Creating an administrative day

Once I reached a point where most of the administrative and maintenance things were under control, I found that I had a steady stream of small things to do every day. Certainly, having things organized saves time, but things still need to be done—I can’t organize and optimize everything to zero-time required. The next step was to grab a trick from time-blocking: Set aside a chunk of time to focus on those administrative and maintenance tasks in one long go.

I’m not going to bother you with which day of the week I picked. The point is simply that I have a day—the entire day—set aside to do all the things that must be done. Laundry, occasionally changing the house air filters, stacking firewood, scheduled appointments (if I can get them on that day), banking and bookkeeping, special errands and shopping trips for home repair items, and on and on. The point is that I’ve moved all the things which feel like they aren’t directly related to my goals and aspirations—although obviously they are directly related, they just don’t feel related—to one place; one big block of time; the admin day.

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Wrangling life’s admin tasks

Just as with job-related admin, “life admin” represents some of our least favorite, and most procrastinated on, to-dos. And yet completing them is essential to keeping our lives organized, functioning, and moving ahead.

~ Brett McKay from https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-better-manage-your-life-admin/

A couple years ago I simply threw my hands up in the air and picked one day of the week which I’ve literally labeled as my “admin” day. On that day each week, I tackle everything related to life admin. It’s awesome; Stuff gets done.

But even better than that: It frees me on the other six days of the week. During the other six days each week, whole swaths of things are trivially lobbed onto the pile for the next admin day.

Try this: Pick a day of the week to be admin day, and start lobbing stuff to that day. Laundry, housecleaning… hell, I don’t even open postal mail until admin day. Pay bills, schedule things, shopping, errands…

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Friction and process

Picasso observed that, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Inspiration has to find you in the midst of your practice.

Let’s say that I enjoy painting. When I find myself painting, I usually find myself happy. I love the feeling of setting down my brush after having worked out some little problem in a painting. And so, I decide I’m going to paint regularly.

Or let’s say I enjoy sailing. I love the adventure, or the wind in my face. And so, I decide I’m going to sail regularly.

Or, running, writing, movement, music … your choice.

But without concrete plans, and clear processes, I will never actually do the practice. Friction, followed closely by excuses, will sap my momentum. If I’m to be a runner, my shoes, clothes, music or whatever I need— Those things must be in place. For any practice there are some things which you will feel must be in place.

The processes that I’m imagining, which remove friction and enable my practice, have a steady state. For my process, what does “done” look like? It looks like me sailing so often I can’t even remember not sailing all the time. Or it looks like me running and jumping and playing so often that my body is a comfortable place for my mind.

Matthew Frederick, the author of 101 Things I learned in Architecture School, makes this point:

True style does not come from a conscious effort to create a particular look. It results obliquely—even accidentally—out of a holistic process.

This point about a holistic process—the idea that mastery isn’t some higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of throwing things together—is an idea I’ve held dearly for a long time. Every single time that I’ve decided to take a process, and repeat it in search of understanding, the learning and personal growth has paid off beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m a process process process person. The second time I have to do something, I’m trying to figure out how to either never have to do that again, or how to automate it. (And failing those two, it goes into my admin day.) Random activity, powered by inspiration works to get one thing done. But inspiration doesn’t work in the long run, and it won’t carry me through my practice.

Instead, I want to know what can I intentionally do to set up my life, so that I later find myself simply being the sort of person who does my chosen practice? I want to eliminate every possible bit of friction that may sap my momentum.

There’s a phrase in cooking, mise en place, meaning to have everything in its proper place before starting. The classic example of failure in this regard is to be half-way through making something only to realize you’re missing an ingredient and having to throw away the food. Merlin Mann, who’s little known beyond knowledge workers, has done the most to improve processes for knowledge workers and creative people. I’m not sure if he’s ever said it explicitly, but a huge part of what he did was to elevate knowledge workers and creatives by cultivating a mise en place mindset.

And don’t confuse “process” or a “mise en place” mindset with goals. Forget goals. Focus on the process, and focus on eliminating friction.

To quote Seth Godin:

The specific outcome is not the primary driver of our practice. […] We can begin with this: If we failed, would it be worth the journey? Do you trust yourself enough to commit to engaging with a project regardless of the chances of success? The first step is to separate the process from the outcome. Not because we don’t care about the outcome. But because we do.

