Archive for February, 2012

2012: Year of Feeling Inspired

February 25, 2012 1 comment

Don’t really know what happened when the ball dropped on 2011, but something definitely inspired me. Normally, I don’t even bother with New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not an excuse, and I don’t want to crutch out on it, but I do have ADHD. So, you see, my attention span flits, blinks, focuses, blurs and goes in fits and starts. Sometimes I have hyper-focus where I am so narrowly and intently focused on the task at hand that I lose all sight of time – the hours fly by like mere minutes. Other times, just focusing on my wife telling me about her day is more than I can manage – leaving her feeling hurt and alone. So, I didn’t start 2012 with too many expectations, much less resolutions to hang myself with.

So, no one is more surprised than I am that I have started this year more resolute and determined than I have been in years. The year started with deciding that losing weight needed to become a priority. My last few visits to the doctor found my cholesterol to be a tad high. It’s something I have had to deal with for years. There is likely a hereditary component as my older brother had very high cholesterol starting in his mid-20’s, and at least to my recollection, has been taking medication to help treat it for several years. Concentration and waning and waxing interest being an issue, I decided to seek an application for my Android phone to help keep me on track. After a cursory search I selected the myfitnesspal application – to help count calories, plot my weight and keep track of at least some bare nutrition information. Results so far – a 20 plus pound weight loss. It seems the urgency of better health – not only the cholesterol, but the relationship between ADHD symptoms and diet, combined with the enhanced awareness of what I was putting in my body with the help of the app, are making a difference. Additionally, I have also been using the Fooducate app for Android. With Fooducate, I can scan bar-codes while shopping for groceries and get an easy to understand grade of how healthy or unhealthy a particular item is. It’s less tedious than reading the entire product label and the summaries provide useful information and links to ingredient information as well as healthier alternatives.

Another frequent failed promise to myself has been to study the Bible more. And yes, that was something I stared 2011 attempting to read more of. I started February 2011 and didn’t even get through the month before I forgot all about it. So, while I try not to be too hard on myself, it is disappointing to start so many things – including reading the Bible – only too stop so soon after beginning. It’s a common ADHD pattern. I get excited and energized to do something. I start the effort going 120 m.p.h. and either crash and burn or make a turn away from my goal and speed off to somewhere else. Distraction is a constant enemy. Well, while I am not going to say that this time is different, I’ve managed to get about 10% through the Bible so far. I’ve read through the New Testament before, but the Old Testament has always stymied my efforts often feeling like drudgery. Once again, I decided to use an application, YouVersion, to help. YouVersion is one of my favorite applications now. I spend an inordinate – my wife would say excessive – amount of time with my phone and tablet. In fact, she “tricked” me into buying the tablet, convincing me to buy it and share it with her. Little did I know that her master plan was to untether me from my PC (located in our laundry / man cave / hole) in the unfinished part of our basement, so I could at least be in the same room as her when reading, blogging, surfing the net, etc. Soon after I purchased the tablet she said it wouldn’t be practical for us to share it and let me know I could get her a new iPad when it came out. Sneaky, very sneaky – but effective. Anyhow, I have been faithfully following my Bible reading plan on YouVersion, as well dipping my toe in the Scripture Union’s Discovery Extra and Encounter With God daily Bible reading plans. They offer a number of delivery options, including daily e-mail, RSS feed, hard copies, etc. I have really felt a need to draw closer to God lately. It’s hard to explain, but there has definitely been a void in my life that really can’t be filled without Him. I pray I can continue forward with my Bible reading and deepen my relationship with God.

