The deafening expectations on a drone

I recently heard a friend express a mindset I know too well – that he was drowning in the expectations of others. I have been there. There was a time when I felt that I was even accountable to my dog. I don’t know or care if there is a clinical name for that state of mind. I only care that it’s wrong and that it’s healthy to get past that feeling.

It’s not that others can’t impose – they can and do. It’s not that we don’t truly have obligations to meet – we do. The problem is that we can sink into an existence that doing what is expected of us is all we are. We become beings whose only value is doing our jobs. Worse, those jobs only increase in number, have virtually no rewards and they never end.

This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The people and institutions in our lives enforce a thankless, workaholic drone existence. No, not the pilotless drone aircraft, the drone bee, who does nothing but work for the queen in service to the hive:

Image result for drone bee

I have found some ways out of this trap, but for sure it can still be a struggle, and one that depresses and steals joy. Here are some ideas:

  1. Celebrate. If you are like me, you work for and/or with people who rarely if ever give you a sense of completion, even when you are victorious. At least that’s how you see things and how you hear what they say. Every finished task is rewarded by a list of future expectations. In that situation, it’s not just advisable but required that you intentionally mark your accomplishments with times of relaxation, reflection and parties. I mean spend resources – time and money – to formally do it. You have done and/or built something beautiful.  It’s part of life’s rhythm to sit back and rejoice in that, enjoy it.  And if you don’t do that, your longing for closure and the accompanying “feel good” will plague you. I know this from experience.This includes celebrating the finished work of others. Because the joy is contagious whenever you do.
  2. Identify voices. If there are certain people who make it a habit of telling you only what you haven’t done, make sure you notice and give them a label – toxic. It’s not that you always get to separate yourself from these people, but you can certainly marginalize their impact on your life. It may be that you must pay attention to these people (e.g. this might be your boss). But the message of incessant shortcoming is not good to listen to; so learn to tune that part out.
  3. Turn down the volume of competing priorities. I have had times when urgency was all I heard. And I was not imagining it – it was all there was. So I developed a saying – “If everything is urgent, nothing is urgent” – that has served me well. Find the few people who can help you and get your priorities straight. If they can’t help you 1) make your own priorities by level of impact (list things by what you think can you do that would help the most) and 2) know they are not worthy to be advisers or authorities in your life.
  4. Ask for help. I was never accountable to my dog. It was just a job I had assumed that turned into drudgery at times. We didn’t even need a dog in the first place, though Alex gave me great joy also. But as for stuff like that, rotate the job with others or take the steps to just eliminate it from your life.
  5. Decide what really matters. Years ago, a wise friend in the Christian faith shared a verse from the Old Testament with me – Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Now I have determined I’m a mortal, so this pertains to me. The first two parts – act justly and love mercy – define attitudes and actions towards myself and others. Am I just with myself – really weighing what I’ve done and am doing against how things were before I did those things ? And do I love mercy – towards myself? Do I forgive myself, cut myself some slack and allow for myself to learn life’s lessons? The last part is about being humble; putting others first and letting myself be a small part of something much, much bigger.

    And these things apply to how I work with others. Acting justly and loving mercy gives them the same benefits I need.

    So if this is all that’s required of me – and I would posit it does – the urgency projected onto the drone are simply the wrong measuring stick for a life well lived.

It’s Christmas in 2 days. Let’s relax and celebrate. Because we need it.


God and the geek – part 793 – The Facet Value Vector

I’m working on a very cool project – which in itself is a story of redemption for which there’s no room here to tell.

The first part of software work is to design. And that’s where the work is at. I am the lone designer though I’m bringing in lots of people to help give opinions and information. You don’t do this alone.

But I hit a snag. There was a nasty design problem that just wasn’t yielding to my efforts. All solutions I came up with were either too slow or just incomplete. It’s a tough one.

If you are non-spiritual please bear with me here; it’s part of the story I promise.

