I've started meditation

I started meditating for at least 15 min/day about two weeks ago after reading The Code of the Extraordinary Mind (2016) by V. Lakhiani, CEO and Founder at MindValley.com.

And now I finished Stress Less, Accomplish More (2019) by Emily Fletcher. Not too long ago, I read How We Work (2018) by Leah Weiss, PhD. All of the above three books discuss meditation.


And… I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner. No magic here, just awesome usefulness. No wonder our top leaders use it.

There’s this quote on my wall by Viktor Frankl, “In between the stimulus and the response is a space, a space in which we can choose our response. In our response we find our growth and our freedom” (paraphrased from a Spanish language translation). He means specifically, I believe, that in becoming aware of our awareness, and less blind to our blindness, we realize our freedom to choose – I really like things that are meta.

I also finished reading recently, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and Nobel Laureate in Economics. Kahneman illustrates the nature of our two forms of thinking, with fast thinking representing our intuitive, automatic form, the form which happens to us; as opposed to the slow, deliberate, rational form that we choose to do.

Daniel Kahneman points out that we think that we make our decisions rationally, that our slow thinking stands at the bridge as the captain of our decision-making, yet careful scrutiny shows that our deliberate thinking proves more of a stowaway – our fast thinking steers the ship most (maybe nearly all) of the time. And this has worked well enough to allow our species to survive and reproduce.

It’s a powerful part of who we are and we should trust it most of the time. Better yet, we can and should train it.

If we understand its limitations and see where sometimes it may steer us astray, I believe there in that space between stimulus and choice is what Viktor Frankl means by finding our freedom; our freedom to choose, and our freedom away from our limitations.

Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to this concept as response-ability, meaning both our responsibility for our choices and our ability to choose how we respond.


The other day I was cooking eggs, sunny side up. I needed a spatula to pick up the eggs and place them onto a plate. The drawer that held our cooking utensils had a pair of salad tongs on top, open and tangled, blocking the spatula and other utensils.

My wife saw me fiddling with the salad tongs as I was cooking eggs sunny side up. We have another pair of salad tongs hanging by the range hood. She reached for those and kindly handed them to, saying, “Here, Babe.”

My initial thought was, “What am I supposed to do with this?” Salad tongs would not have been the right tool for the job. I didn’t say that.

Instead I responded with, “Thanks, Babe. I was reaching for a spatula, the salad tongs were just in the way.

“But,” with amusement, “I love how you chose to let me do me, with a very open mind, thinking, ‘Maybe he’s about to do something unique and interesting with salad tongs and sunny side up eggs.'”

We both laughed it off.

I’ve become just a little bit more aware of my awareness, and am starting to make it a habit to notice my thoughts rather than letting my thoughts automatically lead me.

I noticed my body automatically felt some mild upset on top of the mild frustration over having to untangle the drawer. I noticed the stimulus. And I chose humor and compassion rather than irritability.


A famous study showed that that probability of judges’ deciding to grant parole decreased as time passed further away from when the judges last ate. Their default was to deny parole.

Emily Fletcher points out in her book that when we’re mentally depleted, we tend to default to our baseline level of stress.

Default behaviors tend to encompass those behaviors of survival and reproduction; in particular, survival, defensiveness, self-preservation.

I think my choice not to respond with irritability might have to do with meditation increasing one’s mental reserve, in addition to becoming more aware of awareness. Daniel Kahneman’s research reveals that the more mentally depleted one is, the more one defaults to automatic behaviors, a certain baseline. In and of itself, that’s neither good nor bad, but the default doesn’t reasonably fit all situations.

Morning routines start with Step 0

Like many, it feels easier staying up late than getting up early. I keep reading about how many successful people create a morning routine that involves some combination of:

• Getting up early

• Exercise

• Meditation or prayer or mental/spiritual practice

• Reading or audiobook

• Targeted diet

And then get to work.

I think the morning routine starts with the night before. Especially for my day job.

If I know I have ruck march, range detail or field exercise, then I check all my equipment and myself the night before, even getting my clothes ready ahead of time and making sure I sleep early.

The hard part is actually doing it. When’s the right time? Bedtime or soon as I get home? Or sometime between?

Hitting a financial wall

I suppose it’s a simple math problem: cost vs. benefit, risk vs. reward, and in comparison to my next-best option(s). But right now, it feels like a wall.

I’m coming close to finishing a financial app project, which I call iBankify.com. Right now, the website itself iBankify.com simply forwards to this blog.

Then the app project completes, it’ll forward to the Google Play URL. And from there, depending on demand, I plan to use ClickFunnels.com.

