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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Jeremy Writing

Day 1 – Writing & Smoothies

When I had my super happy fun hospital times in December I came out of them with the intention of writing more, doing more, and generally experiencing life more. While I’ve definitely occasionally drifted in that direction I’ve spent a lot more time working my day job than I really need to, and my off time has been spent doing more relaxing than anything else, including this past weekend. The weekend was great mind you – Holly and I spent the weekend visiting the farmer’s market, enjoying a quiet lunch in Edmonds, driving aimlessly (and damn the fuel costs), visiting a brewery for a slice of pizza and a beer, and watching some TV – but we didn’t do much else really. Nothing that I would have liked to accomplish was completed, which is sadly a pretty constant experience for me lately. Because of that Holly and I ended up talking late Sunday night about the need to get back to a healthier, more purposeful life, so we decided to make a mug of magnesium and ashwagandha dissolved in warm water before bed, have some of the CBN infused CBD oil we prefer, and planned to start back on the breakfast smoothie train.

After that, while enjoying my smoothie this morning, I decided I needed to write something daily. So I’m going to do that at least through the end of May, and then I’ll see if I want to continue it once June rolls around. I don’t know when – or if – this practice will ultimately end, but I am going to keep it up as long as I feel like it’s beneficial to me.

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Jeremy

Optimizing, but for what?

I was recently browsing Twitter when I came across a tweet I identified with.

Then I came across this reply and something clicked in my head. Loudly.

Being that I’d never heard of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development I did some quick and admittedly shallow reading on the subject, which really made the whole thing resonate more with me. So while the subject itself was new to me (although they’re pretty similar to Kegan stages at a high level and the first four levels of Erikson’s stages are based on Freud’s theory of psychosexual development) my reading left me with the feeling that they’re mostly accurate, at least in how they apply to my life so far. Most especially when I think back on where I’ve been at various stages to date.

Which brings me to why I read the reply multiple times; my life is very different now than it was three months ago, in ways that tend to catch me off guard when I least expect it. There are concrete things like eating healthier and the fact that I can’t do as much mental math as I used to be able to, and there are also these weirdly vague things that I’m just wrapping my head around, like the whole “Why am I striving so hard every day to move a percentage point? How is this really helping anyone?”

Honestly I don’t know why anymore, but my job consists of tasks that are pretty basic for me so I am still getting up every day and putting in the effort, but it also highlights my long held (although stronger lately) desire to get out of tech and into… something else. I don’t know what just yet, but I’m concerned that I might be optimizing my life – financially, physically, and mentally – for a long term path I truly don’t want to take anymore.

All I know for certain at this point is that the rest of my life isn’t going to be centered around technology, that’s for sure. It will most likely be technology adjacent because leveraging technology to improve the human condition is where I’m beginning to find my passion.

Hence the question I’ve asked myself today: “I’m definitely optimizing my life, but for what?”

I’m sure I’ll find an answer eventually.

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Jeremy

Motivations

I was recently in a group chat about improving one’s life and someone brought up the subject of motivations for the changes I’ve been making in my life including no alcohol, much healthier food choices (easier on a low sodium diet), massively reduced stress, and in general taking a different approach to my life choices since I discovered I have dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).1There is a good article on Wikipedia about this disorder.

As happenstance would have it, this is something I’ve been thinking about for the past month and I’ve come to the conclusion that my motivations most likely aren’t what people think they are2Note that a) I have not asked people what they think my motivations are and b) I am not 100% certain of all of them myself still. so I decided to try and put into words what has been consciously (and almost certainly subconsciously) driving the choices I make on a daily basis for the last month.

So, first things first, I have to say that I am not motivated by the fact that I died for a bit. It’s simply not something I’m worried about anymore; what little fear of death I previously had is now completely and utterly gone. I guess the best way to summarize my feelings on the subject is “Death isn’t really as bad as people think it is”.

So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to what I know is actually motivating me for the various large changes I’ve made in my life, which I think are important to go over first.

In the end, there have only been three core changes I’ve made, they’re all pretty sizable, and all have been executed on in a very short time frame. There are also a large number of small changes I’ve made, but this would be a very long post if I went over all of them, so I won’t.

First, I’m now eating a low sodium diet. This was nowhere in the cards for me and was most definitely not something I was planning on. What does low sodium mean? Less than 2,000 mg daily of sodium intake.3I am well under this most days as it’s not that hard when you’re cooking at home. Some days I’ll go above it because I like the NHS recommendation of 2,500mg or less more. =) While this may seem like a lot, it is most definitely not. It makes eating out difficult to say the least, takes the majority of my favorite foods off the table for me, and unless I’m cooking at home generally relegates me to eating things that quite simply don’t have much flavor.4Yes, I’m aware that I can use other spices and that there are salt substitutes. They’re even tasty sometimes and I’ll stick with most of them going forward. That said, I in no way prefer anything I have found so far.

I do have to point out that there is one big benefit of a low sodium diet to date and that is a newfound love affair with fruits and yogurt. I’m thankful for that and can’t see this ever changing in my life. Seriously, if you don’t eat a lot of fruit give it a shot.

