These Things I’ve Learned

It is just over 2 years since I resigned from my last corporate job and 21 months since I had a regular pay check. Whilst life is far from perfect, it is infinitely better than it was when I was a slave to the machine. There is literally nothing that I miss about that old life. After enjoying some travel in the first few months post escape, life has settled into a pleasant rhythm. I feel both happier and more comfortable with who I am than at any stage in my life.

Why?

I have been reflecting on this question for the past few weeks. Here is some of what I’ve come up with:

  1. I have time for the things and people that are important to me. Before it was a case of spending most of my time doing what was important to other people and then hoping to pull together enough time-scraps in order to have an actual life.
  2. I’ve learnt more in the past year-and-a-half than I did in 15 years working in the financial services industry. After dabbling in yoga and meditation for the previous decade, at the start of last year I made a commitment to devote energy towards making it a permanent part of my routine. This has proven to be the single best decision that I’ve made for myself…ever.
  3. I spend my days working on projects and involved with people that are both interesting and matter to me. All this takes place in an environment where I am made to feel appreciated for who I am and not measured by how much money I can generate for somebody else.

…and to think that all this only took me 40 years to find. I wonder what I’m going to learn in the next 40?

Life-can-only-be-understood-backwards-but-it-must-be-lived-forwards.-Søren-Kierkegaard

Advertisements

Writing For Startup Hook

It has been a while since I’ve penned anything for this site. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing!

In early February I picked up a freelance gig writing for a new Startup blog called Startup Hook – http://www.startuphook.com. It’s a startup about startups! What the team does is share profiles of startup companies that have the potential to disrupt entire global industries. With writers in Athens, Boston, Seattle and Melbourne we have a pretty good geographical spread, as well as a diverse range of personal interests.

logo2

Time will tell if this venture becomes a success, but the early growth in readership has been really good. It has also been beneficial for me to establish a writing discipline, given the need to produce 2-3 quality articles every week.

Whilst Startup Hook is not the only thing that I’ve been working on, it has generated a lot of fun learning about new and innovative businesses. I may also share some news regarding another project, but for now will leave you with the text from my most recent contribution for Startup Hook. It’s about an Argentinean company with plans to deploy a network of nano-satellites in low earth orbit and use the real time data stream that it generates to monitor a range of globally important issues.

If you like what you read please visit the site at the url above, ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Enjoy!

SATELLOGIC: BRINGING SPACE DOWN TO EARTH

space1

Elon Musk’s private space flight company SpaceX is not the only company with its sights set on space. The current revolution in space technology development is increasingly driven by startups. One such company is Satellogic, an Argentinean startup that is working hard to bring space down to earth so that we can better understand our planet.

Satellogic has plans to democratise global access to space based services by reducing current barriers to accessing satellite data in real time. It is hoped that this will launch a new era of planetary awareness and transform existing approaches to global problems by creating a constellation of nano-satellites that can deliver commercial grade imaging and data at a tiny fraction of the present cost.

Constellation of Satellites

The vision that Satellogic has involves deploying a network of compact, cost-effective satellites with the capacity to image any spot on earth every few minutes. These units incorporate the latest technology and are the size of “a desktop computer hard drive”, according to founder and CEO Emiliano Kargieman. It is estimated that it currently takes up to three days to take two consecutive photos of the same spot on the planet. This network, which will consist of up to 300 satellites talking to each other in low earth orbit, will then be used to stream unprecedented real time data regarding the planet. It is envisaged that this will include social conflict, natural disasters, commercial and shipping activity and various planetary health metrics. This is seen as having the potential to revolutionise the way that decisions are currently made at all levels – governments, businesses, NGO’s and individuals.

satellogic

The possible applications for this technology are almost limitless. A central aim is to help better address the management and distribution of scarce natural resources. Areas of interest that have already been identified include:

– Agriculture – Food Production & Security –  Energy Production & Pipeline Monitoring
–  Disaster Response –  Illegal Logging
–  Border Patrol –  Port Security
–  Critical Infrastructure Monitoring –  Business Intelligence

After originally planning to provide image resolution at a level of sub two metres, customer feedback resulted in Satellogic increasing the resolution to one metre. For those concerned about privacy, it is understood that the satellites will have the ability to photograph cars, but not individual license plates.

