Jay's Journal

@jaym

Always watching, always learning.

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Food

Great food with great family and friends

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Today is Easter Sunday for those that observe. And while me and my family don't do the church thing, we do have an annual tradition. We like to go to our favorite restaurant and have a great family meal together.

There's not a lot of us since the kids are grown and gone, so it's just me, my wife, my in-laws, and a married couple who are great family friends. The place we go to is our favorite place, and they have really great food. Like, really great.

So, we eat, talk, laugh, and enjoy the time together. After we eat, then it's time for dessert. At this place, they do dessert big, too. Banana pudding for me, blackberry cobbler a-la-mode for her. Every year we always say we'll have some of each other's just to taste, but I always end up eating half of mine and taking the rest home, while she eats half of hers and gives the rest to me.

Not sure why we think it'll be different every year, but that's cool because I like cobbler just as much as pudding. We pack up all our leftovers to go, say our goodbye's to our friends, and head back to the in-laws' place.

When we get there, we all tell each other how stuffed we are, sort out the leftovers and we head home so that we can all enjoy the rest of our day. When it's all said and done, we're usually home by about 2:00pm. Then a food coma for about an hour for me while the wife goes and gets her nails done.

Gone are the Easter Egg hunts, the Easter Bunny and all that. The kids are elsewhere, living their lives, but we keep in touch. If they were visiting, they'd totally go with us, because they love that restaurant as much as we do.

My father-in-law was sure to send them photos of all the food, just so they'd know they were missed (and maybe to razz them a bit).

So, we just do Easter in a low-key way, enjoying our own little traditions. Mostly, it's a day of rest, like all Sundays, except with great company, food, and dessert.

Happy Easter if you observe, and Happy Sunday Funday if you don't.

Now back to my nap.

Linux vs FreeBSD vs OpenBSD

There can be only one!

A penguin, a daemon, and a puffer fish walk into a bar...

I don't usually geek out on this blog, but when I do, it's about non-Windows operating systems. I've got an older Chromebook that I bought off eBay for about $40. It's an Acer C720, which is a good model for supporting Linux.

I'm pretty anti-Google, so I bought this Chromebook with the express purpose of loading anything other than ChromeOS on it.

I started with GalliumOS, which is optimized for Chromebooks, and have tried out many different distributions since then. It's got 4GB of RAM, so it's got twice the memory of a typical Acer C720.

My original intent of the Chromebook was to put a lightweight Linux distro on it, and use it as a small and lightweight writing terminal. But, instead, it's kind of morphed into my experimentation lab.

In my most recent incarnation of this Chromebook, I installed FreeBSD on it, and built it into a desktop machine piece by piece. It uses the OpenBox window manager, but I was hoping to use more of a full desktop environment like KDE or XFCE.

And so while I like the resource efficiency and consistency of the FreeBSD OS, I've heard good things about OpenBSD as a desktop/laptop OS. The setup is supposedly stupid-easy, and in most cases can automatically detect most hardware. The exception being super-new generations of hardware needing specific drivers that haven't been developed yet.

That's typically the case with Linux and any of the BSD siblings.

I've written about my challenges in building a FreeBSD thin client as a light desktop, and while doing the same on my Chromebook, it wasn't as difficult this time around. However, I do enjoy a smooth installation experience of any operating system. That way I can spend time on tweaking the desktop settings and getting used to the OS itself.

But, here's where I'm on the fence. OpenBSD may be easy to install, but is it worth installing if it only has a fraction of the software that FreeBSD and any Linux distribution has?

Easy is one thing, but if it's not entirely useful, what's the point? I checked a bunch of the software I use on a regular basis. There are very few applications available on Linux that aren't available on FreeBSD.

That's one of FreeBSD's strengths. Granted, whenever an application developer offers a Linux version of a cross-platform app, it'll probably be a .deb file for Debian and Ubuntu before just about any other distro.

But when I checked OpenBSD's package and ports repositories, there were hardly any apps I use and rely on regularly. Sure, LibreOffice was there, but none of my non-Google Chrome browsers other than Firefox were available. I use several browsers like Vivaldi and Opera on a daily basis for different reasons.

I also use TOR Browser, which is very important for me, and it's not available on OpenBSD. I just feel that an operating system should fit into my style of work, if not out of the box, at least by user configuration. I don't mind a tweak or two, adding software packages that don't ship with the actual distro, that's totally cool.

But, when it gets to a point where I'd have to manually compile just about every app I wish to use, if it can even be compiled, the usefulness of an OS just went out the window.

There's a guy on YouTube that uses OpenBSD, and he's tricked it out really neat. His environment looks great it's fast, and I bet he spent hours getting it that way.

I'll spend a couple hours tweaking and pimping out my desktop, but I don't feel like spending days and weeks making an OS useful. And maybe I'm totally wrong here.

Maybe there are tons of packages and ports available for OpenBSD, perhaps even rivaling the selection available in FreeBSD and I'm just not reading the repos correctly.

If that's the case though, then finding such information isn't very intuitive, is it? Any OpenBSD users reading this that care to weigh in on it's pros and cons?

And yes, I get it... before you say anything, I know the *BSDs are more suited as server platforms. But then again, so was Linux, and look at how suitable it is as a desktop OS now.

If the *BSDs didn't intend for some sort of GUI desktop utilization, then why are so many GUI apps available for them?

So, when it comes to OpenBSD, is it really more useful as a daily driver than I'm giving it credit for? Lemme know, k?

Generous or Self-Serving?

You're Welcome

Do we do things for others out of selflessness, or because we get something out of it? I'm not sure the answer could be "both". Because selflessness and self-benefit are at odds with each by their very definition.

As I read someone's LinkedIn update this morning, it got me wondering whether we do kind things for the true benefit others or really for ourselves.

The post was about this person who witnessed a mom who could only afford $3.00 of gas. As she was about to drive away, the Good Samaritan flagged her down and offered to fill up her tank for her. She gratefully accepted and gave this gentleman a hug.

And how do I know this? Because he shared it all on his post. He even had time to snap a picture of the gas pump that showed only $3.12 before he flagged her down. He did say that he remembers when he could only afford $3.00 in gas and wanted to help the lady because he could.

He then reminded all that were reading his post that "blessings don't flow unless you bless others."

Now, in principle, I totally agree with his actions, and even his message. And sometimes we do benefit from reminders of how we can improve our world by performing random acts of kindness toward others.

However, my questions are thus:

  • Should someone who provides such a blessing tell others about what they did? Or, should maybe someone who witnessed the act tell others of this generosity?

  • While it's important to lead by example, because someone that did a good deed, should they admonish others to do what they did? Or, should the action speak for itself and inspire others on their own to do something similar?

  • Though it's true that when we give to others we receive blessings (or good karma) for our good deeds, is it really a selfless act if you advertise to others basically saying, "Look at what I did for someone! You should do it, too"?

From a personal perspective, I've helped others, whether it's with time, money, or just being there for someone. But, I don't document those times, and certainly don't tell others about it because then I feel it contaminates the deed.

First, if I were to share my deeds, it indicates that someone needed help, making them feel less than, and so I don't wish to shine a light on someone in that way.

Second, if I were to share my deeds, it would, at least in my mind, mean that I did it for me and not the person who wanted or needed help.

