Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Be water, my friend.

Posted: September 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

I have a tendency to seek control over most of the things in my life. I treat time as a sacred commodity that must be utilized to its fullest. One of my greatest frustrations is wasted time, an irksome pet peeve that has grown over the years to make it hard for me to even enjoy a rerun. It can be useful, as it pushes me to seek out spare time and fill it with reading, writing, or pursuing the myriad of other habits I am seeking to install in my life. But it can also lead to an inflexibility, a resistance to spontaneity and general r&r. That was the principal driving force behind my pre-vacation rant about rallying against the power of a holiday to derail well-planned, well-structured day-to-day plans. As the first day of my vacation arrived however, I realized that I had two choices. I could stick to the plan, forcing my dailies into play amidst pool-time. beaches and some excellent revelry with friends and family. Or I could submit to the moment, suspend all of the current demands I had placed upon myself, and be like water. Become the revelry.

I chose the latter.

I realized that my entire motivation to keep plugging away at these things during my one week of vacation was spawned by a fear of failure, a fear that not maintaining my coveted plan that had mastered my freetime to maximum effect would derail the whole plan. Missing a single day meant abandoning the flow, breaking the chain, and ending a two week streak of completing my daily habits.

It meant letting go.

So let go I did. I watched football, played in the pool, visited the beach, looked the stars and saw the Milky Way and a shooting star… I let the week take me within the tides of its own design and allowed myself a week without control.

It was simply great, culminating over the weekend with a spontaneous stay in Savannah rather than making the full drive home in one go. It was my first time there and I loved it. The people were grand, the atmosphere was fun and energetic and historic all at once. The great trees with the beards of Spanish moss lined the streets, leading to 18th century cemeteries and beautiful parks. By the time we made it home Sunday night, I could truly say I had filled my time with fun without having used a minute of it.

With Monday of course came a return to work and the dailies. The site I use to manage my daily goals, Habitica, thankfully has a ‘Stay at the Inn’ feature, which enabled me to pause the goals for the week I was gone. I checked out Monday morning and began once again engaging with these goals of reading, writing and working out that I find so much value within

I also left on a new project in the Everglades. I have been lucky enough to work from home these last two months, but it was at last time to head back out into the field, hiking through forests and grasslands in search of buried history. Despite the knee-high water and the mosquitoes, the physical work itself, my coworkers and being back in nature has made my return that much more satisfying. As always we have our random animal encounters. There have been a few gators, a water moccasin, herds and herds of staring, half-interested cattle, bounding deer and a great array of bird species. Something about it all just adds a certain extra value to my life I cannot quite explain.

So now the dailies are being integrated into my hotel-living lifestyle while I travel and dig, and all the while I am hoping to incorporate new plans into this system as I become more acclimated to being back in the field. The book is coming along nicely, and if things continue as they have I am hoping to be ready to go into editing mode and start pursuing publishing options as soon as the new years starts.

In the meantime, I must remember Bruce Lee’s wonderful advice. I must be like water. Be fluid. Adapt. Evolve. Do not be a slave to your goals. Pursue them vigorously, but enjoy the everyday while you do.

How do I learn to follow through?

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

Answer by Michael Offord on Quora:

I have always found this to be the most difficult and necessary aspect of any successes I have had in life. You can dream, organize and plan until the idea of what you want to achieve is hovering right there before you, and then it all falls to ashes the moment you fail to follow through.

I believe that we each have our own motivations, that learning to follow through is different for each of us, but I can speak to the ways I have found brought me the most success.

Central to any plan I have set into motion is a built-in rewards/punishment system. When I was younger, this involved writing out scenarios where I had succeeded in my plan and where I had failed, and truly trying to put myself in both of those futures and actually feel the success and the loss.

To keep this system of visualization strong, I then incorporate these ideas and images into my everyday life. A ringtone that reminds me of the cost of not following through, a desktop wallpaper containing bits of what I hope to achieve, or even a dry erase board that I face everyday presenting these realities side by side.

My second system I installed to keep me motivated to act was actually borrowed from Seinfeld. Just google “Seinfeld chain” and you’ll see how big this idea has grown. It basically entails using a calendar to mark each day you succeed at a said goal or list of goals, and then after a few days of success you start building your chain. The key is to not break it. At one point I was using multiple colors to represent multiple goals, creating multiple chains that I did not want to break.

