Blog

All posts are my own opinons and do not repersent any organization I am affiliated with.

Book: The Time Keeper

How often do you look at a clock?

Weekdays for me it can't be less than once every 5 minutes. The granularity with which I schedule things during the week is usually in 30-minute blocks although sometimes as narrow as 15-minute blocks. On weekends I try not to schedule anything with a precision greater than half a day. Meaning I could make a morning and afternoon plan, but won't schedule anything at a specific time. Though I will still look at a clock about every hour just to feel grounded.

Every once and a while I pick up a book that I just can not put down before finishing, this happened with The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom. Through a fictional story, he explores the world before timekeeping and the first people who start counting the days, hours and seconds.

Reading the book has made me really aware of how powerful a role timekeeping plays in modern life. I've been wondering what it would be like to not look at a clock for something like an entire week. Normally I'll follow a clock to know what I'm supposed to be doing now and what I'll be doing next. It would be a really interesting experiment to instead work on things at my internal pace. Changing activities when I feel like I've spent enough time on whatever I'm currently doing. I certainly think this would reduce anxiety. Although it would make it very difficult to work effectively with others who expect things to happen at a specific time. I'm considering blocking a day on my calendar every week to simply follow my internal clock.

Why We Take Pictures

Life is not all instagram moments.
It's becoming more difficult to ignore the picture perfect lives friends seem to live through their instagram feeds.
It's 4am and I'm in the airport heading home from California. I spent the last few days as a tourist on the Pacific coast.
It seemed like everywhere we went people's first priority was taking pictures. Moving on from a spot once they got a good shot.
Focused on capturing the moment more than living it.
Photos are great because they help us remember a moment. They are not the moment.
Instagram glamorizes the visually pleasing moments. But these easy moments aren't what makes life full.
The best parts of life aren't easy. You've heard this. And it's worth remembering in the age of instant gratification.
Many of my best memories and most fulfilling expirences were gruelingly difficult.
There is this natural desire to remove difficulty from our lives one piece at a time.
But lean in to the difficult. Embrace the challenge.
Listen to that part of your brain that knows the right thing to do, not just the easiest thing to do.
The right thing will be hard.
Having a difficult conversation with a loved one, fighting for what you feel like you deserve.
This stuff is what makes you grow. What makes life full.
Looking like you have a great life is not having a great life.
All we get is now. We never experience tomorrow or yesterday.
So focus less on capturing and more on living.
Yes I got many photos of the beach this weekend. But I also tried to take some of myself and friend smiling in a random moment.
The pictures of the beach will remind me of my vanity.
And the pictures of us smiling will remind me of joy.

What's Going on With David?

If you've seen me in the past week, you could probably tell that something was off. I'm not normally the most jubilant person in the world, but I like to laugh and smile as much as anyone else does. Additionally, I love to see others smile and I believe spreading joy is one of the most fulfilling things we humans can do. This last week I haven't laughed. I haven't smiled. And I certainly haven't made anyone else laugh or smile. My world has been colored gray, and I've just gone through the motions. So what's going on?

On and off for most of my life, I've struggled with depression. It's a hard thing to admit. And up until recently, I had never used the word depressed to describe myself or the way I've felt. Actually using the word is pretty scary but also feels relieving.

My depression is episodic. Meaning it occurs for short periods of time. Usually, a few days or a few weeks in length and then I return to normal. The time in between episodes is usually months. Overall I spend more time feeling good than depressed. This is something I've been tracking with the happiness tracker here on my blog. It's easy to see an increase in my happiness over the last year.

If I've blown you off in the past week, or just seemed cold and uninterested. Please reach out again. Thank you for bearing with me during the hard times. I really do look forward to the good times, which I've learned are never as far away as they feel.

When I am depressed I am locked in my own world. Prevented from having the empathy needed to see into the lives of those around me. This is truly the most difficult part of depression and can make me feel very alone. That wasn't the case this time. This week I was pulled out of the rabbit hole really quickly by a couple amazing people. To those who have given their time to listen to and mentor me, your investment is treasured. And your belief in me has changed my perception of myself.