Making Progress

In 2013 Satellogic successfully deployed two satellites to help test key components of their proprietary technology. Those first two units – CubeBug1 and CubeBug2 – were followed in the middle of last year by BugSat-1. All three provided invaluable data to the company as it refined its design. Highlighting the risks inherent in a venture of this kind, Satellogic experienced a setback on October 28 2014 when the failure of an Antares rocket launch resulted in the loss of 26 satellites.

Undaunted, the plan for 2015 includes the launch of the next generation of prototypes. With approximately 15 satellites scheduled to be in orbit by the end of this year, enabling the delivery of the first commercial services, Satellogic’s nano-satellite constellation will be keenly watched.

Things That I Learnt From My Dog

Our dog, Buster, died late last year. In early December he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of throat cancer. In his case the tumour was located adjacent to his voice box. It was inoperable. Day-by-day he found it both harder to eat and harder to breathe.

DSC_0281

It was difficult to watch…but it was also beautiful to have that time to focus on him and appreciate what he had meant in my life.

Sure, he exemplified all the normal qualities you expect from a dog: loyalty, forgiveness, unconditional love. But, in the last few weeks of his life he also taught me so many more things. The two most important of these:

1. Choose to be happy…NOW

Even when he was suffering he was still so happy. Happy to have a home and people who loved and took care of him. Happy to be able to walk in the park. Happy to enjoy a nap in the sunshine during the day and have a comfortable place to sleep at night. He was excellent at sleeping.

DSC_0438

DSC_0481

2. Always be present

Whatever Buster was doing, whenever he was doing it, it was ALL that he was doing. Dogs don’t waste time or energy worrying about the past. They don’t have anxiety about the future. They are always living in the present.

These are lessons that I will never forget.

Also on the subject of what we can learn from our canine friends, the following post originally appeared on ‘Dividend Mantra’:

http://www.dividendmantra.com/2015/01/what-ive-learned-about-happiness-from-diego/

Diego2

Diego is my buddy. He’s my muse, my writing partner, and my confidant.

He’s also my dog.

I guess it’s good to have a confidant that can’t talk!

We’ve had him for a few years now and he’s really grown on me in a big way. I guess I used to be a bit indifferent towards dogs, and pets in general. But I love him as much I could possibly love anything, and certainly on the same level at which I’m capable of loving humans.

Our little Chihuahua keeps me company when I’m alone at home writing all day. It’s interesting in that even though he can’t effectively communicate with language as we know it, he’s been able to teach me a lot about life, happiness, and what really matters.

It’s The Simple Things

I can tell you what makes Diego happy:

A roof over his head.

Food in his food bowl.

Water in his water bowl.

Snuggling under the covers.

A ball to fetch.

Getting 14 hours of sleep.

Company.

And a clean place to go to the bathroom.

It just doesn’t take much to make him happy. He just needs a little food, some good company, occasional play time, and a lot of sleep in a warm bed. What’s interesting, however, is that this is pretty much what we all need.

Are Choices Killing Us?

Is Diego some kind of genius? I don’t think so. I just think it comes down to his nature. And, of course, lack of choice. By nature, he’s perfectly happy with a simple life. But it probably doesn’t hurt that he lacks choice in the matter. Meanwhile, us humans have more choices in front of us than we can possibly contemplate in any single moment.

Burger or burrito for lunch? 1,000 square feet of living space or 5,000? Apartment or house? Bicycle or BMW? Money or time?

