Sincerity Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 7, Q2

Sincerity: “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”

Personal notes:

  • Practice on friends & family
  • Be an open book to the girls
  • Sit down with dad for Father’s Day

At times I’d like to share a nice, kind, or pleasant thought with friends or family, but I don’t – I balk at apologies too. Is it weird that I keep these thoughts to myself? Keeping quiet about bad thoughts makes sense, but why does my gut keep silent for good ones? Over the last few years I’ve forced myself to be more open, honest and sincere with my wife – happy wife, happy life, and all that (it’s true) – but not so much others. If I try to think of a reason, I have no answer. Why not be sincere with friends and family? Why not reach out and share? Seems obvious.

This past week, we had a lot going on: visited family, attended a wedding, farewell dinner for an old friend, and a few others. For each I overruled my gut and did my best to be sincere. For my buddy who is moving, I told him earnestly, how much I’ll miss him. The day after dancing all night at the wedding, I thanked the groom and bride for including us in the festivities.

Admittedly, none of this is rocket science, my wife does it all the time (in fact, I think most females do), but maybe it is rocket science for me; the rocket science of sincere emotions – Male 101. Old timers of generations past would pour me a whiskey, nervously look for the door, or punch me in the nose; “sack up” they’d say. But there’s something to this sincerity bit; when thoughts don’t linger I feel better.

People like hearing when you’re grateful, happy, or hurt. Helps put emotion on the compass and give folks a sense of direction. It also helps turn off the mind’s replay settings – or at least lower the volume. Just the other day I sent a snarky email that I initially thought was funny. However, I ruminated for hours how rude it was in retrospect. The only way to quiet my mind was to write an apology; so I did. Success was immediate, as was my friend’s reply calling me a donkey. I had to laugh, it made me feel better, my mind was at ease and I could finally go on with the rest of the day.

Industry Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 6, Q2

Industry: “Lose no time, be always employed in something useful; cutoff unnecessary actions.

Personal notes:

  • Fully engage with what you’re doing; immerse yourself.
  • There’s not much time left; we’re getting old. Use time wisely.
  • Shut off distractions!

Honestly, things are getting a lot better in life, I mean a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to notice, and often, like in this blog, we only focus on the setbacks and failures. But after trying over the course of several months, I can see a change in my behavior, an improvement in my attitude and, most importantly, an increase in my happiness and the happiness of my family.

Distilled down, there are several root factors, but one of the biggest is also one of the biggest enemies of Industry: technology. Technology plays a dual role: on the one-hand, it amazingly increases productivity; on the other, it increases distraction.

The other day, when I should have been writing this post, I got lost on Facebook. When I should have been paying bills, I was texting. When I should have been playing with my daughter, I was reading headlines on my phone. Worse, when she interrupted my phone reading, I was furious – a recurring result when mixing tech and family.

Don’t take this as a slide to negativity; they were only moments in an otherwise very productive and happy week. But to achieve productivity and happiness, I had to be proactive.

  • On the iPhone, there’s a little moon button for “Do Not Disturb,” take advantage of it.
  • If you have a Mac, it’s a blessing and a curse; seamless integration with your other devices on the one end, constant interruption from those apps on the other. Fortunately, that little moon button is on the Mac as well.
  • Facebook, well, avoiding the site is the hardest part and the easiest way to do that is to turn off your notifications. Sorry if I never respond to your Facebook posts but my notifications are off and/or sent to junk mail. Try giving yourself a break and go off FB for a week; avoid the stress, comparisons and bad news.
  • Want another way to go on FB less? Do what I did and take the app off your phone. In fact, take any distracting app off your phone. The process of logging into a webpage is enough of a hurdle that it will end that distraction.
  • Finally, for the kids, put down the phones and hide them in another room. My wife and I police one another, sometimes we fail, but if our 2 year old catches sight of our phone, her screams and cries when she doesn’t get the phone are a poignant reminder that we need to keep them out of sight.

It does always amaze me when I go through these virtues, how often unhappiness or setbacks are tied to phones specifically, technology generally. I’m a big fan of tech – let me be clear, nothing makes me happier than a 2 minute wait for Uber – but when I look at myself, my family, our happiness and Industry, I know progress demands technology in moderation.

Frugality Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 5, Q2

Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.”

Personal notes:

  • Burn our credit cards! (or just don’t use them this week);
  • Our family bleeds money on one off purchases (I’m looking at you Amazon);
  • Rather than spend on self, make a worthwhile donation.

I don’t like spending money unwisely but, sometimes if you look at our bills, you would think unwise spending was our favorite past-time; not baseball, not football, but the Spending Olympics is our game. We excel, like the United States in basketball, Russia in hockey, and Canada in ice luge.

Now some of it is our fault, that’s true as day, but I like to think the rest of the blame lies with Amazon, and that suits me better than having to take the full blame myself; I’m partial to partial blame. Besides, one look at Jeff Bezos and you know he’s got to be blamed for something.

But that’s what we do (besides blame Bezos) we spend and spend, with people trying to get us to spend some more; pop-ups, ad pages, flash sales, Prime, direct mail, overnight delivery, all at the click of a button. It’s quite fabulous if you think about it, but I prefer not to think about it, makes my brain hurt.

What has been working for us is silencing the noise, putting away the phone, making our lives smaller, and using technology to our benefit; automatic withdrawals are great, automatic investments even better. The best so far, though, has to be living smaller. In this case, we are quite literally living smaller by downgrading our apartment and vastly improving our savings rate.

Frugality is a tough one in this day and age. A lot of forces are stacked against us. But ultimately small changes can add up to big gains.

Resolution Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q2

Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”

Personal notes:

  • Act like you would if someone challenged you.
  • Do not approach things mildly when you could approach it decisively.
  • Deliberate purpose in everything.

Resolve is a tough virtue to master. This week, however, I can record an accomplishment; my wife and I, finally, after 4 years of talking about it, signed our last will and testament. Wahoo! Big stuff. Time to pop the champagne — no joke.

Ok, maybe I joke, but if anything, this experience has taught me that true determination does not materialize in a week. Resolution takes time; writing takes time. There are days I sit in a corner, mumbling like Winnie the Pooh, “Think, think, think”. To me, this blog is a test of resolve; each week I practice, hoping to prove my determination, and maybe improve my writing, too.

But that’s all we can do, practice; and give over to the idea that time is a concrete component of resolution. We shouldn’t suffer anxiety when big, important undertakings aren’t solved in an afternoon. The truth about our last will & testament: my wife and I made no headway until we broke down the 1 daunting task into 14 manageable steps. We wrote out a list and began scratching off smaller items with ease. This one change broke the impasse and our resolve came to fruition.