They’re all bad

Statistically speaking, I think it’s safe to say that my ideas are bad. I don’t mean that they are malignant or somehow wicked, just that 97% percent of them are less than what I’m hoping for. Half of them are below average.

And I’m learning to be ok with that.

I’m not looking for more average, I’m on the hunt for outliers. What’s that one thing, or that small cluster, which once implemented which will create a wave a change, a veritable cascade of value.

Take food for example. A tremendous amount of calories must be ingested in order to supply our natural bodies, and without that steady intake – we suffer. For many thousands of years, it was of highest importance to maintain food supply. Recently, the food supply in some parts of the world has been stabilized, and now we can turn our attention to other things – like this.

Insulin. A tiny amount is the difference between vigorous life and certain death.

It doesn’t matter if Banting, McLeod, Best, and Collip discovered dozens, or tens of thousands, of “dud”, or “useless”, organ extracts and organic compounds in the body. Insulin made it all worth it.

Like this blog. I expect to look back on this posts years from now and find that I’ve grown in understanding between now and then. The work I am doing now, even the work that I am putting the most energy and focus into, will hopefully look antiquated in light of the work I have yet to do.

So I’m ok with “bad” ideas. Ideas that don’t go anywhere. Ideas that don’t pan out to be game changing for me. I can let these go and move on. The only way to find the best ideas is to keep looking.

There yet remains undiscovered insulin.

Taking Hold

I’ve been holding onto a hundred different ropes. Every one of them is a thread running to something in my life – something that I believe has potential. Something wild to be taken and tamed. It’s high time to let go of some of those ropes.

All this time, I am eagerly anticipating that day when I defeat a Bengal tiger at the end of one of those ropes.

Anyone can subdue a lamb. Many have tied up a calf. It is nothing extraordinary to catch a squirrel.

The future belongs to the one who bears the gaze of the tiger, and then binds it.

I’ve been waiting and preparing for that life or death dance with that proud beast.

The myriad of squawking chickens and noisy toy monkeys on the end of my ropes are distractions. It’s time to let them go.

It’s time, with both hands, to take hold of the line that leads directly to the snapping jaws.

Failed Again

I failed a few more times today.

I dropped the ball.

I missed the target.

So what now? It seems that I’m facing a dichotomy.

On one hand I want to play it safe. Back off the challenge, turn the pressure down, go back to the place I was comfortable. Before I go any farther in writing this, I want to make it very clear that I don’t believe that is the wrong choice. Sometimes that is exactly what should be done. In every football game there is a time to play defense. There is a time to focus on preservation over increase. Consider if you were at this moment on the mainland, awaiting Dorian, this is not the time to be casting nets. This would the time to bunker down, to play defense, to retreat. Heading for safety is the right thing to do.

But I am not facing Dorian. I am not staring at a catastrophic force of nature. I am under no imminent threat. No, I am only feeling the sting of my injured pride at making a false step in this dance. I am feeling the embaressment of shooting my arrow off mark. In this case, it wouldn’t help if I ran for safety. If I bowed out of the game now, I wouldn’t have the chance to grow. I wouldn’t get the full experience.

So instead I am facing the target, raising my arrow, and drawing my string. Exhale. Release.

Elizabeth ready to release her arrow

The result of many little blocks

I had a “first” today in my coding.

I had experienced all the little parts of this new function before, actually each little part many times. The methods and properties I used weren’t novel even a little bit. I just called a few of my own functions along with a nested loop to sort my data, created a template for it to print the data to, and a little HMTL window to query from. All I did was reorder the little lego pieces to create something that someone wanted.

The solving of the problem, the victory over the mystery and the returning a product, built exactly to the client specifications, that was to be relished indeed…but that wasn’t the novel experience today.

It was the eloquence with which the language fell onto the editor. I had never felt so in-tune with all the libraries before. I finally found a harmonious path – where my own functions seemed to integrate intimately with the Javascript and Google Script. The entire thing was elegant (at least compared to my other iterations at this rudimentary stage). It was functional (exactly what was requested). Finally, it was easily modifiable (the client asked for a further change soon after seeing the output).

