Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Pep Talk

19 September 2014

Dear J-

That’s it; it’s been a long week and I think I’ve reached a limit of sorts, maybe, perhaps, or not. I wonder if I haven’t been trying hard enough, as nothing is making the data march to command in an orderly fashion. The best I can come up with is to have a threshold value put together and ready to take on some more data. Did I do this right, by the way? I may never know. The data are so erratic and scattered that I haven’t got a clue whether I’ve been successful or not. You wrestle with the numbers and finally never know if there’s some element of random chance thrown in as well, mucking up any trends you might want to draw. It’s nothing like the data from Canada, which showed clear results within hours.

I suppose it all depends on who you’re talking to and what it’s about. I, seeing reflections in the kids at this point, get quite frustrated too easily with the lack of progress and punt by doing something else that takes less brains. Brains. We had an afternoon off in a meeting, and I’m pretty sure I caught my head snapping backwards as I passed out slowly. I should have stolen a cue from a coworker and stood up in the back of the room, but what we learned versus the time we invested was … I wouldn’t have made that tradeoff, let me tell you, if they hadn’t said it was super-important and couldn’t be missed.

The newness of the job and location has worn off, at least today of this week, and I’m weary of committing more time and effort, but let’s think about it this way: are you satisfied with what you’ve produced, and why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward instead? I wonder if there isn’t a better opportunity or variable to capture, given that my motivation this week has been low in general and particularly abyssal today (and look at me, I’ve only been awake for an hour or so; this bodes quite well, now, doesn’t it?) Go! Fight! Win! Or something similarly cheerful; if they say the key to success is self-discipline, part of that is being willing to kick yourself in the ass every now and again and getting over your ennui.

Mike

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Inaction Man

26 July 2012

Dear J-

Head up. Feet shoulder width apart. Eye on the ball. You’re going to get rotation through the waist, that’s where the power comes from. Ready? Good. Here we go.

When I think about our relative athletic ability I can see our kids doomed to a life of being picked last for teams, but I’m convinced that much of that is down to a question of practice and muscle memory, and the sooner we get them involved in actual physical activities (structured) then the better off they’re going to be and the more confidence they’ll feel. That sort of stuff is a self-fulfilling cycle; the more you do, the better you get, and the better you are, the more you enjoy it, and the more you want to do. Now I just need to summon the motivation to do just that.

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Lord knows that I’m the laziest person on earth, though, and that’s going to be hard to overcome: the inert body at rest tending to remain at rest. The other night theVet went off for a dinner presentation by a potential vendor, and came back to find me furiously brushing away at figgy’s teeth, trying to make up for time lost playing video games together; I admit there have been instances where I’m even too lazy to get up and play games on the TV, which is not that much effort: find batteries, make sure the remotes are charged, switch the input on the TV …

Something I learned in June beyond the regular operation cycle and teardown of a Carrier 19FA chiller was a phrase that Dwight said and which started to resonate in my head: what a privilege it is to sweat. Here’s a guy who’s spent his whole life running or biking or swimming and coming off back and shoulder surgery, is itchy to get back on the bike — and in North Carolina heat, no less — while I barely have the motivation to tear myself away from the screen long enough to find a park and drive over there to stroll around. True, too, the guys from North Anna were inspiring, going jogging every evening and bringing bikes along too; this life is what you make of it, and letting opportunities go doesn’t make much sense, does it? What a privilege.

Mike

Motor-Vate

10 August 2011

Dear J-

I did find the offending nail yesterday and upon pulling it out was treated to the sound of deflation. Better yet I had the tire off the rim and the tube patched in fifteen minutes yesterday which I promptly celebrated with too much pizza and not enough sleep in a haze of self-congratulation. Point is sometimes we create our own obstacles to success; we go above and beyond in finding requirements to nitpick and end up creating headaces down the road inadvertently. Me switching jobs has meant that I’ve been afraid of asking my boss for anything, whether it be vacation or approval of certain documents. I’m less effective as a lame duck than I thought.

We believe that we go to work and want to do the best that we can as long as we can help it. Me, I have problems with effort sometimes and diffuse concentration: I feel like the dogs of Up (squirrel!) sometimes, folks asking for this and that which doesn’t seem too bad until you get down to actual due dates and deadines making your feeble efforts seem laughable. What was I doing, again? It shows on the bike sometimes too. I had no excuses this morning like yesterday (mostly flat tire, heavy load of salty snacks — pretzels and peanuts) yet I still didn’t get up remarkably early or put too much effort into pedaling.

Sometimes I worry that consistency is key but then I’m reminded that all those efforts fall by the wayside when, as they say, one oops wipes out a whole pile of attaboys. Perhaps it’s a question of motivation: like posting every day or a picture a day or anything else it’s going to consume some effort and you’d better have the right reason for doing what you do. If you’re posting by rote or to sagtisfy a checklist that’s fine and it does help but ultimately you’ve got to be doing it for yourself, not to satisfy someone else. What did you hope to accomplish before when you said you’d do XYZ? Remember that and th world is yours.

