Communication Overload

As technology enables innovative ways to connect, it also introduces many challenges too.

Once someone knows your Twitter handle, email address, or phone number, that person can reach out at any time. Add these instances up, and now you’re faced with a huge task of filtering the welcomed contacts from the not.

There’s also the problem around expectations. When someone can reach you, there’s a built-in expectation that you’ll respond. But the increase in outreach volume makes this difficult, if not impossible.

And if the people you want to connect with are on a certain platform, there’s additional pressure to be on it too. And these days, everybody seems to be on everything which creates more issues.

I think the people that have dealt with communication overload the best are the ones that are clear about their boundaries, in terms of what channels they’re willing to use and how they use them. Then it’s up to others to respect those rules.

In short: communicate about how you communicate.

Groaning Is Optional

These days, when I’m seated on the floor and I try rising to my feet, it’s not easy.

Sometimes the joints are stiff. Sometimes my muscles are tight. During the struggle of getting up, I often groan with the effort. Yeah, I know I’m getting older. But it’s also depressing.

I lamented to a friend today, who is roughly the same age. Her reaction?

She laughed because she’s had the same experience. I laughed with her. I felt better.

I’ve always known that laughter can be an effective coping mechanism for frustration, especially for situations out of our control. My friend happens to be good at seeing the humor during times of despair. I’m not, but maybe I can get better.

Laughing seems a lot more appealing than groaning.

Consumers and Reusable Food Containers

When I bought a bubble tea yesterday, I also acquired a plastic cup, a plastic seal covering the top, and a plastic straw sticking out of it. Once I finished the drink, all that plastic was thrown away.

Does it have to be this way?

As of today I can buy a coffee at a Starbucks and use a travel mug I brought from home.

I’m allowed use my own bags for the produce I buy at the farmer’s market, or the bulk bins at the grocery store.

Though I’ve never done it, I can’t imagine there being an issue of putting leftover food from a restaurant meal into Tupperware I brought myself.

Would a place that sells bubble teas allow a customers to supply their own reusable cups and straws? Definitely worth a question.

Adventures in Reading, Continued

I’ve talked before about the challenges of getting my son to want to read.

His reading has gotten better, actually, but now I’m more focused on his spelling. I figured if he’s making a strong connection between the sounds the different combination of letters make, both his reading and spelling will improve.

My wife has this wonderful exercise of writing sentences back and forth with him on a piece of paper. After each sentence is written, she would have him read it out loud and gently make corrections.

I did my own version of that activity. When I wrote my sentences, I chose topics I knew my son would enjoy while keeping the word choice and sentence structure challenging for him, personally. Those two decisions seemed to keep his interest level high.

Finally, I added one twist: I purposely misspelled 1-2 words in the sentence I wrote and encouraged him to correct me. That not only made the activity more fun for him, but I found it easier to give him feedback when he needed it.

We ended up doing about 20 minutes of these back-and-forth sentences and talking about them, which was 20 minutes more than he was willing to do when we started. Worked out great.

A Point of View Is Not Disputable

So often we get caught in this trap of arguing against a person’s perspective, saying she is wrong. That almost never goes over well.

There’s no way we could know the sum total of someone else’s experiences, feelings, and beliefs. We are in no position to say what that person should or shouldn’t feel. Just like no one else can judge our personal worldview.

It’s ineffective to argue about who’s right and who’s wrong when neither can be proven.

The News Problem

Staying informed through the internet seems like a great idea in theory. Nearly unlimited news sources, on whatever topic you can think of. Delivered instantly. Mostly free of charge.

But the abundance of news is also overwhelming. Filtering on scope, ascertaining biases, and keeping consumption to a reasonable level takes massive effort.

You would think technology can help us fix these problems. I’d love a tool that allows me to customize how much and what type of news I receive.

Here are some features that matter to me:

  • A way to designate my filters. The standard news categories is a start (i.e. world, business, sports, lifestyle) but choosing my own keywords would be even better. Another possibility: maybe AI that could learn what I like based on what articles I clicked or flagged?
  • The tool would have the ability aggregate from different news sources, with the option to include or exclude sources.
  • I like distraction-free reading, which means no ads or extraneous links tempting me to click on them. Currently I use RSS and Instapaper to serve this purpose.
  • The ability to control content volume. For example, could I choose to receive the top 10 most popular news articles of the week outside the U.S? Or, if I could read one article on technology today that my friends found interesting, what would it be?

I don’t know of any tool that allows news consumption like this now, but if it doesn’t exist already I’m sure it will soon. I can’t wait.

A Delicious Way to Consume Turmeric

Turmeric is a strong tasting spice that is also linked to multiple health benefits. Here’s a smoothie combination that I really have been enjoying lately:

  • a bunch frozen mango chunks
  • a teaspoon or more of turmeric powder
  • a sprinkling of ginger powder
  • some ripe stone fruit (I used two small peaches)
  • start with enough water to allow blending

Put all ingredients into a blender, then run until you get the smoothie consistency you want. Adding more water thins it out, adding more frozen mango chunks thickens it.

No precise measurements given, because I don’t measure myself. Your best bet is to experiment with the ingredient proportions until you find something you like.

Loss of Innocence

Part of growing older is learning that life can be unfair.

As a parent, I want my kids to be able to be kids for a while. I don’t want to explain why they do drills at school where they barricade themselves in a classroom. Or come up with reasons for a teenager wanting to fire a gun into a crowd.

Coping with senseless violence is awful. Dealing with that reality as a child is a tragedy on top of a disaster.

My heart breaks for today’s youth.

Daily Practice

I once read that to get better playing piano, it’s much better to practice 5 minutes a day, every day, rather than a full hour once a week.

I’ve also heard similar statements made about writing, programming, exercising, reading, and learning a foreign language. Why does the daily practice work so well?

I’m pretty sure mindfulness is at least part of the reason. Because you’re coming back to the activity every day, it stays on your radar. You won’t lose progress because you forget what you did before. You’ll also more likely develop ideas to improve.

But perhaps most important of all, consistency and frequency forms a habit. Like brushing your teeth, doing something every day becomes part of your life. The days becomes weeks, the weeks become months, and the months become years.

How could you not become better after that?

Of Course It’s Hard

Many times, we know what we need to do. But we hesitate, or worse, give up, because it’s hard.

But that’s the point. If it wasn’t hard, then the reward we seek wouldn’t be as valuable.

Keep moving forward, eyes on the prize.