J

Jay's Journal

Always watching, always learning.

Being Raw and Honest on Father's Day

Today is Father's Day, 2021. And to all the father's out there, may you enjoy a blessed and peaceful Father's Day. This year is quite a bit different than most years, and I think it'll help if I write down my thoughts and feelings on a day like today. This will be raw and uncensored, and is just one man's view of life and the world.

I'd mentioned earlier on that life is good, and it truly is. But I also said it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Well, today is neither sunshine nor rainbows, but perhaps the gloomy weather in between. So, today I've got my coffee and I'm listening to some classic country/rockabilly mixed with some modern Americana/Alt-Country going. No tear in my bear stuff, just some jaunty guitar with fiddle and some Johnny Cash meets Hank Sr. vibe. I'm old school Texas, what can I say?

Yesterday, my wife and I along with my in-laws decided to celebrate Father's Day yesterday, on Saturday. This was to avoid the crowds and long wait times just for a table at any restaurant you can imagine. I'm not much of a people person, and when I have to wait in line for food I'm paying for, I'm not a happy guy. I think it's an Army thing. When I was in the service, I waited in line for everything, including meals. So, as a fat and happy civilian, homie don't wait in line anymore.

And, with having dinner and gifts on Saturday, we can all enjoy a nice peaceful Sunday without running around and getting all tired out before the new work week begins. It was great food, and great times with great people, and our diabolical plan worked... it wasn't crowded or anything. And even when it did fill up, it wasn't loud.

I think most people are just in shock at being able to go out again and enjoy things like before. Perhaps that's mellowed people out on the whole. I'm sure not everyone, I mean there's always an asshole in the crowd, right? But, by and large, I'm seeing more courtesy and politeness. Sure, there are some that would love the thought of killing you where you stand because of a myriad of things that in a sane society just shouldn't matter that much. But overall, I'm pleased at what I'm seeing thus far in regard to courtesy toward one another. So, please keep it up... you're giving an old guy some hope for the future.

Today was pretty awesome so far. I went to bed really late, because, hello? Night owl here. But, I was up by 8am and just laid in bed. I do that most days now. I'm typically up before my alarm even during the week, and since I have a job where I'm never technically "late", I usually enjoy some quiet time in bed before getting up to face the day.

That in and of itself is such a blessing. I mean, I'm usually up an hour to an hour and half before I want to login for work for the day, so it's not like I'm laying there until noon. And so today, I woke up earlier than I intended, and will probably be good and ready for bed later this evening at a more reasonable time. So, what's making this Father's Day so different?

A lot of it has to do with what's happened this year, and when I allow myself to think about it, there's been a lot. This is my first Father's Day without my dad with us. We lost him to COVID in February. I plan to write a detailed post on that, but for now, suffice it to day, it's still hard to believe. Now, don't get me wrong, my dad and I weren't especially close, and I think that was more me wanting that than him. The one thing I can say, though, is that he was a constant in my life, and so it doesn't feel the same without him regardless.

My dad is a great guy. Heart of gold, wit as sharp as a tack, and while not formally educated, he was very wise in the ways of the world. And in addition to all that, he was sometimes hard to get along with. At least for longer spans of time. We saw eye to eye on so many things, but yet, he always had an opinion about my interests or goals. Weird. We were so alike, yet he could be so critical and so perhaps he was criticizing himself more than me. But, I was the one he was looking at when he would.

In any case, I still miss him. I took for granted that because he was always there, I could just text or call anytime. And, sometimes I did. Most times, however, I'd just text Happy Father's Day, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, etc. I felt that with my dad, less was more so that I could continue to appreciate him for who he was and not who I wish he would be.

He lived in another state, so there was also that nice buffer as well.

When it comes to my boys (all grown men now), I think I know how my dad must've felt by my preferred distance. Because it seems that's what my younger two are doing with me. Circle of life, right? I tried to be the parts of my dad that were good, but also the parts where he could have done better. In other words, if I thought I could do it better, then do it.

I think I succeeded in a lot of areas, but far from perfect. I did however, rescue them from an abusive mother that they're too traumatized to even remember how she was not. I had primary custody of them from the time they were 6, 8, and 11. My oldest ended up going back with his mother a few years later, and ended up in prison. My younger two stayed with me and my wife. We'd send them to their mother's home out of state every summer per the court order, and my oldest would come visit us before he was incarcerated.

Overall, though, me and my wife and my in-laws clothed them, fed them, made sure they went to good schools, and gave them pretty much everything they could want. It feels good to provide for those you love. And, knowing what those boys went through when they were younger, I wanted to make sure they never felt that way again.

So, one thing different this year is that my middle son actually texted me a Happy Father's Day. This is WAY more than he'd normally do as he usually doesn't call or text for birthdays or holidays. So, at least getting that was a shock in a good way. Hopefully that means I'll hear from him a little more often, but I just can't allow myself to get my hopes up.

And again, this is about the same I would do for my dad, so it looks like I'm getting a taste of my own medicine. And if I made my dad feel even some of the way I feel now about how bad I miss my kids and how much I wish had more time to spend with them, then I'd been a horrible son. Not horrible in the actively mean part, but horrible in preferring not to have my dad involved more in our goings on as a family. Again, it was hard to do with his personality, but I really should have done more.

My youngest son stays in touch a little more often, but he's also pretty busy. Both my younger two sons are non-commissioned officers in the military. So, they tend to be quite busy, or at least that's what I tell myself. Now, even with my youngest being in touch more, he got married in secret the day after Memorial Day. Didn't tell anyone. Not his friends, or any family. Not my side of the family and not his mother's side either.

What made it even more shocking was that we didn't even know he was seeing anybody. And, he didn't tell us he got married either before or right after. My father-in-law saw some clues on Facebook, but we weren't 100% sure. So, I texted him to ask if he had anything he wanted to share. A few minutes after that, he called me and came clean.

Now, that was a hurt I cannot describe. For most things in life, I try not to internalize and take personally, because most times, no one even cares enough to go out of their way to make my life just a little harder. But, when it's my son, I really thought I mattered more than that. Well, maybe not thought, but hoped. He said he valued his privacy and he knew because of his young age, there'd be tons of questions. And I get that, I totally do. But wow... not even a word of her existence beforehand.

Marriage is one of those milestone events you hope to still be alive for to see your children walk down the aisle with the person they love. To share in it, not take away from it. But, he thought all of us would do that taking away instead of celebrating and sharing in the happiness. Even as I write this, the pain is so strong. Again, I know he didn't go out of his way to hurt any of us, or to willingly make us suffer but it still hurts really bad.

He said that in a couple of years, sooner than usual, he and his wife will renew their vows and have a bit to-do at that time. So, I guess there's that to look forward to. I guess.

For all the ways I wanted to avoid my dad, I never hid anything from him. He was my father, and even though divorced from my mother, they were both still my parents. Sure, there were some major complications in having divorced parents who would stop at nothing to get back at one another and use their kids to do it. But, it was from that horrible experience that I defused that from even being an option when my ex-wife and I split up. I made it clear to all my boys that they would never have to pick just one parent to attend a special event. I assured them that both their mom and myself were capable of being at the same place at the same time to support our boys that we love very much and not ruin it.

