Random Notes and Thoughts #5

Just a bit of detritus not yet fully baked or otherwise worthy of their own post for your enjoyment and consideration…

  • I’m writing this in Vim, the powerful terminal-based text editor all the true geeks have long loved and espoused the virtues of. I’m just learning it. It has long been on my list of things I wanted to learn for quite a while. It came up as I was reviewing my 3-5 year goals and I thought, “Why not now?”. To teach myself, I looked at several online tutorials but found that Learn Vim Progressively seemed the most suited to my learning style. Going slow so far but that is how the tutorial is designed — learning the basics and using only those for a few days/weeks before moving on to the next lesson.

  • For the truly geeky, the monospace font I’m using in Terminal is Inconsolata. Not sure I have settled on that as the right one for me but it is good enough for now.

  • Despite the many other issues some (understandably) may have with him, one thing I can appreciate about Richard Stallman is that when it comes to his computing habits and usage he is dogmatic about his dogma. I don’t know how one could not appreciate someone who so steadfastly walks what they talk, even if you don’t fully agree with the talk or think it is (perhaps, rightfully) nuts.

  • On the flip side of that, it recently occurred to me that the most important and valuable lessons my wife and I try to instill in our little girl are empathy and kindness. For instance, when meeting a stranger, she often picks out something she likes — a necklace or shirt for instance — and compliments them on it. She is one of those kids who goes out of her way to find something nice to say about everyone — even if she doesn’t like or agree with them. She also does her darndest to try to see a situation from how it might look from someone else’s perspective. She’s not always perfect at these but she works darn hard at it. It’s something we could all be better at for sure.

  • If I were to, say, build a swing for my little girl out of wood, the project is not done when the swing is done. The project is done when the tools are put away, the scrap wood picked up, and the sawdust is swept away. That is to say, clean up after the project is part of the project as well. If you have not picked up the mess of making then you have not finished. This applies to more than just building swings.

  • My friend and all around smart and talented guy (lucky too, I kind of hate him) Mike Rohde is bringing his wonderful Sketchnote Workshop to Chicago, IL on June 26th. I got to go to the very first one in Milwaukee last year and it was fantastic. It’s about way more than just how to make fun little drawings in your notes. It’s about how to be a better listener, a better thinker, capture key concepts, process them in ways that are meaningful, and take better notes in general. If you are in the Chi-town area at that time or close enough to drive you should really consider it.

  • Far too often, we confuse what is urgent with what is important. Most of what is urgent is not important. Most of what is important is ruined by urgency. When pressed by urgency, we rush through things. We become sloppy and careless. If it’s important, you should take your time and care. Most of the important things in my life took/take a long time. For example, I’ve been working on a short story off and on for about 20 years. If I can get it just right, I think it might end up being one of the most important things I’ll ever write, that’s why I’m taking such time with it.

  • I loved what Mandy Brown had to say about what consent has come to mean on the Internet versus what it means in the offline world, especially when it comes to privacy. Basically, it has become distorted online in ways that are meant to oppress and commodify us. This is a dangerous path.

  • A lot of people don’t know that Bill Gates is a voracious reader and often travels with several tote bags of books just to feed his habit. Therefore, when he gives you some summer reading list suggestions it’s probably worth paying attention to. And, if you really want to go deep and long, he also has a page on his website of his personal book reviews which are smart and full of wit and personality.

  • As someone who has killed a few projects recently (and am considering a few more), I can relate to and agree with Christine Xu’s assertion that our projects deserve a good death.

That’s all for now. This is more than enough to keep you busy. I should likely do these more often and perhaps not decide to publish them in the middle of everyone’s busy week. So sorry. Save it for the weekend or use it as an excuse to take the day off. I won’t mind.

How To Use Your Shoulders

the wonderful thing
about offering
a shoulder to cry on
is that you have another
dry and ready
to accept more crying
and once the other
is accepting more tears
you can continue
to console the suffering
while the first one
is drying

A Time For Things

You have a thing you need to do. So you put the thing on a list. The list is where you put the things. What things? The things you need to do. This is a thing so it belongs there.