Third, if I were to use my own deeds as object lessons for others, even if trying to help make the world a better place, that would convey a notion that I'm so much better than everyone around me. I helped someone in need, I'm awesome. I helped someone in need, they're less than me. I helped someone in need, you should do it too, because otherwise, you'll never be as awesome as me.

Again, I don't want it to seem that I'm down on people doing nice things for each other. But, how is it "inspirational" if you have to tell others about what you did? I think inspiration should be organic, not forced, and not pushed onto others through bragging or even lecturing.

This isn't me calling for this person to be dismissed for his good deed, or even shamed. It's just a mere observation that struck me, so I thought I'd write about it. And, if anything, that gentleman's post did inspire me in one distinct way. It's inspired me to keep doing for others while feeling good about my personal choice to not feel that I have to brag, or document it for others.

If I'm truly that awesome, then I'll let someone else share my deeds as a witness or even a recipient. It just isn't my place to share what I've done, or else it wasn't to help the less fortunate, it was to boost my ego. And at my age, I really don't care much for ego boosts.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree, or do you view something like this a different way? Would love to hear your take.

Not Every One Of Them Is A Gem

Can you tell which one is more valuable?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Not every joke hilarious. Not every post engaging. Not every song a hit. Not every swing a home run. Not every movie wins an Academy Award. Not every painting is an instant classic.

Sometimes not right away, but eventually your work gets noticed. Sometimes not at all, but there's more to you than just a single effort. And sometimes because it's not a gem, you'll actually produce more gems, because you've learned, experienced, and grew from the ones that aren't the gems.

Some may even be gems, but have yet to be discovered and appreciated as such.

And, the more non-gems you put out there, the more gems that will flow and be discovered. As you continue to move forward, the ratio of lumps to gems starts to turn. Instead of more lumps than gems, with time and effort you may reach a 50/50 result.

With even more work, you'll find that you're putting out less lumps and more gems. Soon, you'll have more gems than lumps. But, it's quite doubtful that at some point everything you put out will be all gems, because then what is there left to learn?

Your successes in life are your gems, your failures are your lumps that aren't gems, or are they? With enough determination, even that lump can become a diamond. Then one day, it won't look like lumps or diamonds any more. It'll look like opportunities to grow (lumps), and the results of that growth (success).

For now, I'm ok to make lumps, knowing some will be gems. Looking forward to and welcoming the ones that are lumps, because in the end, both gems and lumps can be equally as valuable.

My Writing Technique Sucks

Ugh, I suck again!
Image by wwwslonpics from Pixabay

Have you ever heard of the 'Hemingway Method' of writing? It's founded on Earnest Hemingway's mantra of "Write drunk, edit sober". And while I do like the idea of writing drunk, I don't.

What that really means is that if you embrace the Hemingway Method, you just write. You write down your thoughts, your phrases, your ideas, just let it all flow. The key here is that you're supposed to write down everything, no censoring, no correcting, just a stream of consciousness experience between you and your medium.

THEN, when that part's done, you go back and start the editing process. You start trimming unnecessary words, making grammar and punctuation corrections, refine and polish your prose. To which, at the end, you have your finished work.

I liken it much to sculpting. You take a lump or a block of clay, plaster, what have you, and then you trim away everything that isn't your subject. When you've trimmed, shaped, and corrected everything, you now have a sculpture that started with just a chunk of rock.

And that's exactly what I don't do when it comes to writing. I have this terrible habit of editing while I write. Each word correctly spelled, each sentence polished at the time of writing, not after. If I'm typing so fast that I misspell a word even four or five words back, I'll backspace over all the words in front of the one misspelled one. Then, I'll correct it, and rewrite the rest of the sentence.

You'd think that would preclude me from making mistakes with my drafts, or even finished copy. Nope. More times than I care to admit, I'll publish a post, and then read it on my Listed Page after I've published it, and then see all the mistakes I made and didn't catch during my "editing" process.

It's usually in the form of a missing word that I thought I typed, and later thought I saw, which was just my brain filling in the gap for me. Or, adding an 's' or a 'd' to a word that didn't need it.

And, sometimes, my brain will just go off and do it's own thing. There have been times when I find myself writing a word that wasn't even in my head at the time I wrote it. It's like my fingers ran away from my brain and decided to do what they wanted to do.

So, yes, my writing technique sucks. It goes against the grain, and if I were to be honest, it's kind of a time waster. Therefore, maybe I owe it to myself to try it a different way, the Heming-way, and see if that doesn't actually save me some time.

What about you? What's your process, your technique for writing? Would love to hear from you to see if it's different, similar, or nowhere near the same.

Until then, I'll waste my time writing instead of wasting it doing other things, like the dishes.

Time Wasters Be Gone!

Stay back! Keep your time wasting habits to yourself!

Being that I'm somewhat of a lifehack geek who loves everything about time management and efficiency, imagine my frustration when I encounter someone wasting both. You could say it's a pet peeve of mine, and yet it is so rampant.

I value time as my most precious commodity. It's the one thing you can't get back once you've spent it, and when you're out of it, you can't make more of it. The best you can do is make the best use of it while you have it. Frugality is key, my friends!

So, if there's a way to shorten the duration, even frequency of tasks, I'm all about it. If I can somehow automate routine things that only slow me down, I'm on it. If I can prevent a meeting from happening by sending a simple email instead, I'll do it.

It would appear that not everyone has my zeal for such savings of time, effort, and sanity. Here are some examples:

  • Just this morning we had a bi-weekly team call. It wasn't led by our usual host, as he was filling in while our usual host was on vacation. As a fill in, he didn't really want a lot of depth in the updates each team member was to provide. Meaning, this was more of a formality than anything.

He even promised we could end the call early if we were to get though our brief updates as quickly as needed. Far be that from stopping everyone from giving long winded updates, making sure that certain topics that weren't relevant to the call were brought up, so that we basically ended a whopping 4 minutes shy of the normal meeting's end.

Way to go, team.

  • Last week, I was working on getting some network equipment changes made via the vendors and team that support them. I told my project team that I was coordinating this and that once I had an implementation date from the people actually doing the work, I'd pass that along for everyone's benefit.

You'd think that would prevent someone from sending an email the very next day asking, "Is it done yet?" Nope. Not even 24 hours later, I get an email from a member of the project team asking if the implementation is done yet.

To which, I had to expel the extra yet unnecessary energy to reply to him, explaining that when I have a date, I'll share the date.

Did I really have to write that email? Apparently, I did, because one email telling everyone I'd let them know wasn't enough.

  • Or those times you take a good 20 to 30 minutes to send an email that answers every open question someone has, line by line, point by point. Then, they reply, "Looks good, let' meet to discuss."

Discuss what? It's all in the email right in front of you!

  • How about when people, usually managers, show up 20 minutes late to a 30 minute meeting they insisted we have? Which means, we get to have the same meeting over again, because that person missed everything that was already discussed.

It totally makes my day when I have to do things twice.

So, I'm just wondering, am I alone in this? Am I the only one who wants to throw himself off a 10th story balcony to end the misery of wasting time?

I write this all (partially) tongue-in-cheek, but it is amazing to me how many people don't take that opportunity that's handed to them by someone else to save a few minutes here or there and instead opt for doing things the long way.

Sure, not everyone is interested in time management and getting their work done before 2pm so the rest of the time can be spent on your passion pursuits. But, couldn't someone take the shorter path just once? Anyone? Hello?

