Josh Betz

Engineer, Solver of problems, Wisconsin Badger

2017 Resolutions

Happy New Year! I’ve spent the last week reflecting on 2016 and thinking about what I’d like to change in the coming year. You can probably see there’s an accidental theme. There are no professional goals, which wasn’t on purpose, but I think even one or two of these would positively impact my focus during the day.

Meditate regularly

I’m going to use Headspace at least once a week. The idea is to meditate every day before work, but I know I will miss some days and that’s fine.

Run a half marathon

And also train for it. I have this terrible habit of signing up for races with the idea that it will force me to run more and then just running the race out of shape.

The half marathon isn’t really in question. I guess the real resolution is to train for it.

Read more books and less news

I find books — especially paperbacks — to be more relaxing and calming. Right now I’m reading Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. He writes in the same voice he performs and it’s pretty hilarious. I’m very late to the game on this one, but highly recommend it if you liked his Netflix special.

For news, I’d like an app that sends notifications about actual, important, breaking news. I had high hopes for the Apple News app, but they let publishers decide what justifies a push notification.

I’ve started to use the news as a crutch, like Facebook or Twitter, when I’m bored. The fact is that most of it isn’t important enough, also like Facebook and Twitter, that I need to know it in the next 24 hours — or ever.

Play more music

I tried to be specific for most of these, but the music thing is hard. Realistically, I have a couple months of Saturdays left until I’d rather be on a bike ride than playing guitar. I learned a few new songs over the holiday break and generally find it’s a good way to clear my mind when it’s too cold to go for a run.

Choosing Wrong

Last week’s episode of This American Life is about people making the wrong choices even when they know they are wrong. The first segment, from Malcom Gladwell’s new podcast, Revisionist History, is especially interesting. He talks to Rick Barry about Wilt Chamberlain and perfectionism.

MCA

Pale Blue Dot

This clip, at the end of Cosmos, seemed apropos as we watch politicians in the United States battle to be the “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”

Here’s a portion of the transcript, which I found on the Planetary Society’s website, taken from Carl Sagan’s 1994 book Pale Blue Dot.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Build Stuff

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a ton of old themes I designed. It was fun and funny and embarrassing to look at things that I thought were good enough to put on the internet as a 14 or 15 or 16 year old in 2005 and 2006 — it’s pretty bad. 🙂

I thought about sharing screenshots here as an example. Don’t be afraid to follow  your passion. Don’t be afraid to build things. Don’t be afraid to be bad at something before you’re good.

I read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell not long after it was published in 2008. For those that haven’t read it, Gladwell details what it takes to be a Steve Jobs, Robert Oppenheimer, or The Beatles. In short, you have to be in the right place at the right time and you have to have 10,000 hours of practice in your field. You can’t control whether you’re in the right place at the right time — I’m not even really convinced it’s necessary anymore, but you can probably control how much experience and practice you have.

On Brainpickings last week, there was a video backed by an Ira Glass monologue that reminded me of my old themes. It’s hard to pull out one quote from this short speech, but this one sums it up nicely:

 And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work.

I’ve heard many people that I look up to say similar things as well. I know Chris Coyier says something like “just build stuff” when asked how to get started.

I don’t, by any means, consider myself an expert in this and I’m definitely not done learning — it’s part of my DNA. Even without reading Outliers it’s likely I would have spent just as much time “building stuff” as a teenager. That said, I’m pretty proud of my job and feel lucky to work with — and learn from — tons of smart people every day.

So build stuff!

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