How to Ditch the Car and Run To Work

Tomorrow will be the third time I leave the car at home and use my feet to get to work. I’d like to explain my methods for successfully and safely getting there. It’s about 11.5 miles from my home to my office. This guide will be most useful for office workers.

Requirements:

  • shower at destination
  • gym bag and space to store it at work

Preparation the Day Before:

While getting dressed, grab an extra outfit. Include a pair of everything. Throw it in your bag along with towel, toothbrush, razor, deodorant, hair product, or whatever else you need to get ready in the morning. Double check to make sure you have a towel. Trying to shower without a towel is awful, I have learned that lesson once and the hard way.

Bring your bag to work and store it. It will stay overnight. I leave it under my desk.

Before going home at the end of the day, store everything essential and don’t bring home anything you need tomorrow. If you bring home a laptop today, it will be challenging to bring it back with you tomorrow.

When you have a free moment, start planning your route. Use Google Maps directions in walk mode. Select a route that avoids neighborhoods that make you feel unsafe. And make sure the distance is achievable for you. Also consider the total travel time. It will be less than the estimated walking time (you are running).

Coordinate a ride home for the next day. Depending on the distance, it may not be reasonable to run home. I’m not a fan of running through the city in the dark. I ask a friend to pick me up. Alternatively, you could hail a ride from Uber/Lyft.

Preparation Day of:

Wake up early, you need a lot more time to commute today. The first time, it took me 2.5 hours to travel 11.5 miles.

Put on your running outfit.

Pack light. Bring essentials like your ID, credit card, medical card, emergency cash, phone, ear buds. I like to shove all this stuff into an arm band. Running belts also work, or a zipper pocket in your outfit.

Eat a light snack and drink some water. If you skip this step and run a long distance you will regret it. I learned the hard way. Carry extra just in case.

Turn on your fitness tracker app such as Strava or RunKeeper.

Run! Have fun!

When you arrive, grab the bag you stored and hit the showers. Without the shower, none of this works. It’s socially unacceptable to be sweaty and smelly all day. Don’t do that to your coworkers.

Three Truths

Nearly 5 years ago I graduated from the infusion clinic. I looked like I had just been unplugged from the matrix. No hair, no eyebrows, underweight. Thats what happens when you’re injected with chemicals to kill cancer. Graduation day was my last day in the clinic. It was time to begin the next chapter; commencement.


TLDR; Three Truths

Bring Joy

If we all try to bring a little bit more joy, we will all be happier.

Compete Against Yourself

If we all try to compete with ourselves, we will be more productive.

Help Others

If we all try a little harder to help others, we will be more fulfilled by our work.


During my stay at the infusion clinic I crossed paths with a graduate. He was a survivor and I’ve forgotten his name, but I’ll call him Greg. The infusion clinic is not a happy place. It’s a place of very sick, often hairless people fighting their fight. Chemically induced nausea and semi-wasted-away bodies.

Greg came back after graduation to cheer the cancer fighters on. He was a cheerleader who inspired hope. He was there for one purpose: to bring Joy. From Greg I learned how bringing joy can make a huge difference.

Bring joy. Bringing joy makes a huge impact.


After graduation, the whole experience created a sense of urgency in me. I was determined to be a force of good in the world. For a while I wanted to be a life coach, to help people move towards their dreams. I studied books, videos, podcasts, about success, philosophy, business, psychology, etc. What I discovered is for me it all boils down to one truth: COMPETE AGAINST YOURSELF. It’s expressed in other ways like: try to be 1% better than you were yesterday. Grow.

A clear example of this is found in running. When you join a big race, you find yourself in a sea of hundreds of runners. If you chase jackrabbits shooting past you, you’ll burn out quickly and be forced to rest. You have to set your own pace, and run your own race. You have to compete against yourself and best your own Personal Records.

This strategy works when you’re just starting out, trying something new. And it works when you’re the tip of the pyramid, the best of the best. It works when you’re lost in the crowd and when nobody is around. With the compete against yourself mindset, you continuously push yourself to grow.

Even if you’re not a runner, we all run races. There’s the never-ending race for quality. The rat race. The same mindset applies there.

To be your best self you have to compete against yourself.


Where I work there are two people who have been at the company for 20+ years. The have something in common. They both started in tech support, answering customer calls. I think it’s no coincidence they have continued here as long as they have. They have a clearer purpose than the rest of us, they understand customer pain and problems better, and helping customers is in their DNA.

Even if you don’t have customers, there is probably someone out there you are helping indirectly through your work. Understand and connecting with and helping those people makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day. And when you lose that connection, you start to feel emptier.

Help others. Helping others provides meaning and fulfillment.


TLDR; Three Truths

Bring Joy

If we all try to bring a little bit more joy, we will all be happier.

