Saturday, December 19, 2015

things i'd like to accomplish over the holidays

just putting some ideas down about what i'd like to have accomplished over the next two weeks during my holiday break.

  1. list out stoic practices (see here) and create terms for them that are meaningful to me
  2. develop a cadence for practicing them and writing about how i practice them
  3. play at least 7 chess games (30 0); play lots of blitz and solve a lot of problems on chesstempo
  4. start recording my own audio book of meditations (so i can listen to it every day during my commute)
  5. plan and begin creating lessons for the sunday school class i teach (for 2016)
  6. finish reading and creating book reviews for the obstacle is the way
there might be others that i think of and add to the list

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

practice being in need of only a few things

While perusing a Stoic blog today, I came across this post.

In that post, there was a quote.  I searched this quote and found the full quote at this link.

Here is the quote by crates of thebes:
practice being in need of only a few things, for this is the closest thing to god.
for the gods need nothing.  but, so that you may learn more exactly what is involved in having few needs ... reflect that children have more needs than adults, women than men, invalids than the healthy, and, in general, the inferior everywhere has more needs than the superior. therefore the gods have need of nothing and those nearest to them have the fewest needs.
Tt is a worthy pursuit, in all aspects of life, to need little.  in possessions; in entertainment; in clothing; in food.

In Seneca's On Tranquility, he says “Come, then, look at the world: you will see that the gods are bare, conferring everything but possessing nothing. Do you think a man who has shed all his gifts of fortune is a pauper, or like the immortal gods?” (8.5, trans by Elaine Fantham).

The wikisource  / Aubrey Stewart translation states: "Look upon the universe: you will see the gods quite bare of property, and possessing nothing though they give everything. Do you think that this man who has stripped himself of all fortuitous accessories is a pauper, or one like to the immortal gods?"

In a similar vein, Epictetus teaches, "In things to do with the body - food, drink, clothes, housing, and servants - take only what you need, and cut out everything that is for show or luxury" (Enchiridion 33).

And again: "It is the mark of a crude disposition to spend most of one's time on bodily functions such as exercise, eating, drinking, defecating, and copulating.  These are things to be done just incidentally.  All your attention should be on your mind (Enchiridion 41).

Saturday, October 3, 2015

make your life count

in reading meditations this morning, i came across this passage:

people marrying, having children, falling ill, dying, fighting, feasting, trading, farming, flattering, pushing, suspecting plotting, praying for the death of others, grumbling at their lot, falling in love, storing up wealth, longing for consulships and kingships.  and now that life of theirs is gone, vanished. 
similarly, look at the histories of other eras and indeed whole nations, and see how many lives of striving met with a quick fall and resolution into elements.  above all, review in your mind those you have seen yourself in empty struggles, refusing to act in accord with their own natural constitution, to hold tight to it and find it sufficient.  and in this context you must remember that there is proportionate value in our attention to each action - so you will not lose heart if you devote no more time than they warrant to matters of less importance. 
so where should a man direct his endeavour?  here only - a right mind, action for the common good, speech incapable of lies, a disposition to welcome all that happens as necessary, intelligible, flowing from an equally intelligible spring of origin.

i have just completed an enterprise leadership training course.  to say the least, it was inspiring and insightful.  i feel changed and now i am change.  no, that is not a typo.  i did not intend to write "i am changed", rather "i am change."  my paradigm has shifted from passive to active.

to help further explain, allow me to use a couple of seemingly cliche clips from dead poets society.

this one life, is all we have to live. weather we believe in an afterlife or eternal life or not, that does not matter. for the response to either belief is the same: that we have one life to live; one life to prove what we are worth.  and should we live a life of pleasure, devoted to hedonism?  should we eat, drink and be merry all the days of our life?  the stoic says, no.

the stoic believes in living a right life; a life of virtues; a life of improvement and in helping the common good.

so, what will you do?  how will you seize the day?  what verse will you contribute to the powerful play?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

178.8 - a new 20 year low

In March this year, I was bouncing between 215 and 213 lbs.  I set a goal for myself to drop to 180 lbs.  I went to work by developing two habits.

First, I developed the habit of waking up between 4 and 4:30am every weekday and going on a 4 mile walk (1 hour).  I had been developing this habit for the last two to three years.  This year, I simply didn't let myself off the hook.  I'm at a point now where I simply can't live without going on my 4 mile week day walk.  It's like sleep - I just do it.  As a side tip, I leveraged the "Alarm Clock Xtreme Free" app to ensure I get up and stay up in the morning.  In order to turn the alarm off, I have to solve 6 complex math problems, which require me to get up, sit at my computer, open the calculator and punch in the numbers.  By the time I'm done solving the problems, I'm too awake to go back to bed.

