CEOs Not In Charge

(Editorial note from an astute reader who caught the mistake made by a writer writing too late on a Friday night. “I think you mean Lasers where you have mentioned LED’s. LED’s are light emitting diodes and are not used in Microvision technology.”

I was looking forward to writing about good news for MicroVision. Good news for MicroVision should be good news for the stock, MVIS, which should be good news for my portfolio, which should be good news for me. The company’s press releases sound positive, but the stock price suggests the investors are less interested in investing as a result. Chief Executive Officers are the chief officers in charge of making sure the corporation executes their plan to reach their goal, generally. They are paid well, and they do carry the responsibility, but nobody and no company is in complete control. The rest of the world has an influence whether it knows the company exists or not. The lack of control is part of investing, and something individual investors get to deal with. Here’s one example from MicroVision, a company that seems to be nothing but anecdotes and examples.

Good news! Revenues are up 50%! A new CEO is taking command! They’ve raised millions of dollars! Those were three of the most recent press releases.

Good news? In the last month, MVIS is down ~39% and after hours is down another ~9%.

My interpretation of the market’s response

Revenues are up 50%, but expenses were up and long-anticipated deals weren’t announced during the conference call for the earnings report. Patience evidently wore out for investors who expected a positive report before the end of the year. There were hints of deals about to be signed, but unfulfilled hints are too common for MicroVision. It looks like many investors finally gave up, gave in, and sold out.

A new CEO is taking command, which some have been hoping for. The announcement came days after the earnings report and the stock price drop. Regardless of the skills of the new CEO, many read the transition as a sign that the good news hinted at during the conference call may not be happening. That’s only speculation, but without better information, speculation is all most investors have to make decisions from.

They’ve raised millions of dollars, which also suggests yet more dilution (A Study In Dilution MVIS). The more positive news would’ve been a long-awaited surge in sales that carries the company to cash flow positive and profitability. Maybe they need the cash for expansion. Maybe they need it for survival. As I just wrote above; “That’s only speculation, but without better information, speculation is all most investors have to make decisions from.”

The stock drop associated with the earnings report wasn’t under the control of the CEO. A drop in stock price can lead to disrupted deals, degraded financial terms, and a decrease in confidence about the company. Big companies are cautious about dealing with little companies, and little companies that look shaky can look like bad business partners. Maybe that encouraged the shift in CEOs. Who knows? Someone, but not the investors.

The departing CEO didn’t live up to expectations, arguably expectations that he raised; but he is still recognized as one of the most positive developments in the company’s history. He replaced a CEO that made great bombastic promises, that only later were shown to be more talk than substance. The departing CEO did a great job at providing solidity to the design process, initiated a crucial technical development and invention program that resulted in real rather than virtual products, and may have almost succeeded. If there were critical flaws in the product or the business, they haven’t been revealed to the investors. The lack of significant sales suggests that something was amiss, but that’s speculation, again. The new CEO benefits from expectations that are at their lowest in years. At this point, survival may be seen as an accomplishment.

Raising millions of dollars may simply be a smart move by the new CEO. Create a cash cushion during an apparent crisis that could be attributed to the previous management. If the deals come through, then the financing is just that, a cushion. If the deals fall through, there’s enough money to provide hope for other deals to succeed. Raising the money is under their control, but the stock price associated with it is not.

There’s a story of the lack of control from an unexpected source. Thank your iPhone and its Gorilla Glass.
MicroVision’s technology uses a series of laser LEDs to paint the image. Red, green, and blue lasers rapidly turn on and off to create all of the necessary colors, just like most monitors. The difference is that the lasers shine (or don’t) onto a tiny oscillating mirror. Do it right, and an image is projected. A device the size of a thin mint can create images measured in feet. They dim with size, just like a flashlight, but images the sizes of standard monitors can be very bright. They can also be very crisp because they don’t have to fake black.

Red LEDs have been around for decades. Blue LEDs are newer, but BluRay devices is a sign that their quantity was up and their cost was down. Unfortunately, the first CEO didn’t make much mention of the green LEDs. The second CEO pointed that out soon after taking office. He launched an impressive campaign to invent, truly invent, the technology necessary commercially viable green LEDs, and got big corporations like Corning to participate. That was good news. There was great anticipation. And then people realized that Corning backed out. There was no explanation, just a disappointment. Fortunately, enough advances were made that green LEDs were feasible, though not as economically viable as needed.

Here’s where the benefit of reading broadly comes in. I enjoyed having a subscription to Wired Magazine. They catch trends early and relay the news in an entertaining style.
In September 2012, a Wired Magazine article described another possibility for Corning’s decision. The CEO was being interviewed about the origins of Gorilla Glass. Evidently, The CEO was giving a tour to Steve Jobs. The CEO mentioned the possibility of embedded projectors and the need for direct green lasers. Jobs’ response was that he was committed to what would become the iPhone. He needed a strong glass that hadn’t been developed. Corning’s CEO decided to switch development funding from lasers to Gorilla Glass.

MicroVision has risen to the point of being the topic of discussion between the CEO of Apple and the CEO of Corning. That’s impressive for a tiny company. Unfortunately, MicroVision wasn’t there to defend the technology and their concept. The key conversation was out of their control. Hence, disruptions, delays, and a chance for competitors to catch up.

As much as I’m writing this about MicroVision’s CEOs, I suspect even the CEOs of Apple and Corning find that they don’t have as much control as they’d like.

And yet, CEOs are responsible, as is appropriate. To be responsible is to be able to respond. Another connotation is to take the credit and the blame for the company’s successes or failures. The shift in CEOs may simply be a reflection of that response, or it truly is only that the departing CEO wants to spend more time with his family. It happens.

Investors are responsible, too. I am the only person who has to respond to my investment decisions. I’ve held MVIS since about 2000. If it didn’t seem like a good idea, I would’ve sold. As usual, though, I’m holding because those deals may come through. The cash flow may finally turn positive. The new CEO may have just the right negotiating and management skills. Maybe they’ll succeed quickly enough that any further dilution will be minimal. But, there are too many maybes in there for me to buy, and I think that lack of control may be a larger lack than expected.

Individual investing can be a powerful wealth creation tool. Passive asset growth is very nice. I’ve experienced it for decades. It can happen again, but it requires a high tolerance for risk (understatement) and a realization that no one is truly in control. Not even the CEO.