Compete Against Yourself

If we all try to compete with ourselves, we will be more productive.

Help Others

If we all try a little harder to help others, we will be more fulfilled by our work.

Weekly Update – #3 – January 19th, 2019

Weekly Update – #3 – January 19th, 2019

This week was yet another exciting week. It is unusual receive several days of rain here. While we stayed safe and dry, the team still accomplished a lot. Reminder: You are part of my team.

Health & Fitness

I have relearned the same lesson many times. Health and fitness underpins everything else. To be the best you in mind and body you have to eat right and move your body. For couch potatoes and desk jockeys, making positive changes in the health & fitness area yields 10X results every other area. Negative changes compound in the wrong direction; garbage in garbage out.

This week I have not done any long, 10+ miles runs but I’ve done some short “active recovery” runs. I’m resting in preparation for my first ever half marathon race, The Pasadena Half Marathon. Early tomorrow morning I will embark on this 3 hour run, and it’s going to be so much fun. I’ll show you guys some pictures next week.

Writing

This week my blog Torrey’s Weekly Report hit a new milestone of 70 subscribers. I take time to thank every single subscriber, because what matters more than the number is the engagement and the overall impact. This is also why I don’t spam anyone or forcibly subscribe anyone. The blog achieves nothing if no one bothers to read it. The best way to make an impact is to grow a highly engaged readership.

I didn’t realize it when I started, but the blog has a potential to tear down silos. It is a blog available only internally to my company (~20,000 employees), and it is becoming a platform for sharing useful information far and wide.

In large organizations, silos naturally form in the hierarchical command structure. Information needs to be “cascaded down” but it doesn’t, it gets stuck. There’s this great parable called Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars by Patrick Lencioni if you’re interested in these kind of problems and solutions. Basically, the organization loses effectiveness because people don’t openly communicate, share information, and collaborate across imaginary boundaries. Silos.

Anyway! Torrey’s Weekly Report is a way to tear down silos. Every week, fresh and timely information goes out to a growing list of leaders in many levels of the organization. Multiple business units and roles, from support agents to recruiters to vice presidents have subscribed.

What would even cooler than seeing the blog grow would be this. Seeing someone else get inspired, seeing another blog spring up, documenting happenings in another corner of the global enterprise. Sign me up! I’ll read it.

Reading

My morning 20 pages reading habit is going strong. I finished up two books I bought last year.

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

The Battles of Tolkien by David Day

I shared a two sentence summary of Head Strong in last week’s update.

I don’t usually read fiction, and The Battles of Tolkien isn’t entirely fiction. It talks a lot about mythical warriors and battles from many human cultures. And it draws connections between the Lord of The Rings universe’s history and these ancient human myths. For example, metallurgy and sorcery are common themes as shown by the evil anti-hero Sauron in LOTR.

I’m trying to finish up a book called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Again since I’m not at all excited about reading or writing fiction, this one is taking me forever to slog through. But it does hold some good general writing tips and references other good writing books like Strunk & White.

Lastly, I started a new book that’s been sitting on my kindle for a while. It’s called The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent. So far it talks a lot about overcoming fear and about self-management. Robert Greene is great at finding examples from history to explain his points.

That’s all for this week. See you next time.

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #2 – January 12th, 2019

It’s the second week of the year, and 2019 is already looking great. I’m changing up the format a bit this week.

Health & Fitness

I ran another commute run. I ran 11.3 miles from home to work. And I still made it to work on time at 10am. This run was more fun than the last one. I ran through LAX, and I had some interesting encounters with strangers.

I feel confident about the Pasadena Half Marathon race coming up in 8 days. Let’s go!

Strava stats for Commute Run #2.

Family

First date night of the year, at Mendocino Farms!

Took the twins to gymnastics class, but they lost interest and just wanted to play basketball instead. Also took them to experience live music at the local public library.

Travel

No travel this week.

Education

This week I’m reading Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks by Dave Asprey. The book covers a lot of interesting science related to mitochondria health. Everything from food to lightbulbs to meditation. Also enjoyed listening to the School of Greatness Podcast with Lewis Howes and Ben Shapiro during my long run.

Work

The first full work week of 2019 was eventful. I spent a lot of time preparing for an upcoming engine release, and a little time working on an invention. A ton of time goes into engine release preparation. The team ships engines to both Norton Security and Symantec Endpoint Protection customers. The delivery reaches millions of customer’s machines around the globe. This is why code quality must be extremely high, and why so much time goes into release preparation.

Friends

Nothing notable to report here.

Writing

This week I started a morning writing habit stacked on my established reading habit. This allowed me to publish more frequently. I’m able to read 20 pages and spend 30 minutes writing because I wake up one hour before the rest of the family. Every night before I sleep I write in my journal. I’ve made 7 journal entries this week.

