The triumph of principles

A political victory, a rise in rents, the recovery of your sick, or return of your absent friend, or some other quite external event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace by the triumph of principles.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who wants to become a manager?

https://knowyourteam.com/blog/2019/03/20/do-i-truly-want-to-become-a-manager/

As a manager, this state of flow is less common, if not non-existent. You aren’t diving deep on a task during an uninterrupted block of time, as required in flow – you’re the one helping others dive deep on a task. You’re also not receiving immediate feedback about your progress in the same way you would as an individual contributor, which is another critical element of flow. As a manager, you might not find out until months later if a decision you made or a conversation you had positively or adversely affected your team.

~ Claire Lew

I think there’s a continuous pull to increase the total amount of work-output that we accomplish. Year by year, we improve our skills, learn new areas of interest, and even change careers entirely. We’re optimizing. The hard question is: Optimizing for what? Why?

I know I’ve been lured by the trap of thinking that if I just had help, then I’d be able to optimize. If I had more help, I’d be able to make more money, make more time, make more happiness for my myself, or make more happiness for the world. It’s taken me a long time to realize that, managing work and doing work are two different things.

I understand some people are drawn to—derive inherent pleasure from—managing others well and leading productive teams. But to date, I am not one of those people. This has left me in the unstable position of being pulled in opposing directions by two ideas: I would like to do fulfilling work. But to do more fulfilling work than I am currently, I need help from others. The key for me is to work with others in a spirit of collaboration; To not slip into my default mode of optimization, (specification, control, and micro-management.)

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On bad writing

The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.

~ Tom Waits

§16 – Don’t be that guy

(Part 28 of 28 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Serendipity.

I’ve been working on writing these thoughts for over three years. Without actually checking, I think it was the Fall of 2015 when I sat in Le Jardin Joan d’Arc and read my copy of Thibault’s book in one, all-day sitting. Almost 4 years ago?

I created this particular blank note for Chapter 16 in May of 2016. “16”?

As I’m writing, it is May of 2019. Another, “May”?

About three years ago I started the project which eventually became Movers Mindset. Two years ago the project grew to include a podcast.

This morning, I feel compelled to “finally” get around to writing something for Chapter 16. I open my digital copy, flip to Chapter 16, and I read, “Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat once wrote…”

Care to guess who I am interviewing for the podcast today? Yes, really.

This is sublime.

All those threads woven together lead to this moment of realization at 8:00 in a rented London flat, 6,000km from my home.

Critically, while I’ve known for months the exact date and time of Chris’ interview, I’ve not read Chapter 16 recently enough to have remembered that it starts with his sentiments. If I had, I’d certainly have made some complicated plan to co-publish this writing and the podcast, or something—but this serendipity would not have materialized. Energized by the jolt of adrenaline when I read Chapter 16 this morning, I now feel a renewed belief in the entire Movers Mindset project! (Which is good, because most days there’s more strenuous labor than love in the labor of love.)

But, serendipity and coincidence are bullshit.

It’s just my brain, (yours may be the same,) working its tremendous powers of pattern matching. This morning my mind found a slightly-more-interesting-than-usual pattern and screamed, (ala the old adrenal gland,) that it had found something that demanded much closer attention. I’ve been spurred to carefully read Chapter 16 about five times this morning, to mull over my thoughts, to spend an hour or so writing, and to think of all the people I want to share this story with. I was inspired to create a vision of how the interview will go, new questions have popped into my head, and I’ve thought of a specific person who I now realize I’d forgot for about two years!

I wonder: What would life be like if I simply paid closer attention?

What if—instead of needing a kick in the adrenals to be this motivated—I could begin to intentionally notice things a bit smaller than this morning’s coincidence?

What if!

…and of course, “don’t be that guy.”

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Being a great guest

(Part 5 of 5 in Parkour Travel)

This post is entirely rules, tips, and ideas about how to be an insanely great guest in someone’s home. It’s organized into three sections. The first two sections are meant to get you thinking about how your host, and other guests, perceive you. The third section is focused on the day-to-day details of living in an unusual space. It’s meant to get you thinking about solutions to problems, and ways to make travel more enjoyable.

tl;dr: Empathy.

For my purposes here, empathy is the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person. I’m not suggesting that you must continuously empathize with everyone. I’m suggesting that empathy is a tool that can be used to inform your plans and behavior. Simply put, artfully using the soft skill of empathy will transform you into a great guest.

Why Bother?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why? Because decent human beings treat other human beings decently. (Did I need to write that? I hope not.)