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Welcome to About Whidbey

Welcome to a spinoff of this blog:
AboutWhidbey.com, Island living from an islander’s perspective.
Thanks to some recent writing assignments and my new gig as a real estate broker means I wanted a venue for island stories, resources, news, and maybe even some real estate stuff. Stay tuned.

About Whidbey

Welcome to AboutWhidbey, a blog about a very welcoming island. I was welcomed here in 1980 by some very neighborly people who befriended a young aerospace engineer who’d moved from Pittsburgh, PA to Everett, WA. It only took me 25 years to actually move to the island, the first place that’s truly felt like home. Until then, I’d mostly lived in apartments, condos, and houses; not in a home or a community.

Whidbey_B

For a variety of reasons and in a variety of venues, I’ve written about life on Whidbey, always in some unofficial or informal capacity. Unofficial and informal, yep, that describes island life. Don’t be surprised to find “-ish” appended to a lot of scheduled events. Things happen noon-ish, or 4pm-ish, or whatever-ish, but probably not too early (except for fishing and exercise) or too late (“Closed” is a popular sign after 10pm-ish.) Now that I’ve passed my real…

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Tom Trimbath Real Estate Broker

And now for something completely different – that really isn’t. On Wednesday, November 8th, I passed the exam for becoming a real estate broker in the state of Washington. I also breathed a great sigh of relief. Taking tests is hard, just ask the anxiety attack that threatened to derail the attempt. But, success! Listening to hints from the universe isn’t easy, either, but several of them (as well as many of my friends) convinced me to add yet another skill to my career set. As if I wasn’t already dealing with being “overqualified.” At least now I get to use my qualifications as a fan of Whidbey, helping people achieve their goals, and a wide variety of communications skills. One concession: I won’t be wearing shorts as often.

mailing in the official paperwork

Astute readers noticed that I have been posting less frequently here, on Facebook, or on stock discussion boards, lately. For the last few months I’ve been fitting in 90 hours of required class work, dozens of hours of highly-recommended class work, and the logistics involved in taking the 3.5 hour test. All of that was happening while maintaining all of my regular gigs. The training sounded easy because I’ve bought and sold several houses since I moved to the Seattle area. Then, I learned that the exam delved into the issues that brokers see that I ignored as a buyer or a seller. The tall stack of forms got that tall because some issue created the need for yet another legal clarification. Add in the fact that most real estate deals involve fractions of a million dollars, and it is easy to see why people care about clauses, contingencies, and reducing confusion.

Big life changes are rarely made for only one reason.

Seattle has already become unaffordable for many. That’s true because so many are making so much that it’s affordable for them, even as prices and rents rise. That’s good for Seattle’s economy, but causes cautions about sustainability. Whidbey Island, where I live, is beginning to be affected by Seattle, though dampened by distance. I look forward to living on the island, but must admit that I’m concerned about my long term sustainability. A recovered stock portfolio could alleviate those concerns, but that hasn’t happened, yet. Winning the lottery jackpot would also take care of the issue, but that’s hard to realistically plan for. Being turned down for yet another job (overqualified, again) inspired me to consider the possibilities.

So, in true and proper consultant fashion, I conducted an economic analysis of my situation. I won’t repeat the entire analysis here, but the summary is simple. Three ways to keep up with rising costs is to either increase income, increase net worth, or both. My portfolio, house, and lottery tickets were working on the increased net worth. Increasing income is something almost every entrepreneur is doing (except for some frugal folks, and religious types like a Buddhist monk I know). Jobs on the island that have a chance of growing income as expenses grow are things like professions (doctors, lawyers, and such), full-time gigs with the few large companies on the island (where my applications seem to vanish), and jobs related to the largest collections of assets on the island (stocks and real estate.) Becoming a doctor or lawyer takes too long and costs too much. I’ve tried the companies, alas. I enjoy stocks, but there are more positions in real estate than in financial planning. Process of elimination = real estate.

Real estate isn’t just about buying and selling homes. Besides brokers there are appraisers, inspectors, mortgage brokers, and people working in title and escrow companies. There’s a lot to choose from. Becoming a broker had its appeal, but so many friends are brokers that I didn’t want to compete with them. Unfortunately, none of the other options worked out because of logistics, bizarre regulations, and no demand for new employees. I mentioned that to several brokers and was surprised at the response. Competition? Sure. But there’s also a lot of cooperation. A lot of encouragement came my way. At some point, I decided to listen.

That was the analytical path. The emotional path clinched the deal.

Instead of thinking about buying and selling I realized I could look at a broker’s job as helping. As I learned as a consultant, one of my life joys is helping people pursue their projects, helping them get things done. For me, buying or selling houses wasn’t about investing, it was about moving from one phase of life to another. Life changes, goals change, and a house that made sense ten years ago may not make as much sense after those changes. Jobs change. Families grow and shrink. Hobbies can shift from a basement workbench to the acreage required to hold a horse or three. Someone needs to find a quiet place to retire, recover, or play? Sure, I’m happy to help them meet that goal. Thinking about real estate that way is actually inspiring.

This blog is about personal finance. While real estate is part of personal finance, I don’t intend to turn this blog into a long series of stories about houses. I’ll continue to comment occasionally, but I’ll be starting a separate blog that talks about island life, various aspects of Whidbey Island, and possibly what it’s like to be a fresh real estate broker at my age.

At my age, there’s an interesting coincidence. I’m almost 60, but not yet. My Dad found himself in a job that he had to leave for moral, ethical, and legal reasons. They were doing things he didn’t want to be a part of. At 58 years old he quit his job, recreated himself, and grew his way into retirement. His choice and actions were impressive and inspiring. I’ll be happy if I can do well enough to live comfortably sustainably, while staying on the island.

I’ll launch the other blog soon. First, there’s an amazing amount of paperwork behind becoming a broker. Any new job comes with a sweep of forms for new accounts, passwords, rules, procedures, and generally being a newbie. Amongst that, I’ll find time for my regular gigs because they all share my life joy in helping people. My title isn’t changing, just another one to add to my long list; “Real Estate Broker, Consultant, Writer, Speaker, Teacher, Photographer, Engineer, Entrepreneur, etc.” I suspect a much shorter title will end up on the For Sale signs, something like, “Tom Trimbath, Real Estate Broker – Coldwell Banker”.

Give me a call. You know I enjoy talking – and helping.

Hey! They already loaded up my agent’s profile.

