Category Archives: Goals

2016 and moving forward

Last time I did this I was at a tea house.  That tea house is long gone now and my oh my how things have changed since then but then again some things haven’t changed.

Let’s rewind a bit before the tea house.  I was at a coffee shop with an acquaintance.  She noticed that I was limping round because of my ankle injury.  She told me that her husband had the same thing and that it took him over 6 months to recuperate.  I mentally winced.  6 months!?!?

It turned out she was pretty dead on correct.  The injury was the centerpiece of the first half of my year. A daily nagging and painful reminder of how things were in general. I worked my way back from the injury and in fact I ran a 10k race in November.  The ankle is not fully healed.  On cold mornings it still hurts and I still don’t run on a daily basis.  But perhaps given more time it will one day heal totally.

This year has in some ways been a wake up call and a reminder of how time has passed.  Injuries like this that I could shrug off now take time to heal.  Beyond that I find that some of the interests of my youth no longer hold the same allure that they used to.  The science fiction novels, the action movies, the loud music just don’t interest or thrill me as they used to.  From time to time I still indulge but I find that I am far more picky as to what I spend my time on.

The business part of my life has picked up during the course of the year.  A 4 month-long sales doldrum finally broke in February and I’m slowly returning to form.  I find that the sales arena is now much more competitive.  We live in leaner economic times and I have to do my utmost on each and every sales opportunity and lead to try to convert them into projects for our company.

But of course the big news of the year was and still is the election. Along with millions of others I stayed up that Tuesday night in early November and watched dumbfounded as all the election polls were proven wrong.  The implications of what this election might mean to not just my life but the country and the world in general began to sink in that sleepless night and for many nights to come.

Panic has given way to anger and then determination.

In the past couple of weeks that determination to stand up and resist the new administration and to work to oppose the dismantling of our freedoms has become more and more pronounced.

It’s curious.  Thinking about the effects of this election and my need to speak up and act has made me think more about my life and my life goals in the last month than I have for a long time.

I’ve begun to realize that in some ways my life goals in previous years have been somewhat shallow.  In general, those life goals consisted of maintaining my employment, paying off my house, building up a retirement nest egg, and finally selling the house and moving to a retirement spot.  Possibly some place in Europe or maybe the southwest US.  Not the worst life but not the best either.

But now, now I feel that this election has given my life a certain focus.  I feel that this is a call to take action and to become more involved. I can’t just sit idly by and just go to work while things are occurring right in front of my face and not take action.

I’m not blind and I can see very clearly what is happening and that I have to lend my voice to those that oppose the changes coming to our country.  I’ve never been what you would call hugely political but then again I’ve never before felt such a threat to our democracy.

I don’t imagine that the next few years will be easy and I don’t think that we’ve hit rock bottom yet.  But I do think that if I hold on with steadfast determination that things will change for the better.  I also think that no matter what happens that my life will be the better for having participated and having done my part.

My life will at least be more interesting.

Clearing the slate

December 19, 2015

Sitting at Té one last time.  Having a cup of tea and looking around.  Remembering and thinking.

I’m going to miss this place so much once it shuts down.  So many happy afternoons and evenings spent here in all sorts of weather.  Just writing, thinking, and relaxing.  Places like this exist to nurture the soul.

But time moves on and things change.

At the end of each year I come up with a list of goals for the next year.  I’m sitting here reading a copy of my goals for 2015 on my smartphone and shaking my head in dismay.  Such an ambitious plan and so many things that went wrong almost from the start.

I think it’s fair to say that 2015 was not a good year for me.  Strangely enough I find that most of the people who I know concur with this viewpoint.  I know of almost no people who consider 2015 to have been a good year.

This particular year began with a financial investment that went bad and barely broke even, to work challenges all year-long, to a very painful personal relationship episode, to a seemingly endless series of small but annoying mini-disasters that I had to work my way through, and finally to some health related problems at the end of the year that persist.

So here I sit with the weight of it all crushing down on me.

Despair is a narcissistic state of mind.  In a way it’s pleasant to lose oneself to despair and let your worries and fears take over.  No responsibility, just let things happen as they may.  But after a while you realize that it’s not getting anything useful done. So you stand up straight, square your shoulders, and look your problems right in the eye.

