Lessons From Having My Car Broken Into

I got back to my desk around 12:30 from lunch and started working. My colleague, Kurt, mentioned that he just went down to the garage to check to see if his car was broken into. Hmm… I thought, “that’s something odd to say.” I asked Kurt what he was talking about, and he mentioned that an email went out that said there were some cars in the garage that got broken into.

In a panic, I opened my email, and saw that listed among the cars that got broken into was a silver Honda Accord on the lobby level. That was my car. I wouldn’t normally be too worried because I don’t keep anything valuable in my car, but on that day I happened to forget my wallet in the center console of the car. My wallet had all my credit cards and ID of course. A pain to deal with when lost as everyone knows.

I go down to my car, and sure enough the window is broken, but my car is still locked and it doesn’t look like the thief made it into my car. I run around to the passenger side, open the door and then the center console and see that my wallet is still there and filled with all my stuff.

After counting my blessings, it was time to practice some wisdom that I learned over the years from having crimes committed against you. First step is to always leave the crime scene alone, because… you just never know. That’s why I ran to my passenger side door instead of opening the driver’s side that was broken, and the only reason why I went into my car in the first place is because it looked like it wasn’t gone through. Next step is to call the police and to fill out a police report.

Police are extremely helpful in these situations, at least the good police are. Police want to catch bad guys, and they can only do that with the data that’s collected. Government and police resources are diverted to what’s needed and they make those decisions based on data. Contributing to the data is important. Always get a police report. This also benefits you. If you need a police report for insurance or to prove anything in the future. Get the report number or the case number and the name of the officer that took it and keep it for your records.

I also think it’s a great idea to call your insurance. Even if you think your insurance will not help you, you should call because they may give useful information or advice. I knew my coverage with Geico wouldn’t cover my damage, but I filed a claim anyways and they ended up referring me to a recommended and warrantied glass repair company with a discount and it turned out to be half the price of any other quote I got. There’s also the added benefit of covering your ass again in case something else happens as a result of the accident. Imagine someone asking you in the near future “well why didn’t you file a claim with your insurance?”

I once got my motorcycle stolen and waited a month to report it because of some mis-understanding I had. That delay really messed things up and let bad guys commit even more crimes. When I got around to reporting my motorcycle stolen a month later, my motorcycle had been registered under someone else’s name using a fake title.

So when something bad like this happens, time is of the essence. Report it stolen and file a claim immediately after you know what happened, and believe it or not bureaucracy will slowly go to work to help and protect you and others.

“Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.” – Seneca

Having your car window broken is not close to the worst of tragedies one will experience in his lifetime, but we know people who have had sleepless nights over less.

It’s easy to think we have a lot more control of our luck than we do in modern society. The truth is we’re still living in the world and we will encounter bad things and people. Expect bad things to happen, and be prepared for what you will do when it does.

Why I’m Taking a Beginner’s Biking Class

I just finished my last beginner’s biking class this week. The class is part of a 1 day a week, 3 week course for beginner bikers. Each class is 3 hours long. When I told a friend yesterday that I was taking a beginner’s biking class, he laughed and then looked puzzled. He was wondering why I hadn’t learned how to ride a bike by now.

I signed up for the class at first because my girlfriend wanted to do it, so I thought it would be a good time for us to hang out. It was also conveniently located near home. My last thought, but probably the best was that it would be a good mental practice. This is why.

You may have heard the term “beginner’s mind.” You’ll usually hear it from some zen’d out source. The term points to the perspective of looking at things as if it’s your first seeing them. Like a child seeing, or learning something for the first time. The goal is to have no pre-judgements or opinions.

Beginner’s mind is the mental practice I’m talking about. I probably have many opinions on bike riding that I’ve accumulated over the years. Obvious ones would be: what bikes look good, and I look dumb in this helmet. But also opinions that I don’t even notice that are preventing me from riding at my best.

