A cold has kicked my butt for the better part of a week, so I’m behind on everything – this blog included.
I’ll return with a post next week.
A cold has kicked my butt for the better part of a week, so I’m behind on everything – this blog included.
I’ll return with a post next week.
A few years back, I stumbled across Bob Ross videos on YouTube. His Joy of Painting series made painting seem accessible and fun, and it stoked in me a desire to try it out. My experience in creating art mostly was concerned with drawing and sketching. Only once (in high school) did I attempt to paint a picture (a large Spider-man poster, which was meant for us to experiment with painting along one side of the colour wheel). Painting has largely been intimidating for me to try until I watched Bob Ross.
A friend who paints suggested I try starting off with an easy medium, like acrylic paint, since oil painting can be both challenging and dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. I made a New Year’s resolution to try out painting before the end of the first quarter, and in February I found a local art store that runs beginner acrylics classes. For four weeks, you learn lessons from a local artist and complete a painting each week to take home.
This week will be the last class. I’m sad that it’s over already and I’ve really enjoyed the experiences so far. I’m hoping the store sets up the intermediate class soon, as I will gladly pay to attend that class as well. When you sign up for the beginner class, you are given the option to purchase a starter kit with some paints, brushes, and canvasses. I’ve already started buying additional supplies, such as more paint colours, a medium to extend the acrylic drying time, a new kneadable eraser, and more canvasses. Below are the paintings I made from the first three weeks of the course.
Week three of painting. Tonight's lesson was still life, where the instructor simplified the process to a diorama with a red wall, blue wall, black floor, and a white cube. The goal was to practice shape, perspective, and shadows. I included a few reference comparisons and a video that shows how the perspective changes as the camera moves. I doubted the final product initially, but standing back from the picture, I'm really happy with how it turned out. #painting #art #acrylics #creative #making
I’ve even started experimenting with paining at home – last week I attempted my first run at mixing flesh tones to paint people (I hope to attempt a self-portrait in the near future).
I tried taking a leaf out of @santocesart 's book and did a sketchbook colour study. It's my first time mucking around with the new colours I bought, so I wanted to play around with caucasian flesh tones (ideally in the future, I'd try a self portrait). Acrylic – burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, primary magenta, and titanium white. #painting #art #acrylics #creative #making
I’m glad I invested the money in this experience and am looking forward to practicing this new set of skills.
This post marks my 100th entry on this site!
My first post went live on April 21st, 2016 and, if memory serves, I have managed to post at least once every week since then.
The original motivation to start this site was three-fold. First, I vainly wanted to snag up the domain name in the off-chance that I wanted to use it in the future. Second, I wanted an excuse to force myself to write regularly. It had been a few years since I finished my master’s degree, and I found that my writing skills had softened over time, so I wanted a reason to regularly practice those skills to keep them sharp.
The third, and primary reason, was to chronicle and reinforce my path towards becoming a paramedic. I had intended to document the application process of returning to school, the time spent as a student, and eventually the transition into a career. I also wanted to use the website to discuss and teach the concepts I was learning because I believe it is a good mode of reinforcing the material I would have learned in class (an effective way of learning is being forced to teach it to others).
The unfortunate result is that I’ve been maintaining this site up to 100 posts without a clear purpose or direction of where I want to go. This is amusingly also the case with what I want to do career-wise.
I had my performance appraisal at work last week, and my boss said she was “super happy” with my work and contribution (there are a few areas of growth we identified, but otherwise it was a great appraisal). When we discussed my future avenues of growth, I was hard-pressed to come up with the next steps of where to go next beyond wanting to take on more responsibility in general. I have a few concrete skill sets that I want to work on, but nothing that lends itself to an obvious career choice.
I suppose this blog is an accurate reflection of my career trajectory. On the one hand, the status quo looks good, clean, and polished. On the other hand, it lacks direction and purpose. However, the blog also affords me the space to stop, reflect, and document things as I go.
I don’t have an answer as to where I’m intending on going next, but at least I can share my muses along the way.
He’s to another 100 posts!
