Anachostic

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Tag Archives: inspirational

It Wasn’t Me This Time

Today, I got an answer to something that I’ve always wondered.  What would I do if an accident happened right in front of me?  Well, it was actually right behind me.  I drive that road every day after work and I know how it can get. 

The road is a two-lane off-ramp connecting two interstates.  At that time of day, the right-most lane gets backed up.  There have been times that I couldn’t merge in and I couldn’t very well stop and hold up traffic in the left lane, so I was forced to take an alternate route home.  Because the right lane backs up and the left doesn’t, I think that people driving in the right lane (and this has happened to me) misread the speed of their lane, because they are keeping pace with people in the faster left lane.  Then all of a sudden, your lane grinds to a halt.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see it happen a couple of cars ahead, if you’re not lucky, the car in front of you will suddenly slow down.  If you’re really unlucky, the car in front of you will swerve onto the shoulder and the car in front of them will be stopped.  All of that happened today.

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I actually was not lucky, I was surprised by the car in front of me.  The cars behind me were less lucky.  I escaped unscathed.  But not being involved in the accident, what was I to do?  This is the question I had been wondering about.

See, I hate the world.  I really hate people.  I blog about it; it’s not a secret.  But I hate that the world is that way.  And so what did I do in this moment of truth?  I pulled over and jogged back to see if there was anything I could do to help.

Everyone was as fine as you could hope for.  One guy who had his airbags go off seemed a little stunned and I had to roll his windows down to get some fresh air in there (Airbags really stink.  That’s the second time I’ve smelled it.)  Another Samaritan was checking on drivers too and said he would call 911, but he disappeared quickly after.

I hung around until the police and paramedics arrived and gave everyone my contact info in case their insurance company wanted it, but I’m not sure I’ll be of much help.  The people behind would have been better witnesses, but everyone’s got somewhere to go…

So, why didn’t I take off like everyone else?  It’s not my problem – I was lucky.  I suspect that I don’t care about “people” because I can’t.  I can’t care about them because I can’t do anything about it.  People trapped in a cave in Argentina?  What the fuck can I do about that?  People right behind me getting in an accident?  I can try to help there.  It’s a proximity thing.  I might have said before that help begins locally and this just reinforces it.

Do What You Love, Because What You Love Needs You

In my line of work, which is software development, there are two distinct types of people.  There are programmers and there are people who “do programming”.  You can probably relate that to your job, too, especially if you are in the former group for your field.  Some people are the field, and others are in the field.

If you define yourself by what you do, meaning you take pride in your work, you constantly learn the latest of what is going on in your profession, and you strive to push your profession further and be –if not notable – at least respected in your field, than you are your field.  That means you say “I am an X.” 

If you go to work to accomplish your tasks and mentally clock out at the end of the day to live your life, if you don’t have any interest in learning or studying what you do at work outside of work, then you are simply in your field.  Then you would say “I do X.”  Even if you work late or come in on weekends.  That just means you’re a good employee.  Then you would say, “I work at X doing Y.”

The people that “do” and not “are” should be reconsidering what they do.  Not only are they doing themselves a disservice because they lack the passion for their activity, but they are doing a disservice to the profession they are occupying.

In my line of work, there are plenty of people who are mediocre programmers.  And they get paid quite well and can do some good things for a company.  But they can’t do great things for the company.  And sometimes they can do bad things by not doing great things.  Think of security.  If you have a good programmer at a company and a great hacker who wants to attack that company, well, you know how that’s going to end up.

In any profession, do the people in the field bring down or hold back the ones who are the field?  Imagine going to the hospital and being worked on by not “a doctor” but instead someone who “does surgery.”  And what about those people who actually identify themselves this way unknowingly?  “I do house painting” vs. “I am a house painter.”  “This is what I do” vs. “This is what I am.”  It’s a big difference.