My ex and I were far from friends when we split up, but that never made it to the boys. I never bad-mouthed her in front of them, although I can't say the same of her restraint around them. But, when the younger two boys each graduated high school a year apart, their mother and her family made it down to Texas to attend their ceremonies. And my family was there, too. Everyone kept their distance, and was cordial, and I thought I could sense relief within the boys when everyone remained civil.

And so, this is why it's all so hard for me to reconcile that my son would keep us out of something so important in his life. Yeah, I get it, it's his life, and he's establishing himself in the world, but I'm not there to oversee him. When they come home on military leave, we go drinking together! Sure, I'll always be a concerned dad, but I DO stay out of their business. I never pressure them to call or visit, I really do try to stay out of their way. I guess I just wish that would translate to them wanting to be in touch more regularly because of that.

Instead, they enjoy the peace and quiet, and my staying out of their way just gets me more life without my boys.

Now, my oldest, he stays in touch very regularly. He's in prison, but we have our phone calls at regular intervals, and he has access to an email system that he can use, so we can keep in touch that way. He told me a couple years back that he now understands what I was trying to do when raising them. While I wish he would have remembered that before making decisions that would land him in prison, I can now hope he'll actually remember what I was trying to teach him and make better choices. Choices that are healthy ones, and not bad ones just to spite his parents.

So, we have a good relationship. And, while it kills me every single day that he's behind bars, as his father, I'll never stop loving him. I'll never condone what he did, but I'll never stop loving him or ever think he's beyond redemption until he shows me otherwise. I used to be pretty black and white when it came to matters of justice. But, you have every belief you've ever had challenged when it's your son (or daughter) paying for the crimes you never thought in a million years they'd ever commit.

And when I hear people ask out loud whenever there's a horrific crime committed in the world, "Well, where the HELL where the parents? How could they raise someone to be a monster!". Well, I can assure you, that while some parents may have been neglectful in a few or even many areas, no parent wishes for their children to do things so bad that they end up in prison. Hell, even county jail is bad. And I'd been a way more active parent than a neglectful one. My wife, who is their stepmother, took them on as her own. Her parents, my in-laws, accepted them and raised them as THEIR grandchildren. No distinctions about biological bonds were made. Love was the bond, not a family tree.

So, no, I didn't raise a felon. I don't condone felonious activities. But as a parent, especially as a parent, the one thing we have no right to do is to take away free will. And when our children do bad things, yes, it can crush you down to your soul. But, I can say I never once exposed him or raised him to think that being on the wrong side of the law would ever be an option. Period.

He's supposed to call later today. Not only because it's Father's Day, but because it's also his normal day we set up for our regular phone calls.

And, so, last night before I went to bed, I had these thoughts cross through my mind:

  • I served overseas to liberate a people that may never appreciate what we did and what we sacrificed for them.
  • My two youngest boys may never appreciate what my wife and I did to rescue them from abuse, and to give them a more than comfortable life. Also with sacrifice, and a willingness to do so.

And my final realization:

  • When it comes to choosing what I want to do to be of service to others, I sure did pick the two most thankless jobs one could think of, didn't I?

But, when it's all said and done, I wouldn't have done it any different, and when people ask, "what did you do with your life"? I can honestly say that I freed people from abuse, from my own children to people I've never met in person, and I did it all willing to pay any price, and with the best of intentions not just in my heart, but in my soul.

Happy Father's Day, Dad, I'll try harder next time.

[Quick Edit: My youngest also texted after I wrote this, and my oldest called. So all three wished me Happy Father's Day. I'm 3 for 3 this year! First time in a very long time and it feels great]

TIme is NOT The Enemy

Coming back to Listed has been very refreshing these past few days. I noticed quite the aesthetic refresh for our Listed blogs, and it looks great. The default theme is still very light and loads very fast. I can't say enough about Listed and Standard Notes.

I'd like to highlight the efforts of Mo Bitar who's the founder and creator of Listed and Standard Notes. He's created a killer app that puts privacy and security first, while also making intentional choices around his product. Listed is a great way for an everyday somebody to share their thoughts and showcase their creativity without needing to know how to create a website.

I've interacted with Mo and even did some ghost writing for him back in the day (like way back in 2019). Mo is an amazing individual and from what I experienced in working for him is that he seems to approach life in the same way he approaches Standard Notes and Listed. Simple (as in straightforward, no extra complication), well thought out, and most of all, intentional. His writing is nothing short of brilliant, thought he'd probably deny that. But it is. That's why I linked to his Listed blog earlier in the post.

Mo is a true "creator of value" in that he brings immediate value to what he's created, and keeps improving it over time. Not for the sake of change in and of itself, but because there's a new feature or back-end capability that brings even more value to the product. However, his writing brings value as well.

We get a glimpse inside the mind of someone who really has mixed creativity, problem-solving, technical abilities, and dare I say a philosophical approach into the things he does. I remember when I was doing some writing projects for him, I used to have to rush to get my emails over to him before a certain time in the late morning. That was because after that certain time, he was done checking emails. Done with the distraction of not just mine, but everyone's emails, until the next day.

To me, that was profound. And he showed me, although probably unbeknownst to him, that you can compartmentalize your day. Mo made email an activity, with a start and an end. Not a day-long process switching from background to foreground to background again, ready and willing to interrupt at any time. By making something like email an activity, so much time and energy are freed up. That freed time and energy can go into more creative things. Productive things. Personal and relationship things. All the things.

I've written about Standard Notes and Listed before. Here on my own blog, and through ghostwriting projects for the product. I still stand by my gratitude for the product and grateful for Mo, it's creator. I really enjoyed working on his projects, and he gave me a shot at writing when no one else would.

So, I think today's lesson is that in order to see differences, both good and bad, you need to step away for a bit, however long that bit may be. Mo steps away from email at a specific time every day. I stepped away from blogging for much longer, I must admit. But the stepping away was refreshing, and allowed me to see differences in my writing, how cool the new Listed site looks, and enabled me to enjoy sitting at the computer and writing out thoughts and feelings again.

When we're too close to something, even invested to an obsessive degree, we lose sight of the things that are important. And that's how one person's email schedule taught me about learning to step away. Anything truly important will still be there when I come back, except I'll be refreshed and ready for what's needed of me while doing that thing.

It's Been A Minute, Hasn't It?

The rumors around my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I'm here, I'm alive, and still doing fantastically after leaving that toxic Hellhole. I took an extended break because without the burden of all that unhealthy existence, my mental, physical, and emotion load was freed.

It hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows, obviously with a pandemic and all. But I'd like to come back and share with you what I've been up to, what I'm doing these days, and how my experiences post-Hellhole have continued to help me grow and learn new things. I reread some of the posts I wrote, and wow, I was really in a dark place. So dark, it breaks my heart to know there are employers and bosses who truly don't see how they affect people when they mistreat their employees and teammates.

This is why we have to be stronger than those that try to do us harm, intentionally or unintentionally and be true to ourselves. One thing that came to mind as I scrolled some of my older posts was that back then I was writing because I needed to. It was therapy for me. As were my sessions with my mental health providers, but writing was truly a release for all of my pent up frustration and anger.

But now, I'm writing because I want to write. I think it might be helpful to share, maybe if not for you, then for me as I've learned much and continue to learn. My whole life has been a journey in growth, and I knew this before, and can share some real results in the now.

However, I must first get something off my chest. I need to THANK all of you that wrote in my guestbook. I had no idea there was one, and I found it after I'd started my writing break. The messages in there were extremely supportive, compassionate, and surprised me. I didn't think I was doing that great of a job writing, but some of your comments in the guestbook made it very clear otherwise.

