Browsing the archives for the time tag

The White-Bread Warning

Change, Life as it is, Mistakes, photography

In his book, The Secrets of Consulting, Gerald Weinberg uses parables and simple summaries to make his points about consulting. It’s a great book, and one I suggest to everyone that wants to become a consultant.

But consulting is not why I was thinking of one of those simple summaries on Saturday night, sitting in the mud in a marsh in a state park. I was sitting in the mud, having just fallen backwards, for the second time. That’s when Weinberg’s White Bread Warning came to me.

White Bread Warning:
“If you use the same recipe, you get the same bread.”

I had a burst of wisdom the moment before I fell the second time when I realized that I had been doing just what I was doing right before the first time I fell in the mud. I was photographing spider lilies in a muddy marsh and was lowering my tripod by changing the angle of the legs, and I started with the leg opposite me. This moved the tripod closer to me and meant I needed to step backwards. This muddy marsh was sucking our boots into itself and it often took a real effort to pull my feet free. So sure enough, I needed to step backwards again, my feet were stuck, and so backwards into the mud and marshwater I went… again.

Some people will recognize the White Bread Warning as a corollary to the insanity of “Trying the same thing again and again, expecting different results.” I have often heard the same idea expressed as:

If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting.

So, since I was no longer dry, I decided to stay on my knees in the mud and water and lower my tripod that way, and then shot from my knees. Here’s the shot that I got as a result:



Learning when I have a bad recipe and then making changes is, in some ways, pretty basic stuff. But it’s also the very basis of the sort of wisdom that comes from making mistakes.

After all, as a consultant to myself – that is advising myself on better ways to get through my day – I need to always be on the lookout for where recipes don’t work. Because one possible corollary of the White Bread Warning might be summed up as:

If I use a better recipe than i was using before, I will get better bread.

And I know I could use better bread than what I usually make for myself….

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The Choice to Abandon Myself

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

While I was in Dallas for my daughter’s hospitalization, I attended several support meetings. In one of these, someone read a small chapter of a book. It didn’t hold my interest, but caught me in the last sentences. They said in effect:

You may feel abandoned by those who you counted on. But we still have choices – only we can decide whether to abandon ourselves.

And this hit me pretty hard. Because I had been feeling pretty abandoned by my former bride and her decision to leave the state and move thousands of miles away while I raise two teens, one of whom has special needs. But it was that last idea – the one of abandoning myself that I had never looked at.

But it certainly fit to some degree. I had gone out and bought a video game to escape into from the hotel room after the first few days. In very little time, I found myself wanting to play rather than attend to phone calls I needed to make or e-mails that needed to be written. I told myself that as hard as everything had been, I deserved these breaks. I needed the escape.

Looking at the word, I found the following:

a·ban·don
tr.v. a·ban·doned, a·ban·don·ing, a·ban·dons
1 – To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2 – To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat: abandoned the ship.
3 – To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely.
4 – To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
5 – To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.

It was this first definition that caught my attention. Sure my life was difficult, but one of the things that keeps it difficult are all of the things I keep telling myself I will do – and then never get around to doing. Or worse, doing the first 95% of the task, and then deciding that was enough for now – time to go play a game. And then never returning to the task….

Isn’t that abandonment? In that first definition it talks about duty and responsibility as what is being spited in this stuff. An I saw my poor inner child being left behind, not by others but by myself.

So this past week, I have been trying to stay in the present moment with myself. Paying bills when medical expenses has stripped the accounts to the point that there isn’t enough to go around. Making calls, sending FAXes and signing documents that need it even though it hurts to do so.

And in doing so, I have been reminded that this shit hurts. Nothing like turning into the storm and trying to hit the waves bow first (to avoid being capsized) to see just how big they are and want to be somewhere else. No wonder I keep wanting to escape! Abandon ship!

But me and my life is the ship….

So maybe there are those who captain their lives and navigate storms and fair weather and this just seems like basic lessons. Captaining Onje’s Life 101 is a course I never saw advertised. Are some just born with this ability? Or does it take something opening our eyes to the way things are to show us what we do to ourselves?

I don’t know, but I believe there is hope through the storm. After all, look at the word, “abandon” when it stops being an action and becomes instead a thing of substance. That is, a noun:

a·ban·don
n.
1 – Unbounded enthusiasm; exuberance.
2 – A complete surrender of inhibitions.

Imagine being able to captain a life like that. Until then, I need to keep bailing and staying at the helm.

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What if?

Life as it is

I am really good at the game of “what if”. I play it all of the time.

What if someone stole my laptop?

What if my children are hurt?

What if crazed terrorists took over the Burger King while I was eating lunch there?

And I will say that the “what if” game helped me a lot in my former career in security. Take someone’s nice new plans for something wonderful to happen, and then brainstorm about the worst possible things that could happen. It was a perfect position for an expert at “what if”, and I was good at it.

Then all I had to do was chase down all those possibilities and show my plans for dealing with each one.

But for some reason, all of my “what if” games have a tendency to be negative. In fact usually they are in the form of creating catastrophes from what ever I happen to be doing or thinking about.

But “what if” they weren’t?

What if I were to play what if games about positive things. Maybe even getting past the “What if I win the Lottery,” stage of this game.

What if instead of imagining the worst way possible for today to go, I instead asked myself, “what is the best thing that could happen today?”

What if I focused on things that could start with me (and not require lottery-winning luck)?

What if I played this game about how to best care for myself or my children or my home?

What if I just started a blog entry without worrying when I would write my next one or what theme it should fit.

What if I just had fun living my life as it is?

Tags: Life as it is, ,

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The Symphony with my daughter

family, Mythology, Spiritual Journey

This past year I became a subscriber for the Houston Symphony, and it has been a wonderful investment for time with my daughter. We usually get their early, eat brunch nearby, and then get back to Jones Hall in time for the lecture before the music. We like to try to get to sit near this Houston Theatre District landmark when we get a chance. My daughter is a bassist, and so it is a special bit of art for her, she even says it is “sexy”. May she continue to find only the unreal men sexy at least until she becomes an adult.)

Today’s performance was Yo Yo Ma, and he was incredible. I had gotten some field glasses to use while watching the show, and when it was my turn I couldn’t help watching his face while he plays. He was his own audience, swaying to the music he heard and grinning at the concertmistress and the other cellists in the symphony.

Anyway, a wonderful day with my beautiful daughter.

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