March 10, 2020 I launched doogooder.design. For a half dozen or so years I’ve worked a variety of jobs that had a great synergy with each other. I ran the resilience program in the Oregon National Guard, I operated as part of a veteran resource group, I was a co-facilitator of a veteran domestic violence group (where a lot of our talks were centered not only CBT treatment of problems, but also resilience skills to get better), training infantry soldiers, voluntarily traveling the far corners of the state to train anyone interested (mostly police departments in Crisis Response trainings) in military culture (the real culture of the type of veteran they’re most likely to come across), and a program coordinator for a training program offering instruction for psychologists on the latest research on military culture and deployment pyshchology.
It was no small amount of hermaion that much of my tasks and projects and responsibilities overlapped. In the meantime I was also highly stagnant. I’ve read much on resilience, both within academic research, ancient philosophy, and the average person. There is a surprising (to some) basic set of fundamentals to hit which will take care of the rest of things; sleep, exercise, diet, meditation, goals (meaning), and good people.
Okay, so far so good. I’ve had varying degrees of fitness, though with age my fitness is not what is used to be. I’m pretty good with my diet, though current deployment poses a challenge in this regard. I get pretty good sleep here, more so than back home. It is far easier to get to bed early and sleep eight hours than home, where my neighbors would routinely awaken me with their doors, cars, stair traffic, and so on. I’ve been pretty good at meditating, going weeks straight, or missing a few days, but generally meditating or practicing little moments of mindfulness. So what now?
Meaning. It’s been the missing ingredient. I will attempt to distill three decades into a briefer description.
The story thus far…
I joined the Marines because I was attracted to the notion of excellence and camaraderie. I’d experienced this the last two years of high school where I was part of a truly amazing marching band, and I wanted that in the Marines. My aptitude test placed me, not in combat arms, but instead avionics for F/A-18s. After a few years I excelled at troubleshooting complex systems to find the odd problem. Imagine a table with many pages of schematics of parallel processing electrical diagrams with multiple conditions required to get voltage at location X.
I left the Marines because I had started to think outside of myself. I was intrigued with the world around me more and more and it was after I left the Marines that I had picked up a copy of William James’ Principles of Psychology and loved it. After that I moved to Arkansas, then Texas, and then Oregon, all with a desire to learn more about people. An overwhelming feeling in undergraduate studies of psychology is that psych majors go to become therapists. It’s hard to imagine much else, even though the vast majority of psychology is not clinical or therapists. It muddied the waters for me in what I thought I wanted to do. Yet after studying psychology for years, I’ve come to realize that I most definitely do not want to be a therapist. But what? I’ve worked alongside various entities and have generally been a productive member of a team, able to find articles for research, brainstorm ideas, conceptualize, plan, and so on. I’d like to think that wherever I’ve worked, I’ve brought value to the team as well as challenged the status quo.
I do not like the status quo. As a general rule, oppose the status quo when possible. That said, I’m not a radical and I must remind the reader of the arguments of Edmund Burke on the merits of conservatism (please for the love of gods do not confuse this with what you think conservative is today). It is much like the Army and Doctrine; doctrine is the summation of lessons learned from experiences, codified into practice. How the Army conducts warfare is a result of all the painful lessons learned from the past. Want to understand why Sustainment Operations is as it is? Read about the nightmare of logistics facing the Army leading up and entering into World War 1. You’ll wish for standardization faster than you can drop a brick.
Back to the point (and so much for short), after finishing my degrees in psychology and philosophy, the question of ‘what next’ loomed. Honestly, I didn’t know. Nothing grabbed me. I did apply to a graduate school, which summarily laughed me out of the building (okay, they didn’t, but I imagine they did) and was briefly excited about the prospect. But what was it exactly? I don’t know. I like puzzles. Not for the sake of a puzzle, I could care less bout a Rubik’s Cube, or any other puzzle lying around. I am, however, intrigued by the processes behind them, but if I can apply them. Human makeup isn’t interesting to me unless I can apply it. Then I get excited. I’m not interested in a code program because it is what it is, but if I can use it. Once I see how I can use something, I want to understand its DNA.
Coming home and need a job
Fast forward to today. I am currently on deployment. I can read between the lines, smell what’s on the breeze, and I know that the job that I’ve been doing for the past three years will be gone when I return. It may technically still be there, but it will be diminished in pay and responsibility to the point of holding little value to me. Plus, and this is most important, with new management and organization the change would likely entail sitting in an office. For this reason, I am moving on.