Words and Music

The melody is yours to make

Photo by Lacey Williams on Unsplash

Do our actions really align with our goals? On a daily basis, do we live our brand that we want to be known by?

And by brand, I don't mean like an Instagram influencer, or some social media maven... no, the brand of who we are and what we want our name to be attached to. Whether personal or professional, we all carry some kind of brand attached to our names.

Is that brand a good one or a bad one? We're well within our power to determine which one it is. Back in my banking IT days, my title was "Information Systems Officer". It was both a title and a pay grade. On our team, there was a guy who was very well spoken and did everything with vigor and excellence.

He was an Information Systems Analyst, so he was one title and pay grade below that of an officer. But, he wanted to be an officer. He knew he wanted to be an officer, and he'd even laid out his reasons for wanting to be an officer, and how it would benefit the bank if he were.

He'd be able to cover off those reasons on request, without even having to think about it. He wanted his brand at work to be an Information Systems Officer, and everything he did lined up with that. He was helpful, articulate, and never late on anything. He even did better work than many of our ISOs on our team.

I remember the day he got promoted. I was really happy for him, because he knew what he wanted, and he didn't stop until he got it. And, by the time he got his new title, there was absolutely no having to get used to thinking of him or referring to him as an ISO.

Within no time after that, he was promoted to manager level, and within a few years, director level. He left that bank before I did, and when I left, he heard about it and offered me a job. When I accepted, he became my boss.

All this from knowing what he wanted and aligning his actions to the words that made up his brand.

Among my friends, family, and co-workers, my brand is clear... I'm the IT guy who's been doing it forever. When I was in the military, my brand was getting shit done, regardless of the challenge or circumstance.

Of course, now I want to change my brand, so writing here is helping me to do that. So that when someone asks me why I want to be a writer, my actions will line up with the brand I'm striving for.

But now I also notice when people's actions don't line up at all with their brand. Just yesterday, I saw a truck with a business name on the side, weaving in and out of traffic, cutting people off, and just driving like a total douche.

I'm sure that like all business owners, he'd love to have so much business he'd be successful. So, I wonder, if he's driving like an aggressive asshole, would he take my money? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes. But, as I see him treating everyone else on the road like an unwanted speed bump, would I want to give him my money? Uh, no way.

It doesn't matter what he does for his business, his actions are not aligned with his goal of providing service to others. Why would I give him the time of day when he's shown me he's not real interested in being kind to those he intends to serve.

Does that mean he should be a saint and feed starving people in order to deserve business? Hardly. But, when you have a sign on your car that is supposedly advertising that you are a business, you could at least not go out of your way to be an annoying jerk.

When I think of my former co-worker and friend at the bank who later became my boss and mentor, and contrast that with Speed Racer on the street yesterday, I'm reminded how important it is for me to make sure the actions of my desired brand speak to the words of it as well.

Challenge accepted.

One Foot In Front Of The Other

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash

When I think of a goal, I'm reminded of a song from a children's Christmas special. Usually children's songs and TV specials have positive messages wrapped in song, and "One Foot In Front Of The Other" from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer is no exception.

Yeah, I'm sure on the surface, this sounds like a really cheesy post in the making. But, if you stick it out, you'll see where I'm going with this.

The pure and simple message of the song is so true. One step is just a step, but when you put one foot in front of the other, you're walking toward your goal.

When we learn to walk, it's first a step, then maybe another step, then usually an interruption of some kind in the form of a challenge to our progress. Either a falling down on your butt, or someone comeing over to grab your arms to help you take a series of steps. But any help you receive isn't walking. It's stepping. When you do it on your own, that series of steps you take on your own is walking.

Fast forward a year, ten years, thirty years, and you're walking without even thinking about it. You don't tell yourself to stand up, and you don't recite the instructions of one foot in front of the other in your head when you want to move forward anymore.

Walking is now as natural as breathing.

I'm so committed to writing now that some days I panic a little. I panic when something doesn't come to mind to write about right away. And I panic when I think I won't be able to publish on a given day because I'm just too busy to get to my computer to publish my post.

And so some days, I'll write more than one post. One day I remember writing three posts and two drafts.

Today, this is my second post of the day, even though I publish only once a day. So, just like walking, I just write when I want to get somewhere. I don't think about it as much, except when I think I won't be able to do it for some reason. And then it only makes me want to write more.

Now, I just write out my thoughts, and whenever I have a free moment, I've got a couple posts I can grab a photo for, upload it, link to it, and publish. Takes maybe 3 minutes. Sometimes longer if I can't find the perfect photo.

It's strange that now the hardest part of publishing a blog post isn't the activity of writing any more. The hardest part to publishing a post is finding the right picture, and not actually finding the right words. Hard to believe.

All I did was just put one word after the other, nowadays without really thinking about the mechanics of it, and that's how I move forward with my writing. How many other things can we accomplish if we take these simple instructions from a song in a children's show?

The Rainstorm

I love the rain

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

This morning there was a nice thunderstorm. Wasn't in the forecast, but there was plenty of rain, and a nice gentle thunder. Almost like I was listening to one of those sounds of nature you have Alexa put on when you're trying to fall asleep.

I was about to go back to sleep when I remembered what I wrote about earlier this week about taking the time to enjoy the little things.

So, I woke up, and consciously listened to the rain and thunder. I didn't need to sit outside and look at the rain, as I was in my bed. Comfortable, safe, and completely relaxed. My wife was there, too, with neither of us having to be anywhere, or anything to have to do that couldn't wait.

We both just listened to the rain, and had a nice easy chat. Just the two of us, and the rain.

I'm glad I was able to enjoy this rain, and especially glad that my wife was there to enjoy it with me. Sounds cliche, maybe. But for that time, my heart and soul were filled with gratitude. Glad I didn't miss either opportunity to slow down and enjoy it all. A blessed man, indeed.

No Good Deed...

Goes Unpunished

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

In the grand scheme of life, this shouldn't even be a blip on my radar, but it frustrates me anyway. I try to be a good citizen, team member, and all around good egg.

I'm also somewhat obsessed with time management and efficiency. Therefore, I've integrated little habits into my daily life to try to shave time off tasks wherever I can. And when it comes to my calendar, I always manage my meetings and appointments. I'll let people know if I'll be late or can't make a meeting ahead of time.

Another unconscious habit I've incorporated in my life is that I strive to be either early or right on time to every meeting. Whether the meeting is in person, or by phone.

Again, just trying to be a good guy. So imagine my frustration on my first conference call of the day when this happens. I was first on the call, so it was just me and the call leader. Cool.

We start in on my updates for the week, and then someone joins the call late, who has to drop the call at the bottom of the hour. "Jay, can we switch to Joe's updates since he has to drop in a few minutes?"

"Um, ok."

As they're working through Joe's updates, Chad joins the call, even later than Joe. Once Joe's done with his updates, the call lead starts taking Chad's updates. When Chad is done with his updates, he gets to drop the call. Wait, what? WTF?!

So, I call it out as it's just me and person leading the call again, "I'd like to ask how does that happen?" He replies, "How does what happen?"

"Where I'm the first on the call, and yet the last one to give his updates?"

The most frustrating part of all that was that he really didn't understand why I'd be asking that.

Seriously? This guy really doesn't understand why I'd be upset about having my [time wasted]? I had to sit through an additional 45 minutes of other people's updates, who were both late, and again, I was early.

