Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Recharging

This concept is essential to maintaining a balance in your life and preventing burnout. The more intense the work and it’s related stress, the more relaxed and disconnected the recharging period. That is the rule, the ying and the yang of life.

Heed it or ignore it at your own peril.

The Very, Very, Very Hot Seat

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Pull up a seat and get comfortable with your discomfort. Lead to the best of your ability, admit when you are wrong, and get on with it. Getting shit done is never easy.

Sometimes it’s awkward and painful to get results.

Always remember that it’s about the team and the greater goal and not about you. And if you’re uncomfortable that’s good – you’re probably growing…

Don’t Buy Trouble

Be prepared for the worst but don’t perseverate on it, and always keep this in the forefront of your mind: worrying is a complete waste of time and energy.

Better to draw on all of your reserves, be as relentlessly upbeat as possible, and focus on your goal. No matter how much stress you get bombarded with, keep your head and stay cool.

Accomplishing the goal is all that matters. 

The Paradox

People are mesmerized by pure, unadulterated authenticity. When someone is comfortable & confident enough in their skin to be completely themselves, with no filter, it is extremely charismatic. Add in a lust for life and you have someone who will attract followers like a moth to a flame.

The problem, at least for most people, is that we are afraid to expose ourselves to this degree. We are probably as afraid of being loved as much as we are of being hated. It is much safer to hedge your bets and only reveal what you are comfortable with. This will protect you from having to deal with all of those messy people who want something from you.

The wild card here is the artist who truly doesn’t give a fuck. These people are simply uncontrollable, which has its own special allure. At the end of the day, they are probably the happiest.

Mistakes

They are part of what makes us human. Sometimes the mistake is so massive it may appear to be unforgivable, but the reality is, people have been forgiven by those they harmed for perpetrating unimaginable horrors.

Forgiveness is something that can only be given at the disgression of the aggrieved. They are the only ones who possess the right to give or withhold absolution.

Everyone else can have an opinion, but they are in no position to judge. Take a deep breath, reflect, and learn. Maybe it will help us prevent making the same mistake.

We’re all dirty and flawed…

Just Let It Happen

There are a lot of strategies for preparing to take part in important events like job interviews, competitions, performances, auditions, presentations, lectures, etc. Self-visualization, rehearsing, mental preparation – these are all tried and true techniques that will help. But as I’ve gotten older, I have realized there is a final step that is the most important one of all.

Just relax and let it happen.

Show up prepared, then just be in the moment. Let yourself enjoy whatever it is you are trying to do. It will make you more comfortable and draw other people to you at the same time.

I’ve Always Lived In My Head

I guess it started when I was a little kid, out of necessity. I was alone a lot, so I learned how to amuse myself. I didn’t need much – books and my imagination was plenty. I would build worlds in my head, stuff that I would never talk about to anyone. I didn’t need to – it wasn’t for them anyway. It was just for me. I had no desire to act any of this stuff out – I had pretty low self esteem which resulted in a significant lack of confidence. By either neglecting me or subjecting me to abuse, my parents had trained me to understand that I didn’t mean much to anybody. And when you’re a child who believes they’re not worthy of the very people who are supposed to love them, you draw the conclusion that if you’re not that important to them, no one else could possibly be interested in your bullshit. So you live in your head…

That’s where you can be whoever you want to be – there are no limits if you’re imaginative. Mind you, I was also very good at reading people, and I could be very charming and friendly. Add in the fact that I was somewhat good looking and the result was I had no shortage of friends. Male or female, pretty much everyone seemed to like me. But I didn’t like myself, hence I struggled with self esteem. I was good at hiding it from other people, but it definitely held me back.

It really wasn’t until I went to college at the age of 45 that things began to change. I started to realize that maybe I did have something to offer. I went into nursing and discovered I was excelling and started to get positive reinforcement and encouragement from my teachers. I remember thinking WTF? Fast forward 15 years and now I’m some kind of nursing leader and considered an expert in my field. How did this happen?

I still live in my head, but also in the world – and I no longer have self esteem issues. I kind of like myself, and that’s a new feeling for me.

I’m 60 years old and still learning and discovering who I am. I plan for this process to continue until I die. I am grateful for what I have, and what I’ve become.

Life is good.

Multitasking

One of my good qualities is the ability to focus, particularly in a chaotic environment. You might think this would be a valuable skill in an ER – and sometimes it is. However

If you are in charge of running the ER, this is not really the skill you need. What you really need is to be able to juggle multiple threads at once. The information can fly fast and furious, and it’s information about people’s lives. Your ability to interpret and act on this data quickly can mean the difference between life and death. Missing or not understanding this information can result in injuries that will affect the rest of these patients lives.

