How I build strength and tenacity

It is indeed true that the more a person keeps himself in a zone of challenge and performance, the better he becomes at handling future challenges. I am saying that because I recently sat for a relatively simple exam (AWS SA-Associate Certification) and found it difficult to sit for a long time. This is in contrast to times before when I easily sat for 3+ hours to do a professional or speciality exam. In comparison, I have found it quite easy and natural (not effortless) to work through the preparatory steps for the exams (and other projects) in a methodical way; even when the road is long and the load is heavy.

Until I find a stronger and better supported explanation, I am attributing this development of inner strength to the fact that: for the last 1 year, I have been taking cold showers in the morning (I know, what is the relationship)?

At the onset of this habit, I debated with myself and even tried to find valid reasons to skip or just take a warm shower. Increasingly, I have taught myself to get in the shower, allow the internal debate to continue, but go through the motions necessary without letting the debate hinder the process. Even a slight hesitation is not allowed – I simply put myself in the third person and go ahead with switching the valve to ‘cold’ and then opening the water.

The above approach is documented (I am not going to provide links) as a good way to build inner strength and practice the ability to know what needs to be done and proceed to do it; even when it is unpleasant. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. I will talk at depth in other posts, but I will mention that this has been valuable for me when deciding to stay the course or start a daunting and long project – “Just start!”

Those Training Wheels …

It is not exactly what it sounds like; I recently got all my ducks in a row and ‘tipped my toe’ in the river again. Over the past two weeks, I have been ridding my road-bike for 10 kms every morning. The objective is to get more cardio exercise in place being that gyms are not open, and/or that I do not want to unnecessarily expose myself to COVID….

Biking, then running for my life!

… well, it has been many many months since I started writing this story. As shown above, I got to ride 10 Kms every morning until I could not. The back wheel that is barely 2 years old gave in and lost all the air one morning. I promised myself that I would order and replace it (my local bike store sold and installed this apparently problematic one). After some weeks/months, I decided to go back to the basic exercise of all time; running. I sustained that for a few weeks/months and finally decided to bring the game into the house when the weather got too chilly in the mornings.

I closed my twitter account …

Not that it was teeming with followers, but it is still an event that I have moved away from Twitter. I can still remember many years ago when Paul and Marcus (remember those two english guys singing and bantering about Web Standards…) mentioned that there was a new service that you could use to post text… just 140 characters like an SMS message. At that point, I wondered why anyone would do that being that there were CMSes that allowed anyone to publish short or/and long content. Along the way, I created a Twitter account and never tweeted anything, but syndicated content from a central account (used to be Google Plus).

My decision is not a referendum Twitter in a specific way, but a growing feeling that investing content on any platform that I do not control is unwise. I learned the hard way on seeing my 5+ years of Google+ content get taken offline when that network was summarily shut-down after a security breach. Also, I often see people worry and complain that Youtube may take them offline; so how about the WWW the way we old-timers had it before AOL had keywords, Twitter had handles, and Instagram had… I have never been on Instagram!

What Next?
I am currently doing an audit of all the accounts I have with other websites and summarily closing those that do not fit into my through-out Web Strategy.

Que cuarentena?

Estamos acostumbrados a la cuarentena… quizás – ya hace aproximadamente seis semanas.

For the sake of efficiency and assurance that I will not compromise the message as I try to convey it through my still fledgeling Spanish language. On that note, do not get me wrong, I am making great advances and can now communicate in multiple tenses. Fluidity and vocabulary and my main areas of growth. Watch me!

My intention is to share some ideas on what I am doing while during the self-isolation. I am rediscovering old activities, getting back to my roots, and learning new things and preparing to spring back once the market is open again. I am doing my regular job (arguably more productively than before), soul-searching on ways to improve every area of my life, learning Spanish (with manic focus), training myself to operate efficiently and with purpose, and looking back at the times when I could have traveled but did not. I am also appreciative for the travel that I managed and proud of myself for having a bias for action. The lockdown is useful in that it is teaching me to value the ability to travel to different places. Next time I have an opportunity, I will not lazily sit back at home and do nothing; but I will jump at the opportunity to even travel somewhere (regardless of the destination).

I will go deeper into specific activities that I am doing while on lock-down (as each will require its own page for proper coverage).

I am currently listening to the book Deep Work. It is opening my eyes to new perspectives to ideas that are not new to me. I find that this book is timely for me as I am beginning to evaluate how I spend my time. My goal is to eventually understand and optimize how I use my time, and optimize it so that I can do my work in less time and leave time for introspection and growth.

2020, oh boy! The Silver-lining

Every cloud has a silver lining… or so they say!
In many places, at least the places where I have lived and grown, there is excitement at the end of the year, and the beginning of another. Often, well wishers tell each other that they hope that the coming year will not be like the past one and will bring prosperity and better times. I also recall some comments at the beginning of 2020 and how it was here and real and very much unlike the science fiction dreams of flying cars and intergalactic travel. To these, my standard response is that we already have all those things, only that humans are not ready to use their personal robots – we are sophisticated primates anyway!

