Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Silverline

So today is Silverline's last day, and I am terrible at goodbyes.

It has been my privilege to know Silverline over the last year or so - initially through work, but in one of those instances that occasionally one suddenly finds that one's co-worker is also one's friend, that you have shared interests and conversations. As C.S. Lewis put it, it is the sudden surprise of talking with someone and realizing "Oh, you like that too?"

It has been my joy to be able to walk with Silverline a little way on her journey, during which she her life has completely morphed 180 degrees from where it was six months ago. I have seen her move to pursue her dreams, to take the next step in multiple areas of her life, to begin her advance into an arena which (in both short and long term) she is sure to thrive and succeed beyond her (but not my) wildest dreams. To be a bystander to someone's life changes is always exciting; to be a bystander to someone who is close to you is precious.

I can say with complete honestly and humility that it is honor of which I am completely undeserving to know such people.

It will be a sad thing for me tomorrow, and the day after and the day after that not to be able to simply walk across the street or call in the middle of the day to see her smiling face to pick me up when I need cheering, or to bring cheer when it is needed.

But this is the way of things sometimes, when we have the blessing of knowing such people: we have the responsibility to help them on their way and watch them fly proud and free into the sunrise even as we stand in the receding night.

Thank you. Fly free with the knowledge and confidence that you will only go from success to success.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Practice and Training

I have been mulling over the concepts of practice and training in my mind as I have been listening to Nighean Bhan practice her trumpet diligently (20 minutes a night) in preparation for the Christmas Concert. As I listen to her pound out the notes of Silver Bells and Frosty the Snowman again and again, it has minded me on the nature of practice and training and their function as a corollary of mastery.

What is the difference between practice and training? They are two words that denote the same general principle but strike different chords in my breast. Both deal with the same idea: a period of time in which one spends focused attention on a skill or attribute. Both often involve repetition. Both can be done individually or in groups.

Yet one seems far more palatable to me than the other; one excites me with the concept of performing it than the other - why?

Practice: To perform or work at repeatedly, so as to become proficient; to train by repeated exercises.

Training: The skill, knowledge or experience acquired by one that trains.

Practice (to my mind) connotes continuously performing a series of actions with the intention of mastering them. On the other hand, training connotes preparation in anticipation of a greater event: runners train for a marathon, soldiers train for battle, workers train to use a new skill.
So what is the difference

To me, training is set apart by urgency and intensity. Practice can often go on forever with or without an end event to cap it. Training seldom does: there is a signal event at the end. We tend to think of someone that trains for a long period of time but never executes as someone who has failed.

But both are important. By practice musicians get better, athletes improve, students achieve mastery - by the application of effort to the same activity again and again, sometimes in mind numbing boredom. Practice develops skills by repetition; training develops skills by application towards an objective.

However, both imply improvement. And perhaps that is where the difficulty comes in my own mind.

Training implies goals, something I am striving to achieve, a marker. Practice I have come to associate as not achievement per se but rather as something I do.

Perhaps (probably?) both of these are constructs in my mind.

To train is to practice. When I train, I perform based on the basic skills I have learned for any activity.

To practice is to train. When I practice, I am customarily doing so in anticipation of a signal event or activity.

To practice/train is critical for mastery of an subject or skill. Without a knowledge of basic skills I cannot go further; without the intensity of an end objective (even mastery of a thing) I will lose my incentive to continue.

So perhaps the question is rather not do I practice or train, but how do I raise the intensity of my training/practice to get to the end result of mastery?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mastery

A major piece has finally clicked into place.

As I was reading through I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (Barbara Sher) there was a section concerning those who are scanners (those who enjoy interest and involvement in many things) and those who are divers (those who enjoy diving deeply into a smaller series of items). Those who are unhappy divers, she posits, are those who have come to fear commitment, don't know how to learn, love novelty, or freak out when they start to go deep. Her proposed answer is to learn how to stick with something, to not lose commitment, to be comfortable with the fact that you will start of as a beginner - and accept it. It is only through commitment and time that we come to mastery.

As these thoughts continued to roll around in my head, I was confronted by a second issue: that of dedication. A company here in New Home has received the Malcolm Baldridge aware for Quality, an award given annually to companies which exhibit the highest commitment to and levels of quality. As looked at the company - which was also named as one of the best places to work here in New Home - and what they did (which was not what you would expect) I realized that the commitment they had to achieving this milestone represented gaining mastery over what they did and what they needed to do to get that award.

