From the HR Department of International Conglomerate Incorporated

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To all staff:

You will be pleased to know that management has determined that is safe to return to the offices. Now that the pandemic existential crisis is coming to an end, and the climate existential crisis never left and is picking up speed, the next crisis will be coming back to the office. And more particularly, what to wear to work now that management has this expectation you must return to your place of employment.

Although some time has passed, we would expect the standard decorum of dress, office communication and attendance.

During video calls for the past 18 months, management has seen a gradual degradation in the overall dress code. If you picked up the COVID 15 pounds, then what is left in your closet that still fits might be thin. Even if you are not. But the old standard necktie can still fit so long as it eventually reaches the top of your belt buckle. Although some politicians like to wear it longer.

There may be a time to set aside old customs, but it is not time to end the necktie. Shoelaces help keep your shoes on. Belts keep your pants up. Suspenders help you imagine you are Michael Douglas in Wall Street. But ties hide your shirt buttons. Ties also make it awkward to undo that top button but loosening it makes you look like you are truly working hard.

Management is concerned that if they discourage ties, the next step will be to ridding yourselves of shirts that have collars to hold the tie. And this would be the first in a series of steps to finally get back to the T-shirts you have been wearing for the past 18 months.

Management is also concerned about the general lack of concentration during video calls. Although management encourages the dubious notion of multitasking, this should not mean that during physical meetings you should continue playing office bingo and searching for business jargon. We suspect that “You’re on Mute” remains the most common square. While “For god’s sake your camera is still on” is thankfully relatively rare. However, during physical meetings these statements should become more irrelevant.

Please remember that none of the cubicle offices have that Mute button you have grown accustomed to using. Your internal voice that became your external voice while on Mute will have to return to your internal voice once again. Failure to follow this rule will make your co-workers assume you became rude during your time away. Or possessed. Either will result in progressive discipline or exorcism, whichever is more expedient.

And everyone’s sake, please also remember there is no video off button for the cubicles. There is no video editing for memories seared into your co-workers for actions that should otherwise be private. Or should not exist in the real world at all.

While we all appreciate the minimal commute that we all had getting to our basement or garage office, we will now expect that commuting takes place outside of office hours and you should be at your desk at the start of business. And yes, we saved your desk. We do hope that the food stashed in your desk for more than a year was properly wrapped using more than just brown paper. If not, for the next month, gloves will be available at the office door right beside the masks.

At the national office, vaccinated employees may continue to occupy the floors three to ten. Management has made special arrangements for staff choosing not to vaccinate other than for medical or religious reasons. These staff shall now occupy floors 3A to 10A. The offices are found just above the suspended ceiling on each floor, are slightly smaller than regular offices and are somewhat like culverts, but they are fully encased in steel ducting and fully vented to the exterior. Some offices may still be marked HVAC but ignore that for the time being. Walk carefully since the metal floor tends to buckle and revibrate throughout the office.

Management observed that personal hygiene may have dropped substantially over the past several months. We would request that you try to recall what you did in the pre-COVID days such as showering, shaving and teeth brushing. Your fellow co-workers 6 feet away would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, body odors may be captured by the ventilation system. We are particularly concerned about non-vaccinated staff now occupying the duct work in between the various floors.

Welcome Back!

Folies in the extended family

Extending a family is never easy. But we are always better for it.
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My wife and I wanted to join our extended family together. As my wife’s parents grew older, they needed more help. My mother-in-law, Nana, struggled opening wide mouth pill bottles, of which there were many. Climbing stairs became difficult and soon impossible even with my father-in-law’s help.

The rest of the family included my wife’s and my three children and two large but happy bumbling golden retrievers, Copper and Taffy. Our goldens tried to help, but their support remained limited to the emotional. We needed a home where we could all live with, and get along with, and maybe escape from, each other.

Fortunately, my wife acquired great powers of observation by scouring neighborhoods looking for the right house. She could sense houses that would soon be coming on the market. Fresh paint, or new windows showed that someone intended to sell soon. Like Dorothy from the wizard of oz having to complete an impossible task of collecting that broomstick, my wife focused on minimum standards for the house such as a double driveway for all of the cars and a straight staircase for the wheelchair lift for Nana. And enough square footage that everyone could carve out their own separate space.

