Weekly Update – #6 – February 9th, 2019

Health & Fitness

I ran my commute (11.9 miles) for the 5th time. Because it’s unusually cold 🥶 this week, it’s tempting to stay home. But! Running gloves and beanies help.

21,500 steps!

 Actifit is the mobile dapp that incentivizes healthy lifestyle and rewards your everyday activity. You’re probably wondering what the heck that means. I’ll explain later.

Family

One of our twins fell and head butted me leaving me with a black eye. Boom!

This week we are celebrating Lunar New Year aka Chinese New Year. Happy year of the pig! 🐷

Reading

I got a new book! Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It discusses being more deliberate using smartphones and social media. Principle #1: Clutter is Costly.

I’m also reading a great book called ChiRunning by Danny Dryer. It’s about tweaking your running form as to run with less effort and injury-free.

Writing

Torrey’s Weekly Report (my work-focused blog) now serves 85 subscribers.

And Torrey’s Blog (the one you’re reading now) serves 108 subscribers. Holy cow!

We hit the 💯milestone, team!

Thanks for reading and as always,

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #5 – February 2nd, 2019

This week was the last week of January. Hello February! This week I’ll give some quick updates around Health & Fitness, Reading, and Writing.

Health & Fitness

I gave the gift of life this week, I donated blood. It’s super convenient because my company partners with Red Cross and every 8 weeks they set up a donation station inside our office. Donating blood is a good way to lower blood pressure. In total, I’ve donated a half gallon!

Running

This week I ran to work (11.5 miles) for the 4th time. I almost skipped the run because I needed to join a conference call at the same time. I decided to do both. My coworkers had a laugh at my outdoor running video feed during the meeting. It’s a good thing I didn’t skip because it’s been raining hard the day before and after. Read about my preparation methods for commute running in How to Ditch the Car and Run to Work.

Strava stats for my 4th commute run.

I need to step up my marathon training. The LA Marathon on March 23rd is looming. Rain, rain go away!

Writing

I’m excited about the growth of both of my blogs this week. This blog, Torrey’s Blog, now serves 87 subscribers. My work blog, Torrey’s Weekly Report, now serves 80 subscribers. Awesome! Both have been growing fast in 2019.

Torrey’s Blog

Since Weekly Update #4, I didn’t publish any I’ve spent more time reading and interacting with other blogs. I realized there are a lot of bloggers just starting out writing online. And they don’t receive much feedback. Crickets. Having been there, I know what it feels like. So I take the time to read what they write and leave a positive comment to cheer them on.

As they say, whatever you want in life, give it away. And be the change you want to see.

Torrey’s Weekly Report

This week I published the 12th edition of the report. It’s now reaching 80 colleagues who’ve chose to subscribe. Woot! The report typically spreads through word of mouth, but this week I promoted it to a new group of peers. It’s opt-in only, and 10 of them opted-in.

Reading

Can’t Hurt Me

While on my long run I listened to a few chapters of ultra-athlete David Goggins’s book Can’t Hurt Me. One quote jumped out at me because it aligns with my own COMPETE AGAINST YOURSELF philosophy.

Life is one big mind game, and usually you’re playing against yourself. — David Goggins

Measure What Matters

I’m reading another book called Measure What Matters by John Doerr. It’s about defining Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in organizations. The goals of every member of the team, including executive leaders, are made visible. The net result is better organizational alignment and efficiencies. OKRs are similar to what I call SMART goals, except it’s okay to set semi-unachievable OKRs and only achieve 70% of the goal.

SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

My favorite quote from Measure What Matters is:

In God we trust; all others must bring data. —W. Edwards Deming

Thanks for reading! And

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #4 – January 26th, 2019

From our garden: incoming plumeria blooms

It’s the 4th week of 2019, and there’s a lot to talk about.

Running & Health

This week I ran my first half marathon. I finished in 2 hours 22 minutes. Woot!

Last Sunday I finished my first half marathon race, the Pasadena Half Marathon. This is the second race I’ve done this season, and my third, a full marathon, is coming up in March. No time for taking a week off!

The night before the race I could barely sleep. Everything I needed was laid out. We were to head out at 5am to arrive before street closures and get registered.

The weather was perfect, a bit cloudy but not a drop of rain. Los Angeles received a bunch of rain the week before. So the grass was shining and the air was clear for my run.

