The Only Thing to Worry About Is Worry Itself

Sure, let’s appropriate an FDR quote for our own needs.

I haven’t written here in a while. The last time I wrote I was stressed out about my birth/government name. I’m less stressed out about it now, but I still don’t see it as my name. For several months now, I’ve been going by only my first name in most contexts. It’s worked out pretty well. As common as my legal first name is for someone born in the 1980s, I haven’t had too many issues dropping my legal last name. Try it out some time. You may learn something about yourself and your own labels.

I ordered a box of six boxes of Cup of Calm tea just as the FIRST Robotics season was really getting busy. I’ve made a new nighttime ritual of unwinding with a mug of that stuff, maybe a bath. I’m trying to keep my hair for as long as possible. I’m trying to avoid wrinkles if I can. I’m trying to not fall to cardiac arrest, ideally ever.

I’m at the end of a week-long vacation to help thin my blood of some of the cortisol and adrenaline that had built up. (I don’t know human physiology very well, so I don’t know if it actually works like that.) So far I have learned that time spent doing nothing passes pretty quickly. But I am relieved I had some downtime to not do anything, because for months I had thought that the only time I have is for clients and volunteering. It’s been a good reminder that time for myself matters.

As an exercise for myself, I created a note called What Do I Need So That I Feel Cared For? This note contained the following:

  • A good, solid night’s sleep
  • Delicious, nutritious, filling meals
  • Active movement
  • Stretching
  • Socks that I like, ready to grab and wear
  • A place to read
  • A place to write
  • A place to think
  • A cozy blanket
  • Plenty of water
  • Good hygiene
  • Time to listen to music I like
  • Sticking with decisions I’ve made, so as to not waffle
  • The occasional sweets like donuts and chocolate milk

Reviewing this list, I’m kind of amazed how many of these things I didn’t give myself in the thick of FIRST Robotics season. I was not giving myself very good service. I was not taking care of myself. I believe this led to some of the stress and worry I was feeling. I believe the anxiety I was feeling was the animal in me struggling and squirming because it wasn’t cared for. I’d like to get better at taking care of my animal self.

Worry will always be there. Worry can arise and sometimes have really good reasons for being there. Worry can also sometimes arise for no reason, and stick around way longer than its welcome. Worry is a twister in the great climate of emotions. It rises, and it falls. The more I think about my emotions like weather, the less worried I feel about them.

I’d like to offer myself better self-care to better reflect on the temporary nature of worry, and likely overall feel a lot better.

Take care,
Arthur

Reflection on 2014

I recently created a Facebook Year In Review for 2014. I called it Millimeters By Intravenous, or MMXIV as an acronym, which is also 2014 written as roman numerals. Facebook could only create a review based on what I posted to Facebook. There were definitely gaps in the narrative from when I was deliberately offline. My offline times were my most transformative, and it felt strange to get on Facebook and write about what happened while offline. I don’t think the Facebook Year In Review was the right place to share what happened. In fact, quite a bit of hullabaloo came about when terrible life events were framed as celebratory in the Facebook Year In Review for others. I’ll avoid adding to that discussion. Instead, I’ll focus below on details of my own life, especially ones where I think my blog is a better medium.

Note that this entry touches on parts of my life I may not have revealed on this blog thus far. As I continue writing in 2015, I want my blog to be my primary outlet to the world, so expect additional personal entries like this one. It would be difficult for me to write about learning without sharing what went into my own learning, struggles and all.

The format of this entry is going to be a retrospective, or retro, format. As I’ve learned from my new and current employer, Detroit Labs, a retro typically covers three categories:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What needs to change?

I’m going to keep the details fairly short on each item, only elaborating where it affects the scope of the year as a whole. I’m sure I’ll write more entries about specific items, and I’ll hyperlink to those entries with future edits of this entry.

What Went Well?
I read a book called Self-Parenting, where I learned about psychographic profiles that most of us have called the Inner Parent and the Inner Child. I learned that most of my inner conflicts can be acted out as dialogue between the Inner Child and Inner Parent. When I found ways to keep the dialogue civil and constructive, I was better able to work out my inner disputes.

I started regularly running again, and this time all on my own. I hadn’t run seriously since 2012. Back in 2012 I lived around Dallas, TX, and I had trained with my friends for the 2012 Chicago Marathon. I ran only some of the recommended training runs (and yes, I did finish the marathon with this inadequate training, but that’s another story), and only with my friends and never on my own. Turns out I love to able to run on my own for my own health and peace of mind and not for a race or any other goal.

I took journaling to the next level. I had been carrying a journal with me to most places since 2012, and I had used the journal to record little thoughts and observations at random intervals. This year I instead used my journal to write three pages of whatever comes to mind in the morning. This is Julia Cameron’s idea of the “morning pages“. Writing this amount has helped me see further into what’s really on my mind. A journal is a cheap therapist.

I went on a major road trip through North America’s northwest. I haven’t typed up my collected experience of this road trip yet, so I’m not sure if it will take multiple entries to explain. Essentially, the trip started in Seattle, WA where I hung out with friends for a few days. I then drove my rental Jeep Compass through the deserts of Washington, past the sapphire Ceour d’Alene over the Continental Divide of the Americas, in a Y shape around Montana that I loved and will visit again, across the green prairie of Alberta to Calgary’s metropolis, through the mountains and lakes of Banff and then British Columbia back down to Seattle. I followed a course similar to the one in the map below.
Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 16.53.44

I wrote out a vision of where I want to be in five years, and I have defined my life’s mission statement. I worked on these while on my road trip. When I type out the final versions of these, I’ll make them pages on this blog.

