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The Nerdy Dali Lama

April 15th, 2012 No comments

I’ve been called some flattering stuff in my day, but that one may take the cake.

The other night I was hosting some friends for dinner and lengthy conversation ensued.  One of the facets of conversation was me fielding questions about how Tracy and I do and manage this or that as a married couple.  These friends are younger and earlier in their relationship than Tracy and I, but on their way to getting married and eagerly committed to creating and maintaining a strong and delightful relationship, one that’s built to last.

Humbled and delighted was I to learn that they look to us as a role model of a married couple, and that the way that Tracy and I interact is something they aspire to.

So we riffed about anything and everything on their mind about the matter.  I had the profound privilege of getting to play the role of guru, being asked questions about how we handle this or that and having my impromptu answers be heard with earnest curiosity.

It’s no secret that I love me doing some coaching: the opportunity to contribute to someone just by offering up questions to ponder, places to look, things to put attention on, and new perspectives to consider is just rad–super satisfying by itself and even personally enriching in the process (you just can’t coach about something without getting it yourself).

So this was that.  We riffed about divvying up chores, communication and misunderstandings, love languages, job satisfaction, long term game plans, having shared goals and dreams, and so on. With every question I got I just directed my attention inside, listened for an answer without ego to muffle it, and spoke whatever popped into my head.  It was fun and gave me a shiny and fresh appreciation for how Tracy and I roll.

By their reaction it looks like I gave them some useful things to chew on–a lot of ahas, a lot of interest, a lot of inspired glances thrown about.  The best was when she said at one point “Wow, you’re like the nerdy Dali Lama.”

Wow, what a fun title.  I’ll take it.

Actually that was the second best.  The best was when he suggested I should be giving a TED talk.

“Seriously, either in any of the philosophical stuff we’ve been talking about1, or from the stuff you write about on your business blog, you could totally come up with a talk worthy of a TED talk.  I’ve got some friends who are organizing a TED event next Tuesday in Oregon.  It’s short notice so probably not feasible, but something for you to consider.”

Something to consider indeed!  I’m going to let Tuesday in Oregon go, but, dang–that fits in really nicely with my current game to become a famous nerd making massive contributions to the world.

Notes:

  1. In our conversation I was referencing a lot of philosophy drawn from transformational teachings I’ve played with during the last 8 years.
Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Reflections on Doing The Artist’s Way

March 24th, 2012 No comments

One of the promises Tracy and I made to each other as part of getting married is to maintain (and act upon) a persistent commitment to growing and developing ourselves.

(We figure this is a very good thing because if you’re going to spend seven decades with another human being, you’re way less apt to get sick of them if they are constantly changing in the direction of becoming more rad.)

So when our friend Nick told us he was doing The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron whose sub-title is “The spiritual path to creativity” and which takes you through a 12 week process of exploring and unfolding it, we were quickly game to take it on ourselves.  (Kudos and thanks to Lee, who first introduced me to the book when I visited her in San Francisco back in November ’05: I was intrigued then which made me quick to jump in now).

The Artist’s Way has two core activities that you do regularly over the 12 weeks: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.  Morning Pages mean the practice of writing out, long hand, 3 pages of whatever is floating around in your brain first thing in the morning, every morning.  Stream of conscious, just keep writing until you’ve filled those three pages.  Artist Dates mean once a week do something, anything, that nourishes your spirit, and do it by yourself.   Without interruptions and anyone else to please, take time for you and no one else.

The act of keeping up Morning Pages alone is well worth the price of admission1.  For me they started feeling a little cumbersome but quickly turned into a delightful and downright practical ritual.  Things swirling around in my head got quickly sorted as simply what’s going on (with suddenly zero added anxiety or concern for how it will turn out).  A vague sense of what I should be focusing on (which for me is apt to creep in between contract jobs) turned into a clear path of to-dos and compelling motivation.  Dreams and visions and purpose for my life got created and refined over the weeks.

Purpose and vision got created regularly on a smaller scale as well: at about halfway through the second page I would often start to create exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my day, and with brain well primed with all the great things I wanted to do by mid-page three I could hardly wait to get on with it and start kicking ass in my day, armed with purpose, clarity and excitement.  (If you’ve never experienced this phenomenon on a regular basis, say, daily for a week, you really might want to try it.)

