Jay's Journal

Always watching, always learning.

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 up 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) 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 manager 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 server 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 the 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


  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.


#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.

#100Days, Day 25

Well, looks like I’m not going be able to write much tonight. I’ll write more tomorrow. Have a good night.

#100Days, Day 24

This is going to be real quick as it's been a pretty full day. Took my wife out to an early dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. While we were eating, we decided that we'd go to the grocery store for a "few things". After buying $300 worth of groceries, I think we've covered all the basics.

After we came home, went back to relaxation mode where I worked on getting my media servers updated and media organized. Since my media servers are Linux based, I was able to roll up my sleeves and get into the weeds a little bit.

Now I've settled in for a movie that's being played on one of my media servers and enjoying the fruits of my labor.

It's a minute past midnight, but this is still my Saturday, so I've made today's writing goal. See you tomorrow.

#100Days, Day 23 and Weekly Accountability for May 31st

Well, it happened. I missed a day by not posting yesterday. The thing is, I didn't even realize until I was already in bed ready to go to sleep. I'd actually considered getting up and going to post at least something.

But, I wanted to avoid an argument with my wife before it even started, so I settled in and went fast to sleep. Today required me to really think about what missing a day of posting meant. First, it meant not keeping my word to myself and to anyone who may be reading these posts.

That by itself didn't sit well with me. This feeling had me taking some time today to think about what happened, why, and what it really meant. Then, something occurred to me.

What occured to me was that, yes, I did miss a day. It does mean that 100 days of posting every day in a row isn't going to happen. However, it doesn't mean I can't still post for 100 days.

At the risk of rationalizing, I dove deeper into this. What came to mind was that although I missed a day, I still have a chance to keep posting every day for the rest of my challenge. That means that even though I stumbled, I can still finish strong. In a challenge like this, I think even finishing at all says something.

Not satisfied with this realization, I went even further. I equated this to all endeavors and life in general. What I came up with was that when I finish this challenge, I won't look back only at the day I missed. I'll likely look at the days I didn't miss, and give some time, a fraction overall, to the day I did miss.

This means that no matter where we are in life, it's never too late to finish. It's never too late for us to write the story of our lives that we want for ourselves. Not in the made up sense, but in the action and accomplishment sense.

If I want to be remembered a certain way, it's not too late for me to "write" that story so that when I leave this Earth, the story I wrote for myself was through the actions I took to be remembered in that certain way.

Whether it's a slow start, no start (yet), of a start without a finish, we can still write the story we want for ourselves. This makes the finish and the journey as a whole that got us there is so much more important that the stumbles and the mistakes.

I never like to let myself off the hook too easy, so I'm not one to just let these realizations be an excuse for me to stop trying. The story can only be written when the there's a journey and a destination has been reached. There can be many journeys, and several destinations, but I won't get the story of either one unless I take action on both.

It's weekly accountability time:

Weekly Accountability for May 31st, 2019

This Week's Goals (31 May 2019)

  • Enroll in that darn copywriting course! (So overdue)
  • Actually do some decluttering (Overdue)
  • Branstorm value propositions (Overdue)
  • Continue to apply realistic expecations to my everyday dealings and surroundings [Complete - and much less stressed when out in public]

Next Week's Goals (7 June 2019)

  • Enroll in that darn copywriting course!
  • Actually do some decluttering
  • Branstorm value propositions
  • Continue to apply realistic expecations to my everyday dealings and surroundings

Goals For The Month of May

  • Complete half of my copywriting course (Failed)
  • Define business niche and create ideal client profile (Failed)
  • Establish content strategy for upcoming business writing service website (Failed)
  • Made at least 4 contacts for upcoming business writing service (Failed)
  • Solidified professional freelance profiles for LinkedIn, Upwork, etc. (Failed)
  • Continue 100 Day Writing Challenge (Failed, but not quitting)

Goals For The Month of June

  • Complete half of my copywriting course
  • Define business niche and create ideal client profile
  • Establish content strategy for upcoming business writing service website
  • Made at least 4 contacts for upcoming business writing service
  • Solidified professional freelance profiles for LinkedIn, Upwork, etc.
  • Continue 100 Day Writing Challenge

Short Term Goals (within 6 months)

  • Complete a professional copywriting course by July 1st, 2019
  • Become a professional business and copywriter by August 1st, 2019 (by obtaining first paying client)
  • Establish processes for lead capturing
  • Develop client experience workflow from prospect to final delivery of product

Long Term Goals (a year or longer)

  • Be able to quit day job and go full time freelance by December 31st, 2020

What Went Right This Week

  • Capped off a great 5-day weekend with my wife
  • Kept up with work load and pace despite being out for two days this week
  • Used my coping mechanisms rooted in Stoicism and having realistic expectations to remain calm all week

What Can Be Done Better Next Week

  • Strive to get more done each workday
  • Be more deliberate with each day and plan for the next day the night before
  • Do something that will get me closer to achieving my overdue weekly goals.