What is mastery?

Mastery: A possession or display of great skill or technique; skill or knowledge that makes one a master of a subject.

We as a society have too often settled for mediocrity instead of mastery. We have convinced ourselves that being able to do something is sufficient; that being able to do something really well is only important if 1) it makes us more money immediately; or 2) it personally pleases me.

Because there is a payoff in mastery. It is the payoff of knowing that I have done something well, that I have accomplished something, that I have "beat" something.

This explains to me my love of video and role playing games from years ago that tends to try and reassert itself from time to time, especially when I am feeling low and unenthused: they were something that I was good at and could win in time after time, where the "time" spent equated into being better at them.

But now I (like so many others) have allowed my concept of mastery to become reduced to a small circle of those things that directly please myself. The thought of seeking mastery in all areas of my life - even if there is no immediate payoff or pleasure - has been far from mind. I'm just trying to get by: how can I be expected to master anything?

But mastery is its own reward.

Mastery does not merely give the sense of accomplishment: it gives a sense of true ability, of being knowledge about a subject. It allows one to do things that those who are less expert could never do, like musicians who are so good that they can "fail" to play correctly and yet it sounds beautiful.

It also gives a sense of true accomplishment - which comes from inside, not from anything that others will directly notice or say. Too often we base what we spend our time on around what will results in public acknowledgement or reward, thinking that this is the way to self esteem when in fact self esteem is the quiet private victories that break forth into public life.

But it seems to me that we start mastery at the wrong place. Many start mastery at things that they do. This is putting the cart before the horse. In reality, mastery needs to start with mastering the self first. What are things which control me? What are the physical habits and mannerisms I have which run me instead of me running them? This is where I need to start.

Will mastery help this things? Certainly any study in one are helps in others: by practicing Iaido, I train my body and my patience; when I practice writing Japanese characters, I train my hand and my memory. Still, to conquer skills without conquering self is to see the wreck that those in our society who suddenly achieve notoriety make of their own lives.

The other mistake that I have made in the past is to start things without the intent to master them. Initially it probably started as a simple willingness to try new things; it has since morphed into a starting a plethora of things without finishing them or really try them.

This then is my goal for now, for next year, and for all of my life:

1) To look at my life as it is now and make the determination for each of the activities therein that I will either become master of them or stop them.

2) That I will only undertake those future activities which I intend to master.

3) That in my career and in all areas, I will master those areas which I am involved in instead of doing the minimum to get by.

To master something is to control it, not have it control me; to make my decisions and commitment based on will, not on emotion; to stick to something until complete, not to be diverted at the first sign of difficulty.

It is to be a substance, not a vapor.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks 2010

A very Happy Thanksgiving day to one and all! It seemed appropriate that today (of all days) I should make a list of all the things that I have to be thankful for:

- The Ravishing Mrs. TB
- Na Clann (Nighean Gheal, Nighean Ban, Nighean Dhonn)
- The fact we have a house to live in
- The fact that I have a job when many people don't
- For Syrah the Mighty and the Rabbits
- My church
- Na Clann's school
- My family in Old Home
- That I was born an American
- For salvation and Christ's sacrifice for me
- For Iaido
- For the books that my shelves groan under
- For The Ranch
- For all my friends, including those that wander in and out of this blog: Otis and Buttercup, Bogha Frois, Uisdean Ruadh, Fear Beag and Fear Mor, Songbird, Le Quebecois, L'Acadien, Silverline, Cleasiche fionnadh, Lus a' Chrom Chinn - and those that don't populate the blog per se, but whose actions and thoughts influence what is written here.
- For losing my job: if I hadn't lost my job I would not have moved to New Home, and some of the changes which are percolating through the system might have never come to fruition.
- For the ability to write, and the dedication (for once) to stick it.
- And for you, gentle reader, for allowing me to share some part of my day and my life with you.

To you and yours, a happy New Home Thanksgiving greeting. May you remember what you truly have to give thanks for.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anger

Anger, yesterday. Sheer raw seething anger.

Anger at the fact that no matter what good attitude I go in with in the day, by the end of the day I am defeated once again. Anger that my best efforts to make progress are always thwarted. Anger at the fact that I am asked to do more and more with less and less.

Anger at the fact that I am, in so many ways, a convenient place to lay blame and responsibility with no hope of becoming anything but that.

