Friday, October 30, 2009

The Dentist

The dentist I went to for eight years while in highschool and college was manned by a guy in his late 50s. I would walk in sit down and a hygienist would do all of the paperwork and cleaning. Every time I went Dr. McCullough would spend maybe 30 seconds looking at my teeth and then chat for 3 min and leave. “What did this guy do anyway?” I remember thinking. He got paid to spend 30 seconds on my teeth.

One day in his 30 second exam he stopped, he’d found a cavity. He pointed it out to the hygienist with 10 years of experience; chided her for not finding it. He found something in 30 seconds the hygienist didn’t find in 15 minutes. The hygienist did all the work, but the dentist had the knowledge. So do you want to be the hygienist or the dentist?

I recently have been promoted and my job is becoming more like the dentist. It’s a lot more responsibility, and a lot more is required. I’ve noticed a few differences I wanted to share with you:

The Buck Stops Here- As one in charge, you make the decisions. The higher you go up the tree the less you can rely on the past work of others. You have the final say and you’re responsible for the results.

Manage- Managing other people is important. It’s very interesting as you progress up how your attitude affects the attitude of those below you. You become the rudder for the ship and steer your crew to success or failure. Getting the most out of people and maintaining strong relationships is the number 1 tenet of a successful career.

Change- My favorite aspect is being the catalyst for change. It’s important to know what was done in the past, but now it’s your job to improve it. How can things be done better and with a better utilization of resources?

Big Picture- As you progress you become big picture oriented. What do the results mean to our project? How do we and use our results? What changes or decisions should be made based on our findings.

Become a Resource- The ones at the top are fountains of knowledge. They may not know the exact details, but they know how to do the jobs of those under them. They can teach and lead others to accomplish their tasks efficiently and effectively.

I’m still very low on the totem pole, but I’ve seen the beginnings of this idea as I’ve progressed in my career and it’s exciting. I enjoy making decisions it’s part of who I am and what I enjoy doing. I encourage everyone to step outside of their role and start to learn the affects of the information they process, or the job they do. As you gain a bigger picture you begin to become bigger than your role. That is a step for moving forward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tipping Point

It’s good to be back. I was extremely busy at work and decided that since I had just reached 100 posts to take a week off from posting. I traveled to Lubbock this week and watched A&M snag their first win there since 1993. In between the game and fanfare I finished up Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

The book attempts to perpetuate the idea that it’s a series of little things that eventually add up to have a significant impact. For example, in the case of Boston STDs the spread increases based on the season, vaccinations offered, etc. Another fact studied is that there is a magical number of when things change. For example, Gore-Tex has found that if their plants contain more than 150 people then communication between departments break down. I couldn’t help but recall From Good to Great and how it mentioned the idea of how great companies are created by a series of little changes rather than one big change. A culture is established step by step.

The idea that stuck with me the most was the idea of how information gets moved between people. Gladwell contends that there are three types of people that have significant influence on how we give and receive information: connectors, mavens, and salesman.

Connectors are individuals who know a lot of people and are connected to many social networks. You don’t have to search these people out; connectors find you. They are extremely adept at maintaining many loose relationships. If a connector is fond of an idea they can generate buzz simply by the number of people they come into contact with. They are valued for their ability to link people together. Gladwell contends that contrary to popular belief, each individual is not linked to roughly the same amount of people, but rather it’s more of a hub and spoke system with connectors linking us all.

Mavens are purveyors of information on specific subjects. A maven is a person that offers expertise in an area. People look to them to offer value when making a decision. They also will be the ones to help you install said object. Mavens are valued for their ability to decipher information in a particular area. If you need a car you talk to a car maven before you make your decision. They can tell you the best price, best time to buy, car details, etc.

Salesmen are the most easily understood. They are the individuals who can close people on a particular idea or trend. They come off as friendly and helpful and their excitement is inspiring. A salesman wants to help those around them and very often can prompt action. Salesmen are needed to encourage others to try or pick up on great ideas. They perpetuate change.

Which One Are You

The value in this book is understanding how you can add to others. Most of us are some combination of the three above.

When analyzing myself I believe that I a maven connector. I am very good at finding expert opinions on lots of information and have done lots of different things. Therefore, if people ask me for activities to try; I can generally find something that they will enjoy doing. I am especially adept at restaurants. If someone gives me the reason they want to eat out I will find a place with good food and an atmosphere conducive to the occasion. As one of my friends mentioned I am an encyclopedia of experiences.