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Commons And Whidbey Authors

How many writers are there on Whidbey Island? The bookstores probably know because they’ve probably met most of the authors when they come in to try selling their books. Authors may not know. Authors like to meet authors. That’s odd considering most authors are introverts, and a club of introverts wanting to meet other introverts might have a small roster. Readers like to meet authors, too, which is why it was nice for one of the local bookstores to host a panel discussion of four local novelists. I’m glad I went. Novelists are good at telling stories, one of them is coordinating a workshop that I’ll be a part of on November 11th, and I enjoy listening to passionate people who’ve done more than talk about their passion. Authors actually get something into print. Besides, serendipity encouraged me to attend by cutting off power to my house for the day.

Langley may be a small town on the quiet southern half of a rural island, but it has an abundance of book stores. The South Whidbey Commons is unique. They have books, of course; encourage local authors, as do others; serve food and drink, a dangerous combination in the vicinity of books; and operate the business so students can learn how to operate a business. I’ve given several talks there, but on Saturday I got to sit in the audience as they welcomed a panel of Dave Anderson, Jo Meador, Dan Pedersen, and Michael Seraphinoff. Four novelists, one hour, and not enough time to hear all they have to tell. Want to know more? Read (and maybe even buy) their books.

It was a standing-room only crowd, a handy feature on a day when a snow storm was approaching. All of those warm bodies kept the room cozy. I took my typical seat in the back and tried to keep my mouth shut. I’ve been on similar panels, and enjoyed them. It was entertaining to hear others’ motivations, processes, and experiences. Story telling is part of being human. Writing is more recent, but most people write at least something thanks to email and the internet. Becoming an author, though, is obviously a lot more work, takes a bit of courage, and makes every author reveal vulnerabilities – especially in the age of the internet.

The unspoken messages are sometimes the loudest. At least three, and maybe all four, of the authors came from non-writing careers. Writing was involved, but the careers were in anthropology, politics, and database management. Not exactly the stereotypical path of first pursuing Master of Fine Arts degrees. I’ve seen it before. People who were forced to document their work were effectively forced to write – and write concisely to a deadline. The same thing happened to me. Frequently, I’d spend five days dealing with technical and engineering issues at NASA, and then reduce the experience to a few hundred words translated into management-speak within a couple of hours after getting back to my desk. Fear the blank page? There’s no time. Make the blank page fear you!

There was a pleasant surprise near the end. One of the members of the audience knew about Jo’s workshop, realized no one had mentioned it, and asked a leading question that she and I could answer. Thanks for the plug, Talia. On November 11th, Jo will spend the morning conducting a workshop about writing and editing (for details, check with Jo), and I’ll spend the afternoon describing how write for the internet and how to self-publish. Another way to look at it: Jo will handle the fundamentals that never change, and I’ll handle the environment that’s so fluid that every time I teach it I have to change it.

Writing for the Internet starts with the same goals of most writers and authors: gain exposure, read an audience and a community or a market, spread a message, and if the writer is lucky, maybe even make some money. That last one is tough, but that’s always been the case. Style has changed. Being concise is much more valuable thanks to shorter attention spans and the visual limitations of screen sizes. Adhering to various manuals of style isn’t as appreciated as producing something that can be searched, found, and shared. Book authors get to create tomes that are hundreds of thousands of pages long, but on the internet they can expect to find tl;dr (too long; didn’t read.) Get a slice of that message across in 2,000 words, or 500 words, or even 140 characters and more people will read it. Give up on the idea of controlling formatting. Elegant fonts, page layouts, and professional headers and footers are lost on devices where the reader can grow, shrink, and change the color of the text. What are you reading this on: a monitor, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone? I don’t care because I don’t try to optimize for any platform. The formats that matter are headlines, images, links, and hashtags; all things that lead to searching and sharing. Be too common, and the words get lost in the crowd. Be too uncommon, and never be found. Write about something others care about, make it easy to share, and reach farther than most authors did thirty years ago. Then, pull up the analytics and truly learn what resonated with readers, and what was there mostly for self-satisfaction.

Modern Self-Publishing has become so common that there’s less of a reason to make the distinction since I first used it in 2002. Print-on-demand is such a common way to print a book that it’s hard to distinguish from traditional printing. E-books are so ubiquitous that they’ve standardizing on prices, file formats, and delivery mechanisms. In the early years of the movement, I wrote a book about the technique, but the technology and the industry changed so quickly that the book had to be edited and re-released every six months. I gave up and simply reinvented the message every time I taught the class.

The title of one of my books (and the basis for this blog) is Dream. Invest. Live. It is a self-published and due for a second edition. That first word, Dream, is something that many people put off until retirement. Authors are writers who finally gave up and quit waiting. They dreamed, or at least strongly considered, of something that should be told; invested amazing amounts of time, mental anguish, and sometimes money writing the story; and then get to live the life of an author – which usually means having some other source of income. As one of the authors mentioned, most books only sell a couple of hundred copies. I’ve seen the data. Very few succeed financially, though the few that do have basically written themselves a lottery ticket.

To fellow Whidbey authors, my curiosity encouraged me to start counting how many books have been written by authors who live on the island. Go to the Whidbey Authors Facebook group if you want your books to be counted. I suspect the total is in the hundreds. That’s a lot of gifting opportunities, and a lot of opportunities for authors to meet with authors. We can compare notes on how well our notes have sold.

To fellow Whidbey writers who haven’t published yet, well, by now you know about the workshop, and you probably suspect that plenty of us are happy to help outside of such structured environments. People everywhere have fascinating stories to tell, and people everywhere want to hear new stories. Welcome to a fundamental part of being human.

For now, the power is back on, the snow is getting closer, the house is up to 65F, and I’m probably done writing for the day. It’s time to sit back, share this post, stoke the fire just in case the power goes out again, and watch a movie I picked up from the library. Books are great, but I’ve been writing so much I need to take a break from reading for the evening. Of course, if the power goes out, then out come the books and even more stories.

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Wasting Time On Facebook

Does Facebook seem a bit bloated, lately? More ads than updates? More about politicians and less about families and friends? Yeah. I’m a fan of social media, in general, but I’m also a fan of spending time wisely. That’s the frugal part of me. Spending time with friends is fun. Scrolling past ads isn’t any better on Facebook than it is on television. Aw. Maybe I’m just imagining it. Maybe not. The geek in me decided to take data. Just how far has Facebook drifted from what I like most about it?

This was easy, and unscientific. I scrolled through one hour of posts on a Friday morning. Here’s what Facebook decided to show me that was “Most Recent” – a setting which I have to repeatedly set every time I use the site.

