Tag Archives: life

Choices and Liberation

My routine starts the night before. I choose an outfit and iron my clothes. I neatly hang my outfit in my closet. I shower and shave. This saves me time when I have to get to the client early. I have status reports to get out before lunch.

That morning the alarm buzzes. It takes me exactly 29 minutes each morning from alarm buzz until I leave the house. I know this because I’ve timed it. I arrive on site at the client at least one hour before anyone else shows up. This is when I’m most productive.

Status reports. Client meetings. Happy hours. Recruiting events. Networking. Between 6pm-8pm most nights I arrive home. I answer a few emails. I eat dinner. When I’m really busy I work until bed. Certain deviations in schedule were allowed for out-of-town travel or long commutes.

Three weeks ago I left consulting for a new job. The rules outlined in the three paragraphs above are no longer applicable. I’m still adjusting.

I guess the strangest thing about this new job isn’t having less work, but rather the permanence of my new situation. There were slow times when I worked in professional services too, but I knew that that was only temporary. It prevented me from taking on new hobbies or doing anything that required commitment. How can you commit to something for the next few months when the next project is staring you in the face? Always present in your mind like a burdensome task that you keep putting off, but know you have to complete.

This new allotment of time and consistency is peculiar to me. I have the time to dedicate to new (and some old) passions that have long evaded me. I find myself reading more often, I have time to write again, to goof off with friends, to get back into old fitness routines, and all without sacrificing time with my family.

I loved consulting. I loved the pressure to perform, the constant bombardment of knowledge, the travel, and the people I had the opportunity to work with. On the other hand – as I ease back into a slower-paced life I am surprised by the options I have available today that I didn’t a few weeks ago. In a sense it is liberation.

I am not advocating any particular career or life choice. What is right for each of us is unique.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we have to be mindful of how certain self imposed structures in our life can limit our choices. Maybe it’s our career, debt, or a relationship –  It could be anything. The trick is to pay close attention to the ways these self-made structures have the ability to make us their slaves – and to avoid it.

The strange thing about building a cage around yourself is that you are proud of it – even happy with what you have built – but no less trapped inside. That was consulting for me – I had build this structure around myself that ultimately trapped me inside.

Thoughts on Maturing Relationships

Holden has written several posts about marriage problems (here and here for example). We have had a number conversations and email exchanges on the topic too. Unfortunately, most of the time I can’t offer much in the way of advice, but I’d like to point out a few things that have served me well during the decade-long relationship with my own wife.

1. The Couple and the Self

My wife and I started our relationship very young. We were immature and as result of that immaturity I do not think I had the ability or experience to distinguish between the two entities that exist in a serious relationship: The Couple and the Self.

My wife and I are both a couple, but still our individual selves. We have our own ambitions, goals, desires, interests, insecurities – but those feature sets simultaneously overlap and bleed over into our couple-self. Sometimes those elements of self and couple are at odds and sometimes they align perfectly.

The key is coming into a relationship with respect and love for the other person as an individual.

When I think of my wife I see a women who dreams of selling her artwork at craft shows, having the courage and self-confidence to make friends, traveling the world, sitting at the dinner table with family, and being the world’s best wife and mother. I see a playful and feisty women with insecurities and dreams – some of those the same as mine – others different.

Sometimes I have to muster the courage , trust, and patience to let her be herself – even if that means sacrificing a little of my own time to do so. She does the same for me in return.

2. Self-Examination and Leadership

I have always tried to be a leader and my philosophy has typically been that leaders do two things:

1. Lead by example, and
2. Lead with integrity.

Leading by example and with integrity requires that one examines their own behavior – not the behavior of their partner. It is an exercise in self control, self discipline, and honesty.

In my own relationship I’ve tried (and often failed) to lead with these qualities. And I’ve learned that my own actions and responses are independent of the actions of anyone else.

If someone screams at me I can respond calmly. If I am insulted I can respond with a level head. When it is someone you love doing these things an appropriate response is even more difficult. Leadership responses take a lot of self control, but are the job of any good leader. If you expect a certain behavior you must first exhibit that behavior yourself.

These lessons are fluid – not just one way. My wife, for example, demonstrates unconditional love. She is caring, devoted, and faithful. She has taught me those traits by example and I have learned a lot from her. She is an emotional leader in our household.

I like to think she’s picked up a few of my better qualities as well.

3. Speak-Easy

I learned a long time ago that I know my wife well enough that I can use words as deadly daggers. Words that can tear into her self-confidence, break her down, and make her fill like nothing.