Biking is a perfect subject to practice beginner’s mind because it’s deep in our culture that everyone just knows how to do it properly. You’ve heard the phrase “like riding a bike.” Because people think they know how to do it and once you learn, you never forget. That’s why people will look at you strangely when you say that you’re taking a beginner’s bike class. They probably didn’t know that such a class existed.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to ride a bike. By taking this class, I have to get back to basics and basically pretend that I don’t know how to ride. I have to take all the instructors guidance and do exactly what he says even though I may think it’s easy or not even worth practicing. I’m taking this class with students who aren’t as good at biking as I am. I’m probably the best biker in the class. A non-beginner’s mind would probably take a little pride in being the best. A beginner’s mind probably doesn’t really care where his status is in the class and just wants to learn some useful things.

From what I’ve read about the best professional athletes, they’re always practicing the basics. Tiger Woods rebuilding his golf swing from scratch, Kobe practicing his free throws, Weight lifters practicing plain air squats. But how often do we do this in our daily lives? If you’re a web developer, how often do you practice computer science fundamentals, or practice setting up projects from scratch?

This can be applied to any career or any hobby. We have a tendency to jump to complex or more advanced stuff because it looks more fun, but practicing the fundamentals gives us the strong base of skills, muscle memory and confidence to launch into the more advanced.

View from the summit of Little Si in North Bend, Washington. Going to start posting more frequently. Really feeling the urge to write. If you care, shoot me a message and tell me what you’re interested in.

I Stopped Washing My Face – Questioning Habits and Routines

A quick history about my face: When I was in middle school I started getting acne. I thought that my acne was pretty bad. I remember it being a pain to the point of taking prescription medication to get rid of it. Throughout those years in puberty, I had a strict regimen of washing with special acne soaps, face sponges and putting on creams. This happened every morning when I woke up and every evening when I got home.

As the acne retreated over the years my regimen stayed pretty much the same but less extreme. I would still wash my face with special face wash, but I wouldn’t put on any more cream because there wasn’t really any acne to attack with it. I got a pimple every once in awhile, but acne was pretty much gone. I still kept to the routine though.

Then I started noticing that the best my skin looked was when I was outside and active a lot like when I was on camping trips or at Burning Man for some weird reason. During these times, I was either not washing my face at all or just splashing some water on it. These occurrences started to break my long held beliefs about washing my face, so I did an experiment. I decided that I wouldn’t wash my face for a month.

What happened? Absolutely nothing. Actually maybe one thing, I think the face on my skin actually looks healthier than when I was washing it two times a day. I think I have had less acne breakouts this month. And after realizing that I won’t need special face washing products anymore, I’ll probably save hundreds if not thousands of dollars over my lifetime. I’ll also save the time, I was spending washing my face.

I would say that this has been a great month long experiment and worth it. I basically didn’t have to do anything to try it, I only had to stop doing things. What other habits or routines, could you stop doing to make your life better? We always try to add things on top of our lives, but I think it’s more rare to stop doing things. Or what other habits or routines do you do automatically, and haven’t questioned the purpose of them?

Picture is my favorite food truck in Seattle for cheat days, Nosh. Try the fish and chips.

Thoughts On Holiday Traditions

It’s the Fourth of July today in America. I have the day off from work, but I’m starting my day just like I was going to work albeit a little later in the morning and a little slower than usual. In the past I would probably have plans to hang out with family at a BBQ and see fireworks later in the night. I think a lot of my beliefs around holidays and customs has changed greatly recently, so let’s talk about it.

I don’t care about seeing fireworks. When I think about going out of my way to see fireworks, this is what I think about. I’m going to have to battle crowds and traffic to see some lights in the sky, then I’m going to have to battle traffic again to get home. I’ll get home late and fuck up my sleep schedule for the rest of the week. I’ll set myself back on building my habit of waking up at 5am, and that can jeopardize my gym, writing and learning routines that I have in place. My reward for fucking up the good habits that I want to build are to see some fireworks. The best part is that I’ve seen so many fireworks in the past, I can predict to 99% accuracy what it’s going to be like to see these fireworks. I know exactly what they’re going to look like and I know exactly what it’s going to feel like to see them. Unless I’m seeing brand new mind blowing fireworks technology, I doubt seeing another fireworks show is going to add a ton of value to my life. I think I just used the word firework more times in this paragraph, than I have in my entire life.