  1. ad for a yard sale
  2. ad for Verizon
  3. personality profile news item
  4. selfie
  5. list click bait
  6. video of old cartoon
  7. advocacy group
  8. ad for local event
  9. shared cartoon
  10. vacation photos
  11. someone’s birthday
  12. fundraiser
  13. ad for event
  14. selfie
  15. a message between two friends
  16. political post
  17. shared humor
  18. advocacy
  19. weather forecast
  20. shared humor
  21. ad for a movie
  22. ad for an event
  23. fun personal photo
  24. ad for a car
  25. someone’s birthday
  26. ad for an event
  27. art from a proud artist
  28. ad for an event
  29. meme
  30. personal insight into a cause
  31. shared news
  32. advocacy
  33. ad for an event
  34. ad for software
  35. ad for an event
  36. ad for music
  37. vacation photos
  38. ad for a yard sale
  39. advocacy
  40. ad for a business

That was 40 posts in about an hour. Only about a quarter of them were from friends doing something fun, casual, personal, and real. Of the other thirty, most of them were from friends, too; but they were advocating for a cause or funds – effectively ads, again. Ah, but the geek in me prefers to have more than one data point. I’m lucky enough to have one. I’ve been on Facebook since 2008 – back when there were no ads, the news feed didn’t try to reorder my life into Top Stories, and things like photos and links were relatively new. From 100% news from friends to 25% news from friends in under a decade. At that rate only about 6% of the posts will be news from friends in 2028. No wonder it seems like spending time on Facebook feels more like a chore than a pleasure.

I am one of the guilty ones. I teach classes about social media. Social media is a great enabler that doesn’t charge, significantly expands a network and community, and helps people and ideas reach further. I don’t advocate promoting ads. The extra reach seems to reach a random set of people, regardless of the filters. I do advocate using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. for artists, entrepreneurs, and advocates to spread their word. The various sites reach hundreds of millions of people. (Facebook reaches billions, but there’s some doubt about many of the accounts.) It would be silly to overlook such a venue. (Side note: the next class is part of the November 11 Madrona Writers Workshop on Whidbey.) Instead of spending money promoting ads, I suggest spending time engaging with family, friends, and followers. It’s social media. Be social!

While I may be guilty of posting ads, too, I also try to do so off to the side. That’s what business pages are for. Most of my consulting, art, writing, and teaching posts are first published on Trimbath Creative Enterprises’ web site and shared to Trimbath Creative Enterprises’ Facebook page. If there’s enough interest, then I share it to my timeline where it might show up on followers’ news feeds. Now that I look at that data, I wonder whether to be a purist and only post to my business’ page, or give in and post everything to my timeline like so many others. They seem to be successful, but that also may just be part of the Facebook facade.

And then some crisis or celebration occurs. My friends amaze and impress me with their response. I’ve seen support groups form before an accident victim has gotten home. Power outages are managed by a community sharing notes, reports, and offers of help. Groups of passionate people may be too hard to organize in the real world, but can come together in a group. I frequently visit the dance community and the writing community. Someone added me to a group of Bohemians. Cool.

At least in the groups, paid ads seem to be less common. Self-promotion is a balancing act, which means there’s always someone sharing too much and others that I wish would share more. I’m not sure where I sit on that.

I’m a fan of people, which is why I’m a fan of social media. But I find myself using Facebook less and using Twitter more (@tetrimbath). Twitter has fewer ads and it is easier to sort sources to follow. LinkedIn keeps trying to be the office version of Facebook; maybe I’ll engage there more if others did, too. Reddit is a wild place with few ads, but also a site for crazy waves of comments and occasionally immoderate moderators. There are hundreds of sites. They are competing with Facebook. While it may look like none of them can become bigger than Facebook, similar things were said about IBM, until Microsoft redefined the world, and then Apple redefined it again, and now Google, and now Facebook, and now – who’s next?

Frugality is about respecting resources and personal values. It isn’t about being cheap. Frugality is about spending time and money in ways that complement an individual’s goals and interests. Facebook is free, expect for the time spent using it. From my one sample, that time is only a quarter as efficient as it was when I signed up. From that logic, it can take four times the time to receive the same effect. I don’t want to spend time that inefficiently. So, I must find other ways to use it efficiently.

Using Facebook more efficiently for me means paying less attention to the content it pushes.

I already ignore Top Stories. That’s the default, so every time I visit the site it shows me the story it thinks is the most important. Sometimes it keeps the same story up for days. Get on with it, eh?

I switch Top Stories to Most Recent to see if anything new has been happening with my friends. But, I don’t scroll down far. One great example was a report of a meteor the other night. Instead of a flash in the sky it turned into a splash in the water. I saw the post come up, jumped over to Twitter to contact the National Weather Service, USGS, and NASA to get the official story, and posted some details.

To get more efficient, I dive into the groups. Fewer ads, passionate people sharing news, and a more congenial atmosphere are attractive.

To get the best stuff, I head over to my friends’ personal and business pages. Facebook filters what it shares from them to my news feed. That just means I have to grab control back to find out about a friend’s new house, or recovery, or awesome painting.

Facebook, and all social media sites, are tools. Knowing how to use a tool best makes using the tool more successful and more fun. In the case of social media sites, the tools decide to change themselves. Every time I reach into that drawer for that tool I’m aware that I might have to use if differently, or reach for a different tool. Facebook is useful, but not as useful as before; so, I am also reaching for Twitter and LinkedIn. For now.

One of many ironies is that, soon after I publish this post I’ll share it to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. I’ll keep using them all, but not as before. They’re changing. I’ll change. And, I guess I’ll continue posting my business ads on my business page – and occasionally to my news feed and groups. Of course if you want to share those around to your news feed, well, share freely and often. Just don’t be surprised to find that we’ve all drifted over to some other site within a few years and have to play by a new set of rules.

Stay tuned.

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A Little Bit Of Help

It only took me a couple of minutes.” It would’ve taken me about half a day. Dropping my bicycle off at Bayview Bicycles was an excellent example of the value of expertise. I rode across America, so some know me as a cyclist, but my bicycle would cringe. Just because I ride it doesn’t mean I know how to take care of it, at least not efficiently. I appreciated his work and his attitude so I did the modern thing and Liked his Facebook page, and posted a short testimonial on my Timeline. (I would’ve done the same on Twitter, but the business doesn’t have an account.) It was a small gesture, but hopefully helpful. Then I saw what someone posted about me. Wow.