And I’ll give my last words to Vincent Thibault, author of one of my favorite books:

That is how we are still conditioned socially as adults: Do, achieve, produce results, instead of be, feel, enjoy the process. Quantitative over qualitative. We are obsessed by performance and “tangible” results. But that is one of the great teaching of Parkour and Art du Déplacement: That the path is just as enjoyable as the destination; That sometimes it is even more important, and that oftentimes it is the destination.

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Random please

I’m a process process process person. The second time I have to do something, I’m trying to figure out how to either never have to do that again, or how to automate it. (And failing those two, it goes into my admin day.) But being process oriented also means I like to build tools to enable doing things that weren’t previously possible.

Recently, I installed a little bit of code on my site that will bounce one to a random post. This means I can now have a link, which takes me to a random quote. I collect all the quotes because I want to read them. A big portion of the enjoyment comes from their discovery. So any time I can mange to re-discover a quote, by stumbling over it some how, that’s a bonus. So now, each morning, I bounce myself to a re-discovery…

https://constantine.name/?redirect_to=random&tag=quotes

Which is great to bookmark— Except, if you click that, you land on a quote; and making a bookmark is then of that specific quote. Instead you have to manually create a new bookmark—so that’s your homework for today, go figure out how to do that in your fave web browser. In that new bookmark, you can copy-and-paste that URL as the address for the bookmark. Then, any time you go to that bookmark, my web site will bounce you to a random quote.

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Time spent organizing my time

Something organized people don’t often talk about is how much time they spend organizing their time.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2015/11/03/spend-more-time-managing-your-time/

Guilty as charged, Your Honor! So today, something a little lighter than usual—I think?—with a few snapshots of how much time I spend organizing my time.

It is an exceedingly rare morning that I don’t spend about half an hour planning out the day. This little block of time begins with “surfacing:” Ducking into all the many online mediums where I am present, and—this is very hard—not engaging, but skimming over things to see what rises to a level of getting my attention today. Many productivity sources and guides suggest doing this at night, at the end of your day, but that does not work for me.

Every Monday I take an “administrative day”—the entire day. I stuff the day full of all the random things of life. Any errands to run, laundry, lawn mowing if I can, bookkeeping (literal banking and accounting and such). I do my best to resist doing any real work. I do anything like changing the bed linen, or high dusting the house, or stacking firewood, or changing a flat tire on my bike, …anything that I would consider “not important” …except of course if I never got around to doing it, then it’s a critical disaster …that’s “administrative day” stuff. This isn’t exactly time spent on organizing, but still.

I use sophisticated planning/project-tracking software, called OmniFocus, to manage a lot of stuff. (Things from recurring daily things, to true projects that have many steps and milestones and due dates.) Every two weeks—on an Admin Day!—I spend about an hour just going through every nook and cranny of my OmniFocus. (If you’ve read Getting Things Done, this is part of the review process.) I tend to ruthlessly delete stuff in an effort to combat my incessant tendency to take new things on.

At least once a month—again, on an Admin Day—I do the same sort of “look through every nook and cranny” review of the Basecamp system that is used for one of the companies I’m part of. Sometimes I can do that in 5 minutes, sometimes I’ll spend hours on it.

At the least organized end of the spectrum, (yes, my time spent managing my time comes in a spectrum of how organized it is,) I often—maybe twice per month this happens—will go off, (as in “off the deep end,”) and outline some project that I’m considering doing. I’ll whip out my favorite outliner, OmniOutliner, and do a brain dump of some project. This can take from 5 minutes to an hour or more depending on what I’m thinking about. Quite often, I’ll then simply set aside some awesome idea that I don’t have the time to execute, or the resources to have it done under my direction. I used to think this was wasted time, but it is the only way I can get things off my mind: When it pops up later, I either think, “I already did all the thinking,” or I go back to the outline and tinker some more. (What remains, forever, is just to squash the recurring lizard-brain fear of missing out by not executing the project.)

So let’s see, how much time is all of that combined? I’m awake 16 hours a day, but realistically, only half that time could ever be used to some specific end. So 8 hours a day of “self-directable life”. 1 out of 7 days is an Admin Day… 1/7 ~ 0.1428… The rest of that stuff might—maaaaaaybe, but probably not—eat a second day’s worth of each week . . . 2/7 ~ 0.2857…

So in response to how much time do I spend managing my time? I’ll say:

15 to 30% of my entire available life.

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Caution: Tulpa

I’ve recently made a startling discovery: Maybe there really is a tulpa in my head.

