Worries and celebrations

Don’t waste energy worrying about something before it happens. Best to use our energy to focus on a creative, constructive, and corrective response.

Don’t spend time celebrating something before it happens either. Best to use our energy to deal with what is instead of dealing with the disappointment of what could have been.

For a brief moment, I considered titling this post “note to self.” Then I remembered that the entire blog is a note to self. :-)

The quality of our questions

The quality of our life is directly proportional to the quality of the questions we ask.

Asking questions that point to judgment tend to degrade quality.

Asking questions that point to learning tend to improve quality.

And our ability to ask better questions to ourselves translates to our ability to ask better questions to others.

Change your questions, change your life*.

(H/T: Marilee Adams)

To be of use by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Many lines and ideas in the poem resonated. It reminded me of the “the man in the arena” and of a virtue we hold dear – “Be constructive.” The focus on action and people that do vs. critique, the desire to contribute, the yearning for “work that is real” – so many powerful ideas eloquently put.

It resonated.

The timbres and variations

“‘You never listen’ is not just the complaint of a problematic relationship, it has become an epidemic in a world that is exchanging convenience for content, speed for meaning. The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention.” – Seth Horowitz

A lovely reminder to stop. And listen better.

Please get your act in better order

“You have given us too much to do. We’re not going to do a thing until you get your act in better order.” | Commander Gerald Carr on Apollo 13 after Mission Control sent far too many directions, corrections, and orders. The team went on to take a 12 hour break to simply recharge and reconnect.

The story made me chuckle. It also reminded me of 2 powerful ideas –

(1) Sometimes, the most effective thing we can do is to switch off, recharge, and reconnect.

(2) We have an obligation to our leaders to be upfront with them when they’re being consistently counter productive. The right time and place may not be during the heat of the moment – but our leaders can only improve if we’re willing to share feedback*.

*Note: If they’re the kind who don’t take to feedback, they’re bosses, not leaders.

HVAC -> Heat pumps

We recently needed to replace our HVAC or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. Our HVAC supplier shared that the trend was to replace gas powered furnaces with heat pumps. I had heard about heat pumps as a low carbon alternative to traditional gas furnaces. And this turned out to be a great excuse to do some research. Here’s what I learnt:

(1) What?: A heat pump is a two-way air conditioner. This 2 minute video was the best quick explainer I found.

(2) Why?: Heat pumps are newer/better technology that make it possible to heat homes with electricity. Most heat pump systems will still have a gas valve as it is most efficient to turn on the gas when temperatures within the home go <40 degrees F (4 degrees C). Once they go above this temperature, the electricity can take over.

And as our sources of electricity becomes cleaner/more renewable, heat pumps help reduce our reliance on natural gas.

(3) How is it going?: Heat pump adoption has begun taking off recently with the Nordics leading the charge – see image below. (By the way, what is it with Norway and electric vehciles + heat pumps?)

Source: Nature

It is also fascinating to see the penetration of heat pumps in the Nordics given how cold the climate is. The current hypothesis for this penetration is a strategic focus from these governments to reduce their dependence on oil/natural gas.

At our end, we ended up making the switch. Our gas furnace had a few issues – so this feels like a double win at the moment. That aside, I’m excited for heat pump technology to become mainstream. Looking forward to seeing updates to this chart next year with more countries moving to the right.

The coldest village on earth

We watched a YouTube video about a day in the coldest village on earth. It was an amazing watch with some vivid images.

  • Using melted ice first thing in the morning to brush and freshen up – there is no running water as pipes freeze at -40+ degree Fahrenheit
  • School only opens when it is <-40 degrees (!)
  • Kids can only walk outside 10 minutes at a time in the extreme cold and have to be fully covered from head to toe – with the risk of death looming every day
  • Having to run out of the house in the freezing cold to use the bathroom
  • Learning to fend for yourself every step of the way – e.g., learning to fish after drilling holes in the ice.
  • Parents spoke of their wish for their kids to get educated and leave for better paying jobs.

As much as it was a great video for our kids, it was also a wonderful reminder for me about the privilege and comfort I take for granted every day.

More than I realize.