In what world is that ok? I could have finished my updates in less than 5 minutes, and I could have gotten 45 minutes of my life back that I've lost and will never get back.

So, my lesson learned for today is, I should show up late so I can go right into my updates, regardless of who was talking at the time. Do I really need to be an asshole to get people to stop wasting my time?

Where Did All The Experts Go?

Where'd you all go.png

Sometimes random memories just pop into my head... among many other random things. Recently, I had a memory take me to a time when I was hired to manage a technology I didn't know anything about, but I did have industry experience. It's happened before, a few times, actually, but this was the first time I remember it happening.

It was to manage the email system for a mid-size bank. And not just any email system. It was an aging, failing, overworked, underpowered email system that required constant attention. I was actually hired in time to have a knowledge transfer with the email admin who was leaving the company. Thank goodness for that. He was patient, and I was sure to take copious notes of his routines. (Ahem, had to do it on paper back then)

After a short time, I was doing all the things he was doing, and felt pretty comfortable doing them. And after a while, you start to learn what the different complaints and moans from an aging technology system mean. You learn to know when something can wait until after hours to resolve, or when something needs to happen NOW before it goes supernova and all panic breaks loose.

The email system's database that held all the users' email was pretty big for back in the day, something like 40GB. Now imagine that database having to be replicated among different physical locations, with many of the 'servers' actually being high-spec PCs instead of actual business grade servers.

That mail system's database was design to be half that size, but my employers didn't really consider email an important discussion point for budgeting and planning an upgrade. That is, until it goes down. Then everybody wants to know when email will be back up because it's mission critical!

As a result, at least three nights a week, maybe more, and even some weekends, I'd have to stay late to repair and rebuild the bloated email database. After that, I'd need to be sure it replicated properly to all the so-called post office locations. Usually, there'd be some steps I could perform during the workday to prepare for the evening's database festivities, which helped shave maybe 30 minutes off the usually 3 to 4 hour process.

This was during the Y2K era (between this and paper notes, I'm really showing my age, aren't I?), and so there were always IT contractors and consultants hanging around. I lost count of how many times some temporary IT person would walk up to my desk and go, "Whatcha doin'?"

"Um, just preparing our email database for some maintenance and repair tonight." Then, without fail, almost as if they were cued, they would then say, "Oh yeeeah... I used to be an email admin. I remember those days!"

And after a while, I was so sick of hearing how everyone was an expert at this thing that I was struggling to keep alive every single day. So, one day, when someone declared one too many times how they used to be an email admin or expert, I'd respond with, "Really? You used to admin email systems? Great! Why don't you stay with me until 11pm tonight and we can repair this thing together!"

After I'd say that, there'd be nothing but a puff of smoke where the "expert" used to be standing. And, after a while, people stopped coming to my desk to declare their email system expertise, which was totally ok with me.

So, this memory leads to a much larger thought. Throughout my life, I've met so many "experts" who think they know what I do, and how to do it, no problem. And, I don't ask them to stay late with me to work on something any more because even I don't do that anymore, and we know what they'd do anyway, right?

After several years being in this industry when someone brags about their expertise, I just tend to stay away from them and let them brag somewhere else. But, when someone displays obvious wisdom and expertise without any bragging needed, they're the ones I sincerely ask for hints and tips based on their expertise they'd be willing to share. And wouldn't you know it, they're also the ones that usually stay late to help you out without even being asked.

So I ask again while looking around... where did all the 'experts' go?

The Little Things

Little things make big impacts

Photo by Jessica To'oto'o on Unsplash

I don't think I appreciate the little things enough. It mostly has to do with not slowing down and taking the time to soak in the moment. What's around me? What do I see? What do I smell? How am I even breathing?

For all my pursuits around personal development via minimalism and writing, trying to be a better me, I'm lacking in this one very big thing: taking time to appreciate the little things.

Even though I pay someone to keep my yard well manicured, how many times in the past week did I really go out there and look at my lawn? Walked up and touched my trees? Admired the vibrant colors that brighten up our flower beds? I can honestly say, zero.

When the sun is shining, I can drive my car with the windows down and sunroof open so that I can enjoy the warmth and admire the blue sky. When it's raining, I love the rain, and when it rained last weekend, why didn't I sit on the patio and watch the rain quench the ground around me?

Even thought it'll rain again, I missed an opportunity to watch that rain that I'll never get again. And, it's not just about nature and weather, it's also about moments with the ones I love, the laughter I'm sharing with friends, or even the unexpected but welcome five minutes of quiet.

And sure, I'm busy. But, I don't like the idea of missing the little things that I otherwise don't notice any more. I can't live a life of FOMO, but I can live a life more in tune with the people, nature, and good things I have all around me every day.

The Gut Is Mightier Than The Mouth

Get in mah belly!
Photo by Bethan Abra on Unsplash

When I worked at a consulting firm a few years back, my assigned career mentor would always tell me, "Jay, you gotta specialize! You need to find a niche that you can own and be the expert at. This way you can always be the go-to expert for that specific technology!" I was always like, "Uh huh, sure, ok, I'll work on that." But I wouldn't really work on that.

And that's for a couple of reasons. First, it was really difficult to specialize in one technology and become the foremost expert on a singular technology when your company would keep assigning you projects using different technologies. Every. Single. Time.

Even after I'd ask the team that gave out the assignments if they could give me assignments using X technology, I'd get something completely different.

Second, I never felt comfortable being an expert in just one thing. Now, there's something to be said about owning a niche of your own. You're the guy in that space. No one else but you, so when you make a name for yourself and it's attached to that niche, you not only dominate, you continue to grow your expertise with that one thing every time you engage.

Now, I don't necessarily like the term "Generalist", but I also didn't want to be one-dimensional, either. At least that's what I feel being an expert in a niche would be. I'm sure it's not true, but I just can't fathom myself doing the same thing, every day, because that's what you do. It's your niche, man.

Knowing myself, I do tend to get bored, and so doing the same thing over and over, even if wiser and better each time, kinda scares me. One of my first jobs as a teenager was to work on an assembly line. The repetition was BRU-TAL, with minutes feeling like hours. Thankfully, it was only during my two-week Holiday break in high school so I could earn some money to buy presents.

Fast forward to my professional career, and the several decades I've been able to resist becoming a niche player. It's actually served me well. And while I was starting to doubt if there'd be any place in the modern world for someone who knows a little about several things, instead of everything about one thing, I've found there is a place for people like me.

In my current role, the projects I work on are never the same technology, or even skill set. It requires me to adapt to the technology being used, and to do so quickly so that value to the organization can be realized as soon as possible.

The consulting firm I mentioned at the beginning, well, even against their own urging, I had to be a generalist because they'd never put me on the same type of project twice.

Could I have made a career out of being a one-technology guy? Sure, and maybe making way more money than I do now. But, all these years my gut has told me to stay general, adaptable, and open to learning new things, and most times very quickly. And that has served me well. I have an established career, decent paycheck, and a really good life.

So, by listening to my gut instead of my career mentor's words, I feel I've made the right choices with my life. Mostly because I chose it, and didn't let someone else choose my path for me. I'm kind of a rebel that way. Every. Single. Time.

Can you relate?

