Friday, November 30, 2012

GPS Music

As you know, I'm occasionally able to bring you the websites of dear friends who have stretched their own wings in one way or another.  Today I'm pleased to bring you another:  my dear (and very long serving) friend Gordon, who has (with the help of his very talented wife Melissa) finally taken the plunge of the artist in business by making his music and field shows available for sale.  Their new website is

Here's to hoping more of the music community gets to know the genius and talent that is readily apparent to us who have known Gordon for years.

Mazel Tov!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I am not thinking as deeply as I need to be.

This thought came to me last night as I was in the process of journaling, something which I have been far too remiss in following up on in recent days - even as much as the last year. Why when journaling?  Because writing in a journal was the origin of all that I end up doing here and other places.  Journaling was the place that I began to learn to record my thoughts, to get into the habit of writing things down, and of learning to write out was occurring on the inside.

Why haven't I been journaling as much I used?  I came up with three answers, none of which were particular good.  One, of course, is that I perform a sort of journaling already through the medium of this blog.  Me, the person who always grumbles about relying too much on technology relying on technology.  A journal is a physical item to be referred to; a blog is an electronic exercise subject to deletion.  An excuse, not a reason.

The second was the fact that it involves writing, which for me is difficult for two reasons.  When writing, my thoughts seem to surge ahead of my ability to write them down.  As a result, my penmanship (never the best) becomes more and more irregular as I go, making things less and less legible.  Typing is quicker than writing, so of course this is the "better" medium.  Again, excuses not a reason.

The third was time and place.  My journaling ordinarily takes place at the end of my day, just prior to going to sleep.  As it is the end of the day and I'm often tired the excuse becomes  "Well, I just don't have time for it."  Really?  Not 10 minutes for a journal entry?  Not 10 minutes or more to coalesce the thoughts and inputs of a 16 hour day?  To quote Galaxar in Monsters vs. Aliens, "Lame".

Writing - or at least writing the way I would like to write - requires that one is able to get to the core of one's beliefs and thoughts and learn to be able to express them.  Too often when I write, I feel like I am merely moving at the surface level of my thinking, that what I should be saying is deeper yet.  I yearn to be more in touch with that deeper level of thought and consideration.

But to be in touch with that level is to realize that it comes from somewhere beyond the daily interactions with people and life, whether it be in person or through the medium of this blog.  It comes from being able to write freely, deeply, pondering with questions and thoughts which we may never have the ability or courage to ask of or speak others.  For myself, that can only come through the seemingly archaic form of placing pen on paper.

And so I need to recommit to the process of journaling on a daily basis.  I need to increase the fundamental process of learning to thinking (as Stephen Covey would say "in deep, sustained ways".  Like an explorer seeking the purest water, I need to go to the origin of the river to get that which I truly desire.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Invulnerable Aura of Invincibility

Two points yesterday and today to get my attention:

1) Fear Mor sends me a text a 0200 in the morning that he is being admitted to the hospital.  Later cause is determined to be pancreatitis.

2)  Facebook post:  A good friend is diagnosed with testicular cancer and goals into surgery today for removal.  No evidence it has spread and a high belief it can be removed.

It's a solemn reminder, the sort of cold water splash to the face that makes one stop and take notice of where one is and what one is doing (and let's be honest, complaining about) in life.  These two friends of mine bracket my age category.

One always hears about the "aura of invincibility" that the young seem to have, this sense that they can do anything and not suffer the consequences.  I suppose it makes sense - the less clever among us would simply call it a lack of experience - this belief that nothing really bad can happen to you.  But what I find myself confronting now is when - or even if - we lose that feeling ourselves.

The reality for all is that time is not our friend.  Part of the reason I suppose many people feel invulnerable is that their bodies simply have the ability to absorb more when they are young.  But time and age come to all and the sense that we had that we can do anything is replaced by the very really data our bodies do not always respond as we would like or want them too.

