What an excellent day filled with so many things to be thankful for! Each piece of the day fit together so well, from an early start to everything being on time to incredible fellowship it’s been a dandy.
What really sticks out today is the few hours I spent reading a great book. It was recommended from a different book I recently finished and it seemed right up my alley. The book Handmade: Creative Focus In the Age of Distraction was written by a master woodworker. The focus for the story is the author sharing how he initially fell in love with woodworking and his journey. It’s chock full of woodworking metaphors and really captures the incredibly satisfying feeling of creating something with your own two hands. There was also an unexpected twist, he loves the outdoors, hiking and rock climbing – how could I go wrong there? The time spent reading the story itself flew by, I was so caught up in the story and seeing so many parallels. Funny how sometimes we can learn so much from an unexpected teacher using very unexpected metaphors.
As if the book itself wasn’t enough I swear I could hear Dad laughing along with me at some of the stories. So many of the things that the author describes are events I either witnessed firsthand with Dad or heard about from Dad. I could see him shaking his head at parts and then start telling his own version of a similar story. There were times I could hear him telling me, “See Mikey, I warned you about that,” while smiling all the while.
So much of the joy my dad found in life came from creating things. I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities I had to learn some of those skills with him (though not nearly as many as I’d have liked). While he’s not physically here to keep coaching and teaching me the experience today made it very clear that he’s still with me. That sensation is something that I am incredibly appreciative of today.
Every once in a while my packrat tendencies pay off. Over the past few years I’ve worked on reducing the amount of “stuff” I save. In spite of my best efforts there are a few stacks of old notes that I can’t bring myself to get rid of. It would be very easy to scan and save them electronically, but there’s something so satisfying about physically holding sheets of paper.
This particular stack is old notes and feedback from teammates and mentors from past planning sessions. Each year we get together to set our goals for the year and work together to help each other watch out for blind spots and improve upon strategies. One of the things I appreciate most about the group is that we really don’t hold back punches. Yes, it can sting at times, but there’s a mutual respect and love for each other that helps us all get better and grow.
As our planning session starts next week I paused today and took a few moments of solitude to re-read those notes. Pouring back over them reminded me of what I may have been overlooking or over thinking. They reminded me of some of my tendencies and helped me focus on looking at our plans from other perspectives. One other wonderful benefit was that it reminded me of the voices of past mentors who I don’t see nearly as often anymore.
That stack of notes was read specifically because it was on paper. Had they been electronic I would have most likely passed right by. There’s something about having a physical manifestation of peer and mentor feedback that helps me focus on reviewing and remembering those old notes.
I’m happy that I’ve started getting rid of many piles of old “stuff,” but today I’m especially thankful for the “stuff” that I’ve kept.
For the umpteenth (yes, that’s a technical term) time I’m feeling very grateful for the advice of reading and re-reading the same small handful of books. I haven’t stuck with it perfectly as I like mixing in different viewpoints, but I’m cycling back through some favorites while adding some new ones to the list. The one I just wrapped up was Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
So here’s the deal… please be sure to note that I’m not passing judgement on anyone other than myself when I say this. When I’ve looked at the “Screen Time” feature on my iPhone I really want to barf. Yes, I use it for work also. Yes, there are useful things it provides. Overall, I spend too much time on it. I’m not proud of my Pavlovian need to check it every time it dings or buzzes. Re-reading Digital Minimalism has made it even more painfully obvious how unhappy I am with how much of my focus I give that screen. Nothing like finding that gap between who I am and who I should be to motivate me to close that gap.
Thanks to so many great ideas I got from the book a second time I’ve taken a few big steps today. The first time I read the book I knew I should take them but then kind of set them by the wayside. After letting it sink further in during the second read I’ve made immediate action. The biggest already has me twitching a little bit… which also has me realizing that it may have been a bit overdue. I’ve deleted all of my social media apps from my phone. If I want to hop online, which I know I will from time to time, I’ll need to dig out my iPad or laptop. This one extra step will undoubtedly reduce my screen time significantly. I’ve also deleted my beloved Sudoku game from my phone and have a different activity that will take its place when I go to bed.