Torrey’s Weekly Report is a publication currently available only to Symantec employees. It enables folks across the company to learn about what my team (STAR engines) is doing. Torrey’s Blog is public, it’s where you’re reading this now.

How to Write Better Emails

Elon Musk, during a recent interview, described corporations as cybernetic collectives of people and machines. Corporations vary in size and market cap. Why are some corporations more effective than others? I think Communication is a huge part of it.

For example, Amazon.com’s unique communication style. Meetings begin with carefully prepared 6 page memos, read silently by attendees before beginning discussion.

How do most people in corporations communicate? In many cases, they communicate by sending lots of email messages. So, writing more effective emails makes you more effective and helps the rest of the team, too. Your job as a writer of emails is to save the reader’s time.

Five practical tips for being an effective emailer:

  1. Name your target
  2. Just get out with it
  3. Write shorter emails
  4. Make a phone call
  5. Avoid detective games

1. Name your target

When you’re making a request, you must have a person or person(s) in mind who can fulfill your request. Don’t be shy, name them. These people are your target.

Try not to make requests to “somebody” or “anybody” because you will end up with a response from “nobody”. Highlight or tag (@name) the name of your target to grab their attention.

2. Just get out with it

Just get out with it. State your request first and provide detailed context later. People are lazy readers, they can read the first sentence and decide whether to continue reading.

It feels unnatural to skip the build up, but do it anyway. The reader can dig into the meat if they want. Take it to the next level by making the request very succinct.

3. Write shorter emails

Write shorter emails. Try to get it done in 3 sentences or less. Most people are lazy readers, they’re not going to carefully read your wall of text. So, you’re wasting keystrokes typing all of it.

4. Make a phone call

When there is a lot of back and forth, stop using email and make a phone call. Exchanging paragraphs of text back and forth may be a signal a 10 minute phone or in-person conversation would be more effective.

5. Avoid Detective Games

If you’re referencing a document or web site or anything, hyperlink directly to what you’re talking about. Or include a screenshot/image. Better yet, draw a red box around the part of the image you’re talking about.

Don’t make me (the reader), play a game of figuring out what you’re referencing. Save me as many clicks as possible by giving me a hyperlink. Doing this makes it easier for me to understand and reply. We both get better results.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Most of us do it. It’s human nature to compare ourself to other people. Sometimes it’s inferiority (she is better than me) and other times it’s superiority (I am better than him). Either way, it’s not very effective to dwell on those thoughts because you have very little control over the traits of other people. What has personally helped me get off these complaints is a concept I call compete against yourself.

The Circle of Influence

Stephen R. Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, explains how many of our concerns fall outside our circle of influence. We have no control over those outcomes. To be highly effective, one must focus on concerns/outcomes inside the circle of influence.

Comparing yourself to others has one foot inside and one foot outside the circle of influence. Thoughts like ‘she is better than me’ or ‘I am better than him’ are concerns where you can only control one side of the equation and not the other. You have no control over she or him. You also can’t control what people think about you. You only have control over you. Your thoughts and your actions.

Compete Against Yourself

What has greatly helped me get off these concerns is to drop the ‘she’ and ‘him’. She has 10 more years experience than you, anyway, so it’s not useful to compare apples to apples. He just started out so of course he finishes the task slower, with lower quality. That comparison isn’t so useful either.

What is useful is to know your own personal best, what you are capable of. And then try to top your best. Become 1% better than you were yesterday. It’s highly effective because you have 100% control over your own decisions, thoughts and actions. Compete against yourself!

How to Stop Complaining

I had an interesting conversation with my peers this week, where we discussed the topic of recurring complaints and acceptance of circumstances. I want to take a few words to re-share my thoughts. In the past few years, two concepts have greatly helped me get off my complaints. They are extreme ownership and going to war.

Taking Extreme Ownership to Stop Complaining

My favorite example of Extreme Ownership is this. At any moment a meteorite can fall from the sky, hit my house, and kill my whole family. Most of us decide to accept this and do nothing about it. The person who takes extreme ownership seeks out the astrophysicists working hard every day to solve this problem (tracking near-Earth objects) and donates time or money to their cause. Extreme ownership means getting over complacency and taking action.

This concept can be applied to many different situations at home and at work. If you work in a team you have likely seen breakdowns caused by a lack of clear ownership. It’s in you to like an owner, take ownership of the problem and see it through to resolution.

A simple example of how I apply this every day is meetings. Since we are a global distributed team, we make heavy use of video conferencing. Sometimes, you walk into a meeting room a few minutes early. A few people are already sitting and chatting, and the conference call isn’t connected.