Or that’s what I normally do.  This time though I have to sit back for a second to take a deep breath and let out a deep sigh.  Middle age makes it a bit harder to pick up the pieces.

Okay, one more time.

An extremely trimmed down set of goals for 2016.  Sixteen  pages were way too much.  Focusing on the core fundamentals of my life and loosening up my goals as to what constitutes a “win”.  Normally I would council doing the opposite and tightening up goals and making goals harder to achieve.  This however is going to be a rebuilding year.  If I can get back to the state that I was in at the end of last year I will be ecstatic.

Looking back at last year’s goals I think that I was trying too hard to please other people in my life.  To make their lives better.  I was also trying to use other people’s goals in my life and in a sense live up to their expectations.  I need to live my own life and fulfill my own dreams.

So I start off fresh and cast away everything that isn’t useful or is in fact hindering me.  Firstly I will try to fix my broken body so I can then mend the rest of my broken life.  I have few extended goals that I want for myself this year.  I don’t know if I will be able to reach them but they’re there for me to aim for.

Two years ago I wrote about the barren landscape and how we craft the future.  We also craft our problems and the situations that get us into those problems.  But, we can also craft the solutions to those problems.

I finish the last of my matcha and buy a bag to make my own at home.  I leave Té for the last time.

Thank you for one last memory.

Getting out there

I was chatting about work and life the other day over tea at Starbucks.  The conversation drifted in the direction of business networking.  Not the computer kind of network but the personal type of network.  The type that’s hard for me.

Networking really hasn’t changed at all since the first business office was set up.  Having a wide circle of friends and acquaintances always pays off.  Although we may live in an interconnected world of instantaneous communications we still have to initiate contact with other people in order for it to work.

I don’t mean just send emails back and forth or maybe even have a phone conversation but actually “talk” to the other person.  Whether that person is a client, a colleague or even a competitor at another company.  Being more than just a contact card in an email directory is important.  It means that you’re an actual human being that the other person might think of when it comes time to ask for a job, a business opportunity or an introduction to someone else.

Initiating contact doesn’t have to be a big production involving flowers or lunch or whatever.  You can just initiate contact by asking the other person how they’re doing during the course of your regular work exchange.  Do some “industry gossip”.  Talk about that other third company that has nothing to do with you or speculate on the future of your field.  Ask about their goals and plans.

The main thing is that you become a known quantity, that you have a personality, and that you’re a factor in their life.  Not a giant factor but a factor.  You’ll never expect them to break down and cry on your shoulder and you should not expect them to lend you money but at the very least if things go bad you can send out resumes to them, you can ask them if they know about any open bids, you can query them about some job applicant that they may know.

This is the way that the business world works, folks.  It always has and always will be this way.

find what really makes you happy

I was thinking about a study I read several years back.  It was about how children that would instinctively put off instant gratification and momentary gains and instead pursued long-term rewards would statistically go on to have more fulfilling and successful lives.

What brought this on?  Well, I suddenly realized how far into 2015 we’d gotten and how the first quarter went past in a blur and the second quarter was close to done and I hadn’t reviewed the progress of my yearly goals yet.

Why hadn’t I done this?  I suppose I could give various excuses from being too lazy to dealing with illness in March to this and that but I also have to be honest and admit I have been partly dreading this.  I haven’t been doing as well as I’d hoped to be at this point.

So I was walking in downtown Houston the other day and thinking about this.  It was after dark and downtown was mostly deserted and it was cool and quiet.  Near perfect conditions to think.

Were these goals making me happy or were they becoming obsessions that would not yield long-term satisfaction?  Was I eschewing short-term gratification to pursue these goals or just denying myself living my life for no good reason?

I mean I created these goals in order to have a better life and to do something meaningful.  I think I did a pretty good job of it as well but the thing is that for some of my goals I think that I am pouring good resources into lost causes and basically wasting them where I could instead be using them for other projects.

So I have to evaluate these goals and see if these are worth continuing on and if I just hang on a little longer that things will get better or if I’m just hanging on due to some sense of pride that won’t let me quit on these goals.

