The Second Order Effect

Being a better me

Travel News

by on Nov.27, 2011, under Being a better me

Dear Friends and Family, medicine

I’ve got some news to announce.
Hollee and I are going traveling for a while … until July 2012!

Let me explain.

Hollee is currently applying for Law School – and probably will start in August 2012.
I’m in the fortunate position of being able to work wherever I have my laptop, illness a quiet room, and a stable internet connection.
I love Los Angeles; but it’s definitely time to do some exploring and try living elsewhere for a while; new cultures, activities, and all that jazz.

So, we’ve decided to take advantage of Hollee’s ‘year off’ and do just that!

First, we’re off to New Orleans early November. NOLA’s Hollee’s favorite city; we’ve got some good friends there, and we thought it’d be a good test of this whole ‘sabbatical’ thing. There’s a magic about the city that we both love; and we’re very excited about this change. We’re looking for apartments there right now and Hollee’s looking for a job out there.

After three months in NOLA, we’re off to our ultimate destination. We haven’t decided for sure — but we’re thinking Hong Kong — for six months.

Why Hong Kong? It’s the center of Asia, and means we can take lots of short trips across Asia; it’s not cold in the Winter (a definite requirement for Hollee), and it’s one of the major telecom business hubs in the world (definitely a bonus for my work.) HK isn’t set in stone; we’re mulling over our options – we figure we’ll be able to think about it more clearly once we’ve arrived in New Orleans… one thing at a time!

We’re going to miss all of you – and hope to keep in touch the ways we do in this modern age — Skype Video, email, IM. Leaving all of you – my family and friends in LA, is definitely the most difficult part of this trip, but I find consolation in the knowledge that we’ll be back.

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” — Thoreau

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love” — Rumi

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The past 18 months…

by on Nov.22, 2010, under Being a better me

I recieved an email from someone on the asterisk-biz list who reacted to my current quotes in my sig.

“I think you learn more from disappointment. But I think that success loses its sheen after a while and you begin to see that there’s no such thing as absolute success, generic that there’s always failure and there’s always disappointment and there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums. They’ll be filled up. And if you try to fill them up with ego or a kind of immediate gratification, you’re going to short-shrift yourself and you’re going to lose the opportunity to find out what happens when you give the loss space to fill itself and let life kind of come in and fill the cracks. ” — Michael J. Fox

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” — Thomas Edison

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love” — Rumi

He checked out this site and asked if I had made any progress on the workflow posts I had made.
My reply to him was lengthy; and ended up becoming as much of a state of the Rizwan as I’ve written recently. It’s incomplete, missing important details, entire parts of philosophy, citations, and editing. Certain people aren’t credited nearly as much as they should be.
It would take me days to properly write this — and it’s a worthy task, but not today. I’d spend too much time over the specific word choice, and how it would be interpreted, and how it might affect other’s thoughts of me. Today’s writing was flow, and heartful — and is included below.
I’m working on more of a focus, spiritual workflow right now than a strict task workflow; if only that until I establish a better workflow, no combination of GTD and Omnifocus will help. There’s a little bit more written at my Livejournal blog; but most of it is similar to below; such as http://rizwank.livejournal.com/2010/08/27/
I’ll take an opportunity to riff for a moment as I wait for this DNS server to reboot. (Going to probably repurpose this for the blog anyhow – thanks for prompting it. =) )
Reading GTD introduced me to the concept of ‘mind like water.’ Responding with the appropriate amount of energy and focus.
Inquiries into Inbox Zero led me to reading Merlin Mann. At one point, he notes that if you’re struggles to organize tons of X, the problem may not be your organizational system but that fact that you have tons of X. (And that you have to keep expending energy trying to find new organizational systems.)
The idea of “doing less” is patently fearsome to me. I’m 29; and I can still quote Breakfast Club – “When you grow up, your heart dies.” The idea of not accepting every invite, being everyone’s friend, and taking every buisness opportunity caused chills.
And then I read “Better”. http://www.merlinmann.com/better – my take away : Do less, better. I’m an engineer, photographer, gamer, entrepreneur, costumer, mild non-conformist, and a born philomath – but the thing that enables all the other parts of me was my engineering; and I could do better for myself by being better at a few core things, (and a jack of some trades) rather than being a jack of all trades. This is also the change I feared most about getting older; assuming it was made out of fear, inadequacy, or apathy – rather than a considered decision of a human being realizing that days are finite.
Add in Seth Godin’s ‘Dip’, (Or Merlin Mann’s ‘Creative Suck’, or the ‘Resistance’ in the Artist’s Way, perspectives from ‘The War of Art.’) – and the idea that there are spectacular returns for actually being focused; diminishing returns happen at the middle of the time series; it takes off again on the far end.
Add in a practice of meditation, particularly Mindfulness Meditation – integration of mind and body; an acknowledgement of their innate interconnection; and the fabulous benefits of forcing the mind to not think… even for just a moment. From that comes more Eastern writings – Rumi in particular. (Muhammed and the Huge Eater, as an example); and realizing the beauty in metaphor and the wisdom from past centuries that I’ve simple ignored — and the value of feeling alongside of thinking. My psychiatrist introduced me to the ideas, and it’s been hugely influential.
The Michael J Fox interview on NPR that led to that quote came at just the right moment, when I’d been spending lots of time thinking about expectations and it reinforced my attitude that adversity is best treated as a source of learning – not even just to avoid it in the future, but to know myself better.
Watching ‘Dharma and Greg’ with my girlfriend led me to observe Chuck Lorre’s Buddhist transformation (http://www.chucklorre.com/index.php?p=2), and led to a lot of reflection on my behavior; and an appreciation of Zen. New thoughts on awareness, suffering, judgement.
Scads of articles on focus and scientific studies on multi-tasking remind me that we’re just bad at it – even myself; who once prided myself as being a very efficient multi tasker. The best resource (beyond all the above mentioned) is http://zenhabits.net/archives/ – particularly focus.
So where have I ended up – not having executed on these growing ideals as well as I would have liked; but compassionate with myself for the attempt. I struggle to learn to learn to say ‘No,’ to stop seeking the approval of others, to stop letting a trained rational and logical sense from keeping me from listening to what I actually feel rather than what I think, to take time for myself; not for entertainment, but for quiet and peace, and allow the intuitive mind space to breathe. My RSS Reeder still is overwhelmed with flagged entries and unread entries; but I’m learning to slowly let go and just delete feeds. My email is still a nightmare. My task list is still a nightmare. My Instapaper account is filled with articles about focus that I simply have to make the time for; but I haven’t learned how to do that yet.
But I write occasionally, take notes after appointments, and skim my musings to myself to remind me of what’s truly important and who I *want* to be.
I’m building a list. The things that are important. The people that are important. And learning to say no to the rest. Until then – obligations and projects that make me feel alive will continue to get pushed aside by petty wastes of time; and the people that truly enrich me will continue to get crowded out by everyone else. I’m going to try to be stingy; not with my wealth, but with my focus and attention. And to take a Sabbath day.
So; I haven’t come to any conclusions as to a workflow; but have realized that the system has to change before a workflow can be erected.
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Designing a new workflow for reading/saving links.