I used to use those words with more frequency than I’d like to admit, but as I’ve matured and as my love has matured so has my use of words.

Sometimes I try to step outside of myself. When my temper is about to explode I take a moment to self-evaluate and to reassess my actions. I’ve learned (and sometimes failed) to speak-easy.

Over the long haul I have watched my wife’s self confidence return and our arguments fizzle out faster. Try to remember you love this other human being – even when you are at your most upset.

Life is short, and Marriage is hard.

My wife and I have had some rocky times as of late. It’s been rocky enough that there has been talk of divorce and I’m pretty sure my wife has even gone so far as to consult an attorney.

A lot of the discourse in our marriage has come from my wife’s complaints aimed towards me.

I am a man of supreme imperfection. I stress too much over money, I get too lost in my work, I freak out over little things sometimes, and I have a bad habit of letting tension build up in my to the point that I explode and say things I’d never day say to anyone I wasn’t in a legally bounded relationship with (aka marriage).

As of late, my wife has decided it is all too much for her. Over the last year I have tried very hard to step outside of myself and fairly assess my imperfections independently. I have admitted many of my faults and tried very hard to work on each of them. I still fall into the same old bad habits at times though.

Other times, I wonder if perhaps I am not really the problem though. My wife has been acting very strange over the last six months or so. So strange in fact, I wondered if maybe she was having an affair and all this lashing out at me was due to her own guilt fermenting inside her and her trying to offload onto me and make me as much of a bad guy as she was feeling like on the inside.   A bit of lowly eavesdropping has led me to believe this is not the case.

So what’s the problem then? Why is my wife always so damn angry at me despite all my communication and effort?

Life will end soon….

Yesterday I wrote a post talking about what women really want in a man.

That post was born out of the experience I had last Friday night while having a guy’s night out.

That night, I was flattered to death. One of the ladies told me I was a great guy that evening. I haven’t heard that in quite a while. I kind of shocked a shift in the perception I have of myself.

“What? You think I’m a great guy? What on earth would lead you to believe that?”

It didn’t inspire me to want to leave my wife or be unfaithful or anything of that sort. But it definitely made me wonder. Why were these ladies so smitten with me? All I’ve been told for the last six months is that I’m selfish, I’m cheap, and I’m verbally abusive. And I’ll admit, these things are all true of me at my low points. But everyone has low points don’t they? I’m not typically this person.

I was mowing the grass yesterday thinking about all this when it hit me:

“What the fuck man? We’re all going to die soon. We have all of what…. 80 healthy years on this planet if we’re lucky? That’s SHIT!” I gotta quit sweating this bullshit.”

So fuck it. I’m just going to keep trying to be a standup guy. I’m going to love my wife and kids and quit sweating the small stuff. Hell, I may even quit sweating the big stuff. I’ve spend so many years building myself up in pursuit of this ‘Two Cars in the Garage and a White Picket Fence’ American Dream that I forgot I was supposed to be happy along the way!

Last time I had an argument with my wife, I had to remind myself afterward that it could be so much worse. One of my kids could have cancer or one of us could be terminally ill, I could be handicapped and not able to provide for my family, we could live in a war torn country where we fear for the health and safety of our boys and girls on a daily basis.

This shit is small fries. It is time to let it go. If my wife is unable to do it, then fine. She can call her lawyers, take everything I own and go start new away from me. If I’m doing my best to treat her right and provide for my family then what do I have to regret? I will always be able to start over. As long as I have my health, I’m golden.

Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

-Holden

Beale Street, Memphis, TN

Beale Street, Memphis, TN - Beale Street is a less popular version of Bourbon Street in that there are no open container laws, there are a lot of flashing lights, and plenty of intoxicated out-of-towners drinking too much. The crowd on a Wednesday night is primarily middle aged, unattractive, and under the influence of various controlled substances. Like most such streets in America visiting is highly recommended.

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Thoughts on Marriage

A few days ago Holden wrote an honest and raw post about the difficulties of marriage and children.  Equally, truthful and perhaps more revealing were the comments. Both of which inspired me to take a shot at articulating my own relationship situation.

My wife and I have been together for over 11 years (married for four of them). We literally grew up together. We attended the same high school and the same University . We shared the same group of friends.  And for the most part been together every day for the last decade. A relationship like this has its own set of nuances we have to work through.

First, there is no mystery between us. For the most part we know everything about each other. Not just philosophically, but we literally know pretty much everything. She knows what I had for lunch yesterday. That can be both good and bad.