I feel I need to point out that skill and competency don’t play into this at all.  There’s the sarcastic, mocking statement, “I’m an artist!”, but despite skill level, the person that makes a statement like that has passion and will do the best that they currently can.  More importantly, they will constantly try to get better.  They push forward out of desire where others get pulled forward out of necessity.

There’s an endless number of professions out there and the one that you really want to do really wants you to do it.  They don’t want the clock-in/clock-out workers.  They want champions and leaders.  If everyone did what they loved, everyone would benefit.

Humility On Display

In the game Ultima IV, you play a character whose mission it is to become pure in virtue by only doing good things.  It’s a rather sharp contrast to modern games, right?  But anyway, knowing about these virtues makes for some positive change in your real life.

Some of these virtues are stronger in me than others.  Honesty, Humility, Sacrifice are some of the stronger ones.  In a real-life Ultima, I would probably end up being one of the wimpier character classes, like Shepherd.  But, good virtues are good to have.  I say this because I recently made a mistake.  A big, big mistake at work.

I do a lot of my work on intuition, doing what I think is best and usually that works out pretty well for me.  So when I was told to reactivate some application functionality that we had taken out previously, I immediately knew what needed done and where to go to make the change.  The problem was, I didn’t read the details.

My change had been in use for almost a month and when Accounting went to do their billing, everything was rejected.  And it was because of my change.  I didn’t notice the instruction to leave the records open after processing.  That was different than the way it used to be.  And because of that, the company had lost a month’s worth of billing.

It’s not often that a person can say that they cost their employer a million dollars in revenue, but at that moment, I was in that exclusive crowd.  When asked about the change, I owned up to the mistake and fixed it immediately.  And then I started thinking about what I did, which is never a good thing.

I did the math and calculated the damage.  What could I ever do to fix it?  I can’t take a pay cut to zero dollars and work the next 15 years for free.  Even if they fired me, that money can’t be recovered by my elimination.  And there wasn’t anything I could do about it, that corrective work is in a totally different department working on a whole other level.  All I could do was wait and see what would happen to me.

And as I thought about it that night, I wasn’t scared.  I knew I could get another job easily enough.  I was just sad.  I just cost the whole company a substantial amount of money.  Bonuses for everyone?  Forget it.  Pay raises?  Nope.  New equipment? Not this year.  They could fire me, but the impact of my mistake would hit everyone.  And for that I was sad.

The next day I went in to my boss’s office and I asked what was going to happen.  He looked puzzled and then remembered our discussion where he explained that I missed a detail in my task.  “Oh, that’s taken care of.”  The honesty I gave him for my mistake, he gave the same honesty to the client that was rejecting the billing of all of our “closed” records and they agreed to work with us to reopen them and bill them properly.

So I was never really in any serious trouble.  The fear was just something I invented in my head.  But that mental invention, taking ownership of and feeling the impact of your actions on others, is a reminder of one of the principles of Reiki: I will do my work with honesty.

And, like many of my other instances of fortune, I am grateful for what I have been afforded in life.  Never forget to be grateful.

Nice

Today at lunch, I parked my car and was walking to the restaurant and a women heading the other way called to me, “I like your car!”  I turned and said “thank you” and kept going.  Now, after a short reflection, there’s a lot I have to say about this.

The first reaction I suppose people would have is, “She was totally into you!” or in a more modern phraseology, “She wants the D!”  Or even at a more simple level, my car was an icebreaker.  Let me share a story.  This is from my last dating experience (and I expect it to be my last since I have an awesome GF and I’m not going through that hell again in these modern times).  The dating site I was using had a feature that would anonymously poll users to find the best picture from your collection that you could use as your profile picture.  Of the ones I had uploaded, the highest-rated photo was of my car.  Isn’t that a crushing bit of knowledge to have?  The best picture of me is not a picture of me.