But it’s not these choices in themselves that are killing us. Each choice is nothing more than an opportunity. However, not all opportunities are created equal. Just like the choice to buy a house far larger than you really need and more expensive than you can afford comes with the “opportunity” to work until you’re 65 years old, the choice to live below your means and invest the difference comes with the opportunity to become financially independent at a relatively young age.

No, it’s not the choices. It’s the decisions that are killing us. People oftentimes unfortunately make poor decisions when it comes to money, believing that money buys happiness. They are apparently oblivious to the fact that the research has come in, and it shows that time buys happiness. They say time is money, but they’re not equal. Money can surely afford you your needs, but beyond that it’s time that actually does the heavy lifting toward happiness.

Diego Lacks A Hedonic Treadmill

Hedonic adaptation is the theory that we all have some kind of baseline happiness level. Buying a brand new Corvette might elicit elation for a bit. But then you’ll realize after a while that it’s just a car. It has a gas and brake pedal, doors to get in and out of the car, a speedometer, and four wheels. You know, like most cars. Hey, wait a minute. My $5,400 Toyota Corolla has all that!

Furthermore, you’ll realize the Corvette actually comes with all kinds of drawbacks like more expensive insurance, the need to use premium fuel only, and an incessant desire to keep it clean and park it far away from everyone else. Before you know it, the car owns you more than you own it. And that initial elation quickly fades. Interestingly enough, these drawbacks could actually drain your happiness, dropping you below your baseline level, causing the exact opposite effect of what you were aiming for.

The hedonic treadmill is one’s need to constantly raise the bar. Once the Corvette doesn’t do it for you anymore, maybe it’s time for a Ferrari. Once the shopping spree this past Saturday is behind you and the closet is sorted, you’ll need another spree next weekend to get that feeling of elation back. You’ll eventually bore of your new 2,000 square-foot house, desiring the bigger pad overlooking the city. Once you adapt to that view, it’s time for a mountainside cabin.

Only then will we really be happy.

Or so we tell ourselves.

But Diego doesn’t have a big house, a fancy car, or a closet full of clothes. Not only does he lack the means to go out and get that stuff, but he also lacks the desire. He knows what makes him happy and he appreciates it every day. What’s even more interesting is that because his happiness is so tied to a low-maintenance lifestyle, that even a modicum of improvement in the basics causes this massive shift in his attitude.

Appreciating The Basics Makes It Easier To Enjoy The Occasional Luxury

Diego’s diet mostly consists of dry dog food. We try to mix it up with different flavors, but that’s what can usually be found in his bowl. However, I can tell you one thing about him: He absolutely loves the occasional table scraps. Give him a piece of chicken from some stir-fry or a bite of a PB&J sandwich and he’s over the moon. Who needs a Corvette or a mansion when you can have freshly cooked chicken?

However, like with anything else, there’s a slippery slope there. If we were to feed him nothing but human food every day, he’d probably lose his taste for dry dog food. I’m sure he’d eat it if he had no choice, which speaks to choices, but he probably wouldn’t be very happy about it.

The same goes for me. I love our little two-bedroom apartment. It’s not big, at under 1,000 square feet. And it’s certainly not luxurious, with old, basic appliances, plain white formica countertops, small bedrooms, a balcony that needs repairs, and worn out carpet throughout. But it’s a roof over our heads and it provides all we need.

Kitchen1

Sure, if someone were to gift us a fancy house it might be nice for a while. Tile floors and granite countertops would be new and different. But we’d eventually adapt to that as well. Sooner or later, we’d realize that the new stainless steel refrigerator cools food no differently than our old white fridge, the tile floors are still just a barrier between us and the ground, and granite countertops do not somehow magically make food taste better or easier to prepare.

More importantly, we’d probably lose our appreciation for what we already have. The small apartment might seem confining. The kitchen just wouldn’t look as nice. The view of a parking lot might not be all that inspiring. So we’d end up with a situation that really doesn’t better our happiness in any meaningful and lasting way, but further from the realization that we didn’t need that situation in the first place. Meanwhile, our bar has now been raised so high to where our appreciation for everything in life changes. One aspect of lifestyle inflation can beget a whole new dynamic.