Why does this matter?  Because this aura convinces us that we have all the time in the world:  There is always tomorrow to get to the things that matter.  We can fill our life with that which is less than truly important.  We actually have time to waste, because more time will always be there - and we will have the health to enjoy and use it. 

Ultimately, the Invulnerable Aura of Invincibility convinces us that we are other than what we really are.

Spare a prayer or at least a thought for my friends, of course.  They need them. 

But also take a moment to reflect what assumptions we make about our health and our time and our ability to do that which we are to be about doing.    Let us not fool ourselves that things will always be as they have been.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Light Switch

Trying to reassess things.

I actually had to make a decision this week, a decision about a place to be.  I had an opportunity but for the first time in a long time I sat and thought about where I was and where I would probably need to be.  The outcome of the decision was that I decided to maintain the status quo.

The difficulty with actually making a decision, of course, is that there are ramifications.  If you choose something, something else won't happen.  In my case, the something was an additional series of tasks that need to be completed with little to no resources to make their completion happen.

The immediate result of this is to find myself fighting this vague sense of hopelessness that seems to come as a result of the decision:  the sense that nothing is really going to change as a result of not making a change.  I consciously know I need to fight this of course - a lack of change in one thing does not indicate that all things cannot change - but there is the very real sense that one can slip into it easily.

I intuitively grasp that the focus needs to be on what can be changed instead of what can't be, but the difficulty (as I often seem to find) is twofold: one is simply determining which category an activity falls into, the other is determining what impact such actions will have.  The reality too often is that it seems that even with those things we can impact the result is quite small and washed away in the flood of decisions of those things that we can't change but have greater impact.

So I end up finding myself on the knife's edge of emotions:  trying to feel empowered about doing something even as I try to prevent tumbling off the other side from the inability to influence the things that are occurring in my life.

Is this always true of all decisions, this careful balance between empowerment of action and despair of consequences?  I have to believe that some level it always is - which leads me, in retrospect, to consider all the other decisions I have made that may not have gone so well for me:  did I allow the euphoria of being empowered to overrule the realization that consequences were coming that I could not control (in some cases they most definitely were; I was just too full of myself to see them).

Which leaves me, as it so often seems to, with the sense of feeling my way around in the dark after having consciously turned a light with only a candle left in my hand to navigate obstacles.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nanowrimo 2012

Guess who met their goal last night?

Final count: 50,031 words, 28 chapters, 21 days (of a possible 30) spent writing to create it.

I would be lying to relate that I felt no rush of adrenaline when I put the text into the word calculator and it spit the number back out at me.  I was extremely elated.  This was a goal met - in less time than it was supposed to take.  Even better, this was something which I attempted and failed to achieve the previous year.

Sweet, sweet victory.

It gave me pause to look back upon the year and consider things - and realize that I had met many goals that I have set for myself:
- Participated in Highland Games (did two, actually).
- Ran in a race (two actually, with times that were respectable).
- Complete and publish a book (Completed and published two).
- Completed Nanowrimo
- Made more cheese (and found some that were quite popular, actually).
- Dehydrated fruit (and found some favorites for my family).

There were many others that I haven't completed yet - and this is what gives me pause and reason to think:  what is different about the things listed above that I achieved versus many of the other things (some of them very important) that I failed to achieve?  The only things I can think of off hand are:
- Opportunity (either something I created or something that is known and available).
- Control (All of the activities listed above are completely within my purview as to their ability to be completed as they are all dependent on me)
- Time based (in some kind or fashion, from the rigid time of cheese making to the self-imposed goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days)

So how do I take this victory - these victories - and use the lessons that I've learned and apply them to my life? 

Certainly the greatest difference for many of these goals that I have yet to resolve is that they are partially or completely outside of my ability to control.  But I'm equally as certain the individuals have dealt with things just like this - events outside of their control - and managed to move forward regardless.  By focusing on that which lay in their control?  Perhaps.  By putting a time limit on it or understanding what the opportunities are?  Possibly.  But there is a core to all of this.  Something that I can take and apply to the rest of my life.