For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I read and tweet about economic, business, current events, etc. At the University of Washington, I majored in Political Science with the intention of studying law and pursuing a political career (if you want to call it that). For better (or better), I had great difficulty getting past the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The logic section, in particular tripped me up, although, my then undiagnosed ADHD, likely didn’t help either with the dense reading comprehension. Attempting to study for the LSAT was a constant disaster of lack of focus. Ultimately, I took the LSAT twice with abysmal results.  Not wanting to settle on what I perceived to be a mediocre set of law schools available to me, and discouraged, I gave up what had been my assumed dream of attending law school and began a series of jobs largely unrelated to what I had studied or – to each other – for that matter. My jobs have ranged from being a manager of a Radio Shack to an Army PSYOP Specialist / Airborne Paratrooper to an international sales representative and, currently, a shift supervisor for a plastics recycling company. As you can imagine, it’s a nightmare assembling a resume or going to a job interview. My childhood was spent growing up in and around my parents’ business. They owned a small chain of clothing / variety / hardware stores. I learned a great deal about business, merchandising, marketing, profit, mark-up, etc. during those early years. From that period of time emerged an interest in distribution. Stores like Wal-Mart fascinate me with their expertise is distribution, just-in-time inventory, computerized systems, etc. I also have what appears to be a somewhat handy ADHD trait – an ability to instinctively observe and understand complex systems intuitively. For example, I can walk into a business, understand how it operates and its parts relate quickly, see its strengths and weaknesses, and come up with ideas for it to improve. It’s a cool ability to have, but try to explain to the boss, management, owner, etc. why he should listen to the new guy’s big ideas on how to improve the business after a couple of weeks on the job. They look at you like you have two heads. All of this segues into my current position as a shift supervisor.

As I said, I have an innate ability to understand fairly complex systems (and all at once). I tend to be an observer of people and a synthesizer of information. I’m not afraid to incorporate a clever idea I have observed another worker utilize, put my own spin on it and integrate it into a systematic way of getting the job done. In my current position as a shift supervisor for a plastics recycler, my main focus is production. We have to get a certain quantity of product out the door on a daily basis. This is something I can influence, but can’t fully control. Without going into too many details, we recycle very bulky, heavy plastic. The environment is dirty and this effects our equipment. The work requires significant amounts of water, and the combination of water, dirt and sand always pose the risk of equipment failure. So, a large part of the my time involves watching to make sure equipment is functioning properly, conducting routine on-the-fly maintenance, and organizing the work. Organization / execution is critical. When I was in my 20’s my district manager at Radio Shack, Marlo Gouin, constantly drilled into me the importance of execution. Being young, and thinking I was smarter than I was, I didn’t pay much attention. However, years of experience – and trial and error – showed me just how right Marlo was. In our job, as so many others, execution is critical. If we are to meet our production goals, the work can’t be done helter skelter. Recently, our usually excellent production record, slipped badly. As a shift, and as a group, we failed to hit our goal. Generally, my philosophy as a supervisor has been to provide quite a bit of leeway to workers on the shift as long as we met our production goals. However, it became apparent, that something needed to be done. So, in concert with my immediate supervisor, we made it clear in no uncertain terms, that the current performance was not acceptable, and that the work would have to be accomplished in line with my vision of proper execution. This involved rearranging how work was done and my and my assistant supervisor’s assumption of several critical tasks that weren’t being accomplished by employees on the shift. While I would have preferred that this not happen, repeated efforts to explain the importance of the tasks and suggest ways to perform them more efficiently were not successful. Additionally, rearranging the workload provided a better division of labor and allowed the other employees to concentrate more exclusively on production. So far the results have been quite good, and barring disaster, we will make, and possibly exceed, our production quota for this month.

Another goal that I am feeling my way towards is that of becoming a published author. I’m still puzzling over the aspect of how to present a compelling case and profile, considering my unfocused resume. There are two ideas I am currently considering. One of them would be a Jeff Foxworthy-esue look at things that would result in you being labeled a right wing extremist. The other idea would combine my interest in economics and religion into a study of the economy and morality, analyzing what aspects constitute a moral (or immoral) economic system. Such a treatment would consider aspects such as interest rates, government intervention, fractional reserve banking and the role of central banks in the economy, crony capitalism and government intervention in the economy, etc. Like so many things in my life, the ideas are quite different from each other. On a practical level, I think the first idea about right wing extremism could be more popular and easier to sell. I could possibly leverage my position as one of the top 100 conservatives on the TCOT List, to convince a publisher that I have engagement with a large, interested audience. On the other hand, the treatment of morality and economic, if done properly, could be a valuable contribution to the current economic debate. It would be a more popular treatment. I’m not an economist, and don’t pretend to be one. However, I believe there is a need to present the current economic system in light of its moral consequences, and engage Christians, as well as those of other faiths, to examine our current system in light of their own deeply held beliefs. I’m confident that, if they do, they will find it lacking and will exert significant pressure on their elected leaders to make reforms. Whether, ultimately, such an effort will succeed is a great unknown. It may simply be that the current economic regime will have to collapse under its own weight before something, hopefully better, can emerge.