Going into the race, I set a goal to finish within 2 hours 45 minutes. But, the morning of I decided to push myself harder and go for 2:30. I finished in 2:22. Woot!

There were hundreds of runners on the course and I felt lost in a sea of people running through the streets of downtown Pasadena and around the Rose Bowl’s golf course. I did appreciate the designated pacers (from LA Road Runners club) who held up signs to indicate their target finish time. I found my 2:30 group and stuck with them.

Hundreds of runners queued up at the starting line

In training the longest distance I ran was 11.5 miles. This was dumb on my part. The last 2 miles of the 13.1 were a struggle. Cramps, blisters, oh my!

What was really cool, and I didn’t realize this before, was the finish line. The race ended inside the Rose Bowl football stadium, home of the UCLA Bruins, on the 50 yard line. After I cooled down a bit, I snapped this awesome picture with Joe and Josie Bruin, the UCLA mascots. Go Bruins!

Such a great experience…I will remember this one for a long time.

Miscellaneous other health stuff

I ran to work for the third time on Friday, following the same route as two weeks ago. I was much slower than usual.

A few weeks ago I made a change to my coffee/caffeine habit. While I’m at the office, I only drink decaf. I’ve noticed on Thursdays and Fridays I feel less burned out. Cutting back caffeine seems to improve sleep quality (go figure!).

Writing

There are now 73 awesome people following this blog. About 10 of you found me in the last few weeks and hit the ‘subscribe’ button. I salute you! Get ready to learn and grow with me.

This didn’t just magically happen. I’ve made more effort to engage with other bloggers in the amazing WordPress ecosystem. Slowly bridges are connecting my little island to the rest of the blogosphere. Engagement is so crucial and so fun!

I published two blog posts on Torrey’s blog this week:

  1. Three Truths — a written version of a 10 minute talk I gave in front of ~100 teammates. Bring Joy, Compete Against Yourself, and Help Others.
  2. How to Ditch the Car and Run To Work — a walkthrough of how I prepare for running my commute. Shower required.

In my nightly journal entries I’ve started recording something unique the twins did/said that day. It’s so much fun going back through these notes.

Reading

I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I run. I listened to a short, value-packed Audible called Power Moves by Adam Grant, which is about power dynamics in the workplace and government. The book ends with a powerful interview between Adam Grant and Kerry Kennedy (human rights activist and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy).

I’ve just started listening to Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. This audiobook is read by the author, which is awesome because she excels at speaking. This is my first experience with Brene Brown, and after a few hours of listening I feel like buying a copy of every book she’s published.

I’m experimenting with waking up even earlier (5am) to read. It is challenging to do focused reading when anyone else in the house is awake.

I’ve just finished reading The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. The last chapter was my favorite and the hardest hitting. It was about 50 cent being shot 9 times (once in the jaw) and facing death. It talked about living life to the fullest, having a sense of urgency and courageously facing death. Carpe diem (sieze the day) and memento mori (remember you will die).

I’ve started ready a tiny book by Seth Godin called The Dip. It’s about pushing through The Resistance to become the best at what you do in your world. And quitting other things that have stagnant growth or diminishing returns. It reminds me a lot of what I wrote about in The Rose Bush Metaphor: How to deal with too many ideas and too little time.

Thanks for your support. Until next time,

have a great week!

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!

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.

What I learned from So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I asked a dozen engineering VP’s and Directors for advice on getting a promotion. The best answer by far was “be so good I have to promote you.”

The advice reminds me of a book which often comes up in my 1 on 1 meetings with engineers. It’s called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link) It’s an excellent book which challenges conventional career advice. If you’d like to borrow my copy, let me know. I thoroughly enjoyed this book along with Newport’s follow up title Deep Work (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link). More on that one in a future post…

Here are 10 of the book’s nuggets that resonated with me:

1. The passion hypothesis is false.

Instead of searching for work you love, start to love your work. Take ownership of your work and change it in subtle ways that make you love it more.

2. The craftsman mindset beats the passion mindset.

Do remarkable work. Take pride in your work. Whistle while you work. This will get you farther than chasing your passions.

3. Build career capital and invest it to gain creativity, impact, control

The path to gain creative freedom, have more impact, and take more control over your agenda requires career capital. You have to build career capital gradually over months and years of delivering great results and building a support network.

