Work – 1 / Life – 0

The last time I posted something was May 22nd and all my plans to stick to a schedule got thrown out the window. Work reared its ugly head and has been kicking my ass for the last several weeks with little reprieve or consideration for my personal time. Getting home after working since 5:30am meant getting dinner ready, cleaning up, doing anything that needed to be done around the house and nothing was left in the tank for me. I ended up going to bed most nights earlier than usual just to keep up with the next days work load. I’ve slacked on writing, reading and generally keeping life balanced with work. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, but it’s still a few weeks off at this point and will unfortunately start back up again towards the end of August.

I’m still writing sporadically for EatPrayVote.org as I still do managed to read the news every day and write when I’m passionate about certain subjects; mainly political stuff though. They’re quick drive-bys around 400-500 words mostly that are mostly reporting with a sprinkle of opinion for good measure. I find it cathartic to write out the politics clanging around in my head keeping me from becoming too jaded with all the crap that’s been flung at us in the last few weeks from Washington, D.C. Even writing political opinion has tapered off in recent weeks and I get about 2-3 pieces submitted and published when just a few weeks ago, I was submitting 1-2 per day.

Funny how you can make so many changes to keep things balanced between all your commitments and one thing can throw the whole thing out the window. I’ve kept pushing myself to minimize as much as possible and, interestingly, the less I have around me the easier I find it to stay closer to feeling balanced regardless of whether I actually am or not. The majority of the items that I find add value to my life have been moved and organized into my office space in the basement. The family is in a separate category of course, but material possessions now fit into a single 11×12 foot room with little feeling of clutter. Once I get the closet built around the radon mitigation tube going into the floor, I’ll have even more items packed away behind a closet door. It’ll quickly become a refuse that will help me recharge my batteries.

Last night I took a few hours to watch some Dr. Who, which was a feat in of itself as I had to utilize my VPN client to log me into a UK-based server to allow me to stream the content through BBC One iPlayer. The new season has started out slow and I’m looking forward to getting into some more action packed episodes. The mix of different writers has brought a lot of different types of stories and has varied the show without leaving behind the core of what makes Dr. Who “feel” like Dr. Who. It was good to get some uninterrupted time to watch some shows. I also am now taking the daughter to archery classes, which she’s been doing for almost a year now. I’ve started taking her because I want to start shooting with her and it just makes sense that I take her if I’m there already 🙂 I’ll be shooting with her next week as they didn’t have a bow big enough to accommodate my string pull distance.

I can’t make any promises when I’ll be back more regularly until I get a better idea of how things shake out at work in terms of audits and organization changes. I moved to a different building in the same campus and am now reporting to a new Director that is most certainly going to make additional changes. It might pan out that I get a bump in salary and position so that I can, at some point in the future, build out my own audit team. It remains to be seen how that plays out though, but I’m hopeful the changes will be positive.

Looking forward to some life when work decides to take some time off 🙂

A change of scenery

For those that have followed me for a bit, you might have recalled me going for a posted position within my company that would have been a promotion. I didn’t get it, but I already knew that going into it based on how the description was written. My goal was more to let upper management know that I’m not opposed to taking on new roles that may be slightly outside of my wheel house for the sake of the challenge. It worked. The new Director starts today, remotely from Colorado, then from Pennsylvania next week. I already know that my current manager and I are going to report to him as well as another individual from the Networking team. My job isn’t changing all that much except that a heaping pile of “conflict of interest” is going away now that I’m not inside the group that I’ve been auditing the last two years.

With the move comes a new desk in a different building but on the same campus. Moving to the third floor of the newest building on our campus is exciting. More so the fact that it will bring with it new challenges from management that is coming in from outside. We already got a new CIO from outside that is already making waves and with a Director to back her up, the change will keep coming. My work is already starting to make people worried in that the results of my reviews and audits are being reviewed and actioned on by senior management with more purpose and intent to get future audits looking better. It only makes my job easier as the more support I can get for the work I’m doing, the easier it will be to have people engage when I ask them for evidence. A recent audit of change requests in one particular group was actually quite poor and the results have not gone over well for those tasked with providing me what I was asking for. It’s probably good I’m moving to I’m no longer in the same building as the people I’m auditing.

