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Musings

Turning Fifteen Again

Fifteen can be a good age, as seen in the headline image. (That was me in my junior year yearbook photo, not quite 16 yet.) You’re firmly planted into your teen years, start to have an idea of who you are and a little more confident after being in high school for 2 years, and have a lot of optimism about the future, especially because this is the year you get your driver’s permit.

I find I get nostalgic and reflective in June because it’s that time of year when you graduate high school, college, or if you’re me, you remember when you landed your first – and only – full time job. Today, June 19th, marks my first official full time day at my job. It’s not the first or second time I’ve reminisced about this, nor will it be my last. However, 15 feels like a big milestone for a couple reasons.

1) Years that are divisible by 5 feel more important.

2) Change and opportunity has been a big theme this year personally and professionally, much like the year 2000.

Just like that time of transition from college to “real life” where the world felt full of new opportunities amidst so many unknowns, this year mirrors those characteristics. Seemingly there hasn’t been so much change and possibility all rolled up into one inconveniently undefined package delivered to my door. People who I thought would be around moved on, directions of things I thought would be one way have changed – ultimately in many ways for the better.

The INFP and Idealist in me is internally thriving in the “in-between” phase of the past and the unknown future. I love this space where the opportunity of something fresh and new can be created. However, this doesn’t mean I’m without questions or fear. I also want it to go well, perfectly even however perfect can be defined in these situations. Given how unrealistic that is, I need to forge ahead and do my best.

All of this change processing requires more time alone to figure things out. I remember spending a lot of time at 15 in my bedroom trying to figure out life and everything happening then, journaling my thoughts. I was optimistic then too, even when I was unsure of the “next thing.” Guess some things don’t change.

Welcome to “Career” 15 years old, me. There’s still a lot to figure out; you got this. You still look pretty good too for your age. You should thank your parents for good genes.

Categories
Musings

Our Connected World

(This post has very coincidentally been posted the same weekend as Sense8 premiering on Netflix.)

There is no shortage of commentary about how the Internet and technology has provided us connectivity to other people and how It is reshaping our world, allowing us to communicate with others whom we may have never met otherwise. While this has generally been a great advancement for humankind in spite of the rise of the Internet troll, I’ve been pondering about how our online and offline interactions and activities have great reach, both seen and unseen.

No matter how many times we say “it’s my life” or “why does what I do matter to anyone else?”, it still have immense value and absolutely matters! Regardless of who you are, everything you do influences someone or something else, often in ways we don’t recognize in and positive and negative ways.

Consider the following scenarios that are obvious and perhaps more subtly influential:

  • That day when you don’t apply yourself at work like you should could mean missing out on a new opportunity for a client or inspiring colleagues to do better.
  • Choosing to not pickup the phone and call your old friend to catch up means the difference between strengthening old bonds and letting them weaken just a little bit more.
  • Every book and article you read continually shapes your opinions and perspectives. It forms the basis for our knowledge, but we also must be careful not to fill it only with perspectives we agree with unless your goal is to have a narrow view of the world.
  • My choosing to run more inspired a friend to pick it up again and sign up for a race this past spring, along with others trying to improve their speed and stamina. All this was spurred on by a friend who a year and a half ago somehow convinced me over Indian food that I could train for and run a marathon.
  • Your decisions on who to date or marry (or later decide to divorce from) are some of the most obvious influencing acts we have on ourselves but also our circles. Bringing a new person in changes the relational dynamic. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have found great spouses that I gladly also call friends. Their presence has frequently enhanced the existing friendship.On the flip side, I’ve seen and experienced the struggles when relationships fall apart or take a destructive route. The emotional turmoil of a divorce on children and relatives is not easily quantifiable in the short and long term. Or seeing the emotional & psychological aftermath of being in an abusive and hurtful relationship play out in how we interact with others for months and years to come.

I’m not saying anything earth shattering or revolutionary, but I’ve been struck by the ever connectedness of my own life as I continue to find parallels between “my worlds”. There’s lessons I need to apply across the board for the bettering of myself and everyone else around me. (Example: apply a better training schedule & routine to reading and writing/blogging similar to the discipline I use to train for a race.) Similarly, there’s probably something happening right around you that you should be paying attention to. What is that thing for you?