4. Record your day in 15 minute increments

Where is your time actually going? Are you spending time on important work that moves you toward your goals? Or low value tasks that have little ROI?

5. Limit email to 90 min/day

Email is not work. (Unless your job is primarily writing emails)

6. Look for career capital already available to you, right in front of you.

You have career resources you may not realize. Your network, alumni groups, community are great examples. Enroll these people in your support network. This is an important part of building career capital.

7. Control is the dream job elixir.

Spend and invest your career capital to gain more control over your work. This is the path to loving your work and producing something remarkable. The path to finding, carving out your dream job.

8. Get paid

Getting paid is a measure of the career capital theory. You are ready to pursue an idea when you find someone to pay you to pursue it. If no one will pay you for the work, you aren’t good enough yet.

9. Do marketable, remarkable work

Do work that stands out. Work that stands out is remarkable and marketable. It gets people’s attention because it stands out and it makes you stand out from the crowd.

10. Working right trumps finding the right work

Stop searching for the perfect project. YOU are the project.

What I learned from The Three Laws of Performance

Torrey’s Notes


Law #1 : Performance correlates to how the situation occurs to people involved

It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. What matters is how you are heard.

If the situation occurs to you as broken and unfixable, it won’t change. However if the situation occurs to you as unsustainable and needing to be changed, it is likely to change. Compare the ‘default future’ with the ‘ideal future’.

Our ‘default future’ is where we end up if the story is not changed. We can choose not to accept the default future, and embrace transformation. We can imagine a future we want and move towards it. Large groups of people can rally behind a compelling vision of the future.

Ask yourself: What is my default future? What is my vision for the ideal future?

Example

Personal Health Default future: Stress, over-eating, relationship issues will persist and I will die early and lonely.

Ideal future: eating healthy in moderation, drinking lots of water, pushing myself in the gym, will lead to a long and happy life.


Three Laws of Performance Law #2 : How the situation occurs arises in language

Whatever you resist persists. Leaders have to listen to verbal and non-verbal language. There is often tension in the room and controversial things are left unsaid. These issues need to confronted else they persist.What is unsaid? What is unsaid but communicated non-verbally? Leaders must have the courage to say what is unsaid, to confront issues that make people uncomfortable.


Three Laws of Performance Law #3 : Future based language transforms how situations occur to people.

To elevate performance, you have to change the story of the organization and get buy in from the whole community. The story is the vision of where the group is headed.

Ask yourself: Where do you see your team in 5 years? 10 years? What stories will you tell when you get to the old folks home?


Read More

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting th Future if You Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan

(affiliate link)

(non-affiliate link)

What I learned from buying too many books

As part of 2017 retrospective, I found that I purchased wayy more books than I actually read. I decided in 2018 I will try to be more selective with books. I still suck at it.

In the first four months of 2018, I’ve acquired 8 books. Most of them are compulsive random buys from stores or from weekly BookBub ebook discounts email.

When analyzing the data, two patterns jump out immediately. The books I actually read are: a. the most expensive books in the list, and b. books I deliberately sought out, not random finds. This is a very clear signal: Don’t buy random, cheap books!

My book list for 2018 so far…

Title Author Type I Paid Note

The Aeronauts Windlass

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Jim Butcher Hardcover, new $2.99  The only fiction book in the list
The Power of Myth (affiliate link)(non-affiliate link) Joseph Campbell Hardcover, new $3.99

The Power of Broke

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Daymond John Kindle $1.99 Started reading, lot’s of fun stories!

High Performance  Habits

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Brendon Burchard Kindle $9.00 Read!

The Student Leadership Guide

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Brendon Burchard Paperback, new $6.94

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Susan Cain Hardcover, used $7.00 Read! Awesome guide to introversion

The Dip

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Seth Godin Kindle $2.99

Rise of the Youpreneur: The Definitive Guide to Becoming the Go-To Leader in Your Industry and Building a Future-Proof Business

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Chris Ducker Paperback $0.00

The 50th Law

(affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

Robert Greene & 50 Cent Kindle $1.99

HELL YEAH or NO

Reflecting on Derek Sivers “Either HELL or NO“.

It’s okay if you don’t have something you’re really excited about. Books. Podcasts. Albums. Projects.

It’s okay to take a break.

It’s okay to wait for a HELL YEAH option to present yourself.

It’s not okay to fill every moment with activities you aren’t thrilled about.