Vaccination, specifically for Covid-19

I heard earlier this week about a doctor who is called a vaccine skeptic and was invited to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday. At first, I was annoyed that congress was giving her a platform to speak her concerns. Now two days later, I am annoyed with media outlets.

One could make an argument that it is the responsibility of a Senate committee to hear varying perspectives to make an informed decision. I am not making that argument as this doctor appears to be on the fringe, but I admit it has validity.

This doctor’s presence at the hearing was covered rather extensively on Monday and Tuesday leading into the hearing. Now it is Thursday, and the reporting on that hearing and her testimony are absent. The hearing itself was not private, as I found the recording of the hearing on as well as a transcript of Dr. Orient’s testimony, so coverage is possible.

My question is, what was the point of making a big deal about this woman testifying if the testimony itself is not covered? The “big deal” seemed to be that the Senate was inviting this doctor in the first place, but now that it is done, the absence of coverage means that the media itself has added weight to anyone in the anti-vaccination camp merely due to the vacuum left in the wake of the initial coverage.

I personally did not read the testimony; I am going to get the vaccine when it becomes available to me. I might check with a personal doctor as I have had allergic reactions to antibiotics, but even that seems to be low risk as I have never had an allergic reaction to other vaccines nor been asked to carry an adrenaline autoinjector.

I hope most of the world is right beside me, socially distanced, for their own vaccine as well.

Waking up and Mindfullness

This post is the fitting follow up to one about physical exercise. As stated in one of Sam Harris’s theory lessons within his mindfulness app, Waking Up, meditation and the practice of being mindful is exercise for the brain no different than running is for the body. That is not a direct quote, but the point is correct.

I have believed that the practice of mediation could be beneficial for me for several years. It goes back to a professionalism training we hosted at my former employer. In it, the trainer singled me out for a moment and asked if I ever sit and open myself up to what is around me with no distractions. The easy answer was “no”, but I gave some response about occasionally relaxing on my balcony in Sacramento…with a drink and some music and/or a book after a long day at work. She simply smiled at my response and we moved on.

First, how incredibly insightful on her part that she knew nothing more needed to be said. The fact that my response was a list meant that the answer was “no.” She knew, I knew it, and likely the whole room knew it. But what did I do about this possible opportunity? At the time, nothing.

I eventually tried using Amazon Alexa to “play a guided meditation” from time to time. It was never consistent and felt more like an obligation than anything I was benefitting. In fact, this is how I started off my 2020 foray into meditation, with Alexa; it lasted less than 3 months.

Late this summer, I heard about the app Waking Up and decided to try again. The app’s combination of a 28-day starter course, daily meditations thereafter, theory lessons on demand, and recorded conversations around meditation and mindfulness is working for me. I am not at a daily habit, but am typically five of seven days with a few theory lessons sprinkled in. Ten minutes is also my minimum time where with Alexa, I groaned inwardly if a meditation was listed as being seven.

My benefit is a better understanding and control of my thoughts. Through meditation, I have learned to trace a thought back to its origin, and in doing so, I am no longer beholden to the thought or emotion itself. Another benefit is that I am more deliberate and considerate in my responses. I can also better control urges to interject into conversations.

I know there are also people who spend over an hour every day in meditation which is incredible to me. The discipline required by themselves and the people in their life is admirable. It seems to be a luxury that few can have, but ultimately it is a choice. And maybe we would be a better society if everyone practiced for at least ten minutes a day.

Healthier Body

One positive of being on a sabbatical is that my primary excuse to not exercise, “lack of time”, was obviously not a challenge anymore. If I removed 50+ hours of activity every week between work and commute, I should have been able to squeeze some exercise in. And as a bonus, I decided to start my sabbatical skiing in Park City, Utah.

Skiing has been my favorite physical activity as an adult. What was previously vacation based became more regular when I moved to Sacramento and could get to the Lake Tahoe area in around 2 hours. Park City was next level as I was skiing 5 days per week. If you have never tried skiing by yourself for a couple hours in the middle of the week, I would recommend. It is almost a peaceful experience.

