Holiday Travels Part 7 - 8000 Feet

I overheard Carl say that his cabin in the hills near Woodland Park CO is at about 8,000 feet above sea level, which explains my occasional shortness of breath, pounding heart, and mild headaches (notwithstand ample, albeit somewhat weak, coffee).

I just got back from a 40 minute powerwalk with my folks up the red dirt lumber road that Carl's cabin is on, though "with" is a strong word because my speed was considerably faster than theirs and I ended up lapping them a couple times. I'm going to count the walk toward my daily exercise goal, because it technically met the criterion, even though I usually strive for more vigor and rigor in my workouts. I could also count it toward my daily meditation goal because it was thought provoking and internally reflective "directed meditation." I was pondering the new year's resolutions I need to propose this week, along with the strategies for achieving them and the metrics for measuring them. I also thought about my longer term goals like going back to school for a degree in marriage and family counseling, a career path I feel strongly about doing as I ride out the remaining years of my working life. I've exhausted all the satisfaction and growth I can get from my 20+ years as a corporate technical writer (the soul crushing climb to corporate management has always been repulsive to me) and I feel I have a lot of solid life experiences now to bring to bear on helping other people get the most out of life. I also have more discipline and focus now to embark on this path than I would have had as a young man fresh out of college and full of piss and vinegar.

Anyway, I ramble. Another thought I had briefly on my power walk is that Colorado is a place I could see myself living someday. I love the scenery and the dry climate and the people seem a little more rational, collectively, than people from say Arizona, another state that appeals to me aesthetically, were it not for the crazies. Colorado has its fair share of crazies, especially in Colorado Springs, the fundamentalist Christian capital of America where my sister lives (she's not a fundy and is largely shielded from their nuttiness by the progressive university system that employs her), but crazy is becoming the new reality in America, so I guess we rational types (aka Vulcans) need to adapt to that as best we can). The Coloradans seem mellower these days, maybe because they legalized recreational marijuana use (unsubstantiated hypothesis). Colorado also has seasons - spring, summer, winter, and fall - that, while not of great import to me (I'd be fully happy in the year round tropical constancy of somewhere like Hawaii, truth be told, its climate buffered to within a few degrees of optimal human habitat by the vast expanse of Pacific Ocean that surrounds it), is something my significant other, Deborah, has expressed a penchant for. Colorado's winters are far less bleak and lengthy than Wisconsin's and they are often punctuated with episodes of more temperate weather. For example, on my power walk this morning, three days after Christmas day, the air temperature was approaching 50, and it felt much warmer due to the thinner air through which the sun's radiant energy has to pass here. (Side Note: I still believe that people who claim to enjoy the seasons are mostly rationalizing their poor geographical choices via cognitive dissonance, but I can't prove it...).

Well, I should hash out these new year's resolutions, I suppose. If you are still reading, God bless your patient heart. I'm afraid the conclusion to all the suspense I've generated may be a bit anticlimactic, and if so I am sorry (in the sympathetic sense, not the apologetic one, since we are dealing with reality here). You see, much of my resolve is merely an extension of the final 100 days of 2016, during which I established several systems, with related goals and metrics, as part of my participation in a Mastermind accountability group. I plan to continue going to the gym four to five times per week to exercise. I've lost over 20 pounds since I began doing this for the 100 Day Challenge back in September. The goal is five times per week, with four times per week (80% adherence) still being counted as success. I have similar metrics for a couple other of my systematic goals (goals oriented on a system of DOING rather than some pass/fail objective or milestone), learning jazz piano and languages (Spanish and Welsh). These systematic goals are ongoing with gradual improvement over time. Ultimately I'd like to be a jazz pianist fluent in three languages (including English) and I hope this happens before I die, but the main goal of a system is just to DO IT consistently. So I have a metric to do one hour of piano practice four or five times per week and to complete a certain number of language exercises in the Duolingo app also four or five times per week. On the advice of my spiritual advisor (Deborah), I may reduce the metric on my gym, piano, and language goals to doing them three to four times per week. This is because even though I did not have too much difficulty hitting these metrics in 2016, I did so at the expense of another important goal: WRITING MY BOOKS. Time management was the main obstacle to success in this goal in 2016 and I plan to remedy this system for success in 2017. My primary (but not my only) income stream in 2016 was Uber driving and I made the mistake of trying to do book writing in my car while I was idle between passengers. On paper, this was not a bad idea since I prefer to Uber drive during the day when demand for rides is low. The net amount of available time for writing was ample for the established book writing metric, to write for three to four hours on four to five days each week (emphasis on weekdays, because Uber and other pursuits demand more of my time on weekends), but I failed to appreciate that successful writing output requires uninterrupted blocks of deep work time. Uber driving proved to disruptive to my writing workflow, so near the end of 2016 I did a major restructure on the writing system goal and I will implement it fully in 2017. To wit, the system goal is to put three to four uninterrupted deep work hours in on writing per day four or five days per week and this writing should be done before Uber driving or other demands break up my day into blocks of time that are too small for successful deep work writing output.

One system that I may codify as a new year's resolution in 2017 that was not one in 2016 (though it was a rough guideline) is to adhere to a more whole food based, Paleo-leaning diet. The difficulty here is how to implement it with goals and metrics. I am pretty good at following such a diet at home or other places that have dietary options in line with this paradigm, but I am never going to starve myself if the only nutritive options fall outside the scope of it. The best solution is probably a goal with a binary metric, something like "adhere to the optimal diet five out of seven days per week," with a metric of one (1) or zero (0), where one represents adherence for the day and zero a lack thereof. This has some advantages if I start my week on Monday, because the weekends tend to be the most difficult times to eat consistently well. Thus, if I am adherent on all weekdays, I can cut myself a little slack on weekends. As always with such metrics, I give myself a passing grade for 80% success. So if I only stuck to my healthy diet on four of five days in a given week, it would still be a success.

Finally, I am going to beta test a two week resolution starting on January 1, 2017. I am going to attempt to go a fortnight with absolutely ZERO social media use, where social media is defined as principally FACEBOOK and TWITTER, but includes things like Instagram. My field research has concluded that social media is highly addictive and very destructive to human intellect, productivity, and progress. It is in fact designed to keep people distracted from their own goals and ambitions for long periods of time and it offers only enough "useful" media content to keep the rats (people) pushing the lever for a promised reward that never comes. So I am going nihilist on social media. If the two weeks of social media fasting is successful and yields greater productivity on my "real" goals, I will implement a longer term trial. There are minor exceptions to this goal. Facebook Messenger has become a useful messaging tool for many of my peers and musical colleagues. I need to keep it active for good reasons, but as with email, I will use it sparingly and only at selected times during the day (morning and evening, primarily). The Messenger app also stands alone from the Facebook app itself and doesn't require a login to Facebook per se.

I'll also successfully submit my application to the Marriage and Family Therapy masters program at Edgewood College during the first fortnight of 2017, a goal with a binary metric that will be synergized by the social media fasting goal.
That concludes this outline of my 2017 new year's resolutions. Specifics to come later. Suffice to say, I was very successful on my 2016 goals and 2017 looks to be even better.

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