I’ve been working from home for almost 6 months now and as a programmer I spend a lot of time with headphones on listening to music. As such, lately I’ve really been itching for something new for my ears. Thankfully, as a subscriber to his newsletter I stumbled on Austin Kleon’s post about 31 perfect records. It seemed like as good a place as any to start.
This list appealed to me because I’ve always preferred to listen to albums in their entirety instead of mixes or singles. I suppose this comes from growing up in the days of CD players when it was not very easy to make a mix like it was during the cassette days of the 80’s. As much as I love the digitalization of music in terms of being able to access anything I want whenever I want, it has got me listening to music differently. I’m often just shuffling my “Liked” songs or listening to a pre-made playlist. This type of listening can be good at times but it doesn’t bring me the same level of joy that I got from laying in my bed late at night at age 15 listening to Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness in its entirety. Working through this list has brought back some of that joy I remember. Discovering something entirely new 6 songs deep in an album while churning out lines of code in my home office has been the musical jolt I’ve been looking for.
One of the best parts about growing older is how you let go of some of your pre-conceptions and can appreciate things that you may have written off more quickly in your youth. In that vein, The biggest surprise so far has been that my two favorite listens have been country albums! Night Life by Ray Price is incredible and Austin’s description “This is the sound of 3AM” is right on the money. A few days after being pleasantly surprised by Mr. Price I found myself engrossed by Ms. Loretta Lynn on Van Lear Rose which I discoverd was produced by Jack White. First of all, how does a 72 year-old sound so goooood? And who would have thunk what a dynamic duo those two would make?
As I scrolled down Loretta’s vast library of classic country gold, I found that in 1992 she released an album called Loretta Lynn Sing’s Patsy Cline’s Favorites. Patsy Cline. I haven’t thought of that name in years, possibly even decades. I clicked “Play” and within seconds I was sent back in time to the late 1980’s. Sitting in the back of my father’s 1964 Ford Galaxie, ostensibly on our way to one of the local car shows we frequented back then. I can remember the retro-fitted modern radio complete with cassette player and the sounds of Patsy Cline eminating from the single speaker in the back seat while my brother and I moaned: “Ugh..Dad! Turn it off!” I did not like Patsy Cline back then. The music sounded old and boring and it was just not “cool”. Of course, had I known then what I know now, I would have treasured that time and hung on every word that spilled from that chrome speaker…
I stop to see a weepin’ willow
Cryin’ on his pillow
Maybe he’s cryin’ for me
What I didn’t know was that just a few short years later my father would commit suicide and be gone from our lives forever. I was young, just recently turning 10 years old. Because of my young age I don’t have strong memories of my father. A snapshot of playing catch in the back yard. Him giving me a “swig” of his Budweiser. Cannonballs in the pool that he built for us. Sitting on his shoulders as we meandered the seemingly endless rows of classic cars while the DJ played doo-wop, 60’s surf rock, and classic country…like Patsy Cline.
It’s funny how music has this power to surface memories that were seemingly lost long ago. I may not have many of them but I now know that Patsy will always be able to bring him back to me. I hope dad is smiling somewhere knowing that I finally got around to appreciating her.
Permalink Dec 31, 2019
My Biggest Accomplishments
Running a Half Marathon and Getting Myself into Better Shape
I may arguably be in the best shape of my life right now thanks to deciding late in 2018 that I wanted to run a half-marathon in 2019. It was a goal that, at the time, seemed almost impossible and I’m really proud to say that I was able to push through and make it happen. I learned a lot about myself as I struggled through physical setbacks, early mornings, and freezing temperatures on my way from the couch to 13.1 miles in 2 hours flat. I’ve managed to keep running (albeit not nearly as far) for the remainder of the year and even won 1st place in my age group in a 5k this fall. I also lost 40 lbs during the process and have managed to keep almost all of it off. I learned 2 big lessons on this journey: running and exercise are really important to me, and I should always trust the process. Sticking to a plan was the only way I was ever going to achieve my goal and many days when I wanted nothing to do with running I did it anyway because that’s what the plan called for.
Making Reading a Priority
I did not set out to read X number of books or anything like that this year but I did make the conscious decision to focus more on books and less on other forms of media (including internet articles). In the end I read about 26 books this year which is a big jump from my usual number. I also chose to read more non-fiction and literature with a focus on stoic philosophy and mindfulness. See all the books I read this year here.