What I’ve never experienced though is what it’s like to wake up at 5am everyday, write every morning before work, and be an expert in the software I use everyday in my career. The rewards for the time invested in these activities seem limitless to me.

I don’t feel the need to re-create all the experiences that I’ve been doing over and over again through my life. I don’t care about eating a specific meal on Thanksgiving. I don’t care about waking up in my mom’s house on Christmas morning to open presents. I think most people keep traditions like this just because there’s so much momentum behind them. They don’t see that there’s a universe of possibilities to choose from instead of what they’ve been doing.

Spending time and having a relationship with my mom is important to me. I call her frequently just to talk and say, “what’s up mom.” This doesn’t all the sudden mean that I have to fly to her house on Christmas or Thanksgiving. In reality my mom and I may have a more meaningful talk on the phone every week than trying and talk during these busy times of the year.

It’s fourth of July, and I’m going to do what is important to me. I’m going to maintain my habits, but I’m also going to have a bit of fun. I don’t feel a need to do anything specific because of this day. This is not to say I’ll never see go to a BBQ or see Fireworks again on Fourth of July, I just think more about what I want to do and what’s possible. I also consider the repercussions of my choices at a much deeper level.

Relaxing Into Work

A few months ago, I was tasked with programming a widget on a client’s website. I was given the scope of the project, and it seemed very reasonable for the estimated time, but I would have to work full time on this one project to meet the deadline It was going to be a lot of work, but I didn’t stress.

I got comfortable and started coding. When the deadline approached, I had a version working as planned, but there was a mistake. I was given the wrong requirements for the project, and I ended up making something the client was not looking for. How embarrassing.

Was it my fault? No it wasn’t, but it was still my responsibility to deliver a working product. I got the correct requirements and started working again. This time the project was 10 times more complicated and still under the same deadline. Still no stress. Just kept plugging away, task by task and communicating with the project manager about my progress and any blocks I came across.

Here’s my point in telling you this slightly boring anticlimactic story.

Most people equate hard, mind bending work, or physical labor as stress. Especially if you don’t know how to do the task. If it’s difficult mentally or physically you start to imagine all the stress of trying to get the thing done. You can imagine your boss or co-workers wondering what’s taking you so long and ultimately you not being able to deliver a finished product or delivering something that’s crap.

Stress doesn’t have to be the norm for difficult work. Hard work can be relaxing. Focusing on a single task removes all other distractions going on. If you can focus all your energy, tasks become easier. Now I’ll show you how I’ve been able to relax into work.

Often I would find myself in an uncomfortable position when working. We’ve all experienced this. When you’re trying to fix something, and you’re hunched over. You’re working on something while kneeling on concrete, and you knee caps feel like they’re going to explode. Or you’re trying to work on something during the hottest time of the day with no shade and you’re sweating uncontrollably. These are all examples of an uncomfortable work position. Before you begin a hard task for fuck sake, get comfortable. Bring your own shade, or knee pads, buy the right tools to make the work easier. Whatever it takes to feel comfortable doing your job, do that. Your stress and frustration will dissipate.

In an office environment, this is harder to figure out. It can be something as simple as your keyboard, mouse, desk and chair aren’t comfortable. It can also be less obvious in that it feels uncomfortable to ask for your co-workers help on something or you’ll have to communicate a problem that came up and you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. These are more mental problems, and to enjoy a comfortable work environment you must root these out.

This is how hard work can be relaxing. Whatever shit storm is happening outside of work disappears in the presence of intense focus. I work with really kind and smart people, and it feels like I have a support team behind me, ready to back me up when I need them, and I’d return the favor anytime. I communicate  with them so that they know where I’m at on a task, and we’re all on the same page. This makes my work environment comfortable and it makes work relaxing.

I went looking at a house for sale today and this RV was in the front yard.

Learning How To Sleep Well

I’ve always felt like I was a bad sleeper. I would struggle to fall asleep and wake up. Sometimes I would spend hours laying in bed trying to fall asleep. Often, I would just starting to fall sleep when my alarm would turn on in the morning.

