Coffee!

Sunday market watermelons, Siesta Key.
Sunday market watermelons, Siesta Key.

Sunday  morning is coffee klatch time. This minor ritual started last summer, when my friend Tim texted me wondering if I was up for coffee. He was up early on a Sunday, and I was too, lost in my usual weekend twilight zone caused by the night shift dislocation. Ah, night shift…

Keeping a social life whilst working nights is tough. My thirteen hour days (from door to door) are incredibly isolating, not only because I’m away from friends and people I know, but we’re not much use on weekends either. Attempting to fit in to a normal day/night schedule is such a powerful force, that the body and mind tries to make it work, even over a two-day break. But the transition takes more time than that, obviously.

Added to that, for the first six months of 2012 I was working one night on the weekends too. Sunday, usually, although that varied somewhat. In a way, it was easier to work  the six nights than to take the full two-day weekend. Keeping the sleep-during-the-day and work-at-night routine kept most of my life on an even keel, even if it meant further distance between me and the real world.

But the weekend work did end at the beginning of the summer, and so I could take Tim up on his coffee invitation. We’re of a generation, the tail-end of the boomers, and share a common view of the world. The fellowship of like-minded men sounds like a big portentious phrase, but it represents time well spent for all men.

Weekends. They’re what keeps us sane.

 

The One Percenters

Suddenly, light.
Suddenly, light.

 

Instant gratification in the form of instant success would be wonderful. However, in anything but the most simple endeavors – buying ice cream, watching a movie – success is a matter of hard work, intelligence and sacrifice.

Having an end-point in mind is a natural mental construct. The difficulty of a specific end-point is that such a thing is tricky to keep in mind 24/7. The day-to-day stuff, the small everyday things tend to suck up time and attention, gradually diluting our initial enthusiasm starburst. Keeping the starburst bright and shiny is the challenge.

Personal growth and motivational gurus are, in my experience, big on goal-setting – and make those goals as big as you like! Great. Nothing I can see wrong with that, except that any goal unmet can erode one’s confidence in keeping additional goals.

Let’s contemplate that for a moment. Unmet goals are the dark underbelly of ra-ra emotional planning, in that we tend to be more negatively affected by our failures than uplifted by our successes. That, my friends, is human nature. It’s irrational and destructive and it can be overcome.

For my way of looking at the universe, there are way too many chaotic inputs to think that any specific goal is possible. Life has a way of morphing stuff into new and exciting ways of messing up or succeeding. So while keeping a general idea of direction, or the orientation of the ladder you’re climbing, acknowledgement of the nature of change in our lives is important.

Which brings me to what I think is the only way to get where you’re going. Choose a direction, or place your ladder. Take a step, or put your foot on the first rung. Repeat. From moment to moment, it’s all we can do. The one-percent activities done as a matter of habit (or discipline until they become habits) will get you….somewhere.

We just can’t guarantee where.

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.