I am not against offices. I am against handcuffing me with lesser tools. At home I have an iMac on broadband speed internet, along with a MacBook Pro, two iPads and an iPhone. On the Macs I have a plethora of utilities that help me speed along, Hazel, TextExpander, apps for processing and manipulating text, auto-formatting, plus task managers (Omnifocus and now Things 3). Plus I can FLY on a Mac with a variety of keyboard shortcuts (I know, Windows has it also) and trackpad gestures which are enhanced by Better Touch Tool which all cut down the friction of doing any task a great degree. Whereas at work in the Military Department I work on a slow and often degraded network, on an old Dell laptop/desktop, which has zero productivity tools added to it, with other people who were never trained in how to use the basic tools in an efficient manner (think of someone creating a lengthy Word document and instead of using tabs, styles, paragraph formatting, templates, etc… they simply hit space bar and format individual elements as they go). I could (and have) spend eight hours on a simple spreadsheet, putting in data, and formatting it to display in a report a certain way, or I could spend (and have) under one hour on my iPad at home. This is NOT and exaggeration. I would often work on my iPad from the cafeteria than the computer in my office, and this was an iPad from 2012! If I absolutely had to meet a deadline, I would take a long lunch, and either go to a coffee shop with my MBP or go home to my iMac and bust out the work in 1/10th of the time.
A typical day in the past was to fight rush hour traffic of everyone else angry at everyone else to get to work in a cubicle (or an office) and check in. Now, the day is started, my hours are starting, yet I’ve done nothing yet. Maybe I’ll check my email, but more than likely I’m interrupted by someone who is talking or stopping by, or the like. I finally get to email and it is on Outlook on the work computer, so there are no rules in place for handling mail. Plus the culture is one that is antithetical to efficiency and everyone must CC everyone else to “keep them in the loop”. I highly doubt this, as I’ve seen a LTC’s email with over 3,000 unread emails in his inbox. He NEVER answered my emails. So for a good bit of time I must simply process email. Nobody around me understand what Inbox Zero is about and everyone continues the worst practices of everyone else regarding email. To process my email, and get to the needed tasks, will take minimum 30 minutes at the start of the day, but more like an hour. This isn’t working a project, it is processing, that is “finding” what is out there.
Stop, meeting time. Not a productive meeting, mind you. But a meeting to get everyone together to ensure they are all on the same page that we have X due on a date and who is responsible for what tasks by when? And this generally means a report to someone higher up, which means before we brief a report or slides we will hold a meeting prior to that briefing where we’ll go over our material to ensure we have it correct. This is just for one project. Now add more projects. These are for one area of responsibility. Now add more areas. If you’re a leader that wears more than one hat, you’ve been tasked out with attending more than one synch meeting. If you are a leader of any stature, you are easily going to six meetings a week. If you’re not, you’re pretty low on the food chain, or you’re the boss and decide what you want to do. The rest of us suffer and wave at Dante and Virgil as they walk by.
You still haven’t got to work yet. When you’re not trying to check email, prepping for the meeting that’s coming up in thirty minutes, or debriefing from the one you just went to that ran late, you’re going onto the sharedrive to find your files to work on.
Stop, interruption time. Someone has to talk. Or a phone call, or the network goes down. Or a bunch of other things.
Okay, now you can work.
Stop, meeting time. You think I’m kidding, but, my sweet summer child, you don’t know the cold of winter. The government/military is cubicle hell with the worst office environment. The “duty day” is all important, more so than work output.
At the end of the day I’m done and I leave the office. I’m drained and mentally exhausted. I walk across the paring lot, the sun is low on the horizon (winter) and I feel like crap. I ask myself as I walk across to my car, “what in the Hel did I accomplish today?” I cannot tell you how many days I’ve said nothing. Again, the entire culture and system of working for the military/government prizes the hours of a butt in a chair over work produced. Eventually, however, I was able to leave this horrible environment.
For the past couple of years the job I’ve had has allowed me to work from the premise of “get the job done” and measure it by product, not hours. But as I return home from deployment, I know the culture to come as things change, the program would entail work = hours of butt in a chair, instead of work = produced results. I detest this mentality. Why punish me because I can get work done in an hour? Why pay me the same as the person who takes ten hours to do a job because he is slow, has poor skills, spends time goofing off, etc? I should be able to create it, move on to the next, and get paid for it. Reward results, not water cooler talk.