First, I’ve said for many years that my brain is broken. (Yes, I am aware I have terrible self-talk.) Here’s why I call it broken: I am literally unable to NOT see problems. I notice an endless onslaught of things that, in my opinion, could be improved. I don’t mean, “that sucks, I wish it could be better.” No, I mean, “that sucks and it’s obvious this way would be better and if you’d just let me get started . . . ” Adderall might help, I suppose.

Everyone loves that I get stuff done, and try to make things better. But unless you have this same problem, I’d imagine it’s hard to understand how this is debilitating. I am aware that this is recursive—I see my own brain as a broken process that I feel I should repair. All I can say is that you should be happy, and thank your fave diety if that’s your thing, that you don’t understand. Because to understand is to have the problem, and you do. not. want. this. problem.

Second, I’ve also said for many years that, “the remainder cannot go into the computer.” I’m referring to a endless source of struggle in programming and systems administration; Computers are exact, and the real world—with its real people, real problems, and things which really are subjective shades of gray—is not. So programmers and systems administrators factor, in the mathematical sense of finding factors which when multiplied give you the original, reality into the computers. And when factoring reality, there is always a remainder. That remainder shows up when you find your software does something weird. That could be a mistake, but I tell you from experience, it is more often some edge case. Some people had to make choices when they factored.

The result of that second point is that I’ve spent the majority of my life factoring, (and “normalizing” for your math geeks who know about vector spaces,) problems into computers. And then trying to live with the remainders that didn’t go into the computer. The remainders are all in my head. Or on post-it notes on my wall, (back in the day.) Or the remainder is some scheduled item reminding me to check the Foobazzle process to ensure the comboflux has not gone frobnitz. To do that I had to intentionally be pragmatic and logical. And the really scary part is I also learned that the best way to do all of that was to talk to myself—sometimes literally, bat-shit crazy, out loud, but usually very loudly inside my own mind—to discover the smallest, least-worst, remainder that I could manage to live with.

What if those two things were sufficient to create a Tulpa. (I am serious.)

I think there’s a Tulpa in here! (My title is the sign on the front gate.) It is absolutely pragmatic. It knows an alarming amount of detail about things I’ve built, (or maintained, or fixed.) It is cold and calculating. It is terrified that it will forget about one of those details, 2347 will happen, and everyone will run out of ammunition defending their canned goods from the roaming bands of marauders. I definitely don’t “have” the Tulpa. It’s more like discovering there’s an extra person living in your house. Although, I don’t hold hope of banishing this Tulpa, Yoda does make a good point if I’m going to try. So, I should definitely give it a name.

Maybe, Sark?

That is an intriguing idea indeed! Sark, what do you think?

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End of another era

I’ve been dutifully tending equipment in this bay for 15 years… little bit sad that I won’t ever drive here again. On the other hand, 10 years ago I nearly died in a car crash (not my fault) coming here in the middle of the night. There’s an invisible army of system admin who work around the world, every hour of every day. We make every aspect of your modern world function. I’m proud to be one of them, doing my little part.

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The third wave of IT engineering

Just as human society still envelops everything from pre-agricultural tribes, farming communities, and factory sweat-shops to information-based commerce, in different parts of the globe, so IT today straddles all three `waves’ of development from manual chaos to goal-oriented self-repair in different organizations.

~ Mark Burgess from, http://cfengine.com/company/blog-detail/cfengine-sysadmin-3-0-and-the-third-wave-of-it-engineering/

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Find evidence for a comparison of President Obama to Stalin

Upon reading my title, were you…

a) incredulous; you disagree with the premise.
b) happy; you agree with the premise.
c) curious; you already understand what this blog post is about.
d) other; because this author isn’t omniscient, (and you can stop reading now.)

This post is about logic, discourse and discussion; Not in a dry, academic sense, but in the sense that, “lack of logic, discourse and discussion is the root problem in America today.” It’s just a bonus that I have a wickedly inflammatory example to use as a framework for this post to keep things interesting and lively.

Background

The catalyst for this post was a news item which I stumbled upon via Facebook:
‘Obama socialism’ homework angers students at Cobb County high school

find_evidence_for_a_comparisonKnowing that the news outlet will eventually move/remove that story, at right is an image of the homework assignment in question. The original news story indicated this was from a social studies class at the high school level.

After seeing the news item posted on Facebook by a friend, I shared the link to the CBS Atlanta affiliate’s story. Two of my friends — and I mean “friends” in the real world sense of people with whom I would break bread, or to whom I would give money — joined me in the comment thread. (Names withheld here of course.) My first “wait what?” comment is the one I included with my sharing of the news item; These comments are unedited, just as they appeared on Facebook.