It can take courage to ask for help. There’s a vulnerability and an admission of being human. Being human runs counter to some people’s facades. They must project perfection because they don’t want to expose any chinks in their emotional armor. I get that way sometimes, too. But, I have finally become more comfortable acknowledging some of my ignorances and inefficiencies. That awareness saves me a lot of time. Asking for help also saves me money, eventually. It’s cost incurred in that time between now and eventually that makes me hesitate.

I can fix my bicycle. Give me enough time, the right tools, the right videos, and the right attitude, and I can eventually fix this, grease that, adjust those. I’m not efficient. I may be trained as engineer, but my expertise is in aerospace, not mechanical. I work well with orbits and airflows. My brain can understand getting gears to mesh, but my fingers and hands aren’t trained for those fine maneuverings of parts and tools. The rear rim was old enough that it was cracking. The only way to fix it was to replace it, and the bicycle is so old that any replacement wouldn’t quite fit. I took the old wheel in and let Bayview Bicycles build a new wheel and put on a new tire. I should’ve taken the rest of the bicycle, too.

When I got the new wheel (at a reasonable price and in a reasonable time), I took it home for its inaugural ride – and found that the wheel wouldn’t spin. The wheel was fine. The bicycle was fine. They just weren’t fine together. New parts on an old bicycle meant adjusting the brakes, the gears, the derailleurs, and I didn’t know what else. A while back I sold my bike work stand, which meant propping it up in the carport and trying to balance everything. A quick review of the steps involved made me realize that 1) I could do it, 2) the setup, training, adjusting, and testing would add up to a few hours, and 3) there was great opportunity for frustration. I had other ways to spend my time, and maybe even get paid for my other efforts. I took the bike and the wheel back to the shop.

One convenient thing about the shop is its location, right beside one of my frequent co-work/coffeeshop stops – Flower House Cafe beside Bayview Farm and Garden. No surprise, their landscaping is excellent. (Also the setting for one of my more popular photos.) The aromas are nice, too. It just happened that a friend asked for some help with publishing his book, so I suggested we meet there while my bike was worked on. A nice way to spend a morning.

If all works well and computers don’t crash (again) an entertaining cookbook could hit the market in time for the holidays. Stay tuned.

After the meeting I went over to check on the bicycle. It was already fixed. It was already fixed, tested, and improved. Evidently, the real work was probably done before my tea had cooled. The work was so quick that even charged by the minute it would’ve been cheap. I mentioned that I’d post a quick testimonial as thanks, and was thanked.

A few chores later I got home, booted the computer, and dropped in a few lines about my experience. Not much, but every bit helps.

Then I saw a notification. Someone had posted about me.

“SUPER QUICK UPDATE…..!” from Whidbey Island Baking Company

What goes around, comes around. Nice. And then I read and read and had to hit “See More…” because he’d written more. I wrote two lines for Bayview Bicycle. Don Scobie (Whidbey Island Baking Company) wrote 24 about how I’d helped him. I paused. I blushed. I typed Ah, shucks. And I meant it. It was an overwhelming response and greatly appreciated. A super quick update? Wow.

Screen shot 2017-10-24 at 7.13.43 PM

I help people publish their books. As a consultant, I help people pursue their projects, which means helping lots of writers on Whidbey. The island does attract artistic type and talents. It’s one reason Jo Meador and I are conducting a writers workshop on November 11. (Details) There is a joy in helping people, especially in showing them how to simplify complex tasks, and how to mutually benefit from matching talents and skills with needs. Got a question? Ask friends. Facebook and Twitter are good for that. Need more help? Ask someone with at least some experience. As it says on my web site; “A hour or a day invested well can pay in that most valuable commodity: time – and probably save some money too.”

The pleasant surprise comes from hearing how much the help is appreciated. Thank yous aren’t common enough. Some doubt their sincerity, as if thanks are followed by asks. I say thank you anyway because it makes me feel better. I forget how much they can be appreciated. We can never know the impact we have on others, but having the experience reflected back is powerful.

Someone passed along a simple insight. Librarians can truly enjoy people who ask them for help. It takes training to efficiently retrieve just the right amount and type of information. Google provides a fire hose. They provide a finely decanted glass of clear water. I enjoy helping people with their projects, and enjoy listening long enough to hear how best to help, and then seeing that help truly help. Evidently, I helped today. And, I received help today. Instead of frustration, I experienced a freedom. A working bicycle is more than a couple of wheels. It is transportation, recreation, a stout backup in emergency situations – and in my case – a reminder of a life-changing event. My bicycle is fixed. Thank you.

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South Whidbey Does It Again

If you were here, you couldn’t hear my grin and you probably couldn’t hear my soft chuckle. South Whidbey did it again. “We” made it to a finalist of a top ten list. This time, it’s Reader’s Digest’s Nicest Places in America. Shh. We’re not supposed to tell anyone. And yet, we do and will, just like any other community with a bit of pride. What’s that worth?

My chuckle was partly celebratory and partly watching a familiar event. It’s good to get on the lists, and worth celebrating. My chuckle comes from a few caveats that I’ll mention here to get them out of the way.

South Whidbey isn’t an island. Whidbey Island is an island, but being dozens of miles long (depending on whether you measure by top to bottom latitude or along the “highway”) means the north and the south are significantly different. Does that sound like a throwback? Playful debates draw a border line at either a few miles south of the Navy facilities, down by a farm that was turned into an art and tourism venue, or a solitary phone booth that offers free local phone calls and that looks like a border post. But, just like most areas, borders are more porous. There are Navy personnel, tourists, commuters, and retirees both north and south. The folks in the middle must have a blast laughing at the two fictional halves.

“We” didn’t make it to the list. That takes the effort of a proactive individual. This time I think it was Susan Knickerbocker who nominated us. “We” do define the culture by living it, but credit goes to the person who mentioned our name. Gotta show the love, all around. Of course, being appreciative is part of living here. It’s hard not to see beauty in such a natural setting.

Whidbey is in the same situation Seattle was when I moved there in 1980. The country made fun of the city and its rain, but the locals knew better. Some make fun of Whidbey because it is “out there” geographically and culturally, but that’s where our fun comes from.

I’ve lived in a few places in America, bicycled across the country in 2000/2001, and like talking to visitors. One common thread that comes through is that every place has someone that thinks it is the best. If they didn’t, there’d be a lot more ghost towns. From what I can tell, most ghost towns are ghosting from economics, not desire.

