Enough Data

I am finding that most of my decisions are made with enough data, and this is a different perspective on a trend I have been aware of for a handful of years now.

I want more data for my decisions, and I have continually wanted more data since I graduated veterinary school. Honestly it started before graduation. I was working as a Kennel Assistant (caring for dogs and cats, and cleaning their kennels, on Saturdays and some holidays) for a successful veterinarian in Columbus Ohio.

He took time to mentor me, making my work in the kennels much more valuable for me than just learning how to pill cats and dogs, and getting paid $9 an hour. Discussing the bloodwork on a case, and the unknown factors, I told him how I felt.

I felt like I was in a dark room, and I could see just past the end of my nose. I was looking for something, and the only way to find it was to reach out into the darkness, beyond how far I could see, and take hold of it. My mentor’s response suprised me – he said “don’t worry, after a decade in practice I still feel that way”.

Ah, I was hoping that he was just trying to make me feel better about my ignorance of many things. I was hoping that feeling would subside over time, but nearly 4 years into this arena and it hasn’t gone away. It’s kind of like a shapeshifter. Every time I solve a problem, every time I learn a system, every time I grasp the issue, I find a deeper level of meaning waiting to be understood.

So now I am learning to follow the rest of my mentor’s advice and to abide that uncertainty and make the best decision with what I have, and then learn more, and decide again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Iterate.

Don’t let the uncertainty paralyze you. You may have enough data.

Made a Mistake

I made a mistake last week.

A friend set up a training session for some fellows in our new church plant. These guys have signed up to volunteer on a specific team, and they need to go through the training before they are cleared to volunteer.

I am the coordinator for that team in our new church, and we are very short handed, so it was a great help to me that my friend set up the training. An older fellow agreed to do the training, and I had two guys on my team who said they could go to the training.

As we got closer to the date of the training, Sunday at 9:00 am, I confirmed the RSVP with the two guys on my team. I had hoped for more guys to be able to make it, and I didn’t want to waste the time of the older fellow.

Everything looked like it was going to turn out well, and then Saturday morning I got a message that no one showed up for the training.

The training was Saturday morning, not Sunday morning.

I had misread the message and put it on my calendar on the wrong day. I had told those fellows the wrong day!

Because of my mistake a significant amount of time was wasted. I felt so bad, I called the fellow that was to lead the training and apologized, I called the fellows on my team and explained the mix-up.

Still I felt bad.

I felt like I shouldn’t have stepped up to coordinate the team, like they would be better off without me. I felt like I was the reason for much pain in these fellows lives – but that isn’t true. I made a mistake. I did not intentionally cause these men any trouble.

If this had been the other way, if someone had stood me up because they misread my message and they had the wrong date, I would understand and I would not think ill of them.

So why do I feel so much worse, about myself, than I would about someone else?

I still feel it

I thought that, by now, this would be easier. I expected that after a hundred public posts, I wouldn’t feel any more fear sharing my thoughts.

Kind of like preg-checking cows. I thought that the pain was going to go away from that too. My arms were bruised, sore, and swollen for the first few weeks on this job. Early on, every next cow was yet another stab of pain. In the same way, the first posts here made me sweat a little, made me second guess myself at every little sound of an incoming email or text. It was that thought, way in the back of my mind, saying it would be someone angry at me for something I wrote, saying it would be someone telling me how wrong I am.

I don’t feel like I am injured on every cow anymore. Sometimes it still hurts, sometimes my wrist has still ached, and my forearm occasionally tender, but it is manageable. The pain doesn’t prevent me from doing my job anymore. The pain is there. The pain is real. There are even many things I do now to prevent injury ….but the pain is not what guides me.

And also with these posts. The fear must still be addressed. Like a feral dog just outside the light, the temptation to hide, to mince my words, to water down my thoughts, to avoid saying the hard things, to make everything a little softer than I truly believe it should be – is still there.

There is a time for soft words, and there is a time to speak the hard things. Proverbs 27 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. That isn’t a very pleasant picture to my mind – two pieces of iron grinding against one another. I don’t find it comfortable to think about being one of those blades, and yet as I mature, I find good coming from that place of conflict. Not always comfortable, not always pleasant, but good.

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.

Are you OK being with yourself?

I am always with myself by necessity, but I am learning that I can also choose to be with myself.

In the same way that I can be, physically present, with my family, and at other times I can choose to be present emotionally and cognitively.

A family member once told me they were in between jobs and had been asked by a friend to care for their friend’s home over several weeks one winter. This home was a small mansion that sat on a lake in Minnesota, and my family member’s responsibility would be watching over the home and taking the family Golden Retriever out for regular exercise, and they would be paid to boot. I was starstruck at the thought of that. What a glorious winter that would be. No deadlines. No expecations. Just the chance to be present, in a luxury home, in the glorious Minnesota winter.

I pictured lots of hot tea and cider, beautiful snow all the time, a warm fire and good books. Oh what a dream. My family member said they didn’t know if they would take the opportunity because “I don’t know if I like myself enough to be with alone with myself that long”. He went on to say that he didn’t think it would be as much of an issue for me, but that it was a real struggle for him. That comment made me think deeply.

It’s been a decade since that conversation, and as each day passes, I am learning more about present with myself and being OK about that. I am not the same man I was yesterday, and tomorrow will be a new day again, but the beautiful gift and the only place I can ever be, is right here, today.

You are not a mistake. You are loved more than you’ll ever know. It’s only life, enjoy the ride.

Not enough, or too many?

