Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Day Seven — Journaling

Photo by Bradley Huchteman Some Rights Reserved

Last night, I listened to tape seven of the set. As has been a theme throughout, it focused on the power of questions to bring clarity and focus, this time to one's beliefs and values and the distinction between what Tony calls "means" values and "ends" values — the former being things that are not actually an end into themselves, like having money or a family and the latter being what we're actually after in the end, like why we want more money or to have a family or to have better health. He makes that distinction to say that one should work toward the ends and not the means, because it's all too easy to get lost in how we think we should get what we want instead of realizing that we already have it. He also talks about the importance of understanding our negative values, i.e. the things we would do almost anything to avoid in life, such as frustration, physical pain, or failure, because he believes that much of the genuine failure experienced in life comes from conflicts between those two sets of beliefs — a positive desire for adventure and success but a paralyzing fear of frustration, failure, and the unknown to take a strong example.

He also talked a bit about conflict and how he believes it arises from "rules conflicts." He defines "rules" as internalized "if…then" clauses that drive our evaluation of both our own behavior and the behavior of others, such as how we've learned to show or accept love or respect. (e.g. If you love me, then… If you respect me, then…) When what I have internalized as respect or love or even basic civility doesn't match up with the rules someone else has for those things, it generates conflict. Given that he doesn't make any value judgements about any given set of rules, it may all come across as a bit postmodern, but if your focus is on understanding the conflict, it doesn't actually matter who's right, if there is even a "right" in a given situation. (Humans have a knack for finding conflict in the most meaningless of places.)

So, for the exercise of the day, he asks the listener to three questions that are roughly:

  1. What's most important to me in life?
  2. What are the emotions I'd do almost anything to avoid?
  3. What has to happen for me to feel the positive things in life?
He wants the answers to one and two ranked and checked for incompatibilities to be addressed in more detail later.

I had a to actually think for some time about what my answers were, and I came to realize that I'm not actually that certain as to what is important to me, other than a few very basic things.

  1. Stability
  2. Productivity
  3. Personal Growth
  4. The ability to help others
I know "productivity" is a vague noun, but it's the best I can manage in English for what I actually mean. Imagine the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a chapter in a challenging book or finally clearing your to-do list or making 110% rate while working at a place like Amazon or doing in a few days a job that would normally take a team of people a week! That's what I strive for in life harder than anything other than maintaining the consistency and stability of the strange patterns that make up my life.

Their are a thousand other things I could have put on the list — love, a little bit of structured adventure, music, but those are the ones I kept coming back to time and time again, that seemed to ultimately encompass the rest of my desires.

The second list was somewhat more challenging, because I don't have words for what I fear the most. The closest I can come is "uncertainty," but that isn't quite right. I'm not fundamentally bothered by the unknown or the unpredictable as such, but I am bothered by avoidable uncertainty — things that are only uncertain because I couldn't find the right answers to my questions or the right way to prepare for what I had to face. This is what kept me from working a normal job for most of my life; my lack of work experience made me terrified of normal work, because no one had ever written a manual for how to have a boring job. (Then I found Amazon. If you've ever worked in an Amazon FC, then you know what I mean, despite the fact that I find the place deeply amusing.)
  1. Uncertainty
  2. Wastefulness
  3. Failing others
  4. Needless change
As for the last question… "What has to happen for me to feel the positive things in life?" I don't know that I actually know the answer to it yet, but as is the nature of this program, I'm going to try and step out on a limb and write one out. I may look back on it and find it to be the most inane thing I've ever said, or I could be dead on. Only time will tell.