Craig: wait what?

I don’t see any problem. Did the verb ‘compare’ get a new definition? The first definition from dictionary.com is…

“to examine (two or more objects, ideas, people, etc.) in order to note similarities and differences: to compare two pieces of cloth; to compare the governments of two nations.” (It’s even apropos!)

So, upon comparing the two items in question, students might draw various conclusions; The items are similar, or different, to varying degrees.

mmmmmmmmm, semantics and pragmatism for the win.

Person A: I don’t know exactly what the teacher said when setting the tone for this assignment but in the article “find evidence for a comparison” is a leading statement. Otherwise as you suggested, you just compare. “Compare (and contrast) the change in Russia during the time of Stalin and Lenin, with the change in the United States during the time of Obama.” The notion that the time period in question for the United States is marked by a shift from capitalism to socialism is plain heresay. I don’t know enough about the evolution of Russia to suggest whether that shift is also heresay. The leading and heresay reaks of a “teacher” agenda.

Craig: how does “find evidence” change the meaning of the word “compare”? …it certainly means one may not simply state opinion when comparing. But does “find evidence” bias “compare”? If the question had said “contrast” the teo, that’d be leading since contrast means highlight the diffs. But “compare” is very clearly NOT an antonym of contrast. “compare” is neutral.

Person A: I don’t disagree with your posted definition of compare. That is clear. “Find evidence for comparison” clearly suggest (to me) that the author does believe that compare is an antonym of contrast. You simply compare. if you “find evidence to compare” this suggest to me that you are looking for parallels, how are the two things similar or the same, in other words find evidence that these two things are similiar. If you simply compare two things it will be evident if they are similar or dissimilar. semantics perhaps.

Person B: What I believed to be in poor taste, and the reason I posted the article, is that there is a pretty clear motive in comparing someone like Stalin, a clearly awful figure in human history, with the current president. It is, to me, a pretty obvious dig on someone that the teacher in question just doesn’t like. If this were a purely intellectual exercise, sure. Why not. But invoking the name of ‘Stalin’ never brings up a discussion of what socialism is and what it does and doesn’t do *first*, it brings up themes of genocide and corrupt government.

Craig: I find this discussion to be very interesting. There’s something at the center here; Something which I can’t quite identify… perhaps it’s the projection of, what one assumes one knows about the teacher, onto the instructions. Why do that? I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense (as a student following the assignment, or a person generally in life) to just follow the instructions guided by your own person context?

So you see these instructions. You think about the teacher’s sub-text — whatever you think about the teacher, they’re wrong in their bias, they’re right, they’re intending satire, whatever. Then you proceed on the assignment. Why must one (who is given the assignment) “react”, when one could “converse/discuss/discover” based on the direction given.

If this story had been about a kid failing (or getting a zero etc) for showing evidence why the President is different, THEN I’d have an issue.

Person C:  I’m on board with Craig on this. The language of the assignment was pointed, but whether it is inflammatory is based on the views of the reader. In the end, the assignment may have left an impression of what the teacher’s viewpoint may be, but it does not direct the student to provide a conclusion that conforms to that viewpoint. It may just be a happy accident, but this assignment provides the opportunity for the offended students to confront a differing or even opposing viewpoint and argue rationally against it rather than hiding the fact that viewpoint exists. I have to say that the idea that the principal pressured the teacher to withdraw the assignment and then disavow the teacher as a “fill-in” was a cop-out…better to work with the teacher to reword the assignment to preserve the intent– including providing a potentially inflammatory topic–and make sure the students understand they are to express their opinions on the matter and argue their points freely.

Craig:  I still agree with my initial thoughts. But, I’m changing my position…

I don’t believe *high school* students possess the same strength of individual thinking that I have. (Which is not meant to be derogatory. I’m simply trying to peel away my bias in assessing the issue.) So the teacher holds an increased responsibility to present work/questions/assignments in a way that ensures the primary goal of the work/Q/A is education.

The core of the assignment is clearly legit: “find evidence for a comparison of A to B”. But the context and connotation brought by the actual examples is too strong. If the teacher had added just the slightest nudge, something like, “You may find evidence for your comparison to support the similarities or differences of these two cases,” then I’d stand to my original position. Or, if the class had been a debate class, or college level social studies, then too it would be fine. However, as it was written, in a high school social studies class: It’s too biased.

(I also agree with the comment that the administration handled it wrong. But that’s an entirely different cup of tea.)