I think that’s what I meant by the title “find what really makes you happy”.  Sit down, look at these goals, and see if they will truly make you happy.

it’s never over

One of those Facebook posts that seems to circulate all over your news feed really hit home today.  It was titled “The after myth“.  The post was an essay about a fat person who took the time and did the work to lose a lot of weight and succeeded but a few years after her success realized that there is no after, there is just the now.

I’ve been on my health kick for the last four years now.  Begun as a necessity to restore my health.  Starting slowly, having several missteps and finally starting to see results in the last year.  I mean really big tangible results.  The type where the guy in the commercial holds up his giant pants and steps from behind them to reveal his “new” skinnier version.

No matter how you do it (whether it’s exercise, diet, stomach staples, whatever) these ads gloss over the time, the struggle, the long hours which stretch into days and then weeks, months, and years.  The process gets lost to get to the point on the TV screen.

It’s gratifying seeing people who I haven’t seen for a long time and having them tell me how much better I look now that I’ve lost the weight but I find it puzzling. Before the weight or after the weight, it’s still me.

I’m still the same person regardless of the weight and I found that this essay was right on the mark.  For me there is no “after”.  I have to keep to this lifestyle from now on.

Back in March I had to deal with the flu that was going round Houston.  First I had to take care of a couple of people who got sick for a couple of weeks and then I got sidelined by it as well.  My exercise routine went to hell and I began to pile on some weight.  Maybe it was not noticeable to anyone else but it was to me.  Just proved it to me that I don’t have a magical goal number to reach.  This is my life now.

My metabolism has slowed over time.  It was never very high but now it’s slowing down as I age.  I need to keep working out. I need to watch my diet, I need to keep the process going.

I am still the same person that I was at 288 pounds that I am now at 181 pounds.  I am just more aware and more conscious about the type of life I live and the consequences of my actions or in-actions.

I’m not defined by the number on a weight scale.  No one is, or at least no one should be.  I hope that I am defined by my actions and thoughts.  Hopefully those actions and thoughts will lead me to a healthier and happier life.

plans vs pipe dreams: Knowing the difference and leveraging them anyways

Just as we also have carefully thought out plans, we also have pipe dreams.

We all have those wild and crazy ideas that would be nice to achieve but we “know” just won’t ever work.  These are ideals that we may dream about at bed time or just after lunch one day.  You can think and even see them but the rational part of your mind knows that they’re impossible so it discounts them as just impractical fantasies and generally forgets about them.

On the flip side we have those carefully worked out plans that we think and re-think all the time and we “test out” and know will work because we’ve put in the time to manage expectations and to make sure they can be implemented before anything happens.  We work and live through these every day.

Obviously, it’s bad to get hung up on a pipe dream and obsess over it to the point that you can’t function.  Unfortunately I see this type of behavior too much among some of my peers.  Obsessing about some material item, over some sort of achievement, over some love that got away from them.  Many people chase these unattainable goals to the point that they disregard some or all other important aspects of their lives.

On the other hand it’s equally as bad to just live out a carefully scripted and planned life.  If you only live a planned out existence you may find that opportunities that suddenly appear and offer themselves to you will be ignored or denied because they don’t fit in with your current plans.  You may find that you deny yourself an advantage or may find that your original plan may actual be detrimental to you just because it didn’t fit in.

I think most people can tell what a plan looks like.  A pipe dream is more difficult.  We can often fool ourselves into thinking an outlandish pipe dream is really a reasonable plan.  If we sit down however and look at it carefully and analyze it bit by bit we can often see the faults in the “reasonable plan” and see it for what it really is.

But like I said above, living only a planned life can be equally bad for you.  So how can we live a balanced life where we keep our hopes and dreams alive but allow our plans to carry us ahead?  We have to strike a balance.  Live the daily life within our plans but always keep those pipe dreams at hand.  Don’t totally deny them or discount them.

Even if you do chase after your pipe dream and ultimately fail, the journey, the process of trying to achieve that pipe dream may yield unexpected benefits, may open up new vistas and worlds that you didn’t previously know about.

Pipe dreams are sometimes the only things that can keep us moving forward when things are tough.  Learn to control them, learn to tame them.  But never let them die.

The point of it all

Whenever you do any activity for an extended period of time you will eventually get to the point that you start asking yourself some  deep questions regarding that activity.