It’s been a while since I have posted a reading update, so let’s fix that and post the first one of 2018.
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf
This book came as a recommendation from a work colleague. He’s the one who has gotten me into Terry Prachett, and recently he suggested I would enjoy this book. I’m only a little ways in, so I can’t comment too deeply, but I’m enjoying the neurological look at what happens when we read that this book provides. I’m also enjoying the case being made for reading as a tool to grow our cognitive faculties.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos by Jordan Peterson
I am going to get some flack about this from some of my friends. Jordan Peterson is a divisive figure in Canadian discourse. While I don’t align with him on some of his political views, I first came across him through his taped YouTube lectures. It was because of him that I started reading Carl Jung’s work and took an interest in the notion of stories being an important route to deriving meaning in life. I’ve also enjoyed Peterson’s visits to some of the podcasts I’ve listened to, so it seemed only natural to check out his book. I’ve been enjoying the book, and I personally feel like I’m getting something out of it. I don’t think this book is going to be for everyone, but it speaks to me on a level that I find compelling.
Principles by Ray Dalio
Much like the book above and the next entry, Principles is making the rounds through the self-help/business/personal development spheres. It’s been a bit of a slower read because I need to take time to digest his ideas and insights. Nevertheless, I’m finding his book interesting and useful as it provides a framework for decision making and business. I try to be wary of advice dispensed by the rich and successful since it tends to not be very applicable outside of the lucky breaks the author found themselves in, but I find this book to be fairly objective and refreshingly introspective. I think Dalio’s principles make sense and are a good guide to follow.
Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss
What can I say? I enjoyed all of his books so far (including last year’s Tools of Titans), so I naturally pre-ordered this one when it was announced. Much like how Tools of Titans was a book that piggy-backed off of his podcast guest’s work, Tribe of Mentors follows a similar route by running the same set of questions through various big names in different fields to a.) see what their answers are; and b.) to find what commonalities are found in aggregate. One side of me rolls my eyes at how simple the idea is (and how little relative effort it would take to make the book), and yet the other side of me appreciates what Ferriss has done in creating the book. His book intends to give you access to some of the best mentors in the world, and he delivers it in full.
I knew relatively little about Fermi before I started this book. I knew that he was a physicists, that he was attached to the Manhattan project, that there is a paradox named after him, and that he’s known for a particular kind of method for problem-solving and estimating. However it was the last tidbit (the Fermi problem) that nudged me to buying this book. I’m only about a third of my way through the book, but it’s been a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a genius who, when you broke things down, was necessarily all that smarter than everyone else. Much like Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi had discovered ways of learning more effectively, which made him able to tackle interacted problems from the first principles of a field. He worked to understand the rules of the system, which in turn allowed him to combine them in new and insightful ways. I really enjoy reading biographies, and I’m glad I picked this one up.
It’s Family Day here in Ontario, so I’m taking the day off to spend time with my significant other. I’ll be back next week with a new post.
Last week SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket into space. The mission put one of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadsters on a trip to the sun, and verified that a private corporation could fund the launching of rockets that brings us one step closer to making space travel a possibility for the average person.
The last time NASA put a shuttle into space was 2011. Since then, the shuttle program has gone quiet, as NASA has cooperated with other international space agencies to send astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station.
To be honest, I almost missed the launch. I was vaguely aware that SpaceX was set to test another launch (after a previous attempt failed in explosion), and only joined in on waiting for the launch with about 24-hours to go. But something about the launch spoke to me. It was exciting on a level I haven’t felt in a long time.
I suppose I was too young to appreciate the shuttle program when it was in full swing. I have been to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and I have see a shuttle up close. I’ve even met former astronauts, but I never felt the same excitement that I felt last week as I (while in a meeting taking minutes) watched the rocket’s launch sequence ignited the jets and sent the tube of fuel skyward. I felt emotional, and somehow connected to the quest to illuminate the cosmos to uncover its mysteries.
While it’s too early to say that SpaceX has achieved something unique or set humanity on a course towards space travel, I can say that for a brief moment last week, a lot more things seemed possible.
