On Friday I ran my 11ish miles commute to work. It went exactly as planned, I arrived 2.5 hours after setting foot on the road. I’m feeling confident, prepared for the upcoming Pasadena half marathon on 1/20.
Reading while Running
During these long runs I listen to audiobooks. Right now I’m enjoying James A. Corey’s Caliban’s War. Its the second book in the series which was turned into Sci-fi TV Show The Expanse.
One part of the book that struck me was a description of future society on Earth. After most jobs disappeared, government offered basic support for citizens. The population divided itself into two large groups: the engaged and the apathetic. The engaged choose to work even they don’t have to. The apathetic don’t care and live out their lives on basic support.
It struck me because this divide is already happening. For example, there is an epidemic of unemployment in millennial men (the apathetic). What do the engaged people do? I think they vote, give blood, and go to work.
New Reading Habit
After reading James Clear’s article “How to read more”, I’ve been enjoying a new habit. My watch alarm goes off at 6am and I read 20 pages from a book. Reading beyond 20 pages is bonus points. Thanks to this habit, I read two books this week.
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard shares the amazing origin and growth story of outdoor equipment company Patagonia, Inc. Patagonia offers an unconventional model for sustainable, eco-friendly, and responsible business. Chouinard shows how the human race is not doing nearly enough to prevent and reverse ecological harm.
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi delves into a wide variety of topics: the psychology of daydreaming, introversion, technology and social media addiction, creative work, mindfulness and meditation. It offers practical steps for becoming more aware of distractions and habits, and taking back (some) control. The most powerful nugget I found in the book is “Tan’s Ten-Second Meditation Practice” from Chade-Meng Tan.
1. Bring a person into your mind, preferably someone you care about.
2. Think I wish for this person to be happy.
3. Maintain the thought for three breaths, in and out.
4. Do this every day to turn your wish for other people’s happiness into a habit … that will bring you happiness, too.
After the morning reading habit sinks in, I’m looking to stack a writing habit on top.
Reviewing daily and weekly routines is a useful productivity tool. If you’re not making enough progress in a specific area, think about related routines. If there are no routines there, create one, and set reminders. Over time routines become habit, automatic, and reminders become unnecessary.
The idea of publishing weekly updates is inspired by Troy Hunt.
Happy new year! Because I don’t do a very good job sharing what’s going on in my life, I’m taking a moment to document my 2018.
Because you are reading this, you are part of my support team. Thank you! 🙏
I’ve organized 2018’s highlights into these seven broad categories:
Health & Fitness
Feel free to skip around between sections. So much happened in 2018. Let’s go!
Health & Fitness
In the health & fitness category, 2018 had its victories and set backs. The overall mission here is to live a long, healthy life; healthy body and healthy mind. And to have more than enough energy for everything else. Considering how much time I sit at desks and conference rooms, health and fitness is a constant focus.
2018 Health & Fitness Highlights
Car accident in March. Lower back jacked up. ‼️
Got into weightlifting for the first time. Without specific goals, I worked up to 4 pull-ups and 95 lbs. bench press. 💪
Registered for the Conqur LA Challenge. Three races in a single season: Santa Monica Classic 10K (September) , Pasadena Half Marathon (January 2019), LA Marathon (March 2019).🏃🏃🏃
Finished Santa Monica Classic 10K. 🏃
Eliminated pizza and beer from diet. 🚫🍕🍺
Donated blood once
Still capable of keeping up with and carrying the twins!👨👦👦
2019 Health & Fitness Goals
Set SMART goals for weigh lighting and learn compound lifts 💪
Finish LA Marathon strong and maintain running habit afterwards 🏃
Maintain anti-junk-food habits 🛑🍺🍩🍕
Register for a triathlon 🏊♂️🚴♂️🏃
Donate blood at every opportunity
I am who I am because of the support of my family. Family time competes for attention like everything else. Being a great dad is a big part of it, but so is being a great husband, son, brother, uncle.
2018 Family Highlights
Bought a new family car to make it easier to get around. Twins on board!