by on May.09, 2010, under Being a better me

It’s been a crazy time in my head, price reading tons of Merlin Mann, somnology and thinking bit thoughts as to who I want to be, dysentery what kind of work I want to do, and how I want to do it over this next five years.

It’s still all a jumble, but I’m slowly getting it down, written, for examination.

One workflow that has to be managed somehow : My links.

Each browser on my Macbook Pro (yippie! New MBP!) has at least thirty links saved. Firefox, with it’s impressive profile support, has seven profiles, most of which have a flood of links of some sort. My increasing desperation at opening a browser group should explain the names of my later profiles, including “Lean & Mean”, “Don’t keep any tabs open” and my favorite “Jesus!”. (This last profile is my current one, and is numbering about 60 tabs in 7 windows.)

Tab explosions come from the following :

  • Visiting Daring Fireball, Hacker News, Slashdot, 43 Folders. Gizmodo and Lifehacker add to the linkspam as well, but I do a decent job of ignoring those sites, especially after reading Mann’s essay Better. [This essay, I think, was the final push to actually focus my thinking on the big change.]
  • Any Google attempt of a problem I’m trying to solve. (Since I switch tasks so often, when a task is *somewhat done,* I’ll often move to something else, and stale tabs are left over)
  • Email processing.
  • Any Google attempt on anything interesting to me at the time.

One of the effects of the ‘Next Step,’ as I’m calling whatever set of discrete changes I’m contemplating now, is that I’m going to try to be a lot more disciplined about my curiousity, and stopping the constant indulging of “Oh, that looks neat!” and “Ooh, I want to know that!” (There are reasons, and this isn’t as simple of an idea as it sounds, perhaps more on that later.)

My tab workflow is a symptom of my overall workflow problems, and investing a lot of time fixing this symptom rather than the major problem (now that I’m focusing on that problem) is a distraction, not an advantage. So I’m not going to. But I do need a few more endpoints for the tabs that *do* get opened. Below, a chart of the types of data in my tabs, and what I’ve decided to do with them. (EDIT : I resisted the temptation to make a flowchart here. It’d be nice and all, I could put it up on my wall, but it’d be next to my GTD Workflow map, which is the domintant flowchart in my office, and I want to keep it this way. This data is fine in a table.)

(Hmm. I left this draft at 3:56pm. I return to it at 6:20pm. I’ve sent ten emails, upgraded the backup system for a client, done network debugging, uninstalled a few plugins (and done browser restarts), added plugins to WordPress to allow table editing, called family and purchased Choosy and iStat Menus. *headdesk*)

Anyhow, a chart of links that I can’t act on immediately.

Longer items to read in the future Instapaper
Sites that I think I should watch in the future Google Reader/NetNewsWire
Research for a specific project Evernote file for that particular project
A specific thing I want to do in the short/medium term Omnifocus task
Something I want to hold onto longer – inspiring or important Evernote file
Software/Projects/Articles I’ll find useful for projects in the future (but that aren’t active projects) ?????

So, the big question – what’s the ?????.

I used to use delicious. It’s gone stale, and I fear the data that’s in there now, I kind of feel like starting for scratch. The social functions of it worry me however – it’s a great way of having me be exposed to *more* new links – and I really just don’t need that.

I used to use browser bookmarks all synced by XMarks, but when I dumped in my backlogs of links to sort, and tried to start sorting them, the taxonomy was … massively draining, as well as annoyed at the hybrid tree/tag structure of most browsers bookmarks.

I’m going to start throwing away more links. While I think it’s *awesome* that there’s an HTML5 VNC client, and while I’m never going to remember it’s name, Googling those two words got me there pretty quickly. (I fear that I’ll forget that there’s an HTML5 VNC client in the long term – but I can’t imagine any workflow that has me going to my bookmarks *before* Google … I may have to get used to “if I forget it, I forget it” – a throughly disturbing idea personally, but one that might just be necessary.

Anyhow – anyone love their method of bookmarking/storing links?

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