For example, we do not enjoy the veil of wonder between us that I witness some of my friends in new relationships enjoy. There is no self-created amazement, and no pretending that the other person is a God. Then again, we know each other better than any two people on earth can know one another – and we still love (and like) each other.

Second, even though my wife and I grew up together  – two people probably couldn’t be more different and have experienced life more differently. My wife is an artist, she feels deeply and shows emotion, she is caring and empathetic. My wife is silly and enjoys vampire movies. My wife will take two hours to hang a photo and will spend two days in an art museum. I hang all of my photos crooked, I workout 4-5 days a week, I’m impatient, business minded, and quick witted. Fills gaps, I guess.

It is strange sharing your life with someone. Because even though we have agreed to share our life – we are still two separate people. Two people with different ambitions, different motives and goals, and different interests. We are two people that live in the same house, agree to have dinner together every night, but in reality have our own lives. Our own lives that belong uniquely to each of us. And even with all of these differences we somehow work them out within the parameters of our own relationship universe.

At some point in a relationship I think people begin to forget this. That our significant others have a life too. But it’s too important to forget. I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I have my own fair share of problems and struggles. But the one thing that I keep coming back to, that I keep trying to articulate, is that we have to recognize, respect, and nurture the fact that the person we have committed to having a relationship is his/her own person. My wife is a person. Her own person.

I’m not sure why this small fact resonates with me. I think it reminds me that she has her own things going on – internally and externally. It reminds me to be a little more understanding. It reminds me to be patient and to be more supportive. It reminds me to be more compassionate and a better husband.

Why A One-Size-Fits-All Minimum Wage Doesn’t Work For America

It seems to me that federally enforced on-size-fits-all minimum wage legislation is an ineffective way for policy makers to improve the standard of living for this country’s people.

I completely agree that something needs to be done. There are a thousand different ways we could improve the standard of living for the entire country. Simple and effective ways we could close the income gap between the richest and the poorest among us, but $10.10 an hour isn’t one of them. Frankly, it’s lazy policy making.

$10.10 an hour means different things in different parts of the country:

I think it is difficult for people in different parts of the country to understand what $10.10 an hour means to one another. Someone in New York City probably thinks that $10.10 an hour is slave wages while someone in Jackson, Mississippi (capital of MS) probably considers $10.10 an hour a livable wage. That is because the average cost of living varies wildly from region to region in the United States.

Average Cost of Living

Housing Prices Vary Wildly Across Major Cities: 

We can quickly compare median sales prices for homes across the country (source):

City Median Sale Price
Manhattan, NY $1,175,000
Jackson, MS $184,502
Seattle, WA $435,000
Atlanta, GA $245,000
San Francisco, CA $945,000

Gas Prices Vary Wildly Across Major Cities: 

We can quickly compare gas prices across the country (source)

City Regular Mid Premium Diesel
Manhattan, NY $4.052 $4.216 $4.354 $4.479
Jackson, MS $3.440 $3.642 $3.812 $3.737
Seattle, WA $4.035 $4.152 $4.255 4.109
Atlanta, GA $3.692 $3.871 $4.045 $3.893
San Francisco, CA $4.225 $4.342 $4.440 $4.291

Note: There are similar variances for food and clothing costs.

It is important to realize that these major variances are across major cities. If you compare rural areas to cities the variance is even more dramatic. So why does anyone expect a one-sized-fits-all minimum wage to work across the country?

The Solution: A Livable Wage that Fits

If we want to increase the minimum wage it seems like we need to make an effort to understand what that wage is in each part of country. We should not pick a number that everyone is expected to implement across the board. The country is to diverse for that to be successful.

What may be a fit for Seattle, WA would probably be overly burdensome to businesses in Jackson, MS. What may work in Jackson, MS would probably be insufficient in Manhattan, NY. So why do we treat wages the same when costs across the country are provably and undeniably different? This makes no sense to me.

Instead, it seems like we should empower our communities and local policy makers to actin the best interest of their constituents by providing the people living there with critical data and information to make better decisions for themselves. And if we are going to implement something federally (which I don’t think we should) – shouldn’t we at least make an effort to make it work for everyone?

We are a great country because of our diversity. There is something, somewhere, for everyone. We have always embraced that mantra. I don’t think we should stop now.

