Today’s Inspiration: Ritchie Parker

 Posted by on 16 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Disability, Life
Aug 162013

This video about the life of Richie Parker, who was born with a serious limb deficiency, is really amazing and inspiring:

His parents deserve much praise for expecting (and helping) him to be self-sufficient. He’s now a successful NASCAR automotive engineer for Hendrick Motorsports, and he seems like an amazing person.

No excuses, people! Get out there and accomplish your goals!

Save the Awesome

 Posted by on 20 August 2012 at 10:00 am  Advice, Life
Aug 202012

I love this idea for focusing on all the positive joys of life, found on the Homestead Survival Facebook Page:

“Start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. on New Years Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year.”

But… forget starting it in 2013! Start today!


Twice every week, I announce my upcoming radio broadcasts via the Philosophy in Action Newsletter. As of last week, I tweaked the format to include an exclusive tidbit of practical advice at the top of each email. Except on occasion, I won’t be replicating that content in blog posts or elsewhere, so if you’d like to see it, be sure to subscribe.

As an example, in the August 11th newsletter, I wrote the following:

I’ve been highly sensitive to stress lately, so I’ve been working to identify and better manage various sources of stress in my life. I’ve noticed some obvious culprits, like inadequate sleep and travel. I was surprised, however, to discover that doing any new activity is a major source of stress for me.

For example, I recently took my first lesson on my horse Lila with a three-day-eventing trainer. Lila had to be in the horse trailer for longer than she’d ever been, stay calm without her stable buddy, and then work in a strange new location. I wasn’t sure that she’d do it. I had to drive the truck and trailer on the freeway, which I’d never done before, then find the stable. Once we arrived, I’d have to introduce myself to this new trainer and prepare Lila mentally and physically for the lesson. Also, it was my first jumping lesson in about 20 years, and I was nervous about whether I’d perform well or not and about whether I’d like the trainer.

In the week leading up to the lesson, I was anxious about pretty much everything about the lesson — about arriving at the right place on time, about Lila’s temper on arrival, about my performance during the lesson, and more. I was excited and hopeful about all that too. I’m easily bored, and I knew that Lila and I needed to stretch ourselves in new directions. Much to my delight, everything went fabulously well. Lila was surprisingly calm, the trainer was excellent, and I learned a ton.

Still — and this seems downright silly of me in retrospect — I didn’t realize just how stressful the whole experience was. I underestimated it — first, because it wasn’t work-related and second, because it went so well. As a result, I didn’t give myself the downtime that I really needed afterwards: I just pushed myself into more work and more stress without a break. That was a big mistake! As usual, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

So here’s my advice to you: Pay attention to the myriad stressors in your life — particularly the stress of new challenges and new activities, whether at work or at play. Don’t pile up one stressor after another, or you won’t be able to keep doing your best.

I’ll try to be a bit more brief in future, but… well… that’s not exactly my strength! If you want to subscribe to this twice-weekly email Philosophy in Action Newsletter, you can use this form:

If you have any suggestions for tidbit topics, feel free to post them in the comments.

Video: Regretting Time Spent at Work

 Posted by on 30 September 2011 at 1:00 pm  Career, Ethics, Life, Videocast, Work
Sep 302011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed regretting time spent at work. The question was:

At death, should a person regret all the years spent at work? I often hear the saying, “No one ever laid on their death bed wishing they had spent more time in the office.” What should a person think of that — and of the fact that so many people agree with it — in light of the virtue of productiveness?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

Value-Dense Buying

 Posted by on 14 April 2010 at 7:00 am  Advice, Life, Value Density
Apr 142010

I’m delighted that Trey Givens found my offhand comment about “value-dense buying” of use to his thinking about his spending! Here’s what happened.

Back in early March, Trey blogged about the return of his credit card debt:

Last January, February, and March were not pleasant times for me as I struggled to pay off my credit cards. I was successful at it, but I did it in a way that just was not sustainable. Flash forward to this January, February, March in which I’ve managed to drive my credit card balance up to more than TWICE the total it was a year ago when I went on my push to pay them off.

I wrote the following quick comment in reply:

Your standard method of dealing with money (until now) sounds a lot like Oprah’s method of dealing with her weight: lose quickly by unbearable deprivation, then when the goal is achieved, binge binge binge. That leaves you worse off — physically and spiritually — than never going on the diet.

Maybe your finances need a paleo diet? Do value-dense buying and avoid the junk? :-)

Anywhoodles, the solution isn’t “moderation,” but pursuing your financial goals while keeping the context of your other goals and values. That sounds like what you’re doing, so I hope that works well for you.

A few weeks later, Trey blogged:

Ok, but no joke. That’s EXACTLY what I need! I even said so myself that I’ve been thinking about my spending and saving in a very wrong way. “Value-dense” is the focus I need!

So Trey has decided that OCON, despite the expense, is worth the money. I hope so! (Personally, I expect to have a fantastic time at OCON this year!)

Mostly though, I hope that I’ve hit on a useful metaphor for thinking about spending. What do you think?