Mike

Saturday Motivation

5 March 2011

Dear J-

Well, I’m as prepared for the trip as I can be. Oh, not that normal stuff, like packing (done in ten minutes with a minimum of thought: I try not to challenge my limited sartorial skills more than necessary) or getting tech stuff ready (I have a lot of chargers to pack now, although the advent of smartphones also means smaller power bricks). Nope, I’m ready because we crammed a weekend into a day. I got to cook breakfast this morning and the other normal Saturday chore of vacuuming while figgy whiled the time away with PBS Kids. Afterwards we went to LEGOland (the discount tickets I get from work have a second day included free) and walked around until she said her feet hurt at which point we called it a day and headed back, some sights unseen, some rides not taken.

Because it was such a spectacular day (shorts and t-shirt weather for sure) I’m going to have a hard time adjusting to a place where I can’t wear sandals near year-round. Never mind. There’s so much that went right with today I’m willing to let that slide in favor of holding on to today in my head until next Friday when I come back. I hope your weekend has been good but I’m willing to bet I had more grins today than the whole week prior. That’s fuel for the soul, mind motivating body to keep moving forward.

Mike

Fourteenth Night

14 February 2011

Dear J-

I’m in training this week all week. It coincides with shifting hours back to normal — well, as normal as it gets — from 0700 to 1530, so I have the unexpected double pleasure of sleeping in and keeping my brain in a low gear. Ambition and energy are both at low ebb and that’s okay after the weeks we’ve had and the weeks ahead. We plan the evening around dinner and where and how to get it, the day is spent marking time and after the rush rush rush of a typical weekend we’re ready to relax, strange choice for the work week but you take the victories where you can.

It is Valentine’s Day and I hope that yours was as enjoyable as ours. We stole an early jump and (knowing that we had no hope of arranging a sitter/dinner for tonight) ate out last night (steak). Tonight we made a snap decision to dine out at Costco and reap the dubious rewards of having a sick sleepy kid in tow (net result: two asleep in a cart together, my shirt laid down to provide a bed of sorts — we probably should have “borrowed” a dog bed for the shopping trip instead). Best date night ever.

Mike

Navel View

21 January 2011

Dear J-

One of our co-workers left yesterday. In the past few weeks as our extra effort winds down we’ve been letting folks go left and right it seems — one retirement, four people finding jobs elsewhere, and now two contractors reaching the end of their terms and taking off. It definitely feels like we’re hitting a cycle of unrest again. When I first started in the group four years ago I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be one of the most senior people by now, that we’d be host to a revolving door of people and knowledge. The longer I go on, though, the more I think that I’m ready to go.

It’s time because I’m not learning to do new things here. As much work as there is, and as many new topics are identified they all end up having the same course of resolution. Sure, there’s the thrill of being able to unravel the clues — we figured out what brands and models are from blurry photographs in ways that would make archaeologists and crime scene investigators alike envious — but it all comes down to having enough experience and confidence to declare things definitiively so. The nerve is sometimes more important than having all the answers, and it feels like I bluff my way through the day at times.

I’ve become far more reactive in the month that I’ve been back, choosing to respond in response to issues rather than identifying them on my own and trying to resolve them. Breaks become a matter of asking for five more minutes in a way that’s reminiscent of figgy asking for a few more bits of freedom and TV before bedtime. I’m not sure if it’s just a change of scenery that would help now, though. The longer the malaise lasts the more I suspect it has to do with my fundamental temperament, and that’s the frightening part.

Mike

P.S. As a follow-up to yesterday’s topic apparently Limbaugh isn’t going to apologize because he didn’t think that making ching-chong noises was offensive, unless of course those did translate into something offensive. This is an interesting exercise in relative morality and is tantamount to letting criminals define the law. Oh, you have a problem with my actions? Sorry, I don’t, so get over it. Of course, you would expect nothing less from some talking head smirking bully whose ever move is a calculated move to boost perceptions or ratings. I don’t listen to him, so it doesn’t particularly bother me, but I think ti’s indicative of a failure to seek self-improvement and accepting criticism that tells me more about him than he could ever broadcast.

Task Preview

9 September 2010

Dear J-

I find myself skipping ahead in the problem sets and glancing longingly at questions that look a lot easier than the one I’m working on; the same thing happens when I’m reading a book, where I’ll contrive ways to read the last couple of pages or look it up on the Internet. I don’t know when I started but I’ve already demotivated myself out of reading the rest of the Charlie Bone series and countless other novels. I think maybe I thought it was a little carrot I’d throw out there once in a while — see, this is where you’ll be, so work hard and you’ll get there sooner or later — and eventually became an expected privilege.

