Work matters

Action statements that don’t include a plan for participation in manual labor are not action statements, they are hyperbole. If you cast a vision or mission statement you need to be involved in the implementation of it, and that is more than just delegation, or telling people what to do.

Work is work. Work matters.

Inhale/ Exhale

The tools that I work with tax my mind. At least, that is what I believe at the current moment. I spend the day inhaling  information at a rapid pace.

The  information comes from my phones, laptops, desktops, and now even my watch brings world events to me in real time .

I am coming to the conclusion that I am capable of taking in information and sending that information out into the world.

What do I do with this information? What are the possibilities ?

Creative work is one way to process the information.

Creative work can act as a form of meditation, I inhale. In a similar fashion as taking a breath, I bring information into my mind.

Then as I exhale, I send information back out to the world. This is my creative life. My goal is to send out information into the world that is helpful and of service to others. At least the is my desire. Hopeful that it will help someone not just today but also in the future as well.

Inhale your information. Exhale your creativity. Do both. Holding in your creativity can be equivalent to holding your breath, but when you exhale, give the people you serve something that spreads.

It is easy to look at our world today and loose faith in our institutions to bring about positive societal change or even treat each other in a positive manner, but don’t loose faith in the power that works inside of us as individuals to make decisions to behave in a manner that helps or serves other people.

All of us, each day have the opportunity to serve someone else.

Inside/ Outside

I set my timer for ten minutes and began to read. At the end of the time, I reflected and found that I enjoyed the reading and took something away from it. The content of the reading was the most obvious, but another lesson rose up to the surface.

This was ten minutes of sustained reading where I was focused on the material and engaging in the material. I wasn’t worried about getting to the next event or the next activity. The ten minutes were going to pass; regardless of it, I fretted about it or worried about it. Time works that way, it doesn’t wait for me to make a decision on how to spend it. You can count on 5:10 to become 5:11, 5:12 and so on.

Fretting and worry show up on the inside of me. Time happens on the outside, and my work happens on the outside. With my work, I do the best I can to continue to produce it, even when my inside isn’t in lock/ step with what is going on outside. They don’t have to be in agreement. I look at it this way, think of you internal and outside like a band, sometimes the band plays in unison, and sometimes the band plays in harmony. In  symphonic band, I played the Baritone Saxophone. I didn’t play the main melody in most songs. I played background parts. The flutes, clarinets, trumpets would play the main melodies; occasionally, the entire band would play the main melody all at the same time.

This would be unison. This would occur daily during scale warm-ups, but after that, we played different parts the majority of the day.

The inside and the outside don’t have to match to move forward. The inside plays a role, and the outside plays a role. I have to listen to both and decide in what direction I wish to move.

On hacks

What is a hack? A hack is a word with multiple meanings. Which meaning of hack do you assign to yourself? Another question is, why would you call yourself a name like a hack? A useful hack is a behavior choice designed to make you more productive in a chosen activity.

An example that I use is that I use Bluetooth headphones to stream music in the morning. This allows me to place my phone in a different location from where I am working. That way, I don’t check my phone, and I work without interruptions. This is a hack.

Or a hack can be an illegal activity that you engage in to increase your financial position.
An example of this is writing code to program a computer to steal money from a bank or alter your report card. In the case of the 1980’s movie War Games, come close to starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

In the workplace, I have heard the definition of a hack. As someone who takes a job simply for the money and alters their work without any concerns for skill or expertise, just gets the job done.

I think for me, it is important; I am not going to be a hack. I will also use the good hacks, Hacks that benefit other, and make the world better. I hope to, at least. That is the intention I will set, and hopefully, if I screw up, wisdom will guide me back in the right direction. The truth is I will screw up, I have screwed up, and in the future, I hope to screw up less. Perhaps my screwups make me a hack. In that case, it is a name that other people have given to me, but it isn’t a name I have to accept.

In closing, a hack represents forward progress, a person who uses ax hacks away at wood to be used in the fireplace. An artist hacks away each day typing words, playing notes, painting images, taking photos in the service of making things better for others.

So I will hack away. But I am not a hack, and neither are you.

Thoughts ?

Have you ever counted the number of thoughts you are having? Or even attempted to count your thoughts? I tried this morning and counted three, then I gave up. I took some time to notice the content of what was going through my head.

Each image that came into my mind and then back out would produce a spark of energy that would course through my body. Some of the energy was positive, another energy was negative. I concluded that negative energy acts as fuel, but I don’t want to be fueled by negative energy.

I will say this, that negative energy that I generate gets me moving; it is fuel. I am productive, accomplishing the goals and tasks that I set out each day. Still, negative energy is attached to outcomes, driving me towards a desirable outcome.

For example, if you are running from a bear or Frankenstein’s monster, you are trying to outrun the monster and the bear. I may succeed, or you may succeed, but both of us will be tired. Being tired in the hope of living and not being attacked by a bear is a good thing. If the bear get’s you, that is a bad thing. If the monster catches up to you it is a bad thing. The expectation and the story I am telling is that an interaction with a bear or a monster isn’t going to end well for me , and the odds of it being a positive interaction aren’t high.