Conclusion

One other interesting thing about Diego is that he has no desire for money. If I were to give him a $20 bill, he’d look at me like I was crazy. Maybe if I dip it in beef gravy, he might try to take a bite. Otherwise, it does nothing for him.

I admire this attitude and it’s something I try emulate. What is $20 after all, other than the needs it can fulfill and the time it can buy? Once we have our basic needs met, then the continued and increasing exchange of more money for more stuff does very little for happiness. The fact that people lust after more and more money, therefore, is puzzling.

Whenever I see my puppy light up, it’s over something very small. If we leave for a few hours and come back, he goes crazy like we’ve been gone for years. Give him a small bite of what you’re eating and he’ll be your friend forever. Give him an 80″ TV, on the other hand, and he’ll just cock his head at you like you’re an alien.

However, I also guarantee you that if I were to make Diego get up at 6:30 every morning and march off to the local Doggie Jobby Job and do busywork for eight hours every day, he’d quickly lose his zest for life. He’d be totally bummed out. And who could blame him?

It’s important to maintain perspective. If a dog can realize what’s truly important in life – basic needs, love, relationships, autonomy, freedom, safety – then why can’t we?

What do you think? Is there something to be gleaned from our pets? 

Thanks for reading.

DSC_0482

And I Will…

We all have things in our life that oppose us.

This is important. Opposition is good. Opposition provides a catalyst for growth. Without opposition we would have nothing to push against. Nothing to push off and set us growing in a new direction. We would stay comfortable and never change.

In my life I have learnt to be grateful for those situations, people and things that oppose me. Without them I would not be who I am.

That said, sometimes there is opposition in the form of a person or thing that we just get stuck on. That person or thing that we are seemingly unable (at least for a time) to overcome, work around or assimilate as we need to in order to learn and move on. It could be that one person in your social circle that you’ve never quite come to grips with – frenemy anybody?

    frenemy
   ˈfrɛnəmi/
    noun    informal
  1. a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.

Or, is it something else; something more difficult? What demon stalks you? Is it an addiction (habit; substance)? A point at which you perpetually stumble?

I have practiced yoga on-and-off for about 10 years. The past 12 months have seen my most consistent application to the field, attending classes 4-5 times per week. With this amount of concentrated effort comes natural improvement. Postures become easier; flexibility is gained. Progression is made to more advanced poses.

Yet, some things that were difficult a year ago are still difficult for me today. I’ve not found the right way to handle the opposition that stands between where I am and where I want to be.

A case in point?

My yoga nemesis…the crane!!!!!!!

Even the most basic version of this posture (shown below) has consistently eluded me.

Crane - Basic

A week ago I decided that this would stop. There was nothing physical or material in my way. My problem mastering the crane could be found in one easily identifiable place. Namely, the space located immediately to the left of my right ear and to the right of my left ear – my mind!

This mental hurdle was 100% self-made. The good news being that because I had put it there I also had the ability to remove it. The crucial element required to achieve this was an act of will.

    will
    wɪl/
    noun
  1. the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.
    control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s own impulses.
    a deliberate or fixed desire or intention.
With a simple choice and commitment of intention I was able to get out of my own way and attain something that had escaped me for over 12 months…a strong, stable crane. (Well, for 30 seconds at least.) Now, as you can see below, there remain many more steps along the path to ultimate mastery of the crane:

Crane - Intermediate      Crane - Intermediate 2 Crane - Advanced 2     Crane - Advanced

But a significant step has been made, because I simply decided that I would.

And I will…

PS – I may also have been inspired by the following video. WOW!

