“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” | Unknown

It resonated.

Fixing the map

No amount of coaching or optimization can help someone navigate in London with the map of New York. It would be wasted effort everyone involved. This example makes it blindingly obvious.

And yet, it is so easy to fall into this trap in our day-to-day. Navigating today’s challenges with yesterday’s assumptions, attempting to solve tomorrow’s problems with outdated mental models, and so on.

Take the time to make sure you’re working with the right map. The rest are micro-optimizations in comparison.

Consistency and inertia

One of the fascinating thing about habits is that it is easier to commit to the same thing at a higher frequency/level of consistency than not.

It is easier in my opinion to commit to writing or exercising every day/weekday or week than doing so every month.

Every completed action builds momentum. Then inertia takes over – objects in motion are more likely to stay in motion.

Brainstorming, therapy, serendipity

In the past 3 years, I’ve now spent 50% of time remote and the remaining 50% hybrid (2-3 days per week in the office). And I’ve come to appreciate the 3 things that video meetings don’t do well:

(1) Brainstorming: It is so much easier to talk through ideas on a whiteboard in person. The lag in video creates just enough friction to break the flow.

(2) Therapy: This is code for those therapeutic heart-to-heart conversations where we talk about problems or things that matter. The chemistry of physical proximity is hard to recreate.

(3) Serendipity: In person spaces are great for serendipitous conversations. There are tools that attempt to simulate this – but there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

I’m a believer in hybrid work. I like being home on Mondays and Friday – it’s nice to be at my desk both ends of the week. But I also have a deep appreciation for the brainstorming, therapy, and serendipity that being in person enables.

Grand Canyon National Park

It’s been a year since we visited Grand Canyon National Park and I still find myself reflecting on my time there. Every beautiful place or National Park I go to inspires a word. For this park, the word was awe. It is hard to look at the landscape and not feel that sense of awe.

I reflect on my time at the park whenever I think of the power of having a go at a problem over a long period of time (as in this reflection). I also reflect on it when I think of energy associated with a place. Our family reflected on a mystic energy in the place – perhaps borne out of that sense of awe. It touched the spirit.

And perhaps there’s just something special about experiences that remind us of our insignificance. The Grand Canyon has thrived over millions of years – it inspires humility without trying to. And, most of all, it reminds me to do my best with the time I have, and to be kind – the world will roll on just fine without us.

PS: 3 tips if you’re planning a visit –

(1) As a general rule in every National Park, I recommend staying in lodges inside the park. The location is worth it. The lodges in the Grand Canyon are exceptionally good.

(2) If you travel in the summer like we did, it gets very hot in the afternoons. Ideally, you live like the wildlife (and while it isn’t talked about, we had some stunning experiences near Elk in the park) and spend time outdoors during dawn (4am-9am to catch sunrise) and dusk (4pm onward for sunset). It’s great to get indoors and catch a nap in the afternoon.

(3) Every viewpoint on both sides is beautiful – but some are much better than the others. Our favorites were Shoshone point (at the end of a hike – a ~2 mile round trip), Yavapai Point, and Pima Point (sunset). If we weren’t traveling with young kids, we’d have done the hike to Shoshone point for sunrise. Yavapai Point is a great alternative.

The sedimentary rock

I was admiring this sedimentary rock this weekend. The beautiful thing about a sedimentary rock is that you can see its story in its layers. There are thousands of years of stories in those colors – stories that tell us of the changes it has seen.

It occurred to me that we’re not all that different. While the scale of time we experience doesn’t compare with that beautiful rock, we too go through experiences that change us. We carry scar tissue, joy, sadness, and wisdom from these experience.

Except unlike the rock, our stories aren’t on display.

Maybe they should be. Maybe we ought to ditch chronological and professional introductions that speak to a few milestones and instead replace them with the experiences that shaped us.

Perhaps we ought to be more transparent about our story – much like that rock.

The bent tree

Faced with a hard situation outside of its control, this tree chose to adapt to get its share of sunlight.

Bent, but not broken.

Sometimes, it’s best to stop trying to change our circumstances and instead focus our energy on changing ourselves instead.

No guarantees

One of the most fascinating things about planning a trip to see a natural wonder is that there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to see what we want to see.

The day may be too cloudy to see the sun rise.

The conditions may be too cold or too warm for safe passage.

There may have been an unseasonal even that has blocked access.

The trails we hoped to go on may be closed for the season.

Wildlife may not be anywhere in sight.

No amount of planning can help. There’s always an element of chance.

Such experiences are a great reminder of how illusory our feelings of control are. And they also help us appreciate in events when things do go as per plan.

The universe is unfolding as it should. It is on us to make the most of our time in it.

Forming habits – from beginners to experts

Beginners – rely on willpower to get things going everyday.

Pros – create a system that makes the action default behavior.

Experts – change their sense of self/identity so the action becomes part of their new identity.

If we want to exercise more, best to just become the kind of person who exercises everyday. Changing our identity change “how we do things” and thus changes our internal culture.

And cultural change is change that sticks.