Day Thirty Five: Utilization

Daily Journal

I just wrapped up two weeks straight of voluntary overtime at work. I have approximately $800 of debt remaining to pay off (mostly old medical and credit card bills I was unable to pay when I was unemployed for several months). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but my income is so low that it barely covers my expenses. So I have to work overtime. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am following the Dave Ramsey “baby steps”.

you-are-here-arrow-big-stock-photoMy girlfriend and I have been working through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s a fun book to work through, the premise being that you can design your life in the same way that products are designed.

The Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard:

You can download a PDF version of the Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard worksheet from DesigningYour.Life website.

As instructed by the book, you must always start where you are. So the first exercise is to assess where you are in these four areas of your life, ranking them from 0-Full. Then find your problems and solve them.

As a note, about two years ago, all four areas would have been close to 0. No job. No love. Everything I ever loved taken away from me. I lived in isolation, and what little limited contact I had with other human beings was mostly conflict. No play or joy in life whatsoever. Poor health, especially mental health, but also a respiratory illness and an injury that put me on short term disability. I was entertaining the idea of suicide as a way out. 

Right now:

Health: I am in good general health, getting regular exercise at my job and hiking trails in my area. I am no longer a daily drinker and haven’t been for a few years, and I quit smoking cigarettes about a week ago. I still cave in to junk food temptations (my family loves junk food!), but overall my diet is gradually getting healthier, having removed most of the fast food/vending machine/gas station food that I was eating almost daily. I could stand to get more sleep, as I only sleep about 6 hours a night. I would put my Health at around 50%.

Work: I work in a fulfillment center warehouse that ships shoes and apparel. It’s not the worst job in the world, but I could use some better income and more growth opportunity. At least, I get physical exercise at my job, and there are so many employees that you can’t get to know many people and you can avoid drama for the most part. I have started blogging and writing again. I’m on hiatus as a musician right now. I volunteer occasionally  to work in the Edible Garden at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky. I put my Work at 50%.

Play: Right now, it is winter time. My level of Play is really low this time of year, which I utilize to work overtime. Play will pick up in the summer time. For play, I go camping and travel (often to see bands or visit friends in other states). My Play is at 25% and I would like to keep Play sort of low, around 25%.

Love: My primary relationship is great, but is presently long distance as she lives in Arizona and I live in Kentucky. This will be resolved in March. My relationship with my children is okay. Unfortunately, I barely see them during the school year and their mother lives far away from me. These are “gravity problems”. I don’t have a lot of friendships in Kentucky and find it somewhat hard to relate to the culture in rural Kentucky. Most of my friends live in Arizona, but I’m blessed with technology that helps me to keep in touch with them and I’ve become accustomed to solitude. I have connections with my hiking and meditation groups. I have lost my passion for music, but have renewed my love for books and writing. I put Love at 75%.

In Chapter Two, the book covers Workview and Lifeview. I really liked this concept of two categories, one beginning related to personal development and goals, and the other related to spirituality and higher purpose, and seeking integration of the two.

I supposed I’m not too shocked, but as I completed the Workview exercise, I realized that I mostly view work from a crisis model. I don’t have enough money, so I take whatever work out of desperation just to eat and pay bills. Ideas like growth, career development, and utilization of my talent aren’t in the picture at all. The closest thing I’ve had to a career was in music, and for the most part, I’ve lost music.

The Lifeview Reflection exercise indicated that my values have changed from an atheistic, existentialist sort of model to a vaguely pantheistic, where there is more order to the universe than I previously believed, although I would not categorize it as hard determinism. I am exploring spirituality for the first time in the last two years.

Today I will do the full exercise of writing 25o words about each of the two views and comparing them.

Today, I will also do some running and work on writing a book. I have decided to write a book-length “manifesto”. I’ve gotten planning done and now I have to just get down to typing a draft.

Deng Ming-Dao on Utilization:

Today, Deng Ming-Dao says that harnessing the forces of nature is “proper utilization of Tao” and the idea is perfectly related to the Designing Your Life book I just mentioned. You can borrow from the power of nature, but we cannot change nature. As the authors of Designing Your Life, many problems are “gravity problems”. You can’t do anything about gravity. You can do things to make the struggle easier (like climbing a hill with a lighter bicycle) or use gravity to your advantage at times.

“When initiative and natural forces are combined, there is true harmony.”
-Deng Ming-Dao

That quote is really the entire theme of this blog. I am trying to combine my own initiative and goals with the laws of the universe and make them be in harmony.

