Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

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Awesomeness vs. Sickness

01/29/10

I recently came off of two weeks of sickness. I named the sickness Juan, as I picked it up in the Dominican Republic. Juan started with a two-day fever, followed by two weeks of exhaustion and frequent bouts of hacking cough. I hate Juan.

What I have learned in my two weeks is that sickness sucks. It sucks bad. At first, I enjoyed catching up on “Parks and Recreation” episodes and reading. And that took about four hours to get old. It’s not that I don’t like these things; I love them. Finding the time to read is a continuous struggle day-to-day. I took two days completely off my feet; you’d think that could be time very well spent.

The problem is that you get what you give when it comes to work, reading, thought; and I had little to give. Accomplishments, even intellectual ones, require significant energy. You have to “gear up” and prepare to bring all of your creativity and intelligence to the table; and then the actual act of thought requires many individual, nimble actions of asking questions, searching through your memory for relevant knowledge, pulling back to see the wider issues, plunging in. When you are in the midst of thought, you aren’t always aware of all of these actions, as you are focused on the problem. But it’s all happening.

When I was sick, I could barely get up to put on socks, let alone do mental gymnastics. Even after the fever passed and I was back at work, I couldn’t quite gear up, and I could only sustain whatever I was working on for short periods of time.

So that’s the shocking, unexpected conclusion of the day. Sickness sucks. Drink fluids.

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What to Expect in 2010

01/01/10

Happy 2010!

As one of my resolutions for the year is to post more (26 entries by the end–hold me to it), I’m going to keep this post short and unambitious. One point and I’m out.

New Years is my favorite holiday. It is >the< holiday of self-improvement, when you take stock of the previous year and dedicate yourself to what you want to change in the year to come. In addition to my 26 posts, I plan to tackle my details problem (see previous post), which I think is really a tendency to rush the double-checking process. I am pledging to double-check every important email I send and to continue to show up to events I am running an extra half hour earlier than I'm expected.

As to '09, it was my best yet. It was marked by several solid classes I co-created or ran and by moving in with my girlfriend in a neighborhood and life we love. I also started this blog, which I consider crucial in my growth to the level of wisdom in my field I think I need.

It's hard to think of how the next year will top 2009, except that I expect it will. If you remain dedicated to your life and to learning and understanding more and achieving more always, then shouldn't progress be the norm? That's not to say that it's guaranteed, as I could always get struck by lightning or the economy could fall apart at a whole new level or the government could choose to tax Randal Vegters at a 100% rate or whatnot. But those things are not the norm, and I have no particular reason to expect them.

Leaving aside the exceptionally awful things, I have every reason to believe that 2010 is going to be frickin awesome. And if I have every reason to believe that this New Year is going to rock my world, then I have every reason to believe that this New Decade is going to as well. And if you choose to take them on as well, then you do, too. Let's see how it all turns out!

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What I Know About Skill Pt. 1: Randal Gets A Fancy Haircut

07/27/09

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I think skill is one of those concepts that people use as a matter of course but is actually quite difficult to nail down. Skill is–according to my Mac dictionary–“the ability to do something well; expertise.” In a sense that’s intuitive: a skilled cook is one who is able to cook many things and to cook them well; a skilled tennis player is one who is able to control a tennis ball well.

But skill is only intuitive–to me anyway–if you think about it in terms of the effect, the fact that the meal or the shot didn’t exist before and now it does. What does it actually mean about a person to say he is skilled? How do you break it down? What are all of the things that are actually different about a skilled cook versus an unskilled cook? I think that the most obvious answer would be that he knows more about cooking materials, tools, techniques than the average person does. If so, then does that mean that my Jean-Georges cookbook makes me a four-star chef? Errrr, probably not.

It’s a question I’ve thought and read about plenty, but I am always refining my answer. I’d even say that I don’t have a full answer yet but, rather, many disparate pieces of an answer. Individual ideas that I’ve collected from my education, experiences at work, and various books.

And so the question was on my mind the other day when I got myself a fancy haircut.

The unique thing about getting a haircut is that it is one of the only instances where you actually see every step of the process–from assessment of the problem to completion. That creates a perfect opportunity for someone interested in skill to make a few observations and apply his current understanding.

Over the next few posts, I am going to try to list the key things I know about skill, using the highly skilled Tina the Hairdresser as my prime example. In doing so, I think I can bring everyone up to speed on the current state of my thinking. I’ll include myself in that “everyone.” Like I said, my thinking on skill is currently a collection of ideas, and I’m not quite sure what I’d consider my bedrock beliefs right now. By listing all of the pieces, I’d like to come to some sort of picture of the whole. It should be something easily stated, a clear framework for a person to use in figuring out why he or she is struggling in picking up a skill or executing it.

So let’s get this started!

To be continued…

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