J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Month: December 2015

2015 Year-End Review

Momu Mobile Studio Unit -- one of many 2015 highlights.

Momu Mobile Studio Unit — one of many 2015 highlights.

This weekend I completed my first personal year-end review. Since I don’t have an employer, it’s up to me to evaluate my own performance and look for ways to improve. Celestine Chua’s year-end review questions resonated with me, so I used those as a template:

  1. What were your biggest accomplishments this year? (results you are proud of)
  2. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with how you spent the year? Why?

Chua’s review also included questions for the year ahead:

  1. What do you want to accomplish next year, such that it’s your best year ever?
  2. What new habits can you cultivate that will help you to achieve your goals?
  3. What are your immediate next steps to achieve these goals?

Completing the first part of the exercise provided me with an opportunity to review the year’s major events. I was surprised by how much happened and how much I did in 2015. It was good to both appreciate successes and to reflect on failures. Projects that didn’t go as well as I hoped they would — in hindsight the reasons why were clear. But if I hadn’t taken the time to look back and consider what happened, those lessons would have been lost on me. I would have been left with the vague feeling of “Well, I guess that didn’t work out.”

In terms of my successes, it was good to take time to appreciate those. I feel confident going into 2016 after considering the positive results of 2015. It’s easy to underplay your successes in life and to only give attention to problems and failures. But it’s helpful to take some pride in your accomplishments. Sometimes nobody else gives you credit, and you’re the only one who knows how hard you had to work to get the job done. This is especially true for less glamorous tasks like helping family members, staying in shape, and repairing the roof.

Maximizer Update

A couple months ago I wrote about how I was going to “join the maximizers” in certain aspects of my life, meaning I would attempt to raise my standards, push harder towards my goals, and trade some of my leisure time for productivity and “push” time.

As part of my year-end review I considered some recent changes I’d made along these lines, and evaluated if I wanted to carry them forward.

Looking back, I realized I’d been on the maximizer path ever since becoming a dad in 2008. After a tough year of sleep deprivation, I found myself ready to enter a new phase of life defined by deeper commitments and more goal-oriented behavior. In 2009 I started this blog, started writing fiction, cut out a few things that weren’t bringing much value to my life (DJing, videogames), and committed to higher standards and better decisions for myself.

Starting in 2013 I took a harder look at my activities and commitments, using the “Hell yeah or no” criteria from Derek Sivers. I also asked and answered questions about each activity area (consulting work, writing fiction, running a music label, producing music, blogging, etc.), including:

  • Why do it?
  • How does it relate to my life purpose?
  • What’s the main objective?
  • What are the “traps” to avoid?

In 2015 I raised my game even more, committing to more writing time and more music studio time (some of the results I will be publishing in 2016).

So yes — it feels good to push, to become more of a maximizer, to raise my work output and raise my standards and contribute and create as much as possible while I’m alive on this planet (which will hopefully be a very long time). Not that you should mistake me for a workaholic or overachiever — all my commitments and activities in total still leave me about half my waking hours remaining for unstructured free time (hanging out with family and friends, reading, gaming, playing sports, and the like). I have my freelance career and hard-earned investment wisdom to thank for that, as well as good luck in the life cards I drew at birth (U.S. citizen, middle-class, white male, able-bodied, no mental illness, etc.). I realize not everybody is playing this immersive game on easy mode. All the more reason that I should push myself and try to contribute more.

The Year Ahead

I’ll save my thoughts on 2016 for a new post early in the new year. I’ll probably combine that with a Metablog post to let you know what I’ll be writing about in 2016 (including an extreme lifestyle experiment).

I hope you have the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve with friends and/or family. Stay alive, don’t lose your pants, and have a great time!

Thanks for reading this blog in 2015 and I wish you all the best in the year ahead.

What Makes a “Loser”? (How to End Self-Sabotage)

I would never call anyone a loser. I don’t believe in character labels. People change, develop new habits, get better at life.