Well, to finish, the project, we need a financial API provider, like Yodlee.com. Initial quotes start at $500/mo for the first 1,000 users. Is that out of my present price range?

Sort of… Yes, I can. But should I?

I have two e-commerce projects underway that measure less costly. They’re starting to look quite favorable.

Story time as an opportunity to train kids

I encountered a statistic that said that dads spend about 30 sec/day on average talking to their children – probably not true, as I can’t seem to find it on the internet now, but probably not far from the truth either. Immediate search results reveal amounts between 4 min and 7 min per day.

7:30 PM used to be bedtime snack-time for our kids. I’ve switched it to bedtime clean-up time, followed by snack-time. And now snack-time doubles as story time.

Rather than use children’s books, I’ve decided to use non-fiction samples, social experiments, and thought experiments. Plus I find it fun to apply the Socratic method on my kids.

Kitty Genovese, 1964. Of course, I left much of the tragedy out of the real-life murder story. I introduced her story as a story about a kitty who was attacked and who sadly didn’t survive. I described the behavior of the attacker as a type of error of commission, in that he did something bad. I described the behavior of the bystanders as an error of omission, in that they failed to do something good. I also used the story to introduce them to social proof work, the conditions that enable social proof, and leadership during uncertainty.

The Stanford Marshmallow Test, 1960s and 1970s. I used the famous experiment to ask questions on how self-control or self-discipline might help one succeed in the long run, and how lazy might really mean sacrificing the long-term for the short-term.

A variation on a thought experiment by libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. I didn’t remember the details of the experiment, but I did remember enough to question my kids about the meaning of fairness. My son complained about it not being fair that his 5-yr old cousin didn’t need to clean up at 1930 like he did. I asked whether she had school the next day and whether she had a reason to sleep early.

I had fun with that one. The third time around, I more quickly situated the kids to gain even more time discussing with them. Plus, “It’s not fair” is a fairly relatable comment for them.

The thought experiment goes that in a country in which you reign supreme, there exist 1,000,000 citizens who receive a fair income, by however your define fair. Matt, a famous American piano player, performs at your country’s one stadium, which can somehow handle all 1,000,000 citizens. All attend. And, all pay $1. Matt gets to keep every dollar. How much did he earn? $1,000,000. Is that fair?

My daughter said no and provided a clever reason – everyone else earns $1B, so he got shortchanged!

My son said no, because that’s more than what everyone else got. This is the typical answer I’ve heard from adults. So I ask, if it’s not fair for him to receive $1,000,000, was it somehow unfair for your citizens to give $1,000,000?

I really enjoyed watching them discuss. I then threw a wrench into their focus.

What about attractiveness?

Some of us are born attractive. Some not. Is that fair?… If it isn’t, should it be? How would you make it fair? Would that even be possible (reference to Ancient Greek mythological villain Procrustes)?

Tonight’s story time will be on Plato’s Cave.

Ignorance is no excuse, but impossibility is

My boss is giving me this negative counseling for missing a medical appointment. It’s serious business in the military; it amounts to failing to report to one’s assigned time and place.

Thing is, on that day, we had left to Joint Base Charleston around 0430. At 0637, via WhatsApp, I received the word for the group medical appointment for a hearing exam.

I explained this to her. Her response, “Ignorance is no excuse.” What other possibility was there? The best that I could was make up for it later, which I did a couple days later.

Eh… Doesn’t even bother me.

Extreme leadership

Enough to lead to one to sacrifice his life. What would lead one to do such a thing? We don’t need to go far for examples. The suicide bomber. The soldier who jumps onto a grenade. The kamikaze pilot or banzai charge. The parent who rushes into traffic to save a child.

I completed my company command interview this past Tuesday. Part of the interview required that I show up with a packet of documents, to include a command philosophy.

I chose not to create a command philosophy. I’ll create it with the unit, if I get selected. (I think I mentioned it in my last article – I really should get to writing daily again.)

How? What will the meeting look like?

It’ll center around asking and answering that question: What conditions could we set to lead the team to give everything it has to our success?

Why does the soldier risk his life to save another? Simon Sinek puts it best; not for God or country, but as they all say, “Because they would’ve done it for me.”

Reciprocation. That one feels safe enough to take the risk, to take the initiative, because he feels confident enough in both himself and in those whom he has come to trust, that they would do the same for him.

Confidence. That he feels confident in himself to do so.

Psychological safety.



The list goes on with values that the unit could elicit from the question.

The why represents the cause; the how and what, the effect.

The front sight focus will be the cause, the conditions for success.

The rear sight aperture will be our rules and regulations. The how.

