Did you make your bed?

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” —Booker T. Washington

I don’t know about you, but I have found that during this pandemic my to-do list keeps growing!  I seem to create and collect projects like a toddler collecting sea shells at the beach.  Every time I pick up a new one, I drop two.  Part of me says, we are going to be home and we have time, it will be good to do this now.  I add another project, fixing the leaky window upstairs, add those shelves, paint the wall, add some landscaping outside, or make some new IoT device or gadget.  The list grows.  But something that I have discovered is that while there is some reward in just knowing what is to be done, the real reward is checking it off the list.  Job done.  Accomplishment reached.  

Have you noticed how much of our life we measure and memorialize by the accomplishments we make?  Dreams are great, but it is the concrete formation of that dream that we anchor in our minds.  Accomplishments are the result and reward of work.  There is a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure in completing a task, a project, or a plan.

Did you make your bed?  My youngest daughter and I discuss the merits and futility of bed making.  She is convinced that there is no purpose in making the bed because she is going to mess it up again at night.  I help her make the bed and when we are done, I say, see how nice it looks?  Aren’t you glad you started the day with an accomplishment?  The day is going to be great.  Let’s go accomplish more things! 

The little things and the big things can all be celebrated and rewarding.  Changing the air filter on the air conditioner, launching a brand-new website, sweeping the floor, opening a new business, patching a server, completing a million-dollar cost savings job, or just making your bed are achievements that feel good, that we can acknowledge and celebrate.

What did you accomplish last week?  What targets do you have this week?  Give yourself the opportunity to complete a task, to make a difference and harvest that reward.  Celebrate the successes and the obstacles you have overcome to get there.  

I know that many of our jobs require time to complete and we may be weeks or months away from that final celebration.  But we should look for wins along the way.  There are small things that can be done every day to give us that feeling of accomplishment.  What did you check off today?  What milestone have you reached?   If nothing else, you can always start with making your bed. 

Seeing Clearly

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic.” – John Lewis

Shortly after blogging my update last week, my wife informed me that she was unable to see out of one eye.  Everything was blurry.  As you can imagine, that immediately changed our plans for the day.  We quickly hurried off to an emergency eye doctor visit.  In the world of COVID-19 that means layers of face masks, screenings and cleanings, all of which we were grateful for.  By evening and after scores of tests, her vision was starting to get better.  We had cleared through some of the more frightful possibilities and had a better understanding of the marvelous miracle of the eye.  It is incredibly complex and can even stump intelligent eye specialists.  Thankfully, my wife is doing much better but we still don’t know the exact cause, so more visits to come.

Seeing clearly is something we can easily take for granted.  For those of us with glasses, we know the joy and excitement that happens when you get your first pair of glasses and suddenly realize all the details you were missing.  It can be an incredibly emotional experience.  Seeing and seeing clearly is one of those gifts that we often forget to appreciate.  There is so much in life that is like that.  These wonders and experiences become default settings.  Pandemic and other life pressures can cast a sour haze over our lives.  Required and important face masks and social distancing procedures have become a burden to us and discontentment rises.  We are so often wrapped up in the stream of what is going wrong, that we forget to consider and enjoy what is going right. 

What is going right in your life?  What default ability, experience or situation are you thankful for today?  As I ask myself those questions, I realize that even in the midst of emergencies and despair, there are good things to enjoy. In the middle of our struggles, there is hope. Take heart in those good things and keep up the fight.  Keep moving forward.  Cherish each step, each kindness passed to us and every opportunity we have to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

May you all see clearly this week and be fortified with hope!

Luminous Beings

“Luminous beings are we.” – Yoda

I love building things.  During the past several weeks my girls and I have been 3D printing all sorts of characters, figures and models. It’s amazing what you can find online or build yourself with free or online tools like Tinkercad or Meshmixer.  Recently we started printing with glow-in-the-dark filament.  In a funny way, it unlocked a new nighttime routine for us.  Before going to bed, my girls will charge up their figures by holding them next to the light to have their accompanying glow.  We observed how different lights influence the glow, with the sun and UV light being the most powerful for long term glow.  

Of course, this led to the question, so how does glow-in-the-dark work?  I love those questions!  The phosphorescence material we printed is absorbing the radiation and causing a quantum magic show where the electrons absorb the energy from the light source photons. They are jumping to a higher energy state which slowly degrades over time, emitting that glow.  The unique nature of glow-in-the-dark materials like zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate is that the energy is not released immediately.  The higher energy state causes the electrons to get “trapped” in a higher state and released over the course of several minutes and even hours. Quantum mechanics loves to do this forbidden magic.  Ok, to be fair, I lost my girls on that explanation about the same way I lost some of you… so moving on.

