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Hello 2015

I’d like to start this year’s first blog post with this video from Elon Musk.

Objective analysis, unrelenting perseverance, obsessive dedication to cause.

This brings me to things I will achieve this year. Resolute Resolve to obtain Resolution.

  1. Monitor health more closely
    1. Utilize all work health benefits
    2. Identify more personal data metrics and generate data
    3. Form habits / action plans based on data
  2. Organize and protect personal data
    1. Improve online security
      1. utilize stronger, diversified passwords online
    2. Implement cloud storage backup plan
    3. Digitize all incoming paperwork pertaining to personal transactions
      1. via personal scanner
      2. via cloud services, eg. Evernote, Dropbox, etc.
  3. Improve financial management
    1. Automate more saving
      1. maximize 401K contributions
      2. increase liquid savings
    2. Talk to a financial advisor
    3. Diversify investment portfolio
      1. Equities
      2. Properties

I like the Rule of 3s. Keeps things simple.

Happy New Year, all.

Identity

There comes a time when the various influences in our lives cease becoming external forces and begin dissolving into our own identities. Some influences make the cut and are fully assimilated, while others do not and remain external forces, not to be ingested and incorporated.

The selection process is highly subjective – our minds and emotions often come to our defense when we undergo any event new to us, as there is usually a level of trauma associated with it. It is at once the best and worst time for the event to enter our consciousness and forever alter it. Some of us, by virtue of upbringing or at least amount of exposure, are inclined to accept an influence if the event outcome is positive, others if the event outcome is negative. The event’s significance also needs to be of greater than normal, normal being a parameter that is subconsciously determined within the individual. Perception of the event’s importance can be altered through direct cognitive effort, or indirect feedback from other individuals that matter.

Our animal instincts to obtain food, shelter, and to reproduce, provide us with the base purpose of our lives – at the very minimum, a mentally, physically, and emotionally able individual will endeavor to fulfill these needs, with varying degrees of success. As we develop cognitively, we directly or indirectly give ourselves further goals, some of which solidify into purpose, some of which get dismissed as passing whims. The culmination of parsing these purpose statements becomes that which forms the basis of our influence selection process.

Put another way, our purpose informs our identity. We change who we are to get to where we want to be.

As such, it is incumbent upon us to select a destination that warrants changes that we would be proud of, or at least not at odds with when we get there.

World Cup 2014

Lionel Messi

Messi

And so it ends.

The one event that unites so many around the world, every World Cup of football is a piece of history that warrants notice.

I was rooting for the Albiceleste from the beginning of their 2014 campaign. There was immense pressure and speculation on Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world. Also the team captain, he had the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. The moments of magic in FC Barcelona he produced would be just what Argentina needs to hold the coveted trophy once again. Above all that, he had the larger than life shadow of Diego Maradona to contend with. Maradona, the captain of the 1986 Argentinian team, led them to victory against West Germany in the final. Unfortunately, Messi’s magic ceased to appear past the group stages. While he created numerous opportunities for his teammates, nothing less but his fullest potential was required to overcome the technically-superior opponents.

Not to take away from the rest of the Argentinian squad – Mascherano, Zabaleta, Higuain, Aguero, and company all have their illustrious careers respectively. Let’s not forget Sergio Romero, making so many crucial saves, including the game-winning double save in the penalty shootout against the Netherlands in the semi-final. The Argentine machine performed as required to make their way to the 2014 final, and in the final defended admirably against Die Mannschaft. Squandered opportunities aside, it was a fitting performance for a World Cup final.

Die Mannschaft 2014

Die Mannschaft 2014

Congratulations ‘Die Mannschaft’ Germany on the well-deserved victory. Brilliant goal by ‘Super’ Mario Gotze, the 22-year old wunderkind who came on to replace Miroslav Klose, the highest goal-scorer in World Cup history.

GER 1-0 ARG

2014

Certainty

The only certain thing in life is uncertainty. It is a nice phrase – rolls easily off the tongue, and makes quick, intuitive sense.

Of course, in reality, it is counterintuitive to how we typically are. Most of our actions in life are motivated by a desire for some level of certainty. We work, that we may afford certain food and shelter.  We procreate, that we have certain progeny to continue the bloodline, et cetera.

