Patrick Rhone’s enough is a collection of essays on mindfulness that will help you become better aware of where your time and attention is being spent and offers tips on how to control that. It’s a quick read and written in a manner that’s great to pick it up for reference any time you need recalibration.

Here are some of my favorite quotes and ideas, and my thoughts about them:

To get to [enough], one must let go of what-ifs, conjecture, assumptions, guesses, and half-truths. One must overcome fear, gluttony, self-doubt, and thoughts of grandeur. One must ask hard questions to find harder answers.

It’s scary but you have to let go of things always being perfect to understand what enough is.

Decide to be adequately prepared for the things that matter to you, balanced with practicality and the realization that sometimes you are going to get a little wet no matter how many umbrellas you own.

We can’t be prepared for every situation so focus on what’s most important, like the health and well-being of your family.

When one defines intention, values, and purpose, limitations create themselves.

Limitations are a good thing. Set them and embrace them whenever you can.

There is a purpose within most of [the scheduled religious] rituals: to turn your attention away from the things outside towards the focus on the practice within.

Make focus routine.

Our goal then is to seek, for any task, the tool that provides the perfect balance between simple, easy, and right.

Notice that “best”, “feature-rich”, or what your “favorite blogger linked to” aren’t in that list?

It’s not the tools that you have faith in—tools are just tools. They work, or they don’t work. It’s people you have faith in or not. —Steve Jobs

You can’t do it all alone. Find people who you can depend in and ask them for help when you need it.

We should take time to consider the tools we use, purposefully opt-out or decline some of them, and take regular sabbaticals.

Being away from something, through sabbaticals, gives us a more accurate perspective for consideration.

When it comes to social networks, having a hard limit on how many people you can and will follow is tremendously helpful in meeting [the goal of cultivating and deepening connections]. I can’t tell you what that number should be for you. That said, I have a suggestion of one number to be aware of in order to help you find that balance — Dunbar’s number.

From experience of more than a couple years, limiting my Facebook friends to 150 has greatly improved its value for me. My use of Facebook is becoming more and more infrequent but when I do use it, it’s easier to focus on the people I actually care about.

I write letters. But, not just any letters. Letters that may not ever be sent. In some cases, ones that I knew I would never send, even before I wrote them.

I love this idea and think I’m going to adopt it.

A real conversation should be a journey. It should take you places. It should not have limits. It should be a full sensory experience. It should be immersive. It should be timeless. It should not be ambient. It should be intimate. It should have depth.

I think this is why I can’t stand small talk. The conversation is shallow and neither parties are invested. I’m curious how I can start a conversational journey with someone without blowing through their comfort zone.

[Technology’s] ability to distract is only as powerful as our ability to let it do so.

It’s not the distraction-free whatever environment that gets things done, it’s you. If you decide to do it.

Loneliness is failed solitude. —Sherry Trukle

Solitude is a powerful thing when embraced. It takes practice but learn to take comfort in being surrounded only by your own thoughts.

Create the communication you wish to see in the world.

The crowd, the meeting attendees, your boss, they’re going to fight back because effective communication is hard. Show them, by making it happen, that it’s worth the investment.

For everything we take, someone else must give.

Be grateful. Always.

Patrick Rhone’s enoughPaperback | ePub | Kindle

On Suffering

In the forward for Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Harold Kushner, author of the best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, introduces a theme that threads through Frankl’s recount of his three years spent in Nazi concentration camps:

Life is primarily not a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power as Alfred Alder taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.

Frankl’s endurance through the concentration camps taught him that all but one thing can be taken away from a man. His things, his family and loved ones, his voice, freedom, and health can be taken, but the last of the human freedoms that can be stolen is the ability “to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to chose one’s own way.”

No matter your position, wealth, fame, or spirituality, you will continuously encounter affliction throughout your life. No more or less of anything worldly or heavenly will help you allude suffering. You can’t chose to avoid it, only how you deal with it when it comes. The choice you are given is what attitude you respond to suffering with.