I thought this was normal until I met my girlfriend. It takes her 5 seconds to sleep like the dead. I can describe my feeble attempts at sleep as somewhere between hoping for sleep and pretending to sleep.

This bad sleep was counterproductive towards my long time goal of being an early riser. I could never wake early unless I was ripped out of bed by some obligation. This past week I’ve experienced the best sleep of my life, and I’m also waking up early without an alarm.

I’ve only made two big changes. My first change was regulating the time I went to bed. Before, when I tried to wake up early, I would set the time on my alarm that I wanted to wake up, and when the alarm turned on, I would try to force myself to wake up. It turns out I have no willpower in that situation, so it never worked. Regulating the time you go to bed is much easier. If I want to wake up at 5am, I go to sleep at least 8 hours earlier.

At first, It feels weird to go to bed that early. It’s summer in Seattle, and I’m getting ready for bed between 8 and 9pm and it’s broad daylight outside. It helped to give myself a little wiggle room to get started. I don’t force myself to be asleep by 9pm, but I do force myself to be in the bed. I’ll usually read for a little before lights out.

Regulating the going to sleep time helped me not feel like shit in the morning. It was a huge breakthrough. If you consistently sleep at the same time, I’ll eventually be able to take off the safety net of the alarm clock and wake up naturally for the first time. Try going to sleep 9 hours before you want to wake up instead of 8. If you wake up early, do something productive with the extra hour in the morning. I learned that last tip from Tynan’s book, Superhuman by Habit.

About a month after starting this routine, I bought an eye mask. The first night I wore it, was the fastest I’ve fallen asleep minues the times when I’ve been completely exhausted. In under 5 minutes of putting on the eye mask, I was asleep. As I mentioned earlier, it’s summer in Washington, and going to sleep early means that you’re sleeping when it’s still sunny outside. I don’t have blackout curtains, so the eye mask blocks all light. Even when it’s not summer, there are lights outside that will creep in. I never realized how much the light can affect your sleep, until I used the eye mask. For a $10 investment, it’s already been worth it, and I’ve only had it for a week.

Next, I’m going to try ear plugs. My home doesn’t seem to be very noisy, but I think it’s worth a try anyways. At this point, I don’t know how much better sleep can get, but from my experience, it’s worth the investment to find out.

Today I woke up at 4:30am without an alarm. I feel awake and well rested. I may keep this post updated with my sleep habits, so I and anyone else can look at one page for all the updates over time.

The picture is the center of a sugar kiss melon. It was the most delicious and juicy melon. On every bite, juice squirt out all over my kitchen counter.

Not Helping or Giving Advice so Much

I love helping people. Especially people who bring up very similar problems that I’ve had and have been able to solve. This kind of help mainly involves getting rid of bad habits or some other mental exercise. I’m not talking about helping a friend move furniture.

I may have a recipe for you that I’ve thought about and thoroughly tested over months if not years and if you apply it, I think it may work for you as well.

From many times of applying this though, my conclusion is that being excited about helping people is a problem that I have.

Many times, when I start helping someone they become uncomfortable and resist what I say. Often they become angry. This is especially true of people whom I have closer relationships with like my family and girlfriend.

I’ve done A/B testing between delivering the type of help described, and just listening. I’ve found that life is better for me and them when I just listen.

I used to hang out with a group of friends. We were a group of entrepreneurs who were excited about solving our problems. We loved learning new ideas and applying them to see what worked. I love that atmosphere, and now I realize how rare those types of relationships are. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in an environment like that, so I think I may be craving it, and I’m trying to force it onto other relationships.

I think a good way to solve this problem for me is to retrain myself to act appropriately around the people who just want to be heard, and the people who want tips and advice to take action. It’s probably a skill on its own to determine who is who, but observing how people respond is the first step.

I think it’s worth building a network of people who you can have a variety of relationships with. I don’t think one type will fill all your desires. This is a narrow example that can be applied to many situations. For this one an example could be to have a group of friends that are ambitious and thrive on feedback, ideas and taking action and another group could be my family whom want someone to listen and have conversations with.