Just doing the activity used to be enough for me.  I do miss those days when just doing was enough.  I find myself getting wistful for the simplicity of those times.  But as you age and progress you get more time to sit and consider your situation then I guess such questions are inevitable.

So, there I am sitting writing and I hit a bit of a stumbling point in my writing.  The sentences all look wrong, the paragraph structure doesn’t make much sense and I’m wondering where this is all going.  Not so much where this particular story is going.  That I have a handle on but where am I really going with this whole writing thing.

Is anything that I write really all that worthwhile reading?

I’ve been dallying and switching back and forth between science fiction and literary fiction for the past couple of years and I’ve been thinking of combining both into the sub-genre of literary science fiction, a really rarefied form of literature that would be quite difficult to produce.

In my local writing groups I’ve seen a couple of younger writers plunging on and taking their stories to their editors and looking for publishers and generally getting on with producing their work. They’re totally committed and fearless in moving forward.

Meanwhile I’m sitting on 2 stories that I could at the very least send to an editor and get some honest feedback before moving on to the next stage.  But again I have to ask myself what is the point of this whole exercise?  Am I doing this just to exercise my imagination and my typing fingers or do I want to get something published?

I don’t think I want to keep all of this private and to myself.  I do want to share what I am writing with a wider audience.  Being in contact with actual writers, with editors, and other writing enthusiasts has broadened my horizons considerably in the last few years.  Particularly in the last year that I’ve spent with members of the Houston Science Fiction writing group.

I don’t think that I will ever make a fortune writing or that I will even make a good living but I do think that I want  to release some of these ideas out to a wider audience.

I am currently thinking that my focus should go back to what I know best and that my first story should be a familiar theme that I know well and that I am more confident in.  A nice “easy” science fiction story that I can work with my editor on and get ready for publication.

I wish I could do something more literary as my first effort but if I’m going to take the plunge into publishing I think that I need to do something where I can build up my confidence and my experience first before tackling something more substantial.

Trying too many things at once

The year began with a flurry of activity on all fronts.  I wanted to make 2015 a better year than 2014 was.  I planned it out before the start of the year, I got things lined up, and was all set when January 1st rolled around.

But then a couple of things hit me by surprise and I had a rough start that got me all panicky. I’ve now settled down and am trying to make the plan work.

The main issue now is trying to get everything resorted and going again.  I went back and reviewed my goals for the year and came to a couple of realizations.  Firstly that it’s 18 pages long.  How did I get that complicated? So many goals and sub-goals and extended goals.  Looking at the totality of it all it seems daunting.

Secondly that although the plan is overly detailed in some ways that in other more important ways it’s totally not detailed at all. Things aren’t organized by priority or have specific dates or have specific goals or targets.  As a consequence I’ve been trying to do it all at once and I don’t think I’m utilizing my time to the best advantage.

With everything that’s happened already I feel like it should be February but I look at the calendar and it’s barely the middle of the month.  At the same time I feel that I am falling behind.  I am definitely having to review my goals more than last year.

But I think if I am going to make any progress at all that I have to step up and stress myself.  I don’t mean failure stress, that is to stress the system till it breaks down but definitely stress the system more.  Only in this way will I make any forward progress.

I have to remember that I have the whole year to get some of these things done and that things will get done.  Things are getting done.  I just have to be more patient.

Plans and goals for the new year


I had a good year.  No doubt about it.  I had it laid out and planned and it worked.  Not to perfection, no.  But a good-sized chunk worked out for me.

Now how do you top that?  The fear, the doubt in the pit of my stomach is that you can’t.  I’ve been planning, dreading, stressing about this off and on since around October.  Before, during, and after my vacation I devoted a lot of time to this and finally round the end of December I got it all together in a master document.  Even typed it out, which I normally don’t.  Normally I write it all out in handwritten form in a notebook.

Here we are 4 days into the new year and already a couple of key aspects of the plan have been radically changed by events in the last few days.  Goes to show that you should always make plans and goals as flexible as possible.

Wouldn’t go as far as saying that things are wrecked but it definitely needs a radical rethink on my part.

Some things obviously will stay on track.

