Who does what they want?

There’s a lot of talk in the blogosphere about only doing what you’re really passionate about. If you don’t know what I’m talking about look at daringfireball.net, lazyway.blogs.com or slackermanager.com. It seems to be one thing to really take on your dreams if you’re already someone of note, either electronically or professionally. But what if you’re just a space-age cipher with a ton of chutzpah?

I’m a big fan of the ideal: work your passions. The things you love, you’ll love to be good at, you’ll love to persist at, and you’ll really love when you succeed. The problem is most people are living in a hamster cube. Who has broken free? What did it for you? What was your secret, what was your drive?

I’ll anxiously await your comments. It doesn’t even have to be your finished story. Maybe you’ve got a friend. Maybe you’re almost there and you’ve got a plan to finish. Or maybe you just want to know the same things I do.

Help Sleepless Nights

Another (near) month without a post. I’ll start by saying my life has been busy. My wife gave birth to our second daughter. She’s a wonderful blessing even though it’s been quite an adjustment. I took 2 weeks of (unpaid) paternity leave time in order to help Cindy adjust to having two at once all day long, which was a pleasure. All of this comes in the wake of my acceptance of a part time job as Youth Minister at my Church and of my Father’s passing, which has weighed heavily on my work, life and heart.

Last night was particularly difficult to endure for some reason. I laid in bed for what seemed like hours: grieving, being afraid of what is unknown and really just thinking too much. I don’t know what finally led me to slumber, but this isn’t a problem I wish to continue having. I’m not a fan of chemical sleep aids because they tend to keep me down for longer than I like to be asleep (and they’re chemicals) and I don’t really have any reason that I just layed awake for so long – so it’s hard to come up with a probable solution.

So my call for help now is, how do you all (assuming some of you are still there) get over whatever you’re thinking about and fall asleep on those particularly thoughtful nights?

Quick GTD with Gmail Tip

Check out this beautiful little URL: fancy!

This brings me to my Next Action list.

Big deal, right? Well let’s rope in some other technology (that I’m already using) to sweeten the pot of gold:

  • I posted the aforementioned URL into del.icio.us (a social bookmark manager that you definitely should be using) so it can be accessed easily by me from anywhere.
  • Since my Firefox installations all have a live bookmark on the bookmark toolbar to the RSS feed of my del.icio.us “daily” tag, I tagged the Gmail Search for Starred messages URL as “daily.” Since I perform a Firefox “Open in Tabs” on my “daily del.icio.us” live bookmark at least once a day, I have an automatic actions review reminder.
  • Since I use Quicksilver to launch applications do all of my work for me, and I have the del.icio.us module installed, I can now type: “cmd+space, a, c, t” and have my action list in seconds.

Wow, I’m easily excited.

Out here in the fields…

…I fight for my meals.

I could probably write a book quite effective at helping people prevent making the same mistakes that I have made in the past 8 years or so. This is especially true for financial mistakes. Considering a book deal is pretty much out of the question, I’ll drop a few tips here.

Many of these are common sense. To many you’ll reply “duh, Bryan.” But even if you’ve considered every one previously, it may help to see someone vouch for their validity. These should be especially helpful for those of you just graduating from college. Many of you have student loan debt. Many of you have something worse: leftover debt from the last couple years of college when you said to yourself “Oh, I’ll have a job soon to pay this off.” Many of you now have a job that pays you twice (or more) what your parents made when they graduated. This described me well. And after making plenty of mistakes, I can tell you how to deal with it.