The blurry black center will be our mission, our vision, already prescribed; no need to re-invent that wheel. The what.

Interview for company command tomorrow

Whether I receive command or not, won’t matter to my military career any more – not this close to retirement and not given my end goals. Additionally, I feel happy with my life and career as I experience it right now. Taking on command would significantly disrupt the situation I now enjoy. Why, then, did I apply for command?

Well, it doesn’t happen very often that the Soldiers themselves ask for a commander, bottom-up. (My use of the word Soldier in this context refers to the junior ranks, grades E-1 through E-4. In the British Royal Marine Corps, the word Marine in addition to referring to any of its members also serves as its lowest rank.)

Commanders (CDRs) get appointed from higher, not asked for from lower. In fact, the military doesn’t care much for what lower asks for. I do. Therefore, why not apply for command? It still remains my boss’s and his boss’s decision. Whether I get it or not, I don’t control.


I don’t expect to actually receive it. One of my recent evaluations, the one for 2016, rated me as qualified. In the US Army, Officer evaluations go bottom-up as follows (with comparable K-12 school letter grades): unqualified (F- like muh fukr), qualified (F to D), highly qualified (C- to B to A- depending on the wording), and best qualified (A+).

And so, I rated as qualified, or just about failing. Why? Did I rob a bank, slap a grandma, do drugs or drive while intoxicated? None of the above. I went to the psych ward for suicide, got laptops quarantined for a spillage incident despite running it by my boss prior (which I admit I should’ve known better anyway and so I don’t blame him), and checked the disagree box on several of my counselings.

We’re supposed to personally counsel our rated Soldiers and Officers upon concluding an evaluation; especially if qualified. He didn’t. I suspect he wanted to avoid confrontation; most likely, as work busyness normally goes, he simply never got around to it. Therefore, I don’t know for sure why the rating. Doesn’t matter. I respect the evaluation. It worked out in my favor (for another blog post).


I no longer care to climb this ladder. I’ve long since questioned whether this ladders is for me, whether it’s on the right ground, and whether it’s pointing in the right direction. For some, yes. But no longer for me.

It’s been years since I upgraded the ribbons on my uniform above my left breast pocket (the Army allows its Soldiers to wear less if desired). I don’t care to wear more. I’m not applying for any special schools or assignments. I’m not working competing for promotion.

I’m already doing what I want: I’m raising awesome kids. I make work easier for next person. I help others succeed. I look for opportunities to leave life better than I found it even if on the micro level; or at least not make it worse.


I’ve several documents to prepare for tomorrow, to include my command philosophy. I’ve memorized my boss’s command philosophy and vision for the battalion.

My vision will be his vision – the what. A ready, trained, and disciplined unit. Ready in his Big 6 (shoot, maneuver, communicate, medical, MOS, and individual readiness). Trained, in that it proves tactically proficient, battle-focused, and physically and mentally fit. Disciplined in being standards-based, mindful of good order and discipline, and enthused toward disciplined initiative. No need to reinvent this wheel; that would just compound confusion and defeat unity of effort.

My command philosophy – the why and how – I intend to leave blank until I meet (if I ever do) the company’s senior Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and section leaders.

The why, I believe, remains a given. To win our nation’s wars, to defend our nation, to protect innocent life, to uphold and defend the US Constitution. Why else does a military exist? If a military exists to fight and win wars, it follows therefore that it spends its time either conducting a fight, training to fight or supporting just that.

And just how does it do that? How best will the given company achieve the why? It depends on the particular company. I’m not that smart. Nor do I believe that the company has been sitting on its hands waiting for me to arrive. Why not develop the command philosophy together with the unit itself?

I believe doing so would help build a cohesive team, create shared understanding, and inspire disciplined initiative. It would invite micro commitments. It would invite buy-in. It would be their words. Not mine.


Decentralize decision-making.

Flatten hierarchies.

Make the unit’s members feel safe.

Seize every opportunity to parent

My two youngest are both 7-yr-olds, boy and girl. The girl was born second. She asked me this morning, “Dad, why don’t we see any new games on Roblox anymore?”

I said, “Roblox game makers publish 1,000,000 new games a month. But your question is, why don’t we see those new games, right?”

She said, “Yeah, why don’t we see those new games?”

We had about 5 minutes before walking out to the school bus, and then, about another 5-10 minutes before the bus actually arrives.

Like a philosopher, I respond to her question with another question, “Is it because out of those 1,000,000 new games, only a few rise to the top and that’s all we see or remember seeing? Well, if you were a game maker, what would you do to get your game to rise to the top?”