P.S. If you have Netflix, check out Sense8. As of this writing, I’m 3 episodes in and am really enjoying it.

Categories
Musings

Finding Purpose in the Wilderness

I wrote about some of this in my “secret” journal during the trip (see featured image above), but there is a magical transformation that occurs when you are in the presence of creation in its purest forms where the hands of men have not yet or are unable to claim mastery over it for his own personal gains. You are immediately brought down to size and realize you are but a tiny part of a much bigger, grander world.

Going to a new place always provides space to figure out what’s important in my life. It’s like a big filter in the shape of plane tickets, breathtaking landscapes, new (but sometimes very old) city streets to walk down, and new cultures where I don’t speak the native language.

I read that Iceland is one of the most educated countries in the world with greater than 99% literacy rate. Creativity and art are strongly encouraged and engrained into the culture, so there is a lot of writing and art being created on a regular basis. I was impressed and humbled by how many books I saw everywhere we visited from coffee shops to more sit-down style restaurants even. Designs on sides of buildings even had huge books on them. It’s clear this country like to read and write. I very much respect it and desire for a similar thing to happen back in the United States. It also reminded me to read and write more.

Yet one of the things I was curious about is how much of the backdrop of their lives has fueled their way of thinking and their desire and ability to create so much. Even within the Keflavik airport, there were wonderful quotes from various authors that speak in such poetic language I was moved to stop and reflect in a place that is usually filled with angst and tension of running late for anywhere but where you’re at.

I hoped to find that magic while I visited to spark a new level of creativity in thoughts and in writing. Even months after visiting, that desire to create has seasoned much of my day to day thinking and actions. To allow for this, it will mean that I need to balance out my time between being inundated in an information, media rich, distraction filled world and find my wilderness space to compile my thoughts and to craft a blog post, edit that photo just so, to reimagine that work project. So while I still (and will likely continue to) consume an inordinate amount of media content, my goal is to be more producer than consumer.

The wilderness gives us room to evaluate everything that matters – and that which doesn’t. Though I wonder if we need to be careful not to spend too much time there lest we go crazy….

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Opinion

Reset-uary

Every January, the world stops to reflect and celebrate another completed trip around the sun. And we’re always so proud of it too! (Yay, most of us didn’t fall off the planet, thanks to gravity.) Inevitably, this month also marks the time when we also feel like it’s time to start something new, make healthier decisions, get going on all those projects that we’ve been promising ourselves for the last 3 years, and just be a better person. This month should be relabeled “Reset-uary” on all calendars. Also, it would be the first month to officially have a hyphen in the name.

While I don’t have any specific issue with the idea of starting fresh and taking on the world with new perspective and energy, what I haven’t understood is why we so often wait for significant events like the new year to reboot ourselves. Imagine if we waited a whole year to reboot our computers or phones! Windows can barely go a day or two before acting erratically. See what happens to us when we let ourselves run for too long without shutting down once in a while? We should be taking a more proactive approach to life and evaluating and adjusting more frequently and not just at major milestones the calendar – and society – dictates.

Reset-uary does not need to be a one time a year occasion on our calendars. Schedule your own mini-resets into your routine. Take time to logout to clear your mind and gain new insights. Evaluate and adjust in small increments instead of trying to upend everything at once.  The worst thing that happens in this renamed month is we try to change too much at once and by February almost everything goes back to how it was and little of what you hoped to change doesn’t.

Don’t let February turn into “Same-uary”. Or I may keep making up new names for months of the year.

Categories
Musings Opinion

Ask More Questions & Listen More

Questions

Often times I need to take a step back from everything and ask myself, “is there an overarching theme or pattern happening in my life?” It’s fascinating to see how various facets of my life are intertwined usually to teach me – and maybe the world – something.  That current “something” is that we don’t know everything. We think we do so often, assume a bit too much, and because of that often miss something critical. We must ask more questions. It is a significant step to understanding of all manners of things, especially ourselves.

At work, I try to teach and encourage those on my team and around the company to not take anything at face value. Too often someone takes a task or project request and runs with it. At surface level, everything seems straightforward. But peel back even one layer and finding out the “why” that is driving that request and you learn that on-the-surface craziness has some context and reasoning you can support – or at least acknowledge. Or you ask your client to expand on an idea and all of a sudden a great idea is sparked to take the project to a new level or a future potential issue is avoided.