Five Times Twelve

I like the entire island enough that I produced a five year photo essay of it. Five one-year essays, each year a different place, from top (Deception Pass) to the bottom (Cultus Bay, my neighborhood), with three places in between (Penn Cove, Admiralty Head, Double Bluff.) And that was just picking from the (mostly) public venues. Private estates have views worthy of national attention. (Want more? Check out Two Guys Walk Around Langley, and Two Guys Walk Around Coupeville.)

The beauty draws tourists here, but the culture draws residents. The beauty helps, but I’ve noticed that the people who move here do so intentionally. That could seem obvious, but islands have natural barriers that must be consciously crossed. A few weeks ago I was being interviewed for a rare and appealing island job. I didn’t get it (overqualified, evidently). The interview turned into a discussion about the island, particularly getting people to organize for a common non-profit purpose. There was that grin again. I’ve been a consultant for many creative and innovative people who’ve moved to the island. They came here because the culture was open enough to let people live the way they want to live. They didn’t come here to conform, but to fit in with a community of tolerance and a fair amount of freedom. They came here to be individuals, not to give up their individuality. It makes for an interesting culture that isn’t always organized, except when it excels at it.

The article does a good job of describing the various social ventures supporting food, housing, health, education, the arts, and generally living as a community. Pick your cause, and be careful you aren’t overwhelmed with opportunity. When I moved here I was semi-retired. (See My Triple Whammy for how that was upset.) Within a couple of years I was volunteering 32 hours a week. Eep! And enjoying it. Yay!

The island does have its problems. Affordability is becoming an issue in something I’m calling the Aspenization of the island. The economy has great potential, but is too dependent on tourism for the south and the military for the north. Seattle’s hyper-growth may begin to wash onto our shores, or burst, or redefine the region akin to the Bay Area or Vancouver, BC. We have limits to growth that some see as defenses and others see as defects. Water is from local aquifers, and therefore hard to plan around, but can be sweet. Power comes across cables that stretch across treacherous waters at the far north end of the island, handy but uncertain. There are few sewers and more of a reliance on septic systems, which means some lots can’t be built on which means more open space. And, getting on and off the island is either via one of two ferries or across an impressive and narrow two lane bridge. But, maybe that’s why we can tell folks about the place. They can visit, but it’s tough for them to stay – hence the tourist economy.

Toss that umbrella. Live like a local. Wear a hat.

The power was out this morning. The first wind storm of autumn came through and knocked trees into lines, as usual. Some streets were so covered with branches that it was hard to find the pavement. Instead of hunkering down, people began posting information about roads, outages, forecasts, and offers of help. My power came back on early, but I decided to work from the tourist town of Langley just because it was a Tuesday. A common greeting was, “Good morning. Got power? Where do you live?” People helping people.

Several years ago a mainland friend wanted to see my place. I drove us from the ferry to my house. As we stepped onto the deck they stopped. There was a bunny in my yard! Grin. “Only one?” Then, I turned to step inside the house and simply opened the door. They stopped again, honestly surprised that I hadn’t locked it. They couldn’t imagine living such a life. They thought it was just stories. Their life in the city was completely different. Maybe we should tell people that there are alternatives and options. Thanks again, to Susan Knickerbocker for nominating South Whidbey.

As for other places, a friend just moved from a dense part of Seattle to the outskirts of another retirement community called Sequim. We talked the morning he moved in. It was about 9AM. He’d already seen five cars that morning. That was fewer than he’d see in one change of the red light at his old place, but he hadn’t expected to see so many. Then, he rationalized the traffic because it was a Sunday morning. I corrected him. It was Monday. That was the morning rush hour. I think he’ll adjust.

There are places out there. Maybe they won’t make a top ten list, but they may be worth a look, anyway. In the meantime, here’s a video from my morning rush hour the other day. One bunny? Nah. (Look for the miniature appaloosa.)

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MicroVision Timeline Towards Overnight Success

Overnight successes rarely happen overnight, unless a lottery ticket purchase hits the timing and the numbers just right. Investing in startup companies rarely results in overnight successes. If the company or the stock or both are in demand, then they’re already succeeding and some of the impressive initial gains have been missed. Overnight success has more to do with public perception. News articles may splash around headlines as tweets go viral and products sell out, but those familiar with the company may breathe sighs of relief rather than shouts and celebrations. Until the news hit and the sales surged, management, employees, and shareholders couldn’t be sure when or if success would ever happen. That’s where it seems that MicroVision is now. I wonder how many of my entrepreneurial friends are in a similar situation.

MicroVision and its stock (MVIS) haven’t provided financial benefits for me, though they have certainly provided more than enough stories. I heavily filter what I post here because, even with all of those stories, I don’t want to bore you, and there’s very little quantitative progress. If you want to read more, I recommend the various discussion boards (Motley Fool, Investor Village, Silicon Investor, reddit, etc.) or blogs like Peter Jungmann’s. They’re devoted to the company and the stock much more than I am. One of the familiar refrains in the almost twenty years that I’ve owned the stock has been; “This will be great, as soon as they have their first real product.” That makes sense. It’s hard to succeed without a product. It does happen, but not for MicroVision, yet.

The hope is that MicroVision will finally be involved in a product that succeeds well enough to make the company and the stock a success. “Hope” is not an investment strategy. “Finally” doesn’t exactly have a date associated with it. And success is subjective.

Recent shareholders may consider the stock to be a success because it has doubled in the last year or so. Long time investors like me thought the stock looked good every time we bought it; otherwise, why buy it? I bought my first shares during the Internet bubble. MicroVision isn’t a dotcom, but it was caught up in the irrational exuberance. The stock was a hundred times higher, then. My hopes are that high, but my expectations have been lowered by time and dilution. (A Study In Dilution MVIS) In 2012, the stock had a reverse split, one share for every eight owned. They did that to avoid delisting. One way to avoid delisting is to keep the share price above $5. My benchmark is that $5 mark times the eight-fold change required to reach that old threshold. Just getting back to that point is about a sixteen-fold increase. Others would cheer, as would I, but I’d also know MVIS wouldn’t have been a good investment for me because of the cost of time and money. Get the stock back up to one hundred times today’s $2.59 and then I consider re-retiring.

What’s going to make that happen? What’s happened in the meantime?

For the last few years I’ve maintained a chart showing some of the company’s confirmed and potential products. Each has the potential to be that catalyst that creates MicroVision’s overnight success. Each has passed by without moving the stock to those previous levels. The chart was getting unwieldy, so I hoped to find another way to build and maintain it. Thanks to one of my major clients (the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum) I came across a timeline generator that was much nicer.