Second, I developed the habit of weighing myself before and after my 4 mile walk.  I have a "weight record template" I print out and hang on my closet wall, right above the scale.  I love recording my weight and seeing how it drops.  It's basically positive reinforcement for walking and eating well.

Along with those two habits, I developed a system that works quite well for me.  This system allows me to enjoy eating the foods I love while still losing weight.  The system goes like this: Monday through Friday are "work days."  It helps to have a very busy life and work schedule to keep your mind occupied.  Sitting around being bored at home causes boredom eating.  During the week days, the only food I eat (and the only food my mind and body really need) is as follows:

1. Isagenix Cleanse mix + Crystal Light (caffeinated) + 90oz of ice water.  I drink this on my commute to work.

2. Isagenix Refresh (like Gatorade) + Crystal Light (caffeinated) + 90oz of ice water.  I drink this during my first two hours at work.  I also take an Isagenix metabolisim boost pill.

3. 90 oz of ice water. I drink this during the latter part of the morning.

4. Depending on the day, I may eat lunch with co-workers.  But on those days when I don't eat lunch, I eat a 30 calorie Isagenix wafer.

Now, at this point, you're probably freaking out about the lack of food that I'm eating.  And you're probably wondering how this is even possible.  Believe me, I've tried lots of different systems (eating breakfast, lunch and dinner; eating six small meals, snacking on veggies ... I've tried a lot of different systems).  But, for many different reasons, those systems just didn't work for me.  The weight would stay on; I would get tripped up on trying to keep track of calories; my mind would be fuzzy, I'd be sleepy ... there are many reasons why those systems didn't work.  The bottom line is, this system works for me on many different levels.  I have energy.  I have focus.  My mind is clear.  I'm not so sleepy.  It is sustainable.

5. After commuting home, if I didn't eat lunch, I will have a small, healthy snack and then make myself an Isagenix protein shake.  One scoop of ionix and two scoops of the strawberry protein mix with iced water.

6. After the shake for dinner, I drink 90 oz of water.  And then I'm pretty much done ... I feel full and I don't think of food or eating.

That is my routine during the week.

Then on the weekends, if I feel so inclined, I will allow myself to indulge a little - go out to dinner.  I also allow myself to eat my favorite indulgence: frozen greek yogurt (usually blueberry or peach).  I also double my miles on Saturday and Sunday.  I will walk 8 miles each morning.  So, 4 miles each weekday, 8 on Saturday and Sunday equates to about 36 miles a week along with normal walking.  Per my FitBit, I average about 13,000 steps a day.

And that is pretty much it - that is my system that works so well for me.  I love it!  It's sustainable!  And I don't anticipate any changes to my system anytime soon.  I think the weight will stay off for a long time.

So what has this system accomplished for me?  I weighed in at 178.8 this morning.  According my my records and estimates, that is the lowest I've weighed in about 20 years.  That is even lower than when I did the Shangri-La diet 9 years ago (see this post).

The next habit I want to develop is getting into sit-ups and push-ups and bi-cep curls.  I'd love to be able to do 100 push-ups and 200 sit-ups in one session.

But for now, I'm basking in my achievement!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

br: obstacle - the discipline of perception

over the course of my career, i've heard so many managers call a bad situation an 'opportunity' that it drove me nuts.  why could they not simply call it what it was - a menace, an annoyance, misfortune or whatever.  by why all this spin and political correctness?  for years this bothered me, then it simply became amusing and finally it became an attitude after learning of stoicism.

in the chapter entitled 'the discipline of perception' we learn of john d rockefeller and his secret to building an empire.  in the course of his life, through multiple obstacles, rockefeller developed an ability to keep a cool head in the face of adversity.  while his competitors would become fearful and anxious, and only see doom, and would cut and run, rockefeller would see opportunity and figure out a way to turn it to his advantage.

another phrase that has bothered me over the years is a phrase i often heard in the last couple of presidential elections: 'never let a crisis go to waste'  i guess it bothered me because the politicians who often used the phrase would exacerbate the social problems the crisis created.  however, i don't think the phrase only applies to one political party.  no matter the situation or crisis, we can choose to have an attitude that works t our advantage.

in summary, those who are overcome with fear and anxiety should heed the example of rockefeller.  seize the initiative; own the bad situation and train your attitude to figure out a way to make things work for you instead of against you.

