Tap My Mind

A Blog by Scott Isaacs

Tag: Personal (Page 1 of 19)

RTLB #6: Some Things Are Hard To Do — Do Them Anyway

This is the sixth in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #6:

Some things are hard to do.  Do them anyway.

There’s a reason why people have the impression that certain things are hard to do: they are.

Somehow I end up committing myself to things that fall into this category.  I feel like I spend a lot of my time doing things I don’t know how to do.  I take satisfaction in doing things that are perceived as hard, or even considered to be impossible.  Things like working a lot of hours to use one type of technology for a purpose that was supposed to be impossible.  Things like running a users group and organizing technology conferences.  Things like training to climb a mountain, and then making it to the top.  Things like sleeping less than 35 hours per week while writing a book.

Yes, I take satisfaction in doing these things that are perceived as hard.  It’s not because I’m special.  In fact, it’s precisely the opposite.  If I do these things, even if I’m not as good at it as other people are, then so can anyone else.  Yes, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something I didn’t think I could do or something you didn’t think I could do.  Even more, though, I have a list of things that I can use as examples and as encouragement to others to do something they didn’t think was possible for them.  When my kids are scared to do something because they don’t want to fall or fail, I have history to encourage them to go for it.

Getting hit by a fast ball hurts, but only for a while.  Standing in the box and hitting a game-winning hit feels awesome, for a long time.

Sometimes technology experts that say something is impossible are wrong.  So if you believe in your idea, try it anyway.

Stepping outside your comfort zone to do a job completely unrelated to what you normally do is overwhelming and confusing.  But if you’re passionate about it, try it anyway.

Losing weight and training like crazy for 3 months in order to pull your still-overweight self up a steep granite slope with your arms, only to realize that the trip back down could literally kill you is pretty scary.  But if it’s on your bucket list, train for it and do it anyway.

Whenever you feel like you aren’t qualified to do something that you believe in and that you’re passionate about, tell the imposter to take a backseat and do it anyway.  You’ve done other hard things before and you will do more hard things in the future.  You may suck, or worse, you may be mediocre.  You may fail.  You may get hurt, emotionally, mentally or physically.  You may realize that your time could have been better spent elsewhere.  Or you may not only reach, but surpass, your highest expectation.

Some things are hard to do.  Do them anyway.  Not only for yourself, but to encourage someone else.

Use the Right Tool

My whole life I’ve heard, “Use the right tool for the job,” and I am a big proponent of that and tell people all the time.  But there are times that something is low-risk, and it’s easier to try to use whatever is on hand than going to get the right tool.  So you take a calculated risk and move on with your life.  Sometimes, though, you’re wrong.  You mess things up with the wrong tool and end up having to try to patch it, taking more time and effort that it would have taken to do it right in the first place.

This especially sucks when the “right tool” is your electric beard trimmer and the “wrong tool” is the safety razor you thought you could use to touch up your moustache.

Math Truck, Math Wiz

Back when I was around 18 or so, I used to have a truck much like this one (65 Chevy).

Mine was very similar but a little different.  Some interesting facts about my truck:

  • Mine had more rust.
  • It appeared to have been painted with house paint.  By brush.
  • After each rain stopped, there was a white rectangle on the ground where some of the paint washed off.  Kind of like a truck-sized chalk outline.
  • The wooden bed had rotted through and about 3/4 of the bed of the truck was covered with plywood.  The remaining 1/4 was open to the ground below.
  • The muffler was held on by a coat hanger until it fell off one day driving down the road.  I dragged it for 1/4 mile before I could stop.  It was too hot to pick up so I had to wait for it to cool.
  • The rear view mirror would not stay attached to the window so I kept in on the seat next to me and held it up when I needed to use it.
  • The defroster did not work, so I kept a “defroster” (a towel) on the seat next to my rear view mirror.
  • The horn only worked if you took the 4″ diameter cover off and shorted a bolt in the center of the steering wheel to a contact a couple inches away.  Fortunately the cover was conductive, so I kept it on the seat next to my defroster and rear view mirror so I could pick it up and use it to short the circuit and beep the horn.
  • The hood was secured with a piece of chain and a padlock.  Otherwise anyone could open the hood from the outside.  Someone did this once and stole my battery.  So I bought chain and a padlock.
  • Only about half of the space under the hood was used.  The rest was just open to the ground.  Just like the bed of the truck.
  • It passed California emissions tests miraculously.
  • Sometimes, you had to slam the door about 20 times to get it to stay closed.
  • It was a manual transmission.  When I got it, it was “3 on the tree”.  Once the clutch went out and I had to drive a few days with no clutch.  I had to start the truck in first gear and be ready to go as soon as I turned the key.  I had to learn to shift without a clutch.  (Believe it or not, this story probably doesn’t make the “Top 10 Ways Scott Should Have Died Before Age 25” list.)  When I finally got it fixed, it was then “3 on the floor” which doesn’t sound as cool.  Also, the old gear shifter was left on the steering column for good measure, even though it didn’t do anything.
I only had the truck for a short time (less than 2 years I think).  As hilarious as this truck was (I’m not doing it justice here), I liked it.
 