I find that when I sit down to write this blog, much like when I sit down to pen a letter, I seemingly have too much to say. I set words upon the page in haste, and while I am only a couple sentences in, they already begin to feel hollow. All of those moments and stories I want to communicate, they are only trifles compared to whatever my friend is experiencing.

Why would they care about the small events in my life?

So what is the value of me writing about the place I visited for breakfast? Because I certainly want to write about Sambo’s Restaurant in Santa Barbara. We were welcomed, as family, by the manager, and we felt so loved.

Anyway, there is a mix of both in my mind. Not enough important things to share here, and also too many things at once. I certainly don’t want to waste anyone’s time with spammy shills of blog posts. I want quality content. I want a meaningful topic. I want to grow. I want elegant prose. Yet, almost a hundred posts in, it is still scary to let these thoughts out into the public.

Wrangling Onward

I worked as a wrangler at Sorrel River Ranch for two seasons.

It seems like just yesterday, and yet it has been a decade since I spent my first season there on the Colorado river. It was there, in that paradise, where I was told my life was perfect and that I should never change. When I thought about the future that summer. When I looked out ten years later for my life, I did not see anything like this now. I probably would have laughed if someone had told me what would happen. My life is nothing like I pictured it would be. I never expected to be married to Tiffany, or to own a home, or to be in California.

I most definitely would not have understood how I feel about Tiffany and Katarina. My wife and baby girl changed my perspective in a way I could not comprehend.

And yet.

In many ways I feel like I’m still the same, I still feel like I’m very young and naive. I feel like I’m just getting started on life – like I’m at the trailhead of my path.

But I’m not just getting started anymore. If this were football, I am well into the second quarter. If I were hiking, I’m closer to the halfway point than to where I started.

This is not the end. Not just yet. There’s still some time left for you and me.

Let’s take this time we have and use it. Spend it. Make every minute worth it.

The Next Time

When I have finished a project, be that a woodcraft, a block of code, or an event, I have always had the thought of what I would do differently next time.

For example, when hosting a breakfast just yesterday, I thought how I should have counted the number of available full size plates beforehand – even when I didn’t know the amount of guests attending. At least that way I could have shrunk the number of unknowns down by one. Honestly, who wants to solve a multifactorial equation when you can just plug and chug a single variable?

Anyway, I often have these thoughts but rarely have I written these thoughts down. I think I will learn more from them if I start writing them down. So here goes some thoughts on last week’s plumbing project

  • Two people would make this job at least four times easier. Passing equipment into the crawl space would be handy. Being able to check apposition and alignment without physically crawling out would be absolutely golden. I had to clean off every time I entered the house, and in the end I still brought a lot of dirt up into the house.
  • PEX is very cheap per foot. I should have been more liberal with my cuts and pieces. I was too careful with my cuts, so I ended up with too much pipe to work with, which was awkward to handle.
  • Wrapping the new joints and fittings before taking the new pipe to it’s installation location. Very simple one here, but after crimping around a fitting I should have wrapped that end to keep it pristinely clean.

Here is a thought on yesterday’s code project.

  • Get a rough draft of all necessary functionality before starting. I mean knowing ahead of time a more comprehensive picture of the functionality I will want. That way I can build one function, and use it twice, rather than building an only slightly different function later.

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?

One Choice

I’ve been recently listening to the lectures from an MIT open course, Introduction to Psychology. I’m astounded at the complexity and organization within the brain.
We have an uncountable number of processes running deep in our minds, routines that are far beyond, or perhaps below, our consciousness.

And yet, even with all the influences we aren’t conscious of, we still have a choice. We have the wonderful privilege of being able to choose. In fact, that choice is really all we have. A single choice right now to love, or not to love.

The sun might warm your face today, or the icy winds could cut at your skin.

You may be in a season of bountiful harvest, with overflowing abundance and provision. You may be facing hunger and emptiness.

You might find pleasure in every step, or your close companions may be pain and loss.

Whatever your situation, you have a choice.

Bathroom Tap Pt. 1

We left Sandalwood Ave, and moved to Auburn St, this past April. We had rented an older, but clean, house through a management company for the 12 months previous to that.

When we did the initial walk-through of the house, before we signed the lease to rent it, we discussed many things that still needed repair or replacement.

One of the issues in the home was the master bathroom sink. It had no hot water flowing to it, and it had poor pressure from the cold water tap. The handyman told me he would fix it soon after we moved it. We contacted the company nearly every month and the response was always the same, “we will tell our man to fix it soon”.

He never fixed it. We lived there for an entire year without hot water in our bathroom sink.

Our home on Auburn also had a shoddy bathroom tap. When the faucet was opened up wide, the water came out from the tap much too slowly. Fully on, it could be better described as leaking rather than flowing.

Today I finally had the gumption to tackle it. It took several hours, but it was successful in the end. I’ll write more about the techniques soon.

P. Graham Dunn

I got to spend over an hour in the P. Graham Dunn shop today. The cheery decor and inviting charm were overflowing the unbelievably large facility. Elegance seemed the hallmark of the entire store.

Ten thousand photo frames and painted wooden signs adorned the displays and walls. Twine, wire, crystal, leather, ceramic, copper and slate were also commonly incorporated into the products. Not once did I like at something and feel it to be baroque.

Harry, the general manager of the twenty thousand foot retail store, introduced himself soon after we entered. He chatted with us for twenty minutes and told us about the P. Graham Dunn story, and of his own life journey.

This mug was the only thing we ended up purchasing, but we had a great time visiting.

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.