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!

Weekly Update – #10 – March 10th, 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.


Running

I set a new distance record this week. I ran my long commuting route, racking up a total of 17.1 miles over 3 hours and 33 minutes. Next week I will attempt a 26 mile day. There’s only 2 weeks left until the LA Marathon. Last chance training!

I don’t take enough time to reflect on progress I’ve made. Luckily, Strava helps me with this on a monthly basis. I received this summary of February activities in my inbox. 69 miles traveled on foot, 23 miles more than January. Insane! Last September I could barely run 10km.

I decided distance running is 90% mind and 10% body. Training is all about training your mind, must less about training your body. The mind quits first.

In The Dip by Seth Godin there’s this chart showing distribution of runners who quit during marathons, with the X-axis representing the distance reached before quitting. The peak is around mile 18-19. Most runners who quit, quit 7-8 miles before the finish line. Their mind gives up before the finish line is in sight. The mind quits first, so train your mind.


Reading

I’m still reading Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss and Lead Yourself First by Kethledge and Erwin.

In Tribe of Mentors one passage that hit me particularly hard is from Muneeb Ali, a computer science PhD who co-founded a company called Blockstack. I had never heard of Ali until this. When asked what has most improved his life in the last five years, Ali answered:

Asking myself the question, “When I’m old, how much would I be willing to pay to travel back in time and relive the moment that I’m experiencing right now?”

If that moment is something like rocking my six-month-old daughter to sleep while she hugs me, then the answer is anything. I’d literally pay all the money I’d have in the bank at, say, age 70 to get a change to relive that moment. This simple question just puts things in perspective and makes your grateful for the experience you’re having right now versus being lost in thoughts about the past or the future.

Mic drop!

In, Lead Yourself First one concept which struck me is the difference between analytical thinking and intuition. Analysis works well with limited information and fails when there’s too much information. You can get stuck in analysis paralysis where you go through a loop of measure and evaluate over and over. Intuition works well when there’s too much information. With intuition, your gut tells you which way to go and you look for data to prove that assumption wrong.

I think generally reading books builds our muscles of intuition. Most of us do not remember specifics of most of what we read, its too much information. However, we do build intuition which can be called upon in the future to get us unstuck. When facing a challenge, you vaguely recall a similar situation and solutions which worked before. So, stand on the shoulders of giants.


Writing

I have not done a whole lot of writing outside my weekly updates and Torrey’s Weekly Report (TWR). The 16th edition of TWR covered some new technology under development, some market observations, a secure code training announcement, and a few other odds and ends. I’m still working on a Medium post about what I’ve learned from publishing TWR, but I haven’t found time for rewrites this week.


Thanks for reading, and

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #9 – March 3rd, 2019

Hi Team,

This week I have a very light update on running, reading, and writing.

Running

I ran my beach route to work again this week. The run clocked in at a slower 15.3 miles. I have 3 weeks left to prepare for the LA Marathon. It’s gonna be awesome!

Reading

I’m still reading Tribe of Mentors by Tom Ferriss. And I just started reading Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude by Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin. It’s a book all about utilizing solitude to harness intuition and make tough decisions.

Writing

I didn’t do much writing this week. I started writing a summary of what I’ve learned from publishing 15 editions of the internal corporate blog called Torrey’s Weekly Report. I’m planning to publish that post on Medium.com as well. I wasn’t satisfied, and decided to delay publishing and spend more time rewriting it.

Thanks for reading and,

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #8 – February 24th, 2019

This week I have some quick updates on running, reading, and writing. At the end I’ll talk a little about innovation.

Running

This week I ran farther than ever. 16.5 miles I ran from home to work. My route runs along the California coastline from Manhattan Beach to Marina Del Rey, providing beautiful views of the ocean and mountains. Because it has been cold and rainy in LA, the mountains are snow-capped. I wish I took photos!

Stats from Strava.

Making some good progress towards marathon distance. 10 more miles! 4 weeks left until the LA Marathon. Let’s do it!

Reading

I’m reading Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Tim is known largely for his breakout book “The Four Hour Work Week” and his podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show“. Holy cow, Tribe of Mentors is packed with so much wisdom. Tim asked 13 hard hitting questions to dozens of high performing people. Their backgrounds span a wide range of fields. Athletes to chefs to business executives, to film directors, … you name it. This book is not quick if you want to read cover to cover, it’s really dense.