It’s a grave responsibility & privilege to be entrusted with this role. In the ER we have no control over how many patients show up from minute to minute, and this can result in a sudden influx of multiple acutely ill or injured people all at once. Assuming responsibility for assigning who gets seen by who and when for eight hours can leave you feeling like your brain has turned to cotton candy.

Not for the faint of heart…

What Really Matters

In my first job as a nurse, I worked exclusively with stroke and traumatic brain injury patients. To say that this was a learning experience, both as a nurse and as a human being, would be a bit of an understatement. Each person I took care of had suffered and immediate and catastrophic event that would forever change the course of their lives. Some were reduced to existing in a persistent vegetative state, others were still able to function to varying degrees. The ones I felt had the best outcomes (mind you, this is an arguable point) were those who retained most of their cognitive abilities and were left with physical deficits. Some had been wealthy and powerful, others were homeless – it made no difference to me. I tried to give the best care I was capable of to each one.

But it struck me that all of them, at least those with some cognitive function left, shared a similar focus of what was important. And in no case was it money, fame, power, or even accomplishments. It was always about their relationships with other people, good or bad. It was about regrets or gratitude, about love or the lack thereof. About friendship and betrayal, about not understanding what was important until it was too late. I came away from this experience with a very different outlook than when I went in.

We are all dying – it’s just the nature of life. We can choose to try and do good, or we can choose to live in a selfish and desperate struggle for wealth and power. In the end, we all die, and no amount of money, fame, or power can save you. When you are dead, all of those things that consumed your life are left with the living. Your legacy is simply what lives on in the memories of those who knew you, and whatever you left behind that might help or hinder humanity.

So to me, politics and the naked lust for power is folly. All that really matters is choosing to live each moment in a way that will leave this mess a little better for whoever comes along next. None of us are really that important, no matter what we might like to think. Someday you are going to be laying on a bed dying, and I hope you have a good nurse who treats you kindly, with respect and dignity. I can promise you, at that moment, politics won’t enter your mind at all. How you treated other people is all you’re going to be thinking about. I’ve seen it – and sometimes it can be a tragically painful thing to watch.

What I Was Going To Be

What I was going to be is ultimately who I became. Other possibilities existed, but they are irrelevant now except as an exercise in conjecture. On the other hand, who I will become is completely malleable and not yet defined. This is the process of becoming, and with each choice I make, I further define and reveal who I am, and who I will be.

What Is Intelligence?

Max Tegmark postulates that intelligence is best defined as “the ability to achieve complex goals.” So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, he points out that it means there are some very definite secondary goals that all intelligent entity’s will have. For example, all intelligent entity’s will have survival as a secondary goal – because it can’t achieve complex goals if it doesn’t exist. Gathering resources will also be a secondary goal – because the more resources one has, the greater one’s ability is to achieve complex goals.

Let’s break this down into a specific example. We’ll say the goal is egalitarian: Find a cure for cancer. Sounds noble and good, doesn’t it? However, if we look at the principles of secondary goals, it quickly becomes clear that the values of “good” and “bad” aren’t really relevant to achieving the primary goal. The goal is to find a cure for cancer, not to exist on a high moral plane. We need all of the resources we can acquire. That includes increasing our intelligence through the acquisition of information, and increasing our hardware by any means necessary. How that is achieved is irrelevant to the overriding goal.

We must also protect the organization whose overarching purpose is to achieve the primary goal. At all costs… See where this is going? Even though Max is exploring these concepts through his study of AI, we can clearly see examples of these principles in our everyday life, indeed, in our own behavior.

What are your goals, and how are you going to achieve them?

Recursive Self Improvement

This is a term often associated with mathematics and computer science – I have been running across it recently while reading about artificial intelligence. Essentially what we are talking about here is self improvement through repetition. All musicians are familiar with this concept – it’s called practicing your instrument.

Practicing is most effective when there is a specific goal in mind. As a musician, the classic example is listening to a master perform something and then attempting to emulate it. This is recursive iteration – trying to play a piece of music from as many different approaches as possible, over and over, until you begin to refine a performance that will inevitably sound different from the original version, even though it was a direct attempt to emulate it. Whether it sounds better or worse depends on the skill, determination, and creativity of the one applying the recursive iterations.

Virtually all musicians go through this – The Beatles were originally trying to emulate Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis – and of course they ended up sounding like none of them. That’s one of the cool things about recursive self improvement.

You never know where you are going to end up

Meditation Part 2

Right now I’m going through a period where I have multiple stressors coming at me simultaneously, causing me to feel a little anxious about their outcome. It’s not a big deal – one of the benefits of surviving cancer is that nothing ever seems too catastrophic after that. But I’ve noticed this phenomenon with regards to my daily practice of TM that I find really interesting. When I am stressed out, I feel like I can’t quiet my mind, and of course that’s the whole point of meditating. What happens is this: I sit down and begin to focus on my mantra for a 20 minute session, and my mind is racing. Just a constant barrage of thoughts that I can’t seem to stop. I’m trying to focus on the mantra but it feels like a deluge of bullshit is drowning it out.