That made my spirit soar. Thank you for that, as all of the comments and feedback were unexpected and yet, showed me there are still good people in the world. I appreciate you reminding me that. No worries, not all feedback has to be good for me to appreciate it. I do enjoy and appreciate criticism as well. Having both enabled me to get better at anything I do.

Ok, now let's talk about frequency of posts. I'll admit, that right now, I'm sitting in my newly cleaned and organized office, waiting for dinner to be ready. All my tasks and chores are taken care of, so I'm just jamming out to some 80's New Wave and writing you.

So when it comes to frequency, I don't really know how frequent I'll post. I can guarantee you, however, it won't be another year and a half to two years between posts. If you're still subscribed to this blog, thank you for not giving up on me, if you just found me, welcome. I'm probably a bit rusty, but I look forward to catching up.

Be safe, be well, talk to you soon.

The End Is Near

It's been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. Seems like a whirlwind of good fortune has smiled upon me. And yes, this means the end of the suffering that is my current job. My offer came through today, after an easy 3 interviews. I'm beyond excited, and humbled, too.

Turns out my former manager, who's departure from this company I'd lamented for weeks, even months, was looking for someone to fill a spot on his team. I made it known that I was interested, and that with no suppositions based on our past work history together, I'd like to see if I can earn (interview for) a spot on his team once again.

Not only did he agree, he rewrote the job description to match what I'm doing now. Once I submitted my online application, it was off to the races. Within three working days, five days total, I'd done 3 interviews, one of which was with my old manager. They were great as everyone I met with had known of me from my manager telling them about me. So, the interviews were very light and informal.

That was very refreshing as each interviewer asked me real-world scenario or experience based questions. I can't stand what I call "quiz show" interviews where they plaster you with technical questions one after the other until you get one wrong. The people I'll be working for are looking for someone experienced, but isn't necessarily a walking encyclopedia. That's perfect for me, as I'm surely not.

But, having been in the IT field for as long as I have (basically since the beginning of it), I've seen tech come and go, and rarely get wrapped up in the flavor of the month, you gotta have it because all the cool kids do, hype. This means that what I do know is based on wisdom, experience, and hard-learned lessons from the school of hard knocks. So, as I told my soon-to-be manager, I don't know everything, but I do know what I need to know to get the job done. Everything superfluous and not necessary to the job at hand gets mentally discarded to make room for the essential knowledge needed to do a job expertly.

On a Thursday, I had one interview, and on the next Monday I had the final two interviews. They presented my verbal offer that same Friday, and just today I got my written offer. The company I work for now is a very established global organization, and I'll be going to another firm that's probably more well known. They made me an offer above my asking price, are giving me a sign-on bonus, and eligible for another bonus later in the year. All in all, I'm still in shock.

Oh yeah, and it's 100% work from home. BOOM goes the dynamite!

It all happened so quickly, but isn't that how it works when things are meant to be? No pushing or shoehorning in, it just fits into place on it's own, like a glove. For as much as I've written about my misery in my current role, this is bigger than big. And, since I wasn't actively looking, just biding my time, coping in the best ways I knew how, the end is finally near.

As this is the week before Christmas, I'll be taking this Friday off to spend time with family and won't be back until January 6th. I start my new job on January 13th. Ever since getting the verbal offer, I've slept more soundly, felt an indescribable inner peace, and am excited to get up again. Even my wife is telling me how proud she is of me. That always feels good.

When I was a young lad, leaving home for the military, my mom wrote me a note and tucked it in my duffel bag. I found it while waiting at the processing center, and it was a mother's love and encouragement to help me along what would be, up to that point, the toughest thing I'd experience. And while this was well over 30 years ago, I'll never forget the thing she wanted me to know the most: That your life can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes for good, sometimes for adversity. She wanted me to always remember that all things are temporary, so any hardship will be short-lived because better things always lay ahead if I'm willing to see it and grab it.

It seems that during my recent prolonged episode of depression and my general unhappiness with my current work environment, I've forgotten mom's words. I thought this would last forever, but within a week, I went from job application to full offer with a start date after a two week Christmas holiday with my family. She's never been more right, and she's always been right with this.

Through the years and the miles, and the hardships too many to list, she was right. I didn't really doubt her, as I knew that she shared a profound truth with me. I just simply forgot. I forgot to remember that my life truly can change in the blink of an eye. And so, for this chapter of my career journey to end while I start a new one, I couldn't be more happy.

Merry Christmas (if you celebrate), and Happy New Year! Santa gave me my present early, and I do hope you all get what you wish for as well. Wishing you peace, love, and happiness.

Best of Breed

Working for a large company, and having done so for most of my life, I've noticed that the quest of any organization's IT group is to find the magic suite of products that give you a "single pane of glass". Usually that means several products bundled together, and managed via one centralized interface.

So, if you want to insure everyone's getting anti-virus, but also full disk encryption, you'd buy a suite from a single vendor that would bundle those both and allow you to manage the entire organization (supposedly) from one unified portal or dashboard.

You can do that with desktop tools and utilities, server management, and even network routers and switches. And, it sounds really good on paper, doesn't it? One place to get all your IT asset management and maintenance done, sure, it sounds like the Promised Land.

The reality, however, is very, very different. While it's true you can manage multiple components of an overall solution via one central hub, the products that are bundled in the suite aren't usually very good. This is often the result of a technology company that offers multiple pieces of software trying to be too many things at once.

If you purchase a bundle of anti-virus and disk encryption from a company that typically specializes in anti-virus, the disk encryption portion of the suite will likely lack in many features. And yes, an anti-virus company that also wants to offer full disk encryption as part of a security suite has probably acquired an existing full disk encryption company so they can bundle the two (or often more products) together.

But, the signature disk encryption product of the company that used to specialize in only disk encryption will have to be shoehorned (integrated not very smoothly) into the larger suite. So what was once a fantastic product on it's own is now not as useful because for it to be part of a bundle, certain features may have to be sacrificed.

And yet, products that "work together" in a single ecosystem usually comes with so many compromises, you'd only be getting a fraction of what you really need by obtaining individual products from different companies that meet your specific requirements.

However, when you string independent products together, it adds complexity to the infrastructure you're trying to manage efficiently. But, are you really?

If you use the best of breed of each component you need to help manage and maintain your IT infrastructure, are you creating complexity, or actually saving money? When you look at a suite of products that only half-meet your needs, you'll end up having to acquire yet another product that fills in those gaps. So, in essence two products to completely cover one component.

In my own business ventures, I use the best tool for the job, regardless of "ecosystem" it may otherwise belong to. I'll use a different email provider than I do for cloud storage. A different note-taking system than the one tied to either the email or cloud solution I use.

These are just examples. If the note-taking app is good and meets my needs, I may use the one that comes with my email service. But, if it's not, I'm not afraid to ditch it and use the one that works best.

So, rather than go with the utopian concept of one suite of products to rule them all, I just use the best one from the best vendor that does the best job. In other words, everything I use is best of breed for my needs.

Why Are Good Managers So Rare?

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal, and it completely articulates to the masses what I've been saying just about forever. It essentially asks managers to get out of their people's way.

BOOM. Simple. And yet, the article points out that this is probably one of the hardest things for most managers to do. And after reading some more, I think I know why. Ego.

