The Lost Bar Debate

The other evening, I was curious about the score of a game and almost texted my family before realizing it was fewer steps to simply look up the score. On the pro of texting, I might learn something more about that game, but the con was that I might annoy family members with the thought of “why doesn’t he just look this up?”

This brought me to fond memories of early days in bars with friends before smart phones. In our early 20’s, we were blind to our own ignorance, and our conversations discussed and solved the worlds issues. Then the solutions were promptly forgotten.

Almost a nightly occurrence was the sharing of some bit of knowledge which was either incomplete or suspect. Facts were needed in either case, but there was no method to get these facts. So, what did we do?

We debated. Typically, with such fervor and expletives that we would attract an audience. And of course, some of these people would engage and become part of the conversation. Views were shared, arguments continued with no resolution, and most importantly, friendships were formed and grew.

I was recently seated outdoors at a bar/restaurant with 3 friends. The experience was reminiscent of those times. Not due to debates, but we did attract an audience in the form of a nearby (greater than 6ft) couple. As they were leaving, they interjected that they had been entertained by our conversation and referenced anecdotes such as cryptocurrencies, spaceflight, skiing, and The Mandalorian that showed they had been listening for well over an hour.

My takeaways as I look back:

  • My friends and I have not lost our knack for drawing others’ interest.
  • In non-COVID, maybe that table would have asked to join us and the conversation.
  • How much more wide-ranging and lively could the conversation have been without smartphone use?

And that last one is the challenge for me and anyone else who wants to join. The next time I am out to dinner or at a bar, I am going to challenge my friends to not look up any information on their phone the whole time we are there.

Debate. Scan the depths of memory. Hell, ask the server! But avoid the temptation of pulling out the smartphone.

I am going to try this in the next month, and then again post-COVID. Who knows, maybe it will be my new norm. And if anyone reading this tries, please comment with your experience.

NOTE: Please respect all COVID protocols and be safe during trials.

Target the Max ROI: Lessons from Splendor

I had a revelation the other day while playing the board game Splendor: go for the investment with the highest ROI everything else being equal. It seems obvious when I type that out, but it took me many games to get there.

For those of you who do not know, Splendor is a game of token-collecting and card development. Chance does not play a huge role in the game which means that strategy is important. Splendor was also a nominee for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres, an award given to board games in Germany.

And I was TERRIBLE at it. I am not even sure I won a single time in my first ten or so plays. As someone who takes pride in my strategic thinking ability, this was unacceptable. Thankfully, my competitive spirit meant that I kept going back in there and trying to figure it out.

Last month, I had an epiphany while playing with my sister and brother-in-law: mercilessly target and acquire the cards with the highest ROI. If a card cost 6 coins and gives you 2 points, that is decent. But if a card gives you 5 points for 8 tokens, MUST HAVE IT. This gave me two consecutive wins by a comfortable margin.

One tactic I tried prior to those two games was building a token engine by purchasing lower cost cards (e.g. 4 tokens for 0 points) that negated the need for as many tokens on future card purchases. Now I ignore all that. I do not even worry if the cost is 8 of the same-colored tokens and there are only 6 available in the whole game. There are ways, so it is my role to make it happen.

And this is how I found a metaphor for making money in life. Target the highest ROI, protect that opportunity, and then go after it with a single-minded focus.


“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

Edgar Allan Poe

I have been wondering what it is about a quote that people love. As I type this, I have 2 sources of quotes on my desk, so I am no different.  And therefore, I find it a reasonable assumption that an answer lies within my own feelings. To me, those quotes that speak most directly fall into one of three categories: inspirational, insightful and introspective.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Barack Obama

Inspirational quotes provide that most important, sometimes elusive, characteristic of humanity: hope. They humanize the titans of the world by giving us a glimpse into their philosophies, and through those words, I catch a glimpse of a brighter future and believe it is possible.

“Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf… That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Insightful quotes are those that ground me with the truths of the world. They contain wisdom that could just as easily have come from a particularly sage forebear. They bring a smile with their candor, and warm my soul with the way they simplify humanity’s challenges.

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

Malcolm X

Introspective quotes challenge me the most. On a first read, they feel either inspirational or insightful. Then I read it again. And the words pull at something deeper. They force me to ask big questions. “What is freedom to me? Do I have it? If not, am I working to get it?”