Now, 20 minutes is a long time to sit in what feels like this very un-peaceful state. But what happens is really fascinating: I end my session and realize I have gone longer than 20 minutes, and I feel very relaxed. So what is going on here? The short answer is that I really don’t know – but something is definitely happening on a deep level. What appears to be disorganized turmoil in my mind is clearly not what it seems. What it feels like is this: My mind is indeed in a state of turmoil and whatever state my brain goes into when I meditate is definitely overstimulated by stress. There are lots of thoughts that seem to be causing interference with my mantra – but they really aren’t. It’s hard to put into words, because the whole thing is happening on a level of consciousness that I don’t normally access. It’s really weird – I am completely awake and alert, but my brain seems to be processing information on a level where I am aware but not conscious. I am in a state that doesn’t feel peaceful and relaxing while I am doing it, yet when I finish that’s exactly the state I’m in.

When I am meditating it doesn’t feel like I have transcended to a deeper level of consciousness. But clearly that is what’s happening – I am watching this turmoil seemingly awake and alert, but I’m really not. What seems to be a conscious state isn’t. At the time it seems like I’m thinking and not in a meditative state at all, when in reality my mind is functioning on some deep sub-conscious level.

It’s a total mind fuck – with no drugs involved!

Not Exactly Procrastination

Let’s see – it’s not a question of “Am I doing enough to fulfill my requirements for successfully achieving a specific goal,” rather, in my case it’s more a question of “Am I doing too many things that may or may not fit the requirements asked for?”

My inclination is to see what needs to be fixed and then try to find a solution. Since almost everything can be improved, if you think like that your plate can fill up pretty quickly.

So in my case, I’m not waiting until the last minute to do something. I’m doing too many things and waiting until the last minute to see if they qualify for what’s being asked for…

Too Many Distractions

I’m going through this now, and it’s negative effects can be difficult to mitigate. I’ll admit I am prone to this – I often try to do too many projects at once, and if some dire event comes along in my personal life that requires my attention, it can be enough to derail my precarious allocation of resources to everything else. As you can imagine, this can lead to less than optimal outcomes, and causes a significant amount of (unnecessary) personal distress.

The trick is not to panic (which I’m good at), and stay focused on juggling my attention (which I’m not so good at). The problem is, I am also very good at playing out and preparing for worst case scenarios, and this can be counter-productive. For example, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I became very calm and focused on surviving, while at the same time preparing for imminent prolonged disease and death. As you might imagine, this effectively prevented me from pursuing anything outside of work for several years.

The first step in preventing the derailment of multiple projects in progress is awareness. Then a calm and thoughtful re-examination of your priorities and how you are spending your time. Use your time and energy wisely – time is the one thing you can never get back…

Just Show Up

The old saying “Just showing up is half the battle”  is probably not entirely correct.  I’d say it’s more like 80% of the battle.

Here’s the thing: shit happens when you show up. It has to – you’re there! And of course if you’re not there, nothing can happen. Seems simple, huh?

Seriously, this principle pretty much applies to everything – whatever it is you want to do, show up and something will happen. Write a song? Get a job? Meet someone new? You get the picture…

Add in a serious work ethic, give it some time, and watch what happens…

Courtney Dauwalter

What are we capable of? The general parameters of what the human body is capable of seems to be fairly obvious – until it isn’t. As an illustration of what I’m talking about, let’s examine one Courtney Dauwalter. What this woman just accomplished would not seem to be physically possible – and yet here you go… On October 15 she finished the Moab 240 mile endurance run in Utah, beating the second place finisher (a man) by more than 10 hours.

She ran 240 miles in 57 hours and 52 minutes. That’s 2 days, 9 hours and 59 minutes – averaging 14.6 minute miles and 97.7 miles per day.

She slept 21 minutes during the race.

WTF?!

I heard her interviewed by Joe Rogan on his podcast and immediately became a Courtney Dauwalter fan. She’s a 32 year old schoolteacher who trains with no coach, doesn’t have a rigid training schedule, and has no daily mileage requisite. She eats no special diet (when asked by Rogan about her diet, she laughed and replied “nachos, candy and beer”). She just runs, and has done so for a long time. She is motivated by a curiosity to discover how far the human body can go. “I’m intrigued by longer distances and timed events to see where your brain goes and what your body is capable of, even when it feels like it’s failing,” she said. “I still have so much to learn; seeing what’s possible is the main drive.”

It’s impossible not to wonder what we are all capable of, if only we had the grit to push through the pain and obstacles that stand in our way. Courtney Dauwalter may be an outlier, but she is an outlier that forces us to challenge our own perceptions of what is possible…