The new space brings with it a quieter workspace and upgraded furniture and chairs. Overall, despite the lower cubicle walls to promote “collaboration”, I’m looking forward to not having the kids of distractions I have currently in my soon to be vacated space. You can view the archives for previous posts that detailed my daily living hell putting up with the people around me. I’ll also have a lot more face time with the CIO and new Director because they are in the same building and floor that I’m moving to. Face time as most IT people know is crucial for those moments when they’re trying to figure out who from within is worth promoting into whatever new idea they have and need bodies to run it. Not that I do my job in order to get a better job, but doing my job and being recognized for it is important to me. One of my many motivations. I’ll also be working remote two days per week instead of just one as I’m no longer in the reporting chain that enforces restrictions. My manager sees that I work just as hard (if not harder) at home then when I’m in the office.

Hopefully the rain holds off today long enough for me to move my stuff, freshly minimalized, to the new building across the main parking lot. Otherwise, I’ll have to try to move everything tomorrow. I like change, the more the better.

Reflections of minimalism

Having recently moved in the last 12 months, I started to evaluate the importance of the stuff that I had accumulated over the previous 15 years while living at my now former home. At the time I didn’t understand the overwhelming urge I had to part with some of my stuff. Stuff that at one point held enough significance that I decided to find a place for it rather than let it migrate out to the street or into someone elses life. My first awareness of my urge to get rid of some of this stuff came when I started to pack everything into boxes in preparation to move down the street (another story in of itself) to a new location. I started to ask myself what importance items had or if they added value to my life in the present. The surprising answer I found myself continuously coming back to was that most of it didn’t hold any value to me.

This trend of asking myself if something held value to me continued through the entire packing cycle much to the dismay of my wife and daughter. Neither of them understood why I suddenly started recommending that a lot of the stuff they had accumulated be tossed or donated rather than moved. My wife in particular had a strong negative reaction to my “just throw it away” answer when we were pulling out boxes and containers that in some cases hadn’t been moved since we put them there 15 years ago. Rather quickly, I became disenchanted with the amount of things we had packed into every place through the house and my perception of our former home changed. I saw her home as cluttered, filled with things that held no value. The burden we created for ourselves keeping all of this stuff clean became something that I started to resent and at that moment I decided that our new home would not be anywhere near as cluttered.

minspodcastcover

The research and reading I did to help me understand all of this change led me to a documentary that chronicled the lives of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus as they discovered minimalism. They started a website, called The Minimalists, to describe what they did, how they came to their new-found beliefs in minimalism and the importance that embracing minimalism had on them. I spent a lot of time on their website and continue to listen to thier podcasts as they’re posted. The one theme they place a heavy importance on is that you don’t need to live a life of “nearly nothing” with white walls, essential furniture and next to nothing in possessions. Advice they gave and I quickly learned and implemented is that items of value, true value to your life, should remain as minimalist lives should have color, meaning and depth.

office

I’ve taken this to heart and a picture of my basement office that I work from home in weekly is a representation of their advice. You can see two racks of CDs against the wall, that I listen to on a regular basis in rotation when working on a mini-stereo system that isn’t in the picture. Music reproduced from a CD, I feel, is superior to a copy of the music in MP3 format (which I have on my laptop). The value that music adds to my life isn’t easy to put into words, but is the reason that I’ve continued to hold onto the collection of CDs I have in my office. There is a portrait of my daughter to the left, and several items on the right (not in the picture) that reminds me of specific times in my past that make me happy; first car I drove, first car I purchased, quarters map from a passed family member and original work of art by my wife. My desk also has a work laptop and a personal laptop as I keep them separate, always. 20 years in information technology taught me the importance and value of “separate” lives to promote work/life balance.

What does this all mean for you? Well, I can’t answer that question, all I can do is give advice based on my experience up to this point as I’m still heading down after choosing that fork in the road. I found a different perspective for my life that has enabled me to reduce my reliance on technology and invest in my physical ties to family and friends. My life doesn’t have the clutter it once used to have distracting me from the truly important things that I had been missing. A really good example of this is how my daughter and I now listen to, and sing, songs while in the car with each other. Until I embraced minimalism, I would often be preoccupied with other things and we would hardly, if ever, talk to each other. She has since discovered Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen all because of me and my love for most music. I like to believe that seeing my reaction and enjoyment of the music I listen to, that I share with her, is indirectly teaching her to value what matters in life and thus instills an embrace of minimalism without her even realizing. Over the past several months, she has been emptying her bedroom of items that she claims she doesn’t like anymore, but items left behind (received at the same time) have stories and memories attached that make her happy. It’s a lifestyle that I think will help you reconnect with people in the real-world and rekindle our natural craving for human social contact with others.