We chanced upon a lovely 1912-character home that could accommodate all our needs. The Kelly Brothers constructed the 4600 square foot, red brick, three-story beaux art style home for soon to be senator Benard. The same Kelly Brothers built the Manitoba legislature, defrauded the government, and caused the downfall of the reigning party. So, the house started off with a bit of ‘bad boy’ type of upbringing.

Once we found the home, the love of my life did grab me by the lapels and told me she wanted this house. Since I am lawyer, I immediately did the necessary due diligence and offered cash even though we needed a mortgage. I scoffed at the need for an inspection since with a character home, problems are to be expected and what problem could not be fixed by simply leaving a box of money out on the portico for the endless troop of contractors.

With a character home you retain the exterior and the interior. The wiring, plumbing and the completely random insulation material in between those two walls need replacement. 

Nana and her husband warmed to becoming a hamburger family where they played the bottom bun, the kids took the top bun meaning all of the third floor, while my wife and I essentially formed the meat in the middle. Copper and Taffy became the relish and mustard.

Character homes retain their own nature and personalities, and you ignore them at your peril. The boiler rates its own room along with a moat. Any fixture that comes with a moat deserves extra care and attention.

After joining families and furniture, we joined familiar routines. Grandpa excelled in getting the kids to school and picking them up. My flexible schedule allowed me to do more of the procurement and cooking. Nana’s extensive pill regime required a clocklike 6:15 dinnertime.

My cooking talents aligned with the Swanson’s TV tray style of cooking. I ensured a slot for protein, a slot for carbohydrates, and a slot for vegetables. During one holiday preparation, my father-in-law wheeled Nana backwards through the kitchen to the lift at the back staircase. During that brief 10 second tour, she managed to list 10 different spices and steps to get that perfect turkey. My father-in-law smiled quickly, but he didn’t slow down either and up the lift she went. I picked up my cooking game and incorporated most of her suggestions.

Of course, my wife and mother-in-law had not lived in the same house for the past 22 years, so I quietly observed the power dynamic shift. Except for when I had to step in front of the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I always imagined myself flying through the air, parallel to the ground, arms outstretched, in slow motion while yelling ‘noooooo’! Also, the house provided 4600 square feet of emotional space. Important safety tip for anyone considering this arrangement.  

Copper and Taffy became highly protective of Nana. They would come in and lie down with their heads towards the door and their horse size rears facing Nana. If the dogs had gaseous episodes, her respite involved turning up the fan higher.

Our kids camped on the third floor where the servants used to live. That notion did not rub off on any of the children. But they did regale Nana with all of their latest soccer, football, rugby scores cross country race times. This became the best part of her day.

As kids started to age out of the house, the next one vied to get the largest room and repaint it to claim it as their own. When they boomeranged home, the chagrined returners became relegated to the smaller rooms.

The home’s Tyndall stone front steps finally started to crack, and one smart blow with a sledgehammer collapsed it. We replaced the steps with a comparable pressed concrete. We intended to have our eldest son and daughter-in-law married on the steps that summer. The ceremony started along with the rain, so we pushed everyone inside. We moved two family’s worth of furniture against the oak paneled trim in the living room and squeezed all 60 people somewhere inside. The steps did not have their moment of glory. But we do have two more children.

For the house, there were some firsts, and some lasts. Nana could shuffle slightly to the next room.  I was down the hall when I saw her catch her foot ever so slightly and fall. I held her till the ambulance came. She spent her last days in the hospital then.

My father-in-law still lives with us. He prudently gave up his car a year ago, so now we drive him around. Having a parent give up part of their freedom that they have had for more than 75 years can be tough. Digging through the basement archives, I found a photo of him in his flight suit standing in front of his sabre jet. We keep the photo in the front hall as a reminder that we all came from somewhere.  

After COVID struck, we grounded him to the house. After getting his dual vaccinations, he became the typical teenager with a driver’s license wanting to cruise the world. But until that time comes, he cruises the world on his desktop.

We still have two golden retrievers, Maguire and Seamus now, but all of the children moved out. I took over the third floor for my COVID office. My fortress of solitude.

