen to someone and there is a jackhammer going on five feet away, there is too much noise to hear. If someone texts you with a name you need and wraps it up in 2000 characters of opinions and other useless info, that is bad signal to noise.

But there are some non-obvious ways to look at it.

If you get a lot of unnecessary emails or texts, it will be harder to find those that you want to get. We can keep an eye out for message from people we want to hear from, but we will miss messages. The list of things to read (the list of conversations in your text messages, your email inbox) is something that has a signal to noise ratio.

If we have curated our social feed, we have lower noise and better signal..

Consider a few possibilities

  • Email: be vicious in unsubscribing from things that you don’t actively need. Be proactive in managing your inbox.
  • Social feeds: be aggressive at muting, blocking, unfollowing those that post noise (you get to define that). If you complain about Facebook or Twitter about how much stuff you have to scroll to see anything interesting, then you are following too many of the wrong accounts.
  • Learn the controls available to you. Yes, it is a pain when Facebook, et al, keep changing their feed algorithms and add/remove settings. But learning them takes time. Yes, understanding Gmail’s tab structure and conversations seems overly complicated. However, spending a few minutes trying to figure out how to use them to your advantage will save you lots of time in the long run.

Curate your electronic life. It pays off quickly.

Electronic Bits
Coming fast from everywhere
Are you in control
?

Inbox: friend or foe

https://xkcd.com/2181/
xkcd: https://xkcd.com/2181/

If your job doesn’t fundamentally depend on your email*, then ask yourself if you control your email or if email controls you. Our Email Is A Monster (Oatmeal). Some ideas to consider:

  1. No matter how focused you are, when that little window flashes up in the corner of your screen or your phone beeps, you have at best a micro-distraction that derails your thinking and at worst a full distraction. Turn off your email notifications and schedule time during the day to open email.
  2. Signal (high priority emails) to noise (low priority emails) in your inbox is a problem. Not all emails are equally worthy of your time. If conditional formatting (like in Outlook) is available, use it. Set a condition for when you are on the CC list. Read those last. Set a condition for when you are the only one on the TO: list. Set conditions for people that you need to respond to right away.

* Customer service type jobs and a few others do require constant vigilance of an inbox so the above suggestions don’t help you. Hopefully you have other techniques to make things more efficient.

Self Help

There are lots of articles on the web talking about this way and that way to improve your life, home, work, diet, productivity, whatever. Pay attention to how long the author has been doing whatever they are selling. All too often, it is measured in weeks or months. Show me someone who has been using a technique for years consistently and successfully and I will pay more attention.

Lessons for my kids #32

Anytime you fill out a form and send in to someone, make sure to keep a copy for yourself. Keep in mind that your phone can take a good photo of a sheet or paper. You can also print a web form to a PDF on most computers. Name it something that will make it easy to find late.