Cross-Domain Skills Sets

A few months back, I met with a career adviser at my alma mater to help me start planning out what my next steps should be for my career.  Having established myself, it’s time to think about where I want to go, and what I need to do/learn to get there.  One thing that stuck out to me at the session was that as she was reviewing my resume, she commented that she didn’t see my security (bouncing) experience listed.  I did not include it, figuring it wasn’t relevant enough to an office job, however she demanded I put it on there as it’s an important set of skills that I’ll need if I’m shooting for managerial roles.

Flash forward to last week, and I’m really starting to appreciate how much working as a door guy at a bar can help.

It’s the last weeks of the summer term for the college, which means that we are balancing the demands of the incoming semester with the final business of the outgoing semester, including students who fail courses.

In one of our programs, we had a number of student perform poorly on the final exam, which means they subsequently did poorly in the course.  Understandably upset, they are coming to us in the office seeking guidance or some way of redeeming themselves.  It’s a very delicate situation, which is proving a challenge as we try to give the students as much leeway as we can within the confines of our policies and procedures.

In some cases, the decisions we are making are not in the student’s favour, and they are, again, understandably upset by this.  They are really advocating for improving their situation, which is quite commendable, and I interacted with several of them almost every day lastweek.  When meeting with them, you need to strike the right balance of fairness, openness, but firm adherence to our policies and academic standards.

A few coworkers have commented on my tact and negotiation skills in talking with the students, even when there is nothing I can do to help them improve their marks, complementing me how smoothly the conversations are going with (sometimes) large groups of students in our office.

I gave a somewhat sarcastic response that dealing with the students is easy when I know they aren’t going to swing at me, as might happen at the bar on a security shift.  But in truth, the skills I have learned as a security guard are wholly translating to this situation.

As a security guard, to do my job well, I must be open-minded, calm, and patient when dealing with intoxicated or angry patrons.  The adage that “the customer is always right” is false, and when the rules and reality of the situation come to head with the patron’s expectations, it sometimes leads to raised tempers and hostile interactions.  My job requires me to step-back from my ego, not take anything personally, and use every tool at my disposal to de-escalate the situation and bring about as calm of a resolution as I can.  Most of the time, we are successful and the patron leaves on their own.  Sometimes, we have to drag them out kicking and screaming.

I’ve worked as a security guard for 5-years now, so I have a fair amount of experience, which I’m starting to appreciate how cross-domain it can be when dealing with students.  The ability to not be dismissive or authoritarian in communicating our decisions is critical for maintaining a good relationship and a healthy work environment.  Suffice to say, cross-domain skills sets that help me avoid getting decked in the face are awesome!

Stay Calm,

Ryan

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What I’ve Been Reading (as of August 21st)

I enjoyed writing my last reading update from back in June, so I thought I’d give an updated list.  In full disclosure, I have only completed three of the five books I mentioned (the two outstanding books are Brooks’s Character and the biography of Cato), so I won’t include those on this list.

Here are five more books I’m reading at present.

Montaigne: A Life by Philippe Desan 

Considered the father of the modern essay, Montaigne has popped up in various references during my reading, from stoicism to observational commentary and timeless meditations.  I’m a sucker for biographies, and this book was recently released in English as a fairly authoritative account of Montaigne’s life, not as an extraction from his essays, but as a picture of the historical figure.

William Tecumseh Sherman: In Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough

Did I mention I’m a sucker for biographies?  This was a birthday present to myself last year, but I’ve only started digging into it.  Sherman is held up as an exemplar of restrained greatness.  He’s considered great in equal parts from talent, study, and luck (though often it was luck that helped him out).  But the reason why I picked this up was how he is often held up as a contrast to Ulysses S. Grant, another U.S. Northern Civil War General, who mismanaged his life and the U.S. Presidency after the war, whereas Sherman quietly continued his duties in the army until retirement and didn’t seek political office (or so I’ve heard, I haven’t read very far into the book).  Like Washington before him who declined to be the first king of the United States, I like reading about figures who manage to avoid the hard fall from grace after they acquire fame, power, or authority.  Also like Washington, I think it’s important to understand a full picture of history, warts and all.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I don’t actually own this book.  It was laying around my fiancee’s office for about a year, so I decided to start reading it one day and take it home.  I don’t expect a lot of insight from this book, but I do like reading anecdotes of how other people manage their time so that I can glean possible tips and tricks to apply to my own life.  In the last year or so, I’ve started being more mindful of my time, hence why my reading lists include a disproportionate amount of productivity and personal development books.

