Goals and Anchors

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Acceptance

We go through our lives trying to be accepted and trying to fit in amongst our friends, in school, at work, after work and pretty much every where we go. No one likes to stand out and be the center of attention, and even those who do (like Lady Gaga), are still in a way, seeking acceptance (from their fans, for example).

Interests

A lot of us go through a major part of adolescence being described as aimless, lazy and lacking ambition. What is actually happening at that point is that (besides acting lazy to gain peer acceptance) we are still trying to discover what interests us. Unless unusual factors are involved, we tend to be subconsciously attracted towards interests that we think will bring us the maximum acceptance.

Purpose

Through the pursuit of interests, each of us finds our life’s calling, or purpose. Some people find their purpose in life early, some convert to lifetime wanderers and yet others find it after years of struggling from one vocation, location or social group to another.

Also consider that some people have purpose thrust upon them, either by circumstance or by dint of not being able to resist peer and/or parental pressure. In extreme cases, they find that their happiness doesn’t correlate with their success (there’s a fine example towards the end of this talk).

Goals

Over time, we break down our lofty purposes into smaller, achievable and measurable goals. Life is all about fitting in unlimited possibilities in limited time, and not all of us will be able to achieve all our goals.

Setbacks will become failures, we will forget to reassess our progress against our plans, more responsibilities will crop up, priorities will change, things will go wrong and we will accept (or consider accepting) defeat. Or the opposite may happen: motivation will become obsession, we will make sacrifices & compromises, one success will lead to another, we will surpass our own expectations and at some point it will all get to our head.

Anchors

And that is why we need anchors. Anchors are the people or the things in our lives which bring everything back into perspective, give us strength, show us sense, restore balance and in general remind us that we are only human. Anchors keep us grounded and safe while we try to soar towards our goals. Just like a tether holds back a hot air balloon from soaring too high than it should. Every morning, we set out to achieve our goals, and whatever be the outcome, every evening we return back to our anchors. They are the unchanging constants in our lives.

If, for some reason, we fail to establish meaningful goal(s) or find suitable anchor(s), we end up filling the void with distorted forms of acceptance such as Fakebook. We start living vicariously through TV. We start believing what we’re told, because we don’t have any beliefs of our own. We lose perspective of reality. We form cults around beliefs. We become ready to do anything, anything at all, just to be accepted. And the worst part is: deep down inside, we all know it.

Find a goal, and never let go of your anchor.

Only After…

An old Cree Indian prophecy:

cree_prophecy

QDOS (Quick & Dirty Onion Soup)

[Source: 127.0.0.1]

I was working late nights earlier this year & I would come back home (hotel) a little cold and a little hungry, but not hungry enough for a meal. At the same time, I wanted to avoid having an unhealthy late snack which would inevitably contain either too much sugar or too much salt. So I started making myself some onion soup, which I found had an exceptionally warm & satisfying effect, especially in combination with a good book in bed.

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • Pepper to taste

 

Method

Chop the onion. It doesn’t have to be very fine.

Add chopped onion to the water & bring to a boil. Add salt & pepper. Cover and simmer for about 3-4 minutes.
Occasionally stir & mash the onions to get the juice out.

Strain into a cup & sprinkle [freshly ground] pepper on top.

The Art of Listing

As I had posted here in 2007, I have been trying to make an effort towards paperless organization of my lists, most of which are ToDo items. The Palm device that I was originally attempting to use for this effort turned out to be a headache because of limitations on formats, storage capacity, speed, interoperability and expandability. I ended up giving it away to my cousin brother who is a student, to make his first attempt at getting organized 🙂 In the meantime, I picked up a Sony Ericsson P990i, which let me do a lot more, faster and more efficiently (Of course, that device is also fast approaching its event horizon). I found that I have so much going on in my head that often it was a pain to take out the phone, flip it open, navigate to “Tasks” or “Notes” and start typing. Going 100% paperless wasn’t working out too well, sometimes during this physical process I would lose track of my mental process (i.e. forget the idea or task that I wanted to note down). Over the years, I have arrived at the following hybrid approach, which helps me get things done effectively:

1. On my device, I maintain the following lists, in the following order, each of them almost like a Product Backlog:

1) This Week 5) Online – Stuff to do the next time I’m in front of a computer, like e-mailing somebody
2) Weekend 6) Projects – Not just software, even real-world projects like scale models
3) Next Week 7) This Quarter
4) This Month 8) This Year

Plus, the following “dynamic” lists:
a) Groceries – Since the stuff I buy every week/month is almost always the same, I just have a master list in which I keep moving things between “Pending” (unchecked) and “Completed” (checked) depending on what I run out of
b) Shopping – Other things to buy next time I’m out
c) Travel – Places to travel to on the weekends
d) Focus – 1 to 5 items I’m currently focusing on (e.g. “Get to work on time” 🙂 ), to keep reminding myself regularly

2. My phone lets me prioritize tasks within each list, on a scale of 1 – 3. Also, for example, within “This Month”, if “Pay Rent” has been completed, it gets checked into “Completed” and doesn’t get deleted. At the beginning on next month, I simply uncheck everything back into “Pending”.

3. I maintain a single sheet of pocket notebook-sized paper (more if I’m actively noting down ideas/tasks for an ongoing activity/project), akin to a Sprint Backlog, with the following:

Front Side Back Side
Today – Things to do today (mostly at work) This Week – Including weekend commitments
Calls – Phone calls to make + e-mails to send Home – Things to do when I get back from work

4. Every weekend I move stuff from the “Product Backlog” (long-term list of stuff on the phone) to the “Sprint Backlog” (short-term list of stuff on paper), and *wait for it* stuff gets done! I never use more than one sheet of pocket notebook-sized paper in a week, and this way I also always have paper handy to quickly note down stuff (on the margins). Finally, in case I ever lose/damage my phone (which is backed up every 2 weeks), I don’t lose the things I had planned for the week.