Artist Dates were a treat, too.  The author challenges you to actually make time and space for such indulges, and invites you to experience how much push back to doing so you will likely put up.  Among other things I took myself out to Peruvian restaurant for dinner and a big glass of Malbec, saw an improv comedy show, took a walk through downtown on a snow day and made snow angels in the park, holed up in a coffee shop reading Heinlein with a decadent hot chocolate, and took a field trip to the science museum.

The author is right: these were things I just wouldn’t have organized for myself without the external prompting.

Regarding going through the twelve weeks with someone else: a very good idea.  Tracy and I regularly compared notes on how it was going, the insights we were gaining, and things we were creating.  It was a shared experience that added depth to our relationship.

And the end result?  I’ve got big dreams worth playing for which constitute purpose and direction for the next few years (put simply I want to be a famous nerd, following in the footsteps of the thought leaders and contributors in my craft who make the world a better place).  The coding work I do is now thoroughly recognized and related to by me as artistic creation, and bringing my art to my work both shows in quality and elevated enjoyment in doing it.  I’m reconnected to my roots as being the art guy as a kid (it’s strange how thoroughly I’d forgotten) which just feels good and grounding in a way that is hard to described without getting all woo-woo.  My month between my tenure as CTO of DealNation and the next big project was flush with purpose and accomplishment, and tangibly sowed seeds of awesome for what was next.

Finally, through the experience and growin’ I am indeed a more interesting and rad person to my love, thus fulfilling more on the promise.

At about 10 hours per week, this was twelve weeks and $18 very well spent.

Notes:

  1. About $18 off the bookstore shelf, in case you were wondering.
Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Why Do the Landmark Forum

August 25th, 2011 No comments

I was the production supervisor for a Landmark Forum last weekend (volunteer gig–a useful exercise in leading/directing a team plus I’ve a soft spot for getting a refresher on the material).

It’s such a good course.  And even though I had some pretty kickin’ things happen as a direct result of doing it back in ’041, I typically do a shite job of conveying to anyone else why they should want to.

But I think now, with a few years of perspective since then and a few years of practice with the tools and concepts they teach, I’ve got a simple way to break it down, to illustrate what the Landmark Forum does.

Imagine a spectrum, and everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum.  On one end you’ve got a view of the world that sounds approximately like this:

people around me are idiots, I’ve got to do the best I can with what fate has laid out for me, that’s just the way the world is, life is far from perfect…but I’m working on it

On the other end of the spectrum there’s a view of the world that sounds approximately like this:

people around me are awesome, it’s up to me and only me how my life turns out, I’ve got a say in how things are and how they go, life is awesome and I’m free to play as I please

Visually, the spectrum looks something like this:

Those people messed it up.
I don’t have a say, no one does.
My life is rough because I got a raw deal.
They’re a jerk.
I’m better than everyone else around here.
No one but idiots around me.
It’s a flawed world, I’m working on it.
Nothing to do but deal with what is.
I can impact everything.
If my life is a mess, that’s on me.
I can see how I was being a jerk.
We’re all pretty great.
No one but awesome people around me.
It’s a perfect world, I’m playing in it.

You know people who fall far on one end of this spectrum or the other, and if you look you can probably place yourself somewhere on it with relative ease.

So here it is.

The Landmark Forum starts with people wherever they are on this spectrum, and over the course of 3 days, nudges them towards the blue side.  Maybe a little, maybe a lot.  But always towards the blue side of that spectrum.

Looking at it this way, I understand why doing the course (i.e. moving towards blue on the spectrum) doesn’t always seem like a good idea for people.  There is some serious comfort to be found towards the purple end of things: knowing that certain people simply are bad or beneath you, shrugging off lackluster circumstances as out of your control, and being able to point to this or that as cause for what’s not working.

It’s all good and comforting stuff, at least in small doses.

By a similar token, I understand why people often say to me that others should do it (even if they themselves can’t be bothered): it’s great to be around folks who complain less and love more, even when it’s hard work to do that yourself.

So that’s why do the Landmark Forum, in a grossly simplified nutshell: to move further towards the blue end of that spectrum.  Though there are no doubt juicy comforts of dwelling closer to the purple end, life on the blue end is wickedly powerful and enlivening–once you get the hang of it, you’ll never look back.