Being More Honest with Myself
2019 was a year that I tried to put my finger on why I was feeling so “blah” for so long. Feeling like each day was blending into the next, like I was living every day just to make it through to the next. I was feeling like I was living someone else’s life, or at the very least, not living true to myself. This introspection led me to the realization that maybe I didn’t really know who I even was. Had I made all my decisions leading up until now based on what I really wanted or was it all because it’s what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing? I realized that I hadn’t really been living intentionally. I hadn’t always listened to or trusted my own heart and that “blah” feeling was the result. I was living my life as a series of reactions to the events and people around me and was constantly just searching for protection from discomfort. Coming to this realization was very freeing in many ways. I realized that there were things that were within my control that I could work on in order to start moving in a direction that I could be happy and fulfilled. Although I wouldn’t say that my life has gotten easier as a result of this new outlook, I can say for sure that I have more frequently felt at peace, in control, sure of myself, and more present than I have in a very long time.
2020 and Beyond
My biggest goal for 2020 is to live much more intentionally as a whole. I want to find a balance where I can feel in control of the things that are within my power to control while letting go of those things outside of my control. I want to seek wholeness and fulfillment in my personal life, work life, and relationships. In order to achieve this I’ve been thinking a lot about routine and processes that I can build into my life that, when followed with discipline, would lead to more intentionality and happiness. The goal of these processes is multi-tiered:
- Limit non-essential decisions (a daily exercise routine, eating the same things for breakfast and lunch, etc.)
- Cultivate focus (When I sit down to do any type of work, I want to get more done in less time)
- Allow more time for leisure (creating focus should allow me to get more done which will lead to more time for relationships, hobbies, etc.)
- Cultivate retrospection and growth and allow for evolution as things in my life change.
- Get things out of my head so that I can slow down and be more present at all times.
- Find balance between mind, body, and spirit.
- Asking “Why?” more frequently
Permalink Aug 16, 2019
You screwed up? Someone screwed you? Now you find yourself in a situation you couldn’t have imagined just moments ago? Are you angry? Feeling bad for yourself? Beating yourself up or blaming someone else for your problems.
You know what? Maybe it’s not your fault. That happens sometimes. But here’s the thing. You’re still responsible. Response Able. Fault has nothing to do with it now. It’s on your plate. You are able to respond.
More likely you played some role in getting to this position. Own up to it. Look in the mirror and say: “I did/didn’t do X and now I’m in this position” Accept it. Learn from it. You now have a choice. Let this break you or let it propel you. The obstacle is the way.
What other choice to you have? To wallow in self-pity? To scream and yell and blame everyone else? Where does this get you? Are you any closer to solving your problem? Stop all that nonsense. Let it go.
Do you need a moment? Take it. That’s fine. Let the tears fall. Hug a friend. Go for a run or to the gym. Get your aggression out. Yell, curse. Do what you need to do. Are you finished? Did you get it out of your system? Good.
Take A Breath.
Now, are you ready to begin? Look at the problem. Walk around it. Inspect every detail. Not how you got here, not at who is at fault but the actual PROBLEM. Do you see it? In all its hideous glory…sitting there. Mocking you. Trying to take you down. Look at it right in the eyes and say: “You won’t take me down. I will take YOU down”
What can you do right now to start working towards the solution? Do it. Right fucking now. Make the plan and GET. TO. WORK.
Permalink Aug 11, 2019
I’ve noticed over the past year or so of my life that my days really blend together. As I’m approaching middle age time seems to be flying by and I feel as though I’m missing out on life a bit. I’ve been asleep at the wheel so to speak and I’ve been doing a lot of looking in the mirror lately and trying to understand how I got here and what I can do to slow my life down and make it more fulfilling.
We recently returned from a week of camping with the kids not too far from home in western Maryland. We were only there for 4 nights but during that time I was reminded of the power of small adventures and how invigorating they can be. On the third day we took a short road trip from the campground to visit the town of Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. We really had no idea what to expect and I was a little worried that the kids would be bored out of their minds and that it could end up being a huge fail. I was pleasantly surprised, however when what we discovered was a very cool old town nestled in the valley at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.
The kids got a kick out of the fact that, as we made our approach, we managed to leave Maryland, cross the Potomac and cut through a corner of Virginia before finally landing in West Virginia. 3 states in about 10 minutes! We then had fun roaming around the old town and seeing the views of the rivers, crossing the old railroad bridge and meeting some hikers who were on their way up the Appalachian trail into Pennsylvania. My eldest son, who had never heard of the Appalachian trail, was fascinated by the idea of hiking from Maine all the way to Georgia. Even my toddler got a thrill out of riding “the bus” down from the Harper’s Ferry visitors center into the town. At one point after climbing the natural stairs up to “Jefferson Rock” we got stuck in a rain shower and had to wait it out on the porch of Harper’s Mansion which overlooked the town. It was a memorable experience for all of us.
