Weekly Update – #22 – Happy Birthday!

Hi everyone, this week I celebrate my 31st birthday. It was bittersweet, since, for the second time this year, our whole family caught a nasty virus. My wife and I put a lot of energy into nursing the twins back to good health and we also caught their germs. This whole things has drained my energy and I’m striving to return to 90% by Monday.

WTF! It’s only February and we’ve been through this common cold thing twice this year. Why is wellness eluding us? It really sets me back and slows me down.

Running

On the running front, I don’t have much to report this week. It was pretty much a zero week for me. After last week’s 10 miler I was feeling good the next few days. I’m happy with the recovery.

Reading

This week I returned to a daily practice: reading a favorite book called The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. This book is a collection of 366 lessons from Stoic thinkers, and the idea is to read and practice one lesson each day. I keep it near my bed and read it first thing in the morning. Here’s an excerpt I enjoyed, from page 59:

February 19th – THE BANQUET  OF LIFE

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass by you? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth–one day it will make you worth of a banquet with the gods.”

-Epictetus, Enchiridion, 15

The lesson is to be patient, wait for your turn. And also to be humble and generous. Avoid taking too much advantage when it’s your turn, and invite others to join at the bounty table.

I also received a few books as gifts. Thank you friends! I have new titles on my reading list. I’m excited to up-level my leadership skills and my writing style.

  • Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Stephanie Capparell and Margot Morrell
  • The Associated Press Stylebook 2019 by The Associated Press

Writing

This week I’m proud to report I finally resumed by work blog called Torrey’s Weekly Report. It had been nagging the back of my mind for months. I realized the core purpose of the project is to share what I’m learning and share what I’m working on, with my work network. It’s very similar to the blog you’re reading now, with a different audience. I realized I’m developing a passion for communications.

This post marks four weeks in a row of weekly posting. Hooray!


This week’s photo is the Goodyear blimp flying over our neighborhood.

Thanks to readers I learned the bird photo I shared last week is of an adult Red-shouldered Hawk. And, the coloring is unique to California.


Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Wrapping up 2019, Superhuman 2020

Hi Team, I wanted to take one last opportunity to share some thoughts before the year closes.


At the end of 2019, there are more options than ever for endless entertainment. Binging TV shows on demand, video games, scrolling social media, junk food, etc. The path of least resistance leans heavily toward consumption and away from creation. Doing work and creating art is fulfilling. The path of least resistance is not fulfilling. In the 2020s, people who exercise willpower, avoid distraction, and focus their attention will appear more and more superhuman.


Today I was pruning the rose bushes in front of our house. The activity reminds me of my favorite blog post from 2018: The Rose Bush Metaphor: How to deal with too many ideas and too little time. In the past few weeks I’ve been digitally pruning, too. I call that effort Unsubscribe from Everything. I try to cut out low-value email. What remains is a few select blogs from authors I respect. I let them into my inbox because I trust the content is always high quality. I can take a 10 minute break to read and digest one of these blogs.

Speaking of blogs, I was struck by the wisdom of Mr. Money Mustache in his recent post titled Let the Roaring 2020s Begin. He succinctly describes timeless wisdom he has personally lived during the past decade.

1) This Too Shall Pass: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas will fade remarkably quickly, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades through the sometimes-bummer magic of Hedonic Adaptation. What’s left is just you – no matter where you go, there you are.
2) But You Are Really Just a Bundle of Habits: most of your day (and therefore your life) is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviors over and over. The way you get up, the things you focus your mind on. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise. Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to tweak it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.
3) Change Your Habits, Change your Life: Because of all this, the easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a good day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create bad days. For me (and quite possibly you, whether you realize it or not), the good things include positive social interactions, helping people, outdoor physical activity, creative expression and problem solving, and just good old-fashioned hard work. The bad things mostly revolve around stress due to over-scheduling one’s life, emotional negativity and interpersonal conflict – all things I am especially sensitive to.