In fact, I had plans to restore it.  Well, maybe not plans, but at least a passing desire.  I was pursuing a physics or math degree at the time (I switched from physics to math somewhere along the way), so I wanted to get it painted white and cover it with various equations (∫cos(x) dx = sin(x) + C, e^(iπ) + 1 = 0, etc.).  I wanted to get a vanity license plate that said “MATH TRK”.
 
That was half my life ago.  Literally.  I finally finished my math degree, although I never use it.  I’ve forgotten 10 times more math than most people ever bother to learn.  I gave up on studying physics, although I often regret that choice.  I never got my “Math Truck”.  (I moved on to the Black Pearl, but that’s another story.)
 
No, I never got my Math Truck, but that’s OK.  Instead I have my very own Math Wiz.

Charlie is in kindergarten now and is doing really well.  We couldn’t be more proud of her.  Watch out, Hawking.  She’s coming to get you in 20 years!

There She Goes

It’s been almost 5 years ago to the day since my daughter was born.  In many ways it seems like yesterday, yet I can hardly remember a time without her.

In just a few hours, she’s going to be starting kindergarten.  She was so excited she jumped into bed with her clothes on.

Crazy.

These Are Mine

Kelly and me

Charlize Brytan

The four of us

What are yours?

Happy Thanksgiving!

RTLB #5: Do Not Withhold Good to Spite Evil

This is the fifth in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #5:

Do not withhold good to spite evil.

This is a tough one — for me at least. Have you ever had someone be rude to you? Or had a conversation with someone in a bad mood? Or found out that someone said something about you behind your back? Or conspired against you? No doubt you have had all of these things happen to you.

I don’t know about you but my instinct is to pop off and say something sarcastic in return or to be a smart aleck. Clearly this will rarely calm the situation.

I think everyone knows, though, deep down, that you should not return “evil” for “evil”. Sure, there are times that I must take a stand on something, and even be aggressive, but rarely should that be my instinct. This is a hard struggle for me personally, especially regarding people with whom I have a history. I struggle with it weekly, if not daily.

But I think I should be taking it even a step further.

Have you ever been just about to compliment someone when they said something rude? Have you ever started to slow down to let another driver merge only to have him cut you off and give you the finger? Have you ever approached an employee of a store and politely started with “Excuse me, ma’am” and received rude service in response? Did it make you want to give that compliment, be courteous to another driver or say “thank you” to the clerk? Probably not. But that is probably exactly what we should do in those situations.

It is one of my personal goals to make sure I do not withhold good to spite evil. It’s so easy to let one interaction change who I am. If I have made a commitment to myself to be a kind person — a commitment I feel everyone should make — what does it say about me that another person has enough control over me to cause me to fail at this? Am I not in control of my own actions?

No. I am in control of my own actions and that means that I am capable of giving good even if I have received only evil.

I’m working on this everyday and have found that the more I remember to be kind (which is different than acting kind, but that’s an entirely different conversation, but is possibly the single most important thing to note in everything I have said) the more I find myself wanting to be kind. To everybody. To family. To friends. To strangers. Even to the person who hurt me.

My challenge to you is the same as my personal challenge to myself. Give good in return for bad. Be kind first, and then act kindly. Remember that the person on the other side of the evil is a person and they may be struggling with the same thing, acting badly because they themselves have been offended.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

Twitter

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been a very faithful blogger over the last several months.  I wouldn’t say that I’ve abandoned it, because I haven’t, but other things have definitely taken priority.