This small adventure reminded me of an Art of Manliness podcast that I had listened to a while back about a guy who was promoting the idea of Micro Adventures. The guest was Alistair Humphreys and he understood that not everyone has the time or the money to go off on an expedition to climb Everest or to take 4 years to bike around the world. His idea of a micro adventure is something that is accessible to anyone while keeping the spirit of a large expedition: namely getting out of your comfort zone, trying something new and experiencing life for yourself rather than through a screen. In an interesting twist not long after I recalled this idea of micro adventures I stumbled upon a link to this video where memory champion Nelson Dellis talks about this very idea of having small, daily adventures. He talks about how not everything has to be a big, grand adventure like we see on Instagram or Facebook. Sometimes we get caught up in this idea but it really doesn’t have to be something huge to be memorable. This really resonated with me after our own little adventure that day.
Another example of a micro adventure that we had on our humble little trip: The map of our campground showed a nature trail but we could not seem to find it. We asked around and even the campground staff didn’t seem to know where it was. Finally, my son and I decided to look one last time and we finally discovered a small entrance off of one of the park roads. The sign had fallen over and the entrance was slightly overgrown. But once we got on the path it was a beautiful walk through the woods and we were the only ones there as the sun was setting. We were gone for no more than an hour but it was, again, a memorable little adventure.
After finding that Nelson Dellis video I took a closer look and found a post on his website all about how to make life memorable. And this is the stuff he talks about. Making small changes, doing different things frequently so that all our days don’t blend together. As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, this is precisely how I’ve been feeling of late. The same routine, day-in and day-out has caused time to fly by and I find myself at 38 wondering where my 30’s went. I think Nelson’s advice makes a ton of sense and there is even some neuroscience to back it up. The brain creates new memories when things are different or out of the norm. If your days are all the same then there are no new memories, nothing to look back on, and time seems to move faster. After experiencing some micro adventures on our vacation this past week and diving into the concept I think this idea has some legs as a means of making time seem like it’s passing more slowly. Time to go out and find some adventures…
- Making Life Memorable - a post by Nelson Dellis
- Art of Manliness 8 week microadventure challenge
- Introducing the idea of microadventures
Permalink Aug 2, 2019
Sometimes in life we’re stuck in auto-pilot and don’t even realize it. One day bleeds into the next which bleeds into the next week, then month, then year. We’re surviving, living each day just to make it to the next. Wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, prepare for the next day, get ready for bed. Rinse. Repeat. During this time, you may not even realize it. You may not realize that your miserable, that your wife is unhappy and feeling ignored. That your career is going nowhere and your kids are growing up in front of you but you’re missing it. No ambitions, no goals, no highs or lows just stuck in auto-pilot; and, the worst part is that you didn’t even set the destination.
Something shakes you out of it. Maybe it’s some sort of tragedy or loss. A sudden health scare, an ultimatum from your significant other. Perhaps, you just got a letter, or call from a bill collector, or a long-term relationship ended suddenly. Whatever it is, it’s like someone splashed water on your face while you were sleeping. You sit bolt-upright and look around: Where am I? How did I get here? Who is flying the plane? And…where are we even going?
So, you sit down behind the controls but they’re all a little foreign to you and what you do understand doesn’t look good. The weight gauge is way too high, the fitness one too low. The finance dials are in the red. Your co-pilot is ready to pull the eject button, and the kids are running amok in the cabin. You take a peek in the passenger section. There are few people back there that you recognize but they seem disinterested like they’d rather be on someone else’s flight. “Shit.” you exclaim. “This is worse than I expected. Now what?”
The auto-pilot light flashes at you..blinking hypnotically lulling you into a state of complacency. Things aren’t so bad, right? The flight has been relatively smooth, why not just let it take me where it wants to go? The problem is that what you don’t see is that mountain not too far in the distance hiding behind those clouds. That auto-pilot will guide you smoothly right into the side of it…
If you don’t want to go down in a firey crash, you’re going to have to turn it off… But there’s another problem. You’re not sure if you know how to fly this thing and you’re going to have to figure it out while you’re already in there air. There’s no getting a new plane, you’ve already got passengers on this one and you missed the flight lessons when you were younger or maybe you just forgot about them. Either way, there’s going to be a learning curve and it’s going to be a bumpy ride, there will be turbulence…
But here’s the thing: that’s OK. That’s life. That turbulence is what makes it worth while, it’s what makes you grow and what brings you closer to your passengers. You’re in control now; and, you’ve got this. Pull out the flight manual. Fasten your seat belt. Sit your ass up straight. Get a good grip on that wheel. Now, reach down and turn that shit off…