Piecing Together the Puzzle

Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana.
Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana.


How do  you start picture puzzles?

The last time I did one of these was September 2005, in a lodge in Glacier National Park. I was on an epic – just wonderful – road trip with my English-Australian friend, Chez. We drove from Seattle to the Rocky Mountains, starting at the top and working our way south. By ‘top’, I mean the Canadian Border, namely the grandly named “Waterton-Glacier National Park”.

It was the end of the summer tourist season, with impending snow about to close the whole place for the winter. We’d propped for a couple of nights so we could do some hiking and take in the beauty of the place. There’s not much to do at night, which is where the puzzle bug hit me, and I responded. Three hours later, it was done.

This voyage I’m on here is just like that puzzle. It doesn’t really matter how you start – at a corner, in the middle, or perhaps with a combination. What does matter is that you do start. The point about puzzles is that it plays to our pattern-recognition ability. Humans are continually searching for repeatable, recognizeable repetitions; in the night sky, in stock charts, in relationships, and in the pursuit of wealth. We are wired to find a template that works and file it away for use later, or as a sign-post on the way to completing other puzzles.

We find such constants reassuring in an otherwise chaotic universe.

How about you?


Motivating Mojo


Whole Paycheck, Sarasota.
Whole Paycheck, Sarasota.

Money isn’t the best motivator, it’s often said. However, at the moment, increasing the flow of money into my life is a priority, simply because my job pays so poorly. Even a modest amount more cash would make a difference.

The biggest embarrassment in my budget is the $230.00 per month I’m sending to the Internal Revenue Service. Ouch. This reminder of never allowing the United States federal government to become one’s biggest (and only) creditor stems from my days driving limousines. In my ignorance of the law, I repeatedly underpaid my tax. Over three years it built up to a decent sum which I am now whittling away.

This was a good lesson. The first is the timeless one of never claiming ignorance of the law as an excuse. Trying that one on – especially against the entity that enacted said law – will always result in you losing the fight. The second lesson is that any personal or business budget must always include adequate and timely provision for all taxes. What’s the point in a business that has cashflow covering all such expenses, but not at the time they’re due? Out of business is out of business.

So although money won’t keep me going as a nascent salesman over the long term, right now it’s up there in the top three or four drivers. Which is fine, I think, because visualizing money is a relatively simple mental bootstrap, as much as paying out to Uncle Sam isn’t.

Keeping Up Appearances

When you don't know what's important...
When you don’t know what’s important…


Darn it, I have fashion entropy. My definition of fashion entropy is that it takes a concerted effort for me to keep up a professional appearance. If I avoid, “forget” or otherwise neglect to maintain a well-fitting and appropriate wardrobe, I inevitably settle back into the comfort universe – favorite jeans, years-old (but memory-filled) shirts and shoes that are more relaxed than they should be.

Shopping for clothes isn’t an activity I’d choose more than, say, once a month, but keeping up a wardrobe is definitely in my future. I’ve known this for a while, ever since I made my decision to become a salesman. It’s obvious: if you’re dealing with people face-to-face, how you look colors their opinion.

Especially important is the first impression. I sure take notice of how somebody first communicates with me, and I presume everyone else is the same. Let’s think about that: If you can predispose someone to be either attracted or sympathetic to you within the first few seconds, it is an action that MUST be taken.

In the same basket as appropriate clothing we find appropriate grooming. For me, a man, this is relatively easy. A good daily shave is important. No awkward hair should attract attention, by which I mean nose, ear and eyebrow. Skin should be the product of a basic cleaning and moisturizing regimen. And one should be the beneficiary of an excellent haircut. This is my weak point, as I have a pathological hatred of sitting in that chair. However, in the interest of sales success, I’ll get my teeth and make it happen.


Weekend Fog

Sunday morning latte at Lelu.
Sunday morning latte at Lelu.


Sarasota, mid-March, a weekend, time to relax.

The snowbirds are still in town, more New York licence plates than I remember from any prior year. Living in a town that doubles in size for one third of the year makes for some interesting experiences. Most of the time this is  a quiet retirement backwater; for the rest it’s a happy-hour-happy collision of  crazy-driving oldies and retirement wannabes. I call it the Tropical Midwest, although with the influx of nor’easterners, that might require a change.

Unusually, today saw the morning wrapped in sea fog. It was warm, too, with a decent southerly breeze, so I smelt the presence of a warm front. We don’t see too many of those. Walking around Siesta Key the feeling was more of Southern California – Hermosa Beach, perhaps – than Florida. Odd.

For whatever reason, today was a day for doing nothing. Sometimes staring into space or dozing a few hours away is what we need, so I never resist. Carefully listening to the body and mind is important, in my opinion. Shutting out the world, or quieting the constant chatter of our mind leads to better minds and bodies, because we’re reacting to their needs.

Ah, the weekend. Sometimes the nothing is the best.