Aside from the typical “family and work distractions”, one thing in particular that has disrupted my blogging is Twitter.  I am much more active on Twitter, and you should follow me there.

In the meantime, don’t unsubscribe from the blog just yet.  I have a few posts in mind for the next several weeks.  🙂

Twikini – Windows Mobile Twitter Client

Twikini - click for larger sizeI have an HTC Windows Mobile phone (touch screen + keyboard).  For the last several weeks, I’ve been using a trial version of Twikini to access my Twitter stream.

I really got to like it.  There are a few things I’d like improved.  For example, on refresh it seems to have to get the whole stream and reload it rather than just getting updates since the last request.  Also, it does a timeline refresh after I tweet instead of just adding mine to the list on the client side.  But aside from those couple of performance things, it’s pretty slick and simple.

I liked it enough to be really disappointed when it expired and I remembered it was a trial version of non-free software.  It’s cost is reasonable at about $5, but they also have an option where I can get a licensed copy of the program by blogging about it.

So that’s what I’m doing here.  I like it.  I recommend it.  If you have a Windows Mobile phone and use Twitter, you should give it a shot.

RTLB #4: Smart Is Sometimes Stored In Silos

This is the fourth in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #4:

Smart is sometimes stored in silos.

I was sitting at the keyboard and realized that I wasn’t sure how to spell a certain word I wanted to use.  It’s a common enough word, and I’ve said it many times, but I don’t know that I’ve ever written it.  When I started to think about it, I thought of a number of other similar words – words I should know how to spell, but am not sure I can.

To be honest, it made me feel stupid.

I know I am not a stupid person.  I work in a technical field (writing software) and have a degree in Applied Mathematics.  I am a successful professional.  I run a small business outside of my day job.  I manage a large community organization.  None of these things makes me special, but they at least make me “not stupid”.

Photo credit: tinou baoThis led me to a series of obvious observations:

  1. I don’t know everything.
  2. I don’t know a little bit about everything.
  3. I don’t even know a little bit about many things (in the grand scheme of all things that are things and all knowledge that is to be known).
  4. I know a little about a few things.
  5. I know a lot about even fewer things.

My knowledge is stored is silos.  (I know.  It’s a breakthrough, right?)

But remember from above, none of these things makes me special.  Hence:

  1. You don’t know everything.
  2. You don’t know a little bit about everything.
  3. You don’t even know a little bit about many things (in the grand scheme of all things that are things and all knowledge that is to be known).
  4. You know a little about a few things.
  5. You know a lot about even fewer things.
  6. My things may or may not be the same as your things.

Give special attention to #6 here.  Again, this isn’t rocket science, but it leads me to this three-part corollary:

  1. I know things you don’t know.
  2. You know things I don’t know.
  3. Neither of us is stupid because of this.

At various times in my past, I’ve mentally dismissed someone as stupid because of a gap between our silos of knowledge.  It’s not fair to either of us.  I may act differently, even offensively, toward them and I may never learn from them what knowledge they do have in their silo.  How might things be different if I shared what was in my silo?

This is obvious, I know.  It’s not some big secret that I’ve revealed.  It’s just something to think about that I wasn’t thinking about.

By the way, the word was “therapeutic” – that crazy “eu” combination is a killer for me.

June? Seriously? (And Tech-Ed)

June is just a week away.  That’s insane.  It’s cliché to say it, but time goes so fast.  My son is already four months old, and my daughter is getting hilariouser by the moment.  (I know some of you may not consider hilariouser a word, but as I mentioned before, I make up words and add them to my dictionary to get rid of the red squiggles.)

So anyway, I went to Tech-Ed a couple weeks ago and it was great.  I had a lot of fun, met a lot of people, caught up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while, and actually learned a few things in the process.  Maybe someday I’ll put all my new-found knowledge to practical use and make something, ummm, practical.

I went with a co-worker, Brennan, and he got the chance to interview a few people.  He’s posted his videos here.

I also took my new video camera, but pretty much the only footage I got was of Jeffrey Palermo doing a head stand on the dance floor to “Whoomp There It Is”.  I will leave you with that:

PS – Notice that I’m recycling post titles?  It must be getting bad.

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