It's a hard thing to go to work every morning in hopes that this will be the day that things are different, this will be the day that I am able to master my circumstances - only to return home at the end, dazed and angry that once again I was defeated.

It just doesn't seem right. One should not have to return home day after day, defeated by a set of circumstances that never seems to change for the better - yet at the same time being trapped by the fact that the next step forward is unclear.

But there has to be a step - because this is not a tenable position.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Improvement and Despair

Walking a thin line between improvement and despair.

On the one hand, I grasp that part of my own problem in my life overall is the fact that I never really try to master anything that I take up. I'm a dabbler: do a little of this, get a bit interested - then essentially give it up when it becomes difficult or I get bored or I see a new shiny thing.

On the other hand, I constantly fight this sense that if I make a choice and sink deep into something I will sink it into the wrong thing - and at the end, as Stephen Covey would say, find that I have placed my ladder against the wrong wall.

And so here I find myself, confronting decisions made about staying where I am for the present time, until I am prompted to move on - in other words, definitively placing my ladder against a wall.

The despair that pops up almost instantly is not the despair of man who suddenly seems to think his options are gone - it's the despair of a man who suddenly sees a long tunnel of more of the same, even as he tries to prepare to build something out of nothing.

To master a situation that is seemingly masterless. To improve that which desperately needs improving, even as the knowledge haunts me that this is done for those that don't really care, that view myself and my colleagues as "replaceable" even as they call for high levels of performance.

But - and this is an important but - the reality is I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for myself.

This is the difference, the difference in placing your ladder and jousting at windmills. It's not what you do for others, it's what you are doing for yourself and becoming that is the critical matter. I do not do things and improve systems to please or helps others primarily, I do it because of what it does to and for me and what I will become as a result of it.

So there is a false dichotomy here. There is no improvement versus despair. There is only improvement to an end -the end of preventing me from despair from failing to make a choice and master my situation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Conscious Choosing

I walked away from an opportunity this weekend.

The opportunity to meet on it was set on Friday as I drove home. "Monday we'll talk" was the coda of the conversation. It would have involved me being going for week stretches at a time.

Then, as I was away this weekend, I got confronted by a series of questions by The Ravishing Mrs TB and concepts within myself that the matter to the fore for consideration:

- Was I already preparing myself to live alone? Because I sure seemed to be setting myself up like that by how I conducted myself at home.
- Was I aware that of what was going on in my daughter's lives? (No, I wasn't) Did I talk to them about what was going on in their lives (No, I really don't - too busy working on my "important things").
- The recent trend of me being so productive during the week but being exhausted during the weekends due to lack of sleep - is this maintainable long term? (No, it's not).

And so, for the first time in long years (long, long years) I said no.

It's not just a matter of will - having the intensity and focus to see things through to completion - it's just as much about doing the right things, the important things. And if you don't know what those are, you begin to take any opportunity that comes along because of the immediate discomfort and pain, ricocheting from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship rather than finding the pillars in your life, those things that are important, and basing your decisions on those.

In order to choose wisely, you need to know what you really want - and what the ramifications of your decision are.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Block

My mind seems to be rebelling against me.

I have reached the point where consciously or unconsciously where my mind suddenly seems to "give up" on any progress that I have made. My schedule is thrown off, I wake up late every morning, I have no energy to do anything.

Why is this?

Part of it I'm sure is the fact that I have been pushing my body to its sleep limit. I (as I have written before) am critically aware of the fact that I need a certain amount of sleep and that I haven't quite nailed that amount yet - except that I know when I don't have enough of it.

But part of that seems to run deeper, a sort of mental block that prevents me from going further.

I'm seen it before - with the harp when, after performing for a year and a half, I suddenly (and mysteriously) lost interest; when after studying various parts of history, I suddenly lose interest; when I have started one of any activities and then reach a point when I don't seem to have the interest or energy to go on. It's as if I reach a point and something kicks in saying "Nope, can't go any farther there"- with no evidence as to why I can't.

It bothers me because while I can't make progress on things that interest me or I enjoy, the things I have to do I somehow seem to continue pushing forward on. Why is this?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rise and Crash

A lousy night last night - one of those nights that you feel like you didn't sleep at all although you're pretty sure you did because you're not one hundred percent exhausted.

And it wasn't me alone - The Ravishing Mrs. TB was tossing and turning, and at least one of Na Clann wandered in looking for some headache medicine, crying.

