Category Archives: direction

Baconday

The following is my truly ridiculous Wikipedia entry for ‘Baconday‘ – a birthday present for a quasi-nephew who recently turned 14. I forget how much I enjoy writing outlandish stories. What have you forgotten that you enjoyed?

A baconday is a day that comes once a year when a person celebrates the anniversary of their birth. Created in 1776 by the Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress Silas Deane, this amendment to the concept of a birthday is celebrated in the New England region of the United States, often with a ridiculous rite of passage, usually involving a feat of strength.

Inspiration

On a sea voyage to France with noted prankster Benjamin Franklin, the two foreign diplomats imbibed many an impromptu concoction. One fine day, a carefully rationed experiment in brewing bacon ale resulted in a four-bottle batch, of which three were intended for supporter of American independence Beaumarchais. The fourth bottle was shared between Deane and Franklin, with subsequent conversations resulting in baconday, an idea so creative, by their impaired judgement, that they feared the creative power of such a drink in French hands to the degree that they withheld their gift. Missing since the trans-Atlantic trip, the location of these bottles have been the subject of fable among New England bacon-lovers.

One bottle was found and sold at Christie’s auction house in 2007 for 100 brazillion dollars. The other two are still on the loose. Watch out.

Tradition

Intended for the families of Connecticut delegates, Deane proclaimed 13 bacon-related challenges, after the 13 American colonies, to be assigned and completed at each birthday, starting from one’s 13th birthday. Records were kept at the State House in Hartford, until the start of the Civil War, whereupon the more pressing matters at hand pushed out the jocular tradition from daily focus.

Pre-Civil War, the state’s government meetings began with a summary of the bacondays’ events since the previous meeting. Post-Civil War, the agenda item is not addressed, although it ceremoniously remains in the agenda as a reminder of those lost during the war.

Challenges

1st Baconday, 13th Birthday

Snort 13 fl. oz. of bacon grease in 13 minutes.

2nd Baconday, 14th Birthday

Consume 14 lbs of bacon in 14 minutes.

3rd Baconday, 15th Birthday

Wear 15 strips of bacon, from dawn ’til dusk, as the only item of ‘clothing’.

4th Baconday, 16th Birthday

Debate the virtues of crown rule against 16 strips of bacon in the town square.

5th Baconday, 17th Birthday

Soak in 17 pounds of bacon, from dawn ’til dusk.

6th Baconday, 18th Birthday

Run for mayor, with 18 strips of bacon as your running mate.

7th Baconday, 19th Birthday

Balance 19 lbs of bacon on your head in the town square.

8th Baconday, 20th Birthday

Perform an elaborate 20-part marriage proposal to a strip of bacon in the town square at noon.

9th Baconday, 21st Birthday

Take 21 shots of bacon grease, for breakfast.

10th Baconday, 22nd Birthday

Walk around, from dawn ’til dusk, with 22 strips of bacon in your shoes.

11th Baconday, 23rd Birthday

Submit to the state house a self-portrait using 23 strips of bacon.

12th Baconday, 24th Birthday

Legally change your name, first and last, to ‘Bacon’, for 24 days.

13th Baconday, 25th Birthday

Sing a 25-minute song, recounting your previous Bacondays.

References in Popular Culture

None. Yet.

Find Your Path via Scott Adams

Career advice from another cartoonist? Yep! Scott Adams does the Dilbert comic. As a kid, I remember reading those and thinking they were just OK. And then I entered Cubicle Nation, and I’m now embarrassed to admit how funny I find ‘em. I wish I could go back to my younger self and say, among other things, “Yo, hi, it’s me, you. I know, in the future, you rock. I’m not that good with time travelling, my flux capacitor prototype isn’t stable, so while I’m here, get this… You’ll lose the braces, you’ll get those Dilbert comics, and you will lose your virginity, but that’s not until you’re – ”

In a 2007 blog post, Adams gives what I think is some pretty simple and genius life advice. When given the following two options:

  1. Become the best at one specific thing.
  2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

Look behind door number 2.

I like how he says it:

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.

Unabashedly lifting from his writing again:

Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix.