A final area that has provided inspiration has been supporting causes that I believe in. It is something that has always been difficult for me. So often, I am critical and see every little fault. No one is perfect, no organization is without its own troubles, and there always seem to be petty differences over how to best accomplish any given goal or task. That tendency to criticize often leads me to inaction. I also have a tendency to put things off, thinking that I will support causes I believe in when my own situation has improved. This year, I’m no longer waiting. There are a handful of organizations and causes I have either continued to support or decided to support over the coming years. My support isn’t necessarily conditioned on being in full agreement with everything the organization stands for. Put two or three people in a room and you’ll soon see the futility of expecting them to fully agree on anything. For that matter, there are times I can’t achieve full agreement with myself, much less anyone else. Having said that here is a short list, and summary of some of the organizations I have supported and / or decided to support:

  • DownsizeDC: One of the finest organizations fighting for individual liberty. The have an excellent agenda, as well as a brilliant vision of how to enact their agenda.
  • DownsizeDC Foundation: The non-profit side of DownsizeDC. It puts some philosophical meat on the bones of the DownsizeDC agenda and is a great educational resource.
  • American Bible Society: Seeks to spread the word of God by providing the Bible worldwide to those who want it.
  • Big Picture Learning: Provides a rigorous, engaging learning experience focused on individual students. In an era where so many schools are failing to educate students, and too many student drop out, Big Picture Learning provides a viable alternative to our public education system which too often fails.
  • Libertarian Party: I don’t always agree with everything the LP stands for, but I disagree with even more of what the two major parties stand for. The candidacy of Ron Paul demonstrates that many issues that the LP has brought to the fore are much more popular that the main stream media (MSM) would have led us to believe. I am frequently disappointed with the LP’s election results, and it seems getting its members going in the same direction is like herding cats. Perhaps that’s what happens when you try to order intelligent, strong individual to march in the same direction. Regardless, the ideas espoused by the LP are vital, and the major parties have become such creatures of ever-expanding government and dependably against individual rights, that the LP is needed as an alternative now.

So, the year so far has been one of inspiration and renewal. I am hopeful that progress can be made and do not intend to backslide. There surely will be challenges as always. Two of the greatest personal challenges for me are ADHD and maintaining a close relationship with God (and others). If you read this and believe, pray for me. This year somehow feels different. Perhaps it is the result of years of struggle that have resulted in hard-won experience. Certainly, the diagnosis of ADHD only a few short years ago has provided some much-needed knowledge of self. Knowing both your strengths and weaknesses makes a big difference. The insight into self has been both painful and rewarding. Rethinking who you are, getting feedback from loved ones, and taking a step back and reexamining yourself can be a bit like awakening to find that you have been trapped in The Matrix. I chose the red pill. I choose to live my life fully awake, for as long as it lasts. I choose to face judgment and learn to love myself, my God, and those around me a little better. Despite everything, I still believe I have a choice and that, in the end, it makes a difference.

Update 3-18-12

Just a quick update on how things are going.

First off, I am working on starting an ADHD support group for the Cape Girardeau area. Our blog site can be found here. Also set up a group site through groupspaces. Arranged for a meeting room at the Cape Girardeau public library on May 19th from 1-3PM.

Have also continued to lose weight – around 25 pounds so far.

Been trying to keep up on my reading, including the Bible. I’m not always as diligent as I would like to be, but I’m not doing too bad so far.

In addition, I am keeping up with reading financial blogs and web sites. Also ran across an interesting site, Zignals where I can set up all kinds of different stock alerts. For example I set up some stock alerts that will trigger when a stock’s 50 day moving average climbs above its 200 day moving average. Zignals also has some nice charting capabilities and you can share the charts you create on Twitter. Another interesting feature is the ability to set up a public portfolio and share your trading strategies. You can set a price for your trading strategy and you get to share 50% of the price that you select if someone decides to purchase it.

Work has been going pretty well too. Have reorganized the way some of the work is done and our production has increased dramatically.

So far 2012 has been a good year.