If you are not already motivated to improve and to be a good guest, consider these benefits:

Lubrication: If your host likes you, they’ll interact with you more, you’ll experience more of their life, knowledge, and culture, and they may even help you more by driving you somewhere, or introducing you to someone. There is a wide margin of experiences which you cannot plan. But if things are going well via your being an awesome guest, then you’ll more often find yourself invited into that margin by your host.

Pete and Repeat: If you want to be invited back, you need to be a good guest. If you enjoyed a first visit (with your host, to the community, to the city, to the country), you’d probably enjoy a second visit. Notably, second visits are logistically easier because you know the lay of the land. So it’s a double-win if you visit again. Rare and valuable are hosts who become true friends through repeated visits.

Avoiding self-sabotage: Invitations generally only appear when meeting someone in person, so new invitations are fairly rare. If you are an annoying guest, your reputation will quietly precede you, and invitations won’t be extended.

Lead from the front: We are social animals. (Everyone varies as to how much social interaction we prefer, but no one is an island.) So it’s wise to help weave the social fabric by setting a good example. An excellent way to save the world is to be the change you want to see in the world. Be the traveler who breaks the ice, (appropriately of course,) who dives into the distasteful chore, who finds ways to include everyone, and who kicks off the cascade of cohesion and camaraderie.

The Cardinal Sin

Invitations are never extendable to others; Never invite another person to your host’s home.

Invitations are never extendable to others; Never invite another person to your host’s home.

Corollary: Be cautious with social media. Avoid, revealing your host’s exact address, or the details of their private life.

Here are cringe-worthy examples I’ve seen: Someone you’re training with needs to use the bathroom? Someone needs a place to stash their belongings? A place to shower? A place to crash for the night? No, no, no and no. You should always and forever consider yourself a guest. Guests are, by definition, not the host and only the host can invite others.

Treat your host’s home like a magic kingdom. It’s a rare privilege, reserved for the select few, to even know where it is located, let alone be permitted to glimpse the interior. Only your host may pierce that veil and reveal the kingdom to those whom they alone choose.

I’ve spoken to many people, and there are differing views held by persons in the guest role. Some incorrectly believe that a guest’s behavior may change, pushing, or crossing, the boundaries I’m describing, based on the host and the situation. (Pro-tip: Be the host and then you can do whatever you want. Until then, you are a guest.) The guest’s role is unwavering. Hosts and their “homes” vary widely from open-door, dog-pile, continuous-house-parties, to Zen-temple-like retreats of peace and quiet known to only a select few. The boundaries of acceptable behavior are set by your host, will vary widely, and are usually not explicitly detailed. But that variety in homes and boundaries does not change the guest’s role and responsibilities in the least.

Lead from the front, be considerate, and practice empathy.

15 Suggestions

Be careful what you wish for: Your host may go out of their way to arrange something you didn’t actually want. If this happens, you should follow through with what you asked, enjoy it, and remember to pass your heartfelt thanks to your host. (Ask me the story about the swimming pool in Japan.)

Be predictable: Since, as a good guest, you are actively paying attention to how your presence is imposing on your host, you can work to minimize friction and problems. Once you start to see how this works, you’ll think of a myriad of small things you can do to be predictable. Think about your communications from your host’s point of view. (Here’s that empathy skill again.) Always let your host know what to expect.

Everyone has routines: Your mission is to figure out your host’s routines, and to figure out what their intentions are. (The later is much harder than the former.) Do they want no disruption of their normal routine, or do they want to get up early to do things with you? Do they want you to feed yourself, or do they deeply enjoy cooking and sharing meals? The inroad here is found by realizing that your goal is to make your interaction with your host, and your affect on them, intentional.

Sleeping: The biggest challenge is to tease out when your host expects to sleep and expects to awake, and to try to fit yourself to that. This can be hard to do well. If you wait too long, they will eventually ask you, and it can get awkward if you give an exact response—”I go to sleep at 9:30 and get up at 5:30″—if that is significantly different from their normal routine. I usually open the conversation about sleeping by mentioning what time I need to get up (for an event, transportation logistics, etc..) But, challenges can still arise because sleep is the thing I’ve arranged my life around, and it is rare that I encounter others with this same level of attention to sleep.

Scheduling: Of course, if you have a specific thing to do (event, train, plane, etc), and they watch TV (or play games, etc.) at night, you should join them a little, but then go to sleep. Hopefully your sleep spot is out of the way. Sometimes sleeping on the floor is great because you can say goodnight and head off to your nest. Sometimes sleeping on the floor is a problem if your assigned space is the common space where staying-up is happening. Know your schedule in advance and factor that in when planning where you’ll sleep.

