Industry Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 6, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Fully engage with what you’re doing; immerse yourself;
  • Shut off distractions;
  • Find fulfillment.

We’re all pretty industrious; even on days when it feels nothing was accomplished. But there are definitely those days when I don’t “cutoff unnecessary actions.” Wednesday was one of those days. I spent all morning creating a music playlist for my girls. I got mad at myself for being “unindustrious” but, in truth, I was happy.

I was happy because I thought about how happy my girls would be – they love music. Besides, what did I really have to accomplish that day? Most of my to-do list was crap (put there to feel industrious). The truly important stuff got taken care of without delay.

All my favorite memories in life were born of industry but were not being industrious. Do I remember what I was supposed to be doing Wednesday morning? No. Do I remember my girls dancing to their music this weekend? You bet. If you spend your days “losing no time,” all your time will be lost. If you’re “always employed in something useful,” when will you have time for life, family, and friends? Be industrious when it matters, but don’t lose sight of the big picture.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 7, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Such an important one to practice;
  • Especially with friends & family;
  • Be an open book to the ones you love.

If there’s a thought stirring in your heart, be sure to share it. Sarcasm and jokes are fun, but say what you mean. Don’t hide your intent because you’re afraid to share.

Frugality Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 5, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Only purchase necessary items;
  • Be cognizant of cost;
  • Give special attention to groceries.

Frugality often feels like a choice between living and saving. We save for the future, sometimes at the expense of the present. Why? We have the normal goals: house, retirement, emergency savings; and sometimes these goals cut against the reality of living: bills, food, fun.

Sometimes we’re foolish, and the bills are particularly difficult that month, but life can’t be locked away and saved for a later date; it expires. There is a line between prudence and foolishness. Life is not 401k’s and IRA’s and future sunny days. We can’t sit around dreaming of the afternoons when we’re old, retired, laying on the beach, waiting to die.

Always enough time for money, never enough money for time. I hold fast to that idea and believe the future is bright, but we save to stave off uncertainty, and potential for calamity. We’re pretty lucky. Most people save nothing, because they have nothing. When paying (another) dental bill, it hurts – but it is not the hurt of starvation. The unforeseen expenses, the ups and downs, this is life, and if we have to cut into savings one month, life is worth living.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 6, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Fully engage with what you’re doing; immerse yourself;
  • Shut off distractions;
  • Find fulfillment.

In the beginning, I focused exclusively on income when I thought about Industry; that was wrong. Reading, learning, and living are as just important to Industry as working. 

Resolution Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Determine key tasks this week;
  • Focus on these tasks;
  • Dutifully and purposefully complete each.

Checking each item off my list this week, I successfully cleared the schedule, paid some bills, hit the gym and tied up loose ends, all to great satisfaction and contentment before leaving on vacation. Feeling pretty good, I thought Resolution was a piece of cake. Then, while on vacation, I saw and heard examples of Resolve that made me realize how insignificant my list was.

What would you do if diagnosed with cancer? Without hesitation, my friend’s wife underwent a double mastectomy; resolving to be there for her children. Another good buddy, this one in the military, read me a transcript of a Russian soldier in Syria. All soldiers share a common thread, and my friend choked back tears as the Russian fought until the end, refusing to be disgraced and paraded in his uniform.

Admittedly these examples are extremes; guiding lights in the dark sea of uncertainty. But our lives are sometimes broken down into overwhelming lists and tasks, some important, often not. We work each day to cross items off our list and resolve to muddle through, but at times our lists cloud the truth. Getting the groceries and cleaning the house are not just tasks but in my case, steps to provide love and stability for my children. It’s always important to remember what greater good these tasks serve, and be aware when these tasks become a disservice.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 5, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Only purchase necessary items;
  • Be cognizant of cost;
  • Give special attention to groceries.

Sadly, summer is gone; on the upside, summer was expensive. Perfect time to practice Frugality and get back into the habit for Fall.

Hope you had a great holiday weekend,

Patrick

Order Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q3

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Busy week ahead, plot it out;
  • Do not over plan, keep it manageable;
  • Each task is usually composed of several steps, list them out;
  • Provide cushion; fill it if needed, enjoy it if not.

Procrastination is how I get things done; every week I write a relaxed schedule and every week I finish writing this blog at 5am. Some weeks flow smoothly but most have their interruptions. Like on Wednesday, when I lost my wallet rushing my daughter to the dentist; interruption accomplished, Order eviscerated.

If there’s a benefit to procrastination, it’s complete laser focus at the finish line. But the drawback is that any interruption is a spark to gasoline; anger burns with the slightest agitation. How we handle ourselves during this moment is hardest because we are at our weakest: tired, stressed and anxious. It took a lot of energy to keep from yelling at my daughter as we looked for my lost wallet – a lot of energy.

Truthfully, I enjoy Order; plotting vacations, streamlining expenses, cooking foods; cooking is one I enjoy most. The prepping of food, the mapping of time, helps create hours of quiet. The mind put at rest and the body at ease, the moment wrapped in the comfort of Order. With each thing in its place, Orderliness stirs contentment – if only I could do this all the time.

Order breeds quiet; slowing down the world and letting appreciation sneak in. How often do people complain their train is on time? With the day over-packed and over-scheduled I lost a wallet and almost lost it on my daughter. Thankfully, a kind stranger left the wallet untouched with a gracious subway attendant and saved me hours of worry and misery. In this crazy time sometimes Order still finds its way, and wallets are returned, and people remind you that there is good in the world.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q2

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

Personal notes:

  • Determine key tasks this week;
  • Focus on these tasks;
  • Dutifully and purposefully complete each.

I’m traveling this week, and when I travel it’s always a bit difficult to get work done. Getting it done will be especially hard with good food and great friends; it’s going to take a lot of resolve.

Good luck this week,

Patrick

Silence Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q3

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • Shut up and cut the sarcasm;
  • If angry, do not say anything, it’s a losing proposition;
  • Practice listening;
  • Limit the gossiping;
  • Get away from useless conversation.

Sometimes I’m quiet too much; sitting and sulking and degrading everyone else’s mood; benefitting no one. The mind inflating insignificant thoughts and ballooning them into anger. The pressure would ease if only the words could escape, but they’re stuck; trapped within.

The annoyance lingers, sometimes it disappears, but mostly it sticks around, and grows, and inevitably hurts the very ones I hoped to shield. That is the worst silence, the one where anger simmers underneath, waiting for the right amount of tension and irritation to erupt and catch loved ones by surprise; it’s almost always loved ones. The contradiction between intent and result is stark and firm.

What’s the correct action here? Certainly not Silence; burying down anger until it boils over is a wrecked path to failure. Communication is key, and I remember that each time I fail because I was silent. “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself” is about Communication. It’s reminding us to not waste time on fools; for that practice Silence. But for the ones we love, for the people who are close and meaningful and worthwhile, practice communication; it will benefit everyone, including yourself.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q3

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Busy week ahead, plot it out;
  • Do not over plan, keep it manageable;
  • Each task is usually composed of several steps, list them out;
  • Provide cushion; fill it if needed, enjoy it if not.

Order is not about planning each minute of the week; I’ve done that before and it is folly. Order is about navigating a flexible path, one sure to survive calm waters and thrive in turbulent storms.

Have a great week

Temperance Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q3

TemperanceEat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol;
  • Reduce sugar;
  • Improve meal intake

I always feel a little bit of joy when temperance comes around; a week of lighter food, less alcohol and mindful eating. It’s a short week, but like an overdue vacation, it goes a long way. After just a few days, everything feels lighter and recharged and belts pinch less when buckling.

There was a time when destruction helped me recharge: terrible food, terrible drink, terrible hangover – the furthest thing from rest and relaxation. It was wonderful and comfortable, like an old pair of gray sweatpants, but something had to change or sweatpants would be all I could afford. Along with the growing waistline, the hangovers grew as well. The pain, oh my goodness the pain, it slipped from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday – I had to stop before it reached Thursday.

I still slip today, and still have a few rough mornings here and there, and the results are still the same. Hangover Saturday is the best day for me to start a losing argument with my wife, yell at the kids for being kids, and generally become an annoying grump. Sleeping it off doesn’t work, the kids don’t sleep and, even if they did, hangover sleep is cheap and fraught. Tossing and turning, hot then cold, a racing heart and panicked dreams – I won’t even mention the indigestion; I need to eat more greens.