See, a lot of managers think they're where they are because they're WAY better than anyone else on their team. That belies a pyramid type system. So, when managers believe their own hype and think they're there to be the best, and not trusting your team to bring their strengths to the table, they simply get in the way.

This hierarchical style of leadership isn't always wrong, but it's almost never right in terms of productivity and efficiency. It means that no matter what the team is doing, they need to stop to listen to the words of wisdom of their manager, or do new tasks they weren't expecting as a means to answer a manager's question.

Either one takes the team's eye off the ball and derails any momentum the team may be experiencing. That's just ridiculous.

Great and even good managers know enough to trust their teams, revel in the strengths each team member brings to the group, and works to serve their team, not the other way around.

It's a simple concept, really. The best leaders see their role as that of being a servant of their team, a facilitator of achievement and accomplishment for their team members. They don't see teams as their minions or servants to please them at every turn.

This doesn't mean a leader can't correct or even scold team members for inappropriate behavior or less than stellar results. But, a servant leader will help the team member understand what went wrong, and then coach the team member in finding better ways to behave or achieve.

No forcing or shoving anger and shame down anyone's throat. Instead, an interactive method of improvement that's meaningful for the employee and has a much better chance of resulting in true positive change for all involved.

In any case, it's simply baffling to me how many toxic leaders are out there. And while there are definitely some good and great leaders out there, I fear that toxic and shitty leaders with huge egos dominate American business.

So, if you're reading this, and are a leader, or hope to one day become one, please heed these words. You'll get so much more out of your team when you believe your purpose is to serve your team instead of your team serving you.

The outcome, the goal, the objective is so much more important than any one person, or their toxic ego. When the team wins, everyone wins. And you're still the super leader because you trusted your team enough to get out of their way and let them be awesome without your stupid childish need to feel relevant weighing them down.

Here's the article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/bosses-get-out-of-your-employees-way-11572228361

Strengths and Weaknesses

Lately at work, I'm finding myself in a lot of unfamiliar territory. It's mostly around the new products my employer purchases and then expects those of us on my team to become instant experts as whatever this new (to us) product is.

Naturally some catch on quicker than others. In many cases, I do, but not all. And that seems to be the case with a certain product I'm struggling to get configured correctly. At one point it was working fine, but then another team blew it all away, requiring us to configure it again from scratch.

However, when trying to restore the system to its former glory, things just aren't working out as smoothly as when it was working at peak performance. Add to that, our director signed a financial agreement with a 90-day window in which to test this product and decide if it's worth the several thousands of dollars the product costs.

Of course he didn't check with the team first to see if we were in a position to start the testing right away, to which we didn't. Building up a testing environment in this organization takes weeks, not days, even in the best of conditions. And now we've got a 90-day timer that isn't stopping for anything or anyone.

This got me realizing that strengths and weaknesses are ever-shifting. For example, I've got over 30 years experience in the IT field. That should be a strength, right? Usually, yes.

But in this case, I don't have immediate detailed, expert knowledge of the product needing to be stood up for testing. That's a weakness. If this were something I've experienced before, I'd have no issues standing up the product. That would be a strength.

The fact that I have to ask my fellow team mates to help me stand this up puts me in a position of weakness. Not to where I'm personally weak, but that the fact I need help creates delay and more uncertainty, that's a weakness.

I've had conversations with my manager where I've made it very clear that I'm not an instant expert in anything, and that some reasonable expectation ought to come with having someone enter uncharted waters. Not that it won't get done, but it may not get done as fast as you would like.

And, what's the usual recourse when things aren't going fast enough? Apply pressure. And more pressure. To which, I assure my manager(s) that putting a gun to my head won't make this go any faster.

So, while on the whole, having a crap-ton of experience may be a definite strength, it's doesn't necessarily stand up to the needs of the moment. And, when time and knowledge are both against you, that definitely does create a weakness for the individual, regardless of all the other strengths he or she may posses.

It's Been a While (But Not Forever)

And here I am. Back to the world of the living. Well, I was living during this latest absence, just not living online or writing much. Last month was my birthday, a milestone year, so my wife and I took a trip out of state to visit some very good friends and celebrate.

The trip was fantastic, and very refreshing. On my last day of work before leaving, of course some drama unfolded just an hour before I was set to log off for nearly two weeks. It's been relatively quiet at work for weeks on end, but naturally, just before leaving, SHTF. Well, I "did what I could" before leaving, then just logged off knowing the work will still be there when I get back.

The best thing about the trip was that I don't have work email set up on my mobile phone, and I screen all my calls before answering. So, not once, and I mean, not one time, did I think about work while I was away. I really feel like I'm achieving some sort of balance between apathy at work and caring just enough not to get fired.

I used to feel guilty about such things, but I find that when I approach my work in this way, it helps me stay calm, even focused. And when I flush out all the worry about "being good enough" to be considered the best person on my team, if frees up a ton of time, both mentally and physically, and allows me to have some energy left to do other things at the end of my workday.

As I don't want it to be too obvious, I'll do things like act upset or outraged that something is taking so long for someone else to complete, but really, I don't care. They can take forever and a day for all I care. I've realized that in my role, I'm responsible for all the outcomes of a project, but have no direct authority over anyone on the teams I engage to get the work done.

So, right there is a reason to stop getting worked up over stuff I simply can't control. Sure, it's twisted that I get rated based on outcomes that I pretty much have no control over, but no one forced me to take the job, right? Additionally, I've also learned that if something's important enough to my chain of command, the thing I need done will suddenly happen.

If it's not that important, my manager will just tell me to keep trying, only after interrogating me eight ways to Sunday asking if I tried the numerous ways in which to reach someone. In other words, if a person doesn't respond or deliver, I'm not doing enough. Never mind the person totally ghosting on their commitment, I'm the one at fault.

So, another reason to just stop giving a shit. And, as I mentioned, if it's important enough, and if I've answered my manager in all the possible ways in which to reach someone short of flying to their city and kicking in the front door of their home demanding an answer, my manager will either make it happen, or not.

Again. Don't care.

So in a sense I think I've turned my daily work into a kind of a game. How far can I dance on the edge of not caring, while also feigning concern? As long as I get an "average" rating, I'm good. I stopped looking for promotions a while ago, as I've written in my previous postings.

And, even an average rating gets an annual pay raise, so it totally works out for me.

However, my wife said something to a friend the other day that really struck me. She said, "After coming back from such a wonderful vacation, I realized: Life is too short." Now, this is something I've learned a long time ago, but this is the first I've ever heard her acknowledge such a thing.

And she's right. Life IS too short. So, I'm gonna play it on my terms. If that means doing my work on only half power while my employer continues to embrace contradicting processes and a dysfunctional culture, then the work I'm doing is on my terms. When the time is right, I'll bail and move on to something else.

In the meantime, if they want to pay me to be ineffective by their own design, cool. I'm still learning new things on my own and expanding my horizons, but it's not in the things they want me to learn. I'm learning and exploring the things that interest me. And again, as long as I get an average rating, I'm golden.

To some it may sound like I'm just taking advantage of a company and should work to create change within the organization to make things less painful and problematic to get accomplished. But, I've tried, numerous times. The fight in me is gone, but I find things go much smoother for me if I just embrace the suck and move along.