In relationships, questions are the basis for learning more about other people. You know what everyone’s favorite topic is?  What they know best of course: themselves. In my life, I have had many conversations with people without uttering much beyond my name, where I’m from or live, and a gloss over of what I do. How? By continually asking questions about just about anything they want to talk about. I’m amazed by how much others like hearing their own voice. I tap into this by keeping the focus on the other person with questions crafted and carefully selected for them.  When I’m not in the mood to talk about myself, it’s a powerful deflection tactic that works on at least 80% of people I talk to (a couple close friends are on to me.)  The only problem? When I do want to share something about my life, people still like to talk about themselves even when I’m not asking them anything. This cumulatively results in only one person feeling like they are known better; often times that person is not me. It can lead to a sense of isolation or not feeling cared about.

When it comes to ourselves, how often are we asking the really tough questions in a way that results in action or real insight? The right questions can be uncomfortable to respond to. Why? Do we not ask them because we don’t care about other people or about ourselves? Or is it because we’re afraid someone will ask us about stuff we don’t want to talk about? Maybe it’s why I direct a lot of conversation focus back to other people.

One of the worst things we do is assume we know everything we need to know from work to friendships. Without questions, we are left to assume what we don’t know, and Assuming takes you to dangerous places. So don’t be too taken aback if I ask lots of questions. It means I care and I don’t want to miss something along the way.

 

Categories
Musings

Cloud Roots

I’ve had something stuck in my head for a little while now that I’ve had a difficult time finding words to properly explain. Even this blog post’s title went through a number of revisions before landing where it did. All of this circles around expectations and shifts in perception.

It is no secret we are in a significant shift culturally where users demand mobility and access everywhere. We want everything to be compatible with our smartphones or tablets because we’re all on the go. I personally benefit greatly from the technology available to me and I do feel like I can do more from wherever I’m at, whether that means phone calls, text messages, accessing Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, or any other number of “cloud” based services. But all this wireless access and freedom requires things few of us think about:

Wires. Lots of fiber and T-1 lines. Cell towers. Huge data centers. 

What do they all have in common? You guessed it, these things not very mobile. Yet they exist because we demand to be. Our very ability to be free to do what we want where we want is grounded, quite literally, in hardware that is a bit more of a permanent structure. Cell towers loom over our urban landscape so our phones can send and receive our critical tweets and Facebook status updates. Data centers house (probably way too much of) our personal info, with servers running around the clock just waiting for us to make them show us pictures of our friends or cats, or perhaps even something important like work email.

Without all this, we’re unable to have that freedom we so badly desire.

Part of what I’ve always found ironic about people is that we all need stability in our lives. Whether that manifests itself in faith, a community of friends, family, following a daily routine, or a long term job, it’s nearly impossible to exist for long periods of time without it. I don’t think our psyche can’t handle that much change without a pillar to go back to. We all crave a constant in some form.

As we continue to become a more mobile society that has a difficult time settling down, perhaps more so in the realms of ideals and what we choose to define us, it’s important to recognize there is a much bigger hidden cost being our mobility and freedom. One, that from a technology perspective, we all rely on an incredibly huge backend infrastructure that, like a fence around a backyard, allows us to play to our heart’s content. And two, our own personal freedoms and exploration come out of the strength based on a strong base of support and consistency in our lives.

 

 

 

Categories
Musings

Technology & Life: The More Things Change…

Back in November 2012, I read a book by Neal Stephenson called “In the Beginning… was the Command Line.” He begins by chronicling parts of his own history with computing devices starting back in the 1970’s and his own journey through the life of being a geek/tech savvy user. What has always struck me about technology, and culture as a whole, is that everything we know and do is built upon the blocks of something that was there before us. Computing devices use analogies and ideas from telegraph technology, which was imitated by early mainframes and teletype devices to extending this concept to a “video” teletype, what we know as a monitor. Stephenson hits on this here and there throughout the book.

The same is true for many industries, innovations, products, and ideas that would never exist were it not for the work of someone before us.