Categories
Jeremy

Precious Days

Me, contemplating.

I just got back from a much needed vacation on Kauai with Holly and three other very good friends. Going into the trip, I had Intentions. Yes, with a capital I. I accomplished some of them but not most, for various reasons.

Mainly I had intended to write something while there but most of the time was spent doing not much of anything beyond contemplating, watching sunrises & sunsets, eating great food, lounging by the pool, and watching sea turtles play in the waves. Looking back, I’m confident I made the right choices pretty continually there; I needed the break desperately.

What was I contemplating, you ask? Well, a lot of things really, but the majority centered around what I now understand are pretty massive changes in how I view the world and my place in it. I guess dying will do that to you.

Anywho, in the above picture (that I didn’t know Holly was taking) I was standing and watching the waves roll in and ended up having a conversation with myself about what I want to do with the rest of my life, as one does, and while I had been going back and forth on whether or not I truly wanted to commit myself to more effort a voice popped in my head that said “There are still dragons to slay.” As you would expect this struck me as odd, and not just because it was entirely random and seemingly unrelated to the train of thought I was attempting to follow. I also had no good idea what it meant at the time.

Fast forward to last night, where I somehow stumbled across this ~year old post from Simon Sarris: The Most Precious Resource is Agency. The timing was auspicious to say the least, as agency is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and a lot of my contemplation centered around it when I was on Kauai. A good portion of the remaining contemplation centered around this quote that I cannot get out of my head..

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”

John Muir

I’ve always had high agency. John Muir also seems like someone who had high agency, but I would hesitate to even begin to compare myself to him. Even so, the quote resonates with me for many reasons but mainly the fact that someone put their thoughts into words and then acted to change the world around them. A malleable world, indeed.

I’ve also discovered the answer to what in the hell “There are still dragons to slay.” means. I initially thought it was something to do with business as that’s just how I think, but now realize it applies to all parts of my life. There are many things I’ve struggled with, from childhood to current day, that are somewhat easily within my control but I’ve always essentially ignored them and hoped for the best. These are my very own dragons, many of which I have lovingly nurtured through the years. Unfortunately, while “ignore it and it will go away” has largely worked out well for me, a number of the dragons I have left unsupervised have turned into fearsome beasts in my absence, which has caused enough issues that I’m now making a list of my own personal dragons that I get to hunt down and slay. It’s an enlightening experience to say the least, even if it is immediately frustrating a good portion of the time.

I’m giving myself one year of my life – which could theoretically be a sizable percentage of my remaining time on earth – to move from feeling like I am losing precious days to feeling like I am embracing every precious day and living it to it’s fullest.

Something tells me it’s going to be a busy year.

Categories
Jeremy Writing

Day 16 – Changing It Up

It’s now the end of May and I have been mostly successful in my daily writing challenge. As long as you don’t count weekends that is. Regardless of all that, I’m very glad I did it and will continue writing, both daily when the mood strikes me, as well as a weekly post on something more substantive that I’ve been learning about.

I’ve noticed a couple interesting results of writing regularly; namely that it’s easier to meditate, and I am able to string together more coherent sentences when speaking. Honestly those two things alone make the exercise worth it.

Lastly, with my birthday coming up tomorrow this seems a fitting end as I embark symbolically on the next year of my life. Onward and upward!

Categories
Business Jeremy Tools

Day 15 – Systems

You’ll perhaps notice that there is no day 13 or 14 post, which would yet again be due to the fact that it was the weekend, during which I have little motivation to write. I tend to use weekends for true rest and relaxation time so far this year, but I feel like that is (somewhat thankfully) coming to an end for me soon so I’m working to build routines into habits that will allow me to accomplish my goals. In other words, I’m building systems.

Given the above combined with the fact that I am spending a holiday authoring systems for Rytāvi Corp in Notion, it seems appropriate to write about today.

