Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Is it time to raise our quality of life?

Ask yourself what we in the US value most. It's productivity and efficiency in my mind. Why do we obsess over these two things so much, especially since we place value them to the point of sacrificing our quality of life. We are willing to settle for so much cheap crap, so many broken relationships, so much emotional pain and isolation, all in the name of being efficient! I think it might be time to start letting some efficiency go in exchange for a higher quality of life.

Some examples:

  • Not spending every day and evening at the office in exchange for a better social life or family life.
  • Not settling for a crappy and dangerous pedestrian experience in the few walkable places of our cities in exchange for being able to get to your destination in a car 1 minute quicker.
  • Don't settle for being afraid to use all of your paid time off from work because you feel pressure in your workplace to be efficient and productive. You will be more productive if you learn how to relax and enjoy your life outside of work.
The list could go on. What are some other ways that we sacrifice a higher quality of life all in the name of efficiency?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Extreme emotions

Here's a light and easy topic for today's post: how do you handle extreme emotions in yourself? Ok, so I'm joking about that being a light topic. It clearly is not! As I've grown up and been in a "normal" everyday type of life having a career, friends, family, etc, I've noticed in myself that I have my reoccurring things/circumstances that cause me to feel extreme emotions. These are the types of emotions that make concentration difficult and normal relating to people sometimes challenging. And when these emotions keep occurring even though I talk through them, journal about them, gain some relational support around them and yet I keep feeling them, many times that leaves me in a weird position. It makes me realize that I am a complex being and my feelings are complex as well. Life circumstances both short-term and long-term are complex as well. There are no easy answers.

To get through these things, sometimes I simply power through an exercise routine to help clear my head, other times I need to talk with someone. But as I've learned in recent years, sometimes I just need to sit and wait - sometimes for days, months or even years before I understand my emotions and before resolution comes. Trusting this can be extremely difficult. So again, I'm curious, how do you handle the extreme emotions in your life? Are there any ways that you're not proud of how you handle your emotions?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Quality over quantity

At lunch today I read from a book that I just ordered last week titled Thoughts on Building Strong Towns by Chuck Marohn, founder of the Strong Towns organization and movement. I've committed to myself to read a chapter a day and write a blog post with some thoughts. So today's chapter is titled If it creates jobs then it must be good, right? The premise of this chapter is that we as a country at our various local levels (federal and state too) have focused on the wrong things to create jobs and to create continued growth. We've focused on making all kinds of subsidized incentives in order to bring in any kind of job no matter what. We pay little to no attention to the quality of these jobs or if they actually do anything to directly pay for the liabilities that we have in our cities or contribute to a high quality of life. Our current policies create the incentives that result in us having far too many places in US cities that look like this:

This is far too common in the US

Chuck is right on in this chapter. Our cultural approach to just about everything is to do the dumbest possible things, the things that bring quantity without looking at any of the important details that make up the quality of these things. In the case of jobs, we think that we'll continue to have better cities if only we create more jobs through two primary ways: increased infrastructure spending and playing the tax incentives game to attract jobs. So as Chuck asked, how's that working out? It's not, at all. We can no longer deny the qualitative side of things. Most cities in the US are literally crumbling. Ask yourself how can this be while we are still the richest country in the world?

The best economic strategy for a city is to create the most appealing and livable places that speak for themselves. If our places are utter crap in ways such as not being able to walk to things and having to drive everywhere, creating cheap built environment of the infrastructure and the building stock and having poor environmental conditions, then yes, you're going to have to bribe people to come and stay there. But why play that game? Why not create cities that are financially sustainable (meaning we don't build sprawl and we don't build new stuff only to abandon the old), visually attractive, highly walkable (again, less sprawl, more compactness), gives first class status to walking and biking instead of having to drive everywhere, making your city less noisy again by substantially reducing the need to drive a vehicle, encouraging and creating all kinds of fun local events to go to, be apart of and enjoy, etc.

This list is all about quality over quantity. We cannot continue to create cities that are built with a "throw-away" mentality. We're building things that need to survive for a long time because those are the only things that we actually take great pride in. Almost nobody will take pride in a cheap vinyl-clad house that has very little resale value. Nobody takes pride in a city that lets basic maintenance continually slide. Taking great pride in something creates the right incentives for people to want to be in your city, to set up a diverse set of businesses and to make deep and lasting connections to people and places all around you. This is such a huge divergence from the current cultural norm. But we need to get there because America can literally no longer afford to keep subsidizing crap and ignoring quality. Our quality of life is really starting to suffer financially, socially, physically, etc. Growth for growth's sake no longer cuts it. We've already picked all of the low-hanging-fruit of growth from our society. It's time to build with quality and prepare for the long run instead of only today. It's time to build things like the following, where people love to be and to visit:

A public square in Vienna, Austria

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Practice, practice, practice!

I'm going to try a new thing. I've always wanted to be a more frequent blogger but I've never been able to accomplish that goal. So I'm going to try and move this blog into a daily discipline kind of category where I'll use my technology (my phone's calendar) to remind me to blog every day. It doesn't matter what the topic is, I just want to reflect on something and capture that here. I'm not entirely sure if I have regular readers on this blog yet, but if you are one, you'll start to get much more regular content! This is of course assuming that my discipline plan works after all.

One quick thought for today. I'm finding it very hard to focus on work today. I've not mentioned here before that I am a software engineer/project manager for my day job at Canonical and I work from home full time. That means I'm pretty much the master of my own destiny for my daily schedule (minus any work meetings that I have to attend). Today, with the weather being much more grey and cool as well as it getting darker and darker in the mornings and evenings and being at the tail end of jet lag from a work trip to Europe last week, I'm finding it very hard to focus and to sit in a chair. A friend suggested the Pomodoro technique to me today, which has been a great suggestion. I find that when I get this way, which thankfully is quite rare, a hard workout routine is also very helpful. I'll be doing that as a break from my work this afternoon. My question to you, my readers, is how often do you feel like this and what do you do when you experience this to still be productive at your desk job?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Truly Present Conversation

I've been reading through a fantastic book titled Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships. This book has been nothing short of amazing and I highly recommend anyone reading this post should read this book.

While reading from it today, the text made me consider that I can further improve on listening to people without comparing or feeling comparison from things in my own past. When someone tells me something about their past, maybe how their mother treated them one time or that studying for math while going through school was really easy for them, I can't help but feel a comparison within me surface shifting the focus from them back to me. This is not helpful for developing closeness in that relationship!

Instead, what I'd like to start practicing is to not react and replace the reacting with a deepening interest in what that other person has confided to me. The book suggests that I can do that by asking inviting, generally open-ended questions with the goal of getting to know that other person's perspective in a better manner. The goal is not to have them simply state something from their past and then for me to state something from my past in a back-and-forth comparison kind of way. Why? Because that is a surfacy, competitive game of conversational ping pong. It does not allow me to better get to know anything about that person because I didn't use those moments with them to ponder and consider what they told me about themselves. I quickly replaced it with my own past experience leaving that conversation in an awkward surface state. The natural result is for that conversation to die pretty quickly, especially after this is established as a relational pattern. People will have a hard time feeling close to me, thus causing me to wonder what's wrong with myself (again, the same pattern). This kind of relating takes great confidence and I believe it also is self-reinforcing in creating even more confidence.

It's time to practice a different way of relating, one that I believe will reap huge relational rewards for not only myself, but everyone else in relationship with me. I'm excited to get started on this practice! Share your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Thoughts on Moving

I've been contemplating moving from my current city of Indianapolis for the last several months. At first, I was looking into and trying to move forward on moving to London, UK. For me it made a lot of sense: I know several people there and some of these people quite well, the company I work for is headquartered there which would provide me the ability to work out of the office when I want to for when I need social interaction, and I've always wanted to try living in Europe. But alas, my company isn't able to sponsor me moving there. So presently that's just not a possibility. Without a proper work visa I can't be there for longer than 3 months.

Now as I contemplate where in the US I'd like to move to, I've noticed several interesting things:

  • I'm tired of US culture in many ways
  • Both large and small, our cities have a long way to go on creating dense, soft, aesthetically pleasing and livable urban experiences when compared to Europe
  • It's really hard to choose one place to move to when I literally can choose anywhere in the US
US culture is so fickle. We're glued to our smart phones even in the presence of other outstanding people. We live in isolated suburbs that take 30+ minutes to get to anything and we wonder why we feel so alone. We are so scared of being professional irrelevant that we don't know how to take any quality time off from our jobs. Even when we have more than 2 weeks of holiday, many Americans still don't use up their base 2 weeks. We are trained to consume things in a temporary manner, dispose of them and then look forward to the new shiny thing. We do this with objects and we do this with people. It's another reason we're so lonely.

Our cities are still car-centric. Even NYC with it's great subway system and dense living which is highly walkable, it still has wide one way streets that feel like crossing interstate highways. Contrast this to many European cities where roads are generally narrow and even in the middle of these, there exist raised islands for pedestrian safety. We just don't quite know how to pay or and implement these basic traits that Europe has gotten right for decades now. Cities need to be designed and retrofitted for pedestrians first - always. Anything else creates what we have today which are more about commercial throughput and efficiency of vehicles rather than productivity and livability of human beings.

For me, too much choice really is a bad thing. I much prefer a smaller curated list of whatever it is I'm trying to choose be it craft beer, food, or the place that I'll call home. The list of possible cities and regions in the US is staggering.

The thought of leaving existing friends is a troubling one to me. Indianapolis is a great place in many ways with many things going for it, but it's primarily the people I know who are why I've remained here for many years. But there are great people everywhere and I want a place that has a highly livable city with incredible nature and outdoor activities to do. Indiana is not that place. I feel like a fish out of water here. I think it's just hard to make such a decision as to uproot and move, especially when the only other time I've done that was when I first came to Indy to attend college. But all great decisions start with some risk and some challenges. Anybody else have thoughts or stories about a large move that you made?

Monday, July 25, 2016

First post!

I'm creating this new blog as a sort of experiment for myself. I'm 34 year old single male who has a lot of questions about my life journey and this world I live in. I want to better explore this journey by capturing my thoughts and my feelings into a public space where I hope to gain a community of similar minded individuals to participate with my by commenting and engaging. As I said before, this is an experiment and something that will evolve. If you're reading this thanks for engaging with me and please keep coming back and exploring with me!