Logic, Discourse, Discussion

I hope you were struck by the dissection of ideas; the point and counterpoint; the sifting of wheat from chaff. That comment thread hosted some enlightened sparring! (*serious* Yes, I’ve awesome friends.) I’d venture that my friends put some honest thought into their conception of the word “compare”; Is it, in fact, NOT an antonym of “contrast”? …and would high school students be capable of thinking around their teacher’s bias in the manner Craig claims they should? …what is the burden of responsibility of the teacher? …of a high school teacher? …in a social studies context?

Never mind that I actually changed my mind as a result of the discussion. (Although, the fact that I did is apropos of something I mentioned before.)

Here’s my point

If you present your ideas in a logical fashion, perhaps with a flourish of passion or a touch of panache, while honestly thinking, “I hope they change their mind, but I’m open to changing my own.” … then bravo! You are a member of a society. Thank you for putting your shoulder behind our great American society.

If you open your mouth and spew hatred, vitriole, or can only speak in emotional platitudes. Congratulations! You are a part of the problem.

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About Craig

Discovery. Reflection. Efficacy.

This essay is also presented as episode Craig Constantine: Discovery, reflection, and efficacy of the Movers Mindset podcast.

In each of the Movers Mindset podcast episodes, I ask guests to pick three words to describe their practice. Each guest’s choice has turned out to be a much more interesting and intriguing part of the conversation than we had initially anticipated.

The word practice goes beyond movement and often evokes broader images and ideas that reflect an approach to life. The idea that parkour and movement techniques in general are more than just physical has always been behind Movers Mindset. This is why I focus on ideas and reflection, for example, rather than on flashy videos of daring movement. The deeper dive into the mindset of movers is where the real magic happens.

That’s why I decided to do some introspection and pick three words that describe my practice. It was a challenge because reducing your practice to three words can seem like you are saying that the practice is nothing more than these three words, so you try to pick broad, powerful words to make sure you cover everything. Really, however, when you pick words that are too broad and too sweeping, you wind up not really saying anything specific that is unique to you. On the other hand, if you try to pick overly specific words, they may describe only one tiny part of your practice and give the impression that the scope of your focus is too narrow.

Picking three words is a challenge that I give to our guests, so it’s fair that I do it too. I found that capturing the essence of my practice in three words required a lot of introspection, and the act of choosing three words wound up being empowering. By going through the process, I now understand my practice more explicitly and am better prepared to describe it to other people. It’s not that I did not know the path I was following before, but now the path is clearer. It is easier to determine if a new project is consistent with my practice and vision, and this helps guide my choices in the overall direction of Movers Mindset. In general, I found the exercise to be challenging and highly worthwhile.  If you want the extra boost yourself, picking three words to describe your own practice is a good way to get started. It is a great way to discover things about yourself and about your relationship to the world.

This leads me to the first word: discovery. I wanted a word that involved starting with reality, with what we know about the world and about ourselves. I rejected observation because it is not active enough.  It has connotations of just sitting back and watching, listening, and taking the world in through your senses, but in a passive way. I also did not want a word like imagination or invention as my starting point, because these involve creating things. 

Generations ago when Benjamin Franklin confronted that fearsomely powerful storm driven on by his even more powerful desire to know—a desire that pushed him beyond the limits of anything humans had ever done—he was driven by the urge to discover, the urge to take action to learn what it was and what made it work. Franklin discovered that lightning was a form of electricity, but Edison invented the lightbulb. Discovery always comes first. Franklin pushed past the millennia of fear, the millennia of cowering primitive people who saw lightning as the tool and province of the gods—never to be understood, grasped, or controlled by humans. He uncovered or discovered its secret. By learning what it was, he took the tool of the gods and made it his own. He was not the first to discover facts about electricity, but his actions symbolize the process and the principle: boldly looking at reality, uncovering its secrets, and moving them from the realm of mystery and superstition to our realm of understanding and science.

Discovery is an active process involving interacting or experimenting with reality. You may not discover that you are great at painting, cooking, or singing until you try and observe the results. Often you will discover that you need more practice or that you need to master specific skills and techniques. However, without action, you cannot discover your strengths to move you forward or discover any weaknesses to be overcome. Discovery involves the honest looking at reality and the identification and understanding of what reality tells you. Your opinions, wishes, feelings, do not matter at this stage.  What matters is that you observe to the best of your ability, that you experiment, and that you see—with as much honesty and focus as you can muster—all that reality has to offer.

