Big Bend

Big Bend

Some highlights from our Big Bend trip.

There is something to be said for hiking many, many miles and setting up camp out of a backpack after ascending to 6700 ft. These are memories I will never ever lose with friends that will always have a special place in my life.

If you’re ever feeling like you’ve lost yourself, take a trip up a mountain. You just might discover more than you ever thought possible. Looking at the stars at altitude you may find you’re staring deep inside yourself.

A thought for November

A thought for November

Given a wide enough window we would see that everything is ephemeral. The universe and even time itself will both one day cease to exist.

The most powerful realization I’ve ever had is that the only thing that is forever is love. Love once given can never be taken back. Sure, you can mess things up or grow to hate someone that you once loved, but those memories, those feelings that love granted to you, they will always be there.

It’s a powerful thing. Though we are not gods, and can not create the universe, all of us have the capacity to love and change others forever from their perspective.

One of our simplest and most basic actions can best the universe and time.

Life is

Life is

Life is pain. Life is joy. Life is the laughs that we have with good friends, and the tears that we share with our closest allies. Life is the loss we feel in our darkest moments. Life is the wonder of a newborn child.

One thing life is not is a plan. Life doesn’t “DO” anything to us beyond the aging process. Life just is. When we want to find someone or something to blame, putting that burden on “life” is misdirected. It is up to us to deal with the events that happen while we’re living the best that we can. Whenever things get really really hard for me, and right now is definitely one of the most difficult and challenging periods of my life, I like to think back to a scene in the movie The Grey:

Ottway: Do something. Do something. You phony prick fraudulent motherfucker. Do something! Come on! Prove it! Fuck faith! Earn it! Show me something real! I need it now. Not later. Now! Show me and I’ll believe in you until the day I die. I swear. I’m calling on you. I’m calling on you!
[receives no response]

Ottway: Fuck it. I’ll do it myself.

Ottway, at the end of his rope finally calls out to life, to a deity, to anything to save him from his situation. In the middle of nowhere, out in the wilderness, all alone, he assumes that if there is anything out there listening, surely it would show itself now when he has nothing to lose.

His cries for help go unheeded. Nothing appears. Nothing speaks to him. We’ve all been here more times than we want to think about. On our knees, out of breath, choking on the tears.

At this point in life we have two choices. The first is to give up. Giving up takes many forms, but the most common seems to be just not doing anything. Sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. Accomplishing nothing and never risking anything again. This route never leads anywhere. Once we’re done moping around, nothing is better and we’ve lost precious time. Our time here is limited. This is time we can never get back.

The second choice is to just take action. Realize that the loss is real, that the problem is real. Realize that nothing is out to get you, this is just the way things turned out. Realize that in most situations there are others making decisions outside of your control that will directly affect your happiness, and all the bargaining in the world can’t stop it.

Life is. It just IS. Nothing more, and nothing less. This life is your one single certain opportunity. Your life happened against cosmically incredible and unfavorable odds. THAT is your gift. THAT is your break, and that is the only break you should ever expect. Do something with it. Make it your way.

Just a box

Just a box

Bring home a box and a cat will instantly be enamored with it. Why? It’s just a box. It’s not a special toy, it doesn’t move around, there are no flashing lights inside of it. There is no glitter, no other cats to play with inside, and no treats.

The shape of the box doesn’t seem to matter, and it doesn’t even seem to matter much how well he fits inside of it. What is it about a new box that is so interesting? Why does a new empty box seem to be my cat’s favorite toy above all else?

To analyze his reaction, it helped me to think of the new box as a metaphor for something new coming into my life. Not just anything of course, but someone, or some thing that changed me for the better.

Viewed from this perspective I again ask why a box, and what did it take to make my cat as well as myself really happy? I’ve come up with a few possibilities, from the perspective of a cat of course.. probably..