So, I'm swimming through the adversity, ducking and weaving, and playing the game. It is what it is. And if the company ever decides to get it's act together and support their employees instead of enabling others to skate out on their responsibilities, then I'm all about stepping up. But, they constrain me and my colleagues at every turn, and even discourage any desire to go above and beyond in the way they treat their people.

If the right opportunity comes along, I'll take it. I won't stay here any longer than I need to. But, I'm also not hurrying along the process, either. This enables me to be very choosy, and only pursue the opportunities that interest me and pay me what I'm worth. Otherwise, I've got a pretty good gig right here acting interested and like I'm trying my best to get things done regardless of the adversity.

So, this wasn't meant to be a handbook on how I get over on my employer, it was really meant to showcase that even though I wasn't really burned out before taking vacation, our vacation reminded me once again what's really important. And, at the end of the day, what's really important to me is working to live, not living to work.

As my wife so deftly put it, "Life's too short."

The Always In-Between

I know it's been a while since I last wrote. I'm in a much better place since the last time I wrote. This does happen from time to time, I'll slip into a mild depression and all the trappings that come with it (anger, guilt, frustration, etc.), then it's gone for a while.

However, since the last time I wrote, something positive did happen. I was able to land my first paying writing client. So far it's been everything I'd hoped it would be. I was able to get the client's vision of what the content should convey and how it should flow in just one revision. One. That totally blew me away.

There've been some changes, more like adds, rather than edits... and I enjoy doing this very much. I'd like to see if I can replicate this a few hundred more times so that I can achieve my dream of being a full time freelancer.

Now on to my topic of the day, it's about being in-between, but never being fully in, nor being fully out, either. This is based on a reflection that hit me the other day. Not sure what prompted it, but I came to the realization that I've always found myself being better than "x", but not quite good enough to be "y".

Then I took that thread and unraveled it all the way back to elementary school. Yeah, it goes back that far. So in elementary school, I was tested and it turned out I was a gifted student. What that meant was that the regular curriculum wasn't challenging me enough or holding my attention.

As a result, they put in me in a part time class that took place within my normal class day. So, three days a week, at a specific time, I'd have to leave my regular class, get on a bus, and go to another school, where other gifted kids went to this class. It wasn't quite the Xavier School, but it was a strange experience.

What I remember about it was that the class really didn't do much except let us read in small groups, do puzzles, color, or build stuff with blocks. I was in 3rd grade, so the detailed recollection is a little fuzzy. Then, after like two hours, we'd get back on the bus and go back to our respective schools, to then rejoin our regular class already in session.

This meant that any lessons missed during the time I was in the gifted class would need to be made up. And even back in the third grade, this whole thing made no sense to me. We weren't really doing anything in the gifted class except making us miss our regular class, to which we'd have to make up that work, which meant more work than the rest of the kids in my regular class.

So, I opted out. It was a badge of pride my parents could brag about, and it was something I could carry as an achievement of some sort, but for me, I just didn't want to do the extra work that came with that. Able to do more than an average student, not really down with the "Gifted" life.

Middle school was great, I just remember that being the best years of my life. Through and through, those were the years I experienced unconditional acceptance of my personality among my friends, true friendship, and just belonging. I was surrounded by friends, and always remember having fun things to do. I also remember alternating who's house we'd play at or spend the night at for a sleepover.

When high school came along, I played football. For all the years I'd played the sport, I was never considered good enough to be a starter. As much as I tried, I just wasn't able to unlock the key. So, good enough to play the sport, not really good enough to be a starting player.

On the academic side, I was never a star player there either (by choice), yet I was always being recommended for more "challenging" classes. I'd start in regular English class, and the teacher would pick up on something I said or did (I have no idea what) and recommend me for an advanced class. I was a "C" student, but not being challenged enough my teacher would say.

So on I went to Advanced English. To me, it was kinda like regular English class, and I didn't have to get on a bus to go to another school for this, either. And, after getting more Cs in Advanced English, that teacher somehow determined I wasn't being challenged enough and recommended me for Advanced Placement English. Why was this happening to me??

And, the grades I'd get in AP English? You guessed it... Cs across the board. In my AP English class, we had a writing project to do. It was to write an original short story (before I realized how much I love writing). And as a typical kid does, I procrastinated the hell out of the project. I had a great idea and premise for the story, but the teacher had one very scary caveat to the project:

One sentence fragment, anywhere in the story, would result in a zero for the project

I was like, "Oh, hell no"! So, I came up with an idea... I went up to the teacher and said, "Um, my story is going to be a fictional personal diary of someone who doesn't exist. If someone who's writing in my diary, am I really worried about my grammar?"

She had to keep from busting out laughing, as she was always very poised. Then she said, "Solely on the fact that you came up with such a creative angle for your story, grammar will not count for your submission." Ok, one obstacle down.

While the story was fictional, it was based on a time in history that was real. I did my research and interviewed people from that era so that I could write a journal as someone who was actually living in that era.

But, as I was a terminal procrastinator, I found myself hurriedly trying to finish the story during my weightlifting class just before English class. I slapped it together and turned it in. Honestly, I didn't feel proud of what I submitted, my only goal was to submit it on time. I really could have done more if I'd taken advantage of the time.

Turned out I got an A+ AND my teacher gave my story to the AP History teacher to read. What is she doing to me?? The AP History teacher found me on campus and came up to me to ask about my story. I answered her questions, and she then personally invited me to join her AP History class, and if I did, I'd be invited to be a guest speaker of the class when we got to that era I wrote about. She said that I obviously took time to really study and know the era very well.

As she was someone who was around during that period of time I wrote about, she was amazed at how accurately I was able to write about that era. So I said sure, and joined her class mid-semester. And do you know what grades I got in her class? I'm sure you know by now.

So, as I was in these advanced classes, I was good enough to not be in the regular classes, but not quite good enough (admittedly, by my own choices) to be part of the braniac crowd. You know, the ones that wore glasses, were mathletes, and always had their textbooks with them. Nope, I was a normal kid, who spoke normal English, and hung out with other kids who were the same... not wanting to be labeled or belong to any clique or particular trend of the day. We were neutral, and very level, we just hung out.

Then comes the military. On this one, I didn't really slack off per se. I wanted to be good at being a Soldier. It was my dream ever since I could talk. However, there were times I'd had opportunities to really go for the gusto, but instead, just did what I knew I did well. Doesn't mean I wasn't a risk taker, I did volunteer for combat duty when a real shooting war broke out during my time in the service, and I got my wish.

Which, if you've read some of my other posts, you'd know, I'm still paying the price for being young and romantic. Several of my superiors had wanted me to stay in, but being the always in-between, I got out. So, was above average as a Soldier, but not really good enough to be a lifer.

Then, when another war broke out a little over a decade later, I went back in and went to war again. Then, when my tour was over, against many of my superiors' urgings to the contrary, I got out again. This time it was for nothing more than to be a (living) father to my young children from a previous marriage and a husband to a woman I still love very much to this day. Yeah, she digs me too, so we're doing the whole growing old together thing.

So, now comes my storied IT career of around 30 years. Among my managers and leaders, I've always been a little better than many of my peers in all the ways that matter. Hard worker, gets along with everyone, doesn't give up, takes initiative, has leadership abilities... all the things that make a boss look good.

But, never quite good enough to be a true manager. During my second time in the Army, I was an NCO, and I took that responsibility very seriously and did all I could to bring honor to the rank and what it stood for. But, in the civilian world, I was always good enough to land the special projects, or lead teams for implementations... but not quite full time manager material.