But this thing will stay there on the list — forever if you let it. To get removed from the “Things I Need To Do” list and get placed on the “Things I have Done” list, a crucial question needs to get answered. This thing will stay there indefinitely until you decide when this thing will get done. And, if you never decide when the thing will get done the thing will never get done. And, you will decide that when. You may not decide it until the moment you do the thing. But, in advance or not, in order to do the thing you must pick a when.

Everything — EVERY THING — happens within the boundaries of time. Even if you don’t decide the time up front, even if you don’t schedule the time, the thing gets done at a time or not at all. And, when it comes to things, capturing is not committing. Capturing is parking. Capturing is waiting. Capturing is wishing. Deciding the when — scheduling the time — is committing. Doing the thing, is completing.

So, the thing — the one on the list — is going to happen at a time. It is the only way it can happen. It is the only way anything happens.

Agreed? Good.

Let’s talk about time for a second. You remember time, right? That thing that EVERY THING happens in? That thing that you and I have relatively little of. The most precious non-renewable resource in the Universe? Yes, that time. Well, my guess is that, for really important things — things you intend to do — you schedule those things. You carve out a small bit of that most precious non-renewable resource and say, “Hey, I care about this thing so much I’m going to spend time on this.” And, my guess is, you do this on a calendar of some sort, right? The less busy of us might just remember a few items in our head but, I would argue, even in that case you are still keeping a calendar — a this thing happens at this time schedule — in your head. Right?

We calendar keepers, we happy many, we band of brothers and sisters, we’ve been rightfully told that, because time is the most precious non-renewable resource in the Universe, the calendar is sacred hallowed space. That you should only put things on there that you plan to do or that must be done at a particular time. Things like meetings and doctors appointments and conferences and birthdays and anniversaries and…

Now, here’s the part that will likely make many uncomfortable. I’m going to tell you you should put tasks there too. I’m going to argue that, for many things, you should decide the when up front. That you commit. That you give the things on your list a bit of this most precious non-renewable resource in the same place you give all those other things — because you already are. You are just not, maybe, planning ahead for them or scheduling them or putting them in a box marked Today or Tomorrow or Next Week. But every single one of those things, to get done, will happen at a particular time anyway — so, why not be honest and intentional about it?

Think of it like this: A wish list is a list of things we hope will happen one day. Let’s just say it is a list of things you want for Christmas. Well, guess what, you will get nothing on that list under that tree until Santa decides the time to go buy the thing, the time to wrap the thing, and the time to put it under the tree. And, that list comes with a pre-determined due-date of December 25th. Those things that are not under the tree remain on your wish list until and unless Santa decides this is the time for you to get that thing. Any list of things without time attached to it is, functionally, a wish list just like this until you make them important enough to actually deserve your time. Until you play Santa.

That list of things is a wish list, a someday-maybe list, but it is not a task list until you commit a time for those things getting done. Those are things you hope to do — not things you are going to do. Know how I know you are not “going” to do them? Going is an action verb. It means you are in the act of committing a forward movement. Anything staying motionless on a list is not forward movement. Putting a time on something to be done in the future, then moving towards that time, means going to do something. And you are not going to do any of those things unless you do.

I’m not saying you should do this with all of the things on your list of things. It’s useful to have a place for the things that you wish to do. Having a wish list of all the things is actually good. Doing so means you can look at all the things out in the open, take each one, and evaluate if that is something worth your precious time. Ask each thing the question of when. I’m saying you should do it with the things you want to move from a wish to something you actually mean to do. Decide when you are going to do them.

Start with the “Big Rocks” or “Today List” or “Next Actions” or whatever list system du jour your are praying to at the moment. Take those things, look at them, and commit to them — ask yourself the when. When today will you do these things? Are you serious? Then put it on the calendar, schedule, planner, — whatever. Even if it is just to carve out a couple of hours and call it, “A Time for Things”. Now, you have committed. Now, you are serious.

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

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