Notes:

  1. Out of my Forum I got my (first ever) girlfriend (2 weeks later), a $6,000 raise at work (3 weeks later), and made serious peace with my mom about my parents’ divorce
Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Unlikely Yoda

September 7th, 2010 No comments

Yesterday I drank beer with homeless people.

It’s not what I intended to do when I stepped out into the neighborhood streets that temperate and sunny Labor Day afternoon.  I was headed to the capital square for some peaceful people watching to enjoy the lazy day, so my detour wasn’t a total misfit.

How I happened to while away 2 hours on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was one of those precious offshoots of my tendency to engage anyone in conversation when given the opening.  Two older fellows were settled about the sidewalk when I strolled by with my characteristic goofy grin (which a walk in warm weather often causes), and one of them was interested enough to ask me how it was going.  I answered in earnest, returned the question in kind, and before long I said “Well heck, you guys mind if I just take a seat and hang with you a while?”

And that’s how I met Bruce, a self-described “slightly-used-up hippie”, and Gary, a fellow in a wheelchair who had less to say than Bruce.  For my choice to accept the graciously offered 24-ounce can of Natural Ice from the brown paper bag (still kinda cold!), I was rewarded with a slice of life far removed from my ordinary and a dose of new perspective.

I think enough Natty Ice on a sidewalk will make a philosopher out of anyone, and sure enough rich conversation ensued.  Depending on your state of mind and willingness/ability to assign useful meaning, the platitudes spoken forth by my new, slightly-used-up hippie friend were either pointless drivel or priceless nuggets of wisdom.  I took to panning for gold while he spoke of the freedom of sleeping by the river while not owing or being owed anything to or by anyone, never believing people in this world who will try to tell you that some things are less important than others, and the marvel and celebration of how I’m willing to get up everyday and do things that no one else is willing to do (I’m still not sure whether or not those statements were referring to any activity in particular).

Whatever was said, I took to listening constantly for the gold coming from one who had lived a life very different from my own, because why not?  I figured worst case I’d shrug it off after enjoying a beer and company on a nice afternoon.  So we waxed philosophical and I did my best to grasp the words of my sometimes seemingly contradictory host.  Along the way there was even a jam session, featuring a fellow named Luis Small who stopped by with a steel drum, Bruce rockin’ the harmonica, and generous offers of a swig of brandy and a hit off a spliff.

This was way more fun than I was gonna have at the capital square, even if I did pass on the brandy and spliff.

It was my bladder that eventually had me be on my way.  “Hey Bruce, I totally gotta pee.   Thanks for the beer, do you mind walking with me to the liquor store on Colfax so that I may return the favor?”  After assuring him I knew I didn’t owe him anything (he wanted me to be super clear about that), it was my pleasure to take a 2 block stroll, wander in, and wonder out with a replacement king can Natural Ice plus 2 more.  I like to think of it as repaying my karmic beer debt, with interest.  With a hearty handshake and a hug I was off.

So Bruce was my Yoda for a day: the mere act of trying to figure out what he was saying gave me useful perspective on my life.  This morning during abs in the 6:30 Yoga Sculpt class I envisioned him in the cliched, starry background in the corner of my mind’s eye, telling me in prophetic tones how I get up in the morning and do things that know one else is willing to do.

It made me push just a little bit harder.

Red Rocks: First Impressions

July 1st, 2010 No comments

The stunning splendor of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre“Hey buddy, you doin’ alright?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” barely turning my head to acknowledge the inquiry into my well being as I continued staring out into the distance.

They thought I might be stoned.  Somehow.

Couldn’t blame ’em, for during the first 45 minutes of settling in on our high seats, sipping a cold one and waiting for dusk to fall so that 8,000 attendees could enjoy the evening screening of John Hughes’ 1986 masterpiece Ferris Beuller’s Day Off as part of the most excellent Film on The Rocks 2010 summer series, I was off in my own little world, enjoying a spiritual journey of experiencing universal oneness that gave me the glimpse of being profoundly connected to everyone and everything around me.

Now, that sounds like a hippy-dippy brand of cliched BS, so allow me to explain.

