I Got 99 Problems and They’re High Class Ones

All of this storm stuff got me to thinking. I know, I know… every time that happens I tread into dangerous, uncharted territory, but I’ve also got a lot of time on my hands, so these things will just happen.  I was having a conversation with a friend recently where we were talking about various problems we face and the one thing I told her was, “Remember… these are high class problems… the kind that are almost nice to have.”

So what do I mean by a high class problem?  Well, not really the Jay-Z style problem:

Although I suspect the problems Mr. Sean Carter faces these days are much more high class than he dealt with growing up.

I define a high class problem as the kind of problem that may seem like an issue… but really isn’t in the grand scheme of things. An illustration in thinking of myself since the “winter” storm Alfred hit.  I lost power and was without TV, computer and heat.  I also had to lift in my basement by candlelight.  High class problems all.  No one should shed tears for me since I have a HDTV, MacBook Pro and am fortunate enough to even have a gym in my basement to begin with.  Or even the fact that my weightlifting of late has been pretty flat and I feel all banged up.  High class problem.  You get the picture.

There are 2 big challenges of the high class problem, as I see it.

First, even when you identify them, that doesn’t mean you instantly realize you shouldn’t be so concerned about them.  We don’t always instantly shift into a state of epiphany.  Well, at least I don’t.  If you do… damn… please write a book on it.  I’ll buy it.

Second, the realization of problems as high class can sometimes send us into a full-on state of guilt.  Why?  Because it’s easy to realize there will always be people out there worse off than us… so even having a moment to complain about a high class problem seems incredibly shallow. I think that’s being overly hard on yourself since we are just human after all… but at least taking the time to reflect on why your problem should not cause undue grief is probably the better path to walk.

If I seem a little fixated on the perspective thing of late, I probably am.  Travel always does that to me, but the next would be down time without competing priorities.  And that’s me right now.  Fear not – I have an idea for another blog post to do in the next day or so.  I might even be able to do it from my house without 15 layers of wool, fleece and blankets.

Nor’easters and Forced Perspective

It’s a lovely day here in New England… well, I mean it’s lovely if you look past the massive power outages, electrical wires draped across road, trees smashing into cars and the prospect of no electricity for up to week.  But beyond all that, it’s a lovely day in… October.  I need to re-check my calendar… huh, it really is October?  Hmm.

Snowtober damage
You mean your Octobers aren't like this too?

This above photo is a taste of what awaited me when I sojourned out of my house to see how things were today.  As extreme as that looks, it was not terribly unusual during my travel of about 1.5 miles to the highway.  Seriously.

This is the second time in the last several months that severe weather has caused a power outage which is supposed to last days.  Yesterday I made the best of it as the power went out during my lifting session in my home gym.  As my previous post shows, it’s amazing how you can get in a darn fine workout by candlelight.

But what all of this also does is force perspective upon many people yet again.  Sure, there is the initial levels of outrage over events out of the control of we mere mortals – just look at Facebook for anyone you know in my area for proof of that.  But then at some level, you are immediately forced into thinking about what is truly essential: food, warmth, shelter and the well-being of those you love.  Those rise to the top of the list in an eyeblink.

It’s also an interesting lesson in how far removed we are as human beings from truly having to rely on our own wits on a daily basis. Hell, we are so far removed from that kind of pure self-reliance that we create reality game shows to mimic that experience so we can watch it unfold in the comfort of our own homes.

Believe me – I have bitched a bit about this power outage too.  I think it’s natural.  It’s a horrible inconvenience… but it will go away and I will return to First World living.  However, I am hoping to get myself to step back and appreciate what I have a little bit more because I am only experiencing a few days worth of what far too many people experiencing constantly.  If the worst thing that happens to me today is my inability to watch the NFL, then that’s a fairly high class problem to have.

And if you are wondering how I am able to even get this blog post up given the state of power in the glorious Constitution State… my place of work still has power… and I am completely unsurprised by that. Nothing seems to stop this place. Ever.

Sometimes It’s Just Play

As I start this post, I am already wondering whether it will be overly specific to a small group of people. I never like doing that, so I am going to do my best to rein this puppy in and bring it back around. We’ll see how that goes. And with that unbelievably awkward introduction, we begin.

There are a lot of people out there who love to get into details and plan. Depending on the situation, I can be one of them, but a lot of the time, I find it can turn into over-planning as well.  But I do know quite a few folks who truly enjoy getting into the uber-specific details of any project to turn over each aspect, each step and carefully construct a borderline masterpiece of crafting. It’s actually pretty amazing to see the final result.

I see this with people in their training/exercise programs as well. If something is not built into the plan, then great googly-moogly! All hell breaks loose!

(Best use of “googly-moogly” ever. I will not debate this.)

It’s a little amusing to watch if, in some ways, it were not so darn sad. Oh don’t get me wrong – I’ve done the exact same thing where my plans have the inevitable wrench of doom thrust into them with nary an apology from Murphy, his law or anyone else.  But by-and-large… especially when it comes to things lifting-related… I tend to roll with the punches.