For me to feel the positive things in life, I need a stable base from which I can achieve quantifiable productivity in all areas of my life and feed my personal growth, mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially, so that I can be more ably to help those around me while avoiding uncertainty.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Day Six — Journaling

Photo by Scott McLeod Some Rights Reserved
Day six was about the power of focus, as in what we focus on and how it shapes our perspective on the reality we experience. To steal one of the examples, I want you to take just a few seconds to look around you at everything that's brown. I'll give you a moment to do that, and to fill the time, here is an unrelated but cute image.
Photo by Matthew Donovan Some Rights Reserved
Now, I want you to close your eyes and try to name everything around you that's blue. That's not what you were expecting me to ask, now way it? Also, if you actually try that, you'll notice that it's probably very hard to think of anything but the brown things that you were focused on when you looked around. That's how we often go through life — focused on the brown crap around us instead of the blues and greens and other lovely colors and life that makes it worth living.

So, how do you change what you're focused on? Simple… Ask yourself the right questions. That's the short of the entire tape from yesterday. That's why the exercise for the day was to come up with five personalized questions that help bring focus to the things that make life worth living and provide a positive, driving force throughout the day.

  • What am I grateful for?
  • How can I make today exciting?
  • Who do I truly love?
  • How can I help someone today?
  • What do I want to learn more about today?
Some of these are more helpful at setting up a mental state than others, but they seem like they should work for me, at least for now. The rest of the assignment was to ask myself these personal questions every morning and provide at least two answers to each for the rest of the time I'm working through the tape series. Given what I know about how long it takes to form a habit, it should become habitual to think about these things first thing every morning, if I actually remember to do it every day for the rest of the series. I guess we'll see how that works out.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Day Five — Journaling

I should have written about day five on Thursday, but I wanted to try the second half of the exercise before I commented on it. It called for attempting to note the differences in posture and affectation that accompanied different emotional states, in particular negative ones like depression or apathy and positive ones like focus and power and passion, and then to talk with someone about two things, one that you normally feel passionately about and one that you normally feel apathetic about, but to switch the expressed emotion and note the effects. With my experience in theater, I knew what to expect, but I wanted to actually go and do it anyway. The results were notable, because I even started to lose interest in the subject when I was actively trying to be apathetic. I think I know where this is going, but I won't know until later.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Day Four — Journaling

Photo by Courtney Some Rights Reserved

The core concept behind the entire program is that change comes from a simple, three-step process of first getting leverage — i.e. the reasons some thing must change and must change now, interrupting the patterns that exist, and forming a new association that reinforces the desired pattern of behavior. So, in this set of assignments, I'm supposed to work on doing those three things with the four things from day two. In retrospect, I may have made it a bit too easy on myself, because one of them was a simple "take action now" thing. (I have since made an appointment with a dermatologist.) However, one that should have been even more simple, switching back to a stability ball instead of a chair, still hasn't happened. So, with the remaining three from that list…