I considered skiing my cardio, added a few sun salutations (yoga), and started some body weight strength training. At some point, my body reminded me that I was 35 and stretching was important. I sustained all this activity after the move to the family farm and on to Chicago. The cardio did have to switch to running, biking, and calisthenics.

Presently, it is a daily habit, and one that I am addicted to. My day seems incomplete without something, even if it is only the stretching, yoga, and a few pushups. As I learned in the book, Discipline Equals Freedom (which is also where I got my body weight exercises from), do something every day. Even if you cannot get your full routine in, do something.

And that would be my advice for anyone looking to start an exercise routine. Start small. Make it daily. And even if you “don’t have time”, do something. A few pushups and lunges count. Eventually, you will be on the other side of the coin where it takes more effort to NOT exercise than it does to get started.

A Second Language

Another goal for my sabbatical was to pick up a second language. Over my life I have learned the rudiments of German through Audio CD’s, basic Portuguese through similar methods before I went to Brazil, and a few words in Mandarin when I spent a couple weeks in Shanghai for work. But for this goal, I went back to my first second language, Spanish, and the method I chose was Duolingo.

I believe that a people’s language is a great view into their culture. I think with prolonged study, you can understand some cultural nuances without visiting the home country. And once you do make it there, your experience will be enhanced from the effort. I only wish that I had fully embraced this view earlier in my life.

Thankfully, I have also learned patience. And the daily repetition of Duolingo for 20 to 30 minutes pays off. The format of the lessons and the progressive nature work for me, and I am using the free version of Duolingo. The one area I am missing is practicing Spanish in conversations. My own timidity is the primary barrier as I know that opportunities abound if I would simply look.

I have a goal to be conversational by the time I can responsibly travel abroad, and I want a Spanish speaking country to be close to the top of the list. Hopefully, I will be fluent in 2021, so I can move on to language three in the following years.

The Power of a Journal

I was in a leadership class within my last year at my former employer. The facilitator, a former army officer, recommended journaling to most of us at the top of the organization. He said it was a good way to organize your thoughts and gain perspective. I know that a few of my fellow managers tried this, but I did not.

However, I did start journaling in 2020 while on my sabbatical. I found it an excellent way to reflect on a day’s events and organize my thoughts. Sometimes I skip a day or two either out of laziness or because I felt the preceding days were uneventful. However, I am frequently proven wrong about how eventful the days were. The thoughts and moments from those days I dig up are sometimes the more revealing.

I wish I had journaled while I was managing people. I have since read that it is an important habit for leaders due to the truth of, “it’s lonely at the top.” When you manage a team, you are lucky and rare if you have a boss, or co-manager, that you can completely confide in. That is the place of the journal. Even if you are only talking to yourself, the important thing is that you are reflecting on your thoughts, actions, and conversations.

If my first bit of advice is to start journal. My second is to go deeper than recording actions. The true power of a journal is when you capture the thoughts behinds your actions. The “why’s” whether they be beliefs, emotions, or deductions.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates

Altucher’s Idea Muscle

If you have never heard of James Altucher, I encourage you to visit his site. He is a unique individual with interesting views. I would not tell anyone to adopt every one, but he does provide perspectives that you won’t find every day. From him, I borrowed the “idea muscle.”

The premise is that generating ideas, quality ideas, is not easy. It does not come naturally to most people. Therefore, you need to exercise the process of generating ideas daily. Mr. Altucher picks a topic, any topic really, and writes 10 ideas related to that topic. It could be new business venture, book ideas, or jokes for a comedy routine.

Some will suck. In fact, many will probably suck. But that is the point. Get the ideas out there and get in the habit of generating ideas.

I have done this for almost a year now with a few missed days here and there. I am not certain if I am any better or worse at idea generation, but I do appreciate the exercise. And when I have something meaningful to dwell on, this provides an outlet.

