February 06, 2017

Tsundoku or Reading in 2017


“Tsundoku” (n.) is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. “Tsundoku” originated as Japanese slang (積ん読) “tsun-doku”

Wikipedia

Tsundoku could easily be a word to describe my life if it weren’t for daughter.

My book collection began in University when I was spending $500 plus a semester on required textbooks. With my major being in Theatre, a large portion of those textbooks were plays, anthologies, and other critical texts, which were of enough interest that I wanted to keep them around. As I read through the anthologies and other critical texts, I ended up seeking out other books that were referenced explicitly or books that the authors had written previously. Needless to say, that collection become quite large.

When I moved to Syracuse, New York, after finishing my University degree, I was determined to read as many of those books as I could through the winter months. My job was primarily in the evenings, which allowed me to stay up late at night reading or hunker down in a Starbucks to read in the afternoons. When I moved into my studio apartment, books overtook my cupboards becoming a makeshift bookshelf. It sounds silly, but books were a priority over dishes at that point of my life.

Those books went with me back to Canada the following year. It wasn’t until I moved to Kelowna when I was separated from the majority of them. I loaded the back of my Jeep with as much stuff as I could; books didn’t make the cut. I was reunited with them when my parents moved to Kelowna a few years later, and quickly became overwhelmed with how large the collection was. Five large boxes full of books- mainly theatre-related, and mostly unread.

I ended up donating the bulk of the collection to the local University. It was a rather sad day driving the boxes up there and dropping them off, not knowing what would become of them. I like to think that some young student has been browsing them when they needed inspiration for a paper or project like I was doing nearly twenty years ago. When I first arrived at the Theatre Department, I quickly discovered that it had a reading room with a large cabinet full of plays and old magazines. The upper shelves were mainly the classic plays that were required reading (i.e. lots of Shakespeare); the lower shelves were where the treasures were hidden.

Stacked at the bottom of the cabinet were old Tulane Drama Review (now The Drama Review, or TDR) journals published in the 60s and 70s. It was the height of experimental theatre and I was blown away by the performances that were written about, the essays, the ideas, everything. I can admit now that I may have snuck multiple copies into my backpack at night to read in the future, which now reside at UBCO. TDR set me down the path of wanting to write more, first by experimenting with keeping a journal, and then writing a blog back before they were known as blogs.

After donating that collection of books, I ended up rebuilding my collection in a different manner. No longer buying theatre or critical texts, but instead focusing on new ways of thinking, classic books, and books about improving my writing or business. More of them were for my Kindle rather than physical books, too. Like my theatre books, a lot of them have been unread, sitting there ready for my attention when I’m ready to delve into that subject matter.

Through the building of both collections, I was unknowingly following a rule that Ryan Holiday uses:

If there is a book I am interested in, I buy it. Regardless of the cost. Regardless of whether I have a stack of other things to read. Regardless of whether I have any sort of certainty about whether it’s any good. If I want it, I buy it. And when I buy it, I don’t care how much I spent on it or how rare it might be. I treat it just like every other book (which means marking up and writing in it).

That collection of books only does me good if I start reading them. I started to pick up my reading habit again in 2016, especially in the latter months, beginning with books about mindfulness and stoicism, and now on improving specific areas of my life and business. I don’t want to lose any momentum with this habit, so I have double-downed on it in 2017. Like creating the perfect environment for me to do the work, I’ve started a routine of getting my mind ready in order to sit down and get into a book. Once I’m settled in, I set aside an hour for reading, more on the weekends, and aim to do it nightly.

The plan is to read as much as I can in 2017 and make a decision on the books that sit on my shelf now, culling the herd down to only the essential books that I know I will want to read or loan in the future. Parting ways with books this year will be far easier than when I donated the theatre books, because I haven’t invested as much time and money into them. Most are spontaneous purchases while browsing, others are classics that can be purchased again easily enough.

I want to stay mentally sharp in 2017, so I will read more books. I also want to write more. I know reading will fuel that drive to write more, so I will read more books.

January 03, 2017

Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday


You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38.

The past year has been spent focusing on mindfulness and exploring it as thoroughly as I can, which should be rather clear to anyone that has read this site regularly. Before mindfulness, though, came stoicism. The two are very similar, even though their beginnings were separated by a continent. Mindfulness and Buddhism in the east, Stoicism in the west. Both have approaches that have been helpful for me over the years. In simple terms, I would explain mindfulness as being about how we receive life; stoicism as being how we act upon life.