Am I going overboard? (After all, it’s just a glorified ToDo list.) I don’t think so. I find that by keeping things prioritized and focused this way:

1.  I manage to get a lot more done without worrying about what I’m forgetting to do.

2. I don’t lose track of things that I would eventually like to do, but don’t have the time for right now (or this week, or this month, …)

3. Moving the prioritization and organization out of my head helps me think clearer and focus 100% on the task at hand.

But it doesn’t end there. Over a period of time (and with a lot of self-imposed discipline, I must add), I have managed to harmonize the short-term (a.k.a. “sort it when you see it”) organization of things that I come across everyday. I do this by managing the following “tags” (often as Folders, in some cases even physical file folders) across my Inboxes, Browser Bookmarks, Hard Disks and scattered notes (including those on my phone):

  • BlogThis
  • ReadThis
  • WatchThis
  • DownloadThis
  • FollowUp

I visit these as and when I have the time and keep emptying them out. With the addition of lists (as notes) for Movies to watch, Music to get, Books to read and Scale Models to buy, my little universe of lists is complete!

Stuff that I learned along the way, though:

1. Hybrid is more practical than paperless.

2. We need a device (implant?) that can make a note when the wearer thinks of it (and where to put it). The interface & actions between thought and task noted are, well, so ’90s! (Note: Speech Recognition is also so ’90s)

3. It’s best to stick to simple formats like Text and CSV instead of proprietary ones (like Excel). Simpler formats are easily portable and retrievable in case of failure, and suffice for making lists. If your list seems to require a complicated format, well, simplify your list!

4. It may be a good idea to reuse Visiting Cards and such, but your handwriting needs to be tiny.

5. Evernote can probably help.

UPDATE: [2011-07-16] I have since migrated all my lists to my new BlackBerry Curve 9300.

UPDATE: [2012-03-09] I discovered Todoist, which is quite simply the Tao of using Computer Science to solve problems. Although using it means that my todo list is now in the cloud, something that I’m [still] not very comfortable with, I find it indispensable to manage long-term projects. I initially found it attractive due to its Outlook integration, which meant that I didn’t have to grapple with numerous tasks disguised as emails, but the app is constantly being improved with new features, like @labels that enable a task to be present in multiple lists. HTML5 support means my list is now available offline, and it syncs effortlessly across devices, including my BlackBerry. I occasionally take local backups with Todoist Backup.

UPDATE: [2012-09-15] With my mind emptied of the long term stuff now safe on Todoist, I have started relying more on my memory for day-to-day things. I’m also trying to do less and focus more on the important things (not to mention years of long hours have significantly shortened my “backlogs”), and try not to take on more than I can comfortably remember over the span of a few days at a time.

UPDATE: [2012-10-05] I have a new revived obsession with Whiteboards at home. I’m trying to keep it under check to avoid looking like too much of a mad scientist…

UPDATE: [2013-07-12] Since Todoist Backup no longer works and I don’t have the time to figure out what changed, I have upgraded to Todoist Premium to be able to make use of their backup service (amongst other cool features). I now exclusively use Todoist coupled with a one-page note on my phone, which has tasks for the day to week range, plus trivial items (< 2 min) that don’t need to go into Todoist. Also, the other day I found the phone I used to use before my Palm device: Nokia 6820.

24276 Subaru Impreza WRC 2004 Rally Japan

[Originally Published: 2008-04-27]

Scale: 1:24
Make: Tamiya
Model #: 24276
Year: 2004
Name: Subaru Impreza WRC
Description: P. Solberg/P. Mills #1 (Rally Japan)

This one was a bit of a scare. I wasn’t delivered until the day before I left Montreal, and I had to leave a lot of my clothes behind to make space for it. But it was worth it.

From Tamiya’s page about the model:

“Making her WRC debut in Mexico in round 3, the 2004 Subaru Impreza featured major improvements in areas like the bodyshell, engine and aerodynamics. The 2004 WRC season saw the first ever WRC event to be hosted in Japan, with Rally Japan held in Hokkaido in early September. It was no surprise that Japanese rally icon, the Subaru Impreza, had the majority of the crowd’s support as it rushed to the lead from the outset. Driver Petter Solberg didn’t disappoint the fans or the Subaru team, leading Rally Japan from start to finish to take his third victory of the season and move into second place in the drivers’ championship. In 2004, Solberg and the 4-cylinder 16 valve turbocharged Subaru Impreza dominated the gravel tracks, winning victories in New Zealand, Greece, Japan, Great Britain and Italy.”

UPDATE [2011-03-25]: My cousin brother, who is an architecture student, helped me build this during his holidays last year. I later finished the stickering in January, 2011. Here are some pics:

Happy New Year MMXI!

Happy New Year! If the 2012 Phenomenon is to be believed, then we have about 01 year, 11 months and 01 days before the world reboots. Must make the most of it.

On the brighter side, though:

 

In the last week, I have made substantial changes to the categories on the left, just to make them less cluttered and more meaningful. My apologies if this broke something that you had linked to. This was long overdue and any future changes would be relatively insignificant.

Live long and prosper, and follow me on twitter: @survivalcrziest.

 

Of Life, Time and Waste

“Life is a waste of time and time is a waste of life, so why not stay wasted all the time and have the time of your life”

-Overheard on the Napa Valley Wine Train