There are a number of traditions and disciplines that teach, in essence, that all of us and all of existence are but different manifestations of the same, infinite, divine presence.  My 45 minutes of staring out and focusing on sites near and far was but a meditation on that idea.  It struck me as sort of a god’s-eye-view of so many things from near and far.  From my seat at Red Rocks that night, you could see:

  • The city of Denver rising in the far distance, looking as peaceful as can be.
  • The ever marching line that separated night from day as the sun set over a dozen townships.
  • Clouds that loom and the shadows they cast as they drift across miles of rolling hills in the distance.
  • The blackening sky that stretches beyond the clouds, where the very satellites that capture the aerial views of google maps zoom around.
  • The majestic, rising stone formations above that have probably awed and inspired people for thousands and thousands of years (i.e. since well before some dude had the good idea to etch a series of wide bleachers and call it a venue).
  • 8,000 generally happy people hanging out, enjoying being outdoors while awaiting a good show.
  • My love sitting and looking cute beside me.
  • A tall, tasty pint of beer in my hand.

All of these vastly varying perspectives I could experience in the same moment.  I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face and even broke into laughter more than a couple of times.  I don’t know for sure why, maybe it was the beer.  Everything just seemed to fit together and existence itself seemed like a really fun, and well put together game, ripe for enjoying.

And thus was my first experience of the natural splendor known as Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Good place to catch a classic movie, too.

Categories: Enlightenment Tags: ,

Announcing JPL Consulting

April 3rd, 2010 3 comments

With the help of some great work with the folks at Maverick and Company I’m proud to announce the birth of the most clearly articulated professional identity that I’ve ever had, JPL Consulting.

JPL Consulting is the culmination of nearly seven years of experience doing web application programming and design.  You can see in the evolution from True Edge Consulting and then Playground Creative that this is really the first time I’ve presented precisely what it is that I do.  In retrospect it’s strange that it’s taken me this long to do just that.

I’ve also created a companion blog, which contains missives and essays about custom software development and being a programmer for hire.  This is perhaps the most interesting part: I have a lot of thoughts, perspective and ideas to share drawn from six plus years in this business.  A worthy read for anyone who wants to know how I roll professionally, and especially for anyone who’s involved in the hiring, doing, or managing of custom programming projects.

Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Panama in Review 5: Return

March 18th, 2010 1 comment

The topic of the return from an international trip wouldn’t usually be sufficient to warrent it’s own missive, but this one was adventure enough to justify it.

Why an adventure?  Simple: Tracy and I both had wicked sun burns from our surfing, highly specialized to the back side from all that face down paddling about.  The burns were bad enough and the day was long enough (19 hours hotel to home) that our journey was an exercise in meta-physic:s a game in mind over matter, practice at the transformational distinction between pain (what is) and suffering (a possible interpretation about what is).

Without that sort of mental fitness we would have been quite that sad and suffering pair.  Instead we came up with the following:

  • Confidence that we’ll be fit travelers together for at least 40 more years, because we were just fine walking around with the stature and gait of retirees.  Knees buckled, shoulders hunched, slooooooow, small steps: turns out we can travel under these conditions.
  • Elaborate strategies for minimizing the number of times we would need to sit down and stand up, including waiting around extra long before boarding the plane (to ensure our window seat neighbor had gotten settled before we took our middle and aisle seats).  (Though some strategies did backfire, like sitting around at Chile’s Too for long innings drinking tall beers.)
  • Delight in popping pills together, when we decided to splurge on Airport Advil and have what is probably the closest experience to being junkies that we’ll ever come to.
  • A deep and profound respect for one another as hardcore and jovial human beings, able to have substantial fun in the face of substantial discomfort.

The best was when we got back to Denver: it was cold, but with the backs of my knees as red as they were I had no interest in trading out shorts for jeans.  So it was socks, sandals, shorts, and hooded sweatshirt (and don’t forget my hobbling stride).  I looked like absolute hell.  And it was funny, too.  Just ask the lady at the King Sooper’s (grocery store) who openly giggled at me when we stopped in for some late night food.  I’m one major step closer to understanding the mentality of older people who couldn’t care less for fashion, save for perhaps what others think about their fashion.