But that is to be evaluated and considered moving ahead.  Today is a day to revel in the fact that I can do things which previously I believed to be impossible.

Hurray to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012!  In accordance with years past, here is my list of things that I am thankful for:

- My Family, both here in New Home and Away
- The Ravishing Mrs. TB, who continues to demonstrate that I really did marry up.
- That I am employed
- For our health (A large one this year, as many I know have not been so fortunate).
- For the completion of two books (not only a thankful, but a lifelong goal realized).
- For our church.
- For the fact we are able to send our children to the school we are able to.
- For mo naigheananNighean Bhan, Nighean Gheal, and Nighean Dhonn.  I am incredibly proud of my children.
- For iaido, which continues to teach me.
- That I was able to compete in two Highland Games this year without complete embarrassment.
- For our trip this year to the Happiest Place on Earth.
-  And for my Lord, who continues to demonstrate patience to a man who surely never deserved it.

There is always a sense in my writing, I suppose, that things are always a little worse than they are.  And surely they could always be a little better.  But it is always good, from time to time, to take a step back and be grateful for all that really is going well in one's life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Too Much The Same

One issue that vacations seem to bring up is the simple fact that you have time - time to think, time to ponder, time to consider.  Sometimes such times can be as dangerous as having no such time.

In this time to think and ponder, what I am coming up with is the sense of the sameness of my life and the fact that there seems to be no greater plan. 

My weeks start to run together, the same work filling them.  Looking ahead to next year I only see this year repeated, except perhaps with even less ability to do what needs to be done.  My personal life doesn't seem to hold any more chance of moving forward on any front:  next year's activities will be the same as this year's activities, with perhaps one or two changes only in form but not in substance.

And that thing I was looking for when I was younger, that great sense of purpose, the great plan?  That seems long gone, buried beneath layers of necessities and responsibilities and things I must do. 

So here is the question:  how do I change all this?

I really wish I knew.  I realize that such things as a geographic relocation or even exchanging one career for another are merely another change in font to the novel of my life.  I need something more deeply changing than these, a change of plot and chapter.

But beyond that deep change, I need something even deeper:  I need a change to a sense of hope, a sense that my actions are actually moving my life forward instead of merely keeping it in stasis.  For the present changes and future rushes towards me; unfortunately I seem to remain only the same.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Trapped by Vacation?

Being on vacation is an odd thing.

This is my second official "vacation" of the year.  The first, as you may recall, was a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth.  This one is quite different in that we are staying close to home, doing some day trips, spending time with family.

10 days away from work.  You would think that I would be far more excited than I find myself to be.

Why is this?  Why can't I simply rejoice in the fact that I am blessed with paid time off and that I am using it spend time not doing my work and with my family?

Because I find myself nagged.  In the back of my mind I find myself nagged.

Work has started following me around like a bad emotion or a grudge.  I find it creeping into my thoughts when I least want, arguing with it when I least expect it, turning around and find it stalking me in my wanderings during the day.

I can't imagine this is especially healthy.

Has it been so long of not being on vacation that I have lost the ability to do so?  Have I allowed myself to become so consumed with what work is that I have lost the ability to unplug?  And if so, how do I break the cord (more like a steel trap, it seems) that binds me even when I have no reason to be bound?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spammers Redux

Ah, my friends the spammers.  They're still hard at work even though I've made comments subject to review.  Every day I get up and scan my list of posts that have been read.  Inevitably, one old seems to have received a high degree of attention, some post that has been pegged as an address one can get to and proliferated throughout the Internet.  Somewhere, in the Russian Federations, I have a spam following.

The thing that struck me about it this morning as I review my list was the one that it was:  Easter Communion Meditation from March 21, 2008.  It has a total of 1812 hits, almost 11% of my total viewing.

What an odd post, I thought.  Of all the the posts that could be spread around the Internet as a link to try and post at, a post about the Easter Resurrection and communion.  