To me, systems are nothing more than a collection of standardized processes that allow you to perform the same task in the same manner repeatedly. There are however two different kinds of systems that I think about: personal systems and organizational systems. For personal systems, it’s simply enforcing (either consciously or not) specific steps to accomplish things you want to do in your life. For example we recently moved from a regular drip coffee maker to a pour over coffee pot, which required a new process for Holly & I making coffee in the morning:

  1. Grind the beans the night before.
    This is because we use a burr grinder that introduces a significant amount of static electricity to the grounds. Grinding the beans the night before allows much of it to dissipate, which means our counters stay much cleaner.
  2. Fill the kettle the night before.
  3. Wash the pot and filter the night before so they’re ready in the morning.
  4. The first person in the kitchen turns on the kettle and dumps the grounds into the filter.
  5. Whomever is in the kitchen next pours the hot water in the filter, and the next person that comes by tops it off again. Repeat until the pot is full.

It’s a pretty straightforward process, and not really something Holly & I had to discuss much because there are only two of us, it’s a simple task we both knew how to tackle independently, and we’re both functioning adults. In a small group this is frequently all you need to end up with an organic system. Nobody specifically planned it, and it seemingly created itself because it was simple enough for two people to just fall into doing it. This is a pretty common thing to happen in small group dynamics, but it doesn’t work so well when you scale the group.

When you’re building a business, you’re working with larger groups which means you need to create written processes for everyone to follow when working through a task. If the processes are followed regularly, you’ll be able to expect the same result every time from your system.

All of the above paragraph is barring unforeseen circumstances, which is where contingencies come into play, but I’m not writing about those today.

Creating processes is not the most difficult task in the world, but I couldn’t find much useful content on the topic when I originally realized that I needed to build processes. So, appropriately enough, I created a process to build individual and team processes that accommodate larger organizational systems.

  1. Determine what you’re building a process for – One thing I’ve learned here is that this is not always what I think I’m building a process for at first. I once built a system for a specific, straightforward technical task that (now) takes an average of seven minutes to complete and by the end of it I realized I was building a system to accommodate distributed scheduling instead of a process for performing the technical task. You might not realize this until the end, which is fine. In this example, I ended up documenting the technical process separately after I completed the scheduling process that allowed us to accomplish the technical process.
  2. Determine the end state – What’s the end goal? What does it look like? “We need to do X” isn’t an end state. “We need to do X in a way that Jane in accounting can look at gauge Y and explain to Joe in HR how much we can stretch the budget for a promising new hire.” is an end state. Without context your processes will not work, and your systems will fail.
  3. Walk yourself through the process at least once – Take detailed notes along the way with every step you take. At the end of this, go back through the notes and remove the steps that aren’t actually needed and expand on the steps that are needed with sufficient context and detail for someone to read the step 2 to 3 times and complete it themselves. Do not assume the person following the steps has any knowledge of the task.
  4. Document the process in a step-by-step fashion – Include screenshots, videos, pictures, or whatever else is needed so that anyone reading this can understand exactly what they need to do next.

    Make sure to add explanations where context is useful. You might have noticed I explained why we grind our coffee beans the night beforehand in the above example I gave of a personal system; this is because if you’re writing processes that contribute to overall systems a team member is inevitably going to think “Why the hell do I have to grind the beans the night before? I’m tired and will do it in the morning.” Without context, this is a reasonable thought process. With context, said team member will realize that they’ll end up cleaning the counters the next morning if they don’t grind the beans the night before.
  5. Do a dry run of the process – You can walk through the process yourself if you have no other option, but the best results come from finding a willing candidate who has never gone through the process before and see if they achieve the same results you do.
  6. Evaluate the process as part of the overall system – Sometimes you’ll get to the end, having documented a process that works just fine and dandy but doesn’t fit nicely into your overall systems. If you end up there, you’ll have to decide whether to adjust the process you just created or whether to adjust the overall system(s) in play to accommodate it.
  7. Create a way to measure outcomes – Quite simply, in order for a system to work, the processes must work and people must follow them every time. Given that people are people, you’ll want a way to measure the outcomes of both individual processes and the overall systems they collectively comprise.

That’s all I have to say on that today. Maybe one day I’ll follow my own advice and create a good system for writing blog posts.