The character home fulfilled our purpose of joining our families physically and emotionally, but the home needs to re-fulfill its own purpose of being full of life.

No one truly ‘owns’ a character home due to the permanent nature of such a home and the ephemeral nature of owners. Some people and pets have now come and gone, but the character home that brought us together remains for the next generation.

We hope one of our kids kept notes for any new potential family joining.

Gary Goodwin

If you must set personal objectives, then at least be passionate

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What better way to squeeze the fun and spontaneity out of life than to set objectives. But setting objective gets things done and remain remains pivotal for businesses and employees. This normally involves input from several levels of the organization very far removed from the reality of the situation as they both where it wants to be in the future. Objective setting really comes down to obtaining a reasonable return on investment. All activities in the business are supposedly coordinated as to whether a proposed activity assists in obtaining the objective set down. Resources should be aligned towards this particular direction. Activities at odds with the main objective could then be discontinued. If a corporation possesses some broader vision, then it may have certain R and D activities, skunk works, where creative forces could have free range to create products.

For corporations, long-term objectives are the results expected from following certain strategies, while strategies represent the actions to be taken to accomplish long-term objectives. Objectives provide direction, synergy, evaluation and prioritization for organizational activities. So you might set certain goals for education, exercise or volunteering to help others.

Thoreau’s approach to objective setting was to simplify.  He recommended having your affairs be as two or three and not as opposed to hundreds or thousands. Objectives for yourself should be specific, measurable, consistent, reasonable, challenging, clear, communicated, timed and rewarded. I like the rewards part. You should really make this something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do so that you associate your good work with the reward. I always seem to come back to chocolate. The higher 90% cocoa can taste a bit like punishment, but it’s an acquired taste.

At first glance, a business approach to life appears to be a cold and calculating way to approach one’s own life.  However, most of us are not living, and we are merely existing for moment to moment.  The vast majority of humanity never achieve their full potential.  So setting objectives can be a good way to do this. Even better, you can program any number of different aps to keep track of this for you. The aps can keep these objectives top of mind, at least until you relegate your smart phone to the bottom of the cabinet.

A simpler life allows an individual more time and ability to become fully actualized.  This was certainly Thoreau’s opinion that the things in life merely divert us away from achieving a full life. He would be aghast at the push notifications that we all like receiving to get our regular dopamine fix.

If we examine Thoreau’s objective, we can see that he wanted to truly experience life. He felt that he could only do this by sweeping away the other externalities that would distract him from this particular objective. His stint at Walden’s Pond only lasted for a couple of years, but the experience lasted for this entire life.

During this time he lived rather simply in a basic cottage. He kept track of the expenses and during this time and noted how stress free his life could be after spending $19 building a house when you had $20, but how miserable existence it would be if he actually spent $21. During this time, he built his house, grew his own food and read the great philosophical works. His time at Walden of course gave him the material to write his well-known treatise, A Life in the Woods.

We can see that Thoreau gave himself the objective of seeking the essence of life. He used a number of extreme strategies in order to get to this particular essence, and he did give a number of problems with the status quo of life at that time. He may not have absolutely determined the essence of life, but his secondary objective of stripping away everything that prevented him from seeking this essence was achieved. He wrote that he went to the woods to live sturdily, and so he accomplished this.

Taking the Thoreau approach, a good preliminary objective would be to rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way of achieving our main objectives, but what should our main objectives be once we have time to accomplish them. If something is truly important to you, no doubt that you have found the time to accomplish it somehow. This suggests that another main objective would be to critically examine the things that you have set out for years, but you still have not set out to accomplish. If this type of objective does not make the first five year plan, then perhaps set it aside for the next five year plan. Perhaps by then you will have finished off some other objectives and you can now focus on a new set of objectives.

All of your objectives should somehow fit into your personal vision. However, there are other objectives, constraints, we can call them realities that still have to be addressed in some fashion. You may have chosen, or had chosen for you, certain objectives that have a time span far longer than the traditional five-year cycle. If you have these types of constraints, or if these types of constraints have you, then you are facing completing these objectives before turning to any new ones. Fortunately, car loans normally end after five years. Student loans may take even longer to pay off.