Mr. Mustache’s words hit home. I had just been thinking about how important habits are and skills are. The thought also reverberates some of my favorite books from 2019 including Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key and James Clear’s Atomic Habits. These are both worth re-reading while thinking about the year ahead. I think we can all use more stillness in 2020. And, habits are way more powerful than New Year’s resolutions.


The twins are three years old now, and I’m trying to spend as much time as possible with them and my wife, when I’m not at work. I don’t think it’s possible to feel like I’ve spent too much time with them.

Outside of family and work, my 2019 was filled with running, reading and writing. I don’t expect this to change in 2020. I will work on the balance. Sometimes I feel pangs if regret for not pushing myself more in one or all of these areas. These activities are key for me for health of mind body and spirit.

The first half of my 2019 was strong. I ran my first half marathon (13.1 mi), turned 30 years old, and also ran my first marathon (26.2 mi). In April I was probably in better physical shape than all of my 20s. While struggling to maintain that level now, I managed to finish 2 more half marathons later in the year, the Seawheeze Virtual Half Marathon and the PV Half Marathon (I mentioned in the last post). Now I’m preparing for my next challenge, the Big Sur Marathon, next April. For me, the races are an effective way to motivate me to keep up the running habit. And race day is a lot of fun 😀.


Happy New Year! and thank you for reading. I appreciate all and any feedback. Please help me out, subscribe and leave comments.

Running to Work in Summer Heat – Update #16

Hi I’m Torrey, this is my blog where I document my experiences as a runner , a reader, a writer and a thinker. It’s been four weeks since my last post, and I owe you guys an update. Sorry!

In this update:

  • Running to Work in California Summer Heat
  • Reading A Guide to the Good Life
  • Writing and Publishing the 22nd edition of Torrey’s Weekly Report
  • Thinking about Reducing Friction for Healthy Habits

Running to work in California Summer Heat

This month, I resumed running to work. I decided to alternate between biking and running. My bike route goes along the beach while my run route goes through LAX. I would much rather run along the beach but it’s 6 miles extra and it takes too long. So, LAX it is!

According to Strava I traveled 11.21 miles on foot. According to Actifit I took 20,148 steps to get there.

Strava stats for Commute Run #10.
Screenshot of Actifit snapped upon arrival. 20,148 steps.

The last time I did this run was March. There is a huge difference between March weather and June weather. June is hot and my island shorter-distance route doesn’t have much of a coastal breeze.


Reading A Guide to the Good Life

Since my last update I’ve been reading a couple books. I’ll share some notes from one of them I’m enjoying.

The book is called A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine. I’m just getting started with this book, but I like the concepts so far. First, Irvine covers a psychology concept called hedonistic adaption. To understand this concept imagine someone craving a fancy, new car. Once the car is brought home, happiness from the new car quickly fades and a new, often more expensive, desire sets in. The mind adapts to material pleasure and then seeks out some new pleasure. Hence, hedonistic adaptation, it makes us all miserable. The same idea applies to personal achievements like running a marathon.

The solution is to want what we already have. The way to do this is to remind yourself daily that you can lose everything you have, including your home, your relationships and your life. Visualizing loss of what we hold dear is a forcing function for counteracting hedonistic adaptation. It helps us not take things for granted. Stoic practitioners are known for creating daily (or more frequent), morbid reminders that say something like “you are going to die”. Talk about sense of urgency!

The second interesting concept is internalization of goals as a mechanism for focusing on things inside our Circle of Influence. I’ve talked about the Circle of Influence before in How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. The idea here is about setting goals where you have 100% control of the outcome.

For example, let’s say you are runner entering a 5K race. Your goal could be to earn a top 3 finish. This is an external goal, because you cannot control the outcome. You cannot control the weather, the other runners, and a hundred other variables. If you realize you have fallen far behind the top three, you will get discouraged knowing your goal slips out of reach.

An internalized goal would be to run the race to the best of your ability, to give it your all. You would be un-phased by your competition, and you’ll likely earn a better overall finishing rank because you won’t be discouraged. I call this idea Compete Against Yourself.