Stoicism has been known to me for a while, given my roots in theatre and learning about ancient Greek theatre. I have multiple copies of Meditations on my shelf, plus other Stoics. It wasn’t until I started reading Tim Ferriss’ blog regularly that I noticed a specific guest author coming up frequently that made me want to explore stoicism further. His name is Ryan Holiday.

That name should sound familiar if you’ve read anything on here in the past. He has written countless articles, been on several podcasts, and written several books about stoicism that I have mentioned previously. His name is coming up again, because he has released a few things at the end of 2016 that may be of interest to anyone looking forward to setting resolutions or intentions for 2017.

Daily Stoic

The first thing to look at is a free series of emails, spanning seven days, that give you a short introduction and a list of resources to explore stoicism more fully. The name of that series is, appropriately, Daily Stoic. Each email gives you a PDF download of a small booklet to read, reference, and save on any device you like. You read more on the site about what each day entails, but it was of great interest to me after going through the whole week of readings.

The companion to that series of emails is a book, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living. A daily reading for the coming year, new translations of classic works, insights, and exercises to help guide you to putting stoicism into practice. Each daily reading is short, as the book comes in at just over 400 pages- slightly over a page per day. With a dedicated practice of daily ready for 5 minutes a day, this book should not be a problem to get through. Insightful reading, not work.

Both of these resources come on the heels of two of my favourite books the past few years, The Obstacle is the Way and, his latest, The Ego is the Enemy. I would suggest reading The Obstacle is the Way first before tackling The Ego is the Enemy, but only after completing the seven day course, you find yourself wanting to explore further.

Mindfulness is always going to be present with me as I go through 2017, Stoicism is going to add another layer to help me become a better man this year. There is no better time to start the path of exploration than right now as the email series is free. Other resources are on the website.

Sign up here if interested: Daily Stoic

December 31, 2016

Turning 7 Years Old


While French is still her second language, her mastery of English is becoming rather scary. If she sees words somewhere, she’s reading it. It doesn’t matter if is a minor sign saying the hours of a business, or a major one like the strata rules for our outdoor pool, she wants to read it. …The problem arises when she is starting to master spelling and typing to go along with her reading skills. She has quickly learned how to type messages to family and friends on my iPhone, and has also managed to post selfies with a message to Facebook without me being aware.

Turning 6 Years Old

Kylie

I have spent the past year learning and practicing mindfulness, and yet it may be my daughter who is the one that I should be learning from.

Ever present and aware of the people around her, Kylie is quick to observe what people are doing and who may be there. Her eyes always have been able to find the young mothers with babies, but now she is expanding that awareness to everyone else. This is especially true with kids; she is always on the hunt for kids from her school, and quite eager to say hello to them the moment she sees them.

Her personality continues to develop and shine in public, with several parents from school commenting on how pleasant she is to them, expressing their fondness for her genuine honesty and curiousity. Her smile is contagious on the playground, the library, and the coffee shops and restaurants we’ve visited. Regardless of where we are, her smile and personality brings out the best from everyone else. There is hardly a situation where she shies away from saying hello to someone and asking them a question.

Kylie

This year has been a year of transitions for her. A year where she developed a strong friendship in grade one with a friend, only to see that friend move in the summertime. Several times a week, they were on the phone together and one of the first things my daughter wanted to do was to play her friend a song from the iPad. That song was ‘Count on Me’ by Bruno Mars. Kylie would be singing the song to her friend, Caleigh1, which includes the lyrics:

And if you ever forget how much you really mean to me

Everyday I will

Remind you

It was tough for me to listen to this song, with Kylie singing, almost every day. I can’t imagine what they felt not being able to play with each other after school or have regular sleepovers. Kylie has been handling the situation better than I ever could in my life, a testament to her maturity as a little girl.

Kylie

Something else has been strengthening this year that I wondered about a year ago:

By the time I write this next year, I am sure she will be wanting to converse with these strangers in her non-native tongue.

This has actually happened, several times. The first happened while exiting a hockey game, when she was talking to some boys a few years older than her, and a woman walking behind us picked up on her attending a French-immersion school in Kelowna. She asked her in French whether she could speak the language, and Kylie had a brief conversation with her using as much French as she could. The other memorable time was in a park when she saw her grade one teacher. She approached her and spoke French, almost entirely. Every time she had to say a word, but didn’t know what it was, she’d pause to think and try to remember. Her love and mastery of the language is astounding, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Kylie’s confidence with technology is leaping ahead faster than I could have imagined. Her comfort with the iPad is rather surprising. Navigating the screens and apps is one thing, but she’s gone a step further than I would have expected. She’s using Siri much more often, voice dictation to send longer text messages to people, and getting pretty quick at finding the emojis she needs to communicate how she’s feeling or what she’s thinking. She’s real quick to pick up on when something is going wrong, as well, when a screen is slow to load or showing a message that it shouldn’t. Instead of asking for help, she tries to resolve the problem herself, sometimes with success. On top of all that, she’s been exploring the Playgrounds environment on the iPad, used to teach people how to code in the Swift programming language. She’s quite interested and eager to learn more. If that curiousity continues, she’ll be programming her own iOS apps in a few years.