I ask myself these questions on a regular basis:

  • Does this item/ideal/action add value to my life?
  • Will I miss this item if no longer in my life?
  • What will I gain by letting go?

Meaning has returned to my life and everything around me now holds significant importance. I can now see everything that I value and cherish without the distractions of “stuff”.  What have you kept in your life that no longer holds any meaning?  What will do you with it?

One word theme for 2017

Post Inspriation: One Word 2017: When The Words Don’t Seem Right, What Do You Do? by The Spectacled Bean

This was an interesting idea that I had to steal. I’m not a resolutions supporter as I wrote here, but this idea of a one word theme was intriguing. Taking a single word and using it to drive all decisions and actions for an entire year, it’s genius. I highly encourage you to read through the post that inspired me to write this one. I spent some time thinking about the one word I would select, which ended up being something that has been driving me for a few months.

LEARN

Yup, that’s my one word for 2017 and is a continuation of what I’d been doing the latter half of 2016. Learning in several key areas over the last few months:

  • Family
  • Introversion
  • Minimalism
  • Technology
  • Politics

Additional key areas added for 2017:

  • Consolidation/Purging

I wrote about these already as my problem areas that I have been consistently working on for a few months to a few years. What I failed to understand is what is common among all of them: Learning new ways of thinking and doing. The first three are essentially in the same group and are inter-related. Technology in the spirit of living with it as an assistant to life instead of it controlling my life. Politics as I still have a ton to learn after discovering that the world I thought existed was figuratively a dream. Consolidation and purging is a natural progression of minimalism.

So, there, my one word for 2017 and my living theme is “learn”.

What’s yours?

2017, just another year

The year that was 2016, as I put it a few days ago here, wasn’t fun for a lot of people including myself. The frightening part of all of this is now that it’s 2017, it’s not necessarily going to be any better of a year than 2016 was. We’re on this roller coaster, and taking into account everything that happened last year, I don’t think we’ve even crested the first hill. I can hear the clicks and clacks of the chain pushing the cars up the first hill before we drop, weightless, to the inevitable just beyond the horizon. How high we are and how steep that hill is going to be is anyone’s guess, but this is potential bubble bursting territory in proportions we’ve never seen before. In just over seven years, we’ve added $9 trillion to our national debt to have it almost over $20 trillion. Math lesson: How many years would it take to spend $20 trillion if you spent $100 million per day? 547 years!!!

This isn’t the point of this post though, I am just venting a little. If more people realized how much, seriously how much money we had in total debt, it would be a major issue. I’ve been kept up at night thinking of the consequences if the U.S. economy completely collapsed. The Great Depression would look like a sunny day compared to a completely collapse right now. Ahh, I digressed again…..

So, what is my 2017 going to be about? Well, it won’t be resolutions, I learned long ago that I made them just to break them a few weeks later. It also isn’t going to be about non-resolutions as in refusing to not make resolutions is a resolution in of itself that I’ll end up breaking a few weeks later. Instead, I’m going to continue life endeavors that I started several months to a few years ago that is more experimental in nature than anything else. The scientific method is very helpful here. I see a problem, make a statement to the problem, decide on a solution, execute the solution, review the results, move on to the next problem or re-evaluate the original problem. It’s a work in progress. With that said, here are the problems that I’ve been working on recently.

  • Technology usage
  • Family time
  • Mental balance (related to introversion)
  • Minimalism
  • Consolidation and Purging (new)

I’ll speak to technology usage and consolidation in this post as I’ve already written about the other three over the past several months. On technology usage, it’s a positive outcome of my minimalism. I’ve found that removing complexity in some aspects of my life has allowed me to group similar events together and create efficiency. For example, I process the finances twice a month, reconcile once a month, and discuss upcoming spend that I’m not aware of with my wife. While I’m on the computer already, I use about 30-45 minutes after I’m done to go through the non-important email and junk/spam review that I stopped doing on an almost daily basis. I’ve setup inbox filter rules that puts email from specific addresses into my inbox and whatever remains is moved to a folder for bi-monthly review. It reduced several interruptions I’d have through the day checking email that didn’t need to be checked because my phone dinged.