My boy responds, “I would add more blue skies to my game.” Interesting response. It’s been cloudy and rainy here in North Carolina lately. I’ve noticed some games adjust with the seasons, making holiday themed updates.

My girl responds, “I would make a YouTube video about it.”

Innovation. Marketing. My son responded with improving the game itself. My daughter responded with improving the story about the game. It’s possible their gender played a role in their responses.

I said to them. “Interesting. It looks like there are two areas we can change to make your game rise to the top: something on the inside of the game, and something on the outside of the game.

By now, my son had walked to the kitchen to grab something to munch on before the bus arrives.

“That something on the inside, let’s call that innovation. The outside, the story, let’s call that marketing; maybe some games stay at the bottom because people just don’t know about them.”

So I started asking my daughter about what kinds of stories could she tell to get people not only interested, but interested enough to share the story. Are there some stories that the mere act of telling them to other people, makes them feel better?

I got the question from Professor Jonah Berger and his book Contagious (2013).

The girl is my little entrepreneur. We had a few months not too long ago in which we’d exercise creative thinking in ways to make money other than getting a job. As the days went by, she got extremely creative for a then-6-yr-old.

She first started by coming up with ideas for things to sell. Led to a great discussion on why some things sell better than other things.

We then noticed how instead of people going out to get things today, the things themselves were now coming to people – e.g., online school, online shopping, online working. Or, replace online with mobile, as in mobile phones, or smartphones.

She likes animals, getting clean, and getting pampered. So, she came up with a concept: a mobile pet spa. And that was just one of many.

I got her started on a product development journal. She kept at it for a few months. We’ll revisit it.

Met two elected officials in two weeks

Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC) and County Commissioner Tangi Smith (D-TN). Political views aside (I’m a libertarian), I liked Ms. Smith a little bit more. She was hilarious.

Not only did she come off as an everyday, relatable person, but I really enjoyed how her speech as the guest speaker for our Women’s Month Observance just kind of… went nowhere in particular.


I enjoyed it. Right from the start, as a retired Army Sergeant First Class (SFC) (E-7), she mentioned that people often ask her, “Do you miss being in the Army?” Remember, she’s speaking to military audience.

She replies with, “…[long pause… mild hesitation…] eh… Yes!” Loved it. But then towards the end of her speech, “Would I go back? No. But I do appreciate all the years I spent.” Totally something I would’ve said or done – acknowledge the right answer, but still give the real answer.

I would probably miss a few things from having ended a job (as opposed to a career or let alone calling) after 20 years. Of this job? Yes, of course.

The friends I’ve made. The opportunities to have trained and traveled in the capacities afforded to me. Having positioned to meet some very interesting people or participate in certain high-visibility public events. The pay and benefits were great. The memories, which tend to get funnier as the years pass but many times feeling excruciating while during.

Negativity bias occurs naturally. It takes mental effort to see the whole picture, and all the positivity that did occur.

In comparison to my peers, even if I never achieve my dreams of entrepreneurial success, I’ll at least have finished a 20-year job, with a generous pension, benefits, at the age of 40 (with at least, I’m hoping, about 60+ years to go), and not worry about needing a job afterwards. I didn’t want to spend this long in the military, but I’m grateful for how my life turned out.


I enjoyed one particular direct piece of advice she gave during her talk, “Appreciate all the people who’ve been in your life, good or bad. Good or bad, they taught you something. Be grateful,” (paraphrased, as I wasn’t actually taking notes or otherwise recording).

Of all of the bosses – more specifically, my direct supervisors – I’ve had in the military over the past 18 years, I only admired two of them. Two. I only looked up to two of them and honestly said to myself, “I want to be more like this person, and for these reasons…”

All else, “A great example of what not to become in life,” and for that I appreciate their passing through my life nonetheless.


There was a brief moment in her talk, which probably lasted about 30 seconds, in which she shared the series of events that led to her getting elected.

She offered to work for free (i.e., intern) at a TV station as a makeup artist. She got to know celebrities, become friends with local key players in the industry, moved up to hosting a TV show, and then get positioned to run for office and defeat a 17-year incumbent. All the while, he didn’t ask for anything. She simply enjoyed retirement and giving of her time to others.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, early in the book talks about focusing on productive capacity (producing as opposed to consuming). I find it the equivalent of Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) and focusing on the process, the work, more than the target itself.

In marksmanship, without a scope, it’s like focusing on the front sight post. Given our biology (e.g., the way the eye perceives, flinching, our natural fear of loud noises), the mechanical design of the weapon, and the natural interaction of man and machine, the best way to use the weapon is not to focus the eye on the target but to instead focus on the front sight post.