What not to do…

  • Don’t act like you’re rich, think like you’re rich. – You aren’t rich. Your offer letter may seem to be a gold mine relative to your old college retail job, or even your posh internship but the real world is expensive. You’ll soon see that if you don’t consider every dollar you spend, it will be all gone and you’ll rely on Citibank to buy your groceries.
  • Don’t go buy a new car. – Overheard at college graduations everywhere: “Dude, my starting salary will pay for a Boxter!” Dude, no it won’t. It’s all too easy to forget that you have to pay taxes, buy groceries, and have somewhere to live. If you absolutely need a new car, go buy a reputably reliable car off of lease, program, fleet, or whatever else you can find. A year-old car has already taken its near 40% depreciation hit. Buying new basically puts you upside down on your financing instantly.
  • Don’t fully fund your retirement account. – This happens to by my biggest regret. Read carefully: if your employer matches money into a tax deferred savings plan of some sort (401k, etc.) then you’d better be contributing up to that matching amount. It’s free money! However, if you’ve still got debt (I know you do – remember student loans, auto loans, mortgage, credit cards, store cards, etc.) then the measly return on a 401k that you’ll see in thirty-five years is far outweighed by your annual finance charges. Fully funding your retirement is important, but only after you’re debt free.

What to do…

  • Pay for what you need in cash. – If you can’t afford it, then you don’t need it.
  • Eliminate debt, and then save. – Saving and building wealth through assets is very important. However, there are very few invesments that will outgrow your debt, and those are very risky. Pay it off, smallest first. If you maintain a list of your debt (liabilities) it’ll be empowering to check those demons off the list. The old saying “money makes money” is true, but mathematically, if money in the black makes more money in the black, money in the red makes more money in the red.
  • Educate yourself.Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey are two wonderful books that will inspire you to buckle down now, and enjoy a wealthy life later.

What gives?

Robert T. Kiyosaki calls it “charity.� Catherine Ryan Hyde calls it “paying it forward.� Christians call it “Love.� The basic principle seems to be this: Give away what you’re good at, what you need or what you hold close to your heart and the eventual reward will be greater than your initial gift.

No matter how you look at this – academically, spiritually, sociologically, or through personal emotions – you’ll see that while the process of giving of yourself is counterintuitive, the logical product of selflessness is self-benefit.

  • Academically, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay it Forward shows how, mathematically, if each recipient of your ‘gift’ pays 3 new recipients, statistics are good that you’ll be paid as well.
  • Spiritually, charity and gifts of love offer the greatest reward: unity with God. I won’t go too much into specific theology here, but every world religion I have any knowledge of puts a high priority on how loving and giving can only result in a greater gift.
  • Sociologically, there’s a unified societal psyche, if you will, that benefits from individuals freely giving of themselves. Drawing from the statistical statements above, what if everyone treated each other that way? I’m not calling for utopia here, but why not do what we can?
  • Personally, what brings more joy than the ability to give a gift? I can think of few examples of pure joy that even come close to gift giving. Many wealthy people are criticized for donating wings on hospitals, buildings on university campuses or fancy pipe organs in churches because they want to “show off their wealth and get their name on something.â€? I say “good for them.â€? If they really just want recognition, they can plaster their names on billboards; it would probably more exposure for less money. If you’ve criticized someone for their charity, it might be time for you to make a donation.

Thank you, Jonathan. Your gift was well received.

Intersections

According to answers.com there are two mathematical definitions for an intersection:
1. The point or locus of points where one line, surface, or solid crosses another.
2. A set that contains elements shared by two or more given sets.

In all of the tasks, people and places that make up life, sometimes intersections can save us time, but we often overlook them.

My friend and colleague, Jonathan is traveling soon. Since his last moleskine is nearly full, he considered rush shipping a new one for the space to adequately journal his travels. I had an extra, and offered it to him as a solution so he wouldn’t get robbed on shipping charges. He found an intersection.

This is good; however, I missed the next intersection. My wife was coming into town (we work ‘in town’) to drop off our daughter at my office for the afternoon. Why didn’t I think to have her bring the moleskine to the office with her? I predict that we miss lots of these intersections that would save us plenty of time. I’m sure there is some extremely over-studied facet of psychology that attempts to explain all of this, but it’s a phenomenon that has only recently surfaced in my conscious.

How can we save time by noticing these intersections and acting on them in time? My example intersection was obvious to me only when it was about 10 minutes too late: the “why didn’t I think of that earlier?” zen-slap.

Hopefully in the future I can post ways to hack into that part of the mind, but for now please offer your suggestions.

An Antithetical Matter

It has been brought to my attention by friends, people I’ve never even met and by the little voice in the back of my head that it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. While this is true, there is good reason.