80,000 Hours: Finding a Fulfilling Career That Does Good by Benjamin J Todd

I’ve also been more mindful of my career recently.  With losing out on a few jobs recently (before and after interviewing), I’ve been considering my options for improving my career prospects through opening up opportunities, strategic skill acquisition, and relationship building.  While the content of this book is entirely online for free through the 80,000 Hours website, I purchased the book anyway to have all the information in one place.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

This book is brand new to the list as I only grabbed it from the library this past weekend.  I read about George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) in Brooks’s Character book (from the last list) and I was struck by her lauding of the average person in her fiction.  I, like many others, have found myself buying-in to the aspiration to greatness narrative – that to have a good life also means to be great, have impact, and cement yourself in history.  Middlemarch, and many other books by Eliot/Evans, chooses to laud the quiet efforts of the average person, who does their part and is praiseworthy in their steadfastness.  Brooks quoted the closing lines of Middlemarch in Road to Character that celebrated humble lives,

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who life faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Vacation Time and the Gym

While on vacation, I had lots of free moments to address an issue I’ve discussed many times before – my poor track record with going to the gym to exercise.  While on vacation, I set the goal to attend the gym twice per week for the two-weeks I was home.  I didn’t set a specific time or day to go, only that I would make the effort.  Using the excuse log idea, I noted that when I didn’t feel like lifting heavy weights, I would commit myself to going and riding the bike for an hour.  As you can see below, I was successful in my goals.

Capture1Capture2

I noted a few observations that seemed to help spur me on to success.

  • I always strove to exercise while my fiancee was away at work.  That meant I would have more time with her when she was home since I had so much free time during the day to do anything else I wanted.  With this in mind, I knew that the closer I got to 5pm, the more likely I was to miss the window for the day to go to the gym.
  • Going during the day time, when everyone else was at work, was an amazing breath of relief.  While I may be passed the point of feeling super self-conscious about going to the gym, it was still refreshing to have a relatively empty gym to do whatever I wanted.
  • As noted above, my trips to the gym included both lifting weights and cardio-only sessions.  As part of my commitment, I knew that if I didn’t want to go, then I had to commit to just “30-min on the bike,” which I could turn into a full hour after I was already at the gym and sweating.
  • Getting dressed in my gym clothes at home also made it easier to go.  Maybe it’s because it cuts down on the overall time commitment, or because it primed me, or even because I always shower at home anyway (so why dirty street clothes?); whatever the reason, it helped.
  • I still couldn’t bring myself to go first thing in the morning.  I considered trying this during my vacation to see if I could potentially carry it over to when I returned to work.  This strategy would be the easiest to implement if I wanted to dedicate three days a week to the gym without sacrificing other obligations.
  • Likewise, I wanted to try swimming at an indoor pool once during my vacation as a form of exercise.  I was not able to make this happen.  I did, however, get time in the lake, so that should count for something.
  • I found the gym a good source of “therapy” when I was in a foul mood.

Overall, I’m happy with how things went and am looking to try and carry the 2-days/week practice into my normal routine.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

July 2017 Sleep Check-In

Hello again, folks!

Having rested up from my vacation, it’s time to do my sleep check-in for the month of July.   During my last check-in, I set the goal of hitting my sleep target at least 10 times in the month.

Let’s see how I did:

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11/31 

July proved to be a good month for sleep!  I hit my target 11 times out of 31 days, or 35%.  This is the best I have achieved since I started tracking my sleep at the start of the year.

Having said that, I do want to provide some context that will dampen the accomplishment a bit.  The blocks of sleep at the start and end of the month (6-days) were during vacation periods – the start of the month was the Canada Day long weekend, and the block of time at the end were when I took 2-weeks off from my jobs and went to the cottage with my fiancee.  Because she took time off, we both were able to sleep in and get lots of rest.

This means that had I not had that time off from work, I would likely have only hit my target around 5-6 times, which goes against my stated aim last month of hitting my sleep goals by being more mindful and intentional with my bedtimes.

So, while I can celebrate this month of more concentrated rest, I have to keep in mind that my habits themselves have not changed around sleep.