My Favorite Line From Mad Men

The Immortal Donald Draper

Photo courtesy of Mad Men Fandom Wiki

I remember the day I joined Facebook. It was an early morning in 2006, about 5:00 in the morning, and I couldn't sleep. So, I decided to try this new Facebook thing everyone was talking about. Shortly after making my first post, I was hooked.

Thoughts and ideas of all the cool possibilities of using a platform like Facebook started running through my head. The biggest of which was the ability to let my friends and my family know how me and my family are doing, regardless of where each of us lived.

It was like a newsletter on steroids! One little update about what me, my wife, or my kids are up to, and 10, 30, 50, even 100 people are now caught up! When I thought about how much time one status update would save over calling each one of those people individually, it blew my mind!

I also remember the day I quit Facebook. It was an evening in early 2018, after work, where I just couldn't read or engage in another toxic, negative, argument-baiting status update. Somewhere along the way, Facebook went from a great way to keep in touch to a great way to want to kill yourself because you're being attacked for every thought, idea, or opinion you have.

Given all the media articles out there about people quitting social media having withdrawals, I waited for the anxiety, the shaking, and the sweating to begin. It never happened. In fact, whenever I'd use Facebook, that's when the anxiety, the shaking, and the sweating would actually happen.

What happened instead was that I felt more relaxed, less stressed out, and more productive. More productive because I wasn't wasting the better part of my waking hours trying to fight for my reasons to think this way or that way.

And Twitter? Every time I tried to use Twitter, it never took. Maybe the pace is too fast, and if you want to keep the high ground in any conversation (read: confrontation), you had to keep your eyeballs on your timeline and notifications so you can try to have the last word.

I quit that within days each time I tried to make it a regular platform for me. I really liked Google+, though. In it's earliest days, it was so well thought out, easy to interact with all the services you use anyway (Photos, Email, Blogger, etc.). Because of Google+'s ability for users to write up to 100,000 words per status update, even a longform blogger like me could use it as a blog.

And I did for a little while. Of course, I wouldn't stick to blogging and would go from a post every day for like 3 days, then once a week for a week, then once during the holidays when I've got a bunch of time off and kind of bored.

Unfortunately, Google+ jumped the shark pretty early in it's short-lived life with some horrible UI decisions. And, the sad reality was, nobody was using it. Well, nobody I knew anyway. People were using it, mostly the one-offs of our respective social circles who like to try the new stuff... but all of the mainstream users were on Facebook. So, I used Facebook, even when I didn't want to.

The day I quit Facebook, I also decided not to use Twitter, Google+, or any other platform except for LinkedIn. Love it or hate it, LinkedIn is pretty much the only way I can keep in touch with my professional network should I need a job. As well, it's a way for my network to keep in touch with me should they want or need a reference, or something like that.

Then, when I kept hearing of privacy scandal after privacy scandal with Facebook in the middle of it all, it only validated my decision to "disappear" from social media.

So, I'm back to where it started. If friends or family want to know what I'm up to, they or I will need to email, call, text, or even visit in person. Thing is, not a whole lot of people I know actually do any of those things. And, truth be told, neither do I.

Don't get me wrong, I do keep in touch with friends and family, just not all of my friends and family that I was otherwise in touch with on Facebook.

My favorite line from Mad Men is when Don Draper tells Peggy Olson very sternly, "If you don't like what's being said, then change the conversation."

And maybe this is why I enjoy blogging and writing. I decide the conversation. Whether it's a new topic, or a topic already started, I can weigh in on my terms.

I can share of myself on my terms and not feel like I have to defend my thoughts or stance on something. Some may disagree with me and click away, and that's ok. But I'm not the target of vitriol, at least not yet.

For now, I'm ok with that. Not because I don't want to hear what others have to say, because readers can still interact with me via this blog. And so far, those that have been sharing comments and thoughts and other interactions, they've been warm, friendly, and positive.

Basically, I changed the conversation.

Validation As Encouragement

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Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels

Today I was going to write about one of four other topics I'd brainstormed earlier in the week. This isn't one of them. Today's post is a topic that's off the cuff because, well, because I can.

This morning when I woke up, I was thinking how powerful writing really is. I'm not delusional in thinking that writing is some kind of enlightened or annointed status you're awarded just because you jot down a few words on a screen.

But, like any art form, writing has the power to move others. It can also do damage to others as well. Wars have been started over words, but diseases have been cured with words, too. And many a relationship has started, and sometimes ended, with words. Ask me how I know that one.

And so, as I was collecting my thoughts after sleeping in, it really came over me how writing is a powerful medium because words, but it also gives the author the power of decision. When I publish a post, it's of a topic of my choosing, with prose of my making, any way I decide to, before sharing it with the world.

Artists, musicians, and other creatives also have that same power of decision. They decide what you see, hear, or read next. And it's their decision what the message of their chosen medium that's being shared with you really is.

Even though creatives create for a variety of reasons, I've heard other writers wonder if anyone really notices our work. Some might even ask themselves "if nobody sees my work, why should I do it?" Well, like most things that come from the heart and the imagination of a complex yet fragile human being, because it's expression.

When I re-committed to writing again, and this time every day (for as long as I can), I decided that I wouldn't let "readership" be even a remote factor on whether or not I keep writing. There have been times in the past where I'd (supposedly) write a lot, and if no one read my work, I'd feel deflated and give up. I'd ask, why bother?

In that frame of mind, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was doing it for the validation of others, and not taking it as a healthy outlet for my expression. And, truth be told, I was writing once every few weeks if not every few months. How would anybody notice a guy who only writes whenever?

My new frame of mind has been a refreshing change from the past. I've started writing for me, but not just for me. I write because it makes me feel good, but I still do hope that it connects with someone or helps my reader in some way.

Since I started writing again, I've been picking up subscribers and getting comments on my guestbook. Both are forms of validation, and very encouraging to someone who doesn't quite know how he's registering with others.

The comments on my guest book, while just a few so far, have all been extremely complimentary and encouraging as well. Very supportive to say the least. I even got a guest book comment from Mr. Yann Girard himself after writing about him a few days ago.

Truth be told, I have no idea how he knew I wrote about him, but a pleasant surprise for sure. And just to know that I'm actually reaching others is a real thrill!

I had to chuckle the other day when I got a new subscriber to my blog. The email was happy to inform me that I had 7 subscribers now. I wasn't chuckling because I thought of it as only seven subscribers, I was chuckling because with my new frame of thinking, I'm yielding more results than ever before.

In other words, it's actually working.

If I were to have kept this kind of consistency all the other times I tried blogging on other platforms, by this time, how many people would I have connected and resonated with? Except for those times I gave up, whenever I start to doubt the desired outcome of an effort or endeavor, I tell myself to "just stay the course". And when I do, I usually achieve that desired goal.

What I'm really wanting to say is that I'm truly grateful for you seven subscribers who are either enjoying or curious to see what I do next. And I'm equally grateful for those that have left such awesome comments on my guestbook.

And with knowing there are in fact people who are reading my posts, I'm now writing for those seven subscribers and three guestbook commenters. Maybe one day, I'll be writing for a lot more than that, but I'm perfectly happy with the ones I have here and now, because you were the first to acknowledge my work in some way.

This is becoming a perfect combination of relaxation, creativity, and is very therapeutic. All in all, a very positive way to deal with my thoughts and feelings.

Again, I'm not doing this just to receive validation. Instead, the validation encourages me to keep moving forward, to create more... for me and for you. Thank you for that.

