Trusting your tools

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I am an amateur beekeeper.  To be honest, the only thing I am professional at is being an amateur.  I had to get into my hives over the weekend and this is the first year that I’ve had a full bee suit – jacket with a hood, gloves, and pants.  I used it the for the first time a few weeks ago, and then again today.  Somewhere in the middle of using it today, I completely forgot about the swarm of angry bees flying around my head (bee suits are designed to attract the bees to your head and away from everywhere else you can’t see them) and was able to just focus on the work.  I was able to relax, trust the suit to do its job and not worry about getting stung.

The tools I use to manage my work (personal and business) have become the same way.  Between meditation, journaling, GTD, Swipes and Evernote, I can ignore the daily buzzing of a million things that I could go do and focus on the job at hand.  It’s nice to have tools you can trust.

 

GoPro Video from April 2 2016 IDPA Match

For your viewing pleasure, GoPro video from this weekend’s IPDA match at Lloyd’s WMA in Crittenden, KY.  It was a rough morning (truck died on the way to the match) and I had the normal distraction of setting things up and getting things going which comes along with being the match director, so when I told myself to slow down and make my shots, I was actually really happy with my performance.  I had been slipping in the rankings the last few matches, and was able to claw my way back up a few spots (6th out of 19 in this case).  I still had a few fumbles with my reloads due to improperly functioning index fingers (i.e. even though it was April, it was still cold and the VP9 reloads seems to be a warm weather function for me…).  I’d still like to find time to practice more (need to get on with that dry fire program…), but overall I am happy that at least I get out once a month to practice on the clock.

 

Check out my IDPA page if you are interested in the match at Lloyd’s / to sign up for the once a month email with scores from the previous match and links to sign up for next months match.

Pi-Day Birthday

As of a few hours and a few minutes ago respectively, my two children celebrated their fifteenth and seventeenth trips around the sun.  They are a source of endless fascination.  I hope I have taught them half as much as they have taught me.  They have taught me joy, perseverance, and strength.  Most of all they have taught me how to strive without clinging.  How to hope for wonderful things, while at the same time enjoying things just as they are for now.

My second greatest lifetime accomplishment (after tricking convincing DeAnna to actually marry me 😉 ) is having a great relationship with both of them (especially now that they are teenagers…that seems to be some sort of minor miracle).  It’s not that we are “friends” per se, rather I respect them as proto-adults and they respect me as a somewhat more….experienced?…proto-adult.

Every day is a new challenge: when to guide, when to let go to let experience be the teacher, when to just tell the truth and tell them I don’t know – but that we’ll figure it out.  I hope I get it right at least 51% of the time.  But even if I don’t I’ll keep trying, which all I think to need to do to have the honor of them calling me dad.

So, happy pi day birthday to two of my favoritest people.  Sorry I can’t be with you to celebrate (but this past weekend was awesome!).  Save some pie for me.

The morality of voting for the lesser of two evils

For all of you that don’t understand my position of not voting, read this.

(HT to Stephan Kinsella for posting Facebook…only changing media since this ended up being too long and I know no one will actually read it there).

This article, written almost 20 years ago by Wendy McElroy, describes exactly my thoughts when I hear that one of you is “voting for the lesser of two evils”.  She lays out in just a few paragraphs why that approach is not effective and more importantly immoral…at least if you value human freedom.

If you are truly voting because you know the person you are voting for aligns with your values, then there are some other discussions that we should have about who owns who and the replacement of magic with sorcery (also know as the change from the divine right of kings to the mythos of democracy), but I sense with the candidates that seem likely to emerge after this past Tuesday that many of you are gearing up to demonstrate your preference for a lesser evil.

If you find yourself in that camp and your vote and what it represents mean as much as you say, then take 5 minutes and read the article.

90 Second Book Review: The Prophet

I am honestly starting to believe that Half Price Books is connected to some otherworldly dimension that sends books from the realm of forms into my physical reality when its time for me to read them.  The Prophet is the most recent example of this.  From what I can recall, I think I became aware of this book on an “ask me anything” Tim Ferriss podcast where he threw the reins to Naval Ravikant.  The episode posted on Jan 30, I am sure I listed a few days later, HBP did its interdimensional portal thing a few days later, reading and now this review.

There won’t be much too this particular review since this is one of those books that you just have to read to get.  Essentially its a short book of prose poetry written in an almost biblical style (think song of songs, not deuteronomy) on various topics that at one time or another are of interest to anyone thinking about the deeper meanings in life.  For example, here is the excerpt on freedom (the idea that seeking freedom can be its own shackle resonated with me deeply):

And an orator said, “Speak to us of Freedom.”

      And he answered:

      At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,

      Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

      Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.

      And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.

      You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,

      But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

      And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?

      In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.

      And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?

      If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.

      You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.

      And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.

      For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their won pride?

      And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.

      And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.

      Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.

      These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.

      And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.

      And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

And here is another one that I found interesting, although the ideas were not  new to me, about teaching:

Then said a teacher, “Speak to us of Teaching.”

      And he said:

      No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.

      The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

      If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

      The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

      The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

      And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

      For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

      And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

And so it goes for roughly 30 or so topics.  At less than 100 pages (and available free online) just go ahead and read it already.  There will be something in there that will help you out regardless of where you find yourself.

90 second book review: Mindfulness

I’m not sure when I first became aware of the concept of mindfulness (or present moment awareness, living in the “now”), but I think it had to be when I read this quote from C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters:

The humans live in time but our Enemy* destines them to eternity.  He therefore, I believe, wants to them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present.  For the present is the point of time at which time touches eternityOf the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.  He would therefore have them…either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the pleasant pleasure.