Therefore, I will keep my target going, and I will aim to hit my goal another 10-times in August.  This will be a better measure of whether I can keep the trend going strong.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Big Picture on “Productivity”

I was reading Mark Manson’s latest post last week and I connected with a simple truism that I often lose sight of.  While I wouldn’t say that “hacking” productivity is the main thing I’m concerned with, if you were to poll close friends of mine, they’d probably label me as that kind of person.

You can read the full post here, but I’ve bolded the important part here:

There is no such thing as an optimum life. Sure, there are some habits and actions that are healthier than others. But the 80/20 here is pretty simple: just don’t fuck up the big stuff.

My fiancee and I had an argument recently.  We were arguing over whether we should consolidate our cellphone plans under one carrier and share any of the benefits it may afford.  Of course, the argument itself was a little stupid because what we were arguing over was slightly deeper issue around my desire to be in control.  I may be laissez faire in many things, but my fiancee is often finding me stubbornly pig-headed in a few key areas that relate to finances and things I consider wasteful (overpaying for cell services I don’t actually need, using the AC all the time, leaving lights on, etc.).

Most instances of control around finances for me stems from wanting to set up systems that take care of the critical items – loan repayments, paying off other debts, savings, etc.  I want to set up systems so that when they are up and running, I want to ignore them and focus on other things.  I don’t want to go back in and have to constantly tweak the system to make up for bad habits and behaviours on my part.

Yet, sometimes my focus on the system can lead me to concern myself with the stupid nitty-gritty details.  In this, I can focus too much on the little things and end up having stupid arguments about how I don’t want to switch a cell carrier because my system already works for me.

 

It’s important to remember to get the big things right and not sweat the small stuff.  Rather than thinking I can set up an independent system (a relatively little thing) it’s more important for me to focus on the big things like having open conversations with my partner as we plan our future together, rather than taking pride in being unreachable by phone outside of major cities.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Shopping My Way To The Gym

Back in January, I bought a new pair of running shoes for the gym.  I had owned my old ones for a *long* time – I remember using those shoes more than a decade ago when I was exercising before my trip to Kenya.  Those shoes were… well beyond worn.

I elected to get some Converse shoes as I hear that they are good for things like deadlifts, where you want solid contact with the ground (some of the pros deadlift barefoot).  Since I like deadlifts, I thought I’d listen to people who seem to know what they are doing, and so I bought new shoes.  I remember the feeling I had when I exited the store.  I immediately wanted to hit the gym and try them out.  There is something about new clothes that gives you a bit of a motivational kick.

Fast-forward to the present, I’ve been struggling a bit with maintaining a consistent schedule with going to the gym.  Last week, I was checking out some blog posts from a fitness YouTuber that I’ve recently started following – Jon Call, aka Jujimufu.  Seriously, the guy is freaking inspiring to me; I love his attitude and personality on camera.  I’m not ashamed to admit I also may have a bit of a man-crush on him.

I'M HOLDING A LOG! IT MAKES ME HAPPY! 😃

A post shared by Jon Call (@jujimufu) on

In his blog archive, he talks about strategies for killing training boredom:

Try training in new outfits.  When you feel like a bad ass because you think you look cool, you perform better.  Owning the idea that you look great motivates you.  Beef up your training wardrobe and suddenly you’ll want to train sometimes exclusively as an excuse to wear cool training outfits.  Cool outfits kill training boredom.

Jujimufu zubaz tricking pants, tricking pants, zubaz pants

 

Crimson Zubaz pants + wrist bands + face paint = Just another Jujimufu outfit.

I remembered back to when I bought the shoes, and how jazzed I felt to hit the gym, so I took this advice and hit up a local sporting goods store.  To aid with my training, I bought three Under Armour tee-shirts, a pair of shorts, and some wrist-bands for wiping brow sweat.  I like the design of UA shirts, and I find their fabric blend helps keep me cool in the gym.

With my new shirt in hand, I drove straight from the store to the gym to try it out.  As expected, I felt really good wearing the shirt and I had a good workout.

While I can’t use this strategy all the time to find motivation, I’ll have to keep it in mind that shaking up the wardrobe could be just the trick I need in the future.

For more suggestions on how to kill training boredom, I suggest reading the full article or searching out Jujimufu online.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan