Archive for category lifestyle

On Balancing Life

There’s a lot of talk about “Work-Life Balance”…

I think if there’s no life

There’s no work

Some are doing only work and nothing else…

Others might say “Dude, get a life!”

It’s not either/or. There’s life… and work is a part of it.

But we too often fill up life with work…

But there’s more to life than just work…

We can turn some knobs to adjust how we live life, as in “this week/month/quarter/year I’m doing more of this, less of that”

Turning those knobs can be something well-balanced and thought-out. But it can also be an abrupted change due to unforseen events…

But everything changes, nothing stays the same, so we keep adjusting those dials again as time goes by…

Those areas of life don’t have to be isolated from each other; they can have some overlap!

It’s great to have some shared experiences, with the awareness to keep certain issues on the far edges…

These are some random thoughts and rough drawings I’ve been collecting and figured it might make sense to others out there.

The “knobs and dials” I mention in this post can be adjusted based on Core and Supporting Values.

Leave a comment

Deciding What Book to Read Next

A reading habit can be easily broken if we aren’t sure about what to read next. For many years, that hasn’t been an issue as I’ve been building my book library and there’s always something I can pick up. But how do I decide what to read next?

The easiest approach is to simply pick up a book I want to read and get started. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.

Next best approach is to pick something up that has been referred to me by people who have consistently been giving me good referrals.

Following that, if I’m enjoying a book that I’m reading and the author recommends other books, I add them to my “books wishlist” on Amazon.

When I hear one of my favorite authors have a new book out, I either get it or immediately add it to my wishlist.

Some books have been a referral from multiple sources; I indicate that on my wishlist. If a book has multiple referrals, I put it at the top of my list.

Back in my teenage years when I started reading fiction books in English, I had a practice of starting the next book immediately after finishing the previous one. Over the last several years I simply start reading books whenever I feel like. I don’t wait to finish one before starting another, which means that:

  • I read many books at the same
  • I’m always reading at least one book
  • Some books I finish quickly, others I may go on reading for as long as a few years

How do you decide what book to read next?

Leave a comment

Core and Supporting Values

Last week, I’ve asked if your values overlap with your employers’. As I mentioned, I looked at the list of values and found out my top 2, but I never said what they are. Here you go: legacy and making a difference. That’s what I call my core values. I’ve arrived at those by reflecting on my own life this far, revisiting the main highlights, interactions, and pivotal moments.

Several months after going through that process, I went back to the list to take another look at the other values I had also hightlighted: fairness, gratitude, humor, initiative, patience, personal fulfillment, responsibility, and spirituality. Those are what I call my supporting values.

What’s the distinction between core and supporting? When I look into my future, I hope my core values represent the life I’ve lived. As I look through my past, current moment, and the time between now and my future, I believe my supporting values will guide me to the future I want.

As time goes on, I turn the knobs on each one of those values, adjusting them to handle whatever situation I’m going through, and preparing me to move on to the next step in my journey. By being aware of my values I’m better able to set goals and processes to achieve them; whatever I come up with has to be directly related to one or more of those values.

So what does Improving have to do with any of that?

Improving’s guiding principles of Excellence, Involvement, and Dedication, our culture and Improvers provide me the inspiration, motivation, and environment to live into my values.

As I re-read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I’ve run into these bits where he talks about how we “imitate the close”:

We soak up the qualities and practices of those around us.

Improvers’ qualities and practices have caught my attention when I first met a few of these folks back in 2007. After all these years living in this culture, Clear’s words resonate with me deeply:

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day.

It doesn’t end there:

Your culture sets your expectation for what is “normal”. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.

I’d like to add something to that: in my case, I already had habits that I considered good, and I’ve been able to not only keep those habits but also help others build those habits themselves. Oftentimes, it’s very hard to keep good habits when you’re surrounded by individuals whose habits are the polar opposite of ours.

To wrap up this pair of posts with actionable tips straight off of Clear’s book:

Join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

Leave a comment

Do your values overlap with your employer’s?

Not happy with your job? Find an employer whose values align with your own.

Are you clear on what your values are? I had clues about my own, but it wasn’t until last year when I narrowed them down. How? By actively participating in a book club with my co-workers (something encouraged by Improving’s values).

We covered Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. In a certain section of the book, there’s an activity for the readers to identify their values. It presents a long list of common values. We’re supposed to identify the top 2. Not easy, so we may start with our top 10, and then narrow it down. I found mine. I call the top 2 my core values, and the remaining 8 my supporting values. As I look at Improving’s values and philosophy, I see how the company makes it easy for me to live my own values.

Here are a few practical examples:

  • I’m an avid book reader. Having great people to have conversations about the content enhances the experience a lot. We put the word out in our internal technical communities, and book clubs are formed.
  • I identify a need for a space where I can gather motorcycle track riders who want to discuss their experiences, analyze their learnings, share their tips. I create the community and I get the space at Improving to have our meetings.
  • My co-workers show interest in the practices I have to organize life, set and execute goals, pick up hobbies, learn languages. I put together my notes, create classes, and offer them as internal training. Many people join in, we deepen our relationships and have a great time.
  • I’ve been practicing meditation, financial health, physical activities. Improving comes up with an internal, year-long initiative focusing the month of January on wellness. Tons of people join in, experiences are shared, good times are had, great results are achieved.