Bed: In the morning, stow your bed by putting your sleep system away or putting the sofa back together. If you’ve found yourself in a guest bedroom, make the bed.

Bathroom etiquette: This is hero-level stuff done by dream guests. If the shower is in the only bathroom, before you head to the shower, politely ask if anyone would like to use the bathroom. Always bring all your own bathroom stuff, (soap, shampoo, whatever you need, you should be able to carry it when traveling.) Leave absolutely nothing in the bathroom. (If there are multiple guests, the bathroom can get insane.) The exception would be your towel: If you’re the only guest, it should be hung neatly to dry in the bathroom. But if there are lots of guests, your towel needs to go dry in your sleeping space. (If you have a tech towel that dries quickly and shower before bed, it will dry by morning in your sleeping area.)

…and more Bathroom tips: Showering at night keeps the bedding cleaner, (your host’s, or yours if you’re using your sleep system.) Technical clothing that dries quickly can be washed with you as you shower to dry as you sleep. Take cooler showers to save hot water for others, and to make less fog in the bathroom. Always run the fan. Next, imagine you are being timed while in the bathroom. …and imagine there’s a line of people waiting. …and then imagine yourself waiting desperately in that line to use the bathroom. If there are many guests, get yourself presentable as quickly as possible, and then crack the door while finishing up the things you can do while dressed. Most people will knock on the door if it is cracked open. You can then pause your work to politely step out for them.

If you are handy: Fix things. But only if you are absolutely sure you can succeed! Sometimes you can just leave things a touch more organized, more clean, or less broken, then when you arrived. Do not make a big deal of it nor point out what you’ve done.

Disappear during the day: Not only you body, but all your stuff too, should disappear! Either carry everything with you whenever you leave, or have a large bag to leave at your host’s. (There are large, packable duffels that take up little space when stuffed.) This enables your host to move all your stuff easily if needed. (It also tends to keep children and pets out of your stuff.) If you do this well, instead of your host feeling like you’re there for three days, it’s more like three, separate, one-night visits; They have fun sharing a meal, some conversation, then everyone’s asleep, and then it feels like your visit ends in the morning.

Refrigerators: Use the fridge, but remove all of your stuff. Seriously, no one will eat your left-overs, (except obviously useful items like eggs.) If your host gives you a tour of the fridge, (literally, or by mentioning it in passing,) then do eat/drink their stuff. If they do not mention it, do not touch their stuff. Mastery level: change your eating habits so you don’t eat breakfast. Find your lunches and dinners out-and-about and place zero food-load on your host. Then, if they want to eat socially, you can add that back in.

Not seen and not heard: By default you should be invisible, and as quiet as a mouse. Make no noise, don’t watch TV, play games, etc. Let your host lead. If they want to interact, make noise, watch TV, playing games, etc., then join in!

Before arrival: Tell your host how and when you are arriving (“My train gets in at 4:30, so it will be about 5 by the time I get to your place by subway.”) This way they know when to expect you, and that you are not expecting them to pick you up. Then, if they want to offer you a ride, (or whatever,) they can. You should always be thinking: All I need is shelter and a bathroom; Anything else is icing on the cake. (wifi? electric power?! food?!! …omg awesome!)

Intentional updates: Your host should always know when to next expect to hear from you; This means you make the effort, not that you nag them. When you leave for the day you might say, “I’m not sure what time I’ll be back. I’ll send you a message after lunch.” …or, “I’m going to be late this evening, I’m having dinner with so-and-so.”

Oops happens: When things go wrong, own up to it immediately. If you break something, tell your host. However, if you ask, “can I fix/replace this,” most people will lie and say to not worry about it. Instead, you must first figure out how to fix/replace it, and say, “I see there’s a home depot across town. After breakfast I’ll take the subway over and get another one of these.” Sure, you will miss the morning of the event you came to attend (!), but you broke it and you should be the one who misses half a day fixing it. You’ll learn a hard lesson and be a better person for it.

Review: After each visit, take the time to think about what went well, what went badly, and wether your visit matched up with your expectations. Continuous improvement is the key!

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Purpose in life

Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television.

~ David Letterman

Daily steps of weight tracking

My weight fluctuates a lot during the day, and day-to-day. So I picked a consistence time and procedure. I try not to over-think it, and simply do the same thing each time, generally, in the morning after I go to the bathroom.

After doing this for a few years, I no longer care about the fluctuations. The whole point of this is to get a handle on the trends. The individual jumping around of the numbers is irrelevant. Once you see the numbers jump all over the place for a few weeks, you learn to stop caring about what the scale says on any given day.