Discovery is not the end of the game; it is only the beginning. The second step in the process leads me to my second word: reflection. Discovery means you have learned something about reality and yourself. What should you do with that information? What does it mean? What do you do next? The answer is that you must think about what you learned. Why didn’t I pick the word thinking instead of reflection? Thinking is too broad in meaning for this context. While I am a big advocate of thinking in general and recognize it as the key to every successful human endeavor—without exception, my practice involves a particular type of thinking that is tied directly to reality and the facts I have uncovered about it. Reflection captures this meaning. A clear reflection in a mirror involves the accurate reproduction of reality.

As we think about things, we want to be careful that we do not go off course, that we do not imagine things that are not real or ignore things that are. We want to make sure that our thinking accurately reflects those facts about reality that we have discovered. Reflection is a type of careful thinking that takes each idea and connects it specifically to some fact about reality that we have discovered. There is nothing in your head to automatically guarantee that your thinking is correct. It is easy to go off course. It is easy to deceive yourself. It is easy to make the mistake that an early failure at a complex movement means that you will never master it. Reflection can protect you from such errors. If you fail in your first attempt, that is a fact, a part of reality that you cannot deny. So, the idea that you failed is valid; it corresponds to a fact you discovered. However, the idea that you will be bad at this every time you try is imaginary; you made it up. There is no discovery in reality, no fact in reality that corresponds to the notion that you will always fail. There is no reason to believe or to accept your imagined ideas when they do not reflect reality.

Reflection, then, is a type of self-check, a way of making sure that your ideas are validated by reality. Imagination can give you ideas about what you want to validate through discovery and reflection, but it leads to useful information only when the idea is tested. If you imagine you will always be bad at something, start testing your idea. Practice. Practice again and again. Discover if you get better or if you continue to be bad at it. Reflect on your progress honestly. If after a period of regular practice, you find that you still are no good at it, there is at least a possibility that you are right. Your conclusion has some support. But if you are much better now than you were when you started, that improvement supports the idea that you will eventually—with continued practice and diligence—get good at it.

Reflection also means holding a mirror up to yourself. Why do you like certain things? What makes you feel happy, successful, powerful or disappointed and sad? Why do you think you are good at something? How did you develop those skills? Reflecting on your strengths and understanding what worked for you previously helps you grow. Reflecting on the things that scare you and hold you back helps you develop the strengths you need to overcome those worries. When you reflect on your emotions, you discover ideas or premises that are the foundation of those emotions. This means you have the opportunity to reflect on those ideas and premises and test them against reality. Are they true or false? Do they correspond to reality or contradict it?

These two questions–Are your ideas true or false? Do your ideas correspond to reality or contradict it?–ask the same thing. Reality is the standard of right and wrong, of true and false. By actively reflecting about your ideas, your discoveries, your thoughts, and your feelings, you will eventually eliminate all contradictions from your entire life. You will reach a state where you see reality, and yourself in it, with full clarity and full understanding. The world has rules by which it behaves. Things act in a particular way. If you drop something, it falls. If you touch a fire, it hurts. If you act according to these rules, you will be successful. If you ignore the rules either by failing to discover them or by evasion, you fail. Acting in accordance with the rules of reality gives you a sense of self-confidence in your own ability. This leads me to my last word that captures this self-confidence: efficacy.

After practicing discovery and reflection again and again, you realize through experience that the world is knowable. You learn that you can discover it, learn its rules, and apply them successfully. You know that you have the power to validate your results along the way and correct any errors. Reflection gives you confidence that what you have discovered, is correct; your knowledge and conclusions are valid. Given enough time and effort, you know that you can reach any rational goal, understand any process, and check and refine your results thoroughly until you have the confidence of certainty. This mental state, where you know you can meet any challenge, learn anything, develop any skill, solve any problem is efficacy.

Efficacy is the power to produce a desired effect. Recognition of your own efficacy means that you have recognized your own potential for continued success and growth. Your choices of actions at this point are not based on concerns about current limits of your ability or understanding. Instead, your choices are guided by what skills, practices, and accomplishments will give you the most enjoyment, make your life better, increase your skills, or broaden your knowledge. Your experience in life changes from asking “What can I do?” to asking “What should I do to make my life the best it can be?”

