Recipe

recipe

Six months ago I was searching for new music on my streaming app of choice, and found @JFM and @RyanNicodemus hosting a podcast called #TheMinimalists .  I had never been exposed to minimalism, but I was in a season of paring down my own footprint I’d made in the world.

So I started listening, and taking notes.

The ideals and notions they shared were numerous, but one thing they cautioned each listener with was one important piece of advice – “our recipe may not work for you, yours will probably be different.”  The more I listened the more their advice made sense.

It didn’t take long to begin minimizing the areas of my life I had already started working on, but I managed to keep momentum constant.  Making a few lists of each area to stop, start, and continue.  Not all things had to go, most did though.  I won’t try to paraphrase the actual advice they gave, listen for yourself, but I will offer my own curated advice from my journey for paring down, based on one word.

Freedom.

Two syllables, and can have a myriad of meaning depending on the person and the context of where a person is at any particular moment.  My freedom came after the removal of distractions, visual, personal, emotional, and financial – in that order.

Visual Freedom.

I started removing apps from my phone which kept me looking, checking, and watching for updates and notifications.  I silenced all phone app banners and notifications from the few apps that remained.  I spent more time looking around noticing the world around me, and not my phone.  This also let me move about my life without my phone more, or in airplane mode if I do have it with me.

The TV, and Apple TV was easy.  This one deletion gave me back days and weeks back to my life.  A little simple math on the back of an envelope let me know leaving it unplugged was next best move.

Visual stuff on all of the flat surfaces I was used to passing by each day, that didn’t serve a single purpose.  The thing was just there.  Set in the same place each day doing nothing.

I read much more now, that is a fact.  I read on my phone, and laptop depending on where I’m at geographically.  The other benefit to not giving away your time and attention to something with no return.

Personal Freedom.

In some of the podcast episodes there was a notion of  “doing things we’re supposed to do“.  I’ll be the first to say I like patterns and practices, in my line of work we do things we’re supposed to do based on reliable patterns.  Instead I started doing what interested me and working around things I was passionate about.

To get started, I sat down and made a list of things I like to do which won’t cost me a cent to go out and do.  I started there, and slowly added to the list, eventually bringing other things into the list like #LessIsNow in Tampa, concerts, long weekends away from home, and trips to the north to spend time with my family.

Emotional Freedom.

I discontinued making time for things that would emotionally unbalance me at work, at home, and with people.  Specifically with people, the now famous @JFM quote goes like this, ” you can’t change the people around you but you can change the people around you.”  That’s what I did – the time I invested in this one aspect has paid big dividends.

Not all values need to be in alignment between two people, or a group of friends.  However, if I was spending one-way time and effort on relationships, and left them behind in good standing in case any of those folks decided to reach back at some time in the future.  So far, nobody is reaching back and I’m totally cool with that.

Today, I have some new friends, and I’m playing in a band again.  Both came at the same time.  I’m not certain, but I’m thinking these two additions wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few changes I’ve mentioned previously.  Music is like oxygen for me, playing music is like hearing your favorite song for the first time, over and over.  It can appropriately alter my mental state quite easily with the right song at the right time. Always.

Financial Freedom.

All of the above freedoms mentioned fed into this last freedom I’ll mention.  Walking around in airplane mode and deleting the hotspot I thought I needed for work and vacation led to a simpler and less expensive plan for my phone.  I use far less data, talking is basically free – and now my cellphone bill is less than a third of what it used to be.

Over the years I had accumulated five different bank accounts.  My old train of thought was to put away pockets of money in each of these bank accounts and because I didn’t pay attention to them, they’d grow if I forgot about them.  This was just another way in my mind of hoarding without a return on any of the money I wasn’t seeing.  I closed all of the accounts and use one account now.  The bank I ended up with had financial products I use for myself, including home and auto insurance.  There’s savings if have both in one place.  This was some of the criteria I used to make the decision.