So excuse me if I’m a little sensitive on this particular matter.  There’s a huge difference between saying “Nice car!” and “Cute baby!”  The latter is something that you made.  It’s unique.  The former is something you bought.  Anyone can buy it.  There’s also a difference between a pedestrian person saying “nice car!” and an enthusiast saying “nice rims” or “nice mods”.  The enthusiast’s knowledge and expertise lend credibility to his compliment and makes the compliment more directed at you.

Finally, there’s a huge difference between “I like your car” and “I like your taste in cars.”  Is the difference that obvious?  If I hear the first, I don’t even give it a second thought.  If I heard the second, it would be a conversation-starter.  So, here’s a quick tip for you single and searching people out there.  If you see someone you are interested in, don’t compliment the things they have, compliment them on their choice of things they have.  After all, you want to be one of the things they choose, right?

Dining Philosophy As Work Philosophy

Some time ago, I had written about a blog post about my dining out habits, or more so, about how I just eat out every meal.  Lately, I’ve gotten a little better about that and started cooking some stuff at home.  I got to the point where I said, “I can cook a damn hamburger seven days a week” and started doing it.

But anyway, one of the guidelines I lived by when eating out was, “Eat the expensive parts.”  Get your money’s worth is what I was trying to express.  When discussing job duties with the GF recently, especially when faced with overwhelming amounts of work to be done, I brought up the common phrase, “How do you eat an elephant?  (One bite at a time.)”  The convergence of these two bits of guidance was immediately obvious.

So, if you have an elephant to eat, where do you start?  You eat the most expensive pieces first.  So when consuming, make sure to get your money’s worth.  When providing, make sure your efforts have the greatest impact.

Thanks For Your Opinion

I’ve been saying 2015 is going to be a great year.  It’s a year I’m going to focus on me and not get involved with outside projects like helping other people or starting businesses, or committing to volunteer to a group.  Doesn’t that sound selfish?

Well, I believe everyone needs to have a period of time to reflect and recharge.  Putting out energy and effort all the time is very difficult and draining, especially for an introvert. (And what’s up with all the recent articles on introverts, anyway?)

While I spend this time building myself back up, I also want to take the time and look at myself and others and decide what needs changing.  One of the things that I’ve really gotten irritated with is people’s tendency to state opinion as fact.  And if they’re not stating it as fact, then they’re stating it as an absolute.  If it’s not an absolute, then it’s being stated as a benchmark.  You get what I’m saying.  “This product will make your life easier.”  If not that, then, “This product is the best.”  And if not that that, then, “If you’re not using this product, then you’re not getting any benefit.”

Sounds like Marketing 101, right?  So why try to fight that?  I’m sure I do it on occasion, too.  But that’s something I want to change.  The tone of people when they make statements like that is exclusionary.  What they are saying, to a degree, is, “I use this (or do this, or have this, or even want this), and if you don’t as well, you are inferior.”  Notice that it can actually be used against people when you aren’t even in the group, just that you want to be in the group is enough.

What’s the alternative?  First, understand that your choice is always a personal opinion.  Guard your statement like, “In my opinion, this product is the best.” or “For my needs, this product works best.”  You are allowing the other person to disagree without either of you losing face. Now if the other person responds with a personal attack like, “that’s because you’re stupid,” well, what can you do?  You know what you’re dealing with.

Next, realize that there are many ways of accomplishing the same result. A product or service or lifestyle or anything else is made up of a bunch of smaller parts.  A person’s choice may still satisfy the individual needs even if the whole product is different.  In summary, this is the “that’s not important to me” factor that no one ever considers when making broad opinion-based statements.  Of course, counter-arguments can devolve into “If that’s not important to you, then you don’t know anything about this.”

Understanding and remembering these points is what I want to work on this year.  I don’t want to be that person, that fanboy, that pretentious jerk, that know-it-all.  I want to be inclusive, not exclusive.  Accept people’s choice and don’t insult them for it.  Recognize that your choice may be better-suited (not better) and if so, promote the details that make it better-suited (not better) for that person.  Understand that you don’t know what is unimportant to others and don’t insist they make it important.