Lethargic and gray and stuck on the couch is the surest way for me to stay unhappy; the 13 virtues grow love handles and look terrible in a bathing suit. Does that mean we all need washboard abs? No way. Triathlon? Pass. 26.2 miles? I’ll take a bus. Cozy up to moderation and use this week to reset and redraw the lines. Moderation and temperance, that’s what I’m going for; it’s the extra padding that feels great, gives you something to hold on to and keeps you warm in the water.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q3

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • Shut up and cut the sarcasm;
  • If angry, do not say anything, it’s a losing proposition;
  • Practice listening;
  • Limit the gossiping;
  • Get away from useless conversation.

Shhhhhhhhh.

Have a great week

Humility Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q2

Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates”

Personal notes:

  • Think about others;
  • Think about where we are;
  • Find happiness here.

My daughters and I sat on our porch blowing bubbles; gentle morning sun warmed us while a fresh breeze kept us cool. Birds flew on their way to water, a few cars ambled to work, and a dog walker, holding more leashes than one person was meant, herded her pack. An unfamiliar dog walking with its owner caused quite a stir and 6 or 8 herd dogs angrily barked at the bearish Shih Tzu. My daughters stopped at the noise, put down their bubbles, and eyed the scuffle – they are fascinated with puppies. Watching the girls watch the dogs, I smiled as my youngest reached out her chubby little hand and patted the small of my oldest’s back to give comfort. In return, my oldest put her arm around her sister and hugged. There they stood, wrapped together, virtuosos enjoying a morning performance. No one has taught me more about humility than my girls; especially when I see their love, and especially when I hurt it.

The births of the girls were religious experiences. Amongst the sterile hospital room and the blood and the hustle, when my first child arrived I was ushered anew into the world with her. A page was turned and in its place was a chapter that was not there before. My second daughter’s birth carried with it a surprising contentment; she brought with her the concreteness of family. We became whole.

My wife and I love them both dearly, and we sacrifice everything for our family: ambition, sleep, health, money. Yet there are days when all that we give is not enough and our reserves run dry. On those days I loose my cool, usually when the girls are screaming, whining or fighting, and snap and yell, drag them to timeout, and walk out of the room boiling. 15 minutes later, when composure returns, I feel horrible; their terrified innocence is heartbreaking. 

When I yell at my girls I scare them, I injure, and sometimes I injure others too. This weekend, exhausted and stupid, I lost my cool with my mom and my wife. Maybe it was the 4am discussion with my oldest daughter or the 530am alarm clock that is my youngest, but I lashed both mom and wife with the most hurtful of weapons: words.

Was I wrong? Completely. I did not even have the weak self-assurance of being right. I was wrong and hurtful and humbled in the worst way; the wrong kind of humbled. This week is about Humility, and one day I hope to stumble upon the secret of pure humility, with its graciousness and calm and understanding. The humility that is with us at the beginning, avoiding a fight, not the humility that is with us at the end after we have been humbled by guilt, sadness and tempers. 

This weekend I apologized to everyone but had the hardest time with that other great virtue, forgiveness; forgiving myself proved impossible. As for my girls, they’re both playing, wrapped in my shirt, giggling that the shirt is as long as a dress, and singing “have another beer in Mexico.” Today they both humbled me and forgiven me in the span of seconds; there is still much to learn from them.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q3

Temperanceeat not to dullness; drink not to elevation

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol;
  • Reduce sugar;
  • Improve meal intake

Hello old friend, your timing is impeccable. After a summer lubricated by boat drinks, beer and BBQ, Temperance could not arrive soon enough. My waistline welcomes you.

Chastity Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q2

Chastity: “rarely use venery but for health or offspring. Never to dullness, weakness or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Personal notes:

  • This week is a decade too late;
  • It’s the most difficult week to write about publicly;
  • Focus on “health” and/or “offspring,” depending on what the boss says.

We went on vacation with family last week and, in true family vacation fashion, space was at a premium. Rooms overflowed with bodies big and small, wine bottles battled chocolate doughnuts for counter space, and 6 cousins watched TV in a gaggle of arms, legs and feet across a brown couch built for 3. The week was crowded, fantastic, and inevitably chaste.

Sleeping four to a room quickly crowds out intimacy, no surprise, but no matter. Each night our bedroom stirred with children flipping in their beds. Their soft breathing, their proximity, and their tiny shuffles were all a comfort; a comfort transcending the loud, sweaty, and inebriated vacations of old.

