Start With Why

Why do you do what you do?

There. Don’t read the rest of this blog post. Just chew on the above for a solid minute. Five minutes, if you’re generous with yourself. Ten minutes, if you’re on a roll. Twenty minutes, if you’ve lost track of time and the thought of a growing inbox squeezed itself to the forefront. An hour, if you’re on one of those monk-like retreats where you’re on a vow of silence, and yet you’re reading blogs, like mine. A day, if you’re a fasting, silenting, enlightenmenting, non-showering, monkish type.

I mean, if you do decide to read on, you’ll see my notes on Start With Why, the book by Simon Sinek, as well as the results of what the book inspired me to do: figure out why I do what I do. Continue reading

Vote Every Day

(The following is what I shared with my co-workers today shortly after noon, Boston time, the day after we elected Trump to the presidency.)

To those of us who voted, hello there. This is for you.

I was born in a literal kingdom (…of Saudi Arabia) 8,000 miles away, onto soil that was… not home. I spent the first half of my life (17 years) there, surrounded by ex-patriots knowing one day we’d all… go home. One day, we’d go live in America, and do American things, like vote.

That’s why yesterday was special for me. I got to vote yesterday.

In the hope of connecting to others’ humanity ( [robot face] [winking face] ), and at the risk of sounding unprofessional, I’ll share my candidate didn’t win the presidency, and this has gotten me to think about what it means to vote. ( controversial hook / tension builds… ) Continue reading

Soapy Water Wisdom

Being hungover (or was I still drunk… I forget, it was college) was the best thing for me during a Physics test. Here’s how one of the questions went:

Given a buncha formulas we’re giving you, mostly in Greek, and some assumptions like you’re living in a world with no friction that is all at sea level, turn this set of Greek letters into this other set of Sanskrit letters. Just kidding. Greek letters. Have fun, pal.

Does YOUR head hurt when you read that? I’ll assume it does ’cause you want to humor me. Thank you. You’re very kind. Now consider my aforementioned added cranial crankiness and you will believe me when I say I looked that question square in the iota and thought:

I’ll give YOU freakin’ frictionless maritime Greek letters.

And thus I did. Slippery sea-faring alphas to Teflon tidal omegas. Got one of the highest grades in the class for that test, too. My secret?

This shit just HAS to make sense.

I didn’t have the brain bandwidth to be creative: I could only methodically use my initial set of formulas and power through incremental changes to turn them into this other thing they wanted. Successfully re-deriving an equation is one of my biggest academic satisfactions. Because I am a dork. Brazenly drinking (shots of) vodka.

Fast-forward a decade and change, my child is 3 months old, and through the practice of doing dishes, I have re-derived the Kanban notion of limiting work-in-progress, and the Lean notion of single piece flow. Because I am a dad. Barely treading (soapy) water.

Much like the early months of college, the early months of Zephyr’s childhood are a sleepless blur. Thank goodness I have Twitterial evidence of this time, because conversationally, I can only recall chaos. At home the first 2 weeks of her life, my job was easy:

Given your wife has turned into a milk factory, both adult parties mostly without sleep, and reducing the house of any physical or emotional friction while keeping it afloat, turn Day 0 into Day 90. Have fun, Papa.

‘Twas a very reactionary time, which meant I was often interrupted, including when washing dishes. Not having a dishwasher meant, per my primitive process, soaking a tubful of things in hot soapy water, abrasively removing residue from the individual items in said hot soapy water, then setting the tub’s worth aside to rinse and set in the drying rack, all in one batch. Batch size = 1.00 tub.

‘Twas a very repetitively reactionary time, which meant the interruptions shed light on the flaws in my dishwashing ways, since per interruption:

  • The tub full of hot soapy water would go cold.
  • The tub plus set-aside washed but not rinsed items would often sit and take up room in the sink.
  • Washed but not rinsed items would sit all soapy.
  • My wife would get pissed at the clutter due to any/all of the above.
  • I would get pissed due to any/all of the above.