My scale measures in 2/10’s of pounds. So I can get “123.4” or “123.6”. It’s digital, has huge numbers, and it lives right in the open in the bathroom where I can just step on it at any time. This is important as it removes all possible “friction” to weighing myself. I don’t even need to slide the scale out to step on it.

Next to the scale hangs a tailor’s tape measure. I use the metric scale on the tape since that gives me centimeters and tenths. (If I used the inches scale, I’d have to convert the 1/8’s of inches into decimals, so it’s easier to get 4 digits from the metric side.)

I step on the scale and grab the tape measure. By the time I look down, the scale is done deciding my weight. I step off scale and measure the largest circumference. This requires honesty, but is very easy to do once I did it a few times: I just relax, let it all hang out, and slowly let the tape measure slip longer as I try to slip it down around my waist. (I suppose, that some day, when I have a “waist” in the proper definition, I’ll have to tweak my method. That will be a great problem to have.)

I might get 232.8 pounds– I just remember 2 3 2 8.
I might get 110.7 centimeters– I just remember 1 1 0 7.
…and I walk out of the bathroom mumbling, “2 3 2 8 1 1 0 7”

In subsequent posts I’ll go into what I do with the numbers in terms of math, spreadsheets and why the units are irrelevant. But for now, that’s the data capture that I try to do every day. It’s fast and easy. Step on scale, measure “waist”, and record eight digits.

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What feels right is probably wrong

This leads me to the point I wish above all to emphasize, namely, that when a person has reached a given stage of unsatisfactory use and functioning, his habit of ‘end-gaining’ will prove to be the impeding factor in his attempts to profit by any teaching method whatsoever. Ordinary teaching methods, in whatever sphere, cannot deal with this impeding factor, indeed, they tend actually to encourage ‘end-gaining.’ The instruction given to the golfer of our illustration to keep his eyes on the ball is typical of the kind of specific instruction given by teachers generally for the purpose of eradicating specific defects in their pupils, and, as we have seen in this case, this instruction was a stimulus to him to try harder than ever to gain his end, and so to misdirect his efforts worse than ever.

~ FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, pp66-67, 1932 (emphasis added)

I think there’s a lot more context necessary for that to make sense. One could go read the book; It’s small. But setting that aside for the moment.

Alexander raises the important point that what feels right may in fact be wrong. So the harder I try to do something correctly, by trying to do what feels right, the more likely I am to reinforce doing what is wrong. This starts to make more sense once I understood that the Brain is a Multi-layer Prediction Model. Once something is modeled incorrectly—when I move this way, it feels right—it’s going to be really difficult to change that model.

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Quadrupedal Movement

(Part 74 of 74 in My Journey)

Quadrupedal Movement (QM) is a diverse collection of movements using both hands and feet on the ground to support one’s weight.

QM is almost always done using just the feet, and not the knees, since our knees are not capable of taking prolonged usage or impact. That said, there are some small-size, low-impact, movements using various surfaces of the knees, lower legs, buttocks, and thighs which integrate well with the usual hands-and-feet-only QM.

There are countless variations of QM. Many variations are physically demanding, but many are drastically easier than the more usual bipedal movements: Using a railing with your hands for balance and support as you ascend stairs, using walking sticks and canes, and “scrambling” on hands and feet up steep slopes, are all common variations of QM.

Start here https://gmb.io/locomotion/

…and then take a look at some advanced options, Two Hours and a Slab of Concrete.

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Meta: I’m retiring this series, “My Journey.” Over the years, my blog has changed a lot. In the beginning I had a lot of more random things here and I used this series as a way to highlight this aspect of my blog writing. Today, the blog itself is basically a record of my journey.

A grievous error

“Setting the bar too high.”
“Setting stretch goals with the knowledge that coming up short will be the norm.”

…are symptoms of forward-looking assessment of progress. Assessing progress by looking forward is a grievous error. “What have I accomplished?” is only measurable by looking back at what has been accomplished. This error is one of my big problems—I’d even say it’s my #2 problem. I’m working on it by practicing looking back to assess progress. :) My instinct and habit though is to look forward. Thus, more practice is needed to make looking back the default.

What have I accomplished?
What is the affect of what I have done?
How far have I moved?
How much have I learned?

Such questions can only be answered by considering the change between two points in my past.

The hard part—at least for me—is to keep out the “I wanted.” “I accomplished that much, but I wanted to accomplish [insert goal here],” creeps in through the open door of assessment.

By shifting my eyes just a bit to my left, I can see my personal oath which is stuck next to my monitor. There are a few phrases in it which are specifically meant to help me keep, “but I wanted to…” firmly locked outside.

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