P.S. If you’re into self development at all, you’ve heard this advice about not giving advice many times, and so have I. However, it’s a lot different to encounter it in the real world.

Image is the clock when I woke up to edit this post. I couldn’t sleep, so I woke up and started working.

How I Switched From Goals to Process

In my early twenties, I would read countless books, articles and tips on goal setting. I was ambitious, and I wanted to be a millionaire before I was 30. That was one of my goals. At that age, I thought the reason no one ever achieved their dreams was because they didn’t set their goals high enough. They just weren’t ambitious enough and didn’t follow through on their plans.

These beliefs lead to a lot of failure, and I’ve learned a few things like to never start a goal, without parameters or scope. That’s a fancy way of saying to think a little before setting out on a goal. I think this belief will lead you down a path of believing that it’s ok to achieve a goal at all costs.

Imagine a mountaineer. If summiting a mountain is the ultimate goal, then you’re willing to die despite enjoying life. I did something similar but less extreme with a few friends. Our goal was to summit Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. We got to the base of the dome past the cut-off time to make it back safely before sunset. The question of turning back didn’t even come into question even though it was at the back of my mind, so we continued. I may write about the whole story at some point, but to get to the point, we encountered a few complications, and ended up having to hike back at night with no lights, an injured friend and no more supplies like food or water.

At the time, I was more than satisfied because we accomplished our goal. It was miserable and there was an increased chance of serious injury or death for everyone, but that didn’t matter much for me or it was something I didn’t even think about. At the time it felt like a success, but looking at it now, it was a reckless disaster.

I now focus on process. You can also call them habits. Process for me is the small daily habits that may someday bring you to your lofty goal. Instead of looking at my goal, I focus on executing my process. For example, if I had a goal of getting stronger, my process is to lift weights everyday.

It’s easy to set a big goal and think it’s going to happen just because of your will power. Process is the gritty consistent work. It’s pulling out a map and figuring out the best way to get to the top of the mountain. Or calling a friend because he climbed it last weekend and you should ask him about it. Or making a checklist of supplies and packing them. This is what takes most of the time and effort. The feeling of being on the top of the mountain lasts 5 seconds, but it’s built on top of all the small details that had to happen before. If you don’t try to rush through these details, you may even discover that the goal is not worth your time and effort or the path you’re planning on taking is wrong.

The picture is Nike park in Redmond, Washington. I love how the park is surrounded by these huge trees. They make you feel like you’re far from the city.

Witnessing My Grandfather’s Death

enchanted valley trail

The day my grandpa died was a beautiful, summer day. He had been at my Grandma’s house for a few weeks on his death bed going in and out of consciousness. The doctors gave him a couple of months to live when they sent him home from the hospital.

When I walked into his room he looked a lot worse than any other day. The nurse gave him morphine from an oral syringe, and a few minutes later we realized he had stopped breathing. It was the first time I had witnessed someone die.

I didn’t think my grandpa would die right in front of me, but I was prepared for his death. The family knew his health had been declining and there was not going to be a recovery. When you’re late in age and need rare and in demand parts like kidneys and hearts, you don’t get them.

I’m not the type of person you would call emotional. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried, so it wasn’t surprising when I didn’t feel like crying or too sad when I watched my grandpa die. I felt sad seeing my Grandma cry, but that was more empathy than my own sadness.

Shortly after he died, my Grandma asked me to call family to tell them. This was an unexpected task that I was not prepared for. I have been told throughout my life that people have died, but I have never been the teller. This seems to be the responsibility thrust upon the witness of a death, especially if you’re friend or family.

My entire life I’ve avoided overly emotional scenarios like death and sadness. I was scared to experience grief from people, and I was scared that I may catch it like the flu. Being around my grandpa during this time had been a way to face my own fears surrounding death. I usually run away from it. This time I would be part of it, and see what came from a closer proximity. After all, this type of experience is part of life, and if you want to live a full life, you cannot continue to be apart from death.

