Where does the time go?

Time is the worst renewable resource. Absolutely the worst. Unlike coal or crude oil, time doesn’t even give you the option of not using it. Your time will be used whether or not you use it for anything deliberate, purposeful, or meaningful. Time continually evaporates. Completely ambivalent to you and your needs.

While you can’t get a moment (or any other measure of time) back to do over, there’s likely a next moment. I say likely because there’s no guarantee. Our world is huge, complex, and filled with all kinds of risks – both banal and deadly. While 25% fewer people died in US car crashes in 2014 compared to 2005 – 32,675 people still died. That’s not even mentioning the rare, high-profile events we hear on the news every few weeks. Or an unexpected slip on the ice.

This means we’re in the exhausting position of continually and constantly making priority decisions for how use the next moment. I say ‘exhausting’ because making decisions – sorting, comparing, prioritizing, selecting – is one of the most energy-intensive activities for you and your brain. By some calculations – our brain burns 90 calories an hour. Each additional decision, each additional thought, each additional consideration – no matter how small – depletes energy from the same source. As that energy is depleted, as we become fatigued, we make far less optimal decisions.

We then allow time to evaporate around us.

We’ve all had the experience of stepping away from your desk at 5pm, walking to the train station, and spending the trip wondering what – of any consequence – you did for the past 8 hours. There are some vague memories of being pulled into unscheduled meetings, unexpected hallway conversations, some amusing and unmemorable cat videos, but no movement on hard things, important things. There just wasn’t time to focus on them as we spend the day reacting and recovering. Also lacking, the satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Herein lies the duality.

We began the day with an intention – however lightly we committed to it. As the day progressed, our intention met reality. Things we hadn’t accounted for, thing no matter how positive, still pushed our intention into another moment. A moment that while likely – and as such we will plan for – is not guaranteed.


For more, purchase my How to Use a Calendar PDF and The Power of When audio program with Patrick Rhone.

A Hunger

When I am running,

left
pulling ahead of
right
pulling ahead
again

and
again

and
a gain

faster than
I think I can,

my stomach is empty.

My Breath is the Wind

My breath is
the wind
and my body
a cloud pushed
through a clear summer sky
ever faster,
ever steadier,
ever calmer,
ever easier.

Resorting Taxonomy Listing by Meta_Value

To sort a taxonomy in the front end by a meta_value put this in your theme:

$terms = apply_filters( 'get-terms', array('taxonomy'=> 'TAXONOMY_TO_REORDER', 'meta_key' => 'YOUR META_VALUE KEY','orderby' => 'meta_value', 'order' => 'DESC'));

To sort a taxonomy in the admin view by a meta_value put this in your functions.php:

add_action('get_terms_args', 'custom_get_terms_args', 1, 2);
function custom_get_terms_args($args, $taxonomies) {
if (in_array('TAXONOMY_TO_REORDER', $taxonomies)) {
$args['orderby'] = 'meta_value';
$args['meta_key'] = 'YOUR META_VALUE KEY';
$args['order'] = 'DESC';
}
return $args;
}

All There Is

Back in 2008, I received a half pound of George Howell’s Terroir Coffee: El Salvador: Finca La Montaña. This particular coffee won the Cup of Excellence the prior year and then – the plantation was completely wiped out by near hurricane strength winds.

Gone.

The half pound in my possession, in the middle of winter in Minnesota, was some small part of all that remained of years of effort by dozens of people and hundreds of coffee plants. This coffee no longer exists. The place that grew it no longer exists. Wiped off the face of the earth. No matter how amazing it is, no matter how balanced, now smooth, how complex and rich – there is no more of it. No matter how much I wanted one more cup – one more cup to share with you – there is no more. This is all there is.

I had brewed a ghost.

In addition to the dark fruit flavors in the cup, I also noticed hints of somberness, loss, and an awkward exclusiveness. Yet, the finish was still bright with gratitude.

Earlier this week, I judged a homebrew cider competition. In BJCP-sanctioned homebrew competitions, there are 2 bottles of each entry. In the first round, one bottle is opened and two judges spend 10 minutes evaluating a small 1-2oz sample of it. That small sample ensures that at least 6oz remains in the case that this entry advances to the second round (mini-Best-of-Show). The second bottle is only opened if the entry advances to the Best of Show.

These are small amounts, just enough, to make a comprehensive evaluation. Sometimes far more than enough. It doesn’t matter how amazing any given entry is. All you get is an ounce. Maybe two. No more. That’s it. Even if you could track down the homebrewer – they may have no more. Given the multiple weeks between brew days and judging days – it’s highly likely the only bottles remaining are the ones being judged. Even if more existed, they’d still have to get to you. The best they may be able to do is to share their recipe. Assuming you could exactly re-create their beer in your brewery – it’ll still take a minimum of two weeks to enjoy it again. Probably longer. Plus, you probably didn’t exactly recreate it.

Another ghost.

Companies like Cocoa-Cola, Pepsi, and Yum! Brands are continually pursuing constant consistency if not at a global scale, then at a mega-region scale e.g. all Cherry Coke Zero in North America should taste exactly the same. And there will always be plenty of it. Even with more agricultural products – like the Simply Orange brand – built on the premise that the vagaries of the orange harvest from every farm in every region across every season can be blended out to produce a deliciously unwavering product. Indefinitely.

When so many of the products we interact with everyday are persistently and consistently available, it’s easy to forget that not everything is. It’s easy to mindlessly consume. Not savoring, not contemplating, not considering, not appreciating, not acknowledging that once we consume it, it’s gone. Completely gone. There is no more for anyone else. Not even us. Through our consumption, we have extinguished it.