A good example I’ve mentioned before is the motorcycling community.  Some people are like “If you don’t ride a Harley, you’re nothing” and others are like, “As long as you’re on two wheels (or three in some cases), you’re cool.”  Exclusive vs. inclusive.  And at the end of the day, we’re all just people.

Can’t Get No… Satisfaction

I’ve been what I would call a professional for quite some time.  One of the benefits of being a professional is that my income is pretty good.  I have read – and I agree – that once your income covers all your basic needs, more money doesn’t really make your life better.   Sure, you drive a nicer car, you eat at better restaurants, maybe you stay at nicer hotels.  The old problems of “I wish I could afford to…” kind of go away.  Then it becomes more of, “Should I…”

But something else changes.  You start looking for ways to make yourself happy by seeing other people happy.  You start spending your excess money on other people, because, well, you’re taken care of already.  This manifests itself in many ways.  For my part, I’ve gotten involved in activities that required investments and purchases for the benefit of everyone in the activity.  And that was fine for me, because everyone had a good time.

But, there comes a time when it doesn’t seem as fun, when your effort and contributions don’t seem to make as much as a difference.  And more importantly, you are not inspiring others to step up their involvement.  And then it’s not just about the money, but the money is what seems to matter the most.

2015 has been named the year of no-involvement.  It is a year of rebuilding for me, both financially and socially.  For the last couple of years, I’ve tried to get involved with projects, with the hope that they would take off and be something great.  A lot of times, I provided a lot of financial support to boost the timeline or the project’s presence for it to succeed.  But it just seemed in the end that the people involved or the people benefitting just wanted to go along for the ride.

You want to be inspiring and set a good example.  A totally made-up scenario would be like having a group that enjoyed beaches and boating and such, so I would rent a boat for the group and we would all have a great time.  I would hope that it would inspire them that if they could all put in a little more into the group, then we could do this all the time.  But, sadly, that’s not how it would turn out.  There was never a “That was awesome, what do I need to do to help make that happen again?” moment.

In some ways, it’s like I want to be a venture capitalist, providing startup money for something that would take off.  But I don’t exactly need to see a return on my investment, I just want to see things succeed and see people happy about it.  It hasn’t happened yet.  So I guess I need to improve my business sense and invest more wisely in the future.  2015 is going to be a great year.  2016 will be my chance to try again.

Quotes Considered

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”

That would be pretty damn unfair if the deal ended up as 90% worst and 10% best.  I think maybe the counteroffer should be: “I deserve a partner whose mean demeanor is at least 75% of the theoretical positive maximum.”

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”

Anything is an answer to something, and everyone has at least one question.  So it’s not so much a matter of knowing some questions or some or all of the answers, but the mapping between the two.

“The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is be an American and then write any kind of music you wish.”

I think Americans do this with just about everything.  Look at American Apparel, American Express, and American Eagle Outfitters.  Do something and put “American” in front of it and you have patriotic profits!

“Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.”

There are a shitload of shitty chess players now.  They’ve created their own rules and defined the pieces differently, so they are incompatible with modern, proper, intelligent chess players.

“All programmers are playwrights and all computers are lousy actors.”

Clearly coined by a non-programmer who doesn’t understand garbage-in, garbage-out.  However, I will give props to the analogy since the term “series reboot” in film has become fairly mainstream.  Maybe all playwrights are programmers and all audiences are lousy computers.

“Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.”

No duh.  You need to have a destination in mind before you start a journey.

“Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Space is huge and empty.  There is no “landing” if you miss the moon.  You will be adrift forever in an empty void.  If you are shooting for the moon, you need to be insanely precise.