let me wrap up with some advice from the author.

you will come across obstacles in life—fair and unfair. and you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure. you will learn that this reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming—or possibly thriving because of—them.

there are a few things to keep in mind when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

we must try:
to be objective
to control emotions and keep an even keel
to choose to see the good in a situation
to steady our nerves
to ignore what disturbs or limits others
to place things in perspective
to revert to the present moment
to focus on what can be controlled

Sunday, August 2, 2015

br: "the obstacle is the way"

over the next several weeks, i will be sharing my thoughts and opinions about ryan holiday's book "the obstacle is the way"

i've been reading it for several weeks, mostly reading and re-reading several chapters.  this book is one of those books that is suited to be read at any point and at any time.  it is almost like a daily reader type book.

as i read it, i'd like to summarize the chapters, opine and discuss how it applies to my own life.

if you come across any of these posts, feel free to comment or raise discussion points.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

keep moving forward

one of my favorite movie characters is rocky balboa. this speech he gives to his son, reminds me of the marcus aurelius quote: "so other people hurt me? that's their problem. their character and actions are not mine. what is done to me is ordained by nature and what i do by my own."

What is it you said to the kid? The world ain’t always sunshine and rainbows; it’s a very rough, mean place. And no matter how tough you think you are, it’ll always bring you to your knees and keep you there, permanently, if you let it. You are nobody and you’re never going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about hard you hit, but it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take; and keep moving forward. If you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth, but you’ve got to be willing to take the hit.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

a busy, simple life

i had one blog post in march.

as previously noted, i started a new assignment with my company.  my new assignment has been tremendously busy.  along with the longer hours at work, i also work in a different office location which has added an extra 30 minutes to my commute.  i'm now driving roughly two hours a day instead of one.

interestingly enough, i've never been happier.

longer work hours have solved at least one problem: boredom eating.

at the same time i began my new assignment, i started a new daily routine.  i get up at 4:30 in the morning, walk four miles, clean up, commute and then work from 7am until about 5:00pm.  on my way to work, i snack on a small bit of almonds.  for lunch, i eat an avocado and then on my commute home, i eat another little bit of almonds  by the time i get home, i only have time to help the kids with homework, eat a small dinner and then put the kids to bed.  on some days, i'm able to exercise a bit more after i arrive home.

this has been my routine the last four weeks.  i've lost 7 pounds, have more energy and have had greater focus.  before this new assignment, i would watch at least an hour of tv in the evening.  after the new assignment, i've watched no more than an hour of tv on the week days.

life is busy, but it is also simple.  it's work, family, exercise and sleep.

photo source: mashable

Monday, March 9, 2015

thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ...

the oxford dictionary defines covet as "yearn to possess or have (something)."

synonyms for covet include desire, yearn for, crave, have one's heart set on, want, wish for, long for, hanker after / for, hunger after /  for, thirst for

to covet something, means you really, really want it.  usually, in the biblical sense, coveting something that belongs to your neighbor is a sin.

the other nine commandments are outwardly manifested.  in other words, one can easily determine if a person is keeping a commandment or not by observation.  however, the tenth commandment is a commandment which cannot be easily observed.  coveting a neighbor's possessions is a sin of the heart.

coveting what others have is the root of our consumer-driven society today.  virtually all marketing today is an appeal to have more; to have what others already have and are enjoying.  simply put, marketing sells coveting.

one christian pastor opined, "covetousness is something which our culture seems to value, and which the church has become accustomed to, even catering to it instead of condemning it.  i honestly believe that if coveting were to immediately cease in america, our economy would be in shambles" (link)

i'm not so sure america's economy would crumble if everyone began obeying the tenth commandment, but i do agree with the sentiment.  coveting is a the big religion in america, in which even churches participate, with some churches going so far as to fund billion dollar shopping malls (link).

so, what is the antidote for coveting our neighbor's possessions?  in a word, contentment.

and to be content, we need to be grateful for what we already have.  having a grateful heart and letting love into our heart will breed contentment.

watch less television and advertising (read this becomingminimalist blog post).

another way to counter coveting is to focus on what really matters in life.  focus on relationships and spending time with others.  serving a loving others is always a good answer to many problems.

seeking knowledge and wisdom instead of things or more stuff is also a good way to prevent coveting from corrupting our heart.  read a book, learn a new language, learn a new skill - all good antidotes.

the bottom line is we need to get at the root of our problems.  and one of those roots where we need to apply our ax is covetousness.

