Wednesday, December 28, 2016


When I picked up a few DVDs I had on hold at the Library, I browsed the new book section even though my list is getting very big and I don't really have room to add another one.  A book popped out at me, though, and I couldn't help myself. I had to check it out. It is called The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen.

Erin and I are enjoying Decorah, IA at the moment. If you are not familiar with the community, it has a very strong Nordic influence. Bringing such a book on this trip was appropriate.

Our Airbnb stay is on the outskirts of town and the house has a very Norwegian feel. This enhanced our already cozy experience.

When I woke up on my first morning here, I sat on the couch and looked out at the snow covered bluffs while catching up on my news for the day. My Tuesday morning briefing from the New York Times highlighted an article that was written on Christmas Eve. It is called Move Over, Marie Kondo: Make Room for the Hygge Hordes.

As minimalists, the name Marie Kondo jumped out (although I have not read her book about tidying up) and so I needed to check this article out.

The artcle introduced me to the term hygge, which is pronounced like the title of this post. It translates closely to cozy, and is becoming a national phenomenon in Denmark. The Danes are consistently some of the happiest people in the world, and their continuous quest for hygge may be why.

As Erin and I (and our friend Rob) discussed hygge, I was saying it as if I were Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, and we were getting quite a kick out of it. This will inevitably become part of our being. Thus, the reason behind my sharing it with you.

Agora Arts is a quaint little shop in Decorah, which has always been closed during our usual visits around Labor Day. We found a Story People print called Some Kind of Ride that will go up on a wall in our home soon. It is very fitting.
Feels like some kind of ride but it's turning out just to be life going absolutely perfectly. 
Hope you've found some hygge for yourself over the holidays, and you continue to find it throughout 2017.


Friday, December 23, 2016

When Depth is Important

In my last class of Theory of Interest, I began describing an idea that we had already learned in a very complex, convoluted way when a student interjected, "Why wouldn't we just do it the easy way? When would we ever want to use this method?"

I answered him honestly, and told him that in the real world, you would never use this complicated method.  Then, I used the opportunity for a teaching moment about depth.

We can all walk away from an amazing presentation in which we felt we learned a lot, but what we have actually received is a surface level understanding.  Sometimes, that is all we need or desire.

Until it comes time to apply it, talk about it, or write about it. At this point, you are slapped in the face with a huge disconnect from seeing someone else apply it, talk about it, and write about it, believing you can do the same, and then ending up like Homer here:

Depth becomes important.

In my own life, I have been reading all I can about how money corrupts our government. If you've spent any length of time with me, you've heard me talk about it. The depth I've had to go to in order to do that much is vast. There is so much more that has moved me that I want to share, but I haven't gone to the depth I need to in order to convey it in a sensible manner.

The best thing I've noticed about getting off of social media, is that I'm talking to people more. I'm engaging in conversation more. I find reading and writing a very important part of gaining depth, but I've been missing out on discourse. This is a key part of personal growth.

Have you seen a good documentary lately that was moving? Could you speak at length about it, and bring me to the same level of heart-rending emotion that the documentary brought you to? Probably not, unless you pick up a book or two or three about it, write about it (in a journal or blog), and practice communicating it to others.  This is when depth is important.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Safe Spaces

After the election of Donald Trump as our next POTUS, safe spaces were organized nationwide on university campuses.  I heard very little about these safe spaces, and upon hearing about them, I didn't read much more into them. There are reasons for this, I admint, and it is because I fall into three categories that already make me safe (pre- and especially post-election):  
  • White
  • Male
  • Heterosexual
Recently, I was exposed to someone that fell into all three of these categories who showed anger and disgust at the idea of these safe spaces forming, and that professors that had exams scheduled post-election day were giving some students a few days to recover before taking the exam. He went as far as to mock those who may desire such a space, and even brought his daughters into it, saying how they won't be getting safe spaces, and how they'll need to accept the world as it is. 

Anger. Disgust. Mocking. 

All over something that has absolutely no affect on his life as a white, male, heterosexual whatsoever. 