A new place to explore

The box presents a new and completely fresh place to explore. The cat has no idea what is contained in the box and has to go inside for a look to see. The possibilities are boundless. There could literally be anything at all in the box. Once you get into the box there is no telling how large it actually is on the inside! Maybe you could spend the rest of your life looking around.

A new adventure

I was pretty bored with my old box, but this one will be different. I can bring some of my toys in here and find ways to play that I never thought were possible. Maybe I can bring my kitty friends with me and we can find new and exciting things to do. Can you imagine all the new things that we can try now?

The unknown

I have no idea what might happen in this box. It is scary, but it is also exciting. There would be little point in life if we always knew exactly how each day was going to go. Even though I am uneasy at first, I really like this feeling.

A place to feel safe

Inside this box no one can hurt me. If I want to be hidden I can stay hidden. If I want to be seen, I can invite my most trusted friends in to share this experience with me. I am safe here. No one can attack me because I can see anything coming at me from here. This box shelters me and keeps me warm. It wraps around me when I am feeling afraid and gives me comfort. In just being there, it promises I will never have to be exposed out in the open and alone.

A place that feels like home

I think I’ll snuggle up inside this box and take a nap. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be. I’ve left little bits of myself here. I see some of my fur, a couple of my favorite toys. See over there? I made a little mark with my claws once when I was in here chasing a fly. I recognize this feeling and this place. It is so familiar to me.

I’ve been so happy here that it almost feels like home.

But it’s just a box.

Entrepreneur survival guide for 2015

Entrepreneur survival guide for 2015

Working for yourself is exciting, but it takes the right kind of attitude and the right type of person. Life can get lonely and you go through every day knowing that when you fail or succeed, there is ultimately no one to blame but yourself. It is a difficult road to travel, but the rewards, the lessons, and the connections you can make with others like yourself can make the journey well worth it.

Over the past 6+ years I have been an entrepreneur, I’ve been building up a list of the things that help me to maintain my sanity when things get rough. I’m finally to a point where I think I have enough useful advice to share some of it with you. I hope you can find some of this post useful and I encourage you to leave some of your own advice for me in the comments. I’m always looking for ways that I might eke out just a bit more happiness from each and every day.

So without further ado, here are some things I’ve learned.

The fight is mostly mental

This is a bit of a cliché, but it turns out to be true in almost every situation I run into on a day by day basis. When you are going through a rough time with something, take a step back from it and look at it from the outside in. Take a deep breath, remove the emotions and look at the situation logically. Fretting over something, or wasting your time generating hundreds of negative what-if scenarios is not going to solve the problem or make it any easier to deal with.

The most difficult things you’re going to have to deal with are self-doubt, situational doubt, and fear. You’ll need to face these head on, and be able to look at them from an outsider’s perspective to make it through the day. You’ll need to know, to really know that even if things don’t go quite the way you want, or not the way you want at all, you will still be there the next day with a new chance to do something great.

Family and friends

Dont take your family and close friends for granted. The worst thing for your mental heath would be losing your entire support system. These people are willing to put up with your wacky hours, your mood swings, and your need to vent. Treat them with the respect they deserve.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to your close friends about your problems. Talk to the people that really care about you and will give you honest and empathetic feedback. We all need some way to let it all out. Lean on them.

Force yourself to get out and disconnect

Bad news. Your problems will still be there tomorrow. Good news! Your problems will still be there tomorrow, and you can deal with them at that point if you just can’t push yourself to work one more minute on this Friday night. Get out of the house! Get out of the office! Go spend some time with your friends and family. Go find some fellow entrepreneurs to talk business with. Anything is better than beating your head on a wall getting nowhere because you’ve burned up all your energy and you’re running on empty.

Find people you can rely on

Nothing sucks worse than being responsible for absolutely everything yourself. Find reliable people that you can rely on to help out with important work and when important deadlines are about to hit. These may be contractors, employees, or even friends. Nothing will save your butt quite like a graphic designer that is willing to whip up an ad for you in a few hours, or a coder that is willing to sacrifice most of a Friday night to make sure something is ready for release after you’ve already spent one too many days with little sleep.