More recently in my life I have begun to add to this a third element, what is now referred to as gamification. If you haven’t come across it, it is the art of transforming the daily activities of your life into a game of sorts, where you can gain levels, earn things, have your health injured or have privileges taken away, etc. It has been the most fun and rewarding system I have used. There are a ton of apps and sites dedicated to this, and it really has held me accountable to following through everyday on the habits and tasks I have set up for myself.

And really that is what it comes down to through all of these little devices, it’s accountability. You have to create a situation in which you find yourself accountable each day that you follow through or do not follow through. If your interested, I have been keeping a blog about my most recent foray into gamifying my life at Chatter of the Ego. Specifically the entry titled
The Tao of Gamification explains the process of gamifying your goals, and goes through some of the tools I have found over the last few years.

I hope this helps!

How do I learn to follow through?

Wow.

So I’ve spent a good part of my morning swimming through my endless sea of folders and files scattered across several computers, external hard drives and jump drives. I am attempting to organize the chaos, and in so doing am coming across self-reflective writings and audio recordings more than a decade old. They speak of a life unfulfilled, of frustration, of demons and sadness and a sense of being lost and without direction. There is drinking and smoking, audio clips from parties, and from private self-reflections, there is writing about goals and fear and despair… It is a little striking, looking through this window at a Me that once was.

My first impression, how morose and inspired I can be all at once! I was so passionate, creative, and yet there is a sense of desolation and fear of a stark and failing future. I am constantly setting up goals, with constantly running threads of quitting smoking, putting a stop to the partying, getting serious about health and fitness, and forever searching for jobs. I am lamenting in recordings about the fate I have created for myself and that the only way it will change is if I change. There are money issues, legal issues, car issues, life issues…

To be fair it’s rather inspiring, considering where I am now (so many of those boxes that remained unticked for years are ticked now). The passion and creativity is also interesting, that idea of inspiration drawn from suffering somehow exemplified by my struggles to break bad patterns and find a path in life.

The next thing I noticed is the myriad of half-written works left behind in the wake of my meandering whirlwind of inspired desperation. So many writing projects, so many started stories that are a paragraph, a page or even chapters long. A few are solidly between halfway and fully being a complete book. Another of those to-do list items that worry a constant thread though my ramblings is this need to ‘get back to’ writing. This is a thread that has continued to this day, a 15 year reminder to return to my writings, to create, and ultimately finish, the stories in my mind.

This is perhaps the greatest casualty of my life, that my writings are always in flux, that my bouts of creativity come in waves. At times I was writing for months at a time, at others only weeks or even a few days of fevered inspiration. Yet there is this eternal lack of completion. The smoking, drinking, jobs, education… these things I slowly conquered and put behind me. But the writing, it is forever my passion, and forever my burden.

Ah, so now the grim reflections of my youth are seeping into my present day. Nice to see you 20-something Mike, can I borrow some of that passion and creativity? Yes, this is my house. Yes, I have a beautiful wife who supports me and makes me laugh everyday. Haha yeah man, I did become an archaeologist. Crazy right? You were a part of that.

On that note, I need to turn to those very writings and make something inspired today. No prompts, no fun writing exercises…. I need to pick a project out of the pile and run with it.

It’s only just begun and I’m ready to make a report. So far, so good, so sore.

I am finding time for the simple habits. I’ve been able to do more than the minimum on the coding, the Spanish lessons, and the CrashCourse classes. The reading has been ‘just enough’, though for work I am report writing this week rather than digging holes so I am reading through a lot of material outside of the leisure reading for which the goal was set. The writing is likewise partly consumed by the report writing, and so far all the creative bits have been through a website I’ve used from time to time to conjure inspiration (http://writerkata.com/). It’s a series of prompts that begin with sentences, grows into paragraphs, then the last prompt requires a short story. It’s fun, challenging, and forces me to write about things I would never usually consider doing on my own. I may use this forum to post a few of those, perhaps through another thread.

The meditating has been simple enough to incorporate. I have enough apps to allow me creative control on what type I am doing. I can do anything from a quick 10 minute breathing meditation to a deep, half-hour guided meditation. The yoga has likewise been simple to integrate, using it as a warm up to the workouts and running.