Since then the idea has rattled around in my head until about a year ago I resolved to start meditating.  Everyone from Tim Ferris to Daniel Siegel to Sam Harris made a strong connection between mindfulness and meditation, so it seemed clear that if I wanted to be more mindful, if I wanted to grab ahold of that freedom that Screwtape wrote about to Wormwood, I had to start meditating.

My initial attempt lasted for about a week (two if I am being generous).  Despite my best intentions, and a few good guided meditation tracks, I just couldn’t make it stick.  I couldn’t make it a habit.  Then last year I heard about the subject of this quick review: Mindfulness, Finding Peace in a Frantic World.  It’s co-authored by a clinical psychologist and a journalist, so no “woo-woo” (OK, a little woo-woo, but not to the point that it was distracting) and its very well written.

The book begins with an introduction to a few basic concepts.  There are two new (toe me) main ideas that I took away from the opening chapters: being vs. doing mind and the concept that effective meditation is not a mind devoid of thoughts.  The being vs, doing mind concept says that there are two modes of the mind: a doing mode which is all about accomplishing a task.  This is where our habits and rational mind exist.  And a being mode, which is all about taking things in as experience.  The authors argue that most of us spend far too much time in doing mode at the expense of being mode.  I found a strong correlation between these ideas and that of the Trivium.  Doing mode is equivalent to rhetoric, or output.  Being mode is equivalent to grammar, or input.  If we spend all of our time outputting, and not enough time inputting then over time the model we base what happens in between (logic) becomes corrupted; it becomes out of touch with the reality that is around us.  I want to get things done, but I see now that having my mind in doing mode all the time actually isn’t the most effective path.  Being mode allows you to recalibrate the model of the world I carry around in my mind, on which I base all my decisions, so that those decisions can be more effective when they are played out back in that world.

The concept of effective meditation not being a mind devoid of thoughts is a game changer for me.  I realized that I wasn’t bad at meditation simply because I couldn’t immediately drop into some sort of zen state – mind like water.  Rather, it’s called practicing because no one ever gets really good at it.  Each time my mind wanders is not a failure, but rather an opportunity to notice what has happened and direct my attention back to whatever I happen to be focusing on in this particular session.  It’s actually the noticing and the gentle redirection that IS the practice.  With this understanding in mind, my first few meditation sessions after reading the book where much more successful – I saw the effects of being able to notice when my mind had wandered or been distracted outside of the meditation, through the day and was able to catch myself and stay focused on whatever my intention was at the time.

The meditations I started after finishing Mindfulness are described in the core of the book, after the introduction.  The authors prescribe an 8 week course with specific guided meditations each week.  The goal is to complete the prescribed meditation for the week 6 out of 7 days, then move on to the next week.  Each prescription includes a single or in some cases a series of audio tracks to guide you.  What clicked here for me was not the audio tracks however, I had tried guided meditation before.  This attempt was different because I had a why.  The book explained the goal and the principle behind each meditation.  It wasn’t just a soothing voice telling me to focus on my breath.  I knew why I was doing it.  As odd as it may sound, what finally got my doing mind quiet enough to let my being mind step forward was a reason, a “why”.

I’m into week 6 of the 8 week course so far and I can already see results.  I do notice when I am getting distracted and can get myself back on track much more easily.  I do notice more of whats around me and what’s happening and am spending less time living “from the neck up” or “lost in thought.”  When I am in doing mode, it is a much more conscious decision and the results seem to be much more effective and directed.  Most of all, I my overall goal is starting to shift from happiness, to peace.  I can see clearly how I can be more at peace, how a “mind like water” can emerge as part of my daily life by spending some time focusing on how unlike water it can be during meditation.

As a complete novice, I can say with some level of confidence that I think everyone would benefit from meditation.  Just like starting to exercise or eat better, you just have to get past whatever hang-ups you have and stick to a plan long enough to see the differences that make it a habit.  Mindfulness got me past my hang-ups and gave me the plan.  If you think you are ready or need the benefits that living in the present, pick-up a copy and give it a try.

Success breeds resistance

I heard about this essay by famed playwright Tennessee Williams a few weeks back, but finally got around to reading it on a flight yesterday.  An excellent read that connects directly with the War of Art audio book I recently finished and the Neil Gaiman commencement speech I posted a few weeks ago.  In what could be termed as psychological entropy, success (or more correctly the trappings of success) actually increases resistance.

This excerpt give you the gist (but it’s really not too long, so you should just read the whole thing):

But life should require a certain minimal effort. You should not have too many people waiting on you, you should have to do most things for yourself. Hotel service is embarrassing. Maids, waiters, bellhops, porters and so forth are the most embarrassing people in the world for they continually remind you of inequities which we accept as the proper thing. The sight of an ancient woman, gasping and wheezing as she drags a heavy pail of water down a hotel corridor to mop up the mess of some drunken overprivileged guest, is one that sickens and weighs upon the heart and withers it with shame for this world in which it is not only tolerated but regarded as proof positive that the wheels of Democracy are functioning as they should without interference from above or below. Nobody should have to clean up anybody else’s mess in this world. It is terribly bad for both parties, but probably worse for the one receiving the service.

I have been corrupted as much as anyone else by the vast number of menial services which our society has grown to expect and depend on. We should do for ourselves or let the machines do for us, the glorious technology that is supposed to be the new light of the world