Celebrate (and remember) your small victories

This is super important. You’re going to have many more small victories than super large ones. The small victories count and add up to something much bigger. Don’t take them for granted and don’t forget them. Remember them when things are tough. Remember what it took you to get here.

Don’t rely on any one thing (or person) for happiness

Remember that sometimes your just going to need people to have fun with or things to do just to get away from work for a while. Don’t put all the pressure for keeping your sanity on one person or one thing. Make sure you have a few options of people and activities to turn to for when you just need to get away from work so that you’re not stuck disappointed (and working) if plans fall through.

Don’t fight for too long physically alone

If you’re like many of us, you are probably working from home most of the time since having your own office is rapidly becoming an unneeded expense. Working physically by yourself alone for years is a recipe for emotional disaster. You’re going to start to feel isolated from people and your workspace will start to seem lifeless and lonely. Regular skype calls with employees, coworkers, and founders can help this, but eventually you’re going to need to get out and talk to people who are physically there.

Getting out to a local coffee shop can help you to feel better by simply being in a social space. You might also find others with similar interests. Even better is getting yourself a membership or an office at a shared workspace like Geekdom.  There you are sure to find other entrepreneurs and professionals who might need your advice or help, and from which you can receive the same.

Keep your chin up, and do the best you can to find peace even when things are tough. The journey and the lessons it teaches are well worth it.

In the blink of an eye

In the blink of an eye

I got a call this morning about a good friend of mine.

He was the best man at my wedding, and has been there for me though more hard times than I can remember. He’s the type of guy that if you’re feeling down for any reason, he’s got your back and will help you with whatever you need, or just sit and tell you stupid jokes until you laugh out of reflex.

He was my “boss” at my first programming job. I put boss in quotes because he never acted like that. I always felt like I was part of a team. He was the guy that got to get in between the programmers and the employees to really flesh out how we could best make the software we were writing work for the company.

Just last week I was helping him work out an issue where after the installation of a bunch of pieces of software all of a sudden DNS lookups started to to randomly fail. It just seems so surreal.

This morning the voice on the call was his father. He called to tell me that my friend was in the hospital with multiple blood clots. He’s stable, but they expect him to be in the hospital for a week in recovery.

All adults realize that stuff like this can happen at any time, but I don’t think we really let it sink in until it does. You always hear the stories and sayings that go something like “at some point if you live long enough, you get to a certain age where life starts taking away rather than giving”.

My friend has children, all girls, with a wife who is 7 months pregnant with his first boy. That’s all I could think about. For a good hour I was pretty frozen just thinking that in the blink of an eye, the provider becomes the one in need. Everything gets turned upside-down and everyone has to cope and try to make the best of what has happened. We lean on our friends and family.

I am grateful that the prognosis is good, and I’ll see him tomorrow, but obviously mortality was first and foremost on my mind, and selfishly, after thinking about his mortality, I thought about my own.

I’ve had an experience in my life that completely changed me. Many years ago, I experienced a period of approximately 2 months where I had constant heart rhythm issues. I got checked out by the doctor, and a cardiologist, was poked and prodded. It felt like any minute I might pass out, and my heart might stop. They found nothing structurally wrong with my heart, and there was no medication to stop the misfiring issues I was experiencing.

When I slept, my heart rate dropped to 30 and 40 beats per minute. When I tried to relax and have fun, the skipped beats, PVCs, PACs, and dizziness would take my sanity away. The awkward, unorchestrated pounding in my chest 10 – 20 times a minute reminded me that I was mortal. I couldn’t escape it. I’d lay awake worrying that my time would come that night.

I was ineffective at my job. I couldn’t pursue my dreams anymore. I started lashing out at the people who loved me because it felt like they were pulling away. I could think of nothing but this thing in my chest that is so important, but that was so broken. I shrunk into myself and ran away from everything, just trying find some relief from this constant reminder that as far as I was concerned, I was dying.