Categories
Jeremy

Day 12 – What Matters

Lately I’ve been spending a decent amount of time working on being conscious of my emotional response to situations, which has lead to me spending a larger than expected amount of time thinking about what matters to me. I believe this is a natural result of focusing more on embracing stoicism because my emotional responses are going to vary depending on what level of concern I have for a particular event happening (or not). This makes sense to me because stoicism basically breaks down to “mastering one’s emotions” when I think about it, so that’s how I end up framing my thoughts.

Side note: I have weird ways of thinking about things, and frequently can’t remember words in real time when speaking. Instead I just roll along with conceptual approximations in my head and try to describe things to people when I’m talking to them. Sure does make for interesting conversations at times, but I digress as this post isn’t about that.

Anyways, this whole process led me to post this idle thought on Twitter yesterday.

https://twitter.com/jerephil/status/1529961162196267008?s=20&t=fNzd97_dSDlOpj7X6Bby1w

In recent weeks I’ve been listing out Things That Matter to Me, and I’m discovering some interesting results. As it turns out, there are many things that I thought mattered that really don’t, and many things that I’ve always known matter to me but it turns out they matter a whole hell of a lot more I believed they did. I was surprised though when I realized there is at least one thing that I used to completely disregard, but after contemplating it for weeks… oh boy does it matter to me.

What’s that you ask? To put it simply, it’s people who can’t control their emotions in the slightest and then try to hide that fact. I’m also curious how many folks aren’t aware of it, but personal agency is a separate topic.

In the end, being around people who do this is just disheartening and I’ve realized having those kind of people around me is a total waste of my time. Most of the things that they complain about – and it’s generally quite a bit – can be boiled down to them dealing with the feedback loop from immediate extreme emotional responses; when I watch them experiencing this it leaves me sitting there staring at them quizzically.

So I’ve decided that life is too short to deal with people who default to extreme emotional responses. I’ve also decided that I would like to be a better person on a continual basis. Because of those two things, I am reorganizing my life to remove people like those I described above, so I can surround myself with more people that will make me a better person.

Note: I already have a number of people that make me a better person but it’s always nice to have more.

Seems kind of simple now that I think about it and I’m mildly bummed that I didn’t figure this out earlier in life. Regardless of that, I am looking forward to see what effects it has on my life.

Categories
Health Jeremy

Day 11 – Gratitude

Pins on my laptop bag.

I didn’t used to understand gratitude. What little time I spent thinking of it was generally followed by a brief moment of confusion before moving on to something else. I had no idea what I should be grateful for, nor who/what I was supposed to be grateful to.

Now I have a reminder every day at 9pm to pause for a moment of gratitude. I now realize I don’t need to express gratitude for any particular thing, or to any particular person/thing. For me, expressing a moment of gratitude is more of a pause in the everyday life where I force myself to contemplate my existence for a few moments, which inevitably ends up making me a bit happier. I guess you could say I experience a moment of grace.

I wish I had known previously how powerful this simple action could be. I would have started quite a bit sooner. It’s easy too. As this article tells us, it’s a simple three step process: Stop. Look. Appreciate.

Yes, the world is full of bad things. It’s also full of good things though. Thinking of one does not mean ignoring the other. So I would implore you to add this 30 seconds a day to your routine. You just might like the outcome.

Categories
Misc

Day 10 – Phone Calls

I’ve recently started spending a lot more time on the phone than I usually do. This is largely due to the fact that setting up a bunch of corporate entities is dealing with organizations that largely erase decades of technological development due to the bureaucracy they have to deal with. Granted, there are some services that try to make it simpler; I’ve used Northwest Registered Agent (whom I recommend for forming and maintaining your next corporate entity by the way) off and on for years and they have been adding features to the online portal at a steady clip. However, they still have to talk to you at least once for…. reasons?

Now, I’d largely stopped thinking about phone calls because I’d only made probably 10-20 calls year to date. Even customer facing calls are usually video conferences now, and those generally aren’t incoming calls that disturb me when I least expect it. It’s like a solicitor knocking on the door or people showing up unannounced to “drop in”; it used to happen all the time but it’s become drastically less frequent over the years and is largely considered rude. At least we can install video doorbells and ignore them now. (The dogs do not like this plan, they want to meet everyone. Alas, they are dogs and thus cannot open the door due to a lack of opposable thumbs.)

