Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I think it is important to reflect on the past (NOTE: did not say whine about the past or sit on a problem on the past). This year was a tough year for my family, as transitions often are, but it is leading to exciting new adventures and new horizons. So this year I am keeping it simple with just two questions but ones that I think can be powerful as I enter the new year:

1) What are the most important lessons I learned this last year?

Maybe these lessons came from books, people around you, and mistakes that you experienced. Make sure the lesson is about something that you can control, not general grouchiness over external issues. For example, "I learned that those people did me wrong" is not a good lesson to learn; "I need to have better discernment by doing this in these kind of situations" is a better lesson. They might have run you over, but just avoiding them isn't going to do you much good - there are plenty more of them out there! (And maybe you had something to do with it anyway.)

2) What can I celebrate from this last year?

The most important question. Begin 2010 on a high note and find ways to recognize the good stuff and incorporate it January 1. That is the best habit you can make.


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Need to blame someone?

Looking back on 2009, it was a struggle at times; in fact, it may have held some of the largest trials of the 2000's for myself and my family. I need someone to blame. Fortunately, Steven says that I can blame him.

There were certainly circumstances and other people that helped contribute to some of the issues, and I will place some of the blame on them. But why should I take any of the blame when I can lay it off on someone else, especially someone so willing? Now I don't have to learn lessons or change my behavior or face hard truths; they are such downers. If I can only find someone to take the consequences as well...


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The family and I recently were leaving a choir concert of my daughter's. It was cold and dark so we were bundled up and walking quickly to the minivan. I pulled out the keys and pressed the unlock button to find the car, and saw a Honda Odyssey blink in return. We opened the doors and all piled in. The first clue that something wasn't quite right was that the key didn't turn. The rest of the family was looking around trying to figure out what wasn't quite right when one of the kids piped up, "When did we get leather seats?" I think it dawned on all of us at the same time that we were in the wrong car. We quickly got out and saw another family watching us as they were approaching. We were wondering what the other family was thinking as they watched us quickly get out of their car...


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Attention surplus disorder

"Attention surplus disorder" is an amusing phrase I found in the book Anathem (a fiction book which I just didn't get into after the first fifty pages, so I returned it to the library and maybe try again later; but I really like that phrase!).

In my observations, this seems to be an extremely rare disorder - so rare I'm not sure that a case has been found since the turn of the century. We are trying to do the best that we can to eradicate this behavior by celebrating multi-taskers and providing as many distractions as we can to those who have found something worth concentrating on. We are providing water-coolers, email, twitter, blogs, Facebook, and Tetris for our workers as the main distractions with a world of preoccupation at their fingertips through the Internet.

Our efforts to eradicate this from our youth seems to be working through our plethora of extracurricular activities - all of which must be attended during the same season - and stimulation of as many senses as possible at once, such as music in one ear and a phone on the other while watching TV and playing video games. Research is being done currently on adding the sense of smell to the mix.

The central strategy was of course to attack the home - and we managed it with one of our best weapons: Guilt. Few parents can withstand the simple phrase "I'm bored" and have been brainwashed to immediately provide stimulation without much work from us. No longer are children playing outside are being entranced with natural wonders!

Our plan to extirpate this syndrome through constant interruptions must be continued, because let's face it, attention surplus disorder is really annoying. People start to ask questions when they start to think too long or too deeply about something. They start to explore and really get better at stuff rather than just being simply average. They get anxious about the status quo, and that really digs into our comfort zone! Keep up the good work friends, our work is well on its way...


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Monday, December 14, 2009

Imagine your fears as wooden ducks

In the book Escape From Cubicle Nation, author Pamela Slim spends a good portion of the book talking about overcoming fears, a common reason why people stay in jobs that they hate. This quote in particular struck me:

Habits expert Havi Brooks [who, by the way, has a great way of using other words rather than the normal words] imagines her fears as wooden ducks, and observes them as they trail dutifully behind her as she walks through her day.

It is a great technique to help change your perspective on situations and give yourself a chance to see it in another light. I used this technique as a kid when I had nightmares. When I would wake up from a bad dream, I would try to make the situation into a funny one by giving the scary character a tutu or something like that.

Now you have to have a conversation with your boss, or you have to talk to a friend about something they said, and this situation is causing some trepidation. Your mind is running through worst case scenarios and you can't make it stop. I still kind of like putting my fears into a ballet that is dances on the table in front of me.

So what can you fun image can you change your fears into?


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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Now on Twitter

I'm giving it a shot for a while. Think it will be fun since I can update on the go from my iPhone. The tweets will be different than what I usually do here. Check it out @jcvaught.


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What offends you

So I was reading this novel Bad Monkeys and was enjoying it when I had to pause over this one section. Two characters are talking when one says:

"Der schlechte Affe hasst seinen eigenen Geruch."

Tightly translated it is "The bad monkey hates his own smell." Loosely translated it means that people are most deeply offended by moral failings that mirror their own.

I've heard this before. And I've even seen it in action. Knew someone a long time ago that was always angriest at his kids when he thought they were lying - and he had a problem with "the check is in the mail" type statements. You see it with preachers who lament the lack of moral standing in their communities, and are outed sooner or later.

So I started thinking: What bothers me most about other people? Does it have a reflection on my own personal struggles?

I've been tough on my oldest son every once in a while for not living up to what I think his potential is; probably don't have to mention that this doesn't set well with him. Eventually I will catch myself, or more likely Nancy points it out to me, and then I apologize to him and we get back to a place where we both are enjoying our relationship. Not too long ago I took an extensive personality test and one of the results was that I was highly critical of myself. Here is what it said:

You recognize that self-improvement is the most important goal, because it is the means of achieving all goals. However, your strong interest in self-improvement combined with only a moderate level of self-acceptance indicates you may tend to be somewhat self-critical. Although at times you have healthy self-esteem, you may at other times make things a little difficult for yourself by being unnecessarily hard on yourself.

And maybe a little too hard on others close to me. Bad monkey!


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Thursday, December 03, 2009

A leader on leadership

The following is a presentation from General Colin Powell. My claim to fame: my wife was friends with his daughter when they were both very young. I feel like we are pretty close...

Great points that are succinct and to the point. I believe these are important enough to post on each one over the next couple of weeks.


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