How are you glowing?  It is amazing to me how many metaphors surround us.  This glow-in-the-dark adventure reminded me how we as humans, often radiate what we are exposed to.  I often find that in my life that I begin to emit what I allow myself to be exposed to.  If I become fixated on negative news, I become negative.  If I spend all my time hanging around critical people, I become critical.  On the flip side, if I seek and surround myself with positive people and mentors, I become more optimistic. If I change my diet to include good news as well as bad, I find that I am more encouraged and encouraging to others.  What are you feasting on?  What light sources are you orbiting?  Who and what are you bringing into your life to help you absorb good energy so that you too can glow?

In our fast action, twitter abbreviated, news cycle world I find that I often become carried away by the currents.  This little glow-in-the-dark lesson reminded me that we have a choice on where we are going and how we shape ourselves to be the people we want to be.  This pandemic can be discouraging and rob us of energy and joy.  There are a lot of negative and depressing conversations going on.  I understand that.  But we shouldn’t limit our charging to only those sources.  Find some new light sources this week.  Look for opportunities to jump to a higher energy state this week… and glow.  Here’s to a brighter future!

The Day – A Poem

The Day

by Jason A. Cox

The day is new. A flaming spark ignites the horizon. It arcs across the sky and warms the earth beneath. The oceans of wind crash upon the trees and grass, dancing wildly in the summer’s song. Billows of white punctuate the clear blue canopy and birds surf the invisible streams of life. Joy dances across the table, feasting upon flowers and fields of green. Onward the blaze marches until its apex erases the shadows below and floods the palace with its glory. Ebbing and flowing the wind and light shimmer, washing and painting all who live below. The day is full and the chime has come. The conductor faces the heavens and takes a bow. Slowly the shadows grow and paint the floor with cool whispers of melancholy. Deeper now the notes begin to ring as the day pulls its dark navy sheet across the sky. Memories glisten their burning specs of light in the nocturnal blanket above. Rays of the dying day stretch the shadows to their length. They gently caress the mountains and the fields. The cool tide of night rises and crashes it soft glow upon the sleepy inhabitants below. The end has come. The last glimmer bids the watcher adieu with a farewell kiss and gently folds its arms in rest.

Pursuit of Happiness

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Team,

Nothing says 4th of July like fireworks, hamburgers, watermelon… and now, Hamilton!  Ok, to be fair, we didn’t set off or watch any fireworks, but we did manage to do the rest and our neighbors were happy to rattle our windows with illegal fireworks all night long.  And if you didn’t catch Hamilton on Disney+, you should. It is an amazing performance!  It is also a good and timely reminder that this liberty stuff is a difficult and messy business.  

The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness requires work, struggle and constant vigil.  I was struck by those words this weekend, especially the well-chosen phrase, “pursuit of happiness.”  Happiness is fleeting but it is worth pursuing.  It is a constant race and requires work, energy and patience.  The reward set before us is joy, happiness, a smile and a feeling of satisfaction.  What does that pursuing happiness look like to you?  

Happiness can be found in work.  I have found that some of life’s greatest moments are at the other end of hard work and effort.  There is a great happiness that can be found in a job well done, the accomplishment and the fruit of hard labor.  It could be a project completed as a team at work, a repair job on the house, a problem solved, or a volunteer effort accomplished. In our knowledge worker world, that effort is more mental than muscular, but it is “work” none the less. The effort to solve complex problems and the mental energy to design, and create software, systems and processes is both taxing and rewarding.  The beautiful paradox is that something that can be difficult, painful and fraught with anguish, results in a moment of happiness, delight and satisfying accomplishment. 

Happiness can be found in learning.  COVID-19 has presented us with a lot of difficulty but has also graced us with new time to focus and learn.  In my spare time, I’m struggling to learn Japanese and my wife is polishing up on her Norwegian.  I also try to strategically pick projects that help me learn something new and interesting, at work and at home.  I know many of you do the same.  My recent diversion has me building IoT and other electronic devices.  This past weekend I decided I needed to finally learn JavaScript (and more than just copy paste coding) and built an interactive animation tool (don’t laugh) for my projects.  It took a lot of work, but when I had a working model (and software is never done so you just get to MVP), I was smiling.  I was happy.  I wonder if we give ourselves enough challenge to be happy?  Are we putting enough learning plans in our path to give us a chance to level up our knowledge and then enjoy the happiness of that moment?  I think I can do more.

Happiness can be found in giving.  Sure, personal rest and relaxation are good. We need to ensure we are not all work and no play.  Planned time off and vacation (remember when we used to be able to travel?) are great ways to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of our labors.  But I have found there is another key to unlocking happiness that isn’t about us.  It is about others. I have noticed that when I invest my own energy, time and resources in helping others there is an incredible joy dividend that I get back.  We are at our best when we are helping each other.  Programmed into the universe and our DNA is a virtuous reciprocity that happiness comes when we consider others, prioritize their needs above our own, champion for justice, and seek to do good.  I know I can do more of this.

Today, I challenge you all to think about how you are pursuing happiness.  What does it look like for you?  Find your path to happiness.  Look for it in your work, in your learning and in your giving, then run after it and enjoy it.  I wish you happiness this week and always!