Mornings: And Why I HATE Them

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Photo Credit: Pexels

I've never been a morning person. Well, maybe on Christmas day between the ages of 4 and 8 I'd be up before 5am brimming with excitement. Since then, not so much. Don't get me wrong, I've woken up early plenty of times in my life, and I'm sure I'll have to do it plenty more before I leave this mortal coil. But, it sure as Hell doesn't mean I gotta like it.

Having served in the military, there's been plenty of zero-dark-thirty wake-ups during my time in uniform. There have also been plenty of times where I'd wake up one morning, and not go back to sleep until the next morning, or even the morning after that due to missions and guard duty, etc.

Even when I was in high school, I'd come home from school, take a nap, and then stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and wake up for school the next day. Ah, to be young and able to pull that off... not so any more.

There are even rewards to waking up early. Some employers let you "flex work", where if you come in early, you can leave early. And why not? Early to work means less traffic and typically less people in the office (like ME) for an hour, maybe two. When you leave, it's still daylight and beat most of the traffic home as well.

Even my in-laws are early risers. Boggles. My. Mind.

How can they get up early every single day, weekends included, and be so full of energy? Perhaps I'm fearing witchcraft or I'm jealous because I just can't wake up at 5am for any reason and be a happy go lucky guy. I'm thinking witchcraft.

For me, I'd rather be going to bed at 5am, than waking up at 5am. I'd much rather sleep through the day, where the heat and the noise of city and suburban life are at their loudest. Everyone's at the stores, the movie theaters, the restaurants during the day. Hardly anyone ventures out past 9pm, so it's like having semi-exclusive access to anything I would need to get done during the day, but instead, at night.

I once went to the latest showing of a movie at the theater on like a Tuesday, and I was the ONLY one in the entire theater. Yeah, buddy!

But I also look at mornings and evenings like this. If I were to get up in the morning, in order to take advantage of the peace and quiet that comes with getting up before everyone else, I'd have to hurry up and shake off the sleepiness. I'd need to work out, shower, maybe get some coffee, do some writing and reading of personal development, yadda, yadda. Thing is, there's a lead time to getting all that done. It's called "waking up". So, the more I want to get done in my day before work, the earlier I have to get up because of the lead time that's needed.

Now, let's look at staying up late. If I get up later in the morning, heck, even say Noon like a true Bohemian. I'm getting up, taking however much lead time is needed to fully wake up. The entire time I'm doing that, the heat of the day is starting to wane. People are going to be getting off work soon, and eating some dinner. As I'm doing my exercising, writing, personal development, etc., the vast majority of people are about ready to start leaving work and having dinner.

By that time, I'm awake, refreshed, and already doing stuff to be productive. But when everyone settles in for the night, having eaten dinner, watching TV and getting ready for bed, I'm awake! When the "morning types" are fast asleep, I'm doing my grocery shopping, my restaurant and movie going, you name it. And if I'm staying in that evening, then I'm doing my best and most creative work.

You know why? Because I'm already awake and have been for several hours. I've woken up at my own pace. I've done things, and had experiences throughout the day up until the evening. Then, in the evening, I can take all the experience and stimuli that was experienced during the day, and get some killer productivity while everyone else is asleep.

It's a matter of momentum. When the rest of the world is ready to drift off into slumber land, I've already been awake and am ready to keep going. Granted, I haven't been awake as long as those early-birds, but I've been up for a few hours, and ready to do my best work when everyone else has gone quiet.

If I did all that in the morning, I'd have to go from zero to sixty, fully sleeping to awake, alert, and productive in no time flat. Otherwise, I'd miss the benefits of getting up early. No thanks, I like to ease into my day and finish out strong instead of starting every day like a flash fire. Agree or disagree? Let me know, I'd be interested to hear your take on morning vs night.

That Guy Who Does It All Wrong

If this is so wrong, I don't wanna be right

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

A year or so ago while I was perusing Medium, I stumbled on a peculiar blogger. Well, I guess you could call him a blogger, because he would post every day. Nothing too long, just very short and concise little nuggets each day.

He was so interesting, I signed up to his email list so that I could receive these little daily nuggets in my inbox. The thing is, he's approaching blogging all wrong.

His writing isn't how a 'normal' writer approaches sharing of words and meaning. Good writing should have a premise or thesis, with supporting information consisting of a series of paragraphs, well researched quotes and stories with a conclusion. The goal of writing is to prove your premise or thesis and validate the point you're trying to make with the words and structure that defines "writing".

Um, yeah... that guy doesn't do any of that.

In fact, his posts are a series of single line paragraphs all the way down the page. Each thing he communicates stands there, on it's own, until all the individual standalone paragraphs form into one cohesive message of the day.

His name is Yann Gerard, and this guy certainly does it all wrong. He even admits it. He sucks at writing, but he loves to do it, so he does it anyway. His way. And you know what? He's got lots of readers and followers, and has even put out some information products.

His posts are always inspirational in some way. Inviting you to look at anything you want to do in life and then do it. Don't wait, don't hesitate, just do it. And when you do it, do it ugly, do it wrong, fail, and then learn to do it right, then master it.

I find Yann to be a huge source of inspiration for me when I get down on myself for always writing such lengthy posts. Then, thinking if Yann's wisdom, who defines 'lengthy'? Is there a governing body that deems a blog post past a certain number of words to immediately be called lengthy?

The point here is, anything we do can mean so many different things to so many people. That's why writing is an art form. Just like music, painting, even making YouTube videos. And because art is subjective, not everyone is going the like the things you produce. They may not like your technique, or your approach. Or the fact that you're even trying to do something without any education or background behind it. Or, it just doesn't resonate or connect with them in any way.

But some will like what you put out there. And so regardless whether some people like it, or some people don't, the important thing is that you like it.

If you like it, then there are bound to be others that like it. Others that appreciate your work. How you approach it, your technique, your mindset. They will enjoy and admire your work, because it connects with them in some way.

And I'm writing this as much for myself as anyone else who may read this. Because I tend to write long posts, and conventional wisdom says that blog posts over 600 words will lose the readers' attention. Ok, and?

Maybe when I get better at writing, I'll be more succinct. Then again, maybe I won't. Did Hemingway keep things short because he feared losing readers? What about Herman Melville... did he 'keep it short' when writing Moby Dick because the length of such a book would be a sure turn off to most readers?

At the moment, my style is to take as many words as I want and need to communicate a message. If it's not brief enough or to the point enough for some, well, I'm sorry, and you may be missing out on something good while I hone my craft.

Then again, I'm almost sure there are others out there who can appreciate a little extra time taken to paint a picture with words, or the adding of some detail to things so that they make more sense in their context and meaning.

In any case, I do have a long way to go before I can be one of those that can convey a 5 paragraph message in only 4 lines of text. But, right now, I'm not him, not sure if I'll ever be him, and if I follow Yann Girard's way of thinking, so what?

Keep doing what you love to do. Stop worrying about the approval of others, and just put out something great, because you're great. Again, as much for me as it is for you.

Winning the Day Before It's Even Started

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Photo by Fauzan Saari on Unsplash

Today was a damn good day, and somehow I knew it was going to be, even before I got to work this morning. Have you ever had one of those times where a thought of something you really wanted pops into your head, then some time later it just appears?