The workouts and running now, that’s been the trickiest to place into time and space. It takes a bit more commitment. There’s a wardrobe change, a shower, a TV takeover for the workout that entails a bit of privacy from my wife and father-in-law, and of course the actual physical commitment. And yet I still managed an intense 40 minute workout yesterday, and a solid 2+ mile run today.

Thus far this is a pretty dry rundown of how these changes have functioned in my life these past two days, but the results are what we’re going for here, and it’s still too early for that. Well… my legs and shoulders are already pretty sore, so there’s that. I must pace myself, and remember that I haven’t exercised or ran in months (despite my job of hiking and digging holes everyday). I am eager to see progress, to feel results, both physically and in the skill sets I am working on. Of all the pursuits, the results of learning to code and improving my writing have a much larger endgame, to forge skills that lead into new ventures, to create worlds and hopefully new avenues of income.

I also want to expand upon this journal writing. In parallel to my self-monitoring in this pursuit of new habits, skills and levels of fitness, I should be reflecting on the world around me. I should be writing a series on archaeology, a series on writing, a commentary on politics, the state of humanity, or a reflection on science, technology and space! I should be commenting on how Leonard Nimoy just passed and what he meant to me, on the speech the Israeli PM just made in Congress and all that I felt it meant to the world. There’s so much chatter in my mind about the myriad of things this world contains, and while perhaps people don’t necessarily want to hear it, I should be tossing it out there anyway.

And so I will… it’s not part of the March challenge, but I will work on extending the journaling into these realms.

For now though, it’s been an accomplished two days, and so I depart for a little space exploration as reward.

I have been chomping at the bit to start another self-improvement plan and have only now found the time and inspiration to set one in motion. The last venture was a 21 day project involving fitness, good reading & writing habits, and pushing to get that oh-so coveted job in the field for which I went to school, archaeology. It ended just a few days shy of 21 days, but with good reason. After a year of random jobs that demanded so much of my time and gave so little satisfaction in return, I finally found myself employed by an actual archaeological firm. I suddenly had no time to finish my 21 day plan as I was bounced about the country getting paid to dig holes in the earth. That was October. Flash-forward more than four months and I have had the opportunity to be a part of projects all across the eastern US. It has been fantastic, fun and immensely satisfying. The people are wonderful, the projects range from routine to fascinating, and working outdoors… there’s nothing better!

So why a change now?

This time around the goal is more inspired and perhaps less desperate than the previous plan. When I implemented the 21 day plan last September, it was because I did not like what I was getting paid to do, nor did I enjoy having all of my spare time consumed. I am in a different world now, where my job is satisfying, and my spare time is exactly that, spare and mine to use. I have up until now been utilizing it for some productive things, but admittedly after a year of working 7 days a week it has largely been filled with fun times with the wife while catching up on the movies, tv shows and video games I left behind so long ago. As a result some of the habits I sought to implement within the previous plan have fallen to the wayside, specifically the writing and working out. So for the past few weeks I have been cultivating this plan to reinvigorate those habits, as well as grow a few others that may prove useful in the future. It began with a series of plans, each one containing a series of habits to achieve those plans. You must understand, I have a penchant for organizing things in excel, for color coding, and for code names.

Plans

To make it simple:

The Ninja Warrior plan is to get in shape. It is achieved through working out (Hulk Out) and running (Zombies!).

The Taoist Master plan is get my mind and spirit in alignment. I am hoping to do this through daily meditation (Zen) and maintaining this journal.

The Chatter of the Ego plan is to engage and develop my literacy skills. This is through my most revisited and usually well-maintained habits, reading and writing everyday.

The Endless Education plan is to expand upon my skills and open up new doors. I have jumped in and out of coding for years and want to use to finally solidify those skills (Code Monkey). I also am reengaging my spanish lessons (Linguistics) and taking online courses in random science fields of my choosing (CrashCourse).

Next, I needed to assign the habits values:

Habits

Once I figured out what habits were necessary to achieve my plans, and the frequency with which they needed repeated weekly, I then worked out a schedule.