How to Use It
The biggest revelation for me was that we are not all the same. We don’t need to all strive to be better at everything, but rather find where we excel and offer that value to others. I tend to want to be self reliant and do everything on my own, but I need to understand that others are more gifted and enjoy things that I don’t. As human beings we have the tendency to be ego-centric and incorrectly assume that everyone acts and feels as we do.

Is it Worth Reading
If the subjects above interest you than you would enjoy the book. There are many examples of social experiments and case studies which I found very interesting; though this type of material is not for everyone. If you are fascinated by human behavior and what causes trends, diseases, or ideas to spread than this book is for you.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Very Quick Update

Folks I've been really busy out of the ordinary this week. At work I have been under a deadline for a project (due today). I also have been planning a trip to Lubbock (this weekend) and the Halloween party (next weekend). All of this crazy activity has caused me to lag behind in my blog updating. I want throw out a little higher quality so I need a solid hour to get a good post together.

Things will pick back up after this week. Look for my post on my recent dinner at Catalan soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Post 100- Time to Refocus

My 100th blog post. This is a considered a milestone in the blogging community. For me it’s been a journey in and of itself. My first few posts were sporadic and few and far between. I set out with the goal of making regular posts and improving my writing. I started with the commitment of one a week and then switched to two. Every Tuesday and Thursday for five months I have released a blog. If you’ve been with me since the beginning thank you. I appreciate the support.

I read a post a few days back by Penelope and she mentioned that if you aren’t blogging for others then you should just start a journal. It’s a good point. Regardless of my goals I release what I create because I want to add value to someone else. So why haven’t I been writing for these people? I thought about my blog theme or message for the better part of three days. I realized that my blog is about trying to discover the best life. Whether I’m talking about an activity I engage in, a 30 day experiment, a restaurant I’ve tried, or an idea I’ve had the theme always comes back to finding out what maximizes the human experience. I haven’t done a great job of pushing that theme in everything I write and that’s a mistake.

From this point forward look for my posts to always tie to that central message. This gives you the reader an expectation of what to expect when you check out my writing. I am sharing with you a piece of my journey in discovering the best life. With that idea in mind I’ve thought about how to better tailor my posts. Instead of just talking about activities I will do a better job of describing the activity, atmosphere, and who I think will benefit from the activity. For my 30 day experiments I’ll try and focus more on how the change has affected me emotionally and the benefits vs perceived benefits I anticipated before I started.

I also plan to share a lot more blog posts written by others that have both inspired and encouraged me in my journey. There are a lot of great writers out there and I should share their great ideas. In conclusion, my new focus isn’t on me anymore it’s on you. How do I turn my life and experiences into something that benefits you in your life? I love to try things and some of you guys are too busy or not interested in taking the time to try everything. I hope that I can do that for you and possibly help you discover a new passion or activity that adds value to your life. If you have an idea you’ve wanted to try then let me know about it. I’ll give it a go and let you know my results.

In the near future I have a few things coming down the pipe. I am currently reading Good Calories, Bad Calories and will probably give a 30 day extreme diet a try. I’m still documenting my dreams with the hope of going lucid. I’ll share some experiences as that comes to fruition. I’m going to write some better tailored posts for crossfit, salsa, yoga, and rock climbing under what I hope to be my new format. I look forward to the next 100 and I hope you are pleased with the changes to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Restaurant Review- Lucio's

I haven’t done a restaurant review in quite some time. Part of the reason is that I stopped eating out for awhile and have been busy with other tasks. In eating out less I would often settle on old favorites instead of venture into the unknown. Yesterday I went to Lucio’s, the first new place I’ve eaten at in quite some time on a friends recommendation.

It was a last second decision as sushi was going to be the fare of choice. He asked for a rain check and so I suggested the BYOB Lucio’s. I mistakenly assumed that because of the BYOB tag the restaurant would run in the $10-15 range. The entrees are more in the $20-30 with appetizers and salads running in the $8-12 range.
The décor is nice, but not overly fancy. White tables and dimly lit dining room with works done by independent artists along the walls (all for sale). When thinking of a phrase to describe it I would go with modestly fancy. The waiter was very friendly and congenial; which to me is the sign of a good things going on in the kitchen. We debated over the vanilla bean crab cakes with mango salsa or the calamari, and decided to choose the calamari. The bread served beforehand isn’t fancy but it’s served extremely warm and the crust is slightly crispy. It’s the theme of this place not too fancy but executed beautifully.