The ancient Greeks had a word for this process of reaching your full potential: eudaimonia. I did not pick that as one of my three words, in part because it is even more obscure than efficacy, but eudaimonia was in the running. Aristotle wrote most extensively about eudaimonia, but it was important to many Greek philosophers. It is difficult to translate, because the concepts leading up to it are not widely understood in our culture. Few people today recognize that by understanding the rules of reality, validating them, and putting them into practice consistently, success is almost guaranteed—barring error or misfortune. Eudaimonia integrates these ideas into a process of living your best life. It is a continuous process of self-actualization where all the best conditions are in place: happiness, morality, meaning, purpose, the fulfilling of our special, unique potentials as humans. Efficacy is necessary to have the confidence to work toward eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia is more than just a final condition. It is the process of human flourishing. It is the process of doing those things that best help you function well as a human being at the highest level. My other two words, discovery and reflection, are both active processes, and I want to focus on the active process of developing and recognizing efficacy. Efficacy includes both being effective and recognizing that you are effective; it describes a self-aware competence in action. Eudaimonia is the goal, but recognizing and developing your own efficacy is how you get there and stay there.

Finally, I wanted three words that reflect my practice in terms of its essentials, but which could also help others find their personal path to success. The words had to capture the ideas of action and thinking, doing and learning–the Mover and the Mindset. They had to wrap up my process and philosophy in a way that captures who I am and provides value to the Movers Mindset audience. I think that discovery and reflection applied iteratively, building on previous knowledge and success leads to continued growth. Repeated experience with success and growth leads to a recognition of efficacy where you understand that you have potential to be successful in almost anything.

Activities that involve continuous improvements are often described as mastery practices. Mastery practices involve continuous improvement through discovery, reflection, and active practice with full recognition of efficacy. While mastery practices range from focused practices like law, medicine, martial arts, plumbing or carpentry, the most important mastery practice is living your own life to the fullest–reaching your full potential–eudaimonia. Since your full potential requires continuous improvement, it is important to develop the mindset–the set of ideas–that allows for this unceasing movement toward greater success and well-being. Discovery of this process, reflection to hone its accuracy, and development of efficacy are the steps that each individual must undertake independently.

Although your own path is unique, the principles involved are universal and can be learned from others. A goal of Movers Mindset is to bring these principles to light in an accessible way that encourages discovery and reflection while demonstrating and promoting efficacy in each individual. While you still have to walk the path on your own, under your own power and by your own effort, Movers Mindset hopes to make the path a little clearer.

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Art du Déplacement

Art du Déplacement, (a French phrase meaning ‘art of movement’,) is a method of improving oneself through challenge. The founders say that to practice the art means to work toward: Being mentally and physically strong; being useful; being a positive contribution to your community; being better than you were yesterday.

But what about competition, flips, stunts, jumping roof gaps and gymnastics tumbling? …are those things part of it? Certainly, some people do those things as part of their practice. Competition can make you physically stronger. Jumping roof gaps can make you mentally tougher. So these things can be part of your practice, but your practice does not have to be these things.

For me, swallowing my pride and starting over in physical fitness with a group of people about half my age… That was a challenge. For me, pull-ups are a challenge. But that’s the whole point. It’s is about me improving me, and you improving you.

But I didn’t know that when I first tried Parkour, (before I understood the Art du Déplacement roots of what I was learning,) in the spring of 2012. I had met Adam McClellan during a martial arts demonstration and he talked me into coming out to play with the growing Lehigh Valley Parkour community. I am continuously delighted to be the big, old, slow, lumbering gorilla in a community of enthusiastic, supportive and happy people. After two years of serious training, at the age of 42, I passed the ADAPT Level 1 certification through Parkour Generations. Art du Déplacement, Parkour, and this unique community, have changed my life.

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Podcaster

The short version of this story is simply: I’m simply curious. I try things. I make mistakes. I ask questions.

My podcasting journey began with the Movers Mindset project, which grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. Started in 2015, at first it was just a web site that shared others’ writing. But as I travelled, I kept finding myself in cool conversations until one day someone said, “you should have recorded that. I’d listen to that podcast.” Excited, but with no clue how much work it would be, I kicked off the Movers Mindset podcast at the start of 2017. For the first dozen episodes I did far too much of the work myself, until I wised up and started finding a few incredible people to share my new passion.

By this point I was devouring anything I could about interviewing. I smashed through thousands of podcast episodes in the process of wondering, “how does everyone else do it?” Podcasts, books, online courses… Everywhere I turned I found something new to work on in my own journey.

In the fall of 2018 I had about 30 interviews published on the podcast. I was getting comfortable travelling by plane, train and automobile, being invited into people’s lives to capture the Movers Mindset interviews. I was invited to the North American Art of Retreat, a Parkour leadership retreat, in the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle. There I did a series of interviews with the event’s presenters and organizers, and handed those recordings off for Art of Retreat to create their own podcast.