Types of Objectives

The quintessential question would be what sort of objective should one set for one’s own life. Everyone has a slightly different situation, but some generalities could be drawn from other life examples. On occasion, objectives have been set for some individuals when they have not even been aware of it occurring.

Another obvious long-term objective would of course be children. Once you have started this objective, intentionally or not, you have signed on for life. At some points in time, this particular objective can be more time consuming, or even maddening, fortunately, this objective has certain phases, so the constant variety keeps us in suspense as to what might be happening next. Every parent will tell that the next children phase is even more troubling than the one you are presently in.

You can set a long-term objective to have a fully developed relationship with your children. How to fully develop this relationship can be dependent upon countless factors. There does not appear to be any particular formula in deciding how this relationship could be formed. However, there is always one limiting factor that determines the rate of growth in any type of interaction until you reach the next limiting factor. This first factor always appears to be time. Although there could be any other factors at work, spending more time would in all probability, be the best and first criteria to address.

A second long-term objective would be a fully functional relationship with your significant other. There are countless books on this topic, and I would suggest reading one or more of them.  By continuously reading, you can obtain the necessary context to all of the other conflicting recommendations.  

To say that he or she is not doing something or is doing too much of something can simply prevent you from achieving the full relationship that you truly desire. Perhaps you’re holding back or holding onto something.  If you’re waiting for an invitation stop waiting for one1.  Simply start doing whatever it is you’re thinking about assuming of course that it fits in with your larger value system.  

Possible Objectives

Having a fully actualized relationship with my significant other and our children.

Having a fully actualized life.

Avoiding matters that prevent me from achieving these first two objectives.

Reducing the constraints that the form my reality during this phase of my life.

This brings us to the question as to how many objectives can a person carry at any one time. We can look into anyone’s smart device and we will undoubtedly find dozens of things that have to be done, and we would not find one true-life objective. These activities are important, but they can fritter away a true life.

Somewhere between 1 and 10 objectives at any one times seems to be somewhat appropriate. Of course, you could have just one objective;

I will live life.

However, if this objective is not fleshed out a bit more, then one might not be completely sure if they are working towards this objective or not. Adding a few more objectives can fill in the potential list of activities that are useful in accomplishing our main objective.

The effects of objective planning for the human equation can be seen in any number of areas, but the effects are more clearly seen where someone has greater control of all of the extraneous variables. Training for a marathon requires rigorous training for at least a year prior to the event. This training can be done in less time, but similar to simply falling off a cliff, the end result is not as pleasing. However, once the objective becomes set in your mind, you merely have to elect a date in the future, and the training schedule can be developed for your individual ability.

This sort of example occurs all of the time when individuals set objectives strictly for themselves. You can see other examples of single parents returning to school after a long absence to finish or start their education. They certainly see themselves as being able to improve their present condition.

However, if we broaden our objective setting to include other variables, then we can see the difficulties. Your objective of finding a relationship, or improving the one that you are in, involves the greatest of variables, another human being; the most enigmatic of variables you could possibly find. If you set this as an objective, then any number of activities can be directed towards accomplishing this.

Finding a relationship initially starts with going to where to where the people. Your specific activities of only going directly back to your home or apartment appears to be inconsistent with actually interacting with people. If you want a better relationship with your existing significant other, again this involves actually getting up and interacting with him or her. Once again your activities vetted through this screen of objective setting. Perhaps going to the bar after work is somehow inconsistent with this objective. No doubt this is the way this type of activity is viewed by your significant other.

Continuing this line of thought, we can see that setting objectives on a broader scale becomes more problematic and challenging. Others might not see problems, but only challenges. Certainly, others would see only problems, and they would also see the optimistic types that only see challenges as one more problem. However, we can see the broader scale where entire communities and cities have been turned around; galvanized around certain events. One does not have to look farther than the situation of a lost child. Entire communities can set out to look for this child. Everyone can identify with this objective.

Recently, entire countries have been turned around from a cultural perspective. The U.S. civil rights movement centered on several individuals as they rallied for the rights that should be common to everyone. Many individuals had this objective, and perhaps this objective has not yet been perfectly obtained, but you can see the complexity of situation as more people, cultures, systems and ingrained attitudes become involved.