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If you are struggling with depression and keep it to yourself, consider sharing with friends and family what you are going through. There should not be any shame associated with your mental health and it will make recovery many times easier. If you don't know where to start, talk to me. I'll listen.

From Russia with Dreams

I recently finished reading Garry Kasparov's Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped. Garry is a chess grandmaster and was the world chess champion from 1986 to 2005. He is the guy who famously lost to IBMs Deep Blue computer in 1997. His book mostly talks about events in Russian history focusing on the rise to power of Vladimir Putin. Garry's perspective and writing are very thoughtful and if you are interested in modern Russin history I highly recommend reading it.

One quote from the book about the Russian mentality has stayed with me "[In Russia] thinking people do not aspire to self-realization." Self-realization being "fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one's character or personality."

The quote struck me with a sharp contrast to American mentality and particularly The American Dream. The Dream being, a path to better one's life through hard work and determination. It makes me sad to think of how many people in the world are not able to dream with such audacity. In many people's plans, the first part of building a better life is leaving their home country for a place more like the United States. A place where personal growth, through hard work and determination, is a realistic possibility.

Today I'm not taking for granted my privilege of being able to build a better future for myself and my loved ones in the country where I was born. Along these lines, I'll leave you with one of my favorite speeches from Warren Buffett.

Just imagine that it is 24 hours before you are born. A genie comes and says to you in the womb, “You look like an extraordinarily responsible, intelligent, potential human being. [You're] going to emerge in 24 hours and it is an enormous responsibility I am going to assign to you — determination of the political, economic and social system into which you are going to emerge. You set the rules, any political system, democracy, parliamentary, anything you wish — you can set the economic structure, communistic, capitalistic, set anything in motion and I guarantee you that when you emerge this world will exist for you, your children and grandchildren.

What’s the catch? One catch — just before you emerge you have to go through a huge bucket with 7 billion slips, one for each human. Dip your hand in and that is what you get — you could be born intelligent or not intelligent, born healthy or disabled, born black or white, born in the US or in Bangladesh, etc. You have no idea which slip you will get. Not knowing which slip you are going to get, how would you design the world? Do you want men to push around females? It’s a 50/50 chance you get female. If you think about the political world, you want a system that gets what people want. You want more and more output because you’ll have more wealth to share around.

The US is a great system, turns out $50,000 GDP per capita, 6 times the amount when I was born in just one lifetime. But not knowing what slip you get, you want a system that once it produces output, you don’t want anyone to be left behind. You want to incentivize the top performers, don’t want equality in results, but do want something that those who get the bad tickets still have a decent life. You also don’t want fear in people’s minds — fear of lack of money in old age, fear of cost of health care.  I call this the “Ovarian Lottery.”

My sisters didn’t get the same ticket. Expectations for them were that they would marry well, or if they work, would work as a nurse, teacher, etc. If you are designing the world knowing 50/50 male or female, you don’t want this type of world for women — you could get female. Design your world this way; this should be your philosophy. I look at Forbes 400, look at their figures and see how it’s gone up in the last 30 years. Americans at the bottom are also improving, and that is great, but we don’t want that degree of inequality. Only governments can correct that. Right way to look at it is the standpoint of how you would view the world if you didn’t know who you would be. If you’re not willing to gamble with your slip out of 100 random slips, you are lucky!

Buffet quote text source: http://www.businessinsider.com/warren-buffett-on-the-ovarian-lottery-2013-12

Work Backwards

David Brown reminded me of a great piece of advice a couple weeks ago. Advice that in and of itself is totally obvious, in retrospect. It is: work backward. Start with picturing the result you want and in your mind work back to the present. Visualizing the path and thinking "what can I do now, to get closer to this goal?"

The mental exercise can result in many possible paths for achieving an outcome. I believe it is important to not just pick one of those paths and stick to it without any deviation. As new information is learned the best path always changes. Dynamism is important. The exercise is more useful to get a range of possible ways to achieve an outcome.

When I can visualize realistic paths to a goal, something that once seemed impossible and lofty feels attainable. This helpful for me to establish confidence in the things I am doing today.