One of the ways I pray I call “passive prayer” – I believe it’s a form of praying without ceasing that St. Paul encouraged. When I do it, I think and do stuff and then ask God what He thinks. Or, I can just stop if I’m stumped and ask for help. Because God is an engineer too! 🙂

It was in such a spiritual atmosphere – on the airplane to our annual conference actually – that my mind realigned to think about the problem at hand. It was a classic “you’re going about this all wrong” revelation.

I recorded the new approach and between talking to customers at the conference I prototyped it, writing some Java code to check out the idea with real data.

The results were amAZing. Not only did it solve the complete problem, it did so 100 times faster. That’s a big number when you’re trying to speed things up in the software business.

I explained the idea to some friends who are close to the project. One of them said I should patent the idea. Maybe I’ll try to do that, but his comments were testament to its originality and effectiveness.

Soli Deo gloria – all glory to God here – there are serious annual revenues riding on the success of this work.

But that pales compared to the value in letting you – and everyone – know that God is there for the seemingly mundane stuff. Like the Facet Value Vector.

Now, I know that engineering scares a lot of people. It scares ME sometimes. But if I revere minds that think technically advanced things, how much more will I revere the mind of One who can inform them.

But whatever problems you are faced with – and we ALL face problems – I invite you to pray and find God there to answer. Not a huge, formal thing, just a breathe asking for help. Because it’s there for the asking.

How I’ve made peace with winter

Winter. Season of death, frozen tundra, blowing snow and the reign of all things icy.

I like it, have always liked it.

I like the snowscapes, the way it drifts and sculpts the land with sharp ridges and sunken, clean-blown valleys. And it’s white, so white.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool”

The image of purity and restored innocence is not lost on me.

Icicles themselves are a study in their bulbous crystalline growth. If I give myself time I can see the drops trickle down the length of a long one, never finishing their plunge to earth. And when they catch the sunlight the shower of disbursed rays defies prediction and description.

When there is a storm, and this year there are plenty, we stay indoors.  Travel is impossible.  There’s a humility in that somehow warms me.  People may find it perverse; I don’t care.  There’s something right about being humbled by an event of nature that’s good for me, good for all people, whether they appreciate it or not.  And it’s just right – not a killer disaster like an earthquake or tornado.

People complain, but then they sit at home, having to be quiet as the storm rages around them.  Generally, people are well-fed and warm.  The coziness is to be enjoyed to my way of thinking.

When I was younger, I loved having snow days.  Missing school was one thing – there was one February – in 1970 I think – we literally had only 3 days of school.  But playing in the snow was a whole adventure in itself.  Our snow forts were edifices of grandeur – though they also had the practical quality of defense against the onslaught of snowballs projected by the enemy – the kids across the driveway.  And we’d form an arsenal of frozen weaponry for such battles.

I got so good at making snowballs that I decided it was a good thing to practice on moving vehicles.  I pelted one on the way home from school one day and got a vicious tongue-lashing by a driver who thought he’d hit something.  He was right; my snow balls were simple too well made for traffic use.  Unlike some downright delinquent friends – who somehow NEVER got spoken to – It was the last time I did that.

The part that most people don’t like about winter and snow is moving it.  Now I completely sympathize and have had many years of miserable experience doing that.  You get cold.  The snow is heavy.  You get a heart attack (really!) from shoveling.

So I want to say that if one is to enjoy the humility of being snowed in, there needs to be an conquering spirit that can only thrive when you are suitably equipped.  With a snow blower.

I loaned my snow blower to a neighbor once who HAD to report, ebulliently “There is NO BETTER WAY TO MOVE SNOW”.

I was glad to share the experience and life-lesson with him, for I know I had put joy into his winters forever.

There was a year in the late 80s when purchasing a Ariens snow blower became a need – not unlike a dishwasher around the same time – something we budgeted and did.  I still use my Ariens; I did this morning:

And that’s it.

I know folks in Minnesota do more outside in the winter than the summer while in Maine one asks “What do you do in winter?” with the requisite answer “We don’t”.

But I’ve made peace with winter for the most part.  Even if you haven’t be glad with me that spring is coming.  It will be warm and green and pleasant in every way.