Whether a quote is inspirational, insightful, or introspective, they contain a surprising amount of power for scratches of ink on paper.

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything

A book review

I recently finished the book “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything” by Stephen M. R. Covey and found it highly informative and educational. It makes a strong case for the powerful impact of trust in both business in life. My more detailed review is on goodreads.

One thing that struck me as I read is how few of the 13 Behaviors of High Trust politicians follow. They rarely: talk straight, create transparency, deliver results, listen first, or keep commitments. In fact, politicians are encouraged to never admit their mistakes. It is no wonder why there is a trust issue both in the US and abroad.

I think any aspiring person in politics should pick up this book and seriously consider the teachings. There is a high risk of failure by breaking the current mold and embracing the 4 cores and 13 behaviors outlined, but if one were to succeed, their limit is only their capabilities.

For that matter, I recommend this book to everyone as mentioned in the goodreads review.

Resuming Air Travel

I long to get back on an airplane. As I write this, it has been approximately 11 months since my last flight, a short hop from Kansas City to Denver, and I was typically doing at least 2 round trip flights per month between work and personal. In this time, I have driven close to 12,000 miles, the majority of which has been road trips across the US, so I have been fortunate to move around a bit. But I want to go abroad.

There is nothing quite like international travel. Exploring the people, food, culture, and language of a new area is fun and expands the mind in ways that can never be replicated at home. While I don’t envision my writings to be focused entirely on travel, I imagine that they will be heavily influenced in the near future.

I have decided that my first trip should utilize at least one of two skills I have put some focus on during the pandemic: the Spanish language and chartering a sailboat. The Caribbean seems to be a logical choice for both, but the typical sailing destinations are predominately either English or French Creole speaking.

The Western Med is a possibility, but I know that keeping it local is better for my first charter experience. Plus, I am intimidated by a Mediterranean Moor (though this video where you use a mooring line instead of your own anchor makes it seem feasible). So alas, I will only test one of my two new skills. The decision on which will likely be heavily influenced by who, if anyone, is along for the ride.

A Trivial Lie

White Lie (noun): a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

I have recently been pondering if there is any such thing as a trivial lie. Whether it is a white lie or one of omission. The contemplation has two fuel sources in my life right now: a book I am reading, The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey, and an end to my recent relationship.

The book is all about how being a high trust person and having high trust relationships makes everything easier. The concept seems obvious, but when you dive into the details presented by Mr. Covey, you cannot deny that there is a real-world impact in terms of time and energy, arguably an individual’s most in demand resources.

The book has also provided a framework for reflection on my relationships over the years. To look at the four parts of “self-trust” outlined in the book: integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. I think my biggest opportunity of those four is intent: I am guilty of keeping my own counsel too often. While I have plans, goals, and direction, I do not regularly share them.

The book also outlines 13 behaviors for trust in relationships, and here I find missed opportunities to improve on in the future. Namely: talking straight (avoiding the white lie), create transparency (state my intent / avoid the accidental lie by omission), and clarify expectations (am I ever on the same page?).

Thankfully, I am better at trust behaviors in professional relationships and friendships than I am in my romantic relationships, so I know what I must do and even how to do it. The challenge is to get over the bad habits I have developed.

Bringing it back to the beginning, I think the first step is to avoid the harmless or trivial lies, especially those told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Instead, I need to embrace the touch conversations; done correctly, the long-term benefits will easily outweigh the hurt feelings of today.

A Life Worth Living

“It is the useless things that make life worth living and that make life dangerous too: wine, love, art, beauty. Without them life is safe but not worth bothering with.”

– Stephen Fry

This is the quote I am pondering this week. I think it is healthy to remember that pursuits that seem frivolous can be anything but. Often it is these frivolities that provide joy and a life worth living.

I only have to look at my toddler nephew whose reply to, “what did you do at school (read: day care) today?” is “play!” We all need play and the joy that comes with it in our lives.

The frivolities I have pursued / am pursuing this week: skiing, finishing a fiction book, brewing a stout for St. Patrick’s Day, and playing a “nerdy” RPG board game with my brother-in-law.