This cycle continued for a long time. Until one day, I just didn’t care anymore.

You read that right. I didn’t care if I lived or died on that day. I decided that whatever this was, it may have the power to take everything else from me, but it will no longer take my happiness. It will no longer control what time I have left. Fearing the unknown was a choice that I had made, and I was letting that fear destroy my life before whatever the problem was could take it. I could’ve died any other day just as easily as this one. Why the hell was I so damn concerned now?

This is my life. If I give fear power over my life, I have no one to blame but myself.

A couple weeks after I stopped the cycle of fear and adrenaline, my physical symptoms disappeared, and my EKG went back to normal. The problems had started in the middle of the night while I was sleeping, not triggered by fear, but they ended because I made a choice to not be afraid.

All we can do is make the best of the time we’re given. There are no guarantees. Make the best of your life. Use the time you were given to help others build their lives, their dreams. Be a friend to those that need you. Don’t be afraid.

Tomorrow during the day I’m going to work extra hard on some code. Then I’m going to visit some kids that could use a friendly face. They have a lot to be fearful of right now.

Learning to float

Every day I learn more and more about myself. I analyze the events of my life and try to make sense of it. I try to see the patterns in the chaos. I choose the directions I want to go in. I do my best to blaze a trail that will lead to success, happiness, and wellbeing for those that are directly and indirectly linked to my work.

We all have responsibilities and burdens to bear in our lives. We carry on, we do the best that we can to resolve issues and problems that arise. We try to keep people around us happy, trying hard to keep our dreams moving forward. Where things get difficult to deal with is when we are bombarded every waking hour with the consequences of these responsibilities. Where every phone call, every email, and every discussion is laden with more choices and more paths into the unknown.

When you’re trying to blaze a trail, there will be many times in your life where you won’t hear much other than the negatives about what you’re doing, or not doing good enough, fast enough, or thorough enough. When things are working out well for those around you, they will tend to just be content and continue forward with their own plans utilizing your work to help them along. So mostly, when you hear about something, you’re going to hear what others perceive you are not doing right. You’re going to hear this from your family, from your friends, and in the business case, you’re going to hear this from your customers. The wider the trail you choose to cut in your life, the greater the opportunity for disappointment. You’re already pushing as hard as you can, sometimes too hard, and it’s not going to feel good enough.

This can be taxing. It saps your life force in ways that are difficult to describe. We’ve all felt it before. It is the origin of not wanting to get out of bed. It is the origin of feeling tired after you’ve gotten enough sleep. It is the origin of avoiding people you love. We deal with this in different ways, some better than others. Some of us deal with it by not dealing with it and just pressing on, ignoring the feeling and moving forward until suddenly we just cant anymore. Burn out.

But burning out is not an answer. It will do more harm than good. You pushed on until you couldn’t anymore and now it will take you twice as long to recover. You will do twice as much damage to your personal relationships and your own wellbeing. You need to learn a better way to deal with this before it gets out of hand.

I spoke to a friend of mine about this recently, and she eloquently termed properly dealing with these constant bombardments as “learning to float”. The bombardments are like quick sand. They will never stop. They do not always contain problems in them that can be solved, maybe none can be solved immediately, and not always problems that you can solve alone. The more you fight against it, the further you sink until they feel like they’re burying you. The only thing you can do is give yourself some time to float. Disconnect for a while. Break away from the bombardment long enough to reconnect with life and to realize you are a very small piece in a large and ever changing puzzle.

This is a lesson I am trying hard to learn, to take these small chunks of time that I need between the dawn and the dusk and brush off the day that I may analyze everything from a clear perspective, unburdened by baggage. I will learn to do this in the same way I learned all about letting go of fear, but hopefully not in such a drastic way…  That’s another story for another time.

Peace and happiness to you all. Let’s learn to float down the river together.