And then, of course, the inevitable getting up later (because I'm trying to preserve some aspect of rest) followed by the not doing everything I usually do in the morning, followed by the sense of dragging myself out the door.

The worst part of this is that this is just the beginning of the day - one now has to face the whole day with the tired and rushed sense as events come crashing in.

It's said that your morning tells you what kind of day you'll have. More and more, I'm finding that unless my first two hours of the day are not good - and these are the hours when I am largely on my own, before the house has woken up - the rest of the day is not promising.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Exhibitionist versus Producer

I am an exhibitionist.

No, not the one you're thinking of. I'm the guy that does the wild and crazy things: that dresses up in the kilt or kamishimo and comes to work, who randomly sings out loud or occasionally just goes crazy in the middle of a work hallway.

I've been like this for many many years. Only now am I starting to question why I am like this.

Why the question? Because I'm finding there's a disconnect in my life between the exhibitionist and the producer.

A fairly brilliant fellow (that'd be me) came up with the comment "Being known for flair alone doesn't last; being known for accomplishment does." I came to that thought after looking at myself - again, measuring the exhibitionist against the producer.

Here's the unhappy reality for me: I am an exhibitionist because I am not the best producer.

Growing up I did very well indeed in school. I loved reading, loved studying. However, those things that as school goes tend to get attention - sports, drama, music - I was not nearly as good in. Some of it was due to physical (I was not the most co-ordinated kid), some of it was due to commitment (my procrastination has gotten better), but some of it was due to the fact that I had high achievers as friends. The problem with high achievers is that someone ends up playing the second violin position, that of the ever loyal support personnel, the second trumpet to the first, the butler to the lead. In the light of the sun, the moon becomes a pale reflection.

It's okay for a while. It grinds on you year after year when you are second or third in everything in a world where first is rewarded.

The response? Exhibitionism - attention getting - becomes more and more important. Why? Because it's a way to recapture that attention not based on achievement or ability alone but on actions, which are easy to do and instantly gratifying.

However, I think the difficulty comes when the actions overcome the achievement: when the flair is the first thing displayed and the actions come later, or when the flair is much more pronounced than the actions.

The world of entertainment has an analogy: eccentricities in stars are excused/tolerated when they are at the top of the game. When they have lost their prime position, these habits or display suddenly appear silly or vulgar. What it demonstrates is that there was no "there" there.

And that's where I find myself: in fear that my behavior passes the point of cute or unusual or entertaining and is just a liability, highlighting my failures rather than accentuating my successes.

But then, my inner self yells at me, we are left with the accomplishment. And let's talk accomplishment, it says: It's a long process of mostly mind numbingly boring work which will be noticed by no-one. The reality is you're not the most talented or brightest, so you will be back to the role of second violin. Hours of long study and work to get where others get effortlessly in something that doesn't matter anyway. And unfortunately, second violin is not a well compensated or well recognized role in society. To bank on accomplishment is to lose the gratification of being noticed often and wildly; it is to settle into the gray twilight of doing that which needs to be done well without any guarantee that anyone will notice.

But what is the other option, O inner self? To continue to self immolate, to become a caricature of one's self, to be the equivalent of the village idiot: always good for a laugh, never expected to actually accomplish anything?

If I want to be remembered, is it as the guy with swashbuckling flair that actually contributed nothing or as the guy who got things done, even if no-one noticed until after he was gone?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nagging Feeling

I'm struggling with that small nagging voice again.


It happened yesterday as I spoke to someone about another opportunity. The conversation was fine, the individual nice, the opportunity real - but as I walked away, I was unsettled by that small still sense of...something.

I don't really know what to make of that. They seem to be coming more and more in the last two weeks or so - this sense of going in a direction that I should not be, of being somewhat dislocated in my life even as I try to make my way forward.

There is a definite sense of not being happy in my employment - but there is not a sense of being led to be anywhere else right now. It's almost as if I feel like a fraud every time I talk to someone about an opportunity, but at the same time knowing that I need to find another opportunity.

And then the fear comes up - the lack of faith, the sense of "If I don't do something I'll be stuck here forever, unhappy and angry."

How do I resolve the counterforces of wanting to go yet not feeling led to?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Uisdean Ruadh

And so another Monday begins.

I'd do my typical long sigh about another Monday and having to go to my job - but at least I have a job.

Uisdean Ruadh needs your prayers -he's been laid off again.