I think this is why I tend to procrastinate more often than most — the motivational technique of visualizing the desired future state doesn’t work for someone who’s always looking at it and can’t keep his mind on the task at hand. Maybe it’s also why work has been a drag: I see new things every day, but they end up being the same old problems with thin candy coatings, and it’s hard to work up the gotta-care attitude I need.

I’m impressed by folks who run their businesses, but I’m sure it helps to do something you love and know that your actions have a direct effect on your profit margins. In the end I suppose I do it because I want to, and kindling that fire inside isn’t easy for anyone. Meanwhile you end up waiting in line and biding time until the decisive moment; how fo you know it hasn’t already passed?

Mike

Hafta Convenience

29 July 2010

Dear J-

If you regard Twitter as a generic text message to folks, then the origins make sense: rather than type the same thing over and over, send once and done. So likewise, perhaps the blog is the equivalent of those dreaded Christmas letters that have taken the place of/supplanted personalized messages in cards. Convenience enables us to spend more time on the things we enjoy, rather than the supposed-tos; otherwise we’d all take the bus, wash our clothes by hand, and never eat out. We’re as guilty as anyone — we spend a few hours putting together a photo card for Christmas and then the real work is getting addresses together (hey, maybe if we had a printer that could take labels and a database of contacts …)

I have faced long bouts of unemployment, mostly voluntary as it seems now: once after graduation for ten months, and once after moving to San Diego for twelve more. There were three constants in those situations: one, going to the library to look for jobs online; two, taking tours of the local thrift shops; and three, playing videogames in the afternoon to kill time until dinner. There are tangible reminders of those days still (the junk closet that’s filled with old electronics and games), but the strongest one is this: my mother-in-law asking me, with increasing exasperation, what the hell I was doing that took so long to find a job. And all I had to pull out at that time was convenience: who had time when I had to … thrift … and play games … and … I got it at that point.

You don’t have to make the have-to-dos into odious, onerous tasks. I do a great job at building things up in my mind into impassable barriers, but really, how much would it cost me for some personal emails or phone calls to keep in touch? It’s not the cost of the time that’s often the issue: if the rewards are worth it, then why isn’t that motivation enough? I like to point out how foolish it is that, say, bosses don’t hand out bigger raises or praise — the cost of keeping your folks happy is far smaller than having to train new ones to replace the ones you drove out. Point taken; thanks, voice-in-the-head.

Mike

Day 21: Fleeting Youth

19 April 2010

Dear J-

It’s testament to how much I’ve changed from “more qualfications means more work” (in the context of the plant, the more you can do, the more you end up doing) to, after class today, asking when the next cause evaluation class is being held. I’m convinced — I think, if that’s not the most oxymoronic thing I’ve said tonight — I’m convinced that I have a part to play in the health and recovery of the plant. There’s a price to be paid for a newfound sense of responsibility, though, and I’m not sure that it’s one I want to pay.

My photographic inspiration and camera gear seem to track each other pretty well, with the cycle going something like: buy lens — take lots of photographs — start feeling stale — suspect equipment limitation — buy lens (repeat until broke). I can’t figure out if I’m so bereft of talent and drive that without a steady stream of glass and different perspectives, I can’t function. While I do have a desert-island lens, there are specific characteristics and abilities of various lenses that I say I need to explore, which is another excuse for my lack of other motivation.

So I’m not sure if it’s the thousands of tools that I’ve been given these five weeks that are making me want to do work or if it’s a genuine desire to help us out of the ditch we’re in. Is it an excuse to stretch my abilities? The better I know myself, the less mysterious my motivations. All I know for sure though is that the days of eight hours and forty-hour weeks may be part of the rearview mirror before much longer if I get serious about needing to change the world, and I’m not prepared to sacrifice family on that altar.

Mike

The Gap

6 January 2010

Dear J-

I got up late this morning, rushed around putting things together for the day, and flew out the door on the way to drive the vanpool. Since then I’ve been trying to catch my breath all day, pulled in a million directions at home and work. I’ve been easily distracted (and even now am trying to multitask between television and writing — forty false starts later, I go back to the advice Professor Ogden gave me: write what you know) trying to justify spending money on junk I don’t really need while putting up a semblance of productivity. Keep pushing on; all the good deals in the world won’t make up for being stuck indoors during daylight.

The longer you spend ignoring the obvious, the more painful it becomes when the veil is ripped from your eyes. It’s been a hundred days of expanded schedules — at least fifty hours a week — and none of us is particularly amazed or surprised to find out we’ve still got a month of long hours stretching out before us, spinning away past the horizon. Fight your way past the malaise; let the crisp words drop like snowflakes and cover your tracks as your actions flow without thought. It’s been a long time since I could catch my breath, I was just saying.

Where do you dig up enough ambition to make it through the day? The week? The project? Motivation comes from within, I suppose, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have the universal threat of disapproval and censure. When the icons of your life fail to intrigue and beguile, when six easy pieces become six feet underwater, I know that the cycle starts again. That wheel turns with surprising speed; mind the spokes, mind the gap.

Mike