This whole topic struck me yesterday when I snagged my nephews, ran to Toys ‘R Us, grabbed a few Nerf footballs and headed over to an open field at a local college. We weren’t there to improve our GPP (General Physical Preparedness). We weren’t looking to get in some extra NEPA (Non-Exercise Physical Activity). It wasn’t designed to be part of a structured anything.

2011-10-10 16.17.11

It was just playing. Running around. Throwing the football. Those two little wild monkeys tackling each other repeatedly into the grass. It was just play in all of its beautiful, chaotic and unstructured glory.

It wasn’t my thinking of how this would so neatly improve my short burst acceleration or improve my total calorie burn for the day. I didn’t consider my mobility or even how the sunshine would increase my overall Vitamin D intake for the day.

It was possibly the last completely beautiful day we may get before the cold, overcast and rainy parts of Fall kick into high gear here in New England. And it felt great.

It’s just play and that is enough. If my deadlift session today were to somehow suffer because of this little excursion, so what? I cannot even begin to imagine it will, but so what? Was my plan so unbelievably valuable that I should pass up the chance to get outside and send my nephew on a few deep post patterns in the sun? Are your plans like that as well? They may be occasionally, but please, please, PLEASE don’t fall into the trap of your plans always trumping the chaotic little bumps that come up in life that you may miss and never get back.

Sometimes you need to be less afraid of diverting from your plan and utterly terrified of missing a magical random moment… because those are often the best of all.

Social Networking and the Rules of Engagement

I want to make something clear from the outset: I am not any kind of social media maven. I don’t specialize in building brands through tweets crafted with the guile of Machiavelli and the sparse beauty of Hemingway. I like using a few social networking tools and sites (Google+, Twitter and this fairly humble blog) and find it really great that I am now quite friendly with a number of people I’ve only come to know through these very sites. How can you not be at least a little fascinated by finding people with common beliefs and interests whom you may never meet in your life?

I’ve also come to chuckle at those that, to me, are just getting the social networking all wrong, at least in terms of engagement. It seems the coin of the realm to many who look to climb to the top of social heap is purely numbers. More friends or Likes on Facebook. In more circles on Google+. The uber-coveted number of Followers on Twitter.

But so freaking what?

Somehow why engagement became important is suddenly lost. It’s more like the rules of engagement in a military firefight than in seeking to make connections with other people.

Rules of Engagement

I recently took it upon myself to follow the advice of Chris Brogan and started unfollowing on Twitter or unliking on Facebook any person, business, group, etc. that only engaged in monologues vs. dialogues.

It was profoundly liberating. Less noise. Less fluff. Less people who only follow me if I follow them back. More people I actually want to interact with.

I don’t know how or where it happened, but somewhere along the way these amazing tools that enable people to connect with each other around the world to exchange ideas, make new friends, debate interesting topics or just learn something became twisted into a numerical popularity contest. I am guessing that many were looking to cash in on the social networking phenomenon and figured “More people following = more money!”

Except for one small problem… if you have nothing interesting to say, who cares?

I feel like it’s a new kind of Zen koan: If someone tweets to 43,743 followers but none of them read it, did it really happen?

It gets to a rule I find more solid every day: go for the authentic every time and you will come out on the other side richer for it.

Wants, Needs and The Quest for the New Shiny

iPhone 4SBig doings today in the world of tech as the overlords of Cupertino, California (Apple) rolled out the newest/shiniest/most-gotta-have-it device in their arsenal, the iPhone 4s. I will be the first to admit I am definitely a bit of a gadget/computer sort of nerd where all the newfangled gizmos and doohickeys fascinate me. And yes, I know that’s some heavy jargon to be using, but I just can’t help myself sometimes.

But for just a second… let’s get past the hype of the announcement that surrounds any release by Apple and the near-endless debate between the cult-like followers of Steve Jobs and those who hate anything Apple because… well… it’s Apple.

Instead, let’s focus a bit on something that I can barely believe my fingers are typing out this very moment… what in the world is really necessary?  I know, it’s borderline heresy as a gadget geek to focus on necessity versus “Dude… that’s just freakin’ cool as hell.”

What got me thinking about all of this was a post by Leo Babauta (of Zen Habits fame) on his refreshingly stripped down blog mnmlist.com, which if you have never seen, is devoid of nearly everything but text.  Heck, it’s hard to even tell Leo writes the thing since you have to search around a bit to figure that part out.  I should know… I just did that myself.  Leo wrote something today on the release of the iPhone 4s and it’s accompanying fanfare.

But it was one line, in particular, that stuck out at me more than most:

Five years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist. It wasn’t a need in your life. You were able to live perfectly without it. And now that it does exist, all of that is true.

There you have it. If I sat here thinking critically about the numbers of things I’ve purchased and truly thought about what I could live without… yikes. It’s not a short list.  True, I really enjoy my iPad 2 and use it all the time, but it’s not as if my life would have a gaping void within it absent it. I am not somehow a different human being for having that device… or my XBox… or my big screen TV… or… you get the idea.

