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.

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.

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.

What I learned from wanting lifestyle changes but failing to commit

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Image from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/turtle-tortoise-swim-sea-turtle-863336/

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

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..

The Rose Bush Metaphor: How to deal with too many ideas and too little 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.

Photo of roses from our front yard.

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.

What I learned from mediocrity

How to Stand Out

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.”

Dean Alfange (1952)

What I learned from struggling to make an impact

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.

What I Learned from feeling STUCK

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?

Get moving!