Threw a birthday bash for twins 2nd birthday 🎂
Disneyland on Christmas Day! 🎄
Family trips to San Diego, Oahu, Palm Springs. ✈️
Started a weekly date night habit for my wife and I to carve out more time to reconnect.🥂
Visited with my parents approx. 6 times. Making time for the twins to know their grandparents is very important to us.
2019 Family Goals
Have at least 10 positive interactions with each of the twins every day 👍
Keep up the weekly date night habit 🥂
Go back to Disneyland 🏰
Travel is important for growth and unwinding. The twins always light up after our trips. It’s caused by the change of environment.
2018 Travel Highlights
Explored Atlanta and New Orleans
Explored the island of Oahu, Hawaii
Three visits to San Diego, CA
Quick trip to Palm Springs, CA
Weekend trip to Las Vegas, NV for the DEFCON Hacker Conference.
2019 Travel Goals
Travel somewhere outside the US (bucket list)
Explore the island of Kauai, Hawaii
Go back to DEFCON
In 2018 I’ve invested in my education with conferences and with books. These conferences changed how I think about health, fitness, and fatherhood.
Torrey.blog saw double traffic/visitors compared to 2017.
Published 43 posts on Torrey.blog ✍️
Published 9 editions of Torrey’s Weekly Report and grew the subscriber list to 43 Symantec employees. ✍️
Closing out 2018, my daily journal writing ✍️ is consistent.
2019 Writing Goals
Begin publishing Torrey’s Weekly Report content outside Symantec.
Continue publishing Torrey’s Weekly Report (internal) with consistency and higher quality.
Publish one long-form Medium article at least once per quarter. ✍️
Maintain daily journal writing habit. ✍️
In summary 2018 was outstanding in all categories. It is extremely challenging to keep everything in balance. Many top performers fail to do so; they burn out, marriages collapse, or worse. I’m grateful everyone being together and healthy. 🙏
I’ll end with some wisdom from Warren Buffet. What you choose not to do is crucial. Make a “not-to-do” list. List 25 things you want to achieve. Circle the top 5. Focus on those 5 things. Avoid the other 20 at all costs, they are your “not-to-do” list 🚫.
What are your goals for 2019? Leave me a comment below.
This week I reflected on a powerful metaphor told by actor Will Smith. I found this years ago, and I occasionally come back to it. It helps me avoid losing momentum. For convenience, I’ve transcribed his monologue here.
“You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s even been built. You don’t start there. You say ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. There will not be one brick on the face of the earth that’s gonna be laid better than this brick that I’m gonna lay in this next 10 minutes’. And you do that every single day and soon you have a wall.”
During childhood, Smith and his brother built a brick wall. The task was done in after-school hours and took weeks if not months.
The wall metaphor is powerful for a few reasons:
• Breaking down impossible goals into manageable pieces.
• Building habits and creating momentum.
Breaking down impossible goals into manageable pieces
When you set out to achieve something great, the first reaction is ‘stop, that’s impossible’. You want to build a wall but you’ve never touched a brick in your life.
For you, in that moment, it is impossible. There’s no proof you can do it because you’ve never done it before. Breaking down challenges into small pieces helps overcome this. Which brick will you lay today?
The project starts at 0. No forward movement. Through sheer will you push it forward. You get the ball rolling. You lay the first brick.
Building habits and creating momentum
When you first start a new craft or hobby, it sucks. The first few reps go in the trash. You don’t have much to show for the effort. But, you do have something. You have momentum. And if you stop, you do lose something. You lose momentum.
Momentum is subtle. It’s hard to see it when you have it and when you don’t. To see it you have to look into the past and measure your performance. You have to look at your half-finished brick wall and admire the straight lines, the consistency.
I’ve experienced this first hand with writing and with running. I hit a stride and I’m raising the bar week after week. Then some curveball flies and knocks me off course. I stop writing/running.
Weeks go by. I come back and look at what I did just before stopping. I am amazed by what I had done. And I ask myself: why did I stop? Then I start the cycle again, regaining momentum. After taking a long break, the next brick is never laid to the previous standard.
My high school band teacher used to say: “skipping a day of practice is like losing a week of practice.” He understood momentum.