That means a clear (focused) front sight post, in the center of a blurry (unclear) rear sight aperture while also in the center of a blurry target (goal).

On the philosophy of success, it feels paradoxical. Focus on the goal without focusing on the goal – instead, focus on the work that produces the goal, the steps that lead to the goal.

If her goal was to become an elected official, that wasn’t what she actually focused on. She instead focused on being the best version of herself, to present to those around her. She said numerous times in her talk that she wasn’t going to conform or try to fit the mold or look for a normal safe job. She was a bit goofy. Funny. And I enjoyed her personality at the podium.

As she’s retired military with an active duty husband, it’s a little bit easier for her to volunteer or intern, and to simply enjoy life without feeling the weight of the necessities that other working adults feel. Still, the lesson applies. Why not volunteer now? Why wait to enjoy the present moment, later?

I was listening to Jim Rohn this morning speak on how we ought to have a day in which poor people take a rich person out to dinner. He implied that the poor person should bring a pencil and notepad, to observe, listen, and take notes. The point he was trying to make is that success leaves clues.

If someone has accomplished something that you want to accomplish, then that probably means that he did something to produce that accomplishment, thought a certain way, spoke a certain way, carried himself a certain way. He focused on something that led to that accomplishment.

And since he’s probably busy, offer something first. Ask only for learning in return. If that doesn’t work, it’s a big world. Ask again. Ask others.

Leading by example depends on the example

And I don’t just mean the obvious examples of misconduct. I also mean the kind of examples that involve one cleaning up after himself.

Ever since we were kids, we’ve wanted the benefit of playing with toys minus the cost of cleaning up of after ourselves. If someone else did the cleaning for us, good.

I see this play out in my household, in which my displaced in-laws now live with me, to include our combined total of three cats and three dogs.

I not only clean up after myself, my morning and evening routines consist of cleaning up the household. It feels very much like an individual effort.

Not only do I spend all day working, I come home to now do the cleaning and sometimes cooking. In addition, I’m still trying to make time to pursue entrepreneurship, personal development, and adequate sleep.

The result? A challenge. An extreme challenge in not taking out how fucking pissed I am onto the wrong target.


Not only do I try to do my part, I also seek to do more, as a way of leading by example.

Leading by example is overrated.

My in-laws pick the examples they want to follow, and they pick within the narrowly limits of benefiting themselves at my expense. As if they somehow have a right to my work effort, and are exempt from doing any work for themselves.

They’re poor, obese, and poorly educated… yet that doesn’t stop their snobbery. They’re too good to clean up after themselves.

If the example means greater responsibility for one’s condition or for his environment, fuck that – they won’t be following that example. They’d rather play the victim.


When I was stationed at Kaneohe Bay, 2001–2004, I lived in base housing, or on-post housing. I had a section of grass around my housing unit to mow once a week. The boundary lines were unclear on the lawn but defined in the housing contract.

To make sure I did my part, I chose to do a little more than the articulated limits, and a little more than my previous week’s effort – just a little beyond where it looked like I stopped last time.

As the months went by, my part of the grass became larger and larger, as my neighbors decided to stop mowing where I stopped, rather than mowing up to the limits articulated in the housing contract.

Problem of the commons. Externalities. Mission creep. And the type of example that leading by example inspires a “fuck that” response. Leading by example has a rough time outweighing the laziness in others.


Internalize the externality. Hold the other accountable. Property rights. It’s easy in concept. In practice? I’m still working that out. With adults.

On this, I like the saying that one of the best ways to help the poor is to not become one of them. Much like making it better means in part, not making things worse. I’m all about helping. I don’t believe that “help” means do it for the other.

It’s different with children. They need grooming. Parenting. Modeling has a stronger impact with them, but in my experience, when it comes to cleaning up after themselves, that’s like asking them to perform rocket science.


I found that one of the best ways to avoid a parasite is to simply be unavailable. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t respond to email. And deny ever having any time or resources to contribute.

Just don’t be there.

Sometimes winning at gambling means not losing money – not gambling in the first place.

Winning a fight sometimes means not fighting to begin with.

Avoiding abuse sometimes means avoiding the situation, and the pre-situations leading up to the situation, well in advance.

Does that gas station looked crowded with beggars? Don’t go there.

Does the Walmart parking lot have loiterers? Are the loiterers hiding behind or inside vehicles? Shop elsewhere or shop another time.

Is there someone hiding behind the columns near the ATM? Go to another ATM.

Is the only time your sister-in-law interested in texting you when she needs money? Then don’t respond.

I make work easier and more fulfilling for the next person

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