If you have a chance, I highly recommend watching the launch and learning more about the program. The final minute of the launch sequence starts at the 21 minute mark.
The job I have at the college is my first full time job after I finished university. Prior to the position I’m in, I have worked only full-time hours on contracts and a smattering of part time jobs. I thought, like many others, coming out of university that I knew what it would mean to have a job, be an employee, and work responsibly. I wouldn’t say I was unprepared to enter the workforce, but it would be charitable to say that I had a lot to learn, and many beliefs to update.
This is, in part, why I decided to occasionally write thoughts in a series of posts loosely connected with the theme “Skills Worth Developing.” There are many hard skills that employees should pick up over time to help them do their jobs better and advance in their careers. Organizations like Coursera, Udemy, Lynda, etc. are excellent resources to help one pick up those kinds of skills. But many other skills (usually dubbed “soft skills”) are usually picked up through experience and self reflection. This blog serves both to force me to write, but also to force me to make permanent any self-reflections I’ve had, and these reflections might be valuable to others.
The last time I discussed Skills Worth Developing, I discussed the merits of storytelling as a communication tool. This time, I want to reflect on a phrase I heard a lot when I first started working – “That’s not my problem” or “That’s not my job.”
You might be wondering why I lump this in with the notion of skills, instead of some other attribute, such as attitude. True, something like this will overlap with one’s “attitude” while on the job, but I view this as a skill because it’s a habit and ability that can be modified over time, practiced, and strategies can be employed to use it in the workplace. Therefore, I loosely connect it under the skills area that should be developed and practiced over time.
One other observation I want to make is that this skill – avoiding falling into the “That’s not my problem” mentality – is something I exercised as a beginner. I think this is a fantastic skill to develop early in your career, but I’m not entirely sure of it’s value when you are well-established in your role. The value of this skill is that it increases your value to the company when you are still differentiating yourself. The same can not be said for someone who is either well-established in their company or field, where their value is tied directly to their ability to focus on problems that they can uniquely solve. In those instances, it’s probably a better strategy to limit distractions from your primary role and duties.
And so, we come to the problem of “That’s not my problem.” I found early on that many employees in a work environment can take on the “not my problem” mentality for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they were burned in the past and now refuse to extend themselves. Some feel overworked and overstretched. Some are lazy. For whatever reason, they resist helping others in their duties.
I find two issues with this kind of mentality. First, it goes against the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork. The workplace is a team of employees who are working towards common goals to advance the interests of the organization (while hopefully advancing their own personal interests in parallel). Any time someone says to a coworker “that’s not my problem,” what they are in fact saying is “your problems aren’t important enough for me to take an interest.” They end up placing themselves above the interests of their coworkers and the organization. I’m not saying that this is wrong per se – I am sympathetic to the ideas that this mentality is easy for organizations to exploit, and that there is no moral imperative to place the company’s interests above your own, so you should guard against it taking advantage of you. What I am saying is that taking this as a default position undermines the team. Everyone is supposed to work together to solve problems and strive to the company’s mission. If you don’t want to do that, what’s the point of working at that company? I would hardly think that it’s just in service of the paycheque.
The second issue I have with this attitude is it closes you off to development. I directly attribute my success so far to my willingness to learn outside of my prescribed job. By helping others with their tasks (so long as it does not prevent me from taking care of my own job area), I am able to develop new hard skills and learn about areas laterally and vertically from my position. I am better able to see how my role fits within the larger context of our department, which continuously exposes you to new opportunities for growth and development. You become more valuable to the team and you strengthen your ties with your coworkers. When you are just starting out, this is a valuable way of integrating yourself and setting yourself up for advancement.
When you ignore the impulse to say “that’s not my problem,” you acknowledge that your coworkers are people with their own problems, concerns, hangups and worries, while also setting yourself up as a person of value for the team. It is a perfect opportunity to step up and be noticed in your workplace.
That is why I think resisting the impulse to say “that’s not my problem” is a skill worth developing.