The form and timing of suffering varies greatly. It’s the awkward conversation with your least favorite coworker just as much as it’s the chemotherapy you and your wife struggle through as she fights breast cancer. Suffering is walking in the rain when your bus didn’t show up and it’s living on after the death of your young child. The affliction in these situations differ greatly but the choice to respond accordingly is equally present in all.

Suffering is inevitable and when it comes, choose to respond with grace and courage.

Having courage in difficult times, which Frankl suggests as a source of meaning in our lives, determines how we respond to the hardships presented. We can’t choose what we are dealt but we are in control of our response. Responding to suffering with grace and understanding at the equal and adequate level—mind like water1—requires courage to counteract the visceral response of anger and vengeance. The accurate response to suffering also requires patience, control, and a reflexive understanding of the situation.

I don’t intend to answer the eternal question of why suffering exists but it does exist, so it only makes sense that there is a greater meaning to each of our struggles. How can we determine what this is and what we can do with it?

Much of our society lives only to serve themselves. They build up possessions, relationships, and beliefs that are to satisfy their curiosity of the question of existence. As suffering is inevitable, it follows us through life and will oppress us, deflate us, and slow us down. Life can be lived without questioning anything beyond ones self but when suffering begins the questions of why begin. Those questions are prompted because they are core to suffering. Suffering doesn’t happen without a why and answering that question helps validate that instance of it.

Suffering is only valid if it’s for some greater cause. To not suffer in vain, seek answers and understanding.

Understanding suffering comes from experiencing it. Over time, we develop a tolerance to the pain, anxiety, and frustration of these hardships and grow an understanding of it. You learn to leverage the hardest parts and appreciate the parts of it that push you forward. The more of these situations we experience, the better we grasp how they can be benefit and improve our lives. Suffering doesn’t disappear the more we pursue it but we learn to endure it because of our understanding of its role in a greater cause, for or beyond ourselves.

Frankl’s release came when he recognized and understood the greater gain of his suffering in concentration camps. He envisioned himself, a professor and psychologist, lecturing on the psychology of concentration camps. He began to see his troubles as a psycho-scientific study rather than meaningless oppression. He quotes Spinoza’s Ethics as a mantra:

Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.

Through mindfulness we can form a clear understanding of why our case of suffering is important to our greater character and cause. Grasping this requires a perspective of courage, strength, and longevity rather than oppression, stress, and hopelessness.

The more we pursue and persevere through suffering the less we suffer.

Suffering is relieved by a clarified understanding that comes from mindfulness, which is rooted in courage and hope. Courage and understanding comes from experiencing suffering. To suffer with meaning requires an understanding of the suffering’s value in life. Don’t try to avoid suffering; realize that its inevitable. Embrace your choice in navigating suffering and respond to it in a way that brings clarity and understanding. Understand the connection between your suffering and a greater cause.

Make suffering a search for meaning.

  1. A term used in the martial arts and talked about by David Allen in the first chapter of Getting Things Done , where ones response is totally appropriate and equal in force to the input. Mind Like Water is also often related to a Bruce Lee quote 

35 Mile Lesson

Yesterday, I walked the 35 miles (56 KM) around the island of Manhattan. I did this to see new parts of the city and as a personal challenge. We walked for 13 hours with only a few breaks along the way. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Here are some lessons the challenge taught me:

  • Both your body and mind will give in to exhaustion eventually. Make your mind outlast your body and your body will outlast exhaustion.

    When every step is painful, it takes a strong mind to move a weak body. Even the strongest body will fail without the mind pushing it to take the next step.

  • Practice meditation.

    Being aware of discomfort—or outright pain—but choosing to not let it stop you is the ultimate mindfulness. This comes with practice. If you can’t meditate in the best of conditions, you won’t be able to in the worst, when you need it most.

  • Depend in yourself but rely on others.

    You’re not going to find someone to carry you across the finish line. Finishing is all on you but your friends, teammates, and family will be able to encourage you to take the next step even when you think you can’t. Find people who you can rely on to help keep you going.

  • “Embrace the suck.”

    Embrace doesn’t mean love, enjoy, or seek out; it means to understand that the suck is part of the journey. Accept it as that.

  • More people fail than finish.

    This is because there are more reasons to quit than to keep going. Find a good reason to stick it out and follow this through to the end.

  • Push adventure harder to earn more scars and stories.

    Life’s exhilarating moments usually take some physical toll. Start playing with fire more; it’s good to get burned sometimes. Make that diving catch; get bruised. Our world is pretty safe so push the bounds of risk. You’ll be OK.

  • Don’t forget to look up and enjoy the view.

    The last few miles were the hardest part. Putting my head down and pushing on was what I felt I needed to do but looking up and seeing the New York skyline—finding something to enjoy when everything else sucked—gave me perspective and payoff for what I was in the middle of.

55 people started and eight finished smiling, sore, and with a new perspective of the city’s limits and their own.

Tools Are Just That

We’re lucky to have an abundance of tools—insanely great ones—to use in our daily life. Consider the technical feat of some of your tools. I use a MacBook Air that’s 0.68 of an inch thick and not even 3 pounds, an iPad that has the most incredible screen in a consumer device that didn’t even exist two years ago, and an iPhone that has more computing power than PCs from recent years in the palm of my hand. These devices run incredible software that are created, often, by independent developers that care about how people feel using the apps and have the accuracy of pixel-perfect design.

We’re spoiled. The quality of these tools makes it easy to be distracted from the fact that they are just tools. Yes, they make our lives and work easier, they can make it more meaningful, and can connect us together. Even with this, they are just the medium or method that we do and create.

You aren’t your tools or even the output of your tools. I see developers listing their choice of Textmate, the newest, most expensive Adobe suite, and whatever other dev tools they use on their website just as prominently as the work they’ve created, like somehow the apps they pick make them better at what they do. Clients don’t care about your tools, they care about your work. Don’t define your work by the tools you use. A great writer can sit down in front of any tool and write—paper and pen, Apple Extended Keyboard II, typewriter, or distraction-free whatever. Their tools are a method to create and what comes from their tools is a product of their genius, not some software.

Still care about your tools. Use the best that you can but understand that better tools don’t necessarily make you a better creator. Use them in ways that liberate you to create. Don’t let the fear of damaging your tools stop you from using them as they were intended. A wrench doesn’t get left in the toolbox just so it doesn’t get scratched up; yet it shouldn’t get left in the rain. See tools as the gear that equips you to create but not the sole thing that enables you.

Own your tools—know them and care for them—but don’t let them own you.

Daily Scratchpad Script Hack

I’ve been on a hunt for a reliable way to collect notes throughout the work day. I need a place that I can brain dump and use as an inbox. I use index cards a lot and like them, but they are not searchable or archivable. Text files are great for that but they can be a pain to manage. I like BBEdit’s use of scratchpads in projects and wanted to mold that into a system that’s easy to initiate, manage, and comes along with the benefits of flat text files.

For a while, I used BBEdit’s single Scratchpad.txt file and just set a hotkey in Alfred to open or display the little window. With this method I wouldn’t keep the text, just delete it and have a fresh Scratchpad.txt when I felt like it. I also played around manually creating a new scratchpad text file daily, but the point of a scratchpad is that it’s just always there when you need it, no fuss.

Today, I finally broke down and made an Applescript that is initiated by a hotkey via Alfred. I hope it will solve my problem. It does three things:

  1. Creates a new date-stamped text file for today, if one doesn’t exist
  2. Opens up today’s date-stamped text file, if the file already exists
  3. Sets the window size of your last scratchpad text file1.

This solves for a few issues. It makes management easy because I don’t have to manually create a new file and name it with today’s date stamp, scratchpad files are only created when I need them so I don’t have hundreds of empty text files, and the most important thing: it’s always where I need it to be, one keystroke away.

You can download the script if you’re interested. To use the 12-01-31 date format in the filenames2 you’ll have to change the format in System Preferences > Language & Text > Formats > Customize. The script is set up with my path and filename preference but you can obviously change it to anything you’d like. You’ll also be able to make it work with TextMate, TextEdit, or whatever editor you use by changing which application you tell.

I’d love to know what kind of Applescript/text file hacks you use. Tweet me or email me at the links below.

Update (12-07-30): Mountain Lion made something in this script a little wonky. Here’s an updated version that fixes it.

  1. BBEdit opens up new windows pretty large, especially on a Cinema Display. 

  2. This is the output of short date string of (current date)

Appetite and Limiting Hunger

“It is necessary to handle yourself better when you have to cut down on food so you will not get too much hunger-thinking. Hunger is good discipline and you learn from it.”

—Ernest Hemingway

Our bodies have natural needs and desires. When we need more our bodies start telling us. Our appetite defines what it is we seek to satisfy our hunger.

I have a regular dinner menu that is simple, healthy, and satisfies me. I’ve had the same thing for dinner three or four times a week for nearly the last six months. I’m intrigued by foodies but wonder about their appetite. Are they so driven to explore the palates of different recipes and cultures that they are unable to enjoy the simple staples anymore? I enjoy great food but it’s not something I depend upon. My hunger is elsewhere so I choose not to spend the time and money on searching for recipes, shopping, and cooking. I focus my appetite on other things.

What is it you’re hungry for? If it’s something broad like “success”, do you know what the next steps are for you to “succeed”? What if you’re hungry to make that clackity noise as much as you can? If that’s your hunger, it can be satisfied if you just keep on writing. Do you know what can satisfy your hunger?

It’s great to be hungry for big ideas, big change, and big successes but having an appetite for the simple staples that will lead you to something bigger helps focus what you pursue.

Patrick Rhone, in his book enough, puts it perfectly:

When one defines intention, values, and purpose, limitations create themselves.

When we define what we’re hungry for we recognize what other things matter less. Limits are created; not limits as to what we can attain, but limits on what we choose to pursue. Focus.

When we “get too much hunger-thinking”, as Hemingway puts it, we are distracted. We think about all the different things we want to do, most of which we never pursue. Learning how to suppress your hunger for things that don’t matter turns your hunger to the appetites that do matter.

Be hungry for things that are bigger than you. Be hungry for things that are true and good. Have such an appetite for them that you will suffer for and because of them. Suppress your appetite for anything else.

Find your hunger and stay hungry.

Jotting Notes and Stealing Ideas

I don’t read back through my Field Notes often enough and it’s 48 pages don’t get filled quickly enough. But as I sat down and flipped through the last few months of scribbling, I noticed something; it’s full of great stuff. The best ideas aren’t mine, though. There’s wisdom from books I’m reading, things from sermons and podcasts, and conversations I’ve overheard. There’s the odd good thing that I can claim ownership of, though it’s probably nothing that hasn’t been thought of before. There’s also lots of crap—doodles and bad math, rhymes and prose that aren’t worthy of any place other than getting shoved back into my pocket.

Paging through the little book, I found that even though the ideas weren’t all novel or penned by me they became mine in the way they were threaded—connected—page by page, in the same messy scribbles, in the same voice and shorthand, all working together towards the same goal. They’re just as much mine, now that I pulled out a pen and made a mark, as the person who first put them to paper. Writing that idea down made it real for me and put it into existance while not taking anything away from anyone else. It’s a positive transaction. Steal as many ideas as you can. Piece together the things other smart people do and say and build them into your platform.

When you capture an idea it’s just a small piece of something bigger. Something you can’t really picture or describe yet. But when you look back through the pages you start to see how the ideas connect and the shape of that something begins to come together.

Cultivate that. Put back into it. Keep stealing so it can keep growing. Then give it all away so someone else can steal.