And now that I'll be 50 later this year, it dawned on me that I've always been in the in-between guy. As I'm studying for my first AWS certification, I think I want to be the guy that's all in. Except, on my terms. I don't want management, that's for sure, and I don't even want to be a full time employee. My kids are grown and living in different parts of the country, so I can really spend quality time with my wife, or on improving myself.

So, when I say all in, I mean all in with taking the courses, passing the tests, and above all, actually making a self employed career of my design. If for nothing else than to experience what it's like to not hold myself back by always being in-between.

Feeling That Frustration At Work Again, Time To Review My Stoic Teachings

It was bound to happen, right? I mean, you're putting along in your own space, not bothering anybody, and then something in the universe has to throw a pile of shit your way. I'm feeling that way with work right now.

I've made a very conscious attempt to not let things at work bother me, this way I can have less stress while embracing a Stoic philosophy. Now, in that conscious effort, I've been choking down a fair amount of shit. But, trying the let it roll off, making that effort to not let things bother me.

Work at 9pm at night because our Asia offices can't meet any sooner? No problem, hey, life is good, and I love my job! Attend early morning meetings because our Europe offices can't meet any later? It's all good! I'm just going with the flow and not worrying about the little stuff. Work at midnight on a Friday or Saturday night? Oh, please, that's just a minor inconvenience to someone who values his free time more than money, no prob, Bob!

But with all that, it's just never enough, is it? Now I've got to do another department's work because they refuse to do it. Meaning that as I'm already up nights and early mornings working, giving up weekends, I now also need to do other people's work in a whole other department because they don't feel like it.

The universe wants more, people want it all, and they'll keep taking more and more. Taking and taking, until there's nothing left to give. Then what? Burnout. Hospitalization. Maybe even something worse? And what happens after that?

People will shrug and go about their day, taking and taking from the next sap. Rinse and repeat. Is that all there is? Really?

Because from where I'm sitting, everything continues to want more from me, and it doesn't seem to want to stop. And, the less I try to resist as a means to lower stress, the more I'm expected to give. Don't get me wrong, I know everyone should be able to say "no". But with "no" comes pushback, and more assertion to counter the "no", then arguing, and someone of higher rank saying "just do the thing", creating more animosity.

So, if people and the universe aren't busy sucking everything dry, there's conflict.

During my strides toward minimalism and Stoic mindsets, I've been trying to find balance. I thought it was achievable, and I'm sure it still is. Well, not totally sure, but hopeful, I guess. It just seems that there's no middle ground with life in general. It's all give give give, while they take, take, take, and the minute you dare say "enough already!", you're punished in some way.

I'm hoping this is just a setback, maybe even a minor relapse, so I'll continue to review the teachings of the Stoics and see how I might be able to pull out of this tailspin. I don't want to undo all the progress I've made. I really don't. I really enjoy the peace and contentment that comes with staying in my lane, and expecting others to stay in theirs. Why is that so hard, or too much to even ask?

In any case, perhaps this is yet another kick in the ass to make my way toward something different. I guess just being good with trying to lounge after work and on weekends to spend time with my lady isn't going to work anymore. Now I've got to study and do the work to effect that change. The universe and the never-satisfied hordes of people out there have seen to that. Thanks world, for harshing my mellow.

I sure hope there are others that can relate to this and that I'm truly not alone in feeling these things. Hopefully a better day tomorrow.

/end of rant

Failed: #100 Days

Well, I'm making it official. I'm declaring my 100 Day writing challenge a failure. In my last post I mentioned that I'd make 100 posts, but not in a row. Then, I didn't make any posts after that. Now, if I missed a day or two then posted, it would be one thing. But, in the way I approached this challenge, I didn't take it on as it was meant, and therefore missed out on the potential of growth from it.

So why continue the charade? It didn't work, and that's ok. Because in the time I haven't been writing, I've been doing many things that I can say have added to my fulfillment. I've spent more quality time with my wife, worked on technical projects, home improvement projects, and gave my day job a bit more focus. Overall that time spent just felt good, knowing I wasn't wasting away.

Sure, there were times when I did absolutely nothing except watch TV with the wife, or take in a movie or TV show on my own. But, having choices is probably the most powerful drug that I know of right now. It feels really good. Plus, I tend not to guilt myself (too much) when something slips. I'm human, but also my priorities and even goals can change from day to day.

Writing is definitely important to me, but it's not necessarily the only thing I've got going on. And while I could push myself to do more things in a day, I prefer to keep things at a pace that feels good for me. Maybe this is what "getting older" is all about. As I don't have the fire, or the energy, to accomplish amazing things anymore, I'm content with just accomplishing the things I put on my plate each day.

I guess 'content' is the best way to describe my life right now. I'm not angry with work, I take stock and give gratitude for all I have every day, I strive to treat people better, and I try to be reasonable in all my dealings. As a result, I have that continued inner peace that I've written about before.

There are times that I do worry I might take this "oh, well" attitude too far to the point I'm saying "oh, well" to even the important things, like work and other responsibilities. But at the moment, I don't think that's the case at all. I think I'm just weighing what's truly important for the moment or the day against what can wait and still not suffer. Will my writing suffer if I take some time off from it? I seriously doubt it.

Neither will many of the other things I'd put off because it just wasn't what I wanted to do that day, and wasn't important enough for me to make time for it. Doesn't mean I never got to them, I just got to them when I decided it was time, and not just because it popped up on my radar.

Perhaps some call that "procrastination", but I call it 'selective prioritization'. Some things need to be done right now, others need to be prioritized for later, and still others don't get anything at all because it's just not important enough to give up my time for it. I guess I'm turning into The Dude from Big Lebowski... he always asks, "What's in it for the Dude"? If there isn't much in it in terms of fulfillment that can't answer that question, then I don't abide.

In any case, I have missed writing, and I've missed connecting with you. But that just makes it all the more sweeter when I get back to doing the things I love again after a nice break; preventing resentment of the thing I otherwise love doing. I hope you are well.

#100Days, Day 30 and No Weekly Accountability For June 14th

Quick announcement: I'm dropping the weekly accountability as a regular feature. Mostly because I'm not moving forward with my goals at an agressive pace. So, each week, even though I'm doing things I enjoy and even don't enjoy for the sake of work, I just see goals every week that don't move forward. I thought that by writing down my goals, I'd be compelled to rush toward them because they're out in the open. Turns out, that's not really how I operate.
So, experiment tried and failed. On to the rest of today's post.

I have to admit, this week has really flown by. It's been the perfect combination of busy yet not stressful. I truly hope more weeks can be like this one. While not necessarily the flying by part, as that makes life seem really short, but the balance I've been able to enjoy.

Perhaps striving for even more simplification is also helping. I'm not completely done consolidating my emails just yet, but over half are consolidated into my new email service. What I've found is that I need to teach myself new habits when giving out my email address.

Not necessarily to other people, as my new address works just fine, but more for kiosks and automated services. I tend to want to give out a less secure email address that will automatically forward to my new email address. This way, if someone gets my email address through a nefarious means, and somehow break into that email box, they'll pretty much have an empty decoy.

But then that defeats the purpose of having a singular email box with which to manage and organize emails. I also have to remind myself that my new email box is private and secured. And, with the best technologies available, and a company that is committed to ensuring that remains the case.