Does anyone read them, I wonder?  Are they total dominated by faceless e-mail lists that go out in the dark of my night, seeking to sell me stocks or Cialis or cheap computer parts without at all looking at what they are doing?  Or is the case that someone occasionally checks out that which they are mailing to?

I'd like to believe that at least once, someone actually looked at the random sites they were posting to.  Someone that at least took the message and considered it, rather than just rolling to the next page to try and post a comment.

Sometimes God moves in mysterious ways.  Maybe even in spam.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Halfway There

So today I passed the halfway point in the 30 day novel writing challenge.  I'm currently standing at 25,139 words.

This is fascinating to me.  My first manuscript was in the range of 15,000 words and took me almost a year to write.  My second manuscript was in the range of 6500 words and took me 3 months to write.  I have now not only exceeded each individual word count but the combined word count in..I'm not that good at math, but a whole lot less time than it took the first two times.

The important question is why.

Was the story more fully developed?  I'm not sure.  Yes, I had wrestled with the current concept and had even started writing something - in fact, I ended up scrapping everything I wrote and started over. The characters were theoretically in place (although not, as it turns out, in the final form) and the concept was there.  But I'd be hesitant to say that I fully knew where I was going this time.

Is it the exercise?  Well, it's probably helping with the word count.  Getting the habit of having a target and having to produce a certain amount of words a day certainly makes progress add up quickly.  But it's not enough to just type words into a computer:  without some sense of structure, I can see where one would get very depressed as the word count would be there but the story would not.

The key, upon thinking about it, seems to be the commitment to do it.  Commitment is not just to doing the exercise, it's to doing the exercise in such a way as to complete it.  I am committed to a certain word count.  I am also committed to having that word count become a book of some sort or fashion, something that hangs together and makes a modicum of sense.

The output is interesting, the progress inspiring.  The question for myself is this:  how do I translate this into other parts of my life?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


"Appear at places to which he (the enemy) must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you. That you may march a thousand li without wearying yourself is because you travel where there is no enemy (Go into emptiness, strike voids, bypass what he defends, hit him where he does not expect you.)" - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

How does one deal with the obstacles in one's life?  I'm thinking particularly here of ones which seem completely unmovable, the ones that we can't seem to change by dint of effort or pleading.  The sorts of things that make you feel ineffective and pointless in your life.

I've tried, trust me.  I've tried to directly go through them.  I've tried to maneuver my way around them.  I've tried to under or over them.  And yet I constantly seem to be rebuffed, thrown back, unable to make any forward progress at all.  Is it because I'm going about it the wrong way?

Observe Sun Tzu above.  He doesn't speak of going directly to where the enemy is waiting; instead, he says go to where the enemy is not; work around him, make him hurry to come to you instead of the other way around. One who strikes at voids is always sure to be able to punch straight through.

Great for a man dead 2500 years.  How does this apply to my life?

The reality is that anyone - or anything - can only defend a certain number of approaches.  No-one can be everywhere defending everything.  And everyone and everything had gaps, holes, things that can be moved through. 

So find the gaps.  Find the holes.  If someone is defensive on one place - very defensive - it is sometimes better to stop there and look around rather than continue.  There is always another path, another way past the obstacle.  Go to a second place, somewhere that there is less passion or concern, and begin there.  The flank will either be turned - or by defending two positions, the overall resistance becomes weaker.

True of things as well.  Can't get through the wall of conceptually writing a novel?  Do a certain number of words a day until you reach the same place you would reach if you just tried to write all at once.  Can't attack the idea of debt or savings?  Instead of hitting the center, nibble at the edges or find another place to start.

There are times that things are simply difficult and we must go through them, that challenges cannot be met except by facing them head on.  But just as armies cannot constantly fight major battles repeatedly, so we will exhaust ourselves continually attacking the center.  Look for the holes, the empty spaces; be where they do not expect you. 

Progress is always possible.  It just may not be quite where we originally thought it would be.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Winter's chill arrived
last night; it matches the chill
I find in my soul.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Outputs and Outcomes

I have been oscillating between two extremes this week:  on one hand a complete feeling of powerlessness and on the other hand a feeling of control.