Objective Timing

Corporations reassess their own objectives on a yearly basis. This seems to be necessary since the competitive arena changes on a daily basis. A corporation has to constantly ensure that its objectives take into account these changes. An individual should do the same, but to what extent? Our competitive situation is not the same, but the constraints that we have to live within can change. A new spouse, child or job can place constraints that we voluntarily place upon ourselves. We then have to re-evaluate that the education/travel/marathon/business objective that we set for ourselves might have to be placed on a new time line if not completely shelved for the distant future. However, this should not come as any surprise since if we have changed so drastically, we would have given ourselves a new objective to put into effect the strategies to acquire a new spouse/child/job. Stop, look around, and that’s where you are.

Objective Size

How large should your own objectives be? Corporations sometimes use BiHAG; big hairy audacious goals. If you think small, then you act small. The bonus is, that if you think big you are sometimes rewarded big. However, the bonus that individuals that set BiHAGs for everyone else, normally obtain some sort of additional bonus, normally in the way of stock options.

For individuals, this means the larger the risk, the larger the potential reward. However, limiting your objectives to yourself for the time being appears realistic. If you meet your objectives for the first cycle, since you have continuously do this for all cycles of life, then you can expand your perspective later.

Setting proper objectives throughout life is rewarding. Once the nature of these objectives fit in with the larger vision you have set for yourself, you are far along the path of finding out what it means to be truly alive. Others have written what it means to be truly alive, and one further objective would be seek out different and perhaps larger perspectives on what this might actually mean.

Can your life provide a comparable return on investment? Remember that Thoreau suggests that we should simplify, while Jung suggests that our purpose is to become completely individualized. We could conceive as Jung being the result, while Thoreau is suggesting a type of means. But if the result only lasts for a moment at the very end of life or business cycle, then perhaps the means lasts for somewhat longer and should remain the main focus throughout life. The setting of the target albeit important, is merely a small part of the ultimate journey that one has to take. Getting there may be far more fun than simply arriving.

What would Henry Thoreau do to create a Personal Vision Statement?

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What if Thoreau decided to go to his strategic retreat at Walden Pond and create a personal vision statement.

A personal vision statement asks the most important question about you. A vision statement for a corporation would establish how the company views itself. A personal vision statement asks a similar question about how you see yourself. For thousands of years, men and women have been asking themselves what is the meaning of life. However, for a vision statement, you should ask yourself what it means to be truly alive.

So you have to ask yourself, how do you feel about your own life? If you read your own obituary, how would you feel or think about those really great spreadsheets or those pithy business plans? If you did a word search, it’s unlikely that these items would come up in anyone’s life description. Ever. Would you simply carry on and read about the more interesting person in the column beside you? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should re-address your priorities.

So how does one create a personal vision statement? This does not necessarily have to relate to yourself, but could also relate to the environment around you. Martin Luther King did not have a vision for himself, he had a dream on how the world should be, and he worked towards that. However, most people would find it easier to deal with one’s self as opposed to an entire society.

A personal vision statement should capture in a single sentence what you would want other people to think and say to others about you. Needless to say, everyone should want to become all that they possibly could be. The Army Strong brand does resonate along with be all that you can be.  You could make this into a craft by suggesting vibrant colors and play around with different fonts!

You may be thinking about becoming a truly actualized individual, where all of your internal resources are fully put to the test. Jung conceptualized this as being individualized. Striving to be the best possible person in all aspects seems like an overly daunting task. But you do not have to force yourself to be the best possible person you can be by tomorrow. Take some time. Perhaps even the rest of your life, since the struggle is the most important thing. Or use the term “pursuit” if prefer.

You could strive to be the renaissance man or woman. Consider what the world would be like if we all strived to be like Leonardo. No, not that one. The other one. No one will ever be like Leonardo since that persona has already been done, and he was the best Leonardo that will ever happen, since there could only be one. Instead, be the best person you can be considering what you already have to work with and what else you could develop with the time allotted to you. Ask yourself, would Leonardo really be spending his time watching this rerun of a game show, or would he be doing something more constructive with his time, like creating the next level of mathematics.