There is so much more that could be written about this remarkable little girl that is a huge part of my life. These words are always the hardest for me to write, not because I struggle to find them, but because my eyes keep welling up. Tears of joy after reflecting on everything that has happened this past year. Yes, there are countless challenges as a parent with a child: yelling, frustrations, tantrums, are all part of the process. 50% of parenting (if not more so) is having constant doubts in what you are doing is right and beneficial to the child. Balancing out all those difficult moments and the periods of doubt, are the moments of reflection when you see the actions you are doing are right, are good, and your child is heading in the right direction to be a meaningful part of society.

The first six years have been exhausting and rewarding all at once. I wish I could relive it again, because I’m not sure I’m fully prepared for what’s happening next.

Kylie received multiple books for Christmas, all of them fun, challenging chapter books. She was pretty excited for them all, but there is one book that she has absolutely devoured in the past week: The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls. Basically, the book talks about the changes girls will be going through in the coming years, and the best way to take care of the body. She’s been sitting on the couch regularly to read several pages, and is now 3/4 of the way through the book. Moments after, she’s telling me her latest discoveries, taking a picture of one section for her mom to let her know about something, and asking questions of my family that they aren’t fully prepared for. The latest example of the latter happened in the car ride on the way home tonight. She asked my brother whether he used tampons, he answered, no and said he had no place for it. Her response, “You could put it up your butt!”

There was plenty of laughter in the car with that, and all I could think was, “Never change, Kylie, never change.”

Happy 7th birthday, Kylie.

Kylie

Kylie’s Favourites 2016:

Song: The Chainsmokers - Don’t Let Me Down

Show: Friends Lego

Book: Berestain Bears - any book.

iOS app: Garage Band

  1. Pronounced Cal-lee, their poor teacher.

December 11, 2016

Doing the Work


I’m trying to figure out why I don’t write more… why don’t I share my thoughts and ideas more often than I do? Why do I feel so often have this feeling of perpetual stuckness?

What’s strange is that I don’t even think I have writers block per se… I have a lot of ideas; it’s just that most of the time whenever I finally sit down to consider an action plan, or sit down to write out particular thoughts and ideas to share online or turn into a story or a product or whatever, the ideas seem to crumble up before my very eyes and suddenly seem entirely worthless and unnecessary and no longer worth pursuing or sharing or bringing forth into this reality.

— Rachelle Fordyce, My Creative Struggle

Like Rachelle, my silence on this site hasn’t been due to a lack of things to write about. I’m constantly reading through the day and in the evening, bookmarking articles to come back to, tagging magazines with things to write about, or just endlessly thinking about life. I have a stack of ideas building up in my head, but never get around to putting things down and hitting publish.

That becomes a problem for me, not because I believe there is a growing audience wanting to read my stuff, but because of how it affects me. Some ideas are going around and around my mind, slowly driving me crazy. They need an outlet to get out of my mind so I can focus on other things. Instead, they sit in the jail of my mind, peering out of their cells, reminding me that they have to be dealt with and can’t remain inside forever.

There are a few solutions that could be put in place to help me resolve this issue. The more popular being a 21 or 30 day challenge of publishing something daily, like what Wil Wheaton is currently doing on his site. I don’t think I’m disciplined to do a challenge like that though. I tend to go down a few rabbit holes exploring different (and random) topics, or end up getting engrossed in a series on Netflix (you have seen ‘Black Mirror’ right?) that takes away my motivation to write.

I think the better solution for me is to create an environment for me to do the work. Eliminating the distractions of my desk (the other books, tagged magazines) and moving into my Lay Z Boy chair has helped me focus on reading my books. That’s where I am now, listening to music in my headphones, smelling the scents of leather and tobacco from a candle from Bespoke Post, and sipping on an Old Fashioned. It creates the perfect atmosphere for me to want to write more and engage in my work.

My mind is relaxed. I’m ready to keep writing tonight and hope I can recreate this environment throughout the long winter1 to keep myself feeling productive and fresh. As long as I focus on what I’m producing, and not on what I’m not producing, this experiment should turn out for the better.