Where then, does knowing that the only certainty is the lack of it leave us? As with the many main themes in life, this is a non-zero sum equation. It is possible to have as much certainty with our uncertainty. It thus becomes a delicate balancing act for us. Too much certainty breeds complacency. Too much uncertainty breeds anxiety.

It then follows that we should strive to achieve only enough certainty in only certain things. What are those things, and how much certainty is required (for each)?

That is the question.

Knowing

There’s something to be said about knowing where you came from and knowing where you are headed.

You have to know where you came from to know who you are, what made you who you are, and how that made you who you are. This tells you what your strengths and weaknesses have been, and currently are. Self-awareness of the past and present is half the battle.

You have to know where you are headed to know who you want to be, what will make you who you want to be, and how it will make you who you want to be. This tells you what your strengths should be, and what weaknesses need to be addressed. Self-awareness for the future is the other half of the battle.

Hello 2014

Much has happened in the past 4.5 months or so.

More professional than personal adversity, by design.

Every lesson learned re-emphasizes something I heard years ago from one of our most respected senior executives.

“…in the end, it is about managing people, and managing risk.”
– JM

I continue to learn, re-learn, and apply this daily. We are opening a new regional office in San Antonio, and I will be part of the startup staff. I am also helping to start up our next 2 solar projects, both close by.

It is (still) an exciting time. The climb continues.

Merry Christmas 2013

This post will be what I was supposed to write for Thanksgiving but never got around to finishing. In the interest of putting this out there, as supposed to permanently stewing as one of my drafts, here goes.

I am thankful for this year. The curve continues to be steep as ever, with this year throwing just as many, if not more curveballs than the last. I am thankful for every last one of them, though. It has been a fulfilling year, both personally and professionally.

Career continues to forge ahead full steam – as of this moment I am starting up a new job in Texas. I was pulled from California rather abruptly, but was given a replacement that I had a chance to spend a week with before leaving for good. I suppose that is as much notice and overlap time that one could ask for. It is certainly more than others have been given, so I am not complaining in the least. It was a good project, with a good team. I will miss it dearly, but I do also recognize the opportunity we have in Texas to gain another happy customer.

I usually come up with things that surprise myself when giving others advice. I was telling a colleague what truly mattered to me: yes, it is about the skills, but skills are always second – people always come first. Take care of people, first and foremost. It is much easier to remedy a lack of skills than a lack of people (to look out for you).

That said, I am thankful to be in the company of good people that are looking out for me and the company. The industry is on the verge of a huge bull run, so it is a good time to be in it. Good things on the horizon.

Thank you for 2013. Bring on 2014.

David & Goliath

Malcolm Gladwell‘s latest is an interesting read (previous works include Outliers, Blink, The Tipping Point, and What The Dog Saw).

We live in interesting times. I feel that we have recently crossed a tipping point. Before, we had the vast majority of people as end users of a given technology; a largely skewed creator:consumer ratio. Now, due to advances in both software and hardware, there appears to be a proliferation of content creators. This is a paradigm shift. A 140-character text message is now able to reach almost all corners of the world within seconds of it being sent into cyberspace. Communication, an essential human need, has undergone (and is undergoing) a profound and rapid metamorphosis – where thoughts and opinions might before have been considered to be private possessions, now are increasingly looked upon as material meant for mandatory sharing. We have crossed the point of creating and using technology to fulfill a need, into the strange and amusing world of creating ‘needs’ to fulfill a technology’s potential.

I digress.

Gladwell’s latest table-turning exploration of the human psyche examines the concept of advantages versus disadvantages, or at least the majority view on what is considered to be an advantage versus a disadvantage in life. He argues that what we have come to think of as positions and scenarios of benefit are not always necessarily so, and conversely, that what we have come to think as ‘bad’ situations may not be so, at least in the big scheme of things.