If we look at the life of Leonardo we see that he was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, inventor, and scientist. He likely epitomized the renaissance person. He easily bridged the two main planes of thought including science and art. Little has been written about any of his physical exploits. And nothing about his reality drama watching habits.

Creating ‘the vision thing’[1] took me several years. Ok, several decades, and I’m still working on it. Trying to create a personal vision in simple, clear and effective ways can be tough. Taking years kind of tough. If no vision comes to mind, then some of the collected works of the great essayists might provide you enough background to pick a particular way to create one. This might even include some of the greater poets (most aspire to reading poetry but I admittedly haven’t gotten the hang of it).

However, from a collected works perspective one of the greatest visionary writers would be Thoreau. By visionary, I suggest that the writer eloquently promotes an enthralling way of life clearly and simply. When Thoreau wrote that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation he suggested that they had no real goals or visions, just a continuous state of anxiety and drudgery. He wrote that living was so dear that he did not want to live anything that was not life. Although his time at Walden Pond was somewhat short, he only lived there for two years, he wrote a wealth of inspirational prose based on these experiences. He provides a classic explanation of his rationale. 

Here Thoreau paints a tremendous vision of what life should be all about, living deliberately. As a true leader, he does not necessarily flesh this out in any detail as to what his really means. However, he has set out a noble objective and he has left his readers with enough flexibility to determine how they might achieve such an objective. We can look at a later passage to see that living deliberately could mean any number of things. 

“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” 

Here we see that life can run the full gamut of a life mean, solitary, brutish and short[2] to a type of ecstasy only achievable by being part of it. To him, nothing is more important than life itself and having all of the money or beauty in the world will not make up for a life wasted, or even shortened. He does provide certain guideposts to determine what living deliberately would require, and this would be to “simplify, simplify, simplify”. It would be difficult to achieve one’s goal if one is surrounded by reams of trivia. Other non-life things would have to be put to rout in order to get to the core of the matter. This also includes cutting close in order to carve away what gets in the way and defining life as a type of art. The essence of any great art would be to do away with anything that gets in the way of the thing itself that is being represented.

Perhaps the other attributes of leadership are not quite there, such as facilitating the change required to make such a change. Simplifying life in order to get at the art of life may be more difficult than most of us would like to acknowledge. This again does not suggest that taking time to get the kids to soccer interferes with your living deliberately, since interacting with your children on any level could be the sublime part that Thoreau mentions.  

We can look to see if there are any particular ways you might use and free up some more of that precious, and most often limiting factor called time. The amount of time per day is already fixed, so we can only look at getting some more time available to set out other objectives you might want to accomplish. Do not expect time travel any time soon. Besides, if someone had already created it, you would think that they would have visited our time line already to try to find out what were we thinking when we did whatever it is that we did in the past.

Finally, you need the wherewithal to make available any resources that might be required to facilitate what you are setting out to accomplish. In a corporation, this might look like accessing the necessary training and people to accomplish a particular objective. Personally, this means something slightly different. Having the necessary resources could be as simple, or as complicated, as making the necessary time available to accomplish what you are setting out to do. This of course, can be really dependent upon your own personal situation. It can be hard to find the necessary time when you have to run the children to their hockey lessons across town, or if you are running double shifts just to put enough food on the table. Your time has already been set out to accomplish as much as you can in the time allotted. These various constraints will straighten themselves out in their own time lines, and this might not be the same as yours.

Our lives appear so busy that we find it necessary to carve time out for ourselves. But if time is a river, how do you carve water out of a flowing stream? Once you have removed the water from a river, it truly is no longer a river, just a cup of murky water. I believe you have to put yourself into the flow of the river instead and do the things that must be done to become human. Carving time becomes a travesty.

Thoreau suggests that the oversupply of resources might be what gets in the way of living a deliberate life. When he suggests that we should simplify our lives, we should be simplifying our purchasing at the same time. This runs counter to the majority of contemporary thinking that the objective of life would be to gather as many things as you can put your name on before you die. If acquiring stuff is not your sole objective, then it appears to be a major indicator that you ran your life well. A proud moment in any couple’s life is when they finally get their first house. Considering the life span of a mortgage, Thoreau suggests that the couple did not get their house, but rather, the house got them.