I've been calculating - In 28 months, he has been laid off three times (16 months looking for work), in each case not his fault but a drive by victim of a bad economy. To say this would be disheartening is an understatement to say the least.

I spoke with him on Saturday night. He was discouraged - as if somehow someone magically would not be discouraged - but realistic as to his future and what he needs to do to get going. One interview last week, one interview this week.

I'm sure he'd appreciate any prayers or just plain good wishes you have for him - not only for his job hunt, but for his spirits as well.

And for those of us that have jobs - even if we fail to always be thankful for them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Speed and Focus

Two separate events occurred yesterday at work - not end of the world bad, but bad enough that it made me take a moment and look at what I did - personally - to not catch them.

As I reviewed the situation, what I realized is that it relates to two factors: speed and focus.

The reality is that in this current economic clime, doing more with less - the "lean manufacturing" concept - is all the rage. This, in turn, leads to each individual being required to do more, more quickly. What this then leads to - inevitably -is that less time is available to do the same amount of tasks; therefore less focus is given to each individual task. Instead, even as task is being worked on the mind is racing to the next responsibility to be performed.

Again, I'm starting with myself. The reality is, I can't change my place of employment or their attitudes. All I can change is how I do my work - speed, intensity, focus. Unfortunately, getting all three of these in one package requires resources - people, time, tools: the very thing that is anathema to so much of the industry. And this too is something that is beyond my control to magically make appear.

So what am I going to do this morning? And tomorrow? And the next day?

Simple. I'm going to starting making myself very unpopular by taking the time, by doing one thing at a time - and ensuring that it is done right.

They can argue with the turnaround time, they can argue with the priorities - but they cannot argue with work done right.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Authority, Responsibility, Accountability

I had an argument with my boss yesterday.

I was discussing with him the challenges of doing my job based on the decreased resourcing we are currently experiencing. He was challenging me on a response that I had written, that they represented either a failure of my department or malicious intent and that it needed to be significantly strengthened in order to appear to be serious.

"Resources" I said. "I need resources. This is written based on what I can do."

"You are the Management Rep" was the response. "You have the authority to do this."

At this point I became a bit feisty.

"I have no authority" I retorted.

"That's not true! You're the management rep" was the response.

"When you and two other senior management types get in a room together and within 10 minutes decide to do something which in the opinion of three departments ought not to be done, I have no authority!"

Silence. "Well, if you make that decision I would support you. You are the management rep. You have the responsibility and accountability." The word "authority" was carefully hanging on the air, never spoken.

Can you have authority without responsibility and accountability? This was the question I was left with as I left his office, smouldering in anger. To be held responsible and accountable for something over which you have no really authority to make decisions seems to me like a fool's bargain, like being set up to become the next "reason things went terribly wrong here" guy.

Often I think the problems is reversed - people get authority and they push the responsibility and accountability away on others, the "ability" to make decisions and see that they are nor carried out or occur, a sort of "Management by Fiat" in which I wish things into existence but am not responsible for making them occur.

I find myself in the other area however, the realm of trying to hold together the remnants of my responsibility without the authority to actually make anything happen. It's an uncomfortable thing - an untenable thing, in the long run.

Without authority, responsibility and accountability merely become two ends of the rope that are used to hang someone.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Waiting

I hate waiting.

I absolutely do. There is nothing worse than patiently waiting for wheels to turn and time to pass until something gets accomplished.

The reality is although we can be incredibly active, that we can move things forward a great deal (much more than most of us believe possible), at some point things simply pass out of our hands or our ability to influence them. And so we wait.

But waiting (I am forced to admit) brings benefits along with it, benefits which do not accrue to the impatient but only to the patient - because it is not just the fact that we wait, it's how we wait that matters. Impatiently waiting will result in taking opportunities that are less than what they could be, of becoming bitter and angry as we wonder why things aren't going faster and how much we are suffering, of grasping the thing instead of being grateful for it when it finally arrives.

The benefits?

- We can evaluate opportunities and take the best, instead of taking the first.
- We learn to manage to live in day to day life while waiting.
- We learn that discipline of repetition, of doing the same thing and building our skills in those things while we wait.
- We become truly grateful when those things that we are waiting for occur - and okay when they don't.

Don't misinterpret me - I'm no more a fan of waiting than I ever was. But just because I am not a fan doesn't mean I can't realize the benefits of it.