I could keep going on and on. In fact, the subject comes up in my mourning journalling very frequently. Sometimes, I make those words surface in this blog. Other times, I keep them to myself, as I introspect and look for ways to increase and/or leverage the overlap there is between my values and Improving’s.

Leave a comment

My Favorite Quotes in 2021

I’ve just reviewed my favorite quotes in 2020, which gave me some ideas for potential blog posts. But for this post, here are my favorite quotes collected in 2021. These are quotes that made me write them up on my whiteboard, reflect, journal, introspect. Hopefully you’ll find one or two that’ll have the same effect on you!

“The best ideas are the honest ones. Ones born out of personal experience. Ones that originated to help a few and ended up helping many.” – Simon Sinek

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain

“Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.” – Seneca

“Instead of getting angry at other people’s poor execution, focus on the deficiencies in your instruction. Instead of resenting their protest, examine whether you’ve been persuasive enough. Don’t get mad about red tape—think about all the bad ideas this process actually has helped stop. Be forgiving of other people’s stupidity or rudeness—because you’ve been plenty guilty of it yourself at one time or another.” – Daily Stoic

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” – Marcus Aurelius

“One of the greatest discoveries a person makes is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

“Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts!” – Seneca

“Our worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.” – Marcus Aurelius

“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.” – Seneca

“Though you cannot go back and start again, you can start from now and have a brand new end.” – Unknown

“An amateur practices until they can play it correctly, a professional practices until they can’t play it incorrectly.” – Unknown

“A writer—and, I believe, generally all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

“Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.” – Andy Benoit

“Nothing but opinion is the cause of a troubled mind” – Epictetus

“A virtuous person does not jump to hasty judgments about other people. A virtuous person is generous with assumptions.” – Daily Stoic

“The world will ask you who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.” – Carl Jung

“Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.” – Albert Einstein

“Where you are is a result of who you were, but where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be.” – Hal Elrod

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” – Mary Pickford

motivational-quotes-3248657_960_720_full.jpg

Leave a comment

New Year’s Resolution? Have a 365-day resolution, instead!

January 1st is the official first day of far too many unreached goals.

Why wait? If something is important to you, start now! Start where you are, with what you know, and with what you have. Find the tiniest action to get started, and by all means, do it.

I decided to write this post this morning. On this same day last year, I’ve run into a 365-day program that I was interested in. At first I thought, “well, I’ll wait about a week so I start it on January 1st”. Fortunately, I had the clarity of telling myself “why wait? Just start now!” Well, I did, and I completed the 365th day today.

 

Leave a comment

How to Lead When You’re NOT in Charge – Identity

We have just started a Book Club at Improving to discuss the book How to Lead When you’re NOT in Charge. I’ll be posting some of my main thoughts here as we cover two chapters per week.

“Great leaders leverage influence and relationships over title and position. Influence has always been, and will always be, the currency of leadership. Influence always outpaces authority.

Those bits got me thinking back to when I was 16 or so. For whatever reason, at least at the time, Brazilians used to use the “Dr.” prefix for the bosses (usually directors and such), regardless as to whether the person had a doctorate or not. That to me was a sign of title and authority over leadership (I’ll just say the person didn’t act as a leader).

“Once you become aware of something, you start seeing it everywhere”

 

That one comes up often. Keep an open mind, increase awareness, increase the potential of influencing others.

“Take responsibility to make great what you can make great. And let others do it in the areas that they can make great.” – Jim Collins

 

That bit makes me think of the disservice it is to not let others perform what they’re great at. For example, instead of doing something myself, even though I don’t know how to do it, just for the sake of saving some bucks, is a disservice to those who do that for a living.

“Leading without authority means you need to have a clear understanding of your identity – who you are as a leader, apart from any titles.”

That one had me thinking that many times I have not even put myself as a leader, but ended up being followed, mostly because people know what I stand for and look up to me for guidance.

In speaking of leaders and followers, I always think of one of my favorite TED talks, “How to start a movement, by Derek Sivers”.

“The most important ongoing conversation you have in your life is the one you have with yourself every day.”

This is another point that comes up in many places; this idea of “the story we tell ourselves”.

“The more you understand the makeup of your personality, the better you can understand how your identity shapes your thoughts, desires, and decisions, and the better you’ll be able to work with others.”

I’ve had conversations over the last couple of years that have helped me understand that thought better. There are traits I have that I wasn’t quite aware of, until someone else pointed it out to me. I then started being more deliberate about it; if it’s something people relate to, I might as well leverage it as a “super power”.

“Architecture of Identity: Past, People, Personality, Purpose, Priorities”

James Clear’s post on Identity-based Habits got me thinking a lot about this many years ago and I’ve been often reviewing my habits and how they line up with my desired identity.