  1. Not terribly long in Kelowna, mind you.

November 24, 2016

Mindfulness Reading List


layout: post title: Mindfulness Reading List tags: [books, mindfulness] description: “I’ve been reading about mindfulness and Buddhism over the past year. Here is the path my reading took me on.” date: 2016-11-24 —

Partially inspired by Ryan Holiday’s Reading Recommendation Newsletter, I thought I would compile a list of books I have read this past year on my path of mindfulness. Ryan tends to read a lot of books- his emails list at least five books and some are not quick reads. Seeing the books he was reading encouraged me to read more this year, which is part of the reason I was absent from writing on this site. Little by little, I’ve been reading more at a volume I was more accustomed to in University.

I still read online a lot more compared to books, but a shift is slowly happening where I wean out the quick reads that won’t stick and focus on readings that will sit with me for a longer time. Less newsy items, more larger picture pieces.

My reading has focused more on mindfulness and Buddhism this year. I haven’t listed every book I read this year in regards to mindfulness, and I’m leaving out the books with other topics that are not as interesting to most people who will read this (i.e. prospecting new clients.) Without further ado, here is the path I have been taking this past year, with an unlikely first book that jumpstarted this journey.

Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir Aczel

I discovered this book through Jason Kottke after it first came out. Something that isn’t as well known about me is I enjoy mathematics, and also have a fondness for stories of discovery. I like reading or watching videos about how certain inventions came to be, and Wikipedia tends to be a rabbit hole for me when I get curious about how something happened. Finding Zero is the story of Amir’s lifelong obsession with numbers and wanting to know where they’re from. His journey begins in the Mediterranean and ends in southeast Asia, and has him meeting with an array of interesting people: academics, politicians, smugglers.

The story is a short and fascinating one, with a surprising ending of where the first zero is found. The book propelled me to start thinking more about mindfulness and Buddhism, because zero is a very eastern belief. Emptiness is a deep philosophical concept that led to the creation of zero, which Amir introduces through a verse from the second century from a Buddhist philosopher named Nagarjuna:

Anything is either true, Or not true, Or both true and not true, Or neither true nor not true, This is Lord Buddha’s teaching.

That verse and book stuck with me through the summer until I decided to pursue it further after browsing a bookstore while in Vancouver.

The Buddha Walks Into the Office by Lodro Rinzler

I picked up this book with the belief that I would have more success relating mindfulness practices to a work environment. It turned out to be a great introduction to the concepts, phrases, and general ideas on how to get started. Lodro has written other books about applying mindfulness and Buddhism into other aspects of life that may be of interest (Buddha Walks Into a Bar, Walk Like a Buddha, and his latest,Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken).

This book is full of quote-worthy phrases that struck a chord with me. Every chapter started with a quote from someone in the past, not necessarily a Buddhist, but several of Lodro’s passages hit home while tying things together.

There are times, however, when your being genuine can actually intimidate others. When you are genuine, you are offering other people the opportunity to meet you in that state of mind. You are opening the door to the reality of what is going on, which is not always pretty. You are highlighting the fact that other people may not be considering the big picture or being genuine in relating to the project overall. If they are bullshitting their way through work, your genuine presence only illuminates that fact. As such, they may not always appreciate having their bullshit put on display.

What I like a lot about Lodro is his ability to pull from various sources to help describe the concepts, which gave me a survey of some of the greatest thinkers of mindfulness and Buddhism. One of the names I saw routinely through the book was Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chögyam is a very interesting man, with a colourful story. The more I read about him, the more I liken him to a rockstar of Buddhism, living life hard and fast compared to his contemporaries from Tibet, such as the Dalai Lama. They fled Tibet at the same time, when Chögyam was only 20 years old. He went on to translate a lot of traditional texts into English, founded over 100 meditation centres around the world, and is one of the main reasons why mindfulness and Buddhism has spread into the west. He was the founder of Shambhala Sun (now Lion’s Roar), and an influence on numerous well-known people, such as, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, Pema Chödrön, and Joni Mitchell. He also smoked, was an alcoholic, and was accused of coming onto his students many times. His Wikipedia page is a wonderful read of what one person can do in their lifetime while fighting some inner demons.