Credit card debt.  I didn’t have a lot of unsecured debt, but I had my share and it was nagging at me long before I started paring down.  Now 95% of the debt I had last year is gone.  Rob Bell shared a quote with Ryan, which appeared one of their episodes – “every weight you’re carrying around, you picked up.”  This was what I did, each debt was a like a boulder with a handle on it I couldn’t easily let go of.

Black Beauty.  Of course my motorcycle has a name – the name landed on it the day I made the purchase.  It was a planned purchase but I couldn’t pay it off quickly after I purchased it.  The dealership’s financing group has a really cool option.  As the amount owed decreases – so does the monthly payment.  I didn’t buy into that, I always made triple payments each month, but the burn on the amount owed was lagging more than I liked.  When they day came (early in my own journey) to list all debts and make a plan, this one would be the largest and the last.  I didn’t think I could enjoy riding more than I already did – now that it’s payed for I do, I enjoy riding much more.  Of course I still have to pay for care, feeding, and insuring “The Thing” – but now it’s a “want to do”, not a “supposed to do”.

All of subscriptions, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, etc. were discontinued as well.  I didn’t know which ones I valued, if at all, since I just sat and randomly binged-watch during the evenings.  I still haven’t brought any of them back in and I still have a Prime subscription which I use for books, a few movies, and TV shows – but nothing like it was.

Local and global contribution is much easier now – there’s more to go around to charitable organizations

Stuff.

It took two guys at Goodwill about 15 minutes to unload my contributions.  The back of my truck (payment) was full, as were the back and passenger seats and floors.  The thought that passed through my mind at that moment was “the weight is not worth the wait”.

The ride back from Goodwill felt good, and walking back into my apartment felt different.  All of the visual clutter and stuff, had been dealt with.  This first load took about a three weeks to build up.  Now, I have a small donation basket near the front door for the things I choose to minimize.

What I brought into my new place was the 10% left from the first major contribution.  I’ve since added some new pieces and paid for them as I bought them.  So far, I’ve purchased a small living room set, a 4’x6′ grease board, two lamps, an Amazon Echo, and the last piece arriving tomorrow is an adjustable standing desk.

I have the opportunity to work from home from time to time, or when I really need to block out the distractions (visual, auditory) I get a work.  Visual and auditory distractions just kill the work/critical-thinking buzz most times.  I’ve setup part of my home to allow me to work as much as necessary, when needed.

Voids.

From a few of the lists I had made, I started to enumerate the voids I would be creating in my time and attention as I removed things from daily life.  To prepare for the voids, I created a void-filler list and scheduled each of them to fill in different parts of my days, evenings, weekends, and holidays.  This helped me to stay on track with the outcomes I’d planned for myself.

Digs.

I had planned to move into another newly constructed high-end apartment, because that’s what I do.  I didn’t want to live in something that was “used”.  It didn’t quite work out that way.  I moved to a place I love to live which gave me a one hour commute to work.  However, I got twice the square footage at half the price of the apartment I was planning to move into.  This added to the snowball of paying off debt as well.  And I feel like I’m walking into an AirBNB every time I come home.

Weekends feel like a vacation, and long weekends feel illegal I enjoy them so much.  One of the “big” items on my list was to move away from the congested areas I’ve lived in, and around, greater Orlando.  As anyone can imagine, or knows first-hand, we’re another city with local and tourist traffic issues.  For many reasons I won’t list, I wanted to move away from this, understanding I’d be giving up some conveniences.  It all has worked out – not without a few hiccups and hitches but nothing to move somewhere else.

Instead of hearing sirens, loud traffic, crotch-rockets, and construction traffic I can sit on my patio and hear the occasional cow mooing and birds singing in the trees.  There’s a fire station near the entrance of this community, and I’ve not heard a fire truck siren once.  I can walk outside at night sometimes and see something light up the sky heading into orbit from a Cape Canaveral launch pad. There are hundreds of street lights to impede the night sky here.  It reminds me a trip to Arizona – when you look up at the sky it feels like you can see all of the stars.  This is what I see when I look at the night sky.

