Month: January 2019

The Reading List: John Adams

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

I bought this book a few years ago as I was headed down an educational path to learning about our founding fathers and who they *really* were. I’m aware of the god-like status we’ve given all of them, but I wanted to get down in the weeds with them and figure out what kind of people they really were. What were their flaws? What did they really believe? What characteristics have we ascribed to them that they actually didn’t have? There are a lot of myths we’re fed about these people and it’s important to journey back in time in order to separate the fact from fiction.

I could not have picked a better book to read at this time in our country. We think we’re in a place where our country has never been so polarized. Where news media is hellbent on spreading messages directed at a certain demographic without bothering with facts. We think all this stuff is new. I’ve learned through reading David McCullough’s incredible book that we have not changed in the slightest. The animosity between parties during Adams’ term as president and leading up to it can not be overstated. People were at each other’s throats regarding which president was a secret monarchist, and which cabinet member was going to destroy the new government from the inside. Newspapers sprung up everywhere trying to prove one side or the other, often without any evidence. There were opinion pieces galore trying to influence the population to one side or the other.

Despite all the fuss and fighting at our country’s inception, these folks seemed to build an incredibly strong foundation for government, despite their differences. Adams in particular was one of the strongest voices for independence in the entire continental congress. He was willing to stick his neck out for unpopular opinions, and risk his reputation to ensure that fact and truth ruled above all. We’re talking about a man that actually defended the British soldiers during the trial for the Boston Massacre. The people of Boston wanted to burn these folks at the stake, but Adams insisted that a free people must be a people ruled by laws, and that barbarically putting these men to death without trial would ruin any hope the aspiring nation had. He actually managed to get these men acquitted of wrongdoing in Boston by a Boston jury. “Facts are stubborn things,” was one key quote I pulled from this defense. He was not a loved man after that, but he was a respected one, and I believe it’s this defense that led him to be a representative. He was reluctant, but like many of our founding fathers, found that it must be his duty to perform the task asked of him.

One hero from this tale that shines above so many others was his wife, Abagail. She was a thinker and a fighter in her own right. She spent years away from her husband, raising children and tending the farm. Their letters to each other tell an amazing story of two people sacrificing greatly so that they, their children, and their children’s children could have a future with a secured freedom that they longed for. The way they addresed each other in all their correspondence was so sweet, but even they bickered in letters as they dealt with all the challenges. Adams was away in France for years trying to negotiate deals, and was often too busy to write. Abagail took great offense to only receiving a letter every month or so. She was so frustrated in writing that John Quincy, who was with his father, wrote her to tell her to give his dad some slack.

This is an amazing portrait of life in the 18th century that we should be so thankful to have. In the acknowledgments of the book, I read that there miles of microfilm containing John Adams letters and correspondence. He never got rid of anything, and thankfully we have the privilege of seeing his life through his own eyes and the eyes of those who worked closely with him. The picture you get is of an honor bound, trustworthy, bold, appreciative, kind, angry, vain man, who so aware of his own flaws, tried to be the best he could be. He attempted to give everything he could from his life so that others could have one more fruitful. That being said, he enjoyed his time. After being president, he retired to his farm and spent his remaining days in the quiet. He worked hard, walked three miles a day, and even managed to ride horseback until his early 80’s. I got the picture of a man at peace as I read of his twilight years. He was proud of all he had done, and was able to look forward to the next great adventure. In contrast with Thomas Jefferson, his life long rival and friend, who wanted to do go back and give it another try.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you aren’t into history, you might want to skip it, but if you are the least bit curious about the life and times of an incredibly interesting man from the 18th century who just happened to be the second President of the United States, then I say give it a shot.

Next up: One Thousand Risks – Chad Johnson

The 30 Day Challenge

I alluded to participating in a 30 day challenge in my last post, and I promised to write another blog post about it. I’m eleven days in and it’s about time I let folks in on this whole shebang and what it means to me.

I watched a documentary called Minimalism on Netflix a few weeks ago, because it’s a subject that fascinates me. I actually listened to the dudes who made it on their podcast, The Minimalist Podcast, well before I watched the movie they made. The doc focuses on people who have learned to remove compulsive purchases from their lives and live on what they absolutely need, or what brings them joy. I’ve learned a lot about this concept and I started exploring their website a little bit as well.