As for Work, Sex, Money, I decided to pick it up because a lot of the quotations in Lodro Rinzler’s book came from it. It covers the three areas, providing tactics on how mindfulness can be incorporated into each part of our lives. It’s not as easy a read as The Buddha Walks Into the Officeso it’s not something to be considered lightly. Several of the chapters I ended up re-reading to make sure I had a full grasp of the content. It’s a book I find myself picking up again now and then to go through the chapters and allowing the content to sink into my body further. I quoted several passages of it in the past on here, but here is one more:

You are good; fundamentally, you are healthy. Moreover, that particular health is capable of accommodating your badness as well as your goodness. When you’re good, you’re not particularly bashful about your goodness, and when you’re bad, you’re not particularly shocked by that either. These are simply your attributes. When you begin to accept both aspects of your being as energy, as part of the perspective of your view of yourself, then you are connecting with the fundamental goodness, which can accommodate all of these energies as part of one basic being.

Walking the Kiso Road: A Modern-Day Exploration of Old Japan by William Scott Wilson

After the heavier dive into mindfulness, I wanted a lighter read that still kept me in a calm and peaceful mindset. Walking the Kiso Roadwas advertised in a Buddhist magazine that looked interesting to me. The Kiso Road is a section of an old highway used by pedestrians in Japan to travel from Kyoto to the new capital Edo, now known as Tokyo. It’s only 50 miles in length, most of it preserved, through a mostly rural section of Japan. Along the road, there are a series of 11 post towns, villages used as rest stops for travellers. A lot of the post towns are still the same as they once were, being used since the seventh century.

William takes you along the road, highlighting portions of the road for their historical significance, pointing out old markers, and explaining the many haikus along the trail. It was a very satisfying read to go through, with some wonderful writing about the people he connects with at the inns, the tea houses, noodle shops, and along the trail. The book contains the new stories of the people he meets, but also passages from older journals of writers and poets of Japan who have used the Kiso Road as inspiration for centuries, for their work and also for providing advice to travellers. William integrates these passages with is own story to make a compelling read:

According to the very first article in the Angya jo, or Basho’s Rules on Pilgrimages,

You should not sleep twice in the same inn. Your thoughts should be on a mat that has not yet been warmed.

I was not particularly anxious to leave the warm, friendly, even collegial atmosphere of the Tsuchikawa-ya; but in deference to the wisdom of the great poet and traveler Basho, I set out for my new lodging at the Ice-ya, just a short walk away in the middle of Narai.

If that passage interests you, you’ll love this book, as it’s full of the ancient wisdom and Japanese terms.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

The last book I will mention here is the one I am currently reading. A book that has been on my radar for a while, I picked it up in a chance encounter at a used goods store, tucked away in the mainly Christian religious section of books. Like Work, Sex, Money, it is a much more dense read, but I find it is having a calming effect on me as I progress through it. While the other books focused on mindfulness and the present, this one covers the end of life as well.

Being only a third of the way through it, I can’t write a lot about it. The one, strong message so far is death is not the end of life, but the beginning of something new. It’s a common thread for all major religions. With Buddhism, it goes in a different direction, as life doesn’t begin again in heaven or elsewhere, but on Earth once more. It is likely going to be a book I write about in the future the closer I get to the end of it. For now, it’s definitely a book to read and have on your shelf if you are interested in pursuing mindfulness.

— Five books is a strong introduction to mindfulness. There are many more books, of course, more than I will likely never get around to reading.

I can point you in the direction of the two major magazines though, the previously mentioned Lion’s Roar, and Tricycle (if you’re in the US, you can subscribe through Amazon easily, Lion’s Roar and Tricycle.) Both are equally good, have a mix of modern and older writings, and have online resources available to subscribers. Subscribing to Tricycle gives you the added benefit of a free movie to stream each month, sharing inspiring stories around the world. Each offer free newsletters, but I prefer Tricycle’s newsletter of free daily readings.

Both are highly recommended to purchase and explore to see how modern practitioners are following mindfulness around the world.

Hope you found this list of books interesting. Please consider sharing it with your friends and networks to spread the message of mindfulness.

November 11, 2016

37- Absence


Putting the emphasis back on me and not putting so much energy towards negative things that have happened in my life has improved my outlook on life. It is still difficult at times, of course, and I know failure is right around the corner once again. When it does happen though, I will be better prepared to handle it.

36 - What Took You So Long?

Last year, I started my exploration of mindfulness and living life in the present moment. I started a few months prior to my birthday, but by birthday, I began to understand how important it was to life. I wondered last year, why it took me so long to discover it and put it into practice; this year has made me realize why it’s not easy. You have to continually practice mindfulness to be fully aware.

Being present and mindful is hard work; not feeding into negative energy is even more difficult.

This past year has made me acutely aware of the negative energy surrounding me, more so when it is being directed at me for whatever reason. On numerous occasions, I’ve been put into challenging situations by people where they’ve attacked me, put me down, and pressed my buttons looking for a response. The response I give them is not the one they’re looking for, which makes them amplify their efforts. In short, I respond not with anger and frustration, but neutrality.

The lesson this year has been: negative energy + negative energy ≠ positive outcome.

They’re looking for a fight, wanting to get under my skin in anyway they can so that they feel some satisfaction and justify the negative energy they’re feeling. More often than not, the negative energy is used as a bullying tactic to position themselves above me. They’re right to feel the way they are because I am inferior to them.

Becoming more aware of this negative energy has led me to keep my own emotions in check as much as possible. The negative emotions have been mostly absent this past year at the workplace and personally. They still slip out when I’m at home with my daughter though, when she’s pushing my frustration levels even more than normal. Something to work on in the coming year.

There have been some great benefits for eliminating the negative energy from work and in my personal life. The consequence has been feeling more mentally drained than in years past. It may because I am adjusting to a new work environment since I became a licensed property manager in March. When I was in the hotel environment in Whitehorse, I had many more outlets to vent about situations happening at work. Now, I’ve been much more reserved and internalizing everything, keeping myself in check. It’s been exhausting.

Only when I became more aware of the energy being expended did I realize it’s far easier to focus on the negative than on the positive.

It created an imperfect storm for me this year, especially in the summertime. Between being busy with work, mentally drained, or busy with my daughter, I have been absent from this space since March. My fitness has dropped off, as well. Both of these are important aspects to my life and I feel like a failure that I haven’t been able to balance everything out properly. They are things I am aware of and will strive to do better in the coming year.

I have written about negative energy a lot in this. It certainly has been a focus of mine, but it doesn’t mean that the positive energy is gone. I have been feeling better about the direction of my life in the latter part of this year. I’m close to reaching the tipping point where things will get much busier, much more successful in my life. It’s been a long journey to this point with some heavy dips and hills to climb up.

The next year should be much more rewarding and freeing for me in all aspects of my life- meaning more time to focus on the other areas of my life that I didn’t give enough attention to this past year.

Silence

and a deeper silence

when the crickets

hesitate

— Leonard Cohen, passed away November 10th, 2016.


36

35

34

33

32

Five ways to wish me a happy birthday:

  1. Treat yourself to some of the best coffee out there, and give me a cup at the same time at: Blue Bottle Coffee
  2. My favourite book this year: Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness by Chögyam Trungpa - USA and Canada
  3. Discover some really great products at BespokePost or read my Bespoke Post Review
  4. For the guys, check out Gentleman’s Box or shop at Frank & Oak to up your style.
  5. Or make a Donation

March 01, 2016

Five Years and Counting


Four Sides Hospitality Consulting

Five years ago, I decided to try something new. After months of applying and looking for work, I received an email from a former employer asking me if I could do some work for them from a distance. That led to another hotel contacting me, and off I went on a solo career.

Four Sides Hospitality Consulting was officially registered in the fall of 2011, but the work began in March of that year. After the first few months of landing the first clients, I was feeling good about where things were heading. Upon returning from my first business trip, my relationship with my daughter’s mother soured beyond repair and was over within a month. It was a challenge trying to balance between work and life, plus adjusting to life as a single dad.

The first year was rough, and I got through it. Things improved for me after I put more emphasis on the website and developing tools for other hospitality professionals to use. I developed a Hotel Revenue Pickup Report that has helped over 500 professionals around the world. Initially it was free to help generate traffic and interest. It took a year for me to wise up and realize people would spend money on it.

Through the years, there have been plenty of interesting conversations about the challenges other revenue managers have, questions from investors about purchasing a property, and a lot of grimacing when discovering poorly designed websites, hotels, or both.

Some of the highlights have included a business trip to Las Vegas to attend a users conference for hotel software. That inspired me to write several thousand words about it. There is also a hotel in Anchorage, Alaska that had an interesting mission statement behind it and a strange combination of a hotel/hostel environment: Qupqugiaq Inn. Analysis of a new hotel proposal for Coney Island, New York was a fun summer project that had me reading lots about future developments in Brooklyn and Queens. Needless to say, it is one active city for hotel construction.

What I have enjoyed most are visiting the websites of the hotels after someone contacts me. Sometimes, I am blown away that such a property exists. Case in point, Fregate Private Island Resort. Seriously, just go look at the website. A private island resort in the middle of the Indian Ocean. You reach the island by helicopter or boat, not included in the resort costs, and have full access to the island. Here is what is included in their rates:

Rates include all meals anywhere on the island, soft beverages, house wines, local beers as well as personal laundry, island buggy, non-motorized water-sports, guided nature walks.