It’s kind of liberating. :)

Categories: Enlightenment, Travels Tags:

Bluffing About Books I’d Recommend

January 7th, 2010 No comments

A friend of mine Tom is a huge fan of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a treatise on a [then] new form of psychotherapy that was formulated based on the author’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.  The central premise is that man can deal with whatever life throws at him, so long as the “why” or purpose of it is present and deemed worthy.

At his recommendation I gave it a read, and because he’s looking to get it republished and refurbished for the times, he asked me how likely, on a scale of one to ten, I would be to recommend it to others.

I told him I’d give it a two.

It’s a good book and I actually do find it recommendable.  So why just a measly two?  I told Tom that I have about ten other books in the area of philosophy/transformation that I would recommend before this one, and how often do you have a single person follow so many of your reading recommendations as to get that far down the list?

Tom called my bluff and said, in essence, “wow, that’s cool–tell me your ten, I’m interested!”

Here’s the list I banged out in answer to most his reasonable request:

  1. Laughing with God by Jerry Stocking.  It’s my island book.  Fantastically whimsical, made up conversation between a regular dude and God.  I think it’s my most favorite personification of God, and the most believable too.
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Classic, super pragmatic and spot on in it’s wisdom.  I found it noteworthy how many of the chapters map on pretty cleanly to the distinctions taught in communication courses I’ve taken, and vice-versa.
  3. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.  Not overtly transformational per se, but a really poignant guide to mapping out what REALLY contributes to quality of life versus all the clutter that we pretend is.
  4. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  Sub-titled “A guide to Spiritual Enlightenment”, it’s thick but super powerful if you can wrap your head around it.
  5. The Multi Orgasmic Couple by Mantek and Maneewan Chia.  Delightfully useful in its own right, and there’s nothing quite like the spiritual, positive Taoist slant on sexuality to wash away a lot of the head trash of anxiety and shame that still lingers pretty prominently in Western culture.
  6. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen.  Eating well for both flavor and being well nourished contribute pretty strongly to quality of life in my book, and this quick read is a fantastic treatise on the current state of our industrial food production, how much our diet has slowly morphed into so much processed corn, and what’s available out of a simple return to real food.
  7. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  Super interesting read loaded with food for thought about humanity’s place among all life on earth.  (I get the biggest kick out of the jellyfish story.)
  8. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.  The life and times of Jesus from age 6 through to the end of his ministry (including the in-between years that biblical accounts always seem to skip over), as told by his smart ass best friend Biff.  Ironically the most accessible delivery of Christ’s message I’ve ever encountered, and funny as hell to boot.
  9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.  Narrative of life during a 17 day motorcycle road trip, with well written philosophical bits brilliantly interwoven.
  10. How to Win By Quitting by Jerry Stocking.  Series of self contained essays on the cultural, personal, and societal games we play and appear to be stuck in without even realizing it.  Food for thought for recognizing the water you swim in, and insight into how much of life we think we’re bound to is actually quite optional.

Reflections on Getting Rid of Most of My Stuff

December 28th, 2009 No comments

Whilst traveling about in Argentina, Tracy and I talked once or twice about what the living arrangement would be when I came back to the states to be with her from Denver.  Perhaps I’d get my own apartment, perhaps I’d crash at her place and enjoy floater status for a few weeks while we felt out what would best work, perhaps I’d outright move in with her (our engagement which soon followed provided a nice context for this last option).

Whatever it would be, the joke was that all I needed to do to completely move in with her was walk into her apartment while wearing my big ol’ traveler’s backpack.

What freedom.

And that’s not even counting the emotional freedom of not having to worry about the maintenance/storage/protection associated with clinging to my stuff.

The real, longer-term beauty of the situation is that my time in Argentina showed me how  truly little of my stuff was necessary to be fully functional, productive and happy.  I can now choose what’s actually important to me because the situation decided for me what is not.  I mean, if I haven’t missed it by now…  I haven’t even yet plugged in my desktop computer: turns out I can work just fine without jumbo, dual monitor action, and for it every wi-fi enabled nook of this fine city can serve as my office.

The ultimate reassurance?  If a given item is really that important I can always pull something comparable back out from the Craigslist/secondhand ether into which it was placed.

Categories: Enlightenment, Travels Tags: