Attention

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Earlier on in my professional career, I was often told that I need to determine how to better manage my time. I mean often. Mind, it was very much needed at the time, but more and more I find that time isn’t my biggest issue. These days, it is my attention.

“So you mean priority, right?”

No, I don’t.

I work in the support department. Prioritizing is a given when you’ve been in that department as long as I have because, without the ability to prioritize, you drown in backlog. However, even with your best effort to prioritize the tasks before you and even with the ability to manage your time to be super productive, none of that matters if you can’t give yourself to those tasks and only those tasks.

So then, before I can prioritize and manage time to most effectively do the most I can, I have to decide what to pay attention to.

The thing that bears so much repeating is that attention is a limited resource.

One phrase I have at the office for this is “I can’t brain right now.”

What I mean by that is I’m out of attention to spend on anything else right now. Recognizing that your attention is a limited resource changed a few things for me in terms of just handling the day. One of them being making a shrine out of the time between 8:30-9:30AM every day. That’s my planning time where I have enough attention in the tank to prioritize things that day.

From there, it’s a mad dash to around 12:25PM to handle top priority, high attention stuff. Things that require me to focus on details in order to solve a problem. After lunch, I get into the lower attention stuff because, although I have a reserve of attention, it gets consumed with “Hey, I got a quick question” pretty quick. You’d be surprised how quickly that chews through what you have in the tank.

Sometimes, if I need that attention for something else, I have to pass out the occasion, “I can’t right now…” and that’s OK. Again, attention is a limited resource. Other things I do to help keep my attention where it should be:

  1. Wunderlist.
  2. Scheduling appointments with myself.
  3. Fitbit alarms.
  4. Headphones.
  5. These wallpapers (take them if you’d like, I made them):

How do you manage attention? Comments are yours.

Faith and Politics: Part One of Many

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Full disclosure: I’m Christian and the crazy kind that makes religious and non-religious people very uncomfortable or completely at-ease depending.

With that in mind, I have got to have this conversation with my extended family about the way you are responding to these issues with the current presidency, political and social climate, and just in general.

I hear you: Jesus is Lord. You know what? You’re right. You’re very right.

…and people are still going to jail in disproportionate amounts.

…and people are still being deported.

…and people are still coming to your pews, putting money in the offering plate, and then going home and wondering when the other shoe will drop. If you have their back. If you ever cared at all.

Gotta say, on the whole, we’re doing a terrible job and responding to this stuff. We seem to be more about trying to get our shout on than trying to care for this family we got. Than trying to bring about this kingdom we play organ music about. A bit too focused on what we are going to say at these altar calls.

If I could have a wish, it’s that we could burn things like this into our hearts:

1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.
That’s Isaiah 58. The entire chapter without emphasis or embellishment.
Imagine for a moment how it feels to walk into a building and know that God has a clear stance on the oppression of any person, so much so that He feels the need to say, “that’s it? You thought coming to church on Sunday was enough to get by while people are oppressed in the land where you lay your head? Come again” and in the same building of people that worship the same God you do, all you hear muttered or said aloud is that they wish people would shut up about politics and focus on Jesus.
I want you to imagine the heartbreak of hoping that your family – that you are called into – will be enough to get you through this storm only for them to tell you they don’t even see the storm.
Then I would like you to deeply consider that if this is the kind of thing that God says, but you feel free to ignore the grieving and groans of your brothers and sisters around you if you really believed in the first place.
And if you have the courage and conviction left, pray that you are filled to the point of breaking with courage to speak out against the injustices of this and any other day.

When Things Are Personal

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One of the more frustrating things that I read are people in defense of things like the executive order which is, in effect, a muslim ban. It is my thought that these people are blithely unconcerned because it is an issue they are not touched by.

For me, this isn’t a matter of “trying to protect the nation from bad people” or “making sure the vetting process is working well”. I’ve actually seen what that process looks like thanks to my work experience.

It’s a 3-inch stack of paper. It’s questions that not even native-born Americans know about our country and history and laws. It’s having to submit that same paperwork multiple times.

I took this whole executive order to heart. I have a friend who is Iranian and is serving in the US Navy. He can’t go home. His family can’t go home. We have people in a Dubai office where I work. One of them is a dual citizen of the US. I’m hoping he’s in an unaffected area because, if not, he can’t see his family, either.

I wouldn’t be so bothered by it except that there was not a single check to whether or not there would be any negative repercussions in signing this order. Had that been done, it is possible people wouldn’t be stuck abroad while pursuing their academic goals.

How do you defend that? Especially if you have a single shred of respect for another human?

I don’t know. How do you defend any of this? At what point do we stop bending our brains and finally decide to do what is right by everyone?

Letting Things Happen

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It’s been a few months of taking in information and news about everything from politics, religion, and beyond and I think I’m full which is to say that I have to take a break to process everything.

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed and sad, but just kept reading and reading and… you know what? Let’s sit down here for a moment and process things. Let’s not pick up any more rocks from these shores. If you follow my finger, you’ll see other people picking up rocks, too.

We can take a break for a moment together and talk about the ones we’ve picked up.

And stop reading.

And tweeting.

And just let our feelings about everything, dammed up behind out need to keep our composure and remain strong and resist finally just happen to us for just a bit. Break our the tea and the journals and wait for the tide to come in…

…and ride it.