It also includes:

• A welcome massage (60 minutes)

• An introductory yoga session in the morning at the Rock Spa  (60 mins each day)

• An introduction to scuba diving in the pool (60 minutes)

The lowest rate from January to March is $6,500. A night.

The conversation I had with the manager was eye opening. A reservations office in South Africa, she worked remotely in Germany, and their biggest market for guests were Russian oil executives and their families. The conversation with her led me to another gem, Royal Mansourin Morocco, which is equally impressive.

While there have been plenty of challenges faced and overcome, the one thing that was missing was an office environment and direct human contact. One can only have so many conversations on the phone or Skype. With the completion of my property management licensing, I hope to start a new chapter in my career. Working in an office with only a few others will be quite the change compared to working from home, but it is a change I welcome with open arms.

Onto plenty more years of success as a solo worker.

February 27, 2016

Revisiting The Kindle 2nd Generation


When I started reading Deep Work, I first started to read it on my iPad. The reading experience on the iPad is okay, but I was having a hard time focusing on reading the book for very long because of the screen brightness. Turning it down or turning on the new night shift mode (to be released in the next version of iOS) helped a little, but not significantly. At the same time I was starting to read, I was cleaning up my office and came across my old Kindle 2 from 2010. I decided to fire it up again and see what the reading experience was like after all these long years.

Since I first received it, I did quite a bit of reading on it in the first year. After the first year, I bought an iPad 2 and started to use that more and the Kindle was tucked away on my shelf alongside some of my other books I hadn’t cracked open. I was pleasantly surprised when I first picked it up to start reading the book. It’s about half the weight of my iPad, which is about double the size. I didn’t think that would make that much of a difference when I was holding onto it and reading, but it does. I don’t feel the same amount of soreness if I hold the Kindle in one hand and read it just like I would with a paperback.

The text on the screen is displayed by e-ink, which is far easier on the eyes than a backlit screen. The downside is I can’t read the screen without a light being on or being outside. It makes reading in the evening a little tricker, because I tend to not want a heavy light on if I am reading before bed. I still prefer it over my iPad and it is on par with reading a book for me at this moment.

Navigating is quite a bit slower than the iPad, and highlighting text is quite the nuisance. A 4 button directional pad is how you navigate the menu or when highlighting text and it pales in comparison to tapping and dragging on a touchscreen. Highlights are underlined instead of actually being highlighted, too. That makes it slightly more difficult to distinguish between something I have highlighted or a suggested highlight from the other readers of the book on Amazon.

That being said, I am there to read the book, and having to wait for things to pop up is not an issue for me. It is a much more relaxing experience than on the iPad. On the iPad, I would highlight a passage and want to do something with it- tweet it, share it on Facebook, or drop it into my writing environment to expand upon it for a post. With the Kindle, I highlight and keep reading. I have been reading my highlights at the end of each chapter to remind myself of certain topics before continuing.

The other thing I have noticed is I am reading faster. I made the text a little bigger so I’m not straining my eyes so much and I am finding that it helps me go through a chapter a lot quicker than I would a paperback. It makes me wonder if it is just because of the book I am reading, or the Kindle. I will definitely have to compare with the next book I pick up.

While the device is nearly six years old now, and newer Kindles are out there, it is still a great reading device. The battery life is still amazing as it was then, screen looks the same, and syncing between my Amazon accounts still works. Perhaps it isn’t as fast to download a book as it is on the iPad, but that doesn’t matter to me. I am quite happy with it and look forward to picking it up again tonight.

February 19, 2016

iPad As New Literacy


Anything that is truly new must feel unfamiliar; if it doesn’t feel unfamiliar it is not truly new.

Merlin Mann, Back to Work Podcast 259

Merlin and Dan had an interesting conversation about a problem I have been struggling with: how much time do you allow children to use an iPad?1

My daughter, Kylie, makes good use of my iPad, almost more than I do. The main app she uses is Netflix, because it allows her greater freedom to pause a show or to select a show based on her mood easily without waiting for me. The other apps she uses vary in their complexity and their goals, from simple apps that allow her to mix a smoothie with ingredients she chooses, to exploring the world of Minecraft. She can easily get sucked into the iPad and focus on the activity she is doing, but she still takes breaks or stops without me asking, much to my astonishment.

Leaving aside the effects that iPad screens (and all screens, really) have on our eyes, the discussion between Dan and Merlin circled around which activities are most beneficial to our children? Merlin’s example of parents shuttling their kids to different activities immediately after school, leaves little time for kids to be kids. It is a parenting out of convenience: adults are too busy with work and feel that the activities will fill the parenting void of their absence.

