career

“They’ve got the keys to the car and they can drive it”

Several years ago I stepped away from a consulting gig. I had an opportunity to continue the gig, but I didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t like the direction the project was headed in. This quote from this article about the Denver Post expresses how I feel very well:

“I have total disagreement with how they're managing the place, but I'm not going to stand up and be overly critical of them. They've got the keys to the car and they can drive it any way they want to. But they're not driving it in a way that I want to be a passenger of the car.”

(That reminds me of the old Alaska sled dog saying: “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”)

What’s Important Now (WIN)

I know, it’s a little corny, but instead of writing out a “To-Do List” — which implies hard labor and/or something I force myself to do — these days I write “WIN” on the top of my index cards. WIN stands for, “What’s Important Now”, and I find that this change in wording changes my attitude towards the things that need to be done. Rather than thinking, “Ugh, okay, what do I have to do next,” I now think of these tasks as important to me, my future, and my success.

The Parable of the Carpenter alvin March 7, 2018 - 5:02pm

Way back in 2005 I read an SI.com article about football coach Dick Vermeil, and the article mentioned a story called, The Parable of the Carpenter. I’ve never found an official version of the story, but here’s a version I cobbled together from multiple sources, including that SI article:

Steve Jobs: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon”

In terms of being a nice person, Steve Jobs may have been the worst Buddhist in the history of the world, but he captures the Zen/Buddhist essence in this quote:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Photo from forbes.com, words from Steve Jobs.

“I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time”

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

~ Charlie Munger, talking about Warren Buffett and himself

Katsuki Sekida, English teacher, Zen teacher

From the back cover of, Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) and The Blue Cliff Records (Hekiganroku):

“Katsuki Sekida (1893–1987) was by profession a high school teacher of English until his retirement in 1945. Zen, nevertheless, was his lifelong preoccupation.”

Similarly, my work these days involves computer programming, and my preoccupation is Zen and meditation. Unless you’re willing to go live in a monastery, we all have to work to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice.

The time a recruiter told me to “play dumb”

I was just reminded of the time a recruiter told me to “play dumb” when a particular person interviewed me, because that person didn’t like to be challenged, and had to feel like he was the smartest person in the room. I couldn’t bring myself to do that; I figured if that was the way it was going to be, I didn’t want to work there.