The feeling of powerlessness engulfed me on Wednesday when, faced with an ever rising sea of tasks and expectations, my will broke.  There is nothing so demoralizing as the sense that no matter how much one does and where one focuses, the end result will essentially be nil.  Whatever improvements made are transient, what tasks accomplished are buried under a wave of new items to be addressed tomorrow.

The feeling of control has periodically engulfed me throughout the week.  It seems to have appeared as a result of participating in Nanowrimo.  The thing that seemed so difficult last year - writing 1667 words a day - has not only become an activity that I have found I can do but that I can enjoy - and make progress in (17,213 words on day 9).

The fact that these two stand in contrast is somewhat remarkable to me.  The sorts of activities I stake my life and livelihood on are beyond my control.  The thing which is at this point no more than a personal hobby is well within my control.  Here's the question that I need to consider:  how do I expand this control to the other parts of my life?

We work (and live) best when we have a sense that what we are doing has an impact, both for ourselves and others.  Impact, of course, is a matter of cause and effect, of input and output.  The effects and outputs that are the best are the ones of which we can control the causes and inputs.  There's a spectrum, I imagine, running from things that are 100% under our control to things that are 0% under out control - and certainly those things out of our control will always be a part of our lives.  The question is, can these things be minimized?

I'll make a second argument as well:  those that have greater control over those things are generally those who are able to achieve better results and are quite possible happier.  Why?  Because they are able to take actions which directly result in a better and greater set of outcomes.  They are greater able to direct the course of the actions towards those outcomes that they are attempting to achieve, rather than simply trying to manage inputs not of their choosing in a direction that they cannot control.

It's a convoluted thing.  My actions are the results of inputs on me and I am limited by the inputs to what I can then do for outputs.  Thinking simply, give a chef garbage and no matter how well he tries, he's probably not going to be able to do much with it.

Which is maybe why the sense of control from writing rings so true.  I 100% control the input (my time, my energy) - and thus, I 100% control the outputs.

How do I then gain greater control over the inputs?  Perhaps that's the question that needs to be addressed. I leave today's meditation with this thought:   To the extent that I remained mired in the outcomes of others or being dependent on them, that is the extent to which I can improve the outcomes. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Agricultural weight

Arcing through the air,
the weight flies as if proplled
by the bagpipe's skal.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Failure to Launch

What do you do with a product that seems to be unsaleable?

What do you do with a product that seems to be unsaleable when that product is you?

I've had the experience now of having investors reject this product four times in the last 7 months or so.  Like any good sales person, the point of offering something is to be able to sell it.  The fact that I have been encountering difficulties in doing this would give any product development person pause - as it should me.

One important aspect of this is customer feedback.  What do the customers say?  Customers are rational in that they purchase that which meets their real or perceived needs.  Is the product not meeting their needs, and if so why?

Obviously it's not meeting their needs.  No-one is buying it.  Why not?

Feedback seems to vary.  In one case the product did not have sufficient field testing among a larger group.  In another, the product simply did not meet the required customer inputs.  A third was that the product had elements of what the customer wanted, but not the whole.  The fourth customer simply found a product that was better suited for their purposes.

Unfortunately these reasons seem to tell me nothing I can seem to redesign.  The wide field testing and depth of features is something that cannot be forced by the designer, only offered and hoped to be adopted.  The customer inputs are nothing of my design but only those of the customer - if the product doesn't meet them, there's little chance a redesign will improve things.  And a product better suited for the purpose?  One can specialize the product but that again sends it back to redesign and takes it off the market longer.

How about the design of the product?  Is there something inherent to what it is that make it unsaleable?

Possibly, but if that's the case how does one do a redesign?  One can go back to the design documents - in this case, a not well documented process - and attempt to change the inputs.  But as with above, changing inputs takes time and energy  - without any real greater sense that the product will be accepted by the consumer.