I tend to agree with him, only because I see so many parallels in the examples he uses to illustrate his points in my own life. I suppose we are prone to think of ourselves as the Davids in the big battle against Goliath (life’s twists and turns) – the underdog point of view. This has been particularly useful to me – the thought of being an underdog, the mindset that I have nothing (much) to lose, has helped me take risks I wouldn’t have otherwise considered if I were in a secure, ensconced position. Many other factors play into this (support of family, input from friends, mentors, etc.), but the underdog mentality is a means to an end. The end I refer to is a drive, a force to achieve that which is unheard of, that which is not in any previously established comfort zones. The challenge then becomes one of sustaining this drive – how does one renew that feeling? How does one stay hungry and foolish?

Gladwell’s talent for introducing not just thoughts, but entire mindsets that are contrary to the norm are on prominent display in David and Goliath – common schools of thought are put on the spot, and Gladwell uses his cache of well-researched examples to lend credibility to his incredible concepts. His subtle nod to the balance of life, the yin and yang, strengthen his views in my eyes. Another great read that I finished in 2 days, proving that I haven’t lost it – just takes the right book to get hooked on.

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave

I sit typing this on my laptop computer. I glance over at my 2 cellphones as they vibrate with notifications. I look around the room at my belongings, carelessly strewn about in the casual manner that only owners may have with their belongings. The aforementioned room is one in a house which I am co-renting with a few other colleagues. I just returned from watching a movie and having dinner with a friend, a journey I made in a car I fully own, filled with gas I paid for.

There is no question about my claim to these things. For the last 7 years, I have been privileged to be part of a system that holds “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Few countries in the world have as strong a statement boldly starting a document no less important than its own Declaration of Independence. That the USA’s founding fathers were able to craft such a timeless tribute to that which has given rise to mankind’s greatest advancement in history is tribute itself to their genius and foresight.

12 Years A Slave is a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender that examines, with unflinching honesty, what happens when a man’s unalienable rights are taken away from him. The result is a master class in depicting the paradox of breaking the human spirit, while at the same time showcasing its unyielding nature. That it is based on a true story only serves to amplify the magnitude of the emotions portrayed expertly by the actors.

I can only imagine the brutality that took place in those dark times. What I do understand is that slavery is one form of oppression – exerting one’s control at the expense of another’s rights. Though it is ironic that many of the founding fathers themselves were slave owners, I would still venture that they had an inkling deep inside that it was not to last – how else would such a statement be put forth? Slavery was a product of the times, a dark period where certain groups of people deemed themselves superior to others, and acted to great extremes to prove as such. The founding fathers knew there was no way a country could grow without equal participation from all, and therefore introduced that statement, which though unachievable at the time, provided a means with which the playing field may be leveled at some point in the future.

Seeing the protagonist’s struggles made me realize how truly fortunate I am to be in the circumstances I am in. I shall not feel the lash of a whip unless I bring it upon myself. I shall not be made to perform hard manual labor unless I so choose. I shall not be persecuted for the color of my skin. Above all, I shall not have my unalienable rights taken from me. Not without a fight.

Governments that sanction legislation at the expense of certain groups of peoples’ rights have no right to govern. No citizen should ever be treated differently than other citizens in their own country.

Fulfillment

Much of our lives is spent in pursuit of sensory pleasures – we wish to see, we wish to hear, we wish to touch, we wish to smell, we wish to taste that which we have been led to believe is the best of what the world has to offer.

We participate in a system that has been set up by those before us – applying our time and energy to achieving something which we (hopefully) believe results in a difference in the world. Herein lies the quandary – how do we quantify fulfillment?

Is it one part sensory, two parts cognitive? How do you define heartwarming? Even if you did decide to devote your career to a field because of its purported abundance of heartwarming moments, our minds are a flattening mechanism – every peak (or valley) we experience a subsequent time is flattened, until it reaches a point of insignificance.

Th ability to jumpstart the flatline into peaks (and valleys) again seems to be the difference between people who succeed in what they do and people who don’t.

Finding the right mix of sensory, mental, and emotional fulfillment seems to be the ultimate goal, but that implies a certain balance exists that once achieved, will unlock a state of permanent bliss – something that does not make sense, given how dynamic human beings are. There is no permanent state of anything. Only an appreciation of the various states we experience and the ability to cope with each.