If I Only Didn’t Have a Day Job

To go along with all my other damn posts about missing out on inspiration because of life,  I found this in my drafts – a beginning to a short story I wanted to write.  It was going to be about how life is sort of a game played by spirits in the afterlife.  Your spirit controls your body and tries to make it live as long as possible.  Real-life Sims, I guess.  Steve meets one of the “monitors”, who supervise “gameplay”…

“And then the ambulance just rolled away with no lights or anything.  Much different than when the person is still alive, huh?”

Although he tried to make it sound humorous, there was little in his voice that indicated it.  There was only a dull monotone that sounded like the shock hasn’t passed yet.

“But Steve, it really wasn’t your fault.  From what you’ve told me, it isn’t.”

And that part was legally true.  No charges from the police.  No insurance hassles.  The woman had pulled out in front of him and he…

“Yup.  I couldn’t do anything.  Couldn’t do anything but kill her.”  Steve wasn’t making himself feel any better by relating his story.  Wasn’t that what was supposed to happen?  “Get it out” and all?

His sounding board, Paul, had no comforting retort for Steve this time.  He could only sit and silently provide support.  Paul had known Steve for many years.  Although they weren’t what you would call best friends, they would get together often enough to keep a friendship strong.

Paul was exactly what Steve needed right now.  Someone who wasn’t too close that would be shaken by his recent accident and the effect it had on him, but also someone close enough that would actually care about him getting over this.

“It’s shit like this that makes me question everything in life, Paul.  Why her, why now, why not me?  You talk to the religious types and they say ‘God has a plan for everyone.’  And you talk to the non-religious and they say ‘That’s life, dude.’  I have to say, there’s gotta be something in the middle.”

Paul looked down at the mug of coffee in front of him.  “Let him talk it out,” he thought.

“I started reading a lot lately.  Looking for some reasoning.  I came across this thing called Theosophy, which is supposed to explain the whole life and death process, without religiousness.  Or at least that’s what I got out of it.  I read other books about after-death communications.  So I have all these ideas about karma and purposes and reincarnation, but even considering all that, it still doesn’t make any sense as to why.”

Paul looked back up at Steve.  “Why what?”

“Just, why.  Why did it happen.  When you think about ‘God’s plan’ or predestiny or even some weird cosmic theory that someone dies so that someone else can learn a lesson.  There’s the big debate about free will in there, too.  It just seems… random.”

A figure in the booth behind Steve spoke up.  “It’s calculated.”

“Excuse me?”  Steve half turned around, not sure whether to be annoyed at the eavesdropping or intrigued at the stranger’s certainty in his declaration.

“It is calculated, or I should say, pre-calculated.  The outcome isn’t really known, but the scenario is a generated one based on known factors,” the stranger explained in a matter-of-fact way.  “The outcome will change a lot of future events, events that were pre-planned, but get adjusted with current data.”

“Data,” 

You Matter

Yesterday, I was driving home and nearing an intersection.  I saw an emergency vehicle approaching on the cross street with its lights on.  I stopped at the intersection, although my light was green.  I certainly could have made it through before the emergency vehicle, but when you see lights flashing, you stop.  That’s the proper thing to do.  The emergency vehicle safely went through the intersection and everyone got on with their drive.

Afterwards, I thought, I might have just saved someone’s life because I waited.  From there, my thoughts went further out.  The restaurant I was at for lunch was really empty, so I tipped a couple bucks more than usual.  I might have just helped someone finally pay off a nagging bill.  The hostess was happy to see me that day, so I gave her a pleasant smile.  Maybe that will convince her to make that needed change in her horrible relationship.  I waited an extra second or two at a green light.  Maybe that slowed traffic down a little and prevented an accident somewhere.

The point is, everything you do has an effect.  It may be positive, it may be negative, most likely it’s both.  You may not know the effects you have with every little choice you make in the day, but that is how everything works together.

Everything you do has an effect on everything else.  You are the most important person in the entire universe.  Without you, things would be… different.  Now go out there and don’t fuck this up.