Whether that thing is something you buy, something you want to attain or achieve, or someone you want to notice you, it doesn't really matter. And the some time later part can be a day, a week, or even sometimes years. The thing is, I've rediscovered today that if you don't give up thinking about what you really want, eventually you'll get it. Sound advice, or hippy-dippy nonsense? Bear with me while I play this out for you then you decide.

What happened today and how did it happen even before the day started? I don't really consider my day to have started my day until I'm at work. Whether I'm going into the office or working from home, my day officially begins when my butt is in a seat, I'm logged on and ready to do battle for the day. Today was one of the days I had to work in the office, and we already know how I feel about that, right?

As I got out of the car, grabbed my things, and was walking toward the building, a crystal clear thought ran through my head. My thought was, "What's really stopping you from seeking writing gigs? Finish creating your online profile, and start telling people you want to write. Create some samples, and just do it."

Ok, you might be thinking, "duh"! Well, lately I've been spending a lot of time thinking and planning how I'm going to do writing, but haven't been doing anything to get me to actually be writing.

It may have been a paralysis by analysis situation, but when that thought popped in my head, it became very clear that the only thing stopping me from writing for others... is me.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and what happens? I land a writing gig. I took a chance and asked someone if they needed help with writing out some documents, and he said, "YES!" So, we're now in the process of working on a content plan.

Full disclosure: It's not a paying gig, but it will have a positive impact for others, and is for a worthwhile endeavor, so I'm really happy to do it. I don't always work for free, but right now, a gig with an organization I believe in is way better than no gig at all. Whether it's free or paid, I'm going to give it my best efforts, and I'm hoping to learn a lot which will help me in the future.

How about another example of winning the day before it's even started? A few years back, about 16 years next month, I was getting dressed for work. I was happily divorced at the time, and not actively looking for a long term relationship. I was dating and playing the field, sure, but I'd always resisted attempts to get too serious with anyone at that point in time. And while I'm choosing what to wear that day, a thought popped into my head. "Hey, dress nicer than usual today because you never know, you might meet someone special today."

So, I put on some nicer slacks, and a real nice and pressed dress shirt, no tie. By the time I got to work, I had dismissed the thought of finding a special someone, because happy and unattached, remember?

The same afternoon, I met a woman that I'd never seen before. We hit it off almost instantly, and since our second date, we'd never spent a day apart. The only exception was when I had to go overseas for a year. But, she stuck with me, and I stuck with her as well. Next month (May of 2019 as I write this), it will be our 16th year of being together, and our 13th year of being married, with no signs of slowing down.

I've got more real life examples that maybe I'll share in another post. But, for now, do you believe me when I say you can win the day even before it starts?

I'd love to hear from you on this. Prove me right, or prove me wrong. Send me a message and I'll do a follow up on the responses I get without sharing names.

Thanks for reading, and however you do it, I hope you win the day.

The Power (and Empowerment) of Forgiveness

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Photo by Kyle Hanson on Unsplash

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I was able to accomplish a couple of things while I was out of work, with that post focusing on Less is More and Essentialism. Today, I'll share the second thing I was able to accomplish, which is learning new things.

While a part of me wanted to just lay around all day, without a care in the world while I rested and healed, I just couldn't do that. Perhaps another post at another time about my internal feud between wanting to do nothing for hours or days on end, and my inability to actually do so.

But, in this case, I adjusted my schedule, and somehow still maximized my time while resting and recovering. The best thing about being on leave was that I didn't have to wake up to an alarm. In fact, that's one of the things I really look forward to when being a freelancer again. Now, that doesn't mean I never have to get up early for something, or that not waking up to an alarm would mean that I sleep until Noon everyday.

However, being that I was on some pretty strong medication, I would sleep for long hours at a time. But, that also meant that I'd stay up a little later than if I was going to work every day as well. So, while I'd probably go to bed around 11pm or midnight, due to the medications, I'd wake up around 10am.

I'd have a routine where I'd get showered and dressed, make my coffee, and then head upstairs to my office. From there I'd put on some music and start learning. I'd be at the computer all day. Whether in my office or on my laptop around the house, I was always on the computer. Not playing video games, and not wasting any part of my day on social media. I was learning about Linux and FreeBSD. I was addicted, actually.

I'd been a Microsoft guy almost all my life. Sure, I dabbled in Linux around 2008 and even built a little media streaming server for my home network. But, I was just following the instructions that others would share, without really knowing why certain commands were being entered, or why certain settings needed to be made. So, this time, I went all in on Linux and FreeBSD. I converted my desktop computer to Linux, with no Windows partition or dual booting at all. Just Linux, and a few different distributions with different desktop environments as well.

And, if an install went smoothly to where I didn't need to troubleshoot anything, I'd give myself a project of the day. Whether it was creating a storage volume consisting of multiple external drives and utilizing a fault-tolerant file system, to installing Plex server on an ultra small form factor PC that was turned into a multi-purpose server. Sometimes my project of the day would turn into the project of the week, or the only thing I could finish that entire weekend.

Diving in and going past the surface was refreshing. I also supplemented my hands-on experience with watching YouTube videos.

If a particular feature or function, or a new distribution would interest me, I'd watch several YouTube videos about all of it. With each video I'd watch, and with each project I'd give myself, I'd get more and more comfortable with the Linux operating system, and even it's various distributions. I'd tried OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, Manjaro with different desktop environments, Antergos, BunsenLabs Crunchbang, etc.

I even bought a cheap Chromebook for under $50 and turned that into a lightweight Linux laptop.

When it came to FreeBSD, I was at first intimidated that it was Unix-like, just like Linux and MacOS are, but that it was for some reason more complex and complicated. After working with it, it's actually the opposite. It's organized, consistent, very stable, and most of all, everything is done the same way. While there are different flavors of BSD like OpenBSD, NetBSD, and DragonflyBSD, there are even a couple of preconfigured desktop versions of FreeBSD. But, if you're using something that's actually FreeBSD, or based on FreeBSD, all commands and configs are the same.

Same with OpenBSD, and any of the other deriviateives. Even if they are somewhat different from each other in terms of features, commands, and what you'd configure to get something done, they're the same for that flavor. Whereas Linux tends to be 'modified to taste', even respins of mainline distributions like Debian or Arch tend to have commands and ways of doing things that are different from their parent distribution.

With FreeBSD, it's FreeBSD, period. Same commands, same file structure, same applications, everything the same.

So, I decided to take an HP thin client I'd bought a couple years ago with a dual core AMD processor and 4GB of RAM and turn it into a FreeBSD desktop machine. At first, I tried to install a pre-configured desktop version of FreeBSD called GhostBSD, but it wouldn't load the system files for installation.

Then I tried TrueOS, which used to be called PCBSD... it wouldn't load, either. So, I went for it. I booted from the plain vanilla FreeBSD server edition, and was able to get to the config utility. I had to look up several how-to's to get it going, but thankfully FreeBSD is well documented, and using FreeBSD as a custom-built desktop/laptop is hardly a new idea. So, there was plenty of info to Google.

I was trucking along, everything for the base install loading up great... smooth as buttah. Then came time to try to get the video to load. Stopped me cold. Nothing I tried from any of the official wiki or even the been-there-done-that tutorials online could get me past the inability to load the basic video server and driver. Frustrating to say the least.

