Saturday, December 28, 2019

Purpose Brainstorming

I hadn't researched Dan Buettner's Ted Talk to figure out whether he was appropriating or appropriately celebrating the Japanese concept of "ikigai" - basically a reason to get up in the morning - an overlapping of where your interests and talents intersect with the world's needs. Until today, when I searched and saw some evidence that it was an oversimplification of a complex concept...of course.

But I'll link to it anyway, since I found it to be a useful construct to inspire thinking.

Time has flown.  Y2K seems very recent and it was freaking 20 years ago. I was a sophomore in college.  Taking interesting courses in public policy, economics, psychology.  Serving in Student Congress.  Working in a psychology lab.  It was a busy time, but also one filled with hope and possibility.

But soon, I would become more realistic/pessimistic/jaded....or maybe it was lazy.

I was so burned out on school, that I didn't want to go to grad school until I felt called to do a specific something.  My interests were and have continually been so varied that focusing on anything in particular seemed like a waste.

I worked in DC for a summer - I enjoyed the experience but learned how much governing was a team sport - you picked your Republican or Democrat side and modified your thinking and behavior accordingly.

City planning/economic development/government seemed the same in many ways - you compete with other cities for limited resources, luring companies into your town, where it may or may not be the best thing for the residents.

If I were in college today, what would my plans be?  Hard to say that I would have done anything different, besides adding computer science and more math into the mix.

As I reflect toward the end of the year, because it takes a certain amount of calm and rest to think about the higher rungs of the hierarchy of needs, I have been thinking about purpose.

What I Like

  • Mostly listed above - social sciences, ethics, philosophy 
  • Technology and math, not for its own sake but for advancing something else that I care about 
  • Watching something work that I made
  • Standing up for others who aren't being listened to 
  • Writing 

What I'm Good At

  • Problem solving/isolation - experimental design 
  • Thinking of things that can go wrong 
  • Moving things forward
  • Chaos minimization
  • Googling and trial and error 
  • Learning from the past 
  • Writing

What I Can Get Paid For

  • It's irritating that the best-paid jobs are largely BS and that the jobs that have the greatest positive impact on people are lower-paid.

What the World Needs

  • Critical thinking
  • Recognition of patterns
  • Civic engagement
  • Willingness to take a stand for principles 
  • Connection 
  • Engaging education 
  • Hope 

No real common themes here, but perhaps I am blind. 

  • Writing about unintended consequences for public policies? 
  • Work on technology that makes education more engaging or otherwise promotes a healthy democracy? 
  • Run for office for the sole purpose of saying the things that need to be said, drawing from history? 
  • Organize some small groups for people who need connection?
  • Work on technology and the underlying organization that helps people get resources they need to make their lives better - mental health services, in-home care, etc - any process that's difficult to navigate? 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Routine: Living resiliently

I love routine.  I have a system that keeps me sane. Much of my work and home life is structured by Yanado tasks linked with my work and personal Google accounts.  Things I need to do all go there. Things I want to do go there too.

My personal list of tasks helps me keep in touch with my friends, keep my dogs correctly medicated, keeps me learning, keeps me volunteering, keeps me exercising.  My work list of tasks does the same thing - it reminds me of the commitments I've made to others on the team, keeps long term goals in my view, and helps me respond to emails in an order reflecting their importance.

And then things happen to throw off the routine.  We get sick...we get a new puppy who requires newborn baby levels of attention...we get in a car accident and have to take it easy and find time to buy a new car, we get an emergency high-priority issue at work.

While my routine was thrown off over Christmas, I had extra time to read. I read Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal .  It had some useful leadership lessons and also introduced me to a distinction I hadn't been consciously aware of - robustness vs. resilience.  Robustness is strength to withstand obstacles...Resilience is the ability to adapt as obstacles arise and evolve.

This year, I've seen a change in vocabulary around New Year's Eve -- Intentions rather than Resolutions.  The thought being that once you've broken a resolution (e.g. I resolve to floss every night) then it's done; there's no point in continuing.  You can always return to an intention (I intend to floss more this year).  Perhaps a more resilient approach to behavior change.

Watching my mom, who is now retired, go about her new life is inspiring.  She's playing piano and spending a lot of time with genealogy. It led to the table topic style question when I visited this weekend - "what would I do with unlimited time/money"

Photo credit: Taylor Maley
Piano.  Singing.  Auditing university classes. Dancing.  Scanning all the photos I have only hard copies of.  Ping pong.  Bowling. Writing. Reading.  Cross-stitching.  Run for office and use it as a public forum for ranting Network-style if it becomes clear I won't win, steer philosophical discussions on the role of AI in our daily lives.

I'm not going to be able to do all this at once. And that doesn't make me a failure.  I can use tools to keep my family/spiritual/social/professional/physical goals in front of me.  Eliminate junk.  Use Facebook just enough to keep up with the big news of my real-life friends.  Don't overthink; pick something that's fine and stick with it.  Don't get sucked into drama.  Re-route myself to a goal/intention that I've found to be important. 

At the moment, these goals/intentions are growth (learning skills or facts/concepts that grow new neural pathways), connection with fellow humans (and dogs, I suppose), and reduction of blood pressure. 

Happy 2019!