Google Assistant is a nice feature in that it screens calls and I can see a summary of what the call is about prior to answering it, but that still doesn’t cover all calls because if the caller is in my contacts it just rings straight through.

I personally look forward to phone calls going extinct. We have better technology now and I will prefer a high def video conference over a phone call any day. Especially if it’s scheduled.

Categories
Business

Day 9 – Rytāvi Corp

To say I’ve had a varied and interesting career is possibly an understatement, but I’ve learned a lot along the way and my whole flirting with death experience eventually led me to embrace stoicism (recommended site) which has resulted in a level of focus that I haven’t experienced in a couple decades, which got me started thinking on what exactly I want to do with the rest of my life.

I think it’s important to clarify here that I likely think of work and life differently than most; a true work/life integration is what I am constantly striving for. To me they are one and the same, so when I talk about work or life, I’m really talking about both.

After a couple months of pondering, I have finalized a few basic tenets that I’ll be following going forward when making life decisions:

  1. Leverage technology but don’t work in the technology field – I’ve spent the vast majority of my career working on technology implementation and support and to say I’m burned out on it is an understatement. It’s now becoming a commodity market as well – and will continue to be commoditized further – which is not exactly the best place to be in if you’re looking to do the type of work I want to do.

    That said, being able to leverage technology in industries where it isn’t fully utilized is a game changer. I can now look at a small business and have a good idea how it will look 10 years down the road based not only on their technology investments – which are certainly important and necessary – but also on how they leverage that technology to accomplish their business goals.
  2. Investment in community – I didn’t used to think of community much, at least in the way I do now. I used to disdain the idea in many ways actually, but when I ended up in the hospital I discovered that I both had a community around me and that were they lifesavers. They jumped in to help however needed, generally made Holly’s life infinitely simpler, and truly demonstrated to me for the first time the value of having mutual support in my life. I literally don’t know how we would have managed without them.

    Having seen the value of community, I now feel a distinct need to build a better community around me, so this is a key decision point for me. Our businesses will have Community as a core value, our systems will be designed to support our local communities, and we will help people move forward in life.
  3. Generational wealth – Everything I do will help build generational wealth in one way or another. This does not mean that I’ll be working all the time, but I’ll continue to increase my work life integration by doing things I love every day, I’ll work to improve the community around me, and then we will reinvest the profits in new businesses with the same ethos.

    Wealth in and of itself is a nice thing, sure. However generational wealth can ultimately impact thousands in a relatively short time frame of a century or so while focusing on building wealth solely for the here and now will impact many, many less people.

    In the end, we’ll help others build the same for themselves and their community. Generational wealth is what builds free societies, and I am a big fan of freedom.
  4. Build & Grow – This is my favorite thing to do. While I like to think I’m adept at operations, it’s not my favorite thing to do. I’d much rather build the systems that others execute on, setup the reporting that will allow us to inspect what we expect, and watch the resulting growth.

So Holly and I are starting up Rytāvi Corp, a family owned holding company with the express purpose of building, buying, and growing boring businesses. Our first business is actually smack dab in the middle of starting up, and I’ll write more about it once it goes live in early July.

The goal is to keep the family of businesses complementary, focusing on service businesses, hard assets such as self storage and short term rentals, and investments in publicly traded companies that share our core values.

It’s an ambitious goal for sure, but I’m confident we can execute on it, and I am also confident it will make us better human beings in the end.

Categories
Gardening Permaculture

Day 8 – Hügelkultur

First, you’ll notice there is a mysterious posting gap for days 6 & 7. That would be because I didn’t write them. Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Lately I’ve been reading up on hügelkultur (pronounciation here), and found a couple good posts on it that I have linked at the bottom of this post. It’s basically a system to use organic biomass to make the soil more fertile (due to the decomposition of the biomass along with the added insects that show up and help keep the soil healthy), improve water retention, and keep the soil warmer. It also drastically reduces the amount of soil you’ll need in a raised bed, which appealed to me because soil is not cheap in our area and I’m building raised beds in our back yard.