The service I use also donates a portion of their proceeds to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and to other online privacy causes. That's not a make or break, but it does tell me they're very serious about individual privacy and security.

So, sometimes I have to just let go of the handlebars and let the vehicle keep moving forward without me getting in the way of it. Which means that less complexity for email means less things to keep up with overall.

Kind of a digital minimalism if you will.

I'm also consolidating other services I use. From streaming TV to cloud storage to virtual assistants. For some reason I tend to have more than one of everything. Perhaps that's my military background kicking in where for any mission you always have a Plan B.

There's a case to be made for redundancy in things. Like production networks, mission critical systems, paid technology services so the customer never experiences an outage.

But not everything I use is mission critical. There can be outages in my world, and it's not the end of my world. Granted, could be inconvenient and have some true repercussions, maybe even financial. But at what cost for a "maybe"?

Sure, I might have used that redundancy once in a year, or once in every five years. But how much did I pay for that redundancy that didn't get used vs. how much I saved during that one time I needed it? I bet the former would be more expensive than the latter.

Plus, it frees up my mind from having to keep track of so many things. Again, like minimalism for material things, I'm also going for minimalism in all the things. Especially services.

If I can't find the reliability and stability I need from any one service that does that thing, then I need to find a new service that does. Period. Instead, I've been doing all the work determining which service is good at what, then having to decide every time which service I should use for this or that one thing.

Not a good use of my time at all. It's like having to decide what to wear every day. Minimalists, myself included, pare down their wardrobes to be a few things that get worn regularly, and things like t-shorts are all bought in the same color. This reduces "decision fatigue" and allows the person to spend more time on things that matter instea of what to wear.

As long as it's clean and in good repair, no one really notices what I wear anyway. So, I freed up a bunch of space in my closet, and time in my day by wearing pretty much the same things every week to work, and the same things every weekend for hanging out.

Not it's time to do the same with the multitude of services I use. Only ONE cloud storage. Only one streaming TV (goodbye DirecTV now), only one virtual assisting service.

What this all really boils down to is that I need to give up control and leave things for other people to solve. That's why I pay them, isn't it? I mean, if I have to solve for using more of one of the same service because I have an issue that isn't solved by one, but is solved by another, I need to do one of two things:

  1. Find a service that already solved it for me

OR

  1. Find a service that's wanting to solve it for me, and let them do it

I wrote a blog post a while back about the value I see in outsourcing. I prefer to pay someone else to do the things I don't want to do. And in most cases, they do it better than I ever could, because that's what they do.

But in looking at what I've just written today, I've been selling myself short when it comes to outsourcing things. I've been trying to solve all the problems of the services' shortcomings, instead of doing one of the two things above.

Essentially, I've been working for free, and companies that don't fulfill my true needs are getting paid anyway. Wow, am I stupid!

Now that I've written this out, my next steps make even more sense than just when I was sharing what I'm doing in the broad strokes. Now that I've drilled down deeper, I found a path to free up both time and money.

Bingo!

#100Days, Day 29

Well, it's been another busy week, but all in all I don't mind. Mostly because it's been "busy enough" without being crazy or chaotic. So that makes me wonder, is it because it's really not, or because I'm coping better?

This week I've had sit downs with two people that know my story and my struggle. One thing I was able to share with both of them is this profound sense of contentment I'm feeling these days. I attribute it mostly to my adopting some of the Stoic principles, and it's been refreshing, calming, and even liberating.

I find that I'm not walking around pissed off at the world anymore, and I'm not anxious and easily aggravated. I've been feeling more patient, and even forgiving of things that would normally anger me, or even sometimes, send me into a rage. For what I've had to endure with PTSD, this is a profound achievement.

Along with these positive feelings, I've also been experiencing a lot more clarity. I think mostly because I'm not expending all my energy being furious, and using up my brain power to think of ways to make that person who cut me off in traffic pay dearly for doing so. It's actually very interesting how much mental capacity was consumed by my anger and frustration and wishing for some kind of justice for all transgressors, no matter how small.

I'm not saying that I've reached this total inner bliss through some kind of cult teachings, or that I'm fully reformed in some spiritual sense. But, what I am saying, and enjoying, is a solace in my mind and my heart that I've not experienced in so very long. Actually, I'm not able to truly remember the last time I could just relax and stop worrying or being mad at someone or something. I'm sleeping better, I'm engaging people better, it's pretty incredible.

Just to be clear, I do still get frustrated. Whether it's other drivers, or people I have to work with, there is a limit to my patience. But, the way I process it and express it seems to be much healthier, and less draining for me.

This is not to say I'm no longer flawed as a person. I very much am. And the fact that I'm learning these things so late in life, that perhaps I should have learned younger in life (if I wasn't being trained to kill my enemy by any means available), means that I'm never going to stop learning, either.

Hardly perfect, heavily flawed, and still learning. Yup, I guess that makes me a human being. Thank you, it's good to be here.

#100Days, Day 28

Ok, I'm back. Took a few days off as a mini-sabatical, mostly to take care of work and home projects, as well as consolidate my email accounts. I'd been wanting to consolidate for a very long time, but I found that over the years, I'd spread my emails across several different services. Some I'd paid for, others not so much.

I don't mind paying for email, but some of my earlier accounts were purchased based on their usefulness and not so much their privacy as well as security. So, having become a privacy and security geek of late, I found that it's time to get a handle on all my email and get the old ones archived securely, and new emails that will go to a new home, in a privacy-friendly country, with the ability to encrypt and decrypt at will.

During this time, I've moved everything off the not-so-private/secure servers, and placed them all in their new home. New emails are also coming into their new home as well. Now all I've got to do is sort and separate the old email and then archive them into some zero-knowledge storage that I control.

One thing I did discover during my quest to find the email service that provides the perfect balance of security, functionality, and is located outside an Internet hostile country like the U.S. and it's Five Eyes anti-privacy pals; is that in the U.S., any emails left on your account for more than six months is no longer protected under U.S. privacy laws. That means that your emails are no longer considered private records, and are instead a database record and not subject to the same protections as a private record.

SIX MONTHS! And, of course, what government or law enforcement agency is going to not look at emails that are newer than six months when rifling through someone's email account for emails older than six months?

Instead I chose a European country that is very privacy-friendly, and only responds to court orders from their national jurisdiction only. As well, in Europe, thanks to the GPDR, email never stops being protected under EU privacy laws. So yeah, when I found about the six month deal, I got all my emails off U.S. hosted servers immediately.

Sure, they're probably still there as some tech companies never delete anything, even if you do, they don't. And other companies have my emails in some backups somewhere. But, it's better than nothing, since I'm not the leader of an international crime ring, or even a neighborhood one for that matter, so the legal risk is pretty light for the moment.

I know this going in, but I had to start sometime, and that sometime was now.

And for the rest of my mini-sabatical, I set up an HD over-the-air tuner with personal DVR so I can match that up with a streaming TV service that's NOT DirecTV Now. I cut cable about a year ago, and now DirecTV went all customer-hating after AT&T acquired Time Warner, by hiking monthly prices to show how evil they truly can be.

Not sure why they'd start a really good service only to decide in a few years that they don't want anyone to actually use that service. Then raise prices to a ridiculous degree in the hopes those unhappy customers are steered to their piece of crap flagship product that requires an ugly-ass dish in my yard. No thanks. I went IPTV and over the air HD local TV and DVR. Buh-bye DirecTV Now.