Mine.

These are only partial details from my recipe and journey.  The one thing I did do was only work on one thing at a time – no multitasking, none.  Start one thing, finish one thing – move on to the next thing.

I reached a place where I wanted to share something about both for someone else who might be starting, or contemplating something similar.  That said, I hope this adds a little value to someone, somewhere.

j@s

 

 

 

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Surf

paddle.out

The Florida coasts of a few great areas on our coasts to surf.  If you’ve been to, or seen a competition in person or online the pros make it look easy – so much there doesn’t appear to be much effort in riding a wave or pipe back to shore.

Before the surfer stands on atop the first wave they’ve got to leave the shore, and paddle out.  For the next 60 – 100 yards, they are poking the board’s nose and themselves (“punching”) through the breakers, and smaller waves until they get to a place where they wait and watch for the next big moment on the water.

A couple of things I thought of recently relating to leaning into uncomfortable situations (ones I would tend to avoid) and unpleasant circumstances, I wanted to share.  Maybe with someone who tends to ignore or avoid moments of discomfort.

The first step is to leave the shore, the uncomfortable place where we decide to flee or face what’s been handed to us by life, the universe, our boss, our parents, or the car that just nearly ran us off the road.  With many things recently I have decided to leave the shore and paddle out into a series of breakers, or a place of discomfort.  As an INTJ I’m perfectly suited to avoiding these things, and in the aftermath measuring, refining, and defining how to avoid them in the future – a reaction, or just being a bit more reactive and passive to what I need to reckon with.

The initial response is not to paddle out and punch through the wave about to cause some measure of reaction.  Once you start to paddle out, the breakers are small.  Problems seem much larger than they actually are most times but while you’re paddling out head on and into the first breaker, you’ll have a wide lens to it for what it actually is – maybe smaller or exactly what you expected.  When you punch through an actual breaker you’ll hear the water rush, feel the force of it all over you – in the silence of the ocean. Most times we feel adversity this deep in our being.

inside.the.wave

When you come out of the other side – one thing remains true, it wasn’t permanent, it was temporary.  What we believe in our minds to be storm surge sized wave, wasn’t  – it was just a breaker.

Personally, I have had to remain inside the wave until I was ready to come out of the other side – YMMV from mine but what does deserve consideration are a two things I now spend more thought on.  The circumstance’s true size and weight, and the outcome I would prefer.  From there, I try to find the steps to manage the outcome and then put my energy and focus into the outcome – not the circumstance.

As you paddle out further and punch through the small ones, you’ll experience some larger ones.  You’ll manage those the same way you found to manage the many smaller ones – this is called “practice”.  You’re practicing the idea you understand the gravity of a situation and the fact it’s temporary.  And while you’re practicing you’ll punch through larger breakers, and waves until you’re sitting on the water watching the next wave you want to ride.  Yes, the wave you want to ride. At this stage you’re cherrypicking the wave you want to ride because not all things need to be dealt with by you. You don’t need to own them or bring them into your life unless you choose to.  Or to use the current analogy, you don’t need to punch through someone else’s breaker(s).

riding.the.wave.back.to.shore

The endgame here is to ride the wave after you’ve punched through many smaller breakers and waves, back to shore.  The place you first left, and felt most comfortable.  After a day, week, or month of punching through breakers and waves you’re hopefully more prepared and balanced to manage larger waves than you thought you were capable of riding.

The work involved with paddling out can be heavy and difficult.  The ride back to the shore can be effortless and more rewarding when you’ve conquered the wave by being on top of it, instead of having to punch through it.

j@s

Pull The Rope

andon.cord

When we think of pulling a rope, we might be thinking of a tug-of-war, or swinging on a rope over a lake’s edge.

