Life Is A River

Life is not a highway. Highways are straight and have easily defined distances, landmarks, and destinations. We try to force those into our lives through birthdays and graduations and anniversaries – things to look forward to and remember. We try to straighten and pave the river, but rivers can’t be paved.

When you move to the edges of society you notice the river more. Anyone exceptional – slow or fast or smart or dumb or different – has experienced the meandering path the river takes. They’ve felt the rapids and the slow peaceful flat parts and the dams and the pointy rocks.

I believe that not acknowledging the river, trying to pave over it and smooth it out into a straight line of our design, leaves us feeling hollow. Our false sense of control makes us out of touch with our world.

You aren’t in control. Feel the current. Let it carry you where it will.

That’s Not So Bad

My ingrained reaction to challenging someone to do something new or just at the end of their limits is “don’t do that, you might push her too far and she’ll fail and never want to do it again.” I think that’s a natural fear to have.

But I think most of us in most situations will respond to failing like that with a reaction like “that’s not so bad” and we will get back up and try again. We are wired to persevere until we overcome our challenges – anyone doing otherwise has trained herself out of her nature. That’s why we put up with falling a hundred times before walking, or riding a bike, or finding the person we love.

Wanting Things To Be Different

As the Buddhist saying goes, our discomfort comes from wanting things to be different than they are. So when you feel that way, how do you want things to be? Can you work on getting there? Or do you simply need to acknowledge that this is one of many discomforts you will feel in life and you just have to deal with it?

I find that simply asking myself the question eases the discomfort. I’ll be working and not enjoying it much and I ask myself what I’d rather be doing. I’d rather be napping. Well, you can’t do that right now. Ok then. I can move on and focus less on the discomfort.

Seeing Is Repeating

The easy to find bugs in software jump out at you. A crash right when you tap on a button, or information that is calculated incorrectly. But most bugs aren’t like that. Most bugs are hiding behind a series of specific steps that trigger a situation that you the developer didn’t expect.

Trying to find these bugs through a verbal description alone is time consuming. It is so difficult to communicate the relevant details because everything might be a relevant detail. Every step that led up to that bug could be part of what caused it. Or maybe it isn’t. Someone reporting that bug has no way of knowing.

I ran into this issue a couple of times this week. Eventually I hunted down the bugs but it wasn’t straightforward and I put off fixing them because I had no idea how long it would take me to do so.

Seeing the user create the situation would have made all the difference, but recording and sharing that video is not something a novice can handle. From some research tonight it looks like it is simple enough to teach a user to record their iPhone or iPad from a Mac using QuickTime, but what do I do for users that don’t have a Mac? Or for web applications or other types of applications that aren’t iOS?

They

“They” separates. “We” unites.

Tonight an acquaintance at a party I went to made a comment while watching the opening to the Special Olympics, something to the effect of “they want to be called intellectually disabled.” I don’t agree.

We all want to be treated like we are humans that matter. We don’t want to be labeled or put to the side. We are all the same, regardless of how smart we are or the color of our skin or any number of different things that we could look at and use to separate ourselves.

Working Around The Edges

I’m reading a book about working with children who have disabilities and one of the most important points the author has made, and repeatedly stated, is that you have to work with them where they are at. You can’t expect them to leap to where you want them to be. Forcing a child to crawl who isn’t ready to do more than wiggle around on the floor does no good and probably does harm. You have to work around the edges of what that child can do and keep expanding those edges.

This is true of all kids, but it matters much more if a child has a disability that doesn’t allow them to be as resilient as a child without any.

Today I was thinking about how well that advice works in other parts of our lives. If you want to make change happen you have to work around the edges of what already exists. If you disagree with someone, you will never change their mind by bluntly telling her she is wrong or making statements that paint a situation of us versus them.

Find common ground. Expand that common ground. We are all one and I benefit when you do.

Doing It Manually

Sometimes I have a problem and it has to do with that age old “if you only have a hammer everything will look like a nail” situation.

My problem is that I have a way of spending far more time trying to find a “quick” technological solution to a problem instead of just doing it by hand.

One example is from years ago. I was working at the bank and I was trying to do some sort of calculation in Excel. I had to go through somewhere like 300 rows to come up with a total value. I tried for an hour or two to come up with a formula that would solve the problem.

Eventually I gave up on it – I just couldn’t figure it out.

So my buddy Steve looked at it. He’s far less technical than I am. Within a half hour or forty five minutes he’d finished the calculations, doing them all manually without trying to figure out a fancy formula.

Despite knowing about this trap, I still fall into it every now and again. And each time I remember that story.

Things That Don’t Make Sense - The Cost of Healthcare

Another on my list of things that don’t make sense and is unsustainable is the cost of healthcare.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say about this topic – long ago I decided to opt out of the health care system. But things are way past ridiculous when an insured individual has to resort to crowdfunding to get their bills paid.

Drug companies and hospitals are leaches providing little benefit at an extraordinary financial cost. This can’t continue forever.

I hope that we begin to see that we don’t have to pay these costs. I hope we see that being healthy is natural if we live in natural ways. I hope we will work towards our health every day so we can upend the current system.

Some Interesting Psychology

I’ve been working on a project for about a month and I’m getting close to wrapping it up. I’ve gone way over my estimated budget for a variety of reasons and I’m completely OK with that, including the part where I eat any of the costs for going over.

But I found my thought process interesting during this project. When I was getting close to reaching my estimated amount of hours I was very stressed out about it. I think it was a combination about not wanting to be wrong with my initial estimate and judging my abilities to be lacking because I wasn’t meeting my goal.

But now that I’m way over, I’m not stressed about it at all. At some point, for some reason, my attitude changed and I’m not sure why.

Being Boring as a Tactic

I can’t remember when or where I learned about this idea, but I find it interesting and amusing. Let me set the scene.

You work in a corporation that leans pretty conservative, banking or financial management or the sort. It has been rough lately. Some of that may be your fault, but most of it isn’t. You have to present some bad news to upper management and you just know you will get your butt chewed about it. So what do you do?

You could lie, but you’ve got a pretty sweet gig and you don’t want to lose it over something silly like that. You could put lots of pretty graphs in the presentation to try to distract from the bad stuff, but you’re smarter than that.

Actually, you’ve been working towards this moment your entire career.

The tactic you use is monotony. And big words. And endless droning on about things that no one could possibly care about, but it is all relevant. You make your job look like the most boring thing ever. You use that boredom to hide any bad news – it is all at the end and no one cares about anything but getting out of the room at that point.

Now this isn’t a tactic I’ve ever used – it isn’t my style. But I find it extremely interesting because I’ve always had negative connotations about people who give boring presentations. But now I always wonder, are they just dull people, or are they just putting on an act?