Schedule

Now I know that this may all seem like A LOT of planning, and for many they would say ‘just do it!’ For me though, i need structure and planning if I am ever to act on and maintain a series of habits. This is what works for my brain.

The final step was making this portable and setting it within a reminder/reward system, which is what I did during my last 21 day plan and it worked beautifully. So I have a special calendar app within which all of these details are entered throughout the duration of the plan. I also have them entered in an app called LfeRPG that tracks your progress and rewards you with experience points as you complete each task. For example, when I completed my coding course earlier this morning, it gave me experience points towards gaining a level, as well as feeding experience points into computers and intelligence. Different habits have different attributes they feed into, often crossing over depending on what they help to grow.

I know I know, it seems like a lot of build-up around a simple to-do list, but for whatever reason it’s how my brain works, and this is what makes me take action. I’ve nearly cleared my actions for day 1 (still have to Yoga and Hulk Out), and I feel the momentum within me to follow this through to its entirety. Oh, and this time around I’m going past the 21 day mark and making it a full four-week program. It ends on the 29th of March. I’ve also deleted all social apps from my phone and blocked them from my computer. That worked well last time as sites like Facebook and Reddit can consume an hour in the blink of an eye.

Finally, as with all the habits within this plan, the values assigned to each are minimums. I intend to do much more writing and coding than I’ve allotted, and I would like to write in this journal more than once a week.

That’s it for now. I will update again soon, maybe with greater detail on the individual tasks and how they are going.

It’s pretty amazing how the matter of a few days can flip your entire life upside down. Strolling through Ikea with the wife this past Tuesday afternoon, I received a phone call that has changed everything about our lives. By its end I accepted a job offer, bringing my jobs-I-quit-this-month to five. That’s right, I quit five jobs in September.

The offer was from a company I have been pining for and to which I had submitted my CV back in June. I had advanced past the initial review phase and was granted an interview. It seemed to go well, and I was advised I would be contacted for a second interview within the week. That was the last contact I had with them, and of course after a certain period of time assumed that road to be closed. Yet suddenly on Tuesday they called, apologizing for the disconnect and actually praising my CV. After a year of fighting and applying for jobs within the career for which I have spent the last five years in school, such praise is appreciated and needed. One begins to wonder, to question, to reevaluate what they believed to be of high value and consider why no one else can see it. So after the long-awaited second interview, and tentative offer was made, and by the following morning an outright job offer was sitting in my inbox to get paid to do what I loved, to get paid to play in the dirt.

So I have had to resign from my new job that replaced my new job that replaced my two jobs, as well as notify the museum I volunteer at that I won’t be able to help out for the foreseeable future. On Monday I drive out to a site for five days here in Florida, to process paperwork and get aligned to their methods. Then the following Monday I’m flying northward for a project that will keep me in the midwest for the next four to six weeks. Like I said, upside down.

My wife of course is amazing and more supportive than any man deserves, and we are quickly striving to align our life to this new reality. I still can’t get my head around it, feeling like it’s a long time coming and completely out of the blue all at once. I knew that September was going to be the harbinger of change, which is what inspired me to quit the two part-time gigs in favor of more stable work with actual days off. It also is what inspired Project 21Days for which this new journal was to be the record. Sadly despite all the positives, Project 21days was perhaps the most tragic casualty of this whirlwind of change. The sudden shift in priorities and new list of things I now need to get done before these two trips put a halt to the project, and I have not had the time to write, lift, run, etc (though I still read everyday of course). Nearly made it to the full 21 days… sort of a shame, but well within reason. I have new patterns to implement right now.

The greatest lesson from this week though lies in the faith system I have relied upon for a decade or more. I have always believed that when you have goals, work hard, be true, honest and steadfast, the universe unfolds. When you are dedicated, and clear, and work on the steps necessary for your ultimate goals, the universe unfolds to provide resources, help you through chaos and provide a clear path. That faith has been shaken as of late. Now past a year since moving here, applying endlessly for the opportunity to do what I love, what I have studied and been trained to do, the universe didn’t seem to be unfolding. I bought a new car on the faith that it was a necessary tool, and quit my jobs to shake up my reality and redirect my attention. Yet the car had a surprise mechanical issue, and the job thing wasn’t quite heading where I wanted it. Then the car thing resolved itself, and the job thing, well, I think it clearly turned out better than I could’ve ever imagined. I stayed the course despite the whirlwind, and the universe unfolded.