After all I'd accomplished with Linux, and getting over 90% of the way with FreeBSD, the damn video configurations were getting the better of me. So, rather than stress out (which I was recovering from to begin with), I stepped away. I went and watched some TV and just cleared my head, and went to bed later on.

The next morning I made myself a deal. I said to myself, "Self! You've got three options today. One, you can forget about messing with that computer, and just put it back on the shelf and do something else. To which, the computer won. Two, you can decide to work on it until you figure it out, no matter how long it takes. Hours, days, even weeks, you can decide right now to just DO IT and not stop until it is. To which you don't really win, but you don't let the computer win, and you drive yourself to madness not knowing how long it'll actually take until you finally solve this puzzle. Or, three, you can stop being so hard on yourself, agree to work on it for just one hour today, and if you don't get it working, put it away and face these same three decisions tomorrow but then spend the rest of the day today doing something really fun."

Care to guess which one I chose? Normally I'd choose option two, because I hate letting anything beat me. Especially a computer. And while I usually end up solving whatever it is eventually, it's usually at the cost of frustration, anger, and being past the point of enjoying the win itself. But, this time I decided to try something different. I chose option three.

Just selecting something both different and rational already had me looking forward to the day and not dreading it. So, I did my morning routine, got my coffee and went to my office. No misgivings, no anger or frustration, just the excitement to see what I can actually achieve in one hour's time. If I solved it, great! I can keep moving forward. If I didn't solve it in the hour, great! I'll do something else awesome with my time, and make another decision about it tomorrow.

The results surprised even me, someone who has seen his fair share of personal breakthroughs and pushing past my own perceived limits. Within TEN minutes, I had it solved. Ten freakin' minutes! I was stoked... like really stoked. It seems that if I stop putting so much pressure on myself to succeed, to win, to never give up no matter what, I can do more with less guilt and anger.

My spirit and my drive have always been defining qualities for me throughout my life. The never quit, never surrender type mindset served me well for a very long time. But, when I found myself having to take time off work to mend my soul and my spirit, I realized that not finishing, not being smart enough to fix something, or just not having the interest anymore to do something isn't the end of the world. And, it's certainly not the end of me.

And instead of actually quitting, or stopping or giving up, but simply giving myself a choice, which I've never really done before, I chose to do my best, instead of requiring myself to give it my all or else. As such, I chose to try it, and I resolved it in less time than if I put myself under pressure to do it, and I felt SO much better when I actually accomplished it.

So, when it comes to this "achievement", it wasn't just about learning new operating systems, thought I have certainly done that (with so much more to still learn). It was about learning to give myself an option to not always have to be awesome. To decide to try without a requirement to succeed, to allow myself to possibly fail, and to be ok with any of the possible outcomes.

When I went back to work, I had a whole new perspective of ME, and that's probably my biggest achievement so far in my entire life.

When Less Really Is More

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Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

When I was on medical leave late last year and early this year, I set out to achieve a couple of things, despite the fact I was unable to work. One of them was to learn more about minimalism and see if it would be something I could embrace. Turns out, it's both fascinating and refreshing for me at the same time.

I watched a documentary on minimalism on Amazon Prime aptly titled, "Minimalism". It's the story of two podcaster and YouTube stars, Joshua Fields-Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who call themselves "The Minimalists", and how they came about the minimalism mindset, and how it's positively impacted their lives. The documentary also chronicles their cross-country road trip filled with media appearances and speaking engagements that promote minimalism as well as their book on the subject.

The movie was interesting because it shows how being happy with less stuff, less clutter in one's life can actually help someone to be happier with their lives and themselves. And, while it seems on the surface to be counter-intuitive, they explain it really well. They combine it with their own story, which they share openly, along with some good ol' fashioned road show evangelism.

Being so inspired, my wife and I went on a cleanse. It was a first round of decluttering. I had an entire bed full of clothes that were in my closet, many with tags still on them. All the clothes, and I mean all the clothes I hadn't worn in the past 6 months went into the "donate" pile. New clothes, older clothes, lost interest clothes, it all went.

I only held on to the pants, shirts, even sweaters that I know I'll use. My closet is so much more manageable now, I can see everything at a glance. My wife ended up donating a bunch of unused furniture accent pieces, desks, stuff that we really didn't use, but certainly had to make room for. It felt great to take action and see and feel immediate results.

After watching the documentary, I started watching their YouTube channel, and then watching other people's channels who also embrace the minimalist lifestyle. Even the filmmaker of the documentary is a true minimalist himself, who has a YouTube channel that is also quite inspiring. His name is Matt D'Avella, and I tend to watch him more than just about anyone else.

He's got a great way of explaining and sharing things, and he also has some great guests on that share their thoughts on success, life lessons, etc. Not all of it has to do with minimalism, but really bringing out the best in yourself. Minimalism can be but one factor of bringing out the best version of you, but so can financial literacy, goal setting and achieving, and so much more.

So Matt doesn't beat a drum that only minimalism can help you reach your dreams. Instead, he advocates that minimalism, if it works for you, can be a powerful tool in a toolbox of other tools that can help you be the best you can be. He even pokes fun at extreme minimalism sometimes, as there seem to be purists out there that feel minimalism is something that is achieved by a certain criteria.

But, real down to Earth minimalists advocate that minimalism is the mindset of embracing "less", and that more things don't necessarily bring more happiness. That more things bring complexity and stress to life, because spending and accumulating stuff is expensive, stressful, and brings only a temporary feeling of happiness (like when you first buy it, but then don't even use it or notice it a month later).

Again, while I was off work, I was looking into minimalism, and listening to the likes of the Minimalists and Matt D'Avella because they say that to be a minimalist, you don't have to have only so many things or wear certain clothes, or achieve certain levels of "nothing" to qualify. Instead, it's challenging your own personal notion of what can you live with less of, what things can you get away with not buying and saving the money, and how less complicated can you make your life if you're not playing the role of "consumer" and instead being a mindful and intentional user of that which you buy.

Yesterday, I saw a video on Matt's channel that was especially eye opening, to where it gave me a truly spine-tingling reaction. His guest was Greg McKeown, the author of "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less". It was so powerful for me, because he suggests that the pursuit of less isn't just less things, but less noise in our daily lives. Less things competing for our time and attention. Getting to a place where the things you're doing on any given day are "essential" and not just obligatory, useless, or unnecessary, in the bigger picture.

I love the idea of being selective with my time just as I'm starting to be selective with my things. I've always kind of been that way, where I'm protective of my free time. I weed out meetings that have no value, and I try to avoid working overtime and starting work earlier than necessary as much as possible. Because being with my family, with myself in my thoughts, and pursuing my passions are all very important to me.

But Greg McKeown challenges us to rethink our priorities, and what's truly important. How can we strip down our day to what is essential, instead of what is just being busy for busyness sake.

In order to be more selective of our tasks and pursuits, we should probably get better at saying "no" more often. To this, he also asserts that we ourselves are saying 'no' all the time, even though we think we're not very good at it. He goes on that in our actions, we're saying no to many things, but saying yes to others.

So, I'm dying to read this book to see how I can also become protective of my active time as much as I've become fiercely protective of my free time. I think efficiency in the time-management sense is one thing, which is something I do daily to try to avoid wasting time or allowing people to waste my time. But this 'essentialism' thing, where I can become a minimalist with the number of things I spend my time doing and being selective of those things, along with the minimalism of the physical things... well that's a whole new level of living I want to experience, my friend.