I am also intrigued by just how much warmer the soil stays, and will be devising some systems to measure that. I’d like to extend our growing season into the fall for sure, and as far into the winter as possible.

I decided to write about it since I needed a topic to come up with, I’m pretty sure there will be a sizable amount of gardening content in this blog over the summer and fall, and it’s pretty damn interesting.

There are a few things that I’m keeping in mind.

  • First and foremost would be using the correct biomass; I’m focusing on extra soil from our yard, some extra soil from planters we moved with, some branches and logs that I believe are alder, some wood and charcoal ashes from the grill and fire pit, and assorted compostable biomass from dead heading and pruning flowers and bushes around the yard.
  • Second, I’m trying to stay conscious of nitrogen lock, especially since I’m using barely seasoned logs for part of the foundation. This should only be an issue for 2-3 years and I think we can overcome this in the meantime by simply adding extra nitrogen to the soil. One of my favorite fertilizers, Alaska Fish Fertilizer (Amazon) is 5-1-1, so there is some nitrogen there, and I also use Osmocote (Amazon) pretty consistently, but I will also add some blood meal (Amazon) to the soil when I’m filling the beds if needed. I do need to find a test kit that works well and is cost effective, so please reach out to me if you have a recommendation.
  • Lastly, these aren’t the tallest beds in the world, so I’m working to be conscious of how deep the soil will be. If it’s too shallow, I won’t get the root structure I want to see.

For more info I’d recommend reading what is pretty much the most extensive Hügelkultur reference I’ve been able to find, as well as Half-Ass Hügelkultur for an example of mounded hügelkultur.

Categories
Gaming

Day 5 – Gaming

I’ve been getting into gaming lately. Not video games, but board games. For many reasons I simply hadn’t played them earlier in life until recently I ended up close enough to some good friends who game that I was able to join them for a weekly game night. I’ve played a couple different games recently, mainly Gloomhaven: Jaws of The Lion but also, recently, Marvel United was a super fun game.

Gloomhaven: Jaws of The Lion is a super fun cooperative game that I’m glad I started with before moving on to Gloomhaven proper, which sounds quite a bit more daunting.

Marvel United is just flat out fun, with quick cooperative games that allow you to turn around a couple rounds in a single night. I picked up a copy of this for myself and am looking forward to playing it with Holly and whomever else I can track down in the house.

I find that gaming kind of “resets” my mind, helping me focus more than usual the next day. Highly recommended to pick it up as a hobby should you have the chance.

Categories
Links

Day 4 – Links

I’m not really sure what to write about today, so here are a few links to things I’ve been thinking about recently, along with a few thoughts from me on each.

Mittelstand / Boring Businesses – I initially learned about this concept when I happened across this post by Neil Thanedar on Hacker News, and it pretty instantly clicked with me. The concept, as I understand it, is that there is a subset of stable, small to medium businesses that have successfully weathered turbulent times due to specific company values and management practices.

Strangely enough, I had a similar thought in recent months that independently popped into my head, which is why Holly and I started Rytāvi Corp with the purpose of building stable “boring” (read: non-technology focused) businesses that we can augment with technology to spin off predictable profits in a manner that also allows us to employ people for the long term and invest in our community while building generational wealth.

Asynchronous Work – This has been banging around my head for years now, but I’ve been reading up on it a lot more lately. Some interesting companies in the space include Almanac and Notion, both software developers that make tools that can support asynchronous work. If you’re interested in learning more about asynchronous work, I’d recommend following Adam Nathan (Almanac CEO) on Twitter.

While this is pretty much the standard for a number of companies now – especially those that are largely distributed companies – we’ll see asynchronous work move to become the default for knowledge workers over the next 5-10 years and companies that don’t embrace it will find themselves left behind their competition.

Every business in the Rytāvi Corp family will be as asynchronous as possible.

Wabi-Sabi – An interesting Japanese concept that focuses on accepting imperfection and acknowledging that the everything in life is transient. “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

Given my recent experiences, I pretty much immediately embraced the idea and have been considering it daily since.