So I keep the faith, and I keep on digging.

Adding rocks to the pile…

Posted: September 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

As I have been terrible at utilizing this, I am attempting to create a post from my phone. Let’s see how my patience holds out.

So week two has begun, and the habits I’ve introduced seem to be falling into place with greater ease. The run every other day and the workouts are becoming easier. I am finding my time to write and read everyday, often exceeding my minimum time commitments I’ve established. The Spanish lessons are likewise quite fluid. Though I’m realizing I need more time and investment there to establish it as a second language.

On top of the habits, employment has become interesting. I am in the last week of both my part-time jobs (one ends Wed, the other Fri). I worked my first day at their original replacement the day before yesterday, but as of now I’m terminating that path and starting a brand new one this Saturday. It’s a tad peculiar that at this time in my life while taking on all these new daily habits, for this brief moment I have four jobs.

Despite the appearance of having all the jobs, come this Monday I’ll be down to one, and have my first pair of days off in recent memory. The pairing of two part-time jobs for the past year has meant working 7 days a week for most of that time, with a few breaks scattered throughout the last 12 months. The final resolution on taking this new gig is that it will keep me open to engage with archaeology and explore what I can do with my writing.

On a personal level, it means days off with the wife, and more time to appreciate the everyday. I did not spend the past five years in school and move to sunny Florida to start down another 9-5 career path. I did it to expand my works, and I intend for it to continue expanding until my last breath.

One Week In

Posted: September 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

So my original intention was to utilize this everyday as I began Project 21 Days, yet of course like all best laid plans that has gone awry. Thankfully the plan itself has not, and I have completed the first six days of the journey with every goal completed thus far. That isn’t to say it hasn’t had it’s difficult moments.

First, to summarize. In the previous post I simply shared the tasks I had come up with, their frequency within the week and the amount of time I needed to commit to them on each of their scheduled days. This is the actual schedule I created based on those goals:

So far the hardest thing has been balancing work and some of the harder, more demanding requirements like lifting and writing. The reading, spanish and running/swimming have been a bit easier to incorporate into my daily life (though the running/swimming has taught me very quickly how out of shape I am). Somehow though I have hit my marks everyday, and am confident I can continue to do so over the remainder of these 21 days.

Overall it has all been greatly rewarding. The reading I had already gained momentum on so that was not a challenge, though it’s useful having that expectation to keep my nose in a book. The Spanish lessons likewise were easy to jump back into as I’ve only recently been getting lax about it. The lifting has been an incredible challenge but also one of the most rewarding. It feels fantastic, like a battle every time against previous limitations. The added changes to my diet have been a little tricky, but it was basically picking up where I left off months ago.

The writing has perhaps been the most rewarding, despite being difficult to find the hour everyday. I really want to see these characters and this story develop and grow, and the more I focus on it, purposefully (and with great effort) blocking all other distractions, the better the work seems to become.

That is perhaps the greatest lesson so far in all of this, that my greatest hurdle is my attention span, which constantly wants to jump from writing to reading to the web to a game to any other random shiny thing. Besides having blocked Facebook & Reddit (though I think this thing automatically posts to FB, so if you comment on it I won’t see it), I have an app that basically serves as a focus timer. It allows me my task for a certain period, gives me a five minute break, then puts me back into it. While the app is running I can’t do anything else, and I keep catching myself reaching for the phone or my book and then having to force my hands back to the keyboard. The hope is that over these 21 days (and beyond of course) I can recondition my mind to have greater focus, to hone my attention on the task at hand until it’s time for another.

That’s it for today. Had to cram this in as well, and now I need sleep before working two jobs tomorrow. I know in one of my outgoing posts on FB I mentioned giving notice to my two current jobs that I was leaving. While I am currently finishing up my last week or so at both places, I have two other jobs I am starting this week alongside my volunteering at the Historical Center in Tampa. So for right now, I have all the jobs. Things will of course simmer down over the next few weeks, but this coming one… it’s going to be helluva time.

Project 21Days

Posted: September 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

This is the beginning…
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