So here we have a formula for combining your skills (ability), your passions (desire), which count because if you’re really into something then it’s easier to focus and put in the time to get good at it, and marketability to some degree (value), which derives from the uniqueness of your personal combo of what you’re “pretty good” at.

You’ve been on this planet for a little while already, so you’ve been able to get into things. What three things would you call yourself pretty good at?

You’re Allowed

Bill Watterson is the guy who did those Calvin and Hobbes comics. He gave a commencement speech to Kenyon College in 1990. From it is an excerpt that made it onto some webpage that then landed in my Facebook feed. I can’t find that page, but I think I found the excerpt:

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

I especially like that last bit – establishing your own life’s path starts with giving yourself permission, sometimes permission to not climb the success ladder that’s such a sacred structure of our environment.

That awesome life you want starts with realizing… you’re allowed to live it.

To Be A Better Person, Do Anything

A little birdie sent me the following link, thinking this is the type of thing I’d write about:

David Wong‘s End Times Report: 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person, for Cracked.com

Challenge accepted.

This message of tough love was viewed over 8 million times and I’ll talk about it as a whole. Before I do, here are those 6 harsh truths:

#6: The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You
#5: The Hippies Were Wrong
#4: What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People
#3: You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
#2: What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do
#1: Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

He starts it off by talking about markets, covering a point by Chris Guillebeau in ‘The $100 Startup’, where you can follow your inner compass and do what you love, but unless it is of value to somebody, and Chris G. refines this to lessening somebody’s pain or growing somebody’s happiness (he further refines this to not selling what you do, but teaching what you do), you’re only pursuing a hobby. The example given is enjoying pizza. Is somebody going to pay you for eating pizza?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think I might subscribe to the blog of a pizza afficionado – a one-man Yelp of all things pizza. Heck, think of the detail you could go into…

The secret to the unique texture of the Cooney Island pizza lies in, yes, the water. Its signature flavor peaked in 1954, with hints of cranberry making an appearance if allowed to rest on the tongue, a good year which reflects optimal summer rains, minimal sewage treatment runoffs, and maximal body disposals.

Such gastronomically intriguing critique aside, the point is that there has to be somebody who cares enough for what you’re doing to perceive it as valuable, and valuable enough to trade ya for it, usually with money.

Since stuff like money does help out with living, we acquire this currency via doing things of value for others, usually at a job. Since it’s natural to define ourselves by how we benefit society (how we give value to others), we are defined by our job, and this Wong guy says that actually, you are your job. You can be a nice person, but nobody is paying you to be nice, or at least not as much as they’re paying you to do your job. (And if being nice is your job, then man, I’d love to read your blog; you must be really really REALLY nice…)

So, now that we’ve gotten driven into our heads how humans need things, and how we are defined by our ability to supply a demanded product or service, he approaches our value from an angle I haven’t really seen. The second half of the article talks about inertia and how it relates to our value. See, the only way to be a part of this market of human supply and demand, besides demanding, is supplying: y’gotta do something. I like how he puts it:

Don’t like the prospect of pouring all of that time into a skill? Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the sheer act of practicing will help you come out of your shell — I got through years of tedious office work because I knew that I was learning a unique skill on the side. People quit because it takes too long to see results, because they can’t figure out that the process is the result.

The bad news is that you have no other choice. If you want to work here, close.

And by ‘close’, he means supply a human demand. Create and share. Output.

It’s easy to demand. It’s easy to want. It’s also easy to judge what others supply, what others make. It’s easy to be the critic. It’s harder to make something and suffer through the suckage which comes with the process of perfecting the craft of however you’re making value. This inertia, this… force that pushes back on you, this… laziness, is actually built in – it’s part of your biology, at least as per this Wong guy.

Happiness takes effort, but you can’t get criticized for what you make if you don’t make anything, and this fear aversion (what’s biologically built into us) is comfort. Comfort is easier than happiness, and it’s another form of doing nothing, not participating in the human market, and thus not adding value on this large, mostly blue rock.

So what does this Wong guy recommend to be a better person? Do something. Think it’s what inside that counts? Only if it gets you to do something: share what’s inside with others. Can’t think of something you can share with others? Do something that’s impressive to other people.

And that’s how he ends it. I read that last bit as do something exciting, which I’ve come to understand is happiness.

Challenge completed.

Thank you, little birdie.