“The clearer you are about who you are…
– The more consistent you’ll be with others
– The more confident you’ll be about what you do
– The less concerned you’ll be with the opinion of others
– The less confused you’ll be by your emotions”

I have worked with a number of clients as a consultant, where I didn’t have the authority to be a formal leader, and yet, consultants were expected to demonstrate informal leadership behavior.

And a point in the book that really hit home: “Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. What was his title again?

Leave a comment

Obviously, everybody knows that, of course!

Whenever we say things like “obviously” and “of course”, we risk shutting the doors of communication.

What may be obvious for us today, wasn’t so obvious when we didn’t know it. Once we’ve known it for a while, we take it for granted, and it becomes obvious to us, but it’s still NOT obvious to those who don’t know it.

People who hear “obviously, eveybody knows that” may feel stupid asking for clarification. I know I’ve refrained myself from asking questions because of that, having to take note and then do some research afterward, missing important information through the end of a meeting due to my temporary ignorance.

Crystal clear to some, blurry to others.

Different people learn at different pace. We see things through different lenses. The image in front of us maybe be opaque due to life’s experiences or inexperiences, opportunities or lack of. We travel different roads to enlightenment and hit different bumps along the way.

I can’t remember when and where I first heard of the issues with using those words, but ever since I did, I’ve been watching my words.

Leave a comment

Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2020

Here are some of my favorites books read in 2020, in no particular order.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Derek Sivers has a great summary of that book. I’ve read the book around the same time when I finished watching The Good Place (which I loved!). Both the book and the series touch on topics I catch myself thinking about often.

The Phoenix Project / The Unicorn Project

I enjoyed both books a lot. I like the novel approach (inspired by The Goal, which is another book I like).

Badass: Making Users Awesome

I absolutely loved this book!! Watch this 2-minute long video. I’ve enjoyed this book so much that it’s one of the books I have on my list to re-read this year.

Total Recall / Losing My Virginity

Those are the autobiographies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Branson, respectively. Two remarkable individuals.

Hell Yeah or No / Your Music and People

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed I mention Derek Sivers quite often. I’ve been following his writings for several years and will continue to do so; he keeps putting out great stuff in a very simple, distilled manner.

The Obstacle is the Way

I’ve been hearing and reading people talk about stoicism a lot over the years, but never really sat down to look more into it, until last year. I’ve enjoyed The Obstacle is the Way, and even gifted a copy to a friend, with page markers on passages that I believe can help him accomplish the dream he’s chasing.

Image by Linus Schütz

Leave a comment

On Failure

An artist I look up to is Devin Townsend. He is an amazing singer, prolific songwriter, hilarious in his performance, and a great mind.

Months ago, I’ve run into the Devin Townsend Challenge video. From its description: “Get a unique insight into Devin Townsend’s creative process in this two-hour video where he records a completely new track from scratch.” I was intrigued and am glad I’ve watched the whole thing. It’s not everyday we get a chance to witness a brilliant mind at work.

Devin’s albums and concerts are always very polished. Everything looks and sounds flawless. This is one of my favorite songs and performances by him: Devin Townsend’s Kingdom

The most important thing I got out of his “challenge” was his transparency into his process. He didn’t try to make anything look or sound perfect. He showed how he fails many times until he finds what he’s looking for. He also shows how he uses certain building blocks that have worked well for him, which are part of his musical fingerprint, so new creations come out a little easier.

I then found this great article:

Devin Townsend’s Advice to Younger Musicians: “You Need to Learn How to Fail Efficiently”

The title of that article alone already makes me sit back and think about it.

How much effort goes into trying NOT to fail? That’s a waste of energy. We’re not likely to get it right the first time. And even if we do, what do we learn from it? I don’t know who said this, but it’s a good quote: “It’s only failure if you don’t learn from it”.

A few weeks ago I’ve put up a dartboard in the house. Say I walk up to it, throw the first dart, hoping to hit the bullseye, and it doesn’t come even close. I can get frustrated, say I suck, throw the 2nd dart, and do even worse. Or, I can throw the 1st dart accepting that I may not hit the bullseye, but being aware of things such as how I’m holding the dart, how I’m aiming, how much force I’m using to throw, the dart’s trajectory, etc. Then I see the result, and try it again, learning off the experience I’ve just had, coming up with a new plan (throw higher, softer, relax the arm, etc.) and then there’s a good chance the 2nd throw will go a little better. Rinse and repeat.

So, as Devin says, we need to learn how to fail efficiently, so we aren’t afraid of failing, and are better equipped to give our best and learn with the experience.

I love this quote from a TV show I’ve never watched:

“Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” – Jake, “Adventure Time”

We all have a tendency to see successful people and get frustrated when we can’t repeat their success. We compare our beginning to someone else’s middle. We don’t think of all the roads they tried to get to where they are. I think of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek hugely successful book, and how it was rejected 25 times, before he finally got an offer from a publisher. 25 times! We are always afraid of failing one single time, let alone 25 times.

Here’s a great 5-minute talk on Why You Need to Fail, by Derek Sivers.

There are many things I want to do, many goals to pursue. I’ll add a task to each one as a reminder to ask myself “how can I fail efficiently?”.

Leave a comment