The second big difference is that I’m not drinking alcohol. While this was a sizable change for me, I was already moving forward with drastically cutting my alcohol intake5I highly recommend Sunnyside. I cut my drinking back over 60% without major effort in a ~18 month period and was on track to hit my goal of normal social drinking sometime in late summer 2022. so this was simply accelerating that change. It was surprisingly easy and, looking back, I don’t think that going into cardiac arrest and dying for a few minutes had anything to do with how easy it was. I’d been moving towards drastically cutting back alcohol anyways, this just accelerated the change and then I decided to keep going once I’d crossed the finish line.6It’s actually not harmful to drink small amounts of alcohol with DCM, but it slows things down on the healing side and I don’t miss alcohol itself, so I’m completely abstaining at the moment. Given that the root cause of my DCM is likely tied to a thiamine deficiency caused by drinking heavily for about 15 years, this isn’t really a bad thing either.

I have to say that I do enjoy not drinking at the moment. On any given day I have more energy, more focus, and am generally more present than I used to be. It’s a nice change as I honestly can’t remember the last time I went this long without even a single drink and I’m super glad I know what baseline me is like in my 40s. I like that person.

That said, I do miss the ritual itself. I miss mixing cocktails. I miss wine tasting. I miss meeting my wife for a beer at the brewery after work. I’m trying to fill part of that gap by experimenting with mocktails, frequently with THC or CBD tinctures. I’m also enjoying sampling various non-alcoholic beers7NA beer has come a loooong way and there are many I prefer to regular beer., mimosas with non-alcoholic champagne8I do not prefer these really, but they’re good enough that I wish I had known it was an option. I’ll keep drinking these forever as they’re much, much healthier for you, but it would be nice to have a champagne based one every now and then., and I also drink a likely excessive amount of tonic water and buy limes by the bag now.

The last big change I’ve made is also the only one I’m really, truly happy about: I’m spending more time with my family and less time working, which has massively reduced my stress level. We eat candle lit dinners every night and talk about our days, I have good conversations with my children and have even learned some new things about them, and I feel vastly more connected to them than I used to be. I don’t have anything negative to say about this change and I plan to keep us stocked in candles until the next time I die. I won’t ever go back to what I was doing before.

Now that I’ve typed all that out, I shall come to the point of this long winded blog post: What motivates me to keep up with the changes I’ve made.

To boil it down, the things that are combining to motivate me are, in no particular order:

  • I am truly enjoying becoming closer to my family. I’m glad I’m still here to do that.
  • My Athena girl would miss me and have no idea why I left if I were to die again.9There is a quote about dogs I like, that I can’t find right now, that goes something like “They’re a small part of your life, but you’re all of their life.” This is true.
  • I was thoroughly enjoying my life before all this and would have died happy. I do not enjoy my life as much anymore and desire to enjoy it as much as I used to.
  • The condition I have is frequently reversible through diet, exercise, and medication.

So in the end I’m simply doing whatever is necessary to try and reverse this so I can hang out with my family for many years to come, play with my dogs, go experience nice restaurants every now and then without having to worry about what’s in the food, go dancing with my wife, enjoy a food truck and a beer every now and then, and generally live a somewhat normal life again.

If I have to take 17 pills a day10No, that is not an exaggeration. It is, in fact, how many pills I take every day currently., eat the blandest food known to man, and get blood tests on a weekly basis for years on end? Sure, I’ll dig in and live that life for as long as I need to. I’ve had harder times in my life for sure.

Do I enjoy some of the changes I’ve made? Hell yeah, and I’ll keep a good number of them regardless of what the future brings for my health. I won’t ever give up eating candle lit dinners and talking about my day with my wife, nor will I go back to working as much as I was. I won’t ever start taking time for granted again.11I am supremely bothered when people don’t have a sense of urgency now. Life is short, move faster. However, I do want some things back from my old life, namely the ability to go eat at a food truck once a week and wash it down with a microbrew.12This is, by far, what I miss the most. I can’t really even put it into words how much I miss it, beyond letting you know that it isn’t really the food or the beer that I miss and, no, there isn’t a substitute I’m willing to accept. Time will tell if I can accomplish my goal but I’m putting in the work, have my motivation firmly nailed down, and I really haven’t ever accepted no for an answer.

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Jeremy

New Beginnings

Recently I went into cardiac arrest and died for a bit. I’ll eventually write about it in detail but to say it’s a difficult thing to process is an understatement. For now, I’ll classify it as a unique experience.

The biggest benefit of all of this is that I now have an excellent opportunity (and excuse, which I frequently need) to redesign my life. Over the past two decades I’ve unconsciously diverged from my primary interest and joys in life, focusing on technology and income instead of focusing on the creative energies I have always possessed but rarely exercised.

In coming weeks, months, and years I aim to write more, create more content that I enjoy, and in general focus my life on things that matter to me and I will be using this blog as an outlet while I process the massive changes that I am implementing. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.