The reality is a bear isn’t chasing me. I am sitting at my computer at 6:55am, working on my daily blog post.

I don’t need the fear of being caught by a Bear to motivate me to write. Nothing bad is going to happen if I fail to post to my blog today.

I do have an exam that I am studying for this week. I do need to have a sense of urgency when I am studying.

The issue is, I don’t want to be fueled by the thoughts of a bear chasing me, or the fear of failure, or the shame of being made fun of, when you have spent the majority of your life using fear as your fuel, is it possible to switch to a new fuel?

On new and measurement.

I have to be intentional to expose myself to new music. I look at my playlists on Spotify. Most of the music I listen to ranges over seventy years. This music can be called up with a screen’s tap, a simple search, and a few clicks.

Our parents had to accumulate albums or listen to what was on the radio or tv. Our ancestors had to rely on whoever played an instrument in the local town. The wealthy would hear the symphony orchestra perform. The poor would hear individuals perform around campfires, in pubs, homes, etc.
In fourth grade, I had the opportunity to play music in school. I continued to practice and play, and even today, I pull out my saxophone and practice.

I can only speak to my own experience; there is a joy to playing music with others. There also was a part of my nature that is competitive. That side was fed growing up too. In-band, you competed for chairs, you went to contests to compete against other bands for rankings and certificates.
You went to the contest. You got a one. This meant you were a good band. If you didn’t get one, in my mind, you were not good.

This system of measurement. They exist. Measurement makes me uncomfortable. Measurement makes me want to quit, or measurement acts as fuel. There are times that I want systems of measurement to go away.

What is your opinion on the measurement of individual talents and abilities? Is the measurement around to help me get better in my chosen vocation? Or am I using measurement to validate myself or gain acceptance from others? I guess it is a combination of all of the above.

Bouncing from the opinions that I have curated in my mind has led me to conclude that I need to cultivate new habits and expose myself to new music. Still, as a content creator, I am concluding that perhaps I am new. I want to be the new author that a reader chooses. I hope to be that new podcaster that you listen to or the new blogger that you read, and if you would like to expose yourself to something new, check out my work here.

Customer Service Who is it for?

Is Customer Service for the customer or for the business?  After an experience this weekend I am becoming more convinced that the people who tell me they are for me aren’t for me. One of us has to be wrong.

The remote control for our cable receiver broke, so I went to order a new one. I signed onto the website and quickly discovered that I couldn’t order a remote with the click of a button. Instead, I had to go through a long process. I got the remote but left the call more frustrated than satisfied. I thought that ordering a new remote would be easy, I would go to the website of the cable company, and I could click a button and order a new remote. Nope not at all. There wasn’t a web page, There wasn’t a cart. Zip. I can order a burrito from Chipotle, A latte from Starbucks, but a remote for my cable receiver nope not available for me.

Here is what I had to do. I had to use the search function and type in the word  remote. I found out that I could either go to the nearest store that was closed or call, but a message told me that it would be better for me to do a text chat due to a high volume of calls.

So I started a text chat. Before I got to a human, it asked me the same questions that I had already been asked, and I got similar responses, Go to the store or call and order a new one.

It has been about fifteen minutes. I remember my old cable company; when my remote broke, I went online, clicked a button, and a new remote showed up. Why are they putting me through all of this? Why can’t they just have a webpage with remotes? Tween are selling plushies online and making millions, I can buy a plushy toy from an 8 year old web entrepreneur faster than this.

So I got a human, or maybe it was a human, who knows. I could be chatting with a sophisticated bot or a human. The bot or human looked up my address and replied, “ok, we need the security code from your cable bill. ”

I now have to sign onto my computer, login into my account, and there isn’t a security code on the front page. I asked again, and she says if you can’t find it, we can verify another way.

What I do next is I look up my billing statement and download a pdf of the bill. There on the pdf is my security code. I read it off, and then we can finally ship the remote.
Now two questions, one I asked and one I didn’t. Why didn’t the customer service representative tell me that I would need to download my billing statement or a security code? Why isn’t the security code on the front page of your online billing statement? Did you convince me to stop getting paper statements? You told me to sign up for online billing. So I did.

I don’t think that it is an unrealistic expectation that you could update your customer service policies to note that if you want to use a security code, you should place it on the front page of the site or at least tell the customers how to locate it.

The next question I asked was, why do I need to go through all of this to replace a remote? We don’t charge you for the remote, so we have to do it this way. That didn’t make any sense to me at all. If I want to order a new subscription channel or a pay-per-view movie, I just need to click a button from my couch; there aren’t any security codes or third-party verification. So when I am giving you money, security doesn’t matter, because the company is getting my money. Still, when you have to give away something for free, a new remote, you are going to make me work for it. I spent about an hour going through all of this, so at the minimum wage rate in California, I guess I had to work off the cost of the remote?