Not-So-Suddenly Seymour

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So there’s a guy. He’s a normal guy working at a plant shop in a somewhat run-down part of town in a plant shop. He’s been there a long time, working for a boss he somewhat likes and mostly loathes.

It is this character, Seymour, that we learn to identify with in this movie. We want something better for him. We want him to get the girl he likes, the nice house in a good neighborhood, and all the other things we want for ourselves.

So it comes to pass that this plant somehow magically appears from outer space as far as we know. Seymour is growing the plant and nurturing it, but it won’t grow. After a while, he figures out that he has to feed the plant blood to  nourish it.

This should have been a clear sign that things should stop, but he was finally getting a bit more success and attention, so the plant had to be fed.

Eventually, the plant needed more than his blood, but he has a conscious. A soul. He can’t do it… until he finds someone so repulsive that he can bear to kill them and feed them to the plant. The guy is abusive to his love interest. Surely, this makes sense and it is justified. We feel you, Seymour.

However, the one body isn’t enough. The plant must feed and Seymour must help. It grows and starts to encourage Seymour’s desires to be powerful and have good things. Seymour then feeds it his boss. Not directly, of course. He lures him in, gets him into a certain position, then watches as the plant eats his boss alive.

However, this new body is also not enough. Finally, the plant, having gained the power it needs, tricks the love interest into coming to the shop, because here’s the thing: it’s been helping Seymour, but only as a means to serve itself.

Seymour, who fed this plant body after body, draws the line at his love interest. You can’t do this to Audrey; she’s mine. So he tries to fight the plant and that’s when the plant reveals, in song, it’s ultimate plan and true nature.

This is where things get tricky. We like happy endings, so the movie gives us one. This plant , powerful beyond comprehension, is defeated by this one man and he and his love interest live happily ever after…

…except that’s not what actually happens. Here’s what actually happens. Watch it.

This isn’t a story with a happy ending. This is a story about a man who wanted power so badly that he was talked into sacrificing others.

This is a story about the very thing he fed – which was not looking out for anything but itself – grew large enough to consume him, multiply, infect the minds of others and encourage them down the same path.

This is a story of feeding something you don’t understand and believing that, because it benefits you, it is benevolent.

This is the America that voted Trump into presidency.

What will you do now, Seymour?

A Caring Soul

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This past week I spent a bit of time between my normal work duties chatting with some of the guys around the office about just their day-to-day. What I ended up with was a gentle reminder that any effort I make to make sure the people around me feel cared for is not time wasted.

I wish this were a thing that happened everywhere, but for all the talk in the industry regarding soft skills, there seems to be no consideration at all that whatever you do to your clients should be done to the people you work with internally as well.

Maybe we could benefit from that thought. Maybe we should apply it.

This Election In Free Verse: Part II

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Read.

It’s been about two weeks now since Trump became the President Elect and every day that passes proves my grieving more correct than even I wanted to be.

At some point during this election, people had their anger manipulated and took that anger to the polls instead of reason. They said they were the normal people, the working class, the silent and oppressed America. They said we made their children soft, called them racists and xenophobes for merely speaking their mind, emasculated their men, and eroded the values on which this nation was founded. They had to put a stop to it.

I cannot fathom having the ability to look past the blood and bodies and tears of so many to make a vote just so people will stop calling me names and be nice to me.

Hillary didn’t give them the voice they felt they needed. She was too much like what had already ruined everything. Too liberal not to mention democrat. Enough was enough. They couldn’t bother with a 3rd party vote because that wasn’t realistic. So they went to the polls and they voted the only person they felt would uproot this rotten, oppressive flow of everything awful.

And here we are with Nazis – erm, national populists – in an advisory position to the highest office in our nation and one of the most powerful in the world.

While I can understand that some people would have liked a different conversation on the topics of race, oppression, social justice, and other related issues, I cannot fathom having the ability to look past the blood and bodies and tears of so many to make a vote just so people will stop calling me names and be nice to me.

However, here we are because enough people had that same choice and made it only proving the outrage of so many to be completely founded. Yet, for all of this, there is something I fear only a bit more.

See, a bunch of people were able to vote for Trump because they had padding. Hillary was an open target with this email scandal and cold personality and all, so of course voting Trump was a good idea. She was heavily steeped in years within politics, so of course she’s corrupt. Right?

But now Trump has to stand alone. On his own merit. We knew he had none to truly speak of, but Hillary just couldn’t be a thing, so we shrugged off the locker room talk, the racism, the misogyny and laid a path for him straight into office. Well, now he has to step up and take his place as a leader. Here is an indicator of how he is doing so far:

This is where the largest question for me lies. Going into the office, we see inconsistencies and the tweets of a teenager (to be kind), but at some point, that silent-but-oppressed majority are going to have to confront Trump as he is and not as they wanted him to be.

When he is not who they hoped he would be, who will they blame for it?

  • They can’t blame Trump. He was every bit of who he said he was.
  • They can’t espouse the values of the populists because they are obviously bad.
  • They can’t bring themselves to admit they were wrong.

That leaves the rest of us who are already grieving because we knew what was at stake. So what then? What will happen when that silent-but-oppressed majority of people are made to suffer the same fate that they voted us into thinking to make things better for themselves?

What then?