As a white person, I will never understand the psychological effect that racism has on a non-white person. No matter how much I educate myself about it, nor how much I try and empathize with the non-white community, I will never fully be able to empathize. It is impossible. 

This is my white privilege. 

As a male, I will never be able to truly understand the feeling of being preyed upon. I can only sympathize. I can only begin to imagine the fear that is felt when a non-male is all alone and there is an unknown, larger, stronger, male presence nearby. I can only begin to imagine what it is like to be disrespected constantly, gawked at, verbally assaulted, sexually assaulted, and put into a class where there are all of these expectations that I'm supposed to live up to. 

This is my male privilege. 

As a heterosexual, I will not fully comprehend the inherent attraction to the same sex, or the psychological effects that has being raised up in a community that looked upon such acts as taboo. When I go places, with my wife by my side, I will not be stared at or feel the discrimination and disgust from those who do not agree with my heterosexual lifestyle. 

This is my heterosexual privilege. 

With all of these privileges, I find it disgraceful that someone with the same privileges gets angry and disgusted when those without these privileges want to find someplace safe. It can only be the case that their manhood is being questioned, or perhaps their anger is compensating for something else that isn't so pronounced.  

If I ever witnessed some males saying something like, "let's grab her by the pussy" with regards to any number of females in the vicinity, I would interject and try my best to create a safe space. 

It doesn't matter who the president is,what he behaves like, or what he does or does not condemn. I wouldn't chalk behavior like that described above up to the "real world," the "world we live in," or simple "locker room talk," because this isn't the kind of America that I would want. The America that I want and would vote for is the kind where safe spaces would become a thing of the past.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rule of Thirds on Motivation

Topeka just finished its 2016, "Those Who Lead, Read" program last week. I'm excited that they will be continuing the program in 2017.

On November 10th, Erin and I attended a presentation on Leadership Through Self Discovery & Vulnerability. The presenter was Elizabeth Lenherr, the Director of Learning and Development at Advisors Excel in Topeka.  The books she centered her presentation on were Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" and Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly." 

During the discussion at the end, a gentleman offered a simple rule of divvying your time among mentees, friends, and mentors. He cited Tai Lopez as the source for this inspiration. The idea is that you should be spending about a third of your time each with 
  • Those who you can mentor, educate, or inspire in life
  • Your peers, friends, and co-workers, or those on your same level
  • Those who are far superior than you in areas that you want improvement
These fit perfectly into three of my five areas of philosophy: contribution, relationships, and growth. (Passions and health are the other two). 

In reflection on my own personal growth, I've come to realize that mentors are what is missing in my life.  

So, what am I going to do about it? 
  1. Identify the areas in my life where I want some serious growth. 
  2. Find some individuals that are far superior in those areas identified in 1.
  3. Find a way to get past my extreme independence and the mentality that I can do anything or figure anything out on my own.
  4. Reach out to them with a email, phone call, or a face-to-face interaction.
The first time I typed that up, I skipped what is now number 3.  I sat there and pondered the list without the current number 3 and tried to figure out why something so simply put was not so simple. 

Shame. Vulnerability. 

I first have to admit and embrace where I am deficient before I can get better. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Meta Level Up

In David Allen's "Getting Things Done", he talks of next actions. 

Sometimes, what makes it on our To-Do list is too vague, or just too big a project to be jotted down so simply. To tackle such things, you need next actions. Sometimes, these are hard to come up with. 

Whenever I struggle with next actions, I remove myself from the situation and level up, metaphysically speaking. I think in terms of the writer of my life. Since I'm writing it at this moment, it doesn't have to be myself in the situation. For example, it can be Dirk Diggler. 

So, it is now my job to write about what Dirk Diggler is going to do next to get this job done. This frame of mind helps the brainstorming go a little easier. (Especially if it someone you aspire to be like, or simply a super version of yourself. The use of Dirk Diggler is not a good example at all here, and is used primarily for humor.)

This 'leveling up' method works great with other things in life besides next actions. 

In Adam Grant's "Give and Take", I read about someone who was able to become a good negotiator for himself and his family by leveling up. He was able to eventually make a break through and negotiate better raises, better rent, and better other things in life by playing a role of a mentor for himself. He asked himself how he would instruct someone else to negotiate for themselves in the same situation. Then he followed those instructions and played the part of the mentee.