When my mother passed away, my brother and I went through her one bedroom suite. With her moving from her place to independent living, she shed most of her belongings. She kept the things that evoked memories instead. A reminder from each place or beach she ever visited.

A Thoreau personal vision suits a slimmed down less stressful lifestyle which allows you to follow-up on the more important things in life. For me, the triskelion, my brand if you wish, really represents what I what to accomplish. Mind, body and spirit working towards a greater wholeness.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived.” 

[1] Bush dismissed ‘the vision thing’ when someone suggested he should think of one for the country.

[2] Hobbes had earlier referred to man’s early life as mean, solitary, brutish and short.

Does the best happiness come from being with someone?

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I read that happiness can come from other people. Your significant other and friends should make you happy.  Certainly marriage makes everyone happy. Either in its creation or its destruction. Those that ride the razors edge and are unhappy with it, but can’t move to destroy it are caught on this nasty razors edge. I would suggest making a choice. Choosing the status quo is not a real choice.

Studies[1] indicate that our happiness depends upon other people. Good social relationships consistently predict a happy life and form a necessary condition for happiness.

But can you be happy by interacting with those you have not meet before?

Strangely enough, helping other people brings me a type of joy. Whenever I leave Costco I scan the parking lot to see if anyone is in need of my particular superpower of being overly insufferable.

One time I hit pay dirt when a mother with two young children was trying to load up her SUV when it was raining. Not so much a problem, but the lift on the rear lid was broken so the door was resting on her head. This gave my father-in-law and me an opportunity to hold the door and load the groceries. A two for one!

We could look towards history for examples to emulate. Perhaps we should say that we could look backwards at history for examples. Things always look better in the mirror. Caution, items may appear more romanticized than what they actually were.

We would look for a time when socialization reached its zenith. So before smart phones. We should also look for a time when fewer predators chased us and pillaging was minimized. I will have to go with Aug 15-18 1969. It was a tough slog up to then, and it has been downhill ever since then. Yes, the Woodstock festival was the happiest time in the US. Good thing we have photos on our smartphones to reflect. For everyone else that missed this weekend era, I would suggest going camping with the family with no power supplies and outside of cellphone coverage.

Experts suggest examining our relationship with other people to look for happiness. This may sound depressing for those not in a relationship. But as Stephen Still says, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Does happiness come from within?

And is there an external APP you can use to drag it out of you?


Photo by Pexels

Recently the main focus has been trying to be happy from within. That mediation or other similar forms of therapy can bring you happiness. Or at least let you let go of things that might be getting in the way of your being happy.

Can we find happiness from nothingness? This is the existential option. Friends! Friends! I don’t need no stinking friends! (Bit of a line from a movie about deputy badges that I have always taken to mean that righteousness comes from within and not from a further regulatory authority. But I am drifting.) So, can you be happier alone? Or at least use that aloneness to step up and join the world.

A quick search provides countless APs that will send you cheery and uplifting messages that you could share with a friend, if you had one. So we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Some happiness aps are merely free and set out path for you to follow to reach your goal. Another AP allows for in-app purchases. This is a sneaky way for you to increase your happiness feedback by purchasing awards to encourage yourself to be even happier with unbridled consumerism. With this logic, all billionaires should be so ecstatic that they would have to be tethered to the ground. Alas, this is not the case. There must be more to happiness than just money to buy stuff.

Most inspirational quotes revolve around the main theme that somehow happiness comes from within. So we merely have to draw it out. Sort of like coaxing a deer out of the forest. And we all know what happened to Bambi’s mom when that happened. Or at least we assume we know. Like all the best tragedy, it occurs off screen for better dramatic effect.

Or happiness can be found within, and we simply have to let go, or for more reluctant egos, carve off parts that are blocking the happiness within. This journey within appears to be taking greater effect in today’s world.

One can begin to think that maybe happiness does not want to be found. And if you did find it, perhaps it was better left there. Sort of a be careful what you wish for. The pursuit of happiness makes us happier than actually achieving happiness, which might be more depressing in the long run.

Does the best hell come from other people?

I can easily recall the worst and best of times of my life. And they all involved other people. Some of the obvious picks are some people that are somehow in charge of some aspect of my life that I cannot simply get back. This mainly includes my surrounding environment. Such as repair shops. Or airline lost luggage counters.


There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!  This quote comes from Satre’s play “No Exit”. Satre’s existentialist stance did not make him a people person. But he threw one hell of a party. Or rather, his parties were in hell. 

I was trapped in a hellish situation one time. Like when I was trying to enjoy Avatar at the same time that the person beside me wanted to enjoy his fast food hamburger. The assault of all the senses over a period of an hour as he slowly relished his simulated food product (Condensed Reconstituted Artificial Product or “CRAP”).

First we start with the smell. This CRAP smells good for about one minute, then the same smell takes on new dimensions. All of them hell like. Imagine being trapped beside this slowly descending smelling piece of CRAP for the next hour.

Then there was the sound. The slow uncrinkling of paper. So stealth like. Perhaps he was hoping that no one was noticing his transgression of bringing in a foreign piece of CRAP. In any event, he unwrapped his CRAP so slowly that you wanted to grab it from him and fling it across the theater.

Next came the slow sound of slowly biting off a piece and slowly machinating the CRAP for the next minute. CRAP is basically predigested, so chewing would seem to be redundant. One would think this was prime rib that deserved the extra chewing assist just to savor the aroma.

The next sensation was touch. I didn’t actually touch the burger as so much as a piece of greenery flicked off of the paper and hit me. The next touch was only imagined. My fingers around his throat. But this never happened. My lawyer would have told me to stick with that amnesia approach.

Avoiding crappy people would be an easy to gain a level of happiness. But another level of happiness can come from people that can make you happy.

The importance of holidays!


We started holidays for a couple of weeks and headed off to the cottage to be closer to nature. Job one involved unloading all the stuff at the cottage. Job two involved brushing off all of the spiders from the gazebo. Normally not a problem, but if you haven’t been up for a few weeks, the spiders have baby spiders.

Once you finish removing all of shelob’s webs and carcasses, you start to realize that you have not dealt with all of the microscopic baby shelob spiders climbing around your legs.

One must persevere to be close to nature, but perhaps not have it that close in Steven King sort of way. One can possibly start to miss the relative sterility of the office.

#motivation #inspiration #business.

Photo by pexel

Phoenix Failure


The mythological phoenix rose from the ashes every 500 years. Did that mean it failed?

I don’t know about you, but I hate failing at anything. Learning to love failing simply does not appear to be a successful strategy.

Barings Bank failed 25 years ago when rogue trader Nick Leeson conducted a series of unauthorized arbitrage trades and caused a loss of $1.3 billion. So the bank would have learned to supervise his activities a bit closer if they weren’t so happy with the money he initially brought in. So failure seems to suggests being unwilling or unable to try again.

If your strategy appears to have failed, and you try a new strategy to achieve a goal, then you haven’t failed at achieving your goal. You simply learned that your initial approach to achieve your goal would not work, so you tried something different.

Leeson was sentenced to 6 years and got divorced. That sounds like failure, but he must have learned something since he got remarried, wrote two books one of which was made into movie starring Ewan McGregor.

They say fail often, and quickly. But if you pick yourself up and try again, then you haven’t really failed since you haven’t stopped trying.



The Gig Economy

woman playing guitar while singing beside man playing bass guitar near microphone
Photo by Brett Sayles on

Should we embrace the gig economy? Although this seems relatively new, musicians in 1915 called short-term engagements as gigs.

Now days, gigs comprise short-term engagements which allow employers to engage workers for short periods of time. This certainly allows for substantial cost savings. Gig workers can be hired to fill in when demand for the employer services rises. Of course, benefits are rarely payable, and defined benefit plans have gone the way of the polar icecaps. Slowly retreating.

The downside of gigs becomes apparent with the workers. Insecure periods of paid work. Lack of work life balance, which was a major concern just a few years ago. And now the main concern is simply finding work in the first place.

Ultimately the employer suffers too. The culture of the organization slowly melts away, returning to the icecap metaphor. In addition, innovation will eventually suffer. Innovation initially starts with inspiration, which is hard to achieve when you are busy learning what your new ‘gig’ is all about.