I just have to be patient.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Change

"Mr. Davis says that the only way things are going to change for you is when you change. What are you going to change that will in turn change your life? If you keep on living like the way you are now, you will continue to produce the same life you already have. That's the way it works." - Jim Rohn and Chris Widener, Twelve Pillars

I made a decision last night to not pursue a particular job opportunity.

For me this is a big thing - I hardly ever make hard and fast decisions. However, I actually bothered to give some thought last night to my family, what they wanted, and how what I have been doing has been assisting me (or not).

And then this quote came up this morning in today's morning reading.

For things to change in my life, I have to change.

That's hard - because it's humbling. It's hard to look at myself in the mirror thinking I am not doing all that badly and say "What you have has gotten you here - but it won't get you there." It's much easier to list outside influences and events which are keeping me back; in reality, it means that the most personal of things - my attitudes, my work ethic, how I do things and why - need to change.

And change of my own accord - not because it is forced on me by an outside source, not because my employer requires it, not because there is any guaranteed reward for it (although really there is) - but because I need to do it to move forward in my own life.

If I keep living as I have, I will continue to produce the same life I always have.

I need to produce a different life.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Morning Pet

As I am trying to write this morning, Syrah the Mighty is up.

This is a bit unusual for her - she is typically a slug-a-bed until 0630, sleeping in our room or patiently waiting in front of the door of Nighean Gheal until she gets up in the morning (because she is the one that feeds her). It is not that she wouldn't get up in case of emergency I guess - it's just that from her point of view there's really no need to get up before food's available.

But this morning for reasons unknown, she's up. You can hear her coming: clumping down the stairs, then the click-click of her nails as they come across laminate floor. She comes up to you, wagging her tail, both (I suppose) in greeting as well as in hopes that you might suddenly be overcome by the urge to play ball at 0600.

I let her out to do her business, then let her back in. I heard her go back up the stairs (click click click click, clump clump clump) to check if anyone was up, then the reverse of the sounds as she comes back down. Suddenly, as I'm sitting here looking at the blinking cursor on my screen she pushes her head under my elbow and I have a wet nose and big brown eyes looking up at me.

"Hi" she says. "Pet me".

I give her a pet or two followed by the two pats on the back indicating "I'm done" and she wanders off by the couch, where she lays back down (no doubt patiently waiting for the noises heralding the arrival of the Breakfast Fairy).

It is, I suppose, somewhat remarkable that in an age of instant communication and entertainment, in a time when so much is available to us for stimulation and education, that the simple love (and hopeful look!) of a dog continues to provide satisfaction and value.

In the midst of the complex, the simple still rules.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Too Early

There is nothing worse than waking up far earlier than you
intend to.

I initially start by lying in bed, hoping that I will somehow drift off to sleep again. However, my body is against me: the cortisol, which builds up its levels during sleep, is now flooding through my bloodstream, helpfully telling all the moving parts "It's time to go!".

Closing my eyes doesn't work. I wonder what time it really is? Reach over, look at the clock: 0230. Well, that's just too early to be getting up.

Back to laying flat on my back, eyes closed, trying to breathe deeply. I become aware of The Ravishing Mrs. TB asleep next to me. Hmm. Don't want to wake her up this early. Got to get back to sleep - otherwise I'll be tired today.

Sleep is still not coming. I keep hoping that my lying there will somehow give me one of those sleep events which makes it feel like you didn't sleep but you did. Reach over, look at the clock again: 0300.

Maybe going somewhere else will help. I get up as quietly as I am able, hopefully not creaking the bed too much or letting in cold air. Walk slowly over the floor, trying to avoid the known creaks and shaking the dresser too much. Do I sleep in the unused bedroom or the couch? Couch is better - if I have to get up, I'll already be there (I have now conceded I may not go back to sleep).

Rummage through blankets in the dark. Need to find one that covers me and is heavy. Fine, I've got it. Off to the couch to lay down. Now the pillows aren't co-operating: the one under my head is too firm - fine, I'll toss it off. The one at my feet is squishing me a bit; I'll work my toes under it.

Okay. Head is flat feeling the fabric lines through my hair, blanket is over me, feet are under the pillow. Lay there quietly, eyes closed, hands folded, waiting for sleep to come. Hear the sound of the wind blowing outside: will it rain today? Nope, doesn't matter; I need to get at least one more hour of sleep...

Nothing is happening. Sigh. Look at the clock again. Oh look, it's 0320. Not feeling tired in the least. Wind is still blowing. Books are behind the couch on my left, peering at me from over the cushions. The computer is behind me, mocking me that I could be writing instead of laying there doing nothing.