The calamari was served with two sauces. The first was a marinara sauce with cheese melted inside. The sauce was just how a marinara sauce should be. The tomatoes aren’t acidic but full flavored, spiced with a little oregano and the melted cheese adding some heartiness without being overpowering. The second sauce is olive oil (I believe) and butter with garlic and some sort of pepper called peppercini which based on my limited research is very similar to a banana pepper. The flavor is spicy enough to remember what it taste like but again all the flavors are beautifully balanced. The reason I loved it so much was the stark contrast between the two sauces gives you two different taste experiences. The hardiness and full bodied marinara contrasted with the light and spicy peppercini sauce.

For entrees Thomas selected a scallop dish with butternut squash risotto and port reduction. His dish was as it should be. The scallops were perfectly seared and left soft in the middle. The risotto was accompanied by two shrimp and the port sauce was on open plate throughout the dish. To cook truly good food the entire dish must marry together and it’s something I rarely see in Houston, but here the entire dish was buttery and light. None of the flavors overpowered, but all contributed to a spectacular flavor. I was disappointed to only try a bite.

I went with the bone-in pork chop after much deliberation. I was brought a pork chop wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with duxelle (mushrooms, shallots, herbs and butter) accompanied with mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage. It was amazing. The prosciutto wrapped on the outside was crisped leaving the inside moist and stuffed with a beautiful duxelle. The cabbage was muted with a tinge of sour and served to cleanse the pallet. The potatoes were excellent when paired with the pork. Buttered and creamy, but not overpowering.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better meal in Houston. It was excellent and yet simple. As great food always is. I highly recommend it.

Here is where it is located

The Restaurant website

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This is going to be a sort of quick thoughts for the day. As I’ve approached my 100th post I’m going to re-approach my blog. I’ll go into more detail in the 100th post, but I hope to make the blog more entertaining, relevant, and beneficial to you, the reader.

My next thirty day experiment is going to be a very strict paleo diet. I’m trying to explore the change in energy levels that people mention in various posts I have read. I’m currently reading Good Calories, Bad Calories in preparation.

Lucid Dreaming is going well. I’m still flip flopping between very vivid dreams and almost no dream recollection at all. I’m attributing this to a change in sleeping schedule, but am still focused on going lucid. Plus, the dream recollection has been entertaining. I’ve been very surprised with the variance in dreams that I have.

I am debating taking on some meatier posts that will require some research. It will depend on if my annoyance with the issue has subsided in the next few days.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Discovering Your Best Self

“He/She is So Fake”

I don’t know about you, but I heard it a hundred times in junior high and highschool. The phrase was used to describe people that would shift from social group to social group. One day they may be wearing all out punk gear and the next dressing like an Abercrombie model. These people were shunned or made fun of, but in a lot of ways they were developing one of the most important strategies for success.

My early life can be characterized by a rigid world view of how things are. Things were black or white. In searching for the best way of doing things you very often find out that in reality there is a best way for YOU to do things. The only way to find out what’s best for you is to try doing it another way. I’ve had the rare fortune of being friends with people who are complete opposites of me in many ways. We’ve challenged each other’s ideas, values, etc. even down to mundane tasks. I’ve learned a lot about giving and selflessness. I’ve learned about acceptance and appreciation for the view of others.

This applies to activities as well. Chances are if someone tells me about an activity they enjoy I want to try it. Who knows I may find it enjoyable. In the last year and a half I’ve raced for the first time in a 5k, rode a road bike, skydived, cross fit, rock climbed, salsa danced, started a blog, planned my first cross-continental trip, etc. In each of these activities I’ve come out better for trying it. I’ve learned more about things I like and don’t like, met a lot of great people, and been exposed to ideas and cultures I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

I recently read the book Life Nomadic by Tynan (if you find travel interesting I recommend it) and he noted that when he travels the world for four to five months at a time he comes back and finds his friends in the same place doing the same thing. Nothing has changed for them. I would hope that isn’t the case for me. I was talking to an ex girlfriend the other day who I hadn’t talked to in awhile and she mentioned how much I’ve changed since college. That’s progress.

I sometimes wish I was more aggressive with trying new things or meeting new people. It’s a process. I’m not the master of change and I’m not doing anything special. I can look back though at myself from a year ago and know that I’m a better person. When we subscribe to a particular idealogy or way of living life we cut a statue from the same mold as someone else. Michelangelo’s David is a masterpiece because it’s one of a kind. If I walked into a museum and they had exact replicas of David throughout the whole museum I’d be bored after the first few. Each us of us is a unique creature with unique passions created by God for a unique purpose. Expose yourself to something new. Chisel and refine your greatest masterpiece; you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Man Behind the Curtain

A very popular blogger Penelope Trunk recently sparked controversy resulting in several video interviews. I watched one of them more out of curiosity of seeing how she talked and acted. I left feeling that she was more ordinary then I would have imagined.