That kind of psychological warfare (labeling people to belittle them, or to intentionally undermine their confidence) is mean, and completely unnecessary for anything I want to achieve in my life. It’s a favorite tactic (the only tactic?) of one of our current presidential candidates, and it’s ugly.

But I do see patterns of self-sabotage. Some people engage these patterns for years, get in deep ruts. I’ve struggled with some of them myself. Self-sabotaging behaviors include blaming, deflecting, magical thinking, lack of discipline, and so on.

A story: I was six years old. It was around Christmas time, and my friend was over at my house. My friend suggested that we take one of the ornamental glass globes from the tree and smash it into the carpet. So we did. We smashed another one. The carpet muffled the sound of the breaking glass. No adults rushed into the living room to stop us. We proceeded to smash every single glass globe from my family’s Christmas tree into the rug. When we were done, we realized we needed a plan. Let’s blame it on your little brother, suggested my friend. It didn’t feel right to me, but I went along with it. My four-year-old brother had a good alibi — he was taking his afternoon nap upstairs. When our crime was finally discovered we were in big trouble.

I don’t remember what the punishment was, but I remember feeling ashamed. My parents were as disappointed as they were angry.

It was an early lesson in how following the lead of your peers against your better judgement can lead to trouble. Trying to explain/blame my way out of the situation (instead of accepting responsibility) just added to the mess.

I learned from that experience. It shaped my character. It taught me that I need to make my own decisions and take responsibility for them.

All children sabotage themselves. I still have childish aspects to my own personality, though not as many as I had in my twenties, or even my thirties. Growing up takes a long time.

One more story. High school fencing tournament, all Bay Area. My opponent was faster and more aggressive than me and won the first bout 5-0. But he had a single attack, a lunge with disengage to the same quadrant. After some trial-and-error I figured out how to block his one attack and effectively riposte. I won the 2nd and 3rd bouts, each by a narrow margin. He was furious. He thought he was dominating me. He would have won if he’d had more than one attack. But he didn’t. He relied on the same tactic even when I’d demonstrated I could effectively defend against it.

Thinking back, I wonder if he learned from that contest. Did he learn to mix it up, use multiple tactics, adapt to reality? Or did he get frustrated with his lack of success and quit fencing?

There are dozens of ways we can sabotage ourselves, shoot our own feet before our opponent has even drawn. I was going to share my whole list, but I’m sure you can make your own list. How do you sabotage yourself? What are alternative behaviors that will add more value to your life?

How I Helped My Wife Get Skinny (Freedom and Joy, not Dieting)

Kia hotel

Not a blues dancing outfit.

This isn’t a post about diet or exercise (at least not directly). It’s also not about exerting control over my wife. The opposite, in fact.

This post is about how your body-brain system is going to wring some pleasure out of life, one way or another, and the choices you have in terms of how that happens.

Kia wanted to go dancing with her friend Myra on a Wednesday night. Would I be willing to do bedtime and stay home with our daughter that night? Couples with young kids have these kinds of conversations.

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The Awkward Question That Could Save Your Child’s Life

Every time our seven-year-old daughter has a playdate with a new friend, Kia asks a simple question.

“Do you have any guns in the house?”

She gets nervous about asking, but so far nobody has been offended by the question. Her own father keeps a gun in the house. So do several of our friends. But it’s something we want to know about. If the answer is yes, the follow-up question is:

“What’s your gun safety plan?”

The general reaction to the question is “I should be asking the same question.” Accidental injury and death is a real threat to children in the United States. A few sobering bullet points:

The real numbers are even higher. Many accidental gun deaths are reported as homicides. The same article gets into details re: what ages children are most at risk. Three-year-olds, who are old enough to manipulate objects but don’t understand the dangers guns pose, are particularly vulnerable.

This is not a screed against personal gun ownership. It’s a just a reminder. Kids are curious. Kids will explore every nook and cranny of your house. Kids do things without considering or understanding the consequences. Kids and loaded, unsecured guns are a potentially lethal combination.

Don’t leave your damn guns lying around. If there is even a small chance of a child setting foot in your house, store them locked and unloaded.

And ask that awkward question.

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