There are many chapters left to get through, and you can see I’ve already learned a lot from this great book. Shout to to Derik Sivers and Tim Ferriss who recommended this book during a podcast on the Tim Ferriss Show.


Writing and Publishing the 22nd edition of Torrey’s Weekly Report

This week I published the 22nd edition of Torrey’s Weekly Report, the weekly blog where I share knowledge and exciting news with my peers and colleagues.

I have settled on a sustainable and consistent schedule of publishing bi-weekly (once every two weeks). This schedule is working well (except for the obvious conflict with the blog’s name).

This week I shared a technology update, some SQL knowledge I recently gained, and a book review. I’m excited to publish report #23 in two weeks!


Thinking about Reducing Friction for Healthy Habits

I’ve been thinking about reducing friction for healthy habits, and increasing friction for unhealthy habits.

For example this month I started keeping a gym bag at work at all times. The bag contains a towel, change of clothes, shower shoes, extra shoes, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. Having the bag ready each day, even though I may not need it, reduces friction. There’s less planning required to do one of my bike or run commutes. I can decide to do so any day of the week and there’s less reasons to say no. I’ve reduced friction between me and the healthy habit.

Similarly I’ve implemented a practice of having drinking water in front of me at all times, even if I’m not thirsty or I don’t think I need it. Doing this has dramatically increased the amount of water I drink. Because I’ve removed the friction, the healthy habit becomes super easy.

The same thing works in reverse. You can insert friction to curb unhealthy habits. Hiding the TV remote in your closet or trashing the chocolate chip cookies creates friction and makes it harder to maintain those habits. Spending way too much time on social media? Delete the app from your phone every day and reinstall it when you really need it.

What do you think?


Thanks for reading and as always,

Have a great week!

Passion Fruit vine flower in my backyard.

Weekly Update – #14 – May 12th, 2019

It’s been about a month since I last posted an update. One of my readers reached out to ask what’s going on. This is really, really cool, and I appreciate the nudge. One of the main reasons I started sharing updates is to create accountability. Accountability for three habits that are important but often slip: Fitness, Reading, and Writing. So the nudge is really useful. Thanks Antin!

Succulent flower in our backyard.

Running

Nope! Haven’t done any serious running since the LA Marathon (which I finished in around 5 hours 45 minutes). Because, excuses! There has a lot of other stuff going on but that’s not a good excuse. I have learned a lesson many times: being active has a positive impact on everything else. It’s good for the brain. And long solitude runs are great for deep thinking.

At times like this it’s useful to remember your “why”. I want health and wellness to to live a long, robust life, and to have plenty of energy for family and everything else. So, it doesn’t really make sense to slow down and lapse back into old habits. I need to maintain the training habits and set new goals.

I’m really wanting to hop on the bike for some commutes along the beach, like I talked about. Let’s do it!

Reading

I’m slowly making my way through Richard Feynman’s QED: A Strange Theory of Light and Matter. I haven’t been reading much of anything else, forcing myself to get through this set of physics lectures.

I did just buy a book I’m looking forward to reading in the future. It’s a biography of JRR Tolkien by Henry Carpenter. The biographer gained access to all of Tolkien’s notes and interviewed many friends and family. Should be an interesting read!

Writing

I have been putting a lot of energy into Torrey’s Weekly Report, my work blog. It had gone dormant for a while, and we brought it back to life. In the past two weeks we published the 17th and 18th editions.

I’m happy that TWR is back up and running. What helped is shifting the schedule from Monday to Wednesday distribution. Now I don’t have conflicts with weekend activities and I have more time during the week to ready the next edition.

I’m not happy about the lack of public content. For months I wanted to share content from Torrey’s Weekly Report on Medium.com. I need to establish a process for this.


Thanks for reading, and, as always,

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #11 – March 16th, 2019

Hi, I’m Torrey. Each week I share updates in three areas: running, reading, and writing. This helps create accountability and keep in contact with my team. My team includes family, friends, and you, the reader.

This week was a battle of battles. Both of the twins caught a virus (in series, not parallel). A remarkable number of parts of our house were discovered broken. And a handful of other obstacles popped up.

