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Monthly Archives: June 2008

Never Stop Learning:: Wisdom from H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Every Friday honors Precept #5 of my Happiness Manifesto: Never Stop Learning.

One thing I’ve realized about learning from the words of others is that even the most timeless idea sounds fresh in someone else’s voice. None of these is rocket science, but re-reading this list always gives me fresh motivation.

I keep it taped over my desk in just the spot where I usually hold my head in my hands, give a sigh that shakes the office; then I look up and find new strength in these words. This week has been all about #8…

Today, H. Jackson Brown, Jr.:

1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery

2. Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent

3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully

4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know

5. Be forgiving of yourself and others

6. Be generous

7. Have a grateful heart

8. Persistence, persistence, persistence

9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary

10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated

11. Commit yourself to constant improvement

12. Commit yourself to quality

13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect

14. Be loyal

15. Be honest

16. Be a self-starter

17. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong

18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life

19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did

20. Take good care of those you love

21. Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your Mom proud


Wherever I Go, There I Am

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I love to travel but I hate coming home. Usually the feeling manifests itself most strongly when I walk back into my office and realize that all those emails that I scanned so cavalierly on my Treo have people on the other end of them who would really like a well-thought-out response. Or rather, would have liked one yesterday. Somehow the urgency of the office is something that I am supremely talented at leaving at the office, of which I am glad. After all, I’m gone for one of two reasons – I’m taking well-earned vacation time, so that I can return refreshed and eager to dive back into my job, or my company paid for me to travel to a conference or workshop, an investment I would only be squandering if I spent the time with my nose in my laptop returning aforesaid emails. So, out of sight, out of mind.

You could chalk it up to just enjoying getting away from work, but I think it also has something to do with my desire to be present and live in the moment. I mean, what’s the point of getting away if your mind is still at home? I have a great respect for the Buddhist traditions, and in particular for one of its most beloved teachers, Pema Chödrön. She is this funny, irreverent nun who spends a lot of time teaching about not wandering away from the present, staying in the moment, experiencing life as it comes, good or bad, and learning not to “scratch the itch,” i.e., respond to whatever in your environment is goading you to respond. As in, no matter how delayed my plane is, I’m appreciating the giggling twin girls across from me instead of fuming. Presentness has been a resolution of mine for some time now. So in other words, wherever I go, there I am.

Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we’re going to be more cheerful in the future, it’s because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now.
— Pema Chödrön in When Things Fall Apart

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

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…gently down the massive, bone crushing rapids… merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream!

The Arkansas River was running through Royal Gorge at 4400 cfs — too fast for novices (they ban commercial runs at 3200 cfs) so we got to play on Bighorn Sheep Canyon, which would normally be fairly tame. Not today – we navigated some class 4+ rapids! We had an amazing time, earned some nice compliments from our guide Ryan, and managed to stay in our raft (unlike a number of our group behind us)… I wore myself out yelling “uno! dos! tres! (you have to stay together) and almost fell asleep in my lawn chair at the post-rafting BBQ. I think we earned some bragging rights:

Rafting Bighorn Sheep Canyon

If you get the chance to go… don’t miss it!

Oh, and camping was a blast, too…

I Heart Technology

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Technology makes me happy.

Reason #5007: You’re sitting at your computer thinking, “Oh, look, a new post on But wait, I thought Jenny was supposed to be rafting Royal Gorge right now.” And you know what? I am! But I know how much you look forward to my little notes, so I thought I’d leave you one to find later, a bit like your mom sliding those cards in your lunch bag. And WordPress was nice enough to wait and give it to you just when I wanted. See, isn’t technology cool?

And while I’m on the subject, I Love Technology, Reason #5008: It’s a super-simple way to use your phone like a pen and paper when you don’t have any handy. You just dial a toll-free number, tell it who you want to JOTT (I mostly just JOTT myself, but you can send them to anyone), and start talking. Your message is transcribed and lands in your email inbox within 5 minutes. So all the times I think of a really great note to leave you, but I’m driving or otherwise engaged, I just pick up my phone, JOTT my idea, and it’s waiting for me by the time I sit down to type.

I especially like their tagline: Get Simple Back. Who couldn’t use a little more simple?

There’s a whole bunch of other neat features I’ll let you find yourself, so you can feel like you discovered something new, too. Oh, and it’s free. No, they didn’t ask me to tell you, I just thought you might like to know. Enjoy!

