Keep Learning

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

As a kid, I was inspired by movies like TRON to explore computers.  I caught the bug as soon as I saw how easily software could be used to shape reality and improve things.  I spent 6 years skipping around between computer science, mathematics, physics, electrical and civil engineering.  I even invested a year working toward a masters in divinity until I realized Koine Greek wasn’t a new computer language.  

My dad was a civil engineer with crazy mad RPN calculator skills. He could crank out and tabulate thousands of calculations per day.  But one day I wrote a bit of software and suddenly a week’s worth of tedious error prone work was done in minutes.  He immediately hired me to “computerize” the rest of his business.  With my educational background, I thought I was set… I could change the world (or at least my corner of it), one program at a time… but I still had a lot to learn. I soon discovered I didn’t know enough about statics and dynamics for the structural engineering work I needed to do.  I also needed to dive deeper into 3D geometry and computer graphics for modeling complex systems.  I went back to school.

There is a thought that education is just a box you need to check to begin your career.  You may get certified, degreed or licensed and now you are done, right?  Nope! Those are all great, but they are just visible footprints on the stairway of continual learning.  Learning expands the mind and prepares us for more learning.  Each step along the way reveals new vistas of knowledge to explore, new puzzles to solve and new mastery to obtain.  We are forever on this learning adventure, growing and thriving on the food of knowledge, discovery and experimentation.  Every new cognitive challenged unlocked is like an awakening.  It is the physics of life.  Each discovery expands who we are and carries us to a new level.  We are alive and growing when we are learning.

Learning can be fun, but it isn’t easy.  It takes work.  It can be exhausting and even frustrating at times.  Because of that, there is a temptation to become comfortable with our current state.  We may find we can get by with what we already know, often for years without having to learn something new.  But we aren’t growing.  We become stale.  Our capacity to move ourselves, our teams and our organization forward, withers.  Like physical exercise, mental exercise is required to stay healthy, vibrant and alive.  Just as we should plan to exercise our physical bodies to stay healthy, we should plan to exercise our minds as well. 

What are you learning?  May I suggest, if you aren’t learning anything new right now, pick something new and start learning it today?  I know it isn’t easy, but embrace the constructive discomfort and expand your knowledge and skill.  Tackle it.  Imagine yourself thriving and growing.  Don’t limit yourself. Set a goal to upgrade your knowledge every week.  Study, grow and keep learning!

Embracing Grief

“What is grief, if not love persevering?” – Vision

I was standing outside the tent addressing the small crowd of family and friends that had gathered by my dad’s graveside. The June sun was hiding behind the clouds but some of the rays glistened off of the nearby fence surrounding the cemetery.  I opened with my dad’s favorite joke, “Do you know why cemeteries have fences? It’s because people are dying to get in there!”  He loved that joke.  I went on to talk about my dad, forever the engineer, who taught me to “think ahead,” plan, tackle any problem and always leave things better than you found then.  I miss him.  That was 2015 yet even to this day, grief of his loss visits me.

Grief is a tricky thing.  For those of you who have lost loved ones, you know how it doesn’t play by the rules.  It will wash over you at the most inopportune times.  It isn’t logical.  It would perplex, frustrate and annoy me.  I would wish it away but that usually meant it would only hide for the moment to build more energy for the next unannounced round.  Instead, I have come to realize that grief is not an enemy or adversary, it is a friend.  It is the echo of love that endures the separation of the source and object of that affection.  It is the mind and spirit refreshing that cherished connection and celebrating the memory of that loved one.  It is, as Vision from Marvel’s WandaVision put it, “love persevering.”

As we bid farewell to my wife’s mother a week ago, I am reminded how bad we are at taking care of ourselves during sorrow and loss.  I wanted to jump back into work, bury myself in tasks.  But instead, we spent time as a family going through my mother-in-law’s affairs.  Sorting, cleaning and remembering.  Sure, there was sadness, but there was also times of laughter and happiness.  I’m glad we did that.

So many of you reached out with sympathy, kind words, encouragement and even help. Thank you! It was overwhelming and encouraging. I know many of you have also suffered the loss of loved ones in recent years and even shared your own journeys with me.  Our human journey is not without suffering.  This recent chapter in my life reminds me how important it is to give ourselves time, permission and care to remember, to grieve and even to heal.  My advice to all of you who have suffered loss, and for the rest who will, make sure you give yourself that time and grace to mend.  Embrace the fog of grief and welcome the memories, no matter how difficult they may be to bear.  They are just visiting friends, reminding you that love does not die, it perseveres.  Cherish it!

Begin Again

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’” –  Robin Williams

A blue California Scrub Jay just landed outside my window.  His beautiful white beard and bright blue feathers seemed to glow in the early morning sun.  He hopped across the fence and suddenly dove down and picked up some seeds he spotted on the ground.  He jumped back to the fence and then soared into the sky.

Spring!  I know it started a couple of weeks ago, but this weekend finally felt like Spring.  Having been safe-at-home inside for the past several months, there is something wonderfully hopeful about the budding, blooming and greening debuting outside our windows.  When I take a walk outside, I see new life emerging from the death of winter.  Fresh new green leaves are unfolding on the ivy and trees.  Seedlings are poking their heads toward the sun. Tiny flowers begin to pop color across the faded winter landscape.  I look up and see birds like my early morning blue Jay visitor, swimming through the new Spring air, singing and dancing across the sky.  I hear and see the  squirrels running across the yard, darting gracefully over fences and up the trees with renewed vigor and determination.  Spring is here!

It is easy to be busy.  We all have planning to do, tasks to complete and meetings to attend.  But before you get too lost in the hustle, I encourage you to take some time this week to enjoy Spring.  Go for a walk.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and sit outside and relish the melody.  Listen to the sounds.  All creation sings, “We begin again!”  Drink in the new colors.  Smell that new life energy.  Breathe in the cool April air and embrace the warming sun, peeking over the housetops.  Don’t miss it!  We are all part of this springtime party.  Enjoy it!