  1. Fixing my diet
  2. Returning to a stability ball instead of a chair
  3. Quitting smoking
10 reasons I must fix my diet now:
  1. My body is falling apart, and the only way to change that is to fix what I eat.
  2. I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
  3. If I were eating right, I could be a more positive influence on the people in my life I care about.
  4. Ultimately, eating right will cost less money than continuing to overeat and to eat junk.
  5. If I don't fix my diet and lose the weight I need to, it will be a great deal more difficult to ever find a relationship.
  6. If I do fix my diet and lose the weight, I can buy clothes from normal stores for the first time in almost twenty years.
  7. With the extra energy that a proper diet would give me, I might actually be able to commit to an exercise program that would change the rest of my body's problems for the better.
  8. Eating right means that I get to have one less thing that my doctors hassle me about.
  9. Normal-sized clothes cost less, especially when they are custom tailored.
  10. My shoes would wear out even less quickly, were I to weigh less.
10 reasons I must return to a ball instead of a chair now:
  1. My back problems continue to get worse, and this would help that.
  2. My knee problems continue to get worse, and this would help with that as well.
  3. I feel better when I sit with proper posture.
  4. The increased strength in my core stabilizer muscles would help prevent injuries at work.
  5. My chair is too broken, so I risk knocking things over whenever I stand up; a stability ball does not have that problem.
  6. Sitting on a ball, I can bounce along to the music while listening to my new cassette collection.
  7. Having the ball handy would encourage me to do at least some Yoga before bed each night.
  8. It's much easier to sweep and mop around a stability ball than it is a chair.
  9. I could give my chair to someone who needs a desk chair.
  10. Stability balls are so much cooler than chairs.
10 reasons I must quit smoking now:
  1. My lungs aren't getting any better as long as I keep smoking.
  2. I would have considerably more money to spend on other things that I enjoy more.
  3. I wouldn't ever have to worry about running out of cigarettes at work again.
  4. I wouldn't feel compelled to leave the house at odd hours of the night just to make sure I had enough cigarettes for when I woke up the next morning.
  5. If I don't change, I will continue to ruin shirts and upholstery.
  6. So long as I keep smoking, I'll never be able to convince the people in my life that I care about to stop.
  7. If I quit now, I can take pride in having conquered something technically more addictive than heroine.
  8. Quitting smoking means I never have to miss out on part of dinner with friends, because I had to step out for a cigarette.
  9. Quitting smoking means never having to ask if someone is a smoker or not when considering a relationship.
  10. Not smoking means my sense of smell should return to a more normal state in a few months.
I'm supposed to work out four or five ways to interrupt the existing patterns that I want to change. Given that one of the items from the previous exercise is more of an "I just need to get off my butt and do it" king of thing, I'm going to ignore that one for this part.

Ways to interrupt bad eating associations:
  • When I'm about to eat something outside of a meal, I make myself drink a glass of water first.
  • When I'm about to eat for emotional reasons, I remind myself that whatever I'm eating to feel better about isn't as bad as I feel from not eating the way I know I should
  • I can fix lunches for work, so that I'd be wasting food if I were to not eat them.
Ways to interrupt smoking:
  • When I'm about to light a cigarette, I can remind myself that I'm literally burning money.
  • Between drags on a cigarette, I make myself cough.
  • Instead of smoking right away, I make myself wait at least a minute while I do something unrelated, like singing the "Alphabet Song" or walking to the other end of the house.
I feel like I'm being insufficiently creative with my pattern-interrupting ideas, but I suspect that will get easier with practice.

The last part of the assignment is to form a new, positive association, such as going out to a restaurant with friends and choosing consciously to not eat anything while there or to go and do something that would normally involve smoking and actively avoid smoking while doing it. I'll need to follow-up with how that works out.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Day Three — Journaling

Today's session discussed the power of associations in effecting human behavior in both positive and negative ways and the impact that repeated exposure to associations, such as in advertising, can have on long-term behavior.

Today's assignment is simply to list three associations that have had significant, positive, and empowering effects in my life and three that have had significant, negative, and disempowering effects in my life.

Positive Associations:

  1. Learning is good for its own sake.
  2. Giving to others is its own reward.
  3. Helping others through pain brings self-healing.
Negative Associations:
  1. Food is life.
  2. Water is what poor people drink, especially tap water, because tap water is disgusting.
  3. Exercise is painful.
They may be slight oversimplifications, but I think that covers the basic idea of this exercise. If nothing else, it has made me think about what associations I have that are driving my actions to this day.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Day Two — Journaling

Theater Masks
Photo by Garry Knight Some Rights Reserved

Todays assignment is to list four actions that I've been putting off that I need to do. It's a lot like yesterday, but now I'm supposed to include what pain I've associated with it that has kept me from doing the thing that I need to do. Then, I have to express what pleasure I have gained from putting these things off. Next, I get to work out what the cost of continuing to put off each of the choices I should be making. Finally, I'm supposed to work out what I gain by taking these actions.