Mountain Retreat

Last week I got the chance to relive the beginning of my sabbatical by skiing with my family in Colorado. We all got lucky in that Summit County experienced significant snowfalls starting midway on our second day, and I was fortunate enough to get on the slopes five straight days.

Even with COVID, I did occasionally ride a lift with a stranger (separated by two seats). Perhaps my favorite was a man who worked at a rental shop in the ski town and managed to get out every day for a few hours. I He told me his typical season is over 150 days on the slopes; I was envious.

He appeared to have found a source of income in a desired location with enough flexibility to pursue his passion. What is not to envy in that? Especially when I share a similar passion.

Over the 5 days, I was reminded how at peace I am on the slopes. Life’s worries drifted away in the crisp air and rugged beauty of the snow-covered mountains. In their place, my only concern was pushing myself and testing my abilities. And each day, I challenged myself a little more and was rewarded with incremental improvements.

But that alone is not enough for me. That is why I am not choosing to follow his lifestyle. I recognize my other passions and seek to create a lifestyle that supports those as well. Maybe a part time job in a ski town is in my future, but that is not the priority in this moment.

For now, I must savor every minute I spend on the slopes whether I am carving into a groomer or gliding on some fresh powder.

Hedonia or Eudaimonia

This article from The Atlantic fascinated me for a few reasons. First, I enjoy learning about different philosophies, and second it made me reflect on my own beliefs and structure. If philosophy interest you, I recommend you read the article now.

As usual, the article ultimately recommends a balance, specifically between hedonia and eudaimonia in the pursuit of happiness, and I agree that balance is key. One of my personal philosophies is that absolutes are easy, moderation is hard. Case in point, I prefer to not have snacks around my house as then I am not tempted because once tempted, moderation can prove hard.

I believe that my parents raised me to embrace the teachings of the stoics, or eudaimonia. I still see that today as they are both people in perpetual motion. I.e., their default nature is to be doing, and it is almost as if they must schedule times for pleasure and relaxation. And for much of my life, I leaned hard in that direction.

Upon reflecting on my choice to take a sabbatical, I believe a motive was to find balance for myself. I knew that a purely stoic approach was not satisfying. But going into the sabbatical, I gave myself plenty of tasks and goals to ensure I did not land in hedonia.

My personal philosophy now is that one needs to narrow their focus. Pick just a few, or even one, goal to approach with stoicism. With the right goal, the trials along the road will bring happiness as a reward.

However, if a particular task or goal does not fit your focus, then I believe an Epicurean approach is more appropriate: decide against engaging in it and free your mind from any thoughts or concerns regarding it.

This is where I find my balance in the pursuit of happiness.

Travel and Sleep Health: An Inverse Relationship

This weekend, I attempted to sleep in both days as I had no specific reason to wake up. The first day, I managed 7am which, while later than normal, was not really my goal and only gave me 7 hours. The next day I managed to wake up after 8am giving me closer to 9 hours. This caused me to reflect on some interesting side effects of the COVID lockdown.

First, my sleeping patterns have become less variable. Where I used to be out with friends past midnight at least once a month, now I cannot remember the last time. This has caused me to fall into regular patterns of sleep which, while likely better for my quality of sleep, does not help when I want to sleep in.

COVID is not the only factor as my schedule has become less variable over the last decade, so routine cannot be the only reason for my diminished snoozing ability. What else has changed? Two factors: first, I moved away from the west coast, and second, I travel less due to COVID.

Between my personal life and my job, I was usually spending at least one week per month (and usually two) in a different time zone with central and eastern US being the most common. I would also chain work and personal trips together; this led to me being well practiced at tweaking my routines to get my body ready for a new time zone. And it kept my body guessing.

With COVID, that is gone. I have not been on a plane since March of 2020 which is shocking to type. My body has finally adjusted to a certain time zone, and with it a defined sleep pattern. I would like to think this means I am getting better sleep but given that I still fall asleep in less than 5 minutes, it would seem I remain deprived.

My conclusion from these reflections is that I need to cross an ocean; I want to get back to the person who is out there experiencing life in the flesh, and I will sort out the effects as I go. Now the only question is if I book a flight now or wait until I get a better idea on my vaccine timeline than “sometime between June and the end of 2021.”

Home is something to look forward to returning to, not a permanent existence.

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