That brings me to my other topic on technology, my mobile phone. The only alerts I get on it now are text messages, phone calls, and work email when at work. I have the Twitter and WordPress desktop apps installed and will review both between meetings (no more than 10 minutes at a time) and at lunch. The alerts are non-intrusive so they don’t catch my attention when something comes in. I’ll admit that I’m not always disciplined with this and will often spend much more time than I should in both apps, it’s still a work in progress. My mobile phone however has become less important as a part of my daily routine and often just sits upside down or in my bag. Part of the reason for this is that I don’t have the social applications (like Facebook) demanding my time and attention. The other reason is that I don’t have a phone that can handle really more than one thing at a time and it has consistently frozen on me requiring a battery pull. Rather than get angry and throw it against the wall, I just don’t use it as much. I’m getting a new one in February and plan on getting something more capable, but I don’t think it will hold as large a place in my life as it once did as I’ve become accustomed to life not revolving around it. Technology in general is on the outs with me and I’m using it to enable my life, not control my life.

Now, consolidation. It means different things to different people. In my case, I’m consolidating everything electronic into a single location. After moving, I realized that I had 5 external backup drives of various sizes. After finding the largest one, I started to bring all the backups onto a single drive while performing a de-duplication of files. It took several weeks as I did it on spare time and I now have a single drive with backups from my laptop and home desktop that operate as the “backup to the backup” since all my files are in the cloud as well. Windows 10 made it quite simple to backup to an external drive, just a click, provided that all your files are in their default locations. The four drives I no longer needed were given away (after a DoD wipe) or recycled. For several years now, I’ve been purging myself of useless technology that I’ve kept around in the spirit of “I might need it someday”. Boxes of stuff dating back to the late 90’s. I don’t need 4 3.5″ floppy drives, I don’t need 3 5.25″ floppy drives, I don’t need 9 CD-R/RW drives, etc. In the end, I kept the best hardware and got rid of the rest of it. The interesting thing is that I no longer have a computer I can install most of this stuff in, so had to add a cable kit that converted the interfaces to USB; they’re all in a single container though. I cleared out an entire closet over the last 8 months!

Saved magazines have been purged (recycled). Saved newspapers and clippings have been reviewed and mostly purged (also recycled). Purging is in line with minimalism in that anything that doesn’t have value to me or serve a purpose, I get rid of it. At first it was difficult to let go and I often would go through boxes of stuff to only get rid of a few items at a time. I’ve since realized that having the stuff around, that I only looked at when deciding whether to keep it or not, was self-defeating the whole idea of minimalism and purging of stuff. Moving certainly helped with this as it became a question of whether I wanted to move it or not. Our trash guys got a good work out a few weeks while we were packing as I quickly decided to not keep a lot of the stuff that had accumulated for more than 15 years. My wife and daughter are now starting to pick up on this and are starting to clear their respective piles of stuff, though not quickly. My daughter seems to have embraced the spirit of purging and is actively making decisions. My wife still has her box of New Kids on the Block memorabilia that she only looks through when I make a point to show her she still has it. Baby steps 🙂

What this means is that I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. Deciding to do something in the coming year, usually to fail, is a waste of time. Plans are made to benefit everyone around me, not just me personally. Experiments that I think will benefit me in the long-term are a much more efficient use of my time and energy. To demonstrate my point, all 5 endeavors listed above support balance for an introvert in an extroverted world. Achieving balance not only makes me easier to be around, it makes others around me want to spend time with me instead of avoiding me. I guess you can say to a certain extent that my laser focus on my introversion allows me to be extroverted in short bursts to socially engage with others around me. These social engagements made the questions stop, let people stop worrying too much about me and made it easier for people to invite me to certain things. I no longer say no given enough lead time.

My 2017 will be just like every other year since 2015, just another year where I have to learn to write 17 instead of 16 for about 2 months.