So what do I do with this product then?  Newer models are launching as we speak, and I suspect the nostalgia market for this kind of thing only decreases with time.

If the purposes for which the product was designed have moved on and the product cannot be effectively redesigned and it cannot be sold, most would say this product has become obsolete and should be retired or scrapped.

That is easy enough to say with a product.  It's more difficult to say with a life.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Highland Games Again

This past weekend I participated in my third Highland Games.

I suppose a reasonable question to ask is why I like the Highland Games.  After all, I'm generally the smallest and lightest guy out in the field.  It's almost guaranteed that I'll have a lock on last place.  I'm "competing" (if you want to dignify my participation that way) with men who in some cases outweigh me by 120 pounds and tower over me by at least 6 inches and women who are in much better shape than I can ever hope to be.  In height, weight, girth and strength, I'm over matched.

So why do I go?

Because I love it.  Because every time I get out there (as someone said at a practice) I am participating in something which millions have heard of but of which < 1% of the population will do.  And it's fun.

Because it's history.  When I hurl a stone or pick a caber, I am participating with thousands who, over 1500 years, have done the same thing.  I am a living part of the history I love so much.

Because it's challenging.  To hurl something that is heavy is more than just brute strength.  It's technique.  It's learning to do something better and better.  It ultimately engages not just the body but the mind.  It trains me to learn to set goals - and keep going when I've achieved them.

Because it's enjoyable.  And it's not just enjoyable because I'm participating.  It's enjoyable because every game I have participated in is not an exercise in competition, it's an exercise in being with other people who are there for the same reason you are and are encouraging you to do as well as you can.  Yes, it's the ultimate in an individual achievement sport - but it's balanced by a group of like minded individuals who are there to support as well as compete.  While subtle, the difference between being on the outside of the participation line and inside the ring is present.  The cheers of your fellow competitors - who know - is more meaningful than those who are just passing by to watch.

But probably the reason I do it the most is to prove something to myself.  To prove that even at my middle age, it's not too late to learn to do something new that's physically hard and mentally challenging.

The season is almost to its end here.  But that's okay.  2013 is around the corner.

And I'll be there, a bush among the taller trees, trying to hurl 25% of body weight down the field.

And loving it.

 (More reasons to love the Highland Games:  What they teach about life here and here.

Monday, November 05, 2012

More All I Needed To Know I Learned from the Highland Games

1)  Competing is as much about showing up as it is about being good.

2)  Get a heavy enough implement that requires some technique and the old and young are on a level playing field.

3)  Be prepared for change on short notice.  Just because you've always thrown with a lighter stone doesn't mean that a heavier stone won't suddenly be used.

4)  If people say a caber may be coming your way and may hit you, best to listen and be prepared.

5)  Be ready.   The Ready and Willing need only the slightest of instruction to throw far.

6)  Momentum is key.  The right momentum allows a weight to sail with ease.  The wrong momentum just makes for an embarassing throw.

7)  Many people are willing to throw.  Few people are willing to go behind and make sure everything is out of the way.

8)  Don't try and catch a rolling stone with your ankle.

9)  World records can be set anywhere.  You just need to be ready and looking for it.

10)  There's always someone who will be the smallest competitor on the field throwing the most of the his body weight.  Be that person if you have to.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Focus and Mire

It's amazing how the mire of activity can kill focus.

One can come into a situation with the intent to become a machine of efficiency, a raging force of nature moving through tasks.  Within 15 minutes, one can find one's stuck looking at the blinking cursor of a screen waiting to complete the first of many things which are exactly the same - and not at all related to anything one had intended.

It's a schedule slayer, these unintended things.  They're the kobolds of the task world, small creatures which in and of themselves are not harmful at all but, when gathering together in large groups, can bring down the heartiest adventurer in a sea of short sharp swords and flailing bodies.