So, I've been pretty busy, even if not active on here for a few days. But, I'm thinking, yeah, I'm back! (Anyone know where that line is from?)

#100Days, Day 27

I actually started this post yesterday, intending to also post it yesterday. However, I found myself staring at a blinking cursor throughout the day. I guess it could be that I had nothing to say or share. If anybody knows me, they'd know that to be a very rare occasion.

But, there I was, sitting and staring at a blinking cursor, with my mind blank. I was going to write down some of my frustrations about work. But after reading article after article about shitty bosses and toxic leadership styles, I figured there'd be no benefit except to rile me up and frustrate me even more.

It appears that shitty managers, and even shittier management styles are an infection that's firmly embedded in the American business landscape, and won't disappear anytime soon. And as such, I'll never be able to escape it. Therefore, I've got two options. Embrace the suck, or figure out a new way to make my money, i.e., freelancing.

Now, when it comes to freelancing, I'm not sure what's really stopping me. I mean, so much of what I do now, I could certainly do as a hired gun at just about any organization without having to actually be their employee.

I think I still suffer from impostor syndrome. Perhaps that's what's crippling me. Or, could it be a fear of success? Some might think, "what's the problem? You try, you succeed, DONE!"

But, I don't think it's that simple. Success means that you're only as good as your last thing; gig, client, engagement, work product, etc. So, there's a fair amount of stress to keep up the standard others would be used to seeing and receiving from me. Perhaps even getting spoiled with such, and expecting better and better as time goes on.

Otherwise, "the usual", no matter what high quality it may posses, is still the usual.

I don't want to always have to top myself. I remember being that guy who was all about that, but now I'm older and tired from having done that my whole life. Thing is, by doing that my whole life, I did it because I wanted approval from others.

My then wife, her parents (who never liked me no matter how good I did), my extended family... I wanted to be the "successful" one in my family. And, I wanted my ex-wife to stop bitching at me for not making enough money, to where I could slow down and take it easy for a bit.

But then, when I worked the long hours to try to get noticed so that I could receive the bonuses and promotions, my ex would then bitch about how I'm never home to help out with the kids and the household chores.

So then, I was really in a hurry to try to be "successful" so that I could stop the nagging in two very opposite sides of the spectrum. I also wanted to be the envy of the family. So shallow, I know. I was young, naive, and oh so stupid back then.

And then, a few things happened, or rather, didn't happen.

I never got the promotions, and maybe a bonus here or there, but not enough to be considered as taking my career to the next level. I was always good enough to be the worker bee, maybe with some responsibility sprinkled in here and there, but never good enough to actually be in management.

That would all change when I got my sergeant stripes in the Army and helped hold together a large platoon of combat engineers in a theater of war. But that's a story for another day.

So, in essence, I'm much older, wiser, and happier being married to someone who actually supports me instead of tears me down for not being "enough". I look back and see how much time I've wasted trying to get ahead in the socially traditional sense.

From that lens, hard work seems like a sucker's bet. Sure, employers will let you run yourself into the ground and not say a thing. In fact, they'll reward you just enough so that you keep doing it. Then, when you've given it everything, and you've got absolutely nothing left, boom, you're out.

Granted, I really didn't have a definition of "success" I could use as a measurement when I was working so hard. Well, actually, I did. I wanted to be an IT director or vice president of an established organization by the age of 30.

By that time I would have had 12 years of experience in my chosen field. This was also around Y2K, and tech careers were paying big. But, again, worker bee, not really looked at as being suited for management.

Perhaps these are the raw memories of my past that are keeping me from wanting to spend the second half of my life chasing after the same leprechaun, only to find there is no pot of gold to be had. At least not for me.

Coming back to a point of center, I do make a good living. I do have everything I could want, and I don't really want more. The thing is, as a male in a western society, my job is to provide. And that means that just like a shark, I can never stop swimming.

This is why I'm striving for minimalism, and hoping my wife catches on to it as well. I don't want so much stuff. I don't need so much stuff. And I don't want to want so much stuff. And I wish the same especially for my wife.

I love her and want her to be happy, but material things aren't the key to that. She was born and raised to be a consumer by her single mother, also a born and bred consumer. So, I don't blame my wife, I just wish there was a point where we could both say at the same time, "No thanks, we're good. We don't need any more stuff."

So, I think the real blocker to my success is the fact that being a success means a lot more work. Wanting to be a success means a lot more work. No matter which way I turn, if I want to be anything, it means more work.

Normally I'd go along with that. And normally I'd see that as the natural order of things, but it's really not for me anymore. I want to be content, I want to be free of schedules and obligations, and pursue my passions, however fleeting.

Some might call that death and say it's only possible in the afterlife, but I'd like it to be here in life. In any case, I think I just solved the riddle to why I might be scared of success.

#100Days, Day 26

Dammit, it happened again. I missed another day of posting. I knew I was putting off writing for "later" as I was involved in work and doing some research for my own intentions.

Next thing I know, my wife and I are heading to bed to rest up for a very busy Tuesday.

Someone who I admire very much suggested I write first thing in the morning, so that I'm not scrambling to get my thoughts down before bed. That is really, really good advice. Advice I should take, but yesterday I didn't.

So, I'm writing earlier in the day, as I'm thinking about it, instead of putting it off until "later". Another benefit to writing earlier is that I have all day to edit and polish my post. Or in my case, fix all the misspellings I never catch when I'm in a hurry to publish my post.

Which brings me to my next realization. On Sunday I'd procrastinated yet again in getting my post done earlier in the day. Then, at night, while in bed, I wrote like maybe two lines to say I wasn't going to be able to post much for Sunday, but that I'd get a more meaningful post out on Monday.

So, it turns out, though, that I posted more on Sunday (two sentences) than I did on Monday (no sentences). On one hand, I posted absolute crap on Sunday just to keep a commitment of doing this challenge "every day".

Then, last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I did think for a moment that I could do another quickie post, just to keep things moving. But I consciously said no to that because posting nothing was better than posting garbage.

Thus came along the question of quantity vs. quality. I'm still going to post for 100 days. And, as I've come to realize, it may not be 100 days in a row. But, instead, it needs to be 100 days of good posts. Posts with something to say or share or opine. Anything less is a waste of my time, and especially yours.

Posting "something" instead of a thought out post is akin to doing the "bare minimum" to get by, and I'm not about that. Well, at work I now am, but that was brought about by something else entirely. However, my normal state of being is not that of doing the bare minimum. And so my writing should not reflect that, either.

I'm going to finish the #100Day writing challenge. But, for me to do this properly for the way I want this challenge to help me grow and better reflect who I truly am, it may not be 100 in a row. And, frankly, that ship has sailed already. There's no way I'll make the 100 days in a row as I've already missed two days of posts.

Three, if you count the bogus posting on Sunday. So, to make up for that, I'm going to make 101 posts, because Sunday's really doesn't count in my book.

Again, I suppose this all in how one sees things. Is it better to keep pushing for 100 days straight, no matter what, even if the quality is sub-par? Or, would it be better to submit 100 posts of quality, even if not all in a row?

Methinks there could be arguments for and against either approach. I'd like to hear your take on this. More like a philosophical take rather than a "what should I do?" kind of take.

In any case, I feel better having posted something with a little meat and some depth. Instead of a mere placeholder that's empty and wastes a day that could otherwise be a much better post. Onward and upward.