Upgrades are now mandatory

In the world of computers, things are often optional while they are in early stages, but it gets to a point where being on the old system has so many inefficiencies and bugs (inherent errors) that an upgrade becomes mandatory. This is where we may have gotten as a society. I will steer clear of the human toll that the current COVID-19 crisis is having on us and only focus on the silver-lining. I will also create a base for future hindsight that could see this apocalyptic experience differently.

We are all stuck at home, and the physical world as we have thus far known it has changed; and I contend that it is not going back to what it was a mere 2 months ago. Those who are waiting for business as usual will be surprised and left behind when new shoots sprout from the stump of that old tree. Those new shoots will bring new and more interesting things to life. One day (I hope and pray), we will look back to this fondly: as the moment when humanity brought its best game to the table. My perspective is that this is the great disruption that will mark our civilization and catapult us into a different kind of civilization. Like any crisis, it will clean out inefficiencies and make-normal some bleeding edge and fringe experiences (think of online anything, and virtual things).
I will briefly touch on some examples to illustrate this; with the plan to do a deeper dive on each in a dedicated article. Doctors and physical therapists are now seeing patients virtually. School-teachers are now instructing parents and students on how to learn and then monitoring them self-teach. If anyone had tried to make these changes to our civilization under different circumstances, it would have required several generations for minds and laws to change. But in 60 days, the insurance companies have allowed telemedicine, schools are online, and not to forget… all virtualizable jobs have continued to exist with little disruption.

Excuses and reasons are easy to come by

I cannot do X because of Y…
X could be the smallest task or goal, and Y could be any unrelated factor that is happening somewhere else in the milky way. In cases much closer to me, I have have seen people and also been part of the group of humans that find a reason or excuse for not doing things; even in situations where the reason is not a viable blocker.

I am focusing on this today because I just completed something that I previously imagined, planned, and choreographed on paper and in my mind without thinking that it would be practical: I had designed a situation where I could spend an open 5-day period (Friday 9am – Wednesday 6pm) to do something grand. In the past, and even when I had more support systems, like many others, I said that I could not expand my area of operation to cross borders and distance… here it goes:

  • I cannot take that job because I have children
  • I am too old and have real obligations; have a young employee without attachments do that task
  • I need to be home every weekend (even when those weekends are spent watching TV and cleaning yards)
  • [I will write more of these as they come to mind]

So, late last year, I decided that I do not want to be the guy who regrets for being ineffective. So I scheduled to conduct training sessions in Prague on the second week of January, and another set in Barcelona two weeks thereafter.

Last Friday, I caught a flight for Prague (I still cannot speak the language) and scheduled a very nice AirBnB so that I can live like a local. I arrived there on Saturday afternoon, did some food shopping at Tesco and stocked my kitchen. I related and got ready for the week (forcing jetlag). On Monday and Tuesday, I conducted training to a pleased audience that was asking to schedule future sessions for the future. Today (Wednesday) at 4am (GMT+1), Martin (yes, the same guy with a black Passat) came to my apartment and drove me to the airport. Between then and 12.35pm (GMT-5), I was in aircraft and at airports. I was able to keep track of my work as well as my upcoming home obligations.

I made it home having spent the 5 days far away and accomplished way more than I would previously have accomplished in 5 weeks. This made it clear to me that I can do even more than this, I just have to keep improving – that is why I love Kaizen

I will build it in 3 weeks!

Procrastination and perfectionism can sometimes seem so conventional and normal. I have always wanted to build a house to use when I visit my parents; that reflects me, is comfortable, and does not break the bank. The tiny-house movement had not gone ‘mainstream’ at this point, but I am that kind of guy – unconventional.

I was driving from Boston to Montreal and there it was!
One rest-area on Interstate-89 has a green-house and a water purification plant – both are housed in this octagonal glass-house.

I kept it to myself as I was not even clear about what was intriguing about it. It took me a few days for all the ideas to fall into place. So, when I excitedly told anyone who would listen about my idea,

I will build a 700ft-sq house in 3 weeks even if there are multiple stages that each require a week to complete

I saved you the details, or I got you straight to the chase…
Maybe there will be a post with all the details, the thrilling tales of shipping vinyl windows from the Home Depot to Kenya in my checked luggage. Yes, I carried some tools and materials in my luggage . Below is what I had at the end of 3 weeks just before I boarded by flight to return to the desk to write some PHP code (at the time)!

This is not one of those wooden houses that you see them put together in a week. It is made of stone from foundation to the window-line. The glass panes are in, the roof is on (the material was out of stock, but my logistics and project management skills got it all together).

Livable 750ft-sq house with electricity is complete