The meeting host is running several minutes late from a previous meeting. You take ownership and set up the conference call, so it’s ready to go when the host arrives. By doing this you save everyone’s time. Under extreme ownership, when the meeting host is missing, you are the meeting host.

Retired Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin taught me the concept of extreme ownership through their book titled Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

Go to War to Get Off Your Recurring Complaint

When making recurring complaints, people often give up after the first attempt to take action. The complaint persists, and sometimes it persists for a lifetime.

During our home remodel two years ago, a pile of trash was left in our driveway for nearly a week. The contractor failed to remove the demolition waste. We declared war on the pile of trash. Eventually, the battle of the trash was won.

One, it’s really useful to reframe annoying problems as battles. It also makes it easier to laugh when it’s over. How ridiculous does the “battle of the trash” sound?

Two, when you’re at war you stop complaining and get to work. It’s a crisis. You use all the resources at your disposable to win the battle. You send in your cavalry, infantry, navy, air force, whatever it takes to ensure victory. You attack from every angle. When battle is on you keep fighting for what you believe in.

To win the battle of the trash we talked to the crew leader. Then we called his boss. When he didn’t answer we kept calling. We called every day until the trash pile was gone. We told them it was unsafe (rusty nails were poking out of the pile).

Fortunately, days later our neighbor was getting a new roof. The roofer brought a big truck to haul away the roof waste. After several phone calls to the guy in charge of our project and some on-site coordination, we worked out a deal. The roofing crew came and scooped up all the junk. The battle of the trash was won. Huzzah!

If we did nothing and just complained, who knows how long it would’ve taken to fix. Before long, new problems and new complaints emerge.

Weekly Update – #1 – January 6th, 2019

Happy New Year! This is the first week of 2019.

Travel

This week we visited Palm Springs Aerial tramway. It was snowing! And it was very crowded. The twins didn’t mind the cold, had fun with snow.

Rotating tram car descends from Mt. San Jacinto station.

Writing

On Wednesday I finally published Torrey’s Annual Report (2018).

Running

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.

Strava stats for commute run.

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.

Torrey’s Annual Report (2018)

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
  • Family
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Work
  • Friends
  • Writing

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!👨‍👦‍👦

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Celebrating Santa Monica Classic 10K finish with the twins.

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Summary of recorded 2018 runs via Strava app

 

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

Family

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.

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Birthday cake for the twins second birthday.

Disneyland’s castle lit up for the holidays

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

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.

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Sunset at the Shark Cover on Oahu’s North Shore

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Snowing at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Dec. 2018.

2019 Travel Goals

  • Travel somewhere outside the US (bucket list)
  • Explore the island of Kauai, Hawaii
  • Go back to DEFCON

Education

In 2018 I’ve invested in my education with conferences and with books. These conferences changed how I think about health, fitness, and fatherhood.

2018 Education Highlights

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Sharply dressed and staying focused at Menfluential Conference. Feb. 2018

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Growing pile of books on my desk … to be read. Dec. 2018

2019 Education Goals

  • Wake up at 6am every day and read at least 20 pages from a book. 📚
  • Re-read 5 books. 📚

Work

I don’t a very good job explaining my work to friends and family. I’ve been part of Symantec’s Security Technology & Response (STAR) team for 7 years now.

2018 Work Highlights

  • Learned a ton about Hive SQL syntax from querying Symantec’s Authoritative Data Lake. An extremely useful skill.
  • Promoted to Sr. Manager
  • Shipped a new engine in the Norton SafeWeb product.
  • Kept the STAR Intern Program strong and hired talented engineers who are smarter than me.

2019 Work Goals

  • Continue delivering new features to Norton SafeWeb WebExtension with high quality and high effectiveness.
  • Keep the STAR intern program in Culver City going strong and continue helping bringing in talented folks.

Friends

Staying connected with friends is a weak spot for me with everything else going on and because I intentionally avoid most social media.

2018 Friends Highlights

  • Served as best man in one of my oldest friends’s wedding. Congrats newlyweds James and Olivia!
  • Hosted two of our best friends elaborate engagement proposal at our home. She said yes! Congrats Susan and Eric!
  • Met a bunch of cool people on the STEEM Blockchain.

2019 Friends Goals

  • Spend more time with friends.
  • Make at least one social call per week. 📞

Writing ✍️

Writing is a tool for passing stories and knowledge to my sons, and for making a dent in the universe. In 2018, I doubled down on writing.

2018 Writing Highlights

  • Published my most-read blog post to date. 264 people have read it. The Emergence of Superbugs in the Cyber Security Landscape
  • 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.

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Annual stats for Torrey’s Blog. Dec. 2018

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Banner from Torrey’s Weekly Report publication

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. ✍️

Summary

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.

 

What I learned about momentum from Will Smith and the wall metaphor

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.