The first person I called was my mother, my Grandpa’s daughter. This should have been ok because my mom isn’t emotional either. The phone is ringing and she picks up. I say hello, and I can already feel my lips starting to quiver, my throat is getting tight and my voice is cracking. I decide to skip all niceties, because this information needs to be transmitted before I lose control. I open my mouth to deliver the news, and I physically cannot create words. I have never experienced anything like this. My vocal cords are paralyzed. The closest feeling I can think of is the feeling of getting the air knocked out of you, and you can’t take a breath no matter how hard you try.

My mind couldn’t keep the emotions under control and deliver words at the same time. Getting the words out felt like breaking through an unseen barrier, and I wasn’t going to be able to breakthrough unscathed. At this point my mom was asking if the line had dropped. I gathered myself for a second attempt and I forced the words to come and with them came a sudden outpouring of tears and uncontrollable crying. She could barely understand what I was saying over the sobbing.

She said she was on her way over and I hung up the phone. Immediately after closing the conversation, I was back to normal like the conversation hadn’t happened. I thought I was good. Then I called my uncle, and the same thing happened all over again. This was my first experience being close to death and accepting the emotions around it.

The picture is from the hike to Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park. The trail is beautiful, and I’m still sore from the 30 mile hike 2 weeks later.

Choosing What To Do Next

Enchanted Valley

This past year and a half has been a massive push in one direction only. I’ve spent most of my working time practicing my programming skills and looking for full time employment as a professional programmer. The process started in January 2016. If you want to know how I did it, read my blog post.

Since then, I’ve crossed off all my original goals. My programming isn’t top shelf, but I’m pretty proud of my skills right now and my ability to solve any problem that comes at me and work in a team effectively.

I’ve found the best job that I’ve ever had as an employee. I’m doing challenging work that gets me excited, and the people I work with are nice and smart. The company also treats its employees very well and the communication is excellent. This is the combination that people look for in a good company.

It’s enough to make me believe that any career improvements would be marginal if I keep doing what I’ve been doing. In a more clear way… I think that my quality of life would be improved marginally if I keep doing what I’ve been doing over the past year to get to where I am now. You’d normally call this feeling, reaching a plateau.

I don’t say plateau because it means life feels stagnant. I don’t feel that way yet, but I do feel that the incline is starting to level out. With this in mind, I’m thinking about what to do next, and in this post I’m thinking about how I think about what to do next.

I’m maintaining my work and programming habits that I’ve built up, but not spending 100% of my productive time on them. My body feels tired, so I’ve been resting more. I feels like I’m resting at the top of a mountain and enjoying the view for a minute before continuing the hike.

In my calendar, I’m carving out more free time to do absolutely nothing and just think. Writing on this blog is part of that. I’m also spending more time reading and practicing the fundamentals of a good life. I’m feeling out what catches my eye, holds my attention and gives me bursts of energy. For example the idea of buying real estate captured my attention, so I spent my free time researching it and meeting people in the field.

When I started programming full time, I was at a plateau. Programming captured my attention, and I had the energy to work on it 12 hours a day, so I ran with it. I also try and peer into the future to see how this new “thing” will affect my life in the long term. When I looked at programming, I only saw that it would have a permanent positive addition to my life even if it didn’t turn into a career. As a counter example, if I’m thinking about buying a gaming system (real story), the long term benefit is questionable.

This past year was a dedicated focus on career and programming. I didn’t make much time for travel, friends, family, and learning new topics. I’m thinking about the best ways to start re-opening these parts of my life again. I’m coming at it with a renewed energy and perspective on how to maximize the positive benefits of these parts of my life. I also want to systematize it and create new habits that will benefit me and my friends for a lifetime.

I think this new perspective is the benefit of focusing on programming for a year and a half. A positive benefit that I knew would improve mine and my friends lives even if I didn’t make a career out of programming.

Picture is from the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park. Went on a three day backpacking trip over memorial day weekend. The right most waterfall had a avalanche on the first night getting there. It sounded amazing and was deadly beautiful to watch. It’s a beautiful hike if you’re into backpacking.