The main gist is that we could all really get along just fine if we threw out all the things we thought we need but could really live without. The idea is that we end up with so much stuff that it does the opposite of what we hoped it would do. We wanted it to complete us or make us happy, but what happens is it starts suffocating us by just piling up and eventually becoming this hulking ball of stress in our lives that we need can’t get out from under. Now that’s me talking about myself, but I’m sure this story matches a ton of folks out there. So the 30 day challenge is all about trying to get a handle on this by routinely getting rid of stuff that doesn’t give you joy.

They wrote a much better post explaining the whole thing. I’m basically getting rid of a certain amount of things per day equal to that day of the challenge. So day 1, I get rid of one thing. Day 2, I get rid of two things. So on and so forth. It starts out really fun, then it starts to get tough. I have to start making decisions about things that mean a little more to me than average trash. Pieces of art, books, little trinkets I’ve had for years, all that stuff is hard to get rid of. I basically have to sit there and look at it and decide what the feeling is that’s attached to it. Sometimes it’s not strong and I can easily throw it away, but other times I really have to think through it.

One thing that’s true is that I’m truly getting rid of a lot of stuff that I’m forgetting almost as soon as it leaves the house. I’ve never been one to attach a lot of value to “things.” Most of my sentimentality is wrapped up in letters, drawings, or newspaper clippings and stuff. Those are small things I can keep track of. I do have gifts that have been given to me that mean a lot because they remind me of that person, but memories of that person remind of me of that person as well. Throwing away an object isn’t going to remove that from me. In that way, it’s a bit easier for me than it might be for someone who attaches a lot of emotion to the things they possess.

On day eleven, I’m still feeling super good about the project. I’m starting to have to really dig for stuff as it’s getting hard to find enough items every day. The higher the day goes the more stuff you have to find and the more difficult stuff you come across. At first it might be all trash, but as it moves on things get a littler bit trickier.

So far so good though! Hopefully I can keep it up!

Well, Hello There, 2019

“It’s the new year! Time for a new me!” – Tons of people everywhere

I have conflicting feelings about new years. It’s not like we all go through a major metamorphisis whenever we flip the calendar. We’re all generally the same people with the same lofty goals and the same expectations we’ve always had. That being said, I can respect the feeling that starting a year with a renewed focus can be helpful for folks. It’s actually helpful for me in a lot of ways. I’m a reboot kind of person, so I get it. I actually have a handful of new years goals that I’m working towards as well.

There are plenty of people that make New Year’s Resolutions, but I’m not one of them. I feel like resolutions don’t have the bite that they should.

  • I’m going to lose weight
  • I’m going to the gym more
  • I’m going to watch my money

Those kinds of resolutions just don’t stick. They aren’t S.M.A.R.T goals. Forgive me for using a management acronym, but that thing exists because it works. A goal should Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. We should plan our resolutions around those pillars to make sure that it’s something that we not only actually want to do, but something we can judge ourselves against as we work through the new year. I actually prefer monthly goals because they give you a shorter time frame and therefore less room to forget about them in the long run.

I tried last year to make some yearly goals and fell short so hard. I had some that I wasn’t even in control over. One of my goals was to get promoted at work, and it happened, but to some degree it wasn’t under my control. I did eveything I could to get there, but at the end of the day, it was the decision of my chain of command to actually grant me the promotion. So this year I’m trying to make goals that I actually can be in charge of.

I have a few goals that are blog posts in themselves and I’m going to avoid writing about them here outside of filling you in on what they are.

  • Finish the 30-day minimalist challenge
  • Paint the kitchen cabinets
  • Stay on budget

Those are three goals for the month. Simple, but not easy. We’ve been talking about painting the kitchen cabinets for months, and it’s not an easy task, but it certainly is a simple one. It just takes time. In order to get that done, we have laid out a plan of subtasks that will get us to that goal within the month. The budget goal is one that we’ve always had, but we’re making it a point to focus in on it this month. If we need to spend money on stuff to get the cabinets painted, we’re pulling that from somewhere. We’ve already made some progress on that goal by using the Every Dollar app in order to get a handle on where our money is destined to go. I’ll talk about that app in a later blog post once I’ve had some time to truly use and reflect on it.

This year has just as many hours in it as last year had, and I encourage you to consider how you spend those hours. We can all do the same thing we did last year, or we can choose to live a bit more intentionally. In other words, think about how you are spending those hours. Time is the great equalizer. Everyone has the same amount, the only thing that differs is how we spend it. If you choose to spend it playing video games, great! I hope you enjoy it, but when one of your goals fall short, don’t say, “I didn’t have the time.” We all have the time. Sometimes people will rob you of it, and that’s out of your control, but I would venture to guess that they don’t rob as much as you blame them for.

Get out there. Do the thing. Own your hours, or something else will own them for you.