In summary, each of the four items should contain:

  • Decision that I've been putting off
  • The pain that has kept me from taking aciton
  • The pleasure I've gained from not taking action
  • The cost of continuing inaction
  • The gains from taking action now

For the first part, here are my four procrastinations:

  1. Fixing my diet
  2. Returning to a stability ball instead of a chair
  3. Seeing a dermatologist
  4. Quitting smoking
Now, the pain that keeps me from doing something:
  1. To fix my diet, I need to spend time and effort and money on preparing better and more balanced meals, and I might have several unpleasant days at work while I attempt to find something healthy that will provide enough nutrition to get me through the day at work.
  2. To return to using a stability ball instead of a chair at my desk, I need to clean my stability ball, re-inflate it, and alter the layout of my room slightly. Also, I know that it's more effort to sit on a ball than a chair, particularly for the first few weeks.
  3. To see a dermatologist, I have to first find one in-network with my insurance and go through the often lengthy process of setting up and having a new-patient appointment.
  4. I know that if I quit smoking, I'll face a period of time in which I really don't have the ability to deal with people in the ways that I'm compelled to each week. Also, I'll face more frequent and stronger cravings for food that I know I don't need to eat.
The pleasure I've gained from inaction:
  1. I get to eat food that I like that doesn't require as much effort to prepare or cost to procure. I know that McDonald's will be almost exactly the same every day, no matter how I feel, so the quality of my diet isn't dependent on my abilities.
  2. I have a place to sit that requires no physical effort when I'm exhausted, and I have a place to put things that accumulate on my bed when I'm ready to turn in for the night. I also get to change from my computer to my MIDI keyboard by simply rotating.
  3. I don't have face my insurance's provider listing web interface, and I don't have to deal with trying to pick a good doctor from a list of random providers.
  4. I enjoy menthol, perhaps even more than any other aspect of the cigarettes. I also enjoy the social interaction that smoking makes possible. It gives me an excuse to talk to and interact with people I would otherwise have never known. Some of my most important friendships at work are the direct result of the time I spent in the smoking area.
The cost of continued inaction:
  1. My digestive issues and weight are never resolved. I continue to have worsening knee problems. I don't like the way my body looks or works. I never get off my blood pressure meds. I never resolve my sleep issues. I continue to feel like crap when I know I shouldn't, because I ate junk.
  2. My back and knee problems continue to worsen, along with my posture. I continue accumulating junk in my bedroom that instead of getting dealt with appropriately just gets shuttled back and forth between the bed and the chair several times a day.
  3. I never find out if any of my new freckles are actually something to worry about, and I do not have a baseline skin survey to provide a reference for future changes in my skin's condition. I also never get anything meaningful done about my acne.
  4. My respiratory issues worsen, and I find myself unable to work even a moderately-demanding job. I could also eventually develop anosmia or lung cancer.
The gains from taking action now:
  1. I feel better. I lose weight. I stop feeling so sick and tired so much of the time. I may eventually be able to get off my blood pressure meds.
  2. My back will thank me in a few weeks, and my room will be much easier to sweep and mop.
  3. I get answers, and I can begin to establish a medical history for my skin that will benefit me as I continue to age — especially with my family history of skin cancer.
  4. I can breath better. I can attract better room mates. I can better care for my collectables. My doctors stop harassing me about it. I can encourage a positive change in the friends around me who still smoke.
That simple exercise lead to a lot more thinking and writing than I would have expected up front. I also now really want to get up, go find my ball, and swap it for my chair before I go much further with my day. Then, I'm going to look for a dermatologist. The other two may take some time, but I know they are both things I need to act on sooner rather than later, especially with the new perspective this has given me.

Maybe their is something to this after all?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Day One — Journaling

One of the key features of the program seems to be practicing journaling, including an exercise from each tape that's supposed to be worked through in the journal each day. The first one is to make two decisions that will immediately generate a benefit in your life. Since I'm a person with little in the way of personal space, I might as well do the exercises in public. The hard part for me with this one is picking two things; I feel like I have too many options for things that need to be done that I've been putting off. Since he said to keep it simple though, I'll try to settle on two things that I can do right now.