Likewise the owners of the simple dollar, zen habits, and get rich slowly come off as ordinary and in some cases slightly nerdy. Whenever you see them live or see pictures the façade of a superhuman like individual disappears. I was thinking about this and what it truly means. Why do we put athletes, movie stars, and in my case blog writers on these pedestals. Part of the reason for me is because I don’t want to believe that I am capable of what they do. I can say “Well I could never do that,” and so I don’t. If I convince myself that greatness is something that I wasn’t gifted with then I can’t hold myself accountable to that standard. The truth is that a focused pursuit of a passion is what leads to success. In all cases of success the story is essentially the same. X person pursues something they are passionate about and success is a result of their hard work. That’s the key to it all. Mastering your craft and practice.

I want to again feature and write about my friend Yossi’s blog In Love With Baking. In reading it you think about all the work she puts into her craft. She experiments and creates for friends and family at essentially no costs. As I follow along I notice how her projects are becoming more and more beautiful. I always try to convince her to attend cooking school and learn even more difficult techniques, but truthfully she is achieving success right now. Her practice is really a pleasure. She loves it.

Do what you love, because when you love something you will put in the time to become great at it. Those who are successful in their fields are at the top because they do something they are passionate about. As some of my friends like to say, “there’s nothing to it, but to do it.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Quick Thoughts: Lucid Dreaming Update

Just wanted to provide a quick update on my dream recall for my lucid dream experiment. According to the instructions I am following I need to do this for two to three weeks before moving to step 2. Beginning with this week my dream recall has become more substantial. Many of my dream recollections cover half a page to a page. Writing it down has enabled me to recall my dreams throughout the day. I have had three very vivid dreams and a few days where I could not remember anything at all. I would guess that on mornings when I can’t remember anything it’s because I was woken up by an alarm during a non- dreaming sleep cycle.

Occasionally now I will wake up in the middle of the night and be conscious. I state in my mind to go back to sleep and lucid dream. Not sure if it is having an effect, but my biggest breakthrough came on Wednesday night. In my dream I went to sleep and woke up in my dream world. I was around two or three blinking clocks and was trying to set the alarm. David (my brother) came in to talk to me about getting his shirts stolen and then I woke up in real life. It was an odd feeling after the fact to realize that I had gone to sleep and then woken up in this dream world. I feel I was on the cusp of going lucid. Right now though I still am just playing a part in events and don’t have conscious control of my actions.

I’m hoping for a break through this weekend. I often do best on the weekends because I can sleep as long as I want and as you sleep for longer periods of time you predominantly engage in REM sleep which is a dreaming state. Hope everyone has a great weekend I’m off to Dallas for the A&M-Arkansas game!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Funny How Things Work Out

As I approached 100 unique visitors which is considered a very small stepping stone in the way of blogs I waited to make my next post. I was set to hit 100 unique visitors or so this week. What I would have never guessed is that I would have hit 200 visitors on the same day I hit 100. Someone searched for 'mistress poker' on the 2plus2 forums (a popular poker strategy site) and my post on poker came up.
It’s funny because bloggers talk about how the post that becomes the most popular is rarely the one you spent the most amount of time on. The poker blog was a deviation from my main content, and yet has as many visitors as almost all of my other posts combined. Go figure.

So I suppose this is a time for some sort of assessment. I started this blog to improve my writing skills. I’m not anywhere close to where I want to be, but I can read through old posts and see that I’ve gotten better. It’s a little easier for me to form thoughts on the page and have at least a hint of eloquence at times.

I’ve had other benefits as well. This blog has been a great way for me to stay accountable to self development. A lot of my 30 day experiments have taught me more about myself and where I want to go then I would have originally thought.

It’s an interesting dynamic interacting with people when they know so much about you and you don’t know the same in return. I’ve reconnected with a few people and in a few instances individuals have messaged me that something I said improved their life in some way. A few people have started a blog after reading mine. That’s exciting; hopefully as I achieve more readers I can help others in some way.

If you read the blog then thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. It’s been a fun year or so. Hopefully, as this blog continues the content gets even more entertaining.

Edit: I hit 300 overnight as responding to people about my post made the post even more popular. Haha go figure