Whether an offering from a chocolatier half way around the globe, or coffee from a nonexistent plantation, or an amazingly delightful beet Berliner Weisse, or anything else on your plate, or the people around it. It is a privilege, an exclusive and elusive privilege be have these things for your pleasure, for your sustenance. For when the glass is empty, when the plate is clean, when the moment is over – these things are gone. Gone forever.

In Somm – Into the Bottle – there’s a scene where a vintner at Clos Ste. Hune opens up one of the few remaining 1962 vintages that his father created. After he pours an ounce for himself, he offers an ounce to his son and directs,

“You have to put this wine in your memory. You have to register every little detail. Each vintage has to be registered in your mind.”

Register the nuances of each aromatic, the exact level of tannic astringency, each distinct note; the sweetness, the depth and complexity, the acidity, the alcohol presence, the dryness of the finish – then label it ‘1962 Reisling’, and put it on a shelf in your memory palace. All from just an ounce or two.

Assuming you’re paying attention to every sensation, appreciative for the opportunity, for the privilege, of being able to enjoy this tiny bit of an ever dwindling supply not just of coffee, or beer, or wine. An ounce is more than enough.

For each time they open a bottle from 1962, there’s one less bottle from 1962. Eventually, the last bottle will be opened and memory is all that will remain.

But time.

It’s easy to assume there will always be one more moment, that like the ever-refilled shelves of the grocery store, there will always be tomorrow. Unfortunately, unlike the these things we can put in cans and bottles to preserve, to transport through time, time itself is continually being destroyed by hurricane-strength winds. This minute is unapologetically wiped out by the next. This hour is slowly, quietly, sneaking away from us, never to be heard from again. Each breath is a complex blend of somberness, loss, awkward exclusiveness, gratitude, calm, and opportunity.

The best we can do is to savor every detail. To register these rare moments in our memory. We don’t really know how many moments are left for us, our memory is all there is.

The sound of the garbage trucks jerking mechanically down the street. The clacking of the keys on the keyboard, the sound of tiny footsteps running down the hallway. The humm of the fluorescent lights. The smell of a clear summer day. Vintage – 11:20am Wednesday June 8, 2016.

Make Mountains into Milestones

I recently returned from four refreshingly long days in Lutsen along the beaches of Lake Superior’s north shore. The weather was warm and calm enough to spend one of the mornings in a kayak. After scooting along the shoreline, our tour guide led us out in to the lake, far enough out that the shore was a distant sliver. We stayed out there a bit, appreciating the clear, fresh, water. We had gone far enough out that we could no longer see any man-made structures. No cabins. No lighthouses. Just trees, mountains, and the lake water.

Our tour guide, knowing he couldn’t point us in the direction of our resort (for we couldn’t see it) pointed out two peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains and directed us to point our kayaks between them. Ten minutes later, we were close enough to shore to see human scale again. Our guide then pointed out a distinctly colored cabin along the shore and had us turn slightly and paddle toward it. Then, ten minutes later, he pointed out a series of townhouses peaking out from the evergreens and we turned ever more parallel with the shore heading toward them. Five minutes later, our resort was within sight and he directed us in for a landing.

Big transformative projects are like this journey back to shore. None of the landmarks the guide used were our final destination, they were the landmarks we could see from where we were. We all knew that our destination was out there, was real, and was our final destination. These intermediate, temporary landmarks made the journey more comfortable and far less overwhelming than if we made a beeline for a pinpoint beyond our field of vision.

It’s June 2016. Week 23. The mid-point of the year is three short weeks away.

The milestone projects my clients and I initiated in December and January are now going live (you may see a few of these coming to your favorite websites). These foundational efforts, are all incremental steps toward a larger effort that will take us through the end of the calendar year. Like the guided kayak journey to shore, our final destination is still hidden behind the horizon. We’ll still need to adjust our heading against a couple more milestones. Against a couple more iterations.

These iterations allow us to capture greater fractions of larger project’s business value sooner than the projected 18-month timeframe. It also builds resiliency into the project and the teams. As we’re able to set the heading to the landmarks we can see more details reveal themselves with each adjustment.

There are two take-aways:

  1. If you haven’t yet scheduled a long weekend enveloped in nature, out of range of your mobile phone service, do so this week.
  2. If you’ve lost sight of your destination on a big project, identify intermediate destination you can see that’s in the same general direction, one that will help you make substantial progress – both directly & indirectly. Adjust and repeat. If you’d benefit from a guide to supporting you along the way, give me a call.

Awaiting

The still shoreline
a patient sawblade
the color of spent charcoal
and spilled blood.

Miles away
a lonely lighthouse.

Laffer Curves in Everything

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What if you knew that applying more effort would only make things worse?

How would you proceed?
Would you heed the warning?
Would you stop?
Or would you continue applying effort blind to the deteriorating results?

I achieved burn out by expecting outsized results from an ever heroic effort.

At the time, I didn’t know about the Laffer Curve – an economic model for thinking about the relationship between tax rates and the maximum amount of money collected at that rates. It states that sparse revenue is collected at extremely low tax rates and extremely high tax rates – for two different reasons. Low rates encourage compliance, high rate encourage evasion. Somewhere between those two extremes is a point – or points – where both tax rates and collected revenues are both as high as they can go.

The model acknowledges maximum results (revenues) and maximum effort (rates) are not directly related and above a certain point more effort provides a worse result.

For simplicity, the Laffer Curve is depicted as a symmetrical with a single peak at 50%. That doesn’t mean it is. There could be multiple peaks, it could be wavy, or shifted to one side. The actual curve could be highly dynamic and responsive. Finding the sweet spot requires continual adjustments.

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The Laffer curve isn’t just a model for taxation, it’s an effective model for thinking about any situation where you want the highest, sustainable returns.

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Also, Nicholas Bate.