Running

Despite all the chaos, I managed to run 27.7 miles on Tuesday, with a long break in the middle. This was my last long run before the LA Marathon. Just one more week to go.

Here’s the proof — thanks Strava and Apple!

Going to work…

Coming home..

Apple Health includes all the other walking throughout the day. 53,000 steps , and approximately 6 hours of intense activity. Crazy!

Apple Health provides another data point.

The LA Marathon provides Gatorade Endurance Formula Lemon-Lime throughout the race. I picked up a cask of the powder to get adjusted to it before race day. It’s not soo bad. Iron Man!!

Reading

I’m reading Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson. There’s a great story towards the beginning of this book. Founder Ole Kirk caught his son Godtfred bragging about cutting corners while making a shipment of wooden duck toys. Ole Kirk ordered his son to retrieve the shipment from the train station and immediately fix the ducks. Godtfred stayed awake all night fixing the ducks.

Later, Godtfred took over at the helm of LEGO and turned this lesson into the company’s motto: “Only the best is good enough”. The outcome is remarkable: each one of the billions of LEGO bricks manufactured since 1958 snap together, they are 100% backwards compatible.

I received a handful of new books this week, adding to my growing pile of unread books. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual by Jocko Willink, and a box of Mouse Books (On Service).

Mouse Books is neat. You pay for membership and quarterly you receive 3 little books.

Pictures below.

I read through Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual. It’s a quick read and more of a quick reference for healthy habits. Beneath the layer of super-macho male energy I found some good tips, some of which I’ve talked about before on this blog.

* Wake up early, preferably before dawn – get to work before the rest of the world does

* Compete against yourself – bring out the best in you instead of comparing yourself to someone else

* Work out every day – even if you don’t want to

* Eat clean – junk food is poison

At the end of the book there’s an appendix of tons of weightlifting routines. I’ll experiment with these later.

Writing

A few new people joined the team this week by subscribing to Torrey’s Blog. The group has grown to around 130. Welcome!

One of the new folks, Brandon, shared some valuable feedback over email. Thanks Brandon!

My internal work blog lost some momentum. I failed to publish this week. There are a few things in the pipeline I need to get done, but I haven’t given them enough attention. Other stuff is eating my head. Post-marathon I want to spend more time and energy on writing.


As always, thanks for reading, and

Have a great week!

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!

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 about Urgency from Les Brown (motivational speaker)

Develop a sense of urgency. You will die someday.

“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream.”

Les Brown, motivational speaker

Les Brown is the whole reason I started writing seriously in 2015 and why I write today. I could die at any moment, and every word I publish will be something to remember me by. Or, I could do nothing and take my every thought to the grave. I choose sharing. I chose to get started.

Gary Vee echoes this thought. He says if you spend time in an old folks home, listening to resident’s advice, you will find that end of life has in store for most of us a boat-load of regret.

The lesson is:

Avoid regret. Start on your dream now.

What I learned about Time Management from James Altucher and Ghandi

One story about Mahatma Ghandi sticks in mind after hearing it from James Altucher.

The story goes like this:

Ghandi, becoming busy with his work and a full meeting schedule, decides he is not spending enough time meditating. He asks his assistant, “Please make time in my schedule each day for one hour of meditation.”

His assistant replies, “Ghandi, your request is impossible, your schedule is too full to dedicate one full hour to meditation each day.”

Ghandi contemplates this answer before quipping, “In that case, please schedule two hours every day for meditation.”

Replace meditation with any activity important to you. Distractions and busy-ness get in the way of spending time doing what we love. When the assistant rejected his request, Ghandi realized it was worse than he thought. He needed even more time dedicated to cultivating himself.

Your activity might be:

  • Hiking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Calling an old friend
  • Exercise

If one of these activities matters to you, you need to work extra hard to carve out time for it. This might mean waking up an hour earlier every day; sometimes sacrifice is the only way.

The lesson I learned is:

Life is too short to let busy-ness get in the way of living.