This isn’t the case for this post.  I’m referring to the Andon cord used at the NUMMI plant almost a decade ago on it’s assembly line.  This is what the line worker is doing in the picture above.  Incidentally, this is also the new home of Tesla’s assembly plant.

As a result of pulling the rope the entire assembly process stopped, completely.  The line supervisors were immediately notified a particular line station having a problem.  This did two things – it kept defects from entering a vehicle before it reached final assembly, and it empowers the entire plant.  Anyone could “pull the rope”.

The andon cord is one of many Lean Manufacturing attributes and principles used in many different spaces, healthcare, software development and engineering, to name a few.

“Pull the rope” for me is about stopping or ending production of outcomes which stem from waste in my own life.  Things I’ve wasted over the last few decades have been time, money, and opportunities.  I recently created some space in my life by decluttering material and mental things.  This gave me the opportunity to look at the “waste” (also another Lean attribute) in my own life to see which outcomes I must avoid.

I began to pull the rope when I saw those outcomes materializing in my day.  And I have been diligent about stopping those outcomes for the most part.  This is mental muscle I need to train, it will get stronger with practice.

The result was being more intentional with my time, resources, and opportunities.  Being the INTJ I am, I created a whole plan on my birthday this year and didn’t deviate from it.  How could I keep from deviating?  I saw many better outcomes from this plan.

We know no plan is perfect, and I’ve tweaked this plan as I learned more about the exact outcomes I wanted, and more importantly, why I wanted these outcomes.  The what and the why didn’t always meet when I put this plan together – I just knew I needed to pull the cord on some things, and cut the cord on many others. I did modify the plan, but only when I learned more about the what or the why.

Are there things in your life you need to pull the cord on?  I don’t know, but you probably do.  And if they’re things which manifest themselves into waste you may want to start with those.  To clarify, when I refer to “waste” I wasn’t necessarily thinking in terms of landfills and septic tanks – the Lean definition of waste is something that doesn’t add value.  In this context it would be something which isn’t adding value to someone’s life – stress, relationships, finances, etc.  Those three things are top of mind for me.

For me, pulling the rope has added a lot of value to my life in the short term.  I only see it getting better from here.  I hope it can do the same for you.

j@s

BRB

Big Red Button

Nope, I don’t mean “be right back”. If so, I would have said that about three years ago when I last posted last, which would have been a lie. Instead I’m referring to the big red button.

Years ago, when we wanted or needed to reset a computer or server, we’d simply say “time to hit the big red button!”, or simple BRB. Times change, and so does the context in the way we use acronyms.

My BRB moment came in late September of this year, a few weeks before my birthday. I came to a point in my life, later rather then sooner, where I understood some change was needed. I wasn’t sure what, but there was something inside pushing for change. How did I know this, or how did it manifest itself? Many things felt disrupted, disturbed, off-center, and (not or) incongruent. Things I enjoyed in the past seemed to be much less enjoyable – and I looked forward to them less and less.

So, to quiet this feeling I started paying attention to what had been going on around me over the last few years. As I mentioned, this happened just before my birthday, and every year I do a 3-4 hour retrospective on my life. On the afternoon of birthday I list in detail, what could I start, stop, or continue. This years list was longer than usual, much longer than the one from previous years. This immediately told my journey need to change – and it did.

Since that time I’ve been executing on the plan I gathered from the start/stop/continue list – and respecting the subtle cues I realized from the previous year’s start/stop/continue list.

I spent some time this morning reading all of my previous posts, and I realize even more the journey is very different than before. And this is a good thing, we become less passionate about things over time – totally normal. The trick for me was I didn’t notice soon enough.

This is where the new blog posts you’ll read, start from. I have 7 topics including this one about this journey, and the recipes I came up with or borrowed from other writers, bloggers or something that influenced me to some type of “aha” moment. Trying to be my own best critic about successes and failures, maybe… something will strike a chord in you as well.

j@s

Dancing Through Another Door

Father.Of.The.Bride

This year my youngest daughter is getting married.  She asked me to pick the song for our Father-Daughter Dance at the reception.  I’m the music snob of the family, so I’m thinking, I-have-so-got-this!  Right?!