Besides the last 2, the above represents in-between states of dishwashing: they’re not in a dirty stacked pile, and they’re not cleaned in the drying rack. They are abandoned, mid-process, and to start the process back up requires some extra work, like adding back hot water, clearing out the sink if we want to do something else with it, or re-soaking the washed but not rinsed items to work off any soap residue that dried on. These in-progress items are considered waste by those who study Lean.

(This deserves a parenthetical paragraph. Did you know there are 3 Japanese words for waste? There’s muda, which is stuff that doesn’t add value, which includes things done before they need to be. There’s mura, which is unevenness like the pooling of work-in-progress, like my dishwashing process above. There’s muri, which is unreasonableness like not having enough time or spirit to do a process. There. You now know Japanese. You’re welcome.)

Any extra work, when you’re under the physical stress of continuous non-continual sleep, sucks. So much like that Physics test, I’d face that sink and think:

This dish-washing shit just HAS to make sense.

So… I tried an experiment. I didn’t fill up the tub completely, but just enough to soak and wash and rinse the, say, utensils. Batch size = 0.25 tub. Interruptions had less of an impact, and I was less wasteful.

To be even MORE responsive to the changing environment, I tried another experiment. I’d still soak a smaller set, then wash and rinse one item at a time. Batch size = 1 fork. Interruptions had the least impact, and empirically, through limiting work-in-progress down to single piece flow, more things made it to the drying rack.

Being over-tired (or was I still dreaming… I forget, it was last year) was the best thing for me when doing dishes.

Moral of the story? Live in a place with a dishwasher. I’m so freakin’ serious. It is time back in your day, and that is your greatest commodity. Don’t settle, unless it’s some Zen activity for you, then that’s your thang, and I’m not going to get in the way of your joy. Otherwise, screw any Agile concept re-derivation mumbo-jumbo above (I mean, thanks for reading!): if you’re reading this (thanks again!), you most likely live in the first-world. Embrace this. Use a dishwasher.

ScrumOfThree

Since becoming a full-time ScrumMaster, I haven’t written much, unless it reflected on a significant event I wanted captured:

And then:

  • I became a father.

And through a year since:

  • I embrace the present moment a little more easily.

Diving into the above a bit, besides when we’re at the playground, or doing swim lessons, or other situations where I feel her life is in my hands, I’d say the most present I’ve ever been was just before and just after my daughter’s birth. A significant reason? My phone was off.

My phone wasn’t dead. My phone wasn’t almost dead. I wasn’t trying to be respectful. I wasn’t trying to hide. There was just absolutely nothing more important in the world (for me) at that extended moment, and the unquestioning clarity of that absoluteness has never… happened before.

I wonder when it will happen again.

My being unfathomably present was the only thing that could have happened (for me) at that extended moment.

I wonder when it will happen again.

Has this ever happened – for you?

Little Thistledown Things

Am sharing a video of Alan Watts, one of my favorites.

Here’s the transcript:

I remember once, I, uh, was looking in the open air and one of those glorious little thistledown things came and I picked it up, like that, and brought it down, and it looked as if it was struggling to get away, just as if you caught an insect by one leg, like a daddy longlegs or something of that kind.

It seemed to be struggling to get away and I thought, “Well it’s not doing that, that’s just the wind blowing.” And then I thought again, “Really? Only the wind blowing? Surely, it is the structure of this thing, which, in cooperation with the existence of wind, enables it to move like an animal, but using the wind’s effort, not its own.” It is (a) more intelligent being than an insect, in a way, because an insect uses effort, like a person who rows a boat uses effort, but the man who puts up a sail is using magic.

He lets nature do it for him, with the intelligence to use a sail. You see? Now, that is the most highly skillful art of all. That is Taoism in perfection.

So, I take that as: structure yourself to work with the Universe to act without effort.

The Taoist notion of ‘Wu Wei’ can be described as “the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life”. So you can read THAT, or choose to think about “those glorious little thistle down things”.