As silly as it may sound to some, I think my gym equipment has allowed me to make fundamentally positive changes in my life in a way that the nearest replacement (belonging to a commercial gym and paying dues for the rest of my life) does not approximate. That feels like a pure win to me, even if it was not a cheap investment.

But overall, it’s rare for me to find many things… scratch that… material things that I simply could not go without if required. I learn this lesson most acutely a number of years ago when I looked at a credit card bill with a balanced that had carried over for a little while and thought, “Damn… I’m not even sure I can remember what I bought that I am still paying off.”  People, if you cannot even remember it, how critical could it be? That was one of my big financial epiphanies for certain… it’s bad enough to buy with credit… but FAR worse to still be paying for them when you can’t even remember what those things are.  Just… I mean… ugh.

This will remain part of my struggle going forward… fighting the allure of the shiny bauble of tomorrow. My self-awareness is good on this, but certainly not great. Hopefully it just gets a little better all the time.

In spite of the glossy finish, sharp lines, crisp details and seemingly unbeatable functionality found in any new gadget that is rolling our way down the consumer highway… if we let it pass by, we usually only “miss out” on something we never even knew we “needed” in the first place.

And that’s a curious place to be indeed.

Bed Blogging: Random Thoughts to Conclude the Weekend

The incredibly clever title of this post stems from the fact that it is a Sunday night and I am typing these words from bed. Sometimes I get creative and sometimes… well… it feels like enough to just state the obvious. Tonight is most assuredly the latter.

A few random items on my mind, none of which felt like I currently had enough mental horsepower to transform into full blog posts.

1) My first New Year’s Resolution for 2012 will be to completely avoid negative people as much as humanly possible. Honestly, I’m not really waiting for January 1st to kick this one into high gear. As a generally positive and optimistic character, my patience for the chronically negative is short and gets shorter every year. See yesterday’s post on “My Worst Day” to get an idea on why the eternally whiny cause me to spin on my heel and head in the opposite direction.

2) I always feel better when I blog consistently. Blogging is now being added to that slowly growing list of activities that I truly regret when not engaged in with regularity. This would include
– reading
– going to church
– cooking my own food
– going to museums (something I am really whiffing on big time and yet I ALWAYS enjoy them when I go… which immediately begs the question of why I don’t go more often and for which I have no good or rational answer).

I don’t include exercise on this list because I do that with regularity anyway. However, this list gives me an interesting view of where I need to spend more focus to reap more benefits.

3) At the end of many weekends when I’ve gone a few blissful days without a razor touching my face, I give thought to letting some matter of beard grow in. You know what stops me? It’s a combination of (a) pure vanity; (b) liking how I look clean-shaven (while hating the actual act of shaving); (c) itchiness; and (d) the fact that growing a beard has suddenly become a “thing” in the lifting community where you are somehow not fulfilling your manhood potential if up are not sporting a full-on Grizzly Adams special.

In the interest of full disclosure, rebelling against (d) should not be a very strong reason to avoid growing a beard, but it is shockingly compelling for me. I hate the idea of doing it because someone is basically challenging my manhood if I don’t.


But I do look ruggedly handsome when it starts to come in. I mean, that’s just objective fact. Like gravity… or the deliciousness of Chik-fil-A. Don’t question it.

My Worst Day

A topic very near and dear to my heart is perspective – why it matters, how people lose it, how to get it and how it just frames the every day experience of life so beautifully.  It’s just one of those things that when I am doing my best at cultivating it, I feel unbelievably blessed to have the life I do.

I have bad days, just like anyone else. Days where I feel beaten down or stressed out or lacking motivation or just feeling a bit sad.  I just generally accept this as being part of life, but I do my best not to dwell on these kinds of moments… at least not for too long.  Stopping for a moment, clearing my head and gaining some of that valuable perspective is always the best way to move past these kinds of events and feelings.

Why?  Because when I do step back and look at my life objectively, how can I not see how good I have it?

This video excerpt from the CBS show “Undercover Boss” does a perfect job of showing why perspective matters:



Boom. If you’ve always had it good, it gets reaaaaaally easy to not appreciate the fact that it’s not always that way for many people.

And the video is also a perfect and powerful reminder that the absolute worst of the worst days I experience in my life are a dream to hundreds of millions of people.  Not hundreds. Not thousands. Not even millions… but hundreds of millions.  And it’s not because I am just so amazing and everyone should aspire to be me and that I have the ultimate secret to success.  I don’t and I would hardly qualify as anything amazing… but I like to think I qualify as someone with a healthy sense of self-awareness and understanding of my place in the world.

I hope and pray I never lose sight of that fact so that it keeps me grateful, humble, balanced and reflective with a willingness to always help out those around me.

Perspective defined

Because if the above oft-shared poster is even half true, I should never, ever have something to complain about.