The Ratio

 Posted by on 16 June 2009 at 12:01 pm  Life
Jun 162009

Ari Armstrong recently said something like the following to me: “I have a hundred ideas for every ten that I could implement, and of those ten, only one gets done.” Too true!

Right now, I’m busy figuring out what few work projects I should pursue out of all the myriad possibilities open to and of interest to me. Until recently, all such decisions about future plans were largely set aside until after the dissertation. I was just collecting a kind of bucket of post-Ph.D possibilities. Now that I’m done the dissertation — and defending on Thursday — the time to make some tough choices has come. (I’m probably not going to announce my future plans; my readers will just have to see them unfold.)

In addition, I’m catching up on all of the life-management tasks that I set aside over the past six months, as my policy was that I didn’t do anything unless it was somehow obligatory, unavoidable, or on fire. That’s a slow — and often dirty (literally) — process. It’s good to see some progress on long-delayed plans, however.

Working from Home

 Posted by on 10 June 2009 at 11:01 pm  Life
Jun 102009

I found these observations from a software engineer on the good and bad of working from home fairly apt. However, I was downright intrigued by some of his life/work hacks, particularly given that my work and play isn’t always clearly distinguishable. The blogger writes:

I write code for a living. I also write code as a hobby. This means I often spend all day sitting at a computer writing code; the first part of the day for work, the second part for fun. It’s easy to let the work part of my day extend into what should be the fun part of my day, so I have to set certain boundaries. I’ve evolved a few life hacks that help.

First, I have two laptops: one is my work laptop, one is my personal laptop. I only use the work laptop for work, and I only use the personal laptop for non-work. When I’m done with work for the day, I turn off my work laptop and put it away to avoid the temptation to check my work email or something silly like that, which would likely result in me getting sucked back into work when I should be relaxing.

Second, when I’m working, I work in my home office with the door closed. When I’m not working but am still doing computery things, I either open the door to my office or go sit on the couch with my personal laptop. The open/closed status of my office door helps change the feel of the room from a place of business to a part of my house, and when even that’s not enough, relaxing on the couch usually does the trick. I’m pretty sure the cat has picked up on this too; she rarely bothers me when I’m working, but she seems to know she’s more likely to get attention when I’m not working.

Finally, I don’t work on weekends or holidays, period. No matter what. Even if I’m bored out of my skull and would rather be working. I’ve been tempted, but so far I’ve always managed to resist. I know that as soon as I start letting work intrude on my days off, I’ll launch myself down a slippery slope.

What do you do to make your work — and your play — more productive?

Adventure Box

 Posted by on 4 June 2009 at 11:01 pm  Life
Jun 042009

This idea of an Adventure Box from Amy Mossoff is just too fantastic:

The Mossoffs are a young family (although the individuals composing it are not so young), and until now we’ve been a bit unsettled, but we’ve managed to start at least one family tradition that I think will stick. I call it the Adventure Box. Every year at Christmas time, we decorate a shoe box in gift wrap and put it on a shelf that is easy to access. Throughout the year, we put mementos from trips, special occasions, along with all the greeting cards we receive, into the box. Next Christmas, we go through the box and label each item so that we won’t forget what it meant. Then we write the year on the box and put it away and start a new one.

It’s a simple idea, but we love doing it. It gives us a place to put all of those things that you don’t want to throw away, but which have no “home.” And we don’t stress out about getting a souvenir from every single place we go, but having the Adventure Box in mind gives us something to think about when we’re at a new place, and helps to tie all those experiences together. Going through the box is a great way to wrap up the year, and every single time, we’re surprised at how many fun things we did.

For further details, read Amy’s whole post. I love the idea, and I’m definitely going to implement it. I’m not a collector, nor particularly sentimental about stuff. However, I would like to save some important personal mementos of Paul’s and my life in a reasonably organized and compact way. (I hate clutter.) Also, Paul and I do enjoy reflecting on the unexpected and interesting twists and turns of our lives. The holidays are an excellent time for such reflections. An annual “Adventure Box” would allow us to do all that — without much time or effort.

Thanks for the great idea, Amy!

Happiness in College

 Posted by on 19 April 2009 at 11:01 pm  Ethics, Life
Apr 192009

Some months ago, Miranda Barzey — now of the blog Ramen & Rand — wrote to me about her disappointment in college. I offered some advice, largely based on my own experiences. The result was this delightful blog post: Depression in College: Getting Out of my Own Way. Here’s the opening paragraph:

I had always expected college to be awesome. High school felt more like a daycare than a place to learn (albeit a few classes). So senior year, I was so excited to finally get out, to move onto bigger and better things at college, to study what I wanted and leave all the immaturity behind. Coming to college, I expected stimulating conversations with interesting people. I expected people who really loved what they were doing, who were passionate and intellectual. I expected… more.

She quotes my whole e-mail to her, and I really enjoyed her list of the ten things “to make sure life was better this semester.” Go read the whole thing. And be sure to check Ramen & Rand regularly.

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