Life is a far cry from past spring breaks where wild Friday night romps rolled into bleary Saturday afternoons. Sex is not as often now, we’re most excited about sleep, but sex is more intimate, sober, and healthy. That’s not to say this week is unimportant, certainly not; in fact, our vacation hammers home how important this week is.

This week is not about being chaste, but being faithful. There is considerable cost to sex and there is much to lose: family, happiness, love. The price is too high. “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring” seems a bargain in comparison.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q2

Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Personal notes:

  • Think about others;
  • Think about where we are;
  • Find happiness here.

Congratulations! This is our half way point; it’s amazing how quickly it goes. After 6 months, we return to Humility – the keystone virtue. This week, think about Humility: read about it, explore it, practice it; there is value here.

Tranquility Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q2

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

*this may be also viewed as “Acceptance”

Personal notes:

  • Ignore the trifles. Better yet, laugh at them.
  • Focus on life’s big positives.
  • Realize our time is transitory.

My wife worked at a cancer hospital. Passing through the pediatric ward, she would text, “We are ok.” After all, how could we not be? Life’s noisy trifles were muted, their trivial nature revealed at the sight of a 2 year old fighting for her life. The shocking clarity of the moment rebalanced reality. But as always, time went on, the hours and days slipped by, gray overcame clarity, and trifles regained their strength.

Why? Why do we permit trifles such strength? True tragedies – death, injury, sickness – stir in us something more; our intrinsic human response is the opposite of trifles. Trifles provoke rage, anger, and agitation; tragedies evoke sadness, reflection and compassion. Rather than stiffen, tragedies soften. When my daughter spilled her milk, I fumed a visceral heat. When I learned my uncle died, I sought family.

Last week I talked about my landlord. His Sunday night email temporarily trumped all life’s meaningful positives – a fact that is so preposterous I’m ashamed the sentence is true – but it is true. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t shake the trifle. I repeated the grand notes and I said to myself, “We are a happy, healthy family in a loving, secure environment,” big picture stuff, but it was useless. All I heard was the broken cord amongst the symphony.

Three steps helped overcome the obstacle. First, I talked with close friends. Without emotional connection to the issue, they cut through the noise (thank you). Second, the surest way to regain control was to end the matter quickly; cut out the cancer. Finally, I changed my perception of the matter; the trifle became funny.

Why do life’s paper cuts carry such sting? I don’t have an answer – I wish I did. All I know is we practice, we avoid, we improve, but inevitably, we stumble; we are human. The trifle surprises us and we become trapped. Don’t let the common accidents or meaningless trifles win. We are better than that. The trifle’s weight is an illusion; let it float away in the breeze.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q2

Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. Never to dullness, weakness or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Personal notes:

  • This week is a decade too late;
  • It’s the most difficult week to write about publicly;
  • Focus on “health” and/or “offspring,” depending on what the boss says.

I’ll be honest, this week’s virtue is about 10 years too late. If you’re out there having a lot of fun, respect. This week is for you. But if you’re living a quieter lifestyle like me, focus on improving your “health” this week.

Cleanliness Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q2

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location

Personal notes:

  • Location, location, location: New Move, New Home, Big Mess;
  • Pitch the suit, wear sweatpants, and fix the place up.

Cleanliness is deeply rooted in our biological DNA. Unsure? Move from one home to another and record what happens. The experience will erase any doubt.

We are moving, and exhausted, but despite our exhaustion, we are driven by a deeply ingrained desire to persevere. Like an animal ensnared in a trap, we tirelessly unpack boxes, break down cardboard, drag garbage, paint rooms, construct furniture, clean deep into the night, then repeat; it is an effort to free ourselves. The speed is breakneck – we are racing towards sanity.

Our pace results in a deep, filmy sweat that layers like a dirty sweater. The film begins early and builds depth as we labor through the day. I’m left uneasy – I’ve come home from a week of camping and felt cleaner. The only relief is a shower to wash away the filth, and a clean bed to provide a few hours of renewal.

This is our space, our home where we relax and provide shelter. I can’t relax when a deep, visceral dirt covers my person and clutter robs my space. Cleanliness is a part of me; it does not bring me joy, but it does bring me peace.