A long time back I read a piece by Derek Sivers called “No Yes. Either HELL YEAH or No“. I never really applied it. The main idea is to say ‘no’ to more requests, and to sign up for exciting things. Things that excite you.
I haven’t applied the ‘HELL YEAH’ or ‘no’ strategy. I’m not quite ready for that. I have to deal with some ‘maybe’s first. I have applied a say ‘maybe’ less strategy. This has changed my lifestyle in positive ways.
It begins like this. While I get ready for bed, wife asks: ‘are you going running or going to the gym tomorrow?’. The best answer is ‘yes’. The second best answer is ‘no because [completely valid reason i.e. an early morning appointment]’.
The weak answers are ‘maybe’ or ‘we’ll see, ask me again in the morning’. These answers reek of procrastination.
Why is ‘maybe’ a weak response?
‘Maybe’ is uncertainty. You can’t effectively plan ahead because you’re not certain about what to plan for. Uncertainty is the enemy of confidence.
‘Maybe’ is commitment avoidance. The decision is deferred. You shrink a little bit inside and lose some confidence.
‘Maybe’ is confrontation avoidance. You don’t want to offend him by saying ‘no’. So you inflict him with uncertainty.
‘Maybe’ shows a lack of direction. Unclear goals and priorities. If you know your priorities you can more easily decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You become more decisive. And more confident.
It works. After I replaced ‘Maybe’ with ‘Yes’ I showed up at the gym more.
We haven’t gotten to the power of ‘no’ yet. Save that for next time..
Just before the twins were born I realized my time was more valuable than ever before. I shifted from adding to subtracting things to\from my life. Choosing what to add is hard enough, how do you choose what to subtract? At some point you find you can do everything you want at the same time, but you cannot do all of it well, and definitely not by yourself.
James Clear recently shared a powerful mental model with his email list. It’s a strategy for solving this same problem of choosing what to subtract. For helping you prioritize life and business. I personally struggle with prioritizing between ideas and activities, so James’ piece resonated. I re-read it several times and I think about it daily.
In our front yard we have 4 waist high rose bushes. My favorite is the white one nearest the side-walk. If left on its own it grows into a leafy, thorny mess. Without pruning the branches choke each other out, wasting valuable resources like sunlight and water. And then as a result it’s flowers fail to bloom to their potential. Pruning is essential for beautiful, thriving roses.
The strategy shared by James calls for you to think of your life as a rose bush. Roses need to be pruned once a year, every year. Subtracting things from your life is like pruning branches. What do you prune? How much do you prune?
Pruning is uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to prune a perfectly healthy branch. The branch goes the wrong direction, competes with, or conflicts with another nearby branch. Similarly in life you might have to prune things you like but aren’t going the right direction. Pruning is necessary in order to make space for something with more growth potential.
I am seemingly always out of time for hobbies and pursuing ideas. Writing, running, reading, etc all compete for limited time. And there’s not much time left after factoring in a career and other important things like family, relationships. Making space for ideas to really blossom requires pruning away some good branches.
You can have anything you want, but most things worth having require some kind of sacrifice.
Here in California most of us don’t have snow or hurricanes. We have huge, devastating wildfires and sometimes earthquakes. California is on fire again. Pray for those who lost homes, animals, loved ones. The current fires are described as the worst fires in the state’s history.
I am fortunate to be miles away from the epicenter. Family, friends, and colleagues have been forced to evacuate their neighborhoods. Smoke covers the whole county.
I snapped a few photos yesterday and today.
The sun burns red..
That is not a cloud .. it’s a plume of smoke over Malibu
Do you hope to be outstanding? Do you hope to stand out? Hope is not enough. Hope will not cause a sack of outstanding to land in your lap. Hope is not a strategy.
To stand out you must craft, do work, create. Artists and entrepreneurs. Hackers and painters. Creators reshape their world to match their dreams. The rest of us let the world reshape our dreams.
Lots of people have ideas. Ideas are cheap. Few people execute on ideas. The graveyard is the richest place on earth. It’s filled with unwritten books, unbuilt companies, unsong songs, unshipped products.