How does one fight against this sort of thing?  How can one ensure the small tasks remain small and handled and the big tasks - the ones which require significant attention - are dealt with in a timely fashion?  I would love to say that the answer is readily apparent, but it's not.   It almost seems to be a combination of a couple of factors:

1)  Managing the smaller tasks:  Smaller tasks have to be managed - maybe even more than larger tasks.  They must be managed because if not, they become infinitely complex and frustrating.  A 10 minute task can take 4 hours if five of the same thing suddenly appear, all requiring the same things to be done.  They need to be put in a line, corralled and brought to order.

2)  Remember the big tasks:  Back to the review I have discussed so often before.  One always needs to know what one planned to be doing.  Even if the sidetracking comes - and it will - there should still be a sense of what one originally intended to work on.  Not only for a sense of proportion - like comparing a seedling to a redwood - but from the sense of keeping one's eyes on the larger picture.

3) Prioritize - And when I write prioritize I mean not only doing first things first but doing anything at all.  As I mentioned yesterday, we will never have enough time to accomplish anything.  If too many of the small tasks are piling up, have they become a large task?  Are the resources not available currently to manage it?  If so, what would it take?  Can it be done - or is it something that simply needs to fade into the background?

The small things can destroy one's ability to do the big things - but only if left unchecked and roaming about.  Bring the small things into line or they will bring you to your knees.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Find the Focus

Focus can be a wonderful thing.

Focus is the gate through which we can force all things to enter through.  It's the floodgates where we fling our energy instead of dissipating it into the stream.  It's the single act of drawing and cutting instead of carelessly pulling out our sword and slashing about.

Perhaps for myself the story of my life is this constant struggle I am undergoing between trying to find focus and living my life.  The two are at best not synonymous and worst are contradictory.  But I get the sense that those who succeed - and when I say succeed, I mean specifically those who are most integrated, most enjoying their lives, not necessarily the most monetarily rewarded - have figured out a way to combine the two.

When focus exists - when your life is lived through the lens of moving in a particular way to accomplish a particular thing - life moves.  Things are not just performed as a series of random disconnected actions but as a more and more seamless whole, all things running together towards a larger things.  One does some things; one lets other things go because they are contributing to the greater focus.  Eventually, I believe, the various parts of one's mind and soul are more wholly integrated as actions and being and philosophy merge into one.  "What you seem to be, be really" said Benjamin Franklin.  Focus will do that for us.

How do we get and keep focus?  That's the sticking point, the thing that constantly seems to rip me back to reality.  For me - I assume for many - what we wish to focus on and what we actually focus on are two entirely separate things.  So often our lives seem disconnected from that which we wish to do and mired in that which we must.  Focus becomes all that more important.  But how to get it and keep it on those goals?

I have a suggestion.  It's not original with me, but it works.  It's from Miyamoto Musashi:  "Do nothing which is of no use."

This is a key - not the key perhaps, but a key.  We all have limited time.  We all have things we have to do.  The point is that we need to make everything we do work towards the focus.

Admit it: I am (and you are) frivolous with time. We're extravagant.  We spend time on things the way children will spend money on candy if given the chance:  freely, lavishly, without a care in the world about the future.

As with savings, working towards those things of value in our lives is a series of building a bank account of accomplishments.  Accomplishments take time.  Accomplishments take doing things of use.

We need to learn (I most of all) to make all my tasks serve the goal, the focus.  Even work - mind numbing work - can serve the focus if we let it.  If by working we pay bills and enable ourselves to have time to work on other things, it is time not wasted.  And even at work, our focus can shift towards not just tasks but skills.  Learning to work diligently and for long periods of time on a task is not something which only applies to our working lives.

The other half?  Shed that which is useless.  Make every action and task serve your focus.  Is it not useful, not serving to help you work towards that which you are focusing on?  Consider abandoning it or making it serve the higher goal. Our lives are always more full of things that we can do than things we will have time to do. Determine to make every one of things something which is useful.

Because ultimately, focus is an output of which time and effort are inputs.  Time and effort are both finite and have an end date - a date which will never know until it arrives.

Determine to focus.  Determine to abandon that which is useless.