I have seen that happen often at Kylie’s school, as well. It has always puzzled me why there weren’t more kids out on the playground in the spring and fall to enjoy the equipment and space as much as they possibly could. Instead, the moment kids are released from the school, they are often dragged into cars to be shuttled to the next activity on the list. Some of them do resist quite a bit, but the result is always the same: in the car they go.

The main point was that it was more important for kids to be doing activities that their friends were doing. If their friends were doing other activities than they were, they would have no shared experiences to talk about. There would be a lot of comparisons being made and likely jealousy created, especially if the activities were financially demanding for parents.

More and more kids are growing up with iPads and other tablets around them. It isn’t that these kids aren’t interested in other activities, it is that the activities on the tablets are the ones they enjoy more and the ones that all their friends are doing as well. Kylie does not need much encouragement to get out for a long walk with me, or a quick suggestion that she check on her Critters2 has the iPad be put down promptly. She has quite the active mind away from the iPad when playing with other toys or creating art. Plus she is an insatiable reader of both English and French books. I don’t see the iPad being a negative influence on her childhood.

The iPad is something she looks forward to picking up and using, like I enjoyed riding my bike or causing mischief with friends when I was around her age. I learned about life through my friends and exploring the world around us. My daughter learns that way too, but her education is being augmented by using the iPad. Much like how I don’t correct her French grammar right away, I don’t jump to help her when she encounters a problem with her games. I allow her the opportunity to try and figure it out on her own. I don’t want to deter her from her speaking French, and I want to encourage her to problem-solve on her own.

Through using the iPad, as Merlin suggests, Kylie is essentially learning a new language. How to navigate the iPad, discovering the settings for volume and screen brightness, how to organize her apps, how to edit the photos she takes, and more, are increasingly become an essential part of our lives. Allowing Kylie to be immersed in that world now, will only help her flourish in the future when other kids are just discovering those tools at a later age.

While the iPad is truly new for anyone over the age of 20, children like Kylie will treat iPads as part of their life like anything else they encounter these days. They will become normalized for them and it will likely be their generation that pushes the technology past its current limits, because they will be the ones most fluent in its language.

Listen to the full episode:

  1. I upgraded to a iPad Air 2in the fall. One of my best purchases of the year.

  2. A quick note on Calico’s Critters: they can be expensive, but they’re priced around the same as a medium-sized Lego set. They’re less annoying with fewer small parts, and Kylie seems to get far more enjoyment out of them.

February 05, 2016

It’s All Coming Together Now - Mindfulness, Focus, and Deep Work


Mindfulness, Focus, Deep Work

Discipline means getting into what is happening. That is just saying that you have to involve yourself in the situations you encounter in life. We have to go through the process of being part of a situation; otherwise we will not be exposed to this richness. In order to see the delight in a situation, we have to become involved in it. We have to really feel it; we have to touch the whole texture of the complete situation. Then we will be able to relate properly with the actual work involved.

Chögyam Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money : Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness 

I was listening to John Roderick and Merlin Mann talk on the latest episode of their podcast, Roderick On the Line, when the discussion turned towards how we discover books. John was talking about how he doesn’t recommend many books or other media for people to consume, because he wants people to have their own path of discovery. The idea that we each have our own path of discovery has made me think more over the past week about my own path.

The more I think about it, the more it is all coming together for me.

The fall was spent reading a lot of Buddhist literature about mindfulness, centred around Chögyam Trungpa’s writings. Towards the end of December, I started watching the videos for Shawn Blanc’s free The Elements of Focus course. That lead me to start reading Cal Newport’s new book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, that came out a few weeks ago.

Mindfulness. Focus. Deep work.

Three concepts that are all connected, that all deeply appeal to me. The question that lingers in my mind now is why do these subjects appeal to me at this time?

The answer to that question lies in the words I wrote back in September when I was thinking about what kind of loop I want to be apart of. I have been unintentionally creating my own loop of how I want to live my life and become more aware of the present. That loop happens at a micro scale during my daily life: I am taking more time out of my day to read an actual book or a few longer pieces online, less emphasis on social media, and also working out a lot more on a daily basis. On a longer timescale, I am becoming better at building in routines for work: whether it is focused on the consulting work, writing for my business blog, or planning for the next steps in my property management career.

Without any major changes in how I manage my time, I have become more focused and productive. The longer I maintain this loop, the easier it becomes and the more it feels natural to do so.

The practice of mindfulness, developing my focus, and doing more deep work, all leads to the phrase I quoted from Chögyam:

Discipline means getting into what is happening.

I am building a discipline and getting into what is happening now for me: more focused and meaningful work.


All Writings