The Indoctrination Process

Six children and one women sitting in a circle holding hands. There heads were bowed and the women was mumbling softly. The children paid close attention.  As I jogged by the group one child looked up at me, almost afraid to be caught, with one eye barely squinting open, and immediately returned to the correct posture.

I slowed my jog to a walk so I could see the events unfold in more detail. In the front yard of the old house there was a small television with cartoon characters in the same posture as the women and children. I noticed that the children’s mouths were mumbling at the same cadence and volume as their teacher’s, but I couldn’t make out the words.

It was a vacation bible school camp. One just like the kind I had attended dozens of times as a child too.

In retrospect I remember all of the things I was taught as a child. How I was taught to think and not think. Not to question, to have faith without evidence, and to obey authority. The cost of disobedience was worse than death. Hell. My parents, grandparents, and the rest of my family enforced these ideas too. I believed it all without question.

When I think of it now this seems so unfair. It is such an obvious process of indoctrination that I can barely believe that such an institution, in its present form, exists at all. The use of authority, media, entertainment, and group-think to ingrain a since of loyalty  and respect to an organization and its belief system.

When you think about it, it’s not too different than how any society works. Even here in the land of the free.

“The use of authority, media, entertainment, and group-think to ingrain a since of loyalty  and respect to an organization and its belief system.”

Patriotism enforced by a since of community , unlimited hours of (un)reality TV available for consumption, a media network that pumps ideas into the psyche of the public, and a since that we owe it all to those in charge. We hold our leaders up like infallible idols – as long as they belong to the correct political party. A false since of choice.

This form of indoctrination works. It has been and continues to be used. We just can’t recognize it because we are part of the process. But once you recognize that such a thing exists it’s a lot easier to be yourself. Not what they told you to be.

Head of the Family

Having a kid has forced me to examine a lot of things in my life. I have to think about what I say, how I say it, and the inadvertent message I am sending to my daughter any time I act. It is an constant exercise of restraint, self control, and leadership. It is something I never gave much thought until she was already here.

Starting my own family has also forced me to reflect on my own childhood. The traditions we had, the good times, and the bad. And after a lot of self reflection I’ve come to realize that I am the launching pad for my family. I am the transitional figure who will likely set a new precedence for future generations to follow.

I don’t mean that in an egotistical kind of way, it’s just that I believe I am the first person in my family to recognize and accept this responsibility. My father suffers from addiction, my mother from depression, both from lack of education. Going generations back there is no figure that holds the family together. There are few traditions and no one I would call the “head of the family”.

I want my wife and daughter to have these things. I even want my parents and in-laws to experience these type of things. I picture the entire family sitting around a big dining room table on special occasions. Love, security, and tradition. There was a shortage of those things in my life and I want my family to have it.

So when I’m angry I take pause. When someone upsets me I stop and think. Instead of reacting I reflect on the big picture. Sure, I could probably say something to hurt this person’s feelings, but instead I’ll take it for the team. I’ll be the glue that holds this family together. I’ll swallow the insults, the ignorance, and instead be a leader. I’ll do all these things because I can and there’s no one else to do it. My reward is the result.

Sunday Morning Coffee

Sometimes I become very caught up with what I think life is supposed to be and forget what my life really is. Life doesn’t have to be so stressful. Life doesn’t have to be this continuous race – where there is no finish line. Life can be more (or less, rather).

That is what I love most about my Sunday morning coffee. I wake up at no particular time, slowly move down-stairs, carefully grind and prepare a cup of coffee, and enjoy the cool morning air on my front porch. It has been a methodical and almost meditative routine.

I take this time to think about nothing in particular. To enjoy a few squirrels running across my front yard, the birds making noise, and the leaves rustling from time to time. Most of all I enjoy the perfect temperature – before the Georgia heat forces me inside.

I wish I had more of these slow days. Maybe, over time, as I mature and allow myself to do so I will grow wise enough to give up more of my “ambition” and gain the courage to simply be present in each moment. Present on my front porch enjoying the world.  Like right now.

The Economics of Compounded Growth

Our economy slowly grows at around 4% a year. This is a given. An expectation. Anything less is seen as a failure, anything more is an achievement.

I read an article today that did a good job of putting that kind of growth into perspective.

“Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1).
The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. We simply can’t go on this way.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2).”

This idea makes me wonder: Where is our breaking point? Where is the point in which we can’t sustain growth any longer? And what is our contingency plan?

I don’t know. Maybe we are already there. Maybe technology will let us keep going further than any of us ever dreamed. I don’t claim to know, but it’s certainly something we should all consider.