Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Sharper your knife, the less you cry

Love, Laughter and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School

This book can be looked at as being about cooking, but to me it is about the courage to follow dreams.

I finished reading this a couple of days ago. The author, Kathleen Flinn takes advantage of the fact that she is laid off work to go to Paris and study cooking at Le Cordon Blue, something she’s always dreamed of doing.

Personally, this book was inspiring because I now have the time to pursue things I’ve always thought of, and here’s someone who’s done it and written about it.

But I am recommending the book because it is very entertaining (reading about school and classroom always is) and because Kathleen writes with a sincerity and vulnerability that makes the storytelling very compelling.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Laundry List of Self-doubt

I seem to have neglected this whole aspect of ‘not working’ in this blog. I don’t want to imply that it is always roses.

On some days, I feel something resembling envy towards those who have a job to go to regularly. This is not as bizarre as it sounds because I loved my job when I left. (In part, I left because I didn’t want my job to become all-consuming.)

Then there is always a back-of-the-mind doubt about whether my savings will suffice. Many people know and understand this fear. In my case it is a carryover from my working days and over time I have learned to relegate it to the back.

Also, not working and sitting at home seems way too hedonistic. If other people are able to take care of kids, their homes, their other commitments and put in a full day’s work, why can’t I merely go to work?

Finally, there is the fear that not going to work is just a poorly thought out half-baked idea.

Fortunately for me, these doubts don’t all assault me at once. I am guessing that thoughts such as these are to be expected, especially for one who spends time alone. I am aware of their existence, but they haven’t impacted me in any adverse way that I know of.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quotes relating to Time

A few quotes relating to time from the assorted books that I have been reading of late.

[From Rolf Potts' Vagabonding on being time-poor]
John Muir called these folks “time-poor”—people who were so obsessed with tending their material wealth and social standing that they couldn’t spare the time to truly experience the splendor of California’s Sierra wilderness.

[Harvard Professor Juliet Schor’s essay The Overworked American]
Employers ask for long hours. The pay creates a high level of consumption. People buy houses and go into debt; luxuries become necessities; Smiths keep up with Joneses. Each year, "progress," in the form of annual productivity increases, is doled out by employers as extra income rather than as time off. Work-and-spend has become a powerful dynamic keeping us from a more relaxed and leisured way of life…

The ultimate of being successful is the luxury of giving yourself the time to do what you want to do. – Leontyne Price

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Intellectual Stimulation

Last month, I had the opportunity to get together with a bunch of my grad schoolmates from UB in the Bay Area. The range of topics that got covered was refreshing. It reminded me of what I miss about not working.

Out of the three things I used to get from my work, I mostly miss only one. The income would help, especially given what the market has done to my savings, but I don’t miss it all that much. The gratification of hearing colleagues praise the work I did (psychic income) would be great as well, but I don’t miss that either. These days, I spend most of my time with my wife, and I have been married long enough to know that wives will never praise husbands the way they were praised at work.

So what I really miss is the intellectual stimulation. There were interesting problems (big and small) to solve, interesting tidbits that I would learn from colleagues during small talk and water-cooler chats. Over time people figure out what interests you and make it a point to mention that to you. That ‘food for thought’ is what I miss the most.

Theoretically, I know that I have to compensate for whatever it is that I am missing by actively seeking that out. I guess I can seek those out in websites, newspapers and magazines, but so far it doesn’t feel quite the same. It is the classic difference between Pull vs. Push. I liked having these things pushed to me.

Lesson: Before you retire or give up your work, try and figure out what you will miss. Maybe you can then figure out how to compensate for whatever that is.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Last Lecture – book

What do you write when you are 47 years old, bubbling with ideas and advice, have 3 young kids and 6 months to live?

Many of us watched Prof. Randy Pausch’s last lecture at CMU online. It made the rounds in September 2007. It was so popular that he followed it up with a small book, expanding on the stories behind his one hour lecture.

The book, which is full of anecdotes is essentially a how-to-live-your-life manual. It is not directly linked to retirement. For me, reading this book took me back to when I was in my late teens, when I read and reread two books by Feynman – “Surely, you are joking Mr. Feynman” and “What Do You Care What Others Think.”

The Last Lecture is small enough that you can finish it in one or two sittings if you so desire, though it might be better to enjoy it slowly. Do take the small amount of time it takes to read it. This is a book that I recommend to one and all.

Quotes from the book:

-- We cannot change the hand we are dealt, just how we play the hand
-- The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.

-- Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.

Dr. Pausch lost his battle to pancreatic cancer in July 2008. Sure, the book is sentimental, but it is a ‘How to Live’ book that is bound to have something for all of us to learn from.

Tip: This Holiday season, if you are at a loss when looking for a small gift to give someone, think of this book. You will not go wrong.

Monday, December 1, 2008

As If I were a Great Man…

While reading Michener’s autobiography The World Is My Home, the following two paragraphs resonated.

[[Michener resolves how he will live the rest of his life]] But as the stars came out and I could see the low mountains I had escaped, I swore: ‘I’m going to live the rest of my life as if I were a great man.’ And despite the terrible braggadocio of those words, I understood precisely what I meant: ‘I’m going to erase envy and cheap thoughts. I’m going to concentrate my life on the biggest ideals and ideas I can handle. I’m going to associate myself with people who know more than I do. I’m going to tackle objectives of moment.’

[[Michener listens to his inner voice]] I heard no voices other than the inward ones that warned me that I had come to the end of the line in the direction I had been heading and that I sorely required a new path. I had observed that certain men and women lived as if they had shorn away the inconsequentials and reserved their energies for serious matters, and I decided to pattern my life after theirs.