Well, why not. I was up anyway...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Confident

Feeling confident today.

Confidence is a odd thing, a cross between something which can appear or disappear without command and a thing which can be willed into existence. It's vital: if I'm confident I can do a great deal; if I'm not, my whole day seems to be troubled. It can be as solid as a steel post or as ephemeral as the fog.

Confidence can be event, project or other people based, but that never seems to carry things through the whole day; if the project goes bad or the event fails or the people let you down, so goes the confidence - and you are left with a gnawing hole that follows you through the rest of the day.

Self-confidence is better yet, but this is sometimes the hardest to capture or generate. If I believe in my ability to do something not because of the project itself but because I believe that I can do it, this overflows into my entire day and life and drastically changes how I view the circumstances in my life.

Best of all (but often the hardest for me) is that confidence that comes from being a child of God, knowing that He loves me unconditionally and that "all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) - although for me this is often the hardest one of all to believe, as my estimate of myself and my desirability to God is pretty low (see Self-confidence above).

But here I am, feeling confident in my abilities, confident in God's love and workings in my life, confident in myself.

Today will be a good day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Writer

I am a writer.

I figured that out this weekend, prompted by a question from a teacher: Name one thing you are good at. "Writing" I responded. "I have written a 400-500 word blog posting 5 days a week for the last 3 years or so."

I think that's the first time that I have ever consciously admitted - out loud - that I think that I can write.

I have also started the exercise of writing early in the morning, after I get up. I get up a little earlier, but at least I have a sense that I am actually doing something that I like every day. I don't end up writing that much right now- 200 - 500 words - but it is the exercise of doing it and the fact that I can point back to it during my day, especially the really bad parts, and say "I wrote today."

It is also changing my view of my current job. I'm no long "Supreme Paper Pusher", I'm a writer who happens to be supporting himself doing Supreme Paper Pushing. On the one hand it enables me to take a step back (very small at times) from my current job and say "This is a job; it's not my career". On the other hand, it frees me to actually invest more of myself during the day in my job, as I have something to look forward beyond 9 hours of seemingly meaningless work every day.

I have a larger life.

I am a writer.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Dreaming Great Dreams

"The mightiest works have been accomplished by men who have somehow kept their ability to dream great dreams." - Walter Russell Bowie

How does one transfer a dream into reality?

Or let's start one level higher: how does one realize a dream that is real and can be accomplished?

The reality is that we all have a number of dreams, some which are "Escape Dreams" (as defined by Barbara Sher in her book I Could Do Anything I Want If I Only Knew What It Was as a dream which we use to escape reality but is indicative of something that we are missing in our life), some which are Real Dreams (but seem out of reach) and the pedestrian "Dreams" that we so often seem to settle for instead of our Real Dreams.

So let's agree that we are talking about Real Dreams versus Dreams: those dreams we have which are things which can be accomplished but are seemingly impossible given our ordinary lives versus those dreams we have which we think we can accomplish, which often turn out to be less than what we can do or our capable of.

That said, what prevents us from turning Real Dream into reality?

I think the two biggest impediments to this are 1) Self Belief; and 2) Rigid Thinking.

1) Self Belief: If you don't believe you can accomplish it, you won't. This is the core statement of any books on success you will read (trust me on this - I've read enough of them!). There are any number of ways to accomplish this, either by autosuggestion (writing out your goals every day 10 times), constantly keeping them in your mind, or imaging/focused dreaming (a la Psychocybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz) - but the bottom line is that you must believe you can accomplish it somehow.

2) Rigid Thinking: Once you overcome doubts that you can, the second great trap is deciding how it will be done. So often we think that something must be performed in a particular fashion and that if it cannot be performed in that fashion, it can't be done. We need to be open to the fact that there are multiple ways to reach our dreams - but we have to be alert enough to see the unorthodox opportunities that may exist for accomplishing them.

Can't get published by a major publisher? Build an audience on the web. Self-publish, then create a website to sell your books. Write for anywhere that will accept your writings for free. If there is no market, make your own.

And so on. It seems to me that so many people who have the self belief waste their energy and time on the one path they think they must take, much like a salmon going upstream which ignores the fish ladder and continues to butt its head against the dam because that's the way it has always gone.

So do you believe? And can you accept there are other ways to do things? If can do these and keep your Real Dreams alive, you're on your way.