Sleeping Bags and Ghost Stories

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Two of the things that make me absolutely happy are great friends and being outdoors; this weekend is going to send me over the moon. This afternoon I’ll be on a plane to Denver, and Friday night we’ll be grilling our dinner, sleeping in tents, and getting ready for what appears to be some serious river flow through the Royal Gorge! Accompanying me (and looking equally cool in the rafting helmets) are half a dozen or so great friends, some of whom I only see a few times a year, plus a hundred or so other Texas A&M alumni. We’ll wrap up our adventure with a BBQ and a great band Saturday night, and drift off, aching and tired, to the guitar chords of a few songwriters lingering around the campfire. This should be amazing.

Almost every moment of my childhood vacations was spent on lakes and rivers, water skiing and perfecting all manner of daredevil tricks with my family. In my perfect world, s’mores are a food group, every big tree would have a swing into the water, and the lake would always be smooth enough to see the clouds reflected. I think every great story I know about my family was told around a campfire, as the stars blazed through whispering pines and I tried to stay awake in my lounge chair. Skipping rocks becomes a zen art form, a hammock makes a fine bed, and if you wait long enough to get bored, that’s when the magic begins. I have another month until the great family round-up (this year at lovely lake Broken Bow in Oklahoma), but a taste of the outdoors this weekend will be my first of the summer and a great kick-off to the season.

If the camera survives, I’ll share some pictures next week…

Should I Be Worried?

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Great poster by Derek CardiganTwo ideas from my Happiness Manifesto, Laugh it Off and Expect the Best, seem to combine into a trait that makes me a bit of a weirdo – I don’t worry about much of anything. When my flight gets bumpy I think, “odds are we’ll be fine, but if it’s my time, it’s my time.” I don’t worry about whether or not I’ll lose my job, have a family, or contract some horrible disease. Worrying just doesn’t make me feel any safer or any happier, so I don’t bother. But not everyone is wired like me.

Yesterday, I had three separate people in my office worrying about losing their jobs. They’ve each been at the firm for years and nothing happened this week to make them nervous; perhaps the media coverage of the economy finally cause their fears to reach a tipping point. If anyone should be worried, it’s the most recent hire in the most expendable department (me!)…

But I’m not, and that makes me curious.

My attitude stems from the idea that worrying doesn’t do anything about the problem. There’s a line I love from a commencement address (later turned into a song titled Wear Sunscreen):

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Most of the things we worry about never come to pass, and most of the challenges we face we never even considered. So what’s the use in worrying?

Now I know I’m more free to let go and ride the wind than those with kids and a mortgage to worry about. And I do think that everyone should ask “what if” and have some idea of what they would do in a crisis. But once the plan is in place, I try to take a deep breath, have faith in my planning, and forget about it. There’s some trait that makes this easier for some, a roll-with-the-punches flexibility, a larger belief that while things might not turn out like we expect, they usually turn out OK. I’m also quite a risk-taker, but that’s a whole other post.

Sidebar: I realize I’m not completely exempt: as I sit here editing this for the 97th time, I realize that I do worry about some things quite a lot. I worry about whether I’ll be understood, and whether my ideas will be valuable, and frankly, what you think of me. But I tend to think of these not as things that happen to me but as things that I can influence: I can communicate more clearly, work harder to have an impact, try to listen more and tune in to the needs of those around me. So these concerns spur me to greater action and clarity, which I welcome.

I haven’t really closed the book on this debate. What am I missing? Am I oversimplifying a complex issue?

Fail and Fail Often

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The object isn’t to be perfect. The goal isn’t to hold back until you’ve created something beyond reproach. I believe the opposite is true. Our birthright is to fail and to fail often, but to fail in search of something bigger than we can imagine. To do anything else is to waste it all. -Seth Godin

Yesterday I posted about trying too hard to to find the perfect words, and this morning I found this terrific post by a marketing guru I’ve followed for years. He hints at what I feel each time I sit down to share something with the world – I know it won’t be perfect, but I want it to be worthy of your time, worthy of all the details that fell into place that allow me to be sitting here writing these words.

I’ve embraced the philosophy of failure in almost every aspect of my life – the idea that I’m bound to fail often if I’m really pushing myself, and that I should welcome it as a sign of progress – except with my writing. Which is perhaps why it’s taken me a decade to start a public writing project…

Profound simplicity for today ::The object isn’t to be perfect::