So again, when a company says to me, we are for the customer. We care about the customer experience; it’s a lie. I am. The customer and I did not enjoy that experience. I guess I guess I shouldn’t complain, right? I got the remote, my tv works, I can change channels using the app on my phone, and the internet in my home is reliable. Does it really matter? Is a remote control important? I don’t know. What I do know is that it was a frustrating experience. But I guess I can file it away in the first-world problems drawer.

Morning Rituals

My morning routine has been pretty consistent for decades. Spiritual reading and journaling, which for me is the Bible was present first. Over the years, exercise has floated in and out. Walking outdoors is very consistent, and going to the ocean at least once a week is something I do.

Meditation is a ritual I added a few years ago, and it has been the most beneficial by far. Meditating in the morning slows my mind down. Slow is different from quiet. My mind is not quiet; my mind is fast. Thoughts race in and race out, and my emotions, in turn, get activated, and I can be ready to fight or preach a sermon by 7am.

Meditation helps with that. I take time to breathe each morning using a guided meditation app. I started with five minutes and have moved to ten. Twenty minutes is a bit much for me.
Along with adding to my morning ritual, I discovered that I need to subtract from my morning routine.

Checking my email, reading newsletters, and reading the newspaper. I started doing that in moderation. Bringing myself online slowly. By bringing myself online slower, I can avoid having the races begin in my mind.

Also, I had to do an inventory of what I am consuming. I found that some newsletters were toxic to my mind and unnecessary to read. One of the newsletters I subscribed to was in my field; I endured reading it because I told myself it is important to read, it wasn’t. I had to use discernment to come to that conclusion. We have to read things that we don’t like, like forms from the IRS. I don’t like them, but I have to read them, and if I choose not to, there are real-world literal consequences.

A newsletter didn’t have real-world literal consequences, and that is the guide that I used. Emotional consequences or real-world consequences. I had to go with the real-world consequences.

Having a clear head and a clear mind why I do my morning ritual and routine. I look for real-world consequences that are my measuring stick.

Thinking about work.

The minute I start a project, I want to be able to finish it. Done, completed, move on to something else. Sometimes I enjoy the work, most times enjoying the work is difficult, other times the work is ignored or put off to the last possible moment.

Enjoying the work is challenging; doing the work occupies most of my day, but done? What does done produce?

Done could mean many things. A finished movie get’s played to audiences. A finished book gets read by readers. The finished art is displayed at galleries, clothes are worn, food is consumed, and the list goes on.

What about work? We enjoy watching people work as well. We watch athletes work when we focus our eyes on The NBA, NFL, or MLB.

The coaches, the players that are at a game this is their 9 to 5. A musician performing live, The actor doing live theater, the bartender serving you, the server at the restaurant, the teacher, all of them are working while we are consuming. We go back and forth, between working ourselves consuming others’ work, in the service of what?

Do I work in the service of being finished? Getting it done so I can move on to the next project? It is a bit of both. When I create represents service, I can look forward to handing my work over to someone who is waiting for it. Done with a spreadsheet or a form, I am groaning and gritting my teeth as I labor to complete it. Is there a way for me to work one percent more today to see my work as not just a rush to get done but also an act of service?

My labor our labor benefits others? Even when appreciation is not giving or shown. Part of our work is for compensation. Part of our work can be for acknowledgment and appreciation, but don’t ignore that our work is also in others’ service. When we don’t have the compensation we deserve or aren’t appreciated, we can still draw strength to persevere from the generosity that we show daily when we show up to do our work.

Then tension between rest and work.

One thing I am proud of is perfect attendance. I had perfect attendance from 3rd grade to 8th. My reward was Chicago White Sox tickets. I wasn’t a White Sox fan at all. I enjoyed the game of baseball, so I would go to the games. The prize didn’t motivate, I wasn’t working for the tickets. I was just driven to have perfect attendance.

As an adult, I don’t miss work very often. I enjoy watching my vacation, and six hours accumulate just because. I go to work sick because that is what you do until COVID. Now we have temperature checks and health screenings, and we need to stay away if we are sick.

I value my own performance over my healing. As a society, how do we view healing or taken time off to heal?

Without running a full research report, I have found myself looking more at those who push through the pain and hurt and continue anyway. I admire Michael Jordan for playing with food poisoning and other athletes for playing hurt. In the face of tragedy, I applaud and initiate those who are back at it quickly.

What about healing? What about rest? We don’t give Oscars or Golden Globes for healing and rest. We don’t give certificates for taking care of ourselves. We look at sleeping as lazy. The lack of cultural value assigned to healing, rest, or peace doesn’t negate the need for it.

Society brings us grief, suffering, stress, and anxiety. Work is one way to process it, Serving is another way to process it as well. What if those don’t work and you find yourself still tired, exhausted, or worn out. It may be time to consider rest, peace, and healing.
I need to examine my relationship with rest and my desire for constant movement. The tension exists. I need both. I believe I have favored one over the other.