I set out here to offer, support, and field good ideas on productivity and on making life better for like-minded people. Productivity is a high aim.

I could probably find a reason to post every day.

Since my posts on GTD with Gmail, my readership has gone way up, and it seems I’ve stumbled across even more clever ways to implement GTD. I’ve seen several people bouncing all over the place on their implementation schemes. I won’t spell out the irony. Merlin and others noticed it and posted on it before I did. Expounding would be unnecessary.

My goal here isn’t to provide people with something to read so that they can avoid work. The goal here is to provide and collect ideas so that we can get our work done and move on to more important things.

So, worry not, I’m still here. From time to time I’ll be selfish and ask you for feedback or a solution. Today, now that I’ve thoroughly wasted 5 or 6 minutes of our time with this exercise in hypocrisy, I’ll ask that you go do something that’s been hanging out on your action list or project list with no progress for way too long.

Public Transportation

Columbia has grown up a little. We have this trolley (made over bus) system that can get you from the one area of town where all of the employers are to the one area of town where the food, entertainment and shopping is. It’s kind of cool, and it almost works. Almost. For starters, there aren’t well marked stops. For this reason (and probably some others) you’ll often see a trolley off route in order to bring someone to a destination without a stop. Generally, there seems to be about one person aboard a trolley at any given time besides the driver. Can you still get on a trolley off of its route? Probably: it’s starting to look a lot like a really cheap, really large taxi service. The drivers don’t seem overly concerned about following any specific pattern or rules.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of “programmed use” it’s actually very hard to tell when you’ll be able to catch a ride. In fact, I originally drafted this post in my moleskine at the CVB convention center while waiting for the driver of a trolley. She’s the one (so I’ve been told) who can take me where I need to go, but she’s on a break. Eventually, she comes back and I get back to work, but this is oddly discouraging and confusing (especially to someone with less patience than me).

Is there anyone from other cities where a small subset of the public transportation system seems to cater to a specific group of people in a specific area of your city? What works well in those situations? I’m tempted to do some research and give some feedback to our RTA because I think the system isn’t utilized to its potential. Let me know what you think.

“Shaving the Old Way” – the Review

A few weeks ago I wrote about taking up a new the old way of shaving. I promised myself (and a few others) that I’d sit down and consider how this was working out after I’d gotten the hang of it.

Vulfix Super Badger Brush – This is a basic shaving brush made with real badger hair. I’m still not real clear on the “super” in the moniker but I do know that the bigger the brush the more water it holds and the better it lifts the hair and that badger hair is supposed to be the best (especially if you have sensitive skin). I can’t do a comparison to another brush because this is the first brush I’ve ever used. However, after having used this brush I can testify that using any brush is definitely superior to the alternative.

Proraso Shaving Cream – This is an Italian gem. It’s quite cheap ($9.99 for a tube that looks like it’s going to last me a year) and is wonderfully refreshing when slathered on my face at 6 am. The glycerin and eucalyptus tingle probably makes the Vulfix brush seem even more effective. Very little of the soap is required to work up a good lather and it spreads easily over the skin, leaving the face smoothly at the stroke of the razor.

Merkur Futur Razor – This is the reason I’m glad I waited to write up the review. Impression #1: This is a high quality crafted implement. Impression #2: This is a highly qualified deadly weapon (that I plan to bring in contact with my face at 6 am). It really did take three weeks and three new razors to get the hang of this thing. Now (I think) I’ve passed oddly uneven shaves, large facial wounds and even the questions of whether I’ve made a terrible investment (of course I haven’t). I’ve read, bled, and said this before: this isn’t the kind of tool you drag across your face half asleep. I use setting six on the razor which takes the blade the furthest away from the “safety” and seems to work best for my face (I tried the full gamut of settings in my learning period). My shaves are quite close and, if necessary (though it usually isn’t), I can shave daily without irritation. This razor is light years ahead of my old Mach 3 (though the concept and technology are older) and I’d recommend it to anyone who understands that a little work and adjustment up front yield great rewards in the end.

[EDIT] I should probably also go ahead and plug classicshaving.com again – I’ve been quite impressed with their service.