Writing

This week I don’t have too much to report here. I published the 15th edition of Torrey’s Weekly Report, which covers some new technology being shipped by the team and some new projects spinning up.

I wanted to start publishing a public version of Torrey’s Weekly Report in January, but I’ve missed the target. This week, for the 16th edition I am breaking from the usual format to produce something I’m comfortable publishing on Medium.com.

Innovation

How do I accomplish more today than myself one year ago, five years ago?

I recently heard a story about a teenage girl working at McDonald’s. This employee stumbled upon “would you like some fries with that?”. It turned out some crazy number of customers answered ‘yes’ to that question. The store became an anomaly, selling unusually large volumes of french fries.

Word traveled up the chain to the corporate office, and eventually all McDonald’s cashiers were trained to endlessly repeat the phrase “would you like some fries with that?”. This is innovation. And anyone can innovate just like that teenage girl.

Innovation is just simply something useful that you didn’t do yesterday that you’re gonna do today.

Manoj Bhargava, Founder of 5-Hour Energy. Video.

The general strategy is to constantly experiment. What works is useful, keep that stuff and iterate. Develop systems that produce the results you want.

And when you take on a new job or hobby, start a new system. What worked elsewhere may not work here. You need a new set of behaviors and habits.

Experiment! Innovate! You can improve everything from your commute, morning routine, gym routine, evening routine. One thousand little changes compound into huge results.

Thanks for reading, and

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #7 – February 16th, 2019

This week I have some quick updates on running 🏃, reading 📖, and writing ✍️. Then I’ll top it off with some hand-wavy philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

Running

Work and rain threw off my running plans this week. I ran 9 miles on Saturday morning from home to meet up with family at a local gym. I’ll run again Monday (President’s Day).

Only 5 weeks left until the LA Marathon. Get after it! I’ll be spending more time to extend runs and achieve longer distances.

Strava stats for my 9 mile run. Slow!

Reading

I finished reading ChiRunning by David Dryer and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless Injury-free Running is packed with practical, general running advice and exercises. I would only recommend this book to someone who is an amateur runner and seeks to enhance their running experience.

Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism reminds me of a Buzz Aldrin quote that goes “You promised me Mars colonies. Instead I got Facebook.” The book teaches being intentional about leisure activities and harnessing your attention. By doing this you can accomplish bigger things and find more rewarding experiences. In a year from now you probably won’t remember what you saw on Instagram or watched on Netflix, but you’ll remember learning a new language or musical instrument. Stop swiping through Facebook and go build his damn Mars base.

Digital Minimalism also introduced me to the Mouse Book Club. I signed up for membership and received 3 books in the justice series. I’ve read one of them called Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all Its Phases by Ida B Wells.

Mouse Book Club packaging

I’ve just started reading a compulsive book buy. It’s George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood. The book jumps back in time 300 years before the Game of Thrones takes place. I don’t often read fiction but I think I’ll enjoy this one.

Writing

Not a whole lot of writing news this week. I published the 14th edition of Torrey’s Weekly Report, which covers some new technology for mobile and Mac platforms being delivered by our team.

Torrey’s Blog now has 120 subscribers. Woot! Thank you everyone for all of your support. I’m humbled.

Philosophical Mumbo-Jumbo

This section is dedicated to J, a loyal fan.

Gratitude is the mortar which holds together Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow is an American psychologist known for Maslow’s hammer, stated “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. He is even more well known for inventing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy is usually drawn as a pyramid. The lower levels are pre-requisites to the higher ones. Physiological needs must be satisfied before safety needs, for example.

Image source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg#mw-jump-to-license

Self-actualization means being your best self, letting your talents blossom, and reaching your potential. Esteem means feeling respected and appreciated including by yourself (self-esteem). Love/belonging is about being part of communities and higher causes. Safety needs are about not fearing harm. And physiological needs are basic things like food, water, air, shelter, and WiFi. Just kidding about WiFi.

Gratitude is a path to happiness. We know that practicing gratitude makes us more happy. But what do you practice being grateful for? You can start with the first level of Maslow’s pyramid, and then add in the other four.

By expressing gratitude in this way, you reinforce to mind the feeling all your needs are satisfied. The practice cements the pyramid’s bricks together, allowing it to build upwards. Through gratitude, you know you can worry less about finding dinner, and focus more energy on manifesting your given talents, and giving back.

Gratitude is the mortar which holds together Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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 – #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.