image source:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

minimalist office

last year, the company i work for adopted an open and shared space environment.  around jaunary of 2014, i moved from a private office to an open cubicle-type shared office space.  this meant that i no longer had my own desk.  rather, i would simply choose from a bank of desks, which desk i would work at for the day.

i remember last year, when i was packing up my office, that i had a few boxes of 'stuff.'  this stuff included books, notebooks, memorabilia, pictures, files, pens, pencils, cup-holders, my stash of tea and drink mixes and other stuff.  i decided, with the move to the open shared office space, that i would go paperless and have little to zero things.

i have largely achieved this goal.  whereas i used to have lots of notepads and notebooks, now all my notes are captured using microsoft one-note.  the only times i have needed to print or use paper in the last year was for business-required purposes.  but if the purpose was my own, i found a way to use/store it electronically.

all my other stuff, i ditched or gave away.

today, i moved office locations again.  i cleaned out my personal locker and all of my stuff fit in one small bag.  mostly the stuff i had were drink mixes, a mug and some books from a training class i had taken recently.  in a matter of 3 minutes, i was packed and gone from my old office.

my new office is much like my old office, only now i have an assigned seat again.  all i have at my new desk now is my mug and phone charger, along with my laptop and docking station, which were provided by my company.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

clutter at critical mass

in the past two weeks, i came across two memorable articles.  both articles point to the fact that society's clutter has reached a point where more and more people are either taking up minimalism to re-gain their lives, or they are making a living off those people who are trying to implement minimalism.

if you go back 100 years, people possessed things for either utility's sake or for status' sake.  the great depression created economic scarcity.  people who lived through the great depression ended up hoarding or at least developed the sense to hold on to things for a long time.  as technology progressed, the old went out and the new came in.  families handed down electronics and furniture; children felt compelled to hold onto possessions their parents or grandparents gave them.  as more time passed, our possessions began to bury us; in some cases literally.

and now in 2015, we find ourselves in a post-scarcity economy, where having little to no possessions is now a symbol of status.  as this nytimes opinion states, "in some well-off circles, people boast about how little they own" and more of the "richest americans [are] increasingly consum[ing] expensive experiences - like a trip to bhutan - rather than material goods."

in 2015, we are also seeing how people can become professional dumpster divers.  big box retailer stores are so well off, that returned items can be easily discarded in dumpsters.  savvy people who are quick on the draw can retrieve these items before the dump truck arrives, repair or simply resell the items on an alternative market.  this wired article, towards the end of the column, estimates a professional dumpster diver could make $600,000 a year!  this is a rather extraordinary way to make money off people (businesses) shedding excess.  the more common approach to make money off minimalism is to garner a following, write a book and then sell it.

any search on the internet or twitter or amazon will return results of people who are either writing about this movement or people who are willing to sell their consulting expertise on how to de-clutter and minimize their life.

in summary, i find the whole of it quite interesting.

image source: instagram emma.putnam_

Friday, February 13, 2015

direct orders

i really enjoy scott adams' blog posts.

today, he wrote a really interesting post on self-control, entitled "can you make yourself less lazy?"

the crux of his argument goes:

"How does one break the laziness stalemate? My method involves imagining the executive control part of my mind giving direct orders to my arms and legs. I literally watch my arm rise on command of my executive control. I know from experience that once my body is moving I will feel less lazy, so all I need to do is stand up. Curiosity is a powerful motivator, and my executive control wonders whether I can command my arm to move while I feel so lazy. So I give my arm a direct command and watch what happens. It moves! And that’s usually enough to transfer control of my actions back to the rational part of my brain, at least temporarily."

it's worth a shot to see if this helps in developing good habits and breaking bad ones.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 minute GID

you can break rooms and big areas of your home into little chunks; then deal with the chunks and liberally throw away.

for example, our dog's cage has been sitting in this spot, unused for at least six months.  since then, it has become an informal table whereupon bottles, boxes and bags have settled.  next to the cage is a fan that was displaced from another part of our home.  i found that i began to use it last summer, but during the winter months, it too has been unused.  then you have the tote-box, some gatorade bottles and a few shirts i've been meaning to donate.

today, i just decided to GET IT DONE.

the dog cage, while not used often, does get used a few times a year.  i put it in storage.

the tote box, along with a few other tote boxes that were in the same room, are actively being used.  i put them in a proper area too.

the bottles were stowed in the pantry (don't know how they ended up in this room).

the fan was moved to another wall.

the clothes were put into the "to donate" bag.

while not much was tossed out in this area, other areas of our home that are chunk-able, will have a lot to be discarded.