  1. Take my fiber supplements every day as I should be, despite the fact that it tastes like rancid orange juice. (And possibly find a better source of unflavored psyllium husk fiber in the future.)
  2. I'm going to share my successes and failures publicly, because I know that even if I'm shouting into the Void of the Internet, someone out there might hear me and learn from my experiences. Therefore, the chance that my actions may motivate someone else will be a better motivation than even my own betterment to continue through this program.
Since he suggested decisions that could be taken now, I've begun by writing this journal entry publicly. Now, I'm going to go drink a big glass of knock off Metamucil.

Goodwill Power!

Anthony Robbins Personal Power II: The Driving Force
For those of you who don't know, Tony Robbins is an author and motivational speaker known for his self-help books and other products. If you visit the store on his website, you'll note that they all seem a bit expensive. However, I grew up seeing him on QVC, listening to callers sharing how his material changed their lives — they quit smoking and drinking and fixed their relationship issues and got amazing careers that actually motivated them do achieve meaningful success in life (not to mention huge incomes). Even as a child, I was curious as to just how much of those testimonials genuine, but I couldn't bring myself to even attempt to get my family to shell out the hundreds of dollars, especially in 1990's money, to buy a set of his tapes. Now, for only $2.99, thanks to the miracle of thrift stores, I have a copy of "Personal Power II: The Driving Force," from way back when he was still Anthony Robbins. I figure, "What do I have to lose?" Here's to listening to tape one….

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sickness and Frustration

It has been nearly a week since I woke up with what seemed like just another sinus infection, or if I were lucky, allergies. I should have gone to the doctor then, but I worked. I even went in Friday, despite having a fever when I woke up. All this, I did because I have trouble admitting when I'm actually sick enough to do something about it and because I have so much trouble changing my habits. I have to suspect there were I to have listened to my symptoms sooner, I would at least be better than I am now. Instead, I my sinuses are still dripping. My ears are so stopped up it feels as if I have earplugs in and my own voice sounds to me as though I were yelling through a kazoo. As if that weren't enough, I'm having episodes of severe vertigo when I stand for more than a few minutes, especially after I have a coughing fit. Take from this that you should listen to what your body is trying to tell you and see a doctor as soon as you think you're getting sick, especially if you have good insurance as I do. Don't put it off, or you'll probably pay the price for it sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

OK Go - Upside Down & Inside Out

This is perhaps my the most amazing video I've seen them do yet! I don't know how I haven't seen it before, but it's definitely worth watching. I would have loved to be a there for the production planning meetings where they worked out how to do this with the intervals of relative weightlessness available on a plane flying in parabolas. For more information about how this works and some other interesting things that are possible thangs to planes doing crazy things, you can check out these videos from Veritassium and Physicsgirl here and here respectively.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Musical performance on a squeaky toilet flush valve

This is what happens when music majors accidentally take one too many classes in Philosophy.

Feed Automation

In the past, I had my blog posts auto-shared to Twitter using a service that no longer exists. I decided it might be worth finding a replacement. The one I'm trying at the moment is called dlvr.it. It supports up to three social media services in its free plan, so I should be more than fine with that; I currently have it connected with my Twitter, Google+, and Facebook accounts. My only complaint is that I cannot tell it to shorten links with my own Bit.ly API key, so I can see analytics for clickthrough. Although, given the relatively-limited amount of traffic that this blog tends to generate at the moment, that's not really a big thing for now. If I do manage to find the motivation to write more here, then perhaps the increase in traffic will make it worth finding a better solution to this in the future.


I rarely post anything here anymore, especially over the last few years, but I still get page views, including odd bumps from France and Russia at times, as you can see in the image below. I wish I had a better idea of what I was doing that was causing the traffic, but nothing seems to fit a pattern. Maybe it's time I started posting more? Although, I've said that many times with little result.