Teach A Man To Fish

TAMTF

A few years ago I was working for a multinational company, heading up one of their local practice divisions. I was approached by one of the other practice heads asking if I had some resource to help him with a temporary staffing shortfall. More specifically, they were short processing staff to raise monthly client invoices. The staff member primarily responsible for this function had recently departed and had not yet been replaced. There was a lack of processing expertise amongst the remaining staff to pick up the short-term slack.

Being a helpful, sharing, caring sort of team player, I was only too happy to help out. At the time I had an employee on my team who:

  1. Was an expert with the company’s processing system;
  2. Loved to help others any opportunity she had; and
  3. Had some spare capacity.

Perfect! Right?

Not so fast.

What was being asked was if I could ‘loan’ this resource to do some processing of invoices. Going a step further, I suggested that she would have sufficient time to be able to up-skill the existing staff, so that they would be able handle some of their own processing whilst their manager searched for a permanent solution. After all, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.

The response to my proposal: “Thanks. Leave it with me. I’ll get back to you.”

Naturally, that never happened.

The other manager was fearful that if his existing staff were provided with the skills and knowledge to be able process invoices, senior management would reject his business case to replace the recently departed processing assistant and elect instead to save the personnel costs by spreading the workload over the remaining employees. (Note – this concern was NOT unreasonable.)

So, how was the situation resolved?

Rather than accept the offer of assistance, the manager reduced his division’s estimated income for the subsequent month to $0, on the basis that there was no resource available to process invoices. Further, it was indicated that this situation would continue until approval was received to hire a replacement processing assistant.

Approval was duly granted. A replacement was hired. Problem solved.

And, importantly, nobody else had to learn to fish for themselves!

So with that in mind, here are some variations on the theme:

The Philosopher:

TAMTF Lao Tzu

The Entrepreneur:

TAMTF Entrepreneur

The Politician:

TAMTF Gov't

The Sociopath:

TAMTF Murderer

The Pessimist:

TAMTF Pessimist

The Pessimist (2):

TAMTF Pessimist 2

The Reality:

TAMTF Reality

My Favourite:

TAMTF Swanson

Who Is The Real Teacher?

The following was originally posted by Martin Armstrong.

Gandhi

Geniuses typically clash with their teachers because teachers do not encourage original thought as several studies have shown. Teachers want kids who obey and follow orders. Winston Churchill was terrible in school yet without him Hitler would have died in a retirement home. Albert Einstein’s teacher famously decreed he would amount to nothing. Here is what Gandhi had to put up with:

When Mahatma Gandhi was studying law at the University College of London, a professor, whose last name was Peters, disliked him intensely and always displayed animosity towards him.

Also, because Gandhi never lowered his head when addressing him as he expected, there were always “arguments” and confrontations.

One day, Mr. Peters was having lunch at the dining room of the University, and Gandhi came along with his tray and sat next to the professor. The professor said,”Mr Gandhi, you do not understand. A pig and a bird do not sit together to eat.”

Gandhi looked at him as a parent would a rude child and calmly replied, “You do not worry professor. I’ll fly away,” and he went and sat at another table.

Mr. Peters, reddened with rage, decided to take revenge on the next test paper, but Gandhi responded brilliantly to all questions.

Mr. Peters, unhappy and frustrated, asked him the following question:

“Mr Gandhi, if you were walking down the street and found a package, and within was a bag of wisdom and another bag with a lot of money, which one would you take?”

Without hesitating, Gandhi responded,

“The one with the money, of course.”

Mr. Peters, smiling sarcastically said,

“I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom.”

Gandhi shrugged indifferently and responded,

“Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”

Mr. Peters, by this time was fit to be tied. So great was his anger that he wrote on Gandhi’s exam sheet the word “idiot” and gave it to Gandhi.

Gandhi took the exam sheet and sat down at his desk, trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move.

A few minutes later, Gandhi got up, went to the professor and said to him in a dignified but sarcastically polite tone, “Mr. Peters, you autographed the sheet, but you did not give me the grade.”

Gandhi2