Neat ideas can take more time than expected. Thanks to a redditor, I had a much more comprehensive list of MicroVision’s products. Open the timeline template, dump in the data, rearrange the data, decide some of it could be improved, and generally spend hours of free time chasing down SEC filings, company press releases, and discussion board posts to arrive at something that is unofficial and inaccurate but better than what I had.

Those hours weren’t wasted. To many, it seems that MicroVision has yet to have a major product, or a major partner, or a major success. I was surprised to find that MicroVision released their first product near the beginning of 2002. With very few gaps, they’ve had something to sell, or something one of their customers was selling for over fifteen years. None have been viral successes, but they keep trying. And, they’re trying with partners like Sony, Sharp, Pioneer, Lenovo, etc. No wonder I’ve been hopeful for so long, and so tired of waiting.

Here’s a link to the chart. I’ll see if I can embed it, too.

This may be the nature of an overnight success, lots of activity that doesn’t catch everyone’s attention – until it does. At this point, patience is thin, the stock is a bad topic of conversation for some, and each day I look at it, I see those years of missed opportunities for me and the company.

And then I wonder. Is the same thing happening with me? I could fill a similar timeline with entries from every aspect of the incredibly short version of my resume: Consultant, Writer, Speaker, Teacher, Photographer, Engineer, Entrepreneur, etc. – a list so long that, yet again, I missed out on a job because I was overqualified. Is the same thing happening to many of my friends? They’re working hard, trying various business models, losing patience, and struggling to get by. Which idea or gig will finally let them succeed and break free?

There’s no guarantee for MicroVision, other startups, me, or my friends. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Humans are amazingly resilient. We prove that by persisting.

In the meantime, we work hard, try to find a balance or at least not step too far away from it, and hope and wait, and wonder. Success? When it happens, it may seem like it happened overnight.

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Minimalism Meets Emergency Preparedness

Best Used By 09092009. Ah, I guess it has been sitting in my pantry longer than I thought. A couple of chores were on my mind this weekend: cleaning out the pantry, and pondering emergency preparedness. There’s an overlap. The news from Harvey, Irma, and Maria convinced me to check my emergency preparedness, again. The minimalist in me was inspired by giving away an old CD player that I hadn’t used in years. What to keep and what to get rid of gets asked in both cases. Will I ever use fill-in-the-blank? Would I wish I had it if I was cut off like the people hit by hurricanes, wildfires, or our inevitable earthquakes? A box of Saltines from about a decade ago was a reminder that there are limits. Judgment calls happen.

The island’s friendly version of craigslist, drewslist, offers lots of ways to trade, sell, buy, and generally keep a community together and communicating. Besides the Jobs listings (overqualified, again, sigh), my favorite category is Free. I’ve given away several things. Whether through drewslist or just through neighbors and friends, I’ve acquired enough goodies to grow a garden, fix a few things, and ease that retail itch. One of the listings was from someone who was partway through a book on tape, really a book on CD, whose player died. They wanted a free replacement so they could finish the book. I realized I had one from about twenty years ago. The charger was gone, but it worked well on batteries. Evidently, I wasn’t using it. Here you go. Go for it. And whoosh, another episode in decluttering transpired.

This is the season for sitting down with mail order (really online) catalogs and dream shopping before the holidays. I’m just as likely to wander around the house looking for things I haven’t touched and always overlook. There’s always something that should find a new home, get repurposed, or head to the land fill. Less clutter in the house means less clutter in the head, or at least fewer distractions.

Rummaging around the cabinet over the refrigerator I, once again, maneuvered around some old cracker boxes. For more reasons than I’m going to get into here, I accidentally went gluten-free years ago. Saltines and Ritz were great when I made lots of soups with noodles, but those crackers have wheat and my doctor has turned me away from the grains that go into noodles. Pull down the boxes and look at the dates. If the Best By date was 2009, the food was probably packaged years before. How much of my pantry would I have to eat through before I was willing to break into food that was over ten years old and made from something that gives me mood crashes? The answer: a very long time. Then, I thought about Puerto Rico and stored the crackers in my outdoor emergency food cache.

The folks in Puerto Rico are in terrible conditions. That was true even before the hurricane hit. Their economy has been trashed, and vulture funds were taking control. John Oliver has a great video about it from last year, which echoes amazingly after Hurricane Maria. Federal aid is arriving, but two weeks after the winds died down. The response isn’t enough considering the impact on the people. About 3.5 million people on the island are affected. As if that lack of response isn’t bad enough, the outer islands are even less likely to be noticed.

The Seattle area has about 3.5 million people. Our most likely disasters don’t benefit from weather forecasts. Whether from the off-shore subduction zones, inland fault lines, or volcanoes, people around the Salish Sea have to be prepared for unexpected and major natural disasters. The guideline of having enough food and water for three days keeps extending. I don’t know what the official guideline is now, but I do know that the experiences in New Orleans (Katrina), Long Island (Sandy), Houston (Harvey), Miami (Irma), and Puerto Rico (Maria) have convinced me that it is best to plan for weeks and maybe months, not days. If a major quake hit Seattle the world’s news media would focus on the Space Needle and anything that fell down. Aid would probably concentrate on the ports and radiate out from there because the mountain passes may be impassable and railroads interrupted. By the time someone got to my house the news would probably be talking about someone else’s disaster. (If you want to really want to geek out on the impact of an earthquake on the Seattle area, watch Nick Zentner’s video from Central Washington University. Want something lighter? Check out my post on Seattle.Curbed.com)

Considering how difficult it was for Puerto Rico to get economic help before the hurricane and logistical support after the hurricane, I’m surprised they have just decided to declare independence because evidently they can’t depend on their government.

Of course Seattle wouldn’t be ignored, even though we are far from DC (even further than Puerto Rico is), have ticked off the administration by being inclusive and a sanctuary city, and don’t have Trump Tower that I know of. If we were so ignored, calls for Cascadia would be stronger and reach farther – after communications were re-established.

I didn’t totally audit my earthquake kit like I did a couple of years ago. I did, however, refill the backup propane tank for the BBQ, am glad I got some firewood (and would like to get more), and picked up some extra heavy plastic sheeting and tape, just in case. I also opened the emergency food cache (just an old metal Coleman cooler left in the carport), and checked for mold and such. Weird as they may be, some of those mystery meats and cheeses I got for Christmas keep better than I expected – and I expect I’ll put something a bit fresher in there after another grocery run.