Saying that, because I am good at what I do I’m able to take my iPhone X to the dog park with a friend’s dog (dog sitting is therapeutic) and while the dog is off doing dog things, I’ve answered a dozen emails, worked on a presentation, written a blurb for a marketing flier, updated a some attendance figures in a database, all from my phone… in the sunshine… on a bench. I’m happier, more effective, and I got shit done. When someone emails me with a problem I’m able to handle it quickly and with low stress because my main mode of operating is one of low stress.
After walking the dog I may go to Starbucks, grab a corner seat, drink a cinnamon cappuccino, and review some literature on a various item that I will be presenting on. After a while I need to brainstorm some ideas of how I’ll pull it all together and present it in a clear manner. So I’ll take a hike into the nearby forest, moving between the trees, and as an idea hits me I’ll tap my Drafts icon on my watch and speak aloud my idea to my watch, which is instantly transcribed and sent to my phone. After an hour of hiking I’ll get in a car and return home, stopping by a place for a piece of pie. While there I’ll review my notes and notice some trends, and it will gel together in my mind some more. Perhaps I’ll markup a draft sketch, a wireframe, or a doodle, of how I want the flow to go (or use OPML to outline it instead, or mindmap it). When I get home I’ll open up my iMac and the info is synched already and I’ll begin creating the Keynote. All in all, a very productive day where I’ve gotten a LOT done and was creative and happy. And as I’m sitting on the couch watching Battlestar Galactica, I’ll notice an email from someone urgently asking for details about an upcoming training. I’m able to respond quickly and easily because I’m not drained from a day in cubicle hell, but instead have been productive and efficient and relaxed all day and I’m surrounded by tools that increase that.
So what about this website?
I remembered how much I loved coding webpages in the 90’s. With all the demands on me at the time, I’d still spend hours coding pages. I was able to teach myself relatively well (I even taught myself some basics of Windows NT with a manual and was able to do troubleshooting for a server at a consulting company I used to work for, saving them hundreds of dollars a pop). I am a lover of beauty, meaning that there is an order and an elegance to something. Look at Windows OS versus Mac OS. It is night and day, one prides itself on elegance and the other is bloat. I’ll often get grief from a PC user that “You can’t do anything on a Mac”. This person obviously knows less than Jon Snow. Consequently, I’ve shifted task managers from OmniFocus to Things because OmniFocus on iOS and iPadOS is jarring and painful to use, whereas Things is elegant in all areas. But I digress.
As I stated in the beginning, for years I’ve had jobs and volunteer activities that greatly overlapped. I had a business card that simply said “Eddie Black, dogooder” on it. People liked it. I liked the play on words, that it was a thing but also a charge. Be a do-gooder, but do gooder, a humorous way of saying “do better”.
Somewhere in the back of my brain, the idea dawned on me to get into programming. Right off the bat the voices say quit. First, I’m too old. I learned HTML when I was in my 20’s and now I’m nearing the end of my 40’s. I can’t compete with the youngsters out there. Also, to be taken seriously, I need a degree in computer something or other. I don’t have that kind of time (or money). There’s bootcamps, but none where I’m going (I want to relocate to southern Oregon to be nearer a special lady). And plus there is a LOT to learn to be competitive. So yeah, the voices telling me to quit before I even get started are quite loud and numerous and persistent.
But then I remember Steve Jobs;
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.
Steve went to Reed College long enough to get what he needed and then left. He wasn’t sidetracked by having to get a degree or following the paths of others. He was a visionary. When he died, it was a blow to me. When people ask why I’m a Mac guy (or Apple with the rise of iOS), it is the legacy of what Mac has been, all attributed to Steve.
I’m not saying I’m Steve Jobs, not in a million years. But I imagine all these voices in my head telling me that I’ll fail and I’m just one person of many without the skills to compete. What would Steve tell me?
I imagine he’d remind me what I’ve already said before, that I am a priest of beauty, and I seek to find and create beauty wherever I may. This, above all, is my religion.
My ETS from the military is FEB of 21 and I’m considering getting out. Not sure yet. I also want a dog. If I close my eyes and fantasize and let my mind play, I’m on a park bench in the sun. My sweetheart is sitting next to me, chomping on a snack and engrossed in a read. Her arm rests on me casually. Her kids are playing on a piece of playground, and a dog is running around, happy as could be. I’ve got my iPad Pro and I’m sketching out an idea for a project for a client. After some changes, I email it straight to another team member for their process. The dog comes up and I pet it. A bird flies by.
Life is good.