Many conversations go like this:
“I had an idea and I worked on an app.”
“Is it on the App Store? Can I use it?”
“No, I never took it that far”
No excuses. Ship it. Publishit. Build a portfolio of work. Take a risk to put your imperfect creation out there. You will experience a fear of criticism. There is a tiny group of fans to cheer you on. To overcome this fear realize almost no one knows who you are and even fewer know about your work.
Become a creator now, and thousands of hours later you will find acclaim. Until then you will crave real feedback. There is no overnight success. People are rewarded in public for what they’ve practiced for years in private.
Creators are stand out. Outstanding creators crave feedback. Document what you’re doing. Ask for comments. Appreciate every bit of feedback. And engage with anyone who generously gives you their attention.
Do deep work. Create work that evokes emotions. If no one feels emotional connection to your work, no one cares that it exists (besides you). Experience the joy of human connection, connect with people through your work. What makes it all worth it? The joy of human connection.
Then you will stand out…
“I do not choose to be a common man.
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can.
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
Humbled and dulled by having the State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk,
To dream and to build. To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, I have done.”
Looking for a new challenge, project responsibilities? Look inward to yourself. Strive to become a jack of all trades, and a master of one. Be responsible, manage yourself. YOU are the project.
Want to have more impact? What you do at night after work is even more important than what you did all day. Give up one hour of television in exchange for 1 hour of reading. Stop complaining about your commute and fill the time with audiobooks. Read. Drink deeply from good books. Lead and have impact. Readers are leaders.
Identity precedes action precedes reward. First be a reader. Second do reading. Third have the rewards of reading. First be a leader, second do lead, third have the rewards of leadership. Be, do, have.
Books hold lifetimes of mistakes, struggles, and triumph. Centuries of human experience stacked together to make giants. Grow. Climb. Stand on the shoulders of giants.
Knowledge is the antidote to fear. Choose knowledge. Reject fear. You decide every morning when you wake up. Fear is a choice.
Fear gets in the way of action. Perfectionism is just another form of fear. Most people go through life with the brakes on, holding back. Take imperfect action. What would you do if you were not afraid?
Build a world free of fear, full of knowledge. Read and lead. Spread the word.
Sometimes you feel like you aren’t moving toward your goals. You’re either moving in the wrong direction or you have no velocity. You aren’t moving. You are stuck.
Remember that the outcomes are what matter most. Small results are better than no results. Celebrate small wins, because they add up to big wins. Results rule.
20% of what you do generates 80% of your results. Whats in that 20% and how can you do more of that? What’s the other 80% of activity that’s not helping and how can you do less of that? Remember the 80/20 rule.
All the routines, habits, knowledge you have now may have brought you lots of past success. They got you to here. But they may not be the right stuff to get you to your destination. You’ll need to keep learning, adapting. What got you here won’t got you there.
No one’s going to come save you. You have to save yourself. No one understands the problem better than you do. Survive! Thrive! If not me, then who?
There’s no time like the present. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is right now. Take massive action. If not now, then when?
“Like so we had fluffer bot, which was really an incredibly difficult machine to make work. Machines are not good at picking up pieces of fluff, okay. Human hands are way better at doing that. And so we had a super complicated machine using a vision system to try to put a piece of fluff on the battery pack. That same — and one of the questions asked was, “Do we actually need that?” So we tested a car with and without and found that there was no change in the noise volume in the cabin, so we actually had a part that was unnecessary that was — of course, the line kept breaking down because fluffer bot would frequently just fail to pick up the fluff or put it in like a random location. So that was one of the silliest things I found.”
So, they had this crazy complicated fluff machine. And a bunch of really smart people spent days trying to make it work. But no one, at least initially, questioned whether the machine was needed at all.
When the question was finally raised, the engineers challenged their assumptions, tested the theory. And they concluded the whole step of the process was unnecessary.
They scrapped the step, and the machine. Avoided getting stuck in the sunk cost fallacy. And moved on without regret.
Optimizing steps in your routine matters less than removing unecessary steps. Don’t waste your time over-optimizing activities you can stop doing altogether.