Why Am I Doing This?

At the end of another week of language study I was repeating my review of past tense verbs (again!!). By objective and subjective measures I made no progress during the week and miserably asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”

In the constant battle to live more intentionally—to act and not to be acted upon—it’s a great question. Three questions, really:

  1. WHY am I doing this? (What is this really helping me accomplish?)
  2. Why am I doing this? (Is this the best use of my time, should someone else be doing this instead of me?)
  3. Why am I doing THIS? (Is this thing the best way to get to my goal and does it even need to be done?)

The question works on the strategic, tactical and task level.

  • Strategic: Why am I doing this? I believe learning a language will make me a better person and give me a better brain.
  • Tactical: Why am I doing this? I believe completing my daily goal in Duolingo is an effective tactic for language learning.
  • Task: Why am I doing this? Duolingo says I’m having trouble with past tense verbs.

Asking in the moment and from the task horizon produced an unsatisfactory answer (Why am I doing this? How many times am I going to have to go over these damn verbs?). Asking on the tactical level (What else can I try to get these verbs learned?) produced a new tactic: Set up a lesson through italki.com. The problem didn’t escalate to the strategic level, but it might later.

h/t Derek Sivers

What is the Purpose of the Internet?

The Internet has a purpose. It is a machine—a tool for making things.

You can use the Internet:

  • to make art
  • to make fun
  • to make money
  • to make change
  • to make hurt and pain.

You can be used by the Internet. You can let it:

  • make you distracted (wasting your time and focus)
  • make you incriminated (incognito windows notwithstanding, there is a browser history)
  • make you dissatisfied and unhappy (others’ lives always look better on Instagram).

The Internet has a purpose, and you get to decide what that purpose is.

The Stakes Could Not Be Lower

Utah Republican Leaders Lining Up—Reluctantly—Behind Trump

This was the headline last week. The article underneath it included quotes from the governor and members or representatives of the Utah congressional delegation calling for the party to get behind Donald Trump. Each of these people is on record as being anti-trump. One recently referred to him as, “our Mussolini.”

The rationale, of course, is political expediency. The reasoning goes, “We hate Trump, we think he is fundamentally wrong for the country and personally offensive, but we have to support him because our version of fundamentally wrong is better than their version of fundamentally wrong.” This line of thought may play well between the ears of those who voice it, but outside of their heads, it just sounds like a lack of character.

And really—for Utah at least—the stakes of our leaders standing on character couldn’t be lower.

If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge that Utah doesn’t count. The Republican party doesn’t pay attention to the state because we will always go Republican. The Democrats ignore us for the same reason. Unpack the argument that if we don’t unite behind Trump, Hillary will win and find that:

  1. There is zero chance that any of Utah’s six measly electoral votes will go to a democrat.
  2. There is an insignificant chance that Utah’s refusal to fall in line will have any impact on the larger race—mostly because of #1.
  3. There is no guarantee that even with Utah’s acquiescence, Trump will win.

Given these three reasons, why should the republican leadership of Utah not stand up for what they really believe? Waking up to look at a Hillary presidency for four years may not be worse than waking to look at yourself in the mirror everyday knowing that you traded your character for a mess (pun intended) of political pottage.

A Degree is a Degree

I find that my TV “watching” lately occurs when I’m in a different room than the TV. Having only the sound and not the pictures has the interesting effect of making me pay attention (or perhaps just imagine) the subtext of the programming and commercials.

Case in point: The University of Phoenix has an ad in heavy rotation in which a young woman sings new lyrics to the tune, “If I only had a brain.” It’s a real attention grabber, but what had me musing for a good fifteen minutes afterward was the line:

a degree is a degree,
you’re gonna want someone like me

Much as been written and said (by Seth Godin and James Altucher to name just a couple) about the value of university degree. But I’ve never heard a university question it. And frankly, that’s what I heard drifting in from the other room: an institute of higher learning turning a degree—something that has, since the 12th century, been a premium product—into a commodity.

Now, perhaps the University of Phoenix’s intent was to communicate that a degree from their school is as valuable as a degree from Stanford. And maybe it is; I don’t know.

The cynic in me thinks that employers just use possession of a degree as a filter for the computer that sorts through piles of resumes.

The skeptic in me thinks that since everyone now has a college degree, it isn’t a distinguishing feature.

The curmudgeon in me visits the campus and looks at the coursework and mutters, <oldmanvoice>”These kids today aren’t learning anything anyway.”</oldmanvoice>

Maybe a degree is a degree. But in the long run selling the idea isn’t going to help either University of Phoenix or Stanford because people are rarely changed by commodities.

I may be reading too much into this commercial, of course. Perhaps an agency copywriter just needed a rhyme.

Change In Two Weeks?

I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.William Faulkner

I’m not new to blogging, having started my first blog in 2012 and writing on and off on various blogs since then. My writing has always followed a specific pattern: think of a topic, make note of that topic, and then—when I feel inspired to do so—sit down and write about it (or sit down and feel guilty about not writing).

The results of this approach are predictable: I haven’t written anything on the Bike to Work blog in a year.

This sucks, of course, but what to do?

This week, Chase Jarvis aired an interview during which Seth Godin made a remarkable statement:

Blog publicly everyday; it will change you in two weeks.

I love definite statements like this that promise a specific result for doing a specific thing for a specific period of time. This is a statement that is verifiable and the timeframe is short; I can do anything for two weeks and I am always looking for change.

So, beginning today, May 11 and continuing through May 27 I will blog daily (except for Sunday) on this site. I order to set myself up for success, I am imposing no minimum word count and I am giving myself only an hour to write each day and that hour will be before the beginning of the workday so that I can’t be overwhelmed.

With this lack of constraints, I don’t expect quality, but that wasn’t part of Seth Godin’s claim. If any posts strike me as being good or interesting, I’ll mention it on social and/or Linkedin.