I saw some of my favorite acts live in concert. Throwing Muses is one of my favorite bands, and I caught their act in Seattle during my road trip. They haven’t played together in a very long time. I saw Tacocat at a block party concert by Calgary’s Luke’s Drug Mart (also a stop on the road trip), and they were kind enough to chat and take a photo with me after their set. I saw Sharon Van Etten at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI, and also chatted with her after the show. There were a few other great acts, but that’s for another post.

I officiated the wedding of one of my best friends and her husband. That’s right, I’m ordained.

I left my job in medical devices for an apprenticeship in mobile application development at Detroit Labs. For three months I learned about Java and Android in downtown Detroit with a handful of other apprentices of all different backgrounds (no computer science majors). It was the most supportive and simultaneously most challenging education experience I’ve been through. There’s plenty more to write about this experience, another time.

I graduated the apprenticeship at Detroit Labs. I’m now working as full-time developer, making Android apps for clients. I never thought I would write that.

I started taking habit tracking seriously. I use an app on my iPhone called Habit List, where I can record how many days a week I kept to a habit I want to build. Among the habits tracked: getting more sleep, meditating, running, journaling, and eating well. My final project of my Detroit Labs apprenticeship was an Android app I made called HabiTrack that helps the user keep up chains of good habits following Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.

What Didn’t Go So Well?
My visit to Canada this summer as a whole. I enjoyed seeing Tacocat live in Calgary, and it was gorgeous to drive through Banff, but I did not do the right amount of planning for the rest of my stay. I’ll spare the details for now, but I’ll just advise against not having a data plan in Canada and driving through British Columbia in one sitting.

Sleeping in a Jeep Compass without good blankets or coats. There’s nothing wrong with a Jeep Compass—I actually really liked driving it. I just don’t recommend sleeping in one. On cold nights, without my coat or blankets, I wrapped myself in trash bags, to wake up to dew coating my legs. Sleeping in the back of the Compass is worse than sleeping in the seat. I would wake up with a sharp pain from my neck to my feat, almost wishing I hadn’t slept at all.

Finances. I won’t divulge numbers here, but I have not been staying within my budget this year. I leave this year in the black, but there’s a lot to do to improve saving.

I lost my grandfather. He was very important to me throughout my entire life. He’s the reason I ever started liking math, wordplay, and comics. He believed in my creativity and nourished it. I miss him. When he died, I vowed I would live a life as great as his.

What Needs To Change?
I can call Discover and Verizon before I do any international travel to enjoy my stay more.

I can save up more for travel and stay in more hotels or motels on future road trips. A bed is worth it.

I can get serious about systems for saving money. One trick I learned this year is to save $5 bills instead of spending them. It stacks up faster than I thought it would. To take this further, I plan on working out an envelope system of saving, where every dollar is allocated to something, even flex room. I can also create a habit to spend time on finances on a consistent basis.


There’s plenty more to work on in 2015, but I’m glad I made it through 2014. Discomfort and loss were major emotional tones this year, but I think I was in a better place to work through them. I have a job I really like and I’ve got the momentum of the habit changes and hard work I’ve done this year.

2015, let’s do this.

To the future,
Arthur Hovinc

Reflecting on Reflecting

I’ve been reflecting a lot more often recently. Autumn has that effect on me, and this autumn has had a lot to reflect on (more on that in other posts). I’m trying out a new reflection technique at the end of every meeting I have and at the end of every workday. It’s pretty straightforward, but I don’t see a lot of people doing it.

Reflection Technique:
I simply take out my pen and a piece of paper and I write down the thoughts in my head after each meeting or after the workday. When I say “meeting”, I mean any discussion with another person or other persons, formal or informal. At the end of day reflection, I answer the questions “What went well?” and “What could go better?” The whole technique takes between two and fifteen minutes each time. It’s time well spent.

I’m finding written reflection very useful to my learning process. My brain generates a lot of ideas, but if I don’t write them down or dictate them to my phone within two minutes of their creation, they are gone forever. I’m finding that I can consolidate my fleeting thoughts into long term memory just by writing down what I’m thinking after an experience like a meeting or a full workday. I may never read the notes again, but it doesn’t matter. The act of writing itself commits the thoughts to memory. Writing it down puts clear words to what I was thinking and feeling, and these clear words are retrievable in my brain, unlike fleeting emotions or vague thoughts.

I had left meetings and workdays in the past with many thoughts storming around my head, and not doing anything about them but letting them sublimate. Collecting those thoughts is analogous to finishing up a piece of art and properly stowing all materials and tools used to make it. It’s tidying up, leaving a meeting or workday cleanly. It helps me see what to-dos come out of meetings and what I want to focus on the next workday.

For instance, I reflected after an all-team meeting last week at work. The team was discussing being open and honest in communicating. Easier said than done. One of my thoughts after the meeting was that I could host some Lunch and Learn sessions about the techniques I’ve learned to communicate clearly and actively listen. I wrote it down on my notepad with my pen. Now I can recall it even without referencing my notepad, as I type this. It matters to me, and I intend to study more on the subject of communication and listening, and then implement and teach what I learn.

The act of reflecting is one level of the Four Levels of Learning. I’ll be writing more about these levels in the future, but I’ll list them below. Credit goes to ZingTrain for introducing me to the Four Levels of Learning.

Level 1: Listening or Reading (where good and active listening is an art and good and active reading is a system)
Level 2: Reflecting
Level 3: Assimilating and Implementing
Level 4: Teaching

Reflecting,
Art