My health goals are going to move forward.  It’s weird.  In the last month I’ve met up with five people who I haven’t seen in over a year and they all remark on how much weight I’ve lost.  Gratifying, but I know that I have a long way to go yet and that I can’t let up.  If anything, this year I intensify. So that’s the most solid part of the plan.

But my career and financial goals need to be reconsidered.  I have to be vague here, sorry.  Partly because it is a private matter but mostly cause I haven’t worked out the dynamics of the situation yet.  I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten about 6 hours of sleep for the entire weekend and I’m writing this around 2 in the morning on a Sunday morning cause I couldn’t get to sleep.

I worry that if I don’t get this settled quickly that the rest of the plan will unravel. Writing this out in the blog helps me think though honestly no great pearls of wisdom have emerged thus far.  2015 could be such a huge success or a huge disaster depending on how things play out.  Maybe a more conservative strategy and hold some things off till 2016 or mayberisk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss” and see what happens.  Hopefully I’ll come up with some answers soon.

Running past the app

When I began trying to get fit I knew that I would need something to gauge my level of health.  This was around 4 years ago and the last time I had been in a gym or run a lap was over a decade earlier.  So I was starting from scratch and hadn’t a clue about anything, not even about how unhealthy I was.

After reading some books and websites, and then consulting a trainer I decided that walking and running would be where I would start my fitness crusade.  The general consensus was that in order to start getting healthy that I would need to walk at least 10,000 steps per day.  So I would need a pedometer, a little device to count my steps.

Most pedometers I’d seen were in the 40 to 100 dollar range.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make that much of an investment in something I might drop a week later.  Remember, this is at the beginning of the process and I was not all that sure of things at the time.

I was in a dollar store picking up some cheap batteries and next to the batteries was a pedometer.  A little cheap plastic device with a digital counter and a start and stop button and nothing else.  This was the most primitive type of pedometer, a pendulum pedometer.  Basically anytime you shake it back and forth you cause it to tick off one more step.  You could vigorously shake it in your hand for a minute and tick off a couple hundred “steps”.  The price was right and for my purpose it was perfect.

The next day I clipped it on and went through my normal day and lo and behold I barely took a thousand steps in a day. Depressing but eye-opening.  I took the pedometer for a few test walks and found what it took to get to 10,000 steps and did it.  After that I got a better sense of things and stopped using it.

A year or so later I stepped up the game and bought a pedometer watch.  It was much more accurate than the previous pedometer and could calculate distances and give me miles per hour for when I did run.  But I never really took to it.  After a couple of months I stopped using it.

My next couple of years were about building up my fitness habits.  I wasn’t really looking into better performance but just building up the  routine to make it habitual within myself.

But in 2013 I got a new smartphone that had a built-in fitness app.  This app used the phone’s built-in GPS application to plot my running routes and give me the amount of time I spent running and the distance covered.  This was quite handy as I could strap it onto my arm and not even have to set it up.  Just go and run and let the app do its thing.

I used it for over a year and watched my daily distance run over time grow and grow.  If I missed a day the app would show that on a bar graph and tell me how my average compared to previous months.  A handy motivational tool.

Then one day someone at the developer decided to update the app and erased all my records for the last 15 months.  In the blink of an eye all that hard work was gone.

Stunned doesn’t cover it.  Angry?  yes, a bit.  The new app works but I now have to log in before each exercise.  Not as automatic as I’d been used to before.  On top of this I now have to store my results on a cloud based app where it’s vulnerable to hacking.  I know, not a huge deal but still, why couldn’t it be stored on my phone.  Not the same easy experience that I was used to.

Along with this development I had been in a bit of a funk about my running lately.  I’d been missing days and doing less and this whole app mess didn’t help things.

I went on vacation and realized how much more I needed to do.  The vacation allowed me to set my goals for the coming year and one thing I realized is that the fitness doesn’t depend on the technology to work.  All the apps, and the watches, and the fitness bands are great but at the end of the day they don’t do the work for you, you do.

So the day after I came back I went out and just ran my regular route without the phone.  I’ve been running every day since that without needing to be prodded.  My fitness goals have been set and I’ve already contacted my new trainer to begin working out in the new year.

The technology was a good way to get back to where I needed to be in my life but it’s not the most crucial aspect of my fitness.  The point of it all is to feel better and to become the person that I want to be and no device will do that for me.