They may be little steps, but I’m already seeing how I can make more time in my life for those people and activities which are most important to me. Below is even a little hint of what’s up next 😉
When I look at the day in its entirety I am most thankful for making much progress. Where I am now as I lay in bed writing seems like hundreds of miles from where I started this morning. The interesting thing is that almost none of it can be openly written about and much that could I’d prefer not to.
That said, let’s bet it out in a way that I can write about. There was personal progress, progress within a team, progress towards a dream, progress in the home, progress towards an adventure, and progress in the purpose of my life. It hasn’t all been good, there’ve been many lumps along the way, but that’s a part of moving forward and growing. At each step of the day I felt as if I were moving forward. And what a wonderful sensation that is!
The concept of my blog today really caught me off guard. Over the past 36 hours or so much of my joy has been derived from sharing time with others. Outside of drive time I’ve been with others seemingly nonstop. My interactions have brought me joy, challenged me, warmed me, and helped me grow. Why I’m the world would I talk about solitude?
In focusing on a handful of books which have had the biggest impacts on me in the past year I’ve circled back to Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Much of the book is focused on how I’ve seemingly lost control of my thoughts to my smartphone and social media. His book outlines the reasons to curb screen time and increase interactions with others … as well as increasing our time alone in thought. On an interesting aside, this is the second book in a week in which one of my all time favorite quotes by Blaise Pascal was shared!
Cal shares a definition of solitude from the Authors of<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lead-Yourself-First-Inspiring-Leadership-ebook/dp/B06Y1K2G5N" class="cy by he hf hg hh" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow" style="box-sizing: inherit; color: inherit; text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; background-image: url("data:image/svg+xml; utf8, “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>Lead Yourself First,Kethledge & Erwin,as:
“subjective state in which your mind is completely free from the input of other minds”.
For clarity, they aren’t talking about running off to a shelter in the woods to live as a hermit for years on end. Rather, they talk about making space to have quiet and to be left with our own thoughts. In that quiet space we can often work through our most challenging issues.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t get input from others. We are always better off gathering feedback and other perspectives. When we find solitude we’re able to sort through all the data and find the right decision.
I’m practicing this today I was happily surprised to twice find the solution to challenges I’d been struggling with after taking time to be still with my thoughts. Now I must work to increase the time in solitude to find the right balance of connectedness and solitude (80%/20% ?).
Crazy how cold it is out there! I swear it was warmer outside when Becky and I ran this morning than it is now. Unseasonably cold with a biting wind, it’s wild out there. Just a quick run from the car to the school left me with chills.
As I was warming up in the car with the seat heater on I realized something I so often take for granted. I’m typing this blog from a warm home. The furnace is going, it’s our normal and comfortable 64 degrees as it will be each day this winter.
Such a basic thing that I often take for granted. That cold feeling I had was only temporary. I have a place to go to warm up. When I get too cold I can turn up the heat, add layers of clothes and blankets.
Tonight I’m pausing to be grateful for the gift of heat and warmth on a cold night like this. To be sure, I’m also hoping it will warm up soon 😉
It’s been a very solid day all around. Very productive, lots of family time, and all at my pace. Doesn’t get much better than that on a Sunday.
As I mentioned yesterday, the boys and I are working on a top secret project. This afternoon as we were taking the next steps with it I paused and took in the smells. Funny how some scents just bring happy memories and smiles, isn’t it?
For me the smells of the workshop bring back many memories, old and recent. The smell of stain and finish. The scent of machine oil and metal. All the beautifully different scents of all different types of wood. Each of them so awesome in their own ways; oak, pine, hickory, maple, and cedar. Throw in the aromas of saw dust and burned wood, even the metallic scent of old 16p nails and it’s a veritable smorgasbord of wonderful things for the olfactory.
When I think about the times when I’m truly present in the moment I of course usually have a visual and often audio. The times when I can blend in the sense of smell the present seems even closer. I am so grateful for all of those smells in the workshop that make me smile. Just walking into lifts my spirits high and calms me.