Next time you have a chore on the to-do list and are having a hard time coming up with a next action, try leveling up. Ask yourself, "What would Dirk Diggler do?" 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Fire and Four Medals

Erin's Race Number, her silver medal, and our collaboration Best Beer Back Beer

Several months ago, when Small Town, Big Brew IV was announced, the KGB (Kirksville Guild of Brewers) solicited members and former members to brew for the event by offering compensation for the ingredients of any beer they supplied. Erin and I decided that we should use this as an excuse to fill our relationship tank, and visit our great friends in the Ville. 

I got busy and brewed a Mosaic IPA that turned out very tropical.  I named it "Annoying Church Music."  

After the Mosaic IPA was finished fermenting in the primary, I stole some of the yeast and used it (plus a little more) to brew a collaboration Coffee IPA with Erin. Erin researched the coffee beans that would go best with an IPA, and we roasted a blend of three different beans. Currently, we're into bloody Marys with beer backs in the morning, along with some coffee and water after a night of drinking. Since this beer blended coffee and beer, I thought a great name for it would be the "Best Beer Back Beer." 

Erin wanted one of her own, so she elected to make a dry Irish stout. She kept the name of her previous dry Irish stout: Grafton Street Stout. 

Romping is Best with Founder's Breakfast Stout

A few weeks after making the commitment to brewing for Small Town, Big Brew IV, an email hit my inbox informing me of the Reindeer Romp 5K to take place the same morning at 9am (Sat. Dec. 3).  

The Reindeer Romp is a unique 4 mile run in Kirksville, that raises money for the Salvation Army and the Radio Park Food Drive. 

Sign us up!!!

It was then I recalled running the Founder's Day 5K in October of the previous year in Kirksville, and beginning the day with some pours of Founders Breakfast Stout along with some pancakes and eggs. It was yummy as I recalled so I thought why not carry on the tradition. After all, that race went very well, and I finished with a decent time. 

Some eggs and bacon were made, and my friend Jonathan and I gained one more participant (thanks, Ted).  We enjoyed some Breakfast Stouts as we tied some bells on our shoelaces, and pinned our race numbers to our shirts. 

There were Bloody Marys at the race's conclusion as well as a surprised couple who received a silver (Erin) and bronze (Jason) medal in their age division. The medals paled in comparison to spending some quality time with friends over bloody's and beers. 

Wine Before Beer, You'll be in the Clear

Following up the registration for the Reindeer Romp, we received an invitation to a wine tasting party at a friend's place in Kirksville on the eve of the race and the Big Brew event (Fri. Dec. 2).  Oddly enough, they had no idea we would be in town for the race and the Big Brew. 

We had to ask ourselves, "Can we run a 4 mile race after tasting wine all night?" 

Yes. (Or, as I like to answer, "Does the Pope shit in the woods?")

What about this Fire? 

On our way to our hosts' house from the wine tasting, we noticed the smoke from downtown Kirksville. It was at the Bonnell's that they informed us of what we were observing on the drive to their house: the Kirksville Arts Association burning down. 

We had thought there was a new factory in Kirksville letting off a lot of steam. Unfortunately, we were wrong. This was devastating news. 

The KGB was in a unique position, in that it did not specify where the proceeds would go from the Big Brew Event. They quickly announced that all proceeds would benefit the KAA. 

It is hard to imagine losing a piece of work that demanded several hours of your life to create. My heart aches for the artists that lost their work, and the community that lost an Arts Center. I hope that they can quickly heal and bring back the arts to Kirksville.

And the other 2 Medals? 

Small Town, Big Brew IV was a huge success. The Dukum Upp was at maximum capacity.  Many friends and former coworkers came out to try my beer. I had an absolute blast, and the people voted Erin and my collaboration Coffee IPA a bronze medal, and my Mosaic IPA a silver.  

It was great seeing everyone and coming away knowing that we could help contribute in fundraising for the KAA. We definitely had a weekend we will never forget.