Monday, February 9, 2015

scheduling habits

Alarm Clock Extreme
a few years ago, when i was really determined to consistently get up early in the morning, i downloaded an alarm clock that had a really neat feature.  to dismiss the alarm, i had to correctly answer a given number of math problems.  i set the math difficulty to 'hardest' so that i had to actually get out of bed, retrieve my phone from across the room, go to my computer and start the calculator and solve the six difficult math problems.  by the time i solved all six, i was awake and ready to go.

this month, i'm working on a few habits; and for every single one, i've put it on my calendar and set an alarm for it.

my first alarm goes off at 4:40am.  after solving six hard math problems, i weigh myself, get my jogging clothes and shoes on, and i'm out the door by 4:50am.

my second alarm goes off at 4:15pm; to remind me to ingest coconut oil while plugging my nose (confused?  see details about the shangri-la diet).  after wards, i will exercise (4 mile walk, basketball, etc).

my last alarm is at 9:30pm; to remind me to ingest a spoonful of honey, update my records and then go to bed.

i feel confident these habits will form and the alarm clock with the math-dismiss, will give me pause to think about what it is i'm trying to achieve, instead of mindlessly swiping away the reminder and procrastinating self-improvement.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

opinion: overboard on minimalism

the recent headlines this week featured the debate about whether parents should vaccinate their kids or not.

in a recent perusal of reddit, i came across a youtube video of that national geographic series called "live free or die."

while these ideas were swirling around in my head, i came to a couple of conclusions.

first, both movements (people who choose to not vaccinate their children, and people who choose to live off the land) seem to be a rebuttal of post-modern day society being overly consuming.  and these movements are an attempt to push back against consumerism and extravagant living.  the minimalism movement agrees, by and large, with the rebuttal, but maybe not so much the conclusions.

second, the conclusions of the anti-vaccination and live-off-the-land movements are not progressive.  in fact, they are very regressive and adherents to both movements have a high percentage chance of dying too early.

in my opinion, the middle-ground rebuttal to over-consumerism and extravagant living is the right way to go.  we can minimize a lot of distractions and possessions in our life.  but there is no need to go overboard and essentially quit civilization.  both over-reactions are dangerous and anti-social.

if everyone chose not to vaccinate, the impacts on society would be horrendous; setting civilization back few hundred years.

inexperienced people who decide to live off the land, put themselves at risk.  in one example of the live free or die episode, i watched in bewilderment as a man found a pack rat, killed it with a rock in a sling-shot and then when the dead rat was stuck in an upper limb of a tree, he climbed the tree and knocked the rat out.  this must have taken a few hours to kill, retrieve, skin and cook this 'snack', all while putting his life at risk.  i just shook my head in disbelief.

i'll stick to the principals of minimalism; focusing on what matters most. but i won't surrender the decades and centuries of experience our ancestors sacrificed so that we can live in a world that is free of problems that killed so many people in the past.

comic source:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

the messages from the super bowl ads

the 49th super bowl was a fantastic game with an unforgettable ending.  besides the big game, the viewing of the super bowl ads and subsequent discussion of them is almost as entertaining.

i didn't get to watch every super bowl ad, but for those that i was able to catch, i tweeted, what to me, was the general message of the ad.

- drink soda; world peaces ensues
- buy deodorant and become a real, caring dad
- buy insurance and no accidents will happen to you
- eat fast food and your love for others will grow
- buy a car and become really wise and live a long time
- drink beer and your life will become a party
- you should do anything for a bag of chips

all the messages, to some degree or another, attempt to get each of us to be reactionary.  each ad subtly says, "do this, and life will be perfect"  each message attempts to sell something which cannot be sold.  each ad attempts to relate two totally unrelated ideas.

i thought i'd attempt to set the record straight for each of the ads i saw.

- if you want world peace, be peaceful and have charity
- spend quality time with your kids, listen to them, love them; if you want to be a real, caring dad
- slow down, be safe and thoughtful
- love others and your love will grow
- wisdom comes with experience
- spend time with those you love
- after you eat that bag of chips, you might regret it

we all need to seek real contentment.

i'm pretty sure you won't find much contentment in junk food, new cars, insurance or soap.

image source: businesscomputingworld

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

what the burglary taught me

about four months ago, i received a phone call from my wife.  she was a bit frantic and said that something wasn't right at our home.  she opened the back door, saw dog food all over the floor and the living room seemed a bit out of order.  she grabbed our dog, who was sitting on the couch, and left.

i immediately headed for home.  it seemed that we were burglarized.

upon entering the home, i armed myself and then did a quick walk-through in our home.  the hardest hit part of our home was our master bedroom.  a couple of the kids' rooms were burglarized, but not as bad as the master bedroom.

the master bedroom was a complete disaster; wrecked, overturned drawers, broken glass window, broken perfume glass - it was very shocking.  one window was broken and another was left wide open.  i don't wish anyone to go through this experience - it's very violating.

after the initial shock, my wife and i began to count our blessings:

no one was home at the time; no one was hurt

our dog was unhurt (we've heard of burglars maiming or killing dogs)

our hard drives that had all our journals, documents and scanned pictures, were not stolen

and that was it.  in a matter of a minute, we summed up what was most valuable to us, with regard to things we can touch.

a lot of jewelry, including my wife's wedding ring, was gone.  i admit, those losses were painful.  but a lot of the other stuff was not too painful to lose.

again, i don't wish anyone to go through this experience or something similar such as a house fire.  but the idea of simply having everything taken away from you, is a good mental exercise.  it helps a person to hone in on what truly is important in life.  once you have identified that, focus on it and remove all the other distractions.

post script
just a brief word about the external hard drives.  i learned that had those hard drives been stolen, we would have lost of lot of personal documents and pictures.  one of the first things i did after we recovered, was to buy an on-line back-up account.  now, in the event the hard drives are stolen or destroyed, i will not lose those important files.

Friday, January 23, 2015

change your thoughts, change your life

changing your lifestyle, whether you're trying to minimize possessions or to lose weight, requires that you change your thinking.  you can attempt to minimize your possessions or to eat less and exercise more, but if you don't change your underlying thoughts and desires, you may fall back into old ruts.

the science behind meditation and affirmations is solid.  time and time again, it has been proven that if you change your thoughts, you will change your life.  as the internal changes, the external begins to conform.

a well-known quote by buddha says, "all that we are is the result of what we have thought. the mind is everything. what we think we become."

the process to change your thoughts is amazingly easy.

the first step is to write your positive, present-focused affirmation.  for example, if you intend to minimize your possessions, you may write, "i am a minimalist."  or "i am living minimally."  another example, if you are trying to lose weight and become fit, you might write, "i am fit and healthy."

once you have your list of affirmations, set aside some quiet time two times a day, for about 10 minutes.  repeat the affirmations and visualize yourself in that perfect state.

that's it!

soon, you'll notice your attitude and desires changing.  as these change, your actions begin to move your will and soon your life around you begins to conform to your thoughts.

image source: reynante martinez

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

what if you could give yourself a raise?

while playing taxi driver for my daughter and her friends this morning, i heard a news report about getting a raise - by moving closer to your work.

currently, my family of four kids has two cars.  between all the different places we need to be at the same time (two jobs, after school activities, three different schools, etc), two vehicles are needed.  as i write the word 'needed', i cringe a little.

due to my employer's recent consolidation of office spaces, i now know, for the remainder of my career, where i'll be working.  therefore, i did a little thought experiment to think about what life would be like if ...

... we moved closer to my work.
... we sold one of the cars.
... we bought a smaller home.

if such a plan could be pulled off, my commute would possibly be 15 minutes or less.  my wife would probably need to drive me to work or i'd need to carpool or i'd bike to work.  an extra 30 minutes per work day would equate to more time spent together as a family.

if we lowered our mortgage (by buying a smaller, more efficient home) and if we sold one of the vehicles, we would save several thousands of dollars per year (rough estimate of about $10K).

to flip that into "getting a raise terms", if my boss said that i just got a $10K raise, we'd be ecstatic!

currently, fear is what is preventing us from pulling this off.  life is so flexible now.  we can come and go as we choose.  that little bit of freedom would be lost.  the other constraint: the kids and the really good school district they are in.  we are in such a good spot, it's hard to give that up.

it's a dream.  i'll keep talking about it and dropping hints here and there and i'll see where it takes us.


see: "ditching your commute is the happiness equivalent of a $40,000 raise"
see: "the true cost of commuting"

Friday, January 16, 2015

seneca's quote

"it is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor." - seneca

i lived in guatemala for a time.  it was a privilege learning one of the mayan dialects and living among the k'ekchi in alta verapaz.  sometimes, i long to go back to coban and live that simple life.

after years of buying and chasing a big home, multiple cars, multiple televisions, getting the latest and greatest gadget, the latest fashionable clothes, a second home, a boat and countless other possessions, people are beginning to realize that this lifestyle is nothing but a dead end; it does not bring joy or contentment.  it only brings anxiety.

the people i lived with were not without problems.  but many humble families i lived with had found genuine happiness and contentment; and they did not possess much.

constant craving is not sustainable and does not bring joy.

finding balance and focusing on what matters most is both sustainable and will bring a person contentment.

image source:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

do it now

do it now.

these are powerful words.  i remember the day these words rang out in front of my eyes; and the vibrations of the ring have never stopped.  i was sitting on an airplane waiting for it to take off.  i pulled out one of the magazines in the seat pocket and was thumbing through it.  this magazine had several 'motivational posters' it was selling.  one of them was a picture of a big blue ocean wave with the words 'do it now' underneath.  i was so impressed, i took the magazine, cut the picture out and had it laminated.  i kept it with me for several years before losing it in a move.

while searching for that picture, i came across another quote.  this one is attributed to paulo coelho, who wrote the alchemist.  the quote was: "one day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to do the things you've always wanted.  do it now."

it is sound advice; especially when you are a person drowning in debt, clutter and a sedentary life.

the character andy dufresne, in the shawshank redemption said it best, when he was faced with seemingly insurmountable odds: "get busy living, or get busy dying."

indeed there are barriers which prevent us from getting things done.  however, almost all of these are psychological.

the way you get over those barriers is to simply do it now.  just get out the door.  just start on it.  just start cleaning up that clutter.  just dump that un-needed stuff in a bag.  just make the choice to do it.  once you have that little momentum going, the magic happens and you begin to feel really good.

image source: themebin (with a little modification i made)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital WeaponCountdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

really fascinating book. i read parts of this book when ran articles on it. i finally bought the book after reading "the intercept" article (

in summary - nation states are using viruses/worms to infect programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are pieces of smart hardware that open and shut valves along with a plethora of other activities in power plants and other types of manufacturing centers.

the book said this was the first time this has happened, but then it went on to give dozens of examples of how PLC hacks have occurred before.

in summary; when president bush didn't want to invade or start a war with iran, they found other options for taking out the nuclear activities in iran. they used reconnaissance hacking tools to gather information, including hacking legitimate digital certificates, and then created a missile type hacking tool and then launched it on iran. the US and Israel modified the hacking tools several times. The mission was so long, that Obama inherited it and even expanded and accelerated it.

but, unwittingly, symantec, adblokada and others discovered the hacking tools and were able to reverse engineer the hacking missile. when they published their findings, the US and Israel stopped the program (or at least the parts where they were still "gathering information"). Also, an inside source said that the revelations of symantec and others did not stop their missions; that the government has more advanced tools now.

bottom line - our digital world will becoming increasingly less stable as the Internet and Cyber Space have become battle grounds. this could eventually impact the general public in numerous ways, from loss of banking information to death (think nuclear plants or chemical plants or oil refineries or power infrastructure being sabotage).

these problems keep a lot of people up at night. and if you have a creative imagination, reading this book could keep you up at night too.

happy sleeping!

Friday, January 9, 2015

retirement on a ranch?

i don't plan to own a ranch, but i'm happy to visit one
about a year ago, my boss announced he was about to retire.  he worked his 30+ years in corporate america; sitting at a desk day after day.  he was and is very wealthy, but as far as i know, has no "heirs" or children.

as his retirement day approached, he shared his plans.  the central pillar of his retirement was his ranch.  he bought several acres of rural land and planned to build a mansion on it.  when i saw his architect's rendering for the first time, i was amazed and in awe.  it truly was a beautiful and extremely large mansion.  i estimate the mansion was at least three times the size of his previous home; and the acreage of the ranch must have been ten times or more the area of his suburban footprint.

he went through with his plans.  i received an email from him this week which included a picture of the mansion.  it should be completed in another six months as only the walls are up now.

he has plans to raise chickens, to farm part of the land and to raise and maintain an orchard.  i don't think he grew up on a farm, but apparently he is enamored with the idea of ranch living.

to this day, i still can't fully grasp how he and his wife, who are in their 60s (or at least approaching 60), plan to maintain all that land and mansion.  my father grew up on a farm.  my cousins owned hundreds of acres of farmland and i often worked with them on the farm.  and i can tell you from my father's experience and from my cousin's experience that once you do manual labor for any amount of years, you come to the conclusion that it is better to work with your brain than with your hands.

now, i am not against ranch or farm work or any other kind of manual labor.  many people derive a lot of happiness and satisfaction from manual labor.  but by and large, my experience has been that it is a very demanding life and in many cases fatal.  i lost an uncle and three cousins to farm work; not to mention the fingers and other appendages lost from tractors, equipment and accidents.

my retirement plan has a few requirements, which, i believe, are sustainable and focused.  my wife and i want to live near our children; or at least live near a travel hub that will quickly get us to our children (and grandchildren).  there are no plans to have a large retirement home.  if ever we receive visitors, there will be ample hotels near by.  and where we live should be within driving distance of a nice golf course or two.

manual labor is simply not in the cards for my retirement.

picture source: unique homes

Monday, January 5, 2015

habit 1 for 2015

as i've mentioned before, i broke my ice cream habit last year.  despite breaking that habit, i believe i've replaced it with another bad habit: eating just as many calories of sweets.

so the first habit i plan to break in 2015 (and replace with a good habit) is to not eat sweets for a month.  sweets are any candy, cookies, cake, pudding or any dessert-type food.

this morning at work, i chatted with the office admin in the coffee bar.  she was looking at a box of delicacy cookies someone had brought in.  obviously the person who brought this box of cookies into the office didn't want the box at their home!

as she was reading the packaging, she said each cookie "only had 150 calories, surely you can eat one today!"  i replied, "but if you apply that kind of thinking 360 days a year, you'll get fat!"  it's true: the "just once" trap is just that - a trap.

when i ate ice cream without shame, the process typically went like this:  pick up a half gallon on thursday ("hey, it's almost the weekend!")  i'd eat a bowl thursday night.  friday rolled around and after a hard week of work, i'd veg-out in front of the tv and eat two bowls of ice cream and then polish it off!  saturday afternoon after a long day of exercise, yard work and cleaning, i'd stop by to pick up another half gallon.  saturday night was a 'celebration' of a hard day of work.  then sunday evening was the last day of freedom before going back to work and "i don't want this ice cream sitting around on monday, so i better finish it so i won't be tempted."  i would not eat ice cream on monday, tuesday or wednesday; but then thursday would come and the cycle would repeat.

when i promised not to eat ice cream back in august, i motivated myself by saying i won't eat it for a year; and if i achieved that goal, i'd reward myself with a new bit of technology (new tablet).  people said i was too extreme to quit ice cream all together.  but knowing myself, it had to be all or none.  a week passed; no ice cream.  two weeks passed; no ice cream.  a month passed; no temptation of ice cream.  two months passed and i wasn't even thinking of it anymore.  to this day, ice cream has absolutely no sway on me.

i was successful in breaking this habit because i wanted it and i focused only on breaking this one habit.  i didn't try to break or add any other habits at the same time.

and now i will do the same with all sweets.  for one month, i will not eat any sweets.  in place of sweets, i will allow myself to eat either a small cup of yogurt or a piece of fruit.

after i successfully complete this habit, i'll move on to finer habits in february, march and onward; developing one habit per month.  for more info about this method, i'll refer you to Leo Babauta's "5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015."

Friday, January 2, 2015

minimalism isn't new

joshua becker tweeted an article from, thelala this week, entitled 'why minimalism should be your 2015 resolution.'  the article gives a lot to chew on and had some good advice.

what was the most memorable about it was this snippet:

Simple living has been around for centuries, and it hasn't always been the Amish and the monks taking a Spartan lifestyle. The post-World War II economic boom brought with it a slew of consumerism and the “American Dream”: get a good job, have a big family, get a nice car, and settle into a white-picket fenced house. Along with this came the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that has stuck around to this day. In the 60s, hippies and communes sought to break this material living, but before them the Greek Epicureans and followers of Thoreau sought to break the cycle.

this reminded me of a conversation i had with my dad about minimalism.  he will be 88 years old this year.  he grew up on a farm which had no electricity for most of his years living at home.  while talking with him on the phone one day, he asked me about minimalism.  i explained its a counter thought to the consumerism that pervades today's society and that it focuses on what's most important in life as opposed to possessing things.  he kind of chuckled and said that is how he lived most of his life and that a person couldn't get much more minimalistic than living on a frontier farm.

the author of the aforementioned article lists many 'minimalists' from the history pages.  there is one more that is a little less-known but perhaps was the first 'minimalist' of the 20th century.  he wrote several books about finding true happiness.  his most popular book was "as a man thinketh"  all his works can be found for free on-line at The Free James Allen Library.

although a lot of new content about how to live minimalism can be found on the internet today, there are still other authors who have walked this path before, hundreds of years before we were born.  their advice and guidance are just as valuable today.

other links to consider:
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The Amish Lifestyle