The Daily Stoic

Reacting emotionally will only make a bad situation worse. If someone is provoking you, they may be trying to get a response from you. If we shrug off attacks, and easily handle pressure and problems, then we are invincible, per Epictetus.

Tomorrow, there will be more about the “Designing Your Life” exercise and I will provide a list of all the books I am using right now. I also need to work through the Tao Te Ching, which I’ve barely covered so far. I’ll eventually get around to everything, I supposed. Only 11 months to go!

Take care.

Day Twenty One: Skill

Just over two years ago, I lost everything, or so it seemed. I had already long since given up on one of my passions- writing. Writer’s block. My role as a new parent. Lack of a quiet space to do the work maybe. Experiencing no reward for writing, perhaps. I’m not sure why but I just stopped writing. Maybe those were just excuses. Back then, I had my identity and self worth tied up in my role as a bass guitarist.

Live with The Earps at Cruisin’ Route 66 Bar in St. Louis, Missouri. 2007

Besides writing, performing in bands was the other thing I did pretty well, or at least I did it my way, and the feedback about my skill at live performance with the instrument was generally positive. I could get just about any gig I wanted, without an audition, for many years. There was pride and self-esteem in that. The band, Moonshine Millionaires, broke up in the late summer of 2014, taking $12,000 a year away from me. But it wasn’t about the money either. It was about losing doing one of the few things I did well. Without it, I was just an unskilled warehouse worker. (Until I lost that job too a month later.) Depression kicked hard as I scrounged to replace Moonshine Millionaires with something of equal or higher value, but the gigs just got worse and worse.

Interesting parable today in 365 Tao about the “Five Things”.

Zither, chess, book, painting, sword.
These symbolize classical skill.

There was once a wanderer who cared nothing for fame. Although he had many chances for position, he continued to search for teachers who could help him master five things: zither, chess, book, painting, and sword.

The zither gave him music, which expressed the soul. Chess cultivated strategy and a response to the actions of another. Books gave him academic education. Painting was the exercise of beauty and sensitivity. Sword was a means for health and defense.

One day a little boy asked the wanderer what he would do if he lost his five things. At first the wanderer was frightened, but he soon realized that his zither could not play itself, the chess board was nothing without players, a book needed a reader, brush and ink could not move on their own accord, and a sword could not be unsheathed without a hand. He realized that his cultivation was not merely for the acquisition of kills. It was a path to the innermost part of his being.

What Deng Ming-Dao seems to be saying is the objects, like pen & paper, or the bass guitar, are not important. Rather we use those objects to cultivate ourselves internally and they are just tools. I had considered the bass guitar and the pen to be tools, but perhaps I was using them with wrong aims in mind. I think I mostly played my instrument for attention and adoration, for the accomplishment of goals to be proud of, and for the love and respect I did not receive while playing other roles in my life.

Rather, what if these instruments were used as vehicles for inner cultivation?

  • Expression of the soul
  • Strategy & response to the actions of others
  • Academic education
  • Exercise of beauty and sensitivity
  • Health & defense

What are my “five things”? I’m not sure yet. I can name at least three, the pen, the guitar and books. What about health and defense? What about strategy?

So even though my bass guitar is now stashed in my closet after 20 years of playing in bands and I have no gigs on the calendar anymore, it doesn’t matter. I have already cultivated the skills of expression, which I do not lose if I lose the tool, because it is internalized. The innermost part of my being.

Writing a Book:

One of my goals for 2017 is to write a book. I decided to use Published: The Proven Path From Blank Page To Published Author by Chandler Bolt for no reason other than I received a subscriber email from him announcing this book had come out, it was free with Kindle Unlimited, and it seemed like it might work out for me. After all, it’s a “proven path”.

Step One- “Look for the Why”, says Chandler Bolt.

End Goal: The level of success I’m aiming to achieve with my first book is to have a book available for download on Amazon and at least 200 people buy it, and have another item on the merch table that is kind of a novelty if I play in a band again in the future (and I probably will).

Purpose: My purpose for writing my first book is to share my story of rebounding from total collapse of my personal life as a sort of ‘self experimentation’ story.

Per his instructions, I downloaded and signed his Self Publishing School “Contract with Myself”, making a commitment of 1 hour/day of focused work to write and publish a book in the next three months.

I also did the “Free-Write Idea Dump” per his instructions.

We will see how this goes.

See ya tomorrow.