Seth Godin always encourages us to show up. Turn on the light. Do the work. Then take it to someone and say “Here you go. I built this”.

Today was the first day it didn’t feel awkward when I created something in the .gs editor.

PS: I did it within two playthroughs of For Emma, Forever Ago;

A Capstone

I worked with a fantastic team today. They have recently experienced some terrific results, results that greatly surpassed their yearly goal. The oldest fellow on the team said that their new status quo was a “capstone”.

I really like his description.

They didn’t get to that level overnight. This is just one more step in a long series of intentional steps. This is the result of years of diligence and focus. It’s like Dave Ramsey’s formula for unstoppable momentum.

Changing Perspective

I have written on here before concerning how difficult it is for me to let go of things that once served me.

It’s a process for me. I’m still growing in this area. A week and a half ago, I listened to Greg McKeown, in conversation with Tim Ferris, discuss this very matter in depth, with significantly more understanding and insight than was provided in my blog post.

Anyway, one of the takeaways I had from the interview was that having too many opportunities is truly a problem for us. We often say “oh that’s a good problem to have”, but that does not negate the suffering it can bring to our lives. Even a “good” problem is still a problem.

I hope you’ll listen to the discussion those two men have.

My perspective, especially as I view my career, is certainly changing as I ruminate on their words.

What am I doing only for the sake of saving face?

What am I doing that is truly valuable, both to me and to those around me?

Anomalies?

I have typically been highly sensitive to decision making in small sample sizes. A single day’s outcome doesn’t matter much in a year’s worth of results.

Parts of Popper’s philosophy of falsification were thoroughly engrained in me during college, and my common exposure to research, statistics, and significance leaves me very wary of the single case of surprises. Anything to avoid a Type 1 error.

However, I think there is an area of study where a single aberrant finding can mean much more than it would in chemistry and physics. Undesirable behaviors.

I don’t yet have this thought fully fledged in my mind.

I just know that I have experienced, now multiple times, the significance of a single event when investigating problems on dairies. A single observed expression of a bad behavior; undue aggression, cutting corners, carelessness etc. has later been shown to be only one in a long list of transgressions. It has been just the “tip of the iceberg”.

Moving forward, I think I should consider longer those be single actions, and not chalk them up as anomalies.

Connecting Dots

My Co-op post yesterday got me thinking even more about connecting the fields of Modern Agriculture and Conservation Biology.

I remembered a group of researchers being led by Dr. Katy Proudfoot at The Ohio State University. They are looking at spatial use of maternity pens by dairy cows. These maternity pens are typically small (1,000-3,000 square feet) and can have a high cattle stocking density (I believe only 50 square feet per cow is common)

As a Wildlife Sciences undergraduate, I would have found the opportunity to collaborate with a veterinary group as an extremely attractive project. So today I reached out to the College if Natural Resources at the University of Idaho, to see if I could connect with anyone there who would be interested in helping the veterinary group on these studies.

I also tweeted at a post-doc researcher who has done much work on white nose syndrome in bats. She said she may know some people from the conservation side interested!

On the natural resources side, determining spatial use is a major pillar of conservation research, and maintaining the proper environment to maximise use is a fundamental task of ecologists.

On the veterinary side, we often talk about barn design to control the environment in favor of the cows, i.e. proper ventilation, temperature control, access and delivery of food and water, waste management etc. We spend very little time thinking about the cow’s preference or biological drive, and Dr. Proudfoot’s team is leading the way in that area.

Change Again

It is easy for us to call out for others to change and do better, to leave their old ways behind and embrace new and better practices.

It is hard for us to go through the same process ourselves. We have stories. Our choices and habits got us here, and oftentimes we feel we would be happy staying where we are right now. In fact, a gentleman once told me “Your life is perfect. Right now you are in a perfect place. Don’t change anything”.

I think he meant well by saying that, and he wanted to protect me from pain and loss, to shield me from the heartbreak and disappointment that marks so many of our lives.

Would that be a good life?

To live statically?

Suspended in a single moment like an old stone statue?

C. S. Lewis answers this beautifully.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.