Not so much. It took about a month of listening to the rest of the world’s suggestions, combing through my own library on every device I own that holds music. Finally, I narrowed it down to 9 songs for her to choose from.  I realized I couldn’t pick a favorite, so we’ll work together to narrow it down further.

Below is the playlist running off Spotify.

 

 

Meet Bella

20140531-145002-53402620.jpg

Bella

Meet Bella!  I had the unplanned privilege of hosting Bella last night at my home while we were trying to find her owner.  She wandered about two miles ( we think) from her home through the woods and next to a lake.

It took her the rest of the night to calm down and rest – she wouldn’t eat or drink and that much exercise was pretty tough for her to say the least.

During her stay at our house, I realized how much I missed having my own pet, and being able to project my own love and care toward something like a pet.  In a previous life, I had an orange tabby cat named Lucky.  Much the same story as Bella, but he was born into the home where I was staying at the time.  Not such a sweet disposition as Bella, but he was just Lucky.  Lucky didn’t get much attention from the other home dwellers and was often bullied by them.  But he and I got along just fine.  I still miss Lucky.

Lucky’s ending isn’t happy, and he passed away much sooner than he should have, and that was a very hard day for me.  And with only spending a few hours, roughly one day and a half with Bella I starting getting attached to her very quickly.

Belle’s story has a much happier ending though.  We put up flyers around the neighborhood where we think she came from and we found someone who thought they knew the owner.  So we left the dog with the neighbors.  Unfortunately the potential owner’s English Bulldog passed away last March.  So, the neighbors took her to the county animal shelter the same day we left her with them.

Almost a week passed before we knew any of this, and the potential owner never contacted us to say anything about the dog.  So we decided to go back to the potential owner’s house and see for ourselves.  The neighbors decided not to take the dog back the potential owners once they found out from another neighbor that the “real” Bella had passed.  So after I rang the doorbell, and asked the potential owner how Bella was doing, she was very confused.

She gave me the story about her Bella, and I gave her the story about mine.  Not a comfortable conversation once I learned the real Bella had passed.  So, what now?  I queried the family that took her that one day, and they gave me the whole story.  I shared that with Bella’s owner and she set out to find out where this dog is, or was going to be.  She was transferred to a rescue shelter because of some health conditions she had, but was also placed on an adoption list, which Bella’s owners are at the top of.  We’re hoping this Bella can connect with her new owners so everybody wins in the end.

 

The Magic Factory

magic.factory

I recently discussed the “Magic Factory” with my girlfriend to see what she thought about a Grand ReOpening.  Oh, what is the Magic Factory? It’s a place I walk into mentally with one, or two, maybe three ideas and blue sky what might happen if I built applications around those ideas.

I’ve had a bunch of ideas up on AgileZen waiting to be unpacked and built but just lost the fire last year about this time to pick up my tools and start writing software again until this conversation happened.  But after trying all last year to relight the fire, all I could render was a spark and that was about it.

Then last month our shop announced Hack Day 2014 – hmm… how could I pass that up, right?  Our shop is going to give us 24 hours to build something from scratch then present to leadership the next day.  The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes were pretty sweet, but it wasn’t about winning for me – it was a test to see if I could start and finish – something you take for granted when you a bit less gray over the ears.  So, freakin’ sign me up!

I found a great (and smart) peer on my team who wanted to help build something in 24 hours from scratch.  I thought this would be the real test to see if I could pry the doors open on this place I used to spend so much time in.

We didn’t win the grand prize, or make the final cut – but we built an app in 24 hours that conveyed the business idea we wanted to promote.  So, now with the doors to the magic factory swinging with activity and visitors like my grandma’s front porch screen door, things feel a bit more normal now that this place is open.  Oh, by the way, welcome to my “Grand (Re)Opening!”