Perhaps one of my favorite uses has come about recently. On Saturdays, my idea muscle is consistently around recording wins from the previous week. While this is not creating new ideas, it does provide a moment for reflection and to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Alternatively, I use Sunday for goal setting for the next week. Some would say that 10 goals is a lot for a week, but they don’t have to be huge. And hey, if you miss a goal doesn’t happen, maybe it was bad idea for a goal?

The Brain Apps

I had used the brain app Elevate on and off prior to my sabbatical. I vowed to make a habit of doing it every day since I no longer had work to engage the mind,. I also picked up a second app, Lumosity, mentioned by one of my friends. I have done these, almost without fail, since December of 2019.

Elevate has four different categories: math, speaking, writing, and reading. Basically your standardized test. The free version has a decent variety of games, keeps track of your stats, and compares your results to previous (although not in a very transparent way as difficulty increases). I like it as the modules, 3 per day, are consistently less than 2 minutes each. I frequently do them between sets in my strength training.

Lumosity on the other hand is more variable in duration. You get 3 per day, the same as Elevate, but some modules can take closer to 10 minutes, and others only a minute or so. The categories are speed, memory, attention, flexibility, & problem solving with a healthy dose of math on the side. As these categories indicate, they work different parts of the mind, and some that are desperately needed given smart phones dominance in our life. (Mainly that we lack attention as a culture and don’t have to remember anything.)

They both have merits at the end of the day. If I had to pick one, it would likely be Lumosity. It annoys me more, which means it likely challenges me more as well.

The “Dailies”

One of my main concerns upon setting out on my sabbatical last November was atrophy. Basically, laziness and lack of purpose would set in and aspects of myself would deteriorate. Therefore, I made goal setting a huge part of the sabbatical.

The complete list of items I did at various points of the sabbatical is below. I am going to take some time over the next few posts to dive into each.

  • Elevate (app)
  • Lumosity (app)
  • Duolingo – Spanish (app)
  • Chess (app)
  • Journaling
  • Idea Muscle
  • Music
  • Exercise
  • Mimo (app)
  • Waking Up (app)

There are a few other ideas and things I have tried along the way, so maybe I will drop those in at various points. We shall see. Next up, I will cover Elevate & Lumosity.

A Lesson on Decency

I recently picked up How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I first started this book around 9 years ago when I was in the Dale Carnegie Course in St. Joseph, MO; however, I never finished the book. I recall enjoying the stories, but I simply prioritized other activities over reading this book at that point in my life.

I am now at a point where I am continuously reading two books: one for pleasure and one to learn. I am also now reading the book as Mr. Carnegie himself recommended which is reading a chapter, and then reading it again before going on. I have found that I catch items on the second pass which I missed on the first.

The principles Mr. Carnegie outlines in the book still apply almost a century later. In fact, I would say the level of human decency he discusses are something that has diminished greatly in my own lifetime. I point to Social Media and our political leaders as the two main catalysts for this deterioration.

If you are looking for something to read, I recommend picking it up and reading as recommended. I think the world would be a better place if we all practiced these principals from time to time. What are your thoughts?

Review: An essay on messaging

I recently finished reading, The Ass Is A Poor Receptacle For The Head: Why Democrats Suck At Communication, And How They Could Improve written by Barry Eisler. It is a quick read that I would highly recommend and currently $0.99 on kindle. The essay resonated with me as I am have always felt that the left is awful at many aspects of messaging: specifically phrasing, sticking to, and not getting distracted from their message.

Mr. Eisler does an outstanding job of providing evidence as to why this is true. He also talks about what Democrats (and Republicans, though they seem to already understand these principles) could do differently to improve their message being received.

The author also talks about the difference between attacking the oppositions point versus the premise of an argument. A clear distinction that is not easy to accomplish in the moment, but when done effectively is the difference between blocking a thrust and countering it.

This essay was written in 2012, which means that there are many more examples from the last 8 years that could be added. As I reflect on recent movements that are associated with the left, I would postulate that they still have a lot to learn on the concept of messaging.

Read the essay yourself, and develop your own thoughts.

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