When 2019 rolled around, on a whim, I jumped into an Akimbo course called The Podcast Fellowship. I wanted to search for unknown-unknowns, to rethink everything I had done so far, and much about the Movers Mindset podcast changed in this period. To my surprise, I was invited back to be part of a small group of alumni who assist the coaches for the 4th, (and then the 5th, and 6th) running of the course. It’s mind-bogglingly inspiring and energizing to hang out daily with hundreds of people who share your passion. I even tried to summarize the fun of it in The Journey.

Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset episode numbers kept climbing and I’ve been branching out to interview more challenging guests; challenging for me as I’m forced to converse and discuss topics I know less and less about, but which none the less intrigue me endlessly. In the fall of 2019, this time with help from some of the Movers Mindset team, I was invited back to Art of Retreat. There, we did a second series of interviews for Art of Retreat’s podcast.

If you want to see a more up-to-date listing of what I’ve done in the podcasting space, see my Podchaser creator page.

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Blogger

I blog, therefore I am?

No, the initial impetus was to find a place to permanently – or as permanently as the Internet offers – publish my father’s eulogy: In Memoriam. I started piling on things I thought were interesting, fun, or poignant. I wrote some wall-of-text email messages – actual writing with references and original ideas – in response to Aikido questions, and the blog split into the Scree and Aikido tags. Later, I was toying with the idea of organizing a network and system administration group in the Lehigh Valley, wrote a few things about that, and the blog grew… “Feed me Seymore!” …and grew…

What I didn’t expect was that the blog would become a “read more…” link for my brain. Someone says, “that’s interesting,” or “where did you read/hear/learn that?” …and I go,

Yeah, uh… it was on that web site, the one with the words… Wait, just go to my blog and hit the search box . . .

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Avid reader

Reading has been a life-long addiction. Growing up, it was a 20-minute drive to anything. When we did occasionally visit a bookstore, I’d run around randomly selecting books to read. At first, science fiction was my recreational drug. But I soon escalated to fantasy, mystery, and horror, before I eventually spiraled out of control into the classics, biography, and the full-on non-fiction science and medical crack that I’m on now. After college, I thankfully discovered the 12-step program known as “Book Mooch”, and gave away hundreds of books to people all over the world. Today I continuously struggle to keep the unread book collection to one bookcase.


Casual mountain-bike cyclist

I started road-biking in high school. After a little reading, and a lot of riding, I even tried a few criterion races. (Other than some crazy stories, no good came of my attempts at racing.) Mostly I just rode miles and miles, on evenings, weekends and dreamy summer days, through the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, unknown to me, someone invented mountain biking.

After college, I bought an entry level, steel-frame Trek and rode it incessantly until it fell apart in one season. That Christmas, Santa brought me a new aluminum frame Trek 6700, and I began spinning my way through whatever single track I could find in eastern Pennsylvania. About 3,000 miles later, I turned 40 and retired that Trek. In its place, I bought a magical Cannondale Flash 29’er instead of a cliche mid-life-crisis motorcycle.


Programmer, system administrator, problem solver

I studied Engineering Physics at Lehigh University, graduating in 1993. Through a work-study position at Lehigh’s computing facilities, I had the opportunity to use a wide range of systems including VAX, Cyber mainframe, HP Unix, and Sun Solaris. As a youngling, I met a number of computing professionals who deeply influenced me and, of course, I also had access to the Internet. I went on to spend time learning TCP/IP, routing, DNS, SMTP/sendmail (nearly got expelled on that one), WAIS, Gopher, etc.. I didn’t know it in 1989, but these early experiences would prove invaluable.

In 1994, I was involved in creating an ISP where I figured out, and then setup, all of the network infrastructure from scratch. Other, equally insane people, performed the same Herculean bootstrap in their areas. In parallel, we created an integration firm focussing on digital pre-press and design where we sold and supported Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Apple products.

While all that was happening, Black Box was created as a design agency to be a creative force doing cool stuff. Today, anyone can hop on the Internet and rent servers or cloud resources to start a company. But back in analog-dialup-1994, creating those two companies was the only way we could invent the things that Black Box needed. Eventually we wound down the ISP and integration companies, and a spot was made for me at Black Box, where we continue doing cool stuff.


Meta

If you’ve read this far, you probably want to also read the posts tagged “meta.”

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