Some preppers look forward to disasters so they can play, er, exercise their preparations. I’d look forward to some great excuses to take time off – except that I know that people in such situations work until they fall asleep, and then work again. Repeat as necessary.

The statistic I saw for preparedness is roughly a four-to-one return. Every dollar spent on preparedness avoids four dollars of repair. That’s an average. If $100 in reinforcements keeps a wall from falling down, then tens of thousands can be saved. If $100 of emergency supplies means not having to wait for supplies, then life returns to normal much more quickly. Time is more precious than money, especially if a bit of effort leads to a longer life.

I don’t know if my preparations are enough. No one ever knows, not even preppers. I do know that being a minimalist means there are fewer things that I’m worried about, fewer things to take care of and replace, and more time and money in the meantime. As for those crackers, well, even if I don’t eat them, they have a a value as a science experiment.

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Playing Is Hard

Stop me before I play again. That’s the feeling I hear echoed from several successful friends. They continue to accomplish and succeed because they’re good; but also beause they’re afraid to be seen as slacking off, or worse, finding that they can’t get started after they stop. I hear that echo in my head, too. Playing can be hard. Gotta work on that.

The concept can sound unnatural to those who figured out how to play before they went to kindergarten. Playing is easy. Get in touch with your inner child? Most have no need. Their inner child has great access to life and living. They’ve been practicing all of their lives. It is so ingrained that it takes as much thought as breathing. Some play so well that they have to be reminded to work. That’s not a bad situation – as long as they play nice and can pay their bills.

Two people in particular come to mind. Both have decades of life experiences and great stories to tell. Both are passionate. Both are stressed out from trying to get work done, and from taking care of others at the same time. When you see how much work needs to be done in the world, guilt is ready to step in if there’s any hesitation in the effort. Especially in America, it can be hard to prioritize play, to be self-indulgent occasionally.

I know the feeling. A few months ago I started taking a day off almost every week. Great! Play time! Ha! After a few years of working seven days a week, frequently 10-12 hours a day, I’ve found it difficult to disconnect with work and reconnect with the rest of life. I’m in a better financial situation than about half of Americans, and I can only pay all of my bills by exercising the credit card at tax time, and deferring lots of repairs. Unwinding after six days of work takes more than a day. Unfortunately, that means a week needs another day or two. Imagine what it is like for those who aren’t in as comfortable of a situation. Stress becomes a constant, and the current culture doesn’t provide much relief. No wonder people are upset and angry. If they had more free time they might even be able to do something about it politically, but that wouldn’t be playing.

When I dance, I smile. I’m lucky. I realized that a few years ago. Have a tough day. Grumble my way to the dance floor, and then laugh at myself as moving to the music makes me smile. For the typical three minutes of a song, there’s no past or future, just finding the flow that moves the dance and the dancers. There’s not enough time to do anything else. I’ve been asked to teach dance, but dancing was the first thing I found that was guilt-free play. I don’t want to turn it into work.

Coincidentally, the two people I talked to this week also find that music helps. Almost as a confession, each revealed their desire to sing. It was a guilty pleasure that they can indulge in that costs little, leaves no trace, and which they can control and access anytime. But, they aren’t comfortable giving it more time.

They are so globally aware that they have difficulty deciding to treat themselves while hurricanes, firestorms, and earthquakes are affecting friends and fellow humans.

I finished most of my work this afternoon. It was a sweet autumn Saturday, one of the last days for farmers markets, easy bicycle rides, and enjoying dinner as the sun is eclipsed by the horizon. There were about a half a dozen work items today. Between a few, I snuck in a computer game (Civilization III). Guilty? Guilty. Out of hours of work on a Saturday, I carved out about an hour of play time. The optimizer in me knows that time would’ve been better spent applying for jobs, advertising a writers workshop, or rearranging my desk. Even if I wanted to grant myself time to away from work, I could’ve meditated, gone for a run, (I actually did practice karate for a while), or even just sit on the deck for a few minutes. Instead, I played a game on a computer, as if I hadn’t already spent too much time working with keyboard and mouse. But now, I’m finally recognizing it as play, and not just a diversion.

There are probably plenty of self-help books, seminars, and coaches to help us foreigners to the work of play. That’s help that comes from the outside. I suspect the best help comes from inside. Be your own authority figure. Grant yourself the opportunity to play. The first step may be playing with the idea of what play looks like for someone more than fifty years past kindergarten.

I’ve ridden my bicycle across America, been glad I did, and not felt a wave of celebration as I crossed my arbitrary finish line (which happened to be at Key West, right after a hurricane blew through. Echoes.) I had the same reaction when I finally made it to the train station in Aberdeen after walking across Scotland, glad I did it, but didn’t have the internal equivalent of a colorful buntings and a brass band. (Check out the books inspired by each – Just Keep Pedaling, Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland.)

Between those two events was a time when I worked with a counselor as I navigated me and my emotions through a divorce. It was enlightening and refreshing to hear a professional tell me that my reaction made sense because I’d never learned how to play. I was raised for success. Get the right grades. Get the right degree. Get the right job. Build the right network. Do what everyone else expected. It was a long line of “shoulds”. It was just assumed that I’d learn how to play. Playing in my neighborhood included a strong chance of being beat up. For me, that was physical. For others who haven’t learned to play, they’ve told stories that were more emotional or financial. I retreated into books, and even read the encyclopedia (something harder to do, now.) They had other safe and serious retreats.

There is a frugal aspect to play. Frugality is about respecting resources. That’s usually described as respecting things like money and time. Take it a level deeper and respect the self. Humans are meant to be multi-dimensional, more than just workers, more than only living a life of servitude. We’re social, silly, incredibly imperfect, trying to navigate a chaotic world, and are foolish if we believe we can control everything and that luck doesn’t get involved.

Playing can be hard. But I’ve found play that lives outside others “shoulds”. I should enjoy watching sports, but I’d rather go for a jog than watch a professional athlete. I should enjoy music, but not if I have to sit still through it. I should enjoy reading books, and I do, but I also enjoy writing. It’s now late Saturday night. I spent about an hour writing this blog. That may not seem like fun to many, and it’s not like I’m sitting here laughing while I do it, but I’ve finally realized that writing is playing with words. If it helps others, great; but I know I do it from a sense of play, a freedom to express myself as if no one was watching or reading.

If you’re struggling with finding play, don’t be surprised you’re not alone. As silly as it sounds, successful folks who drive their lives through to-do lists and action items may just have to include another task and give it a high priority: play with play. It may be hard, but it is valuable and fun – eventually.

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