Category: "Reduce"

A Sense of Accomplishment

January 23rd, 2015

New ideas give me a rush. They flood in and overwhelm all other thoughts, consuming my ability to focus on whatever task I was doing at the time. To make the most of a good idea when it comes, I drop the mundane and chase the possibilities.

"That would make a fantastic website."

"This is a story I need to write."

"Why hadn't I thought of that sooner; I must get started RIGHT NOW."

New ideas make me feel alive, as if I might still have something to contribute to this old world. Why keep plodding through an unfinished task, a report about yesterday, that letter I'm tired of writing, this data-collection scheme weighing down my eyelids? Finishing things is boring; I want to devour freshness.

Why? Because a sense of accomplishment never gets stale. In fact, it lets me sleep at night. After I finish a task I hear things such as, "take a break," "time to celebrate," and "good job." And because every idea is virtually worthless until it reaches completion.

So, what to do?

There is a way to trap the ideas so they don't get away, without having to act on each one the second it develops:

Write them down.

For those who get explosive torrents or regular good ones each day, take this advice to the next level: Start an Idea Journal. A simple spiral-bound tablet will do. Record the date if you want, but more importantly, document your thoughts. Write down enough information so that you can recall not just the concept but also the enthusiasm and emotion and the reason for the urgency.

Put the paper aside and go back to what you were doing. Then, on those days when nothing comes, open the journal and be inspired.

Humans are losing their sense of accomplishment because our brains are evolving with technology. This is especially true for the brain that grew up with computers. We are increasing our ability to process multiple streams of information at once, but we are decreasing our ability to focus. This is great for starting things, but not so great for finishing them. Still, we need to close the books, tie up the lose ends, and put the laundry away.

This blog post is an example of the "save it for later" technique I am suggesting. The premise originally flashed through my brain in October 2014, while I was updating the html code on my Website (boring). A few days ago, knowing it was time to post to the blog, I was burned out and empty. I opened my folder, plucked out a concept, and suddenly I was back on track. Not only did I successfully finish updating the navigation links at www.thewritebeat.com, I have completed this post, and thus can now celebrate two minor-but-mighty accomplishments.

Clearing the Road to Hybrid Car Ownership

January 8th, 2015
Gas prices are down. Drivers are celebrating. But does that mean we can slacken the conservation reins? Not as far as I'm concerned. For me, prices have no effect on my quest to burn less fuel. The cost of consumption is almost immeasurable when you factor in the associated environmental damage, corporate gluttony, health impacts, and spiritual conflict. I conserve because it's the right thing to do. Which I why I jumped on my friend's suggestion when she said, "Your readers should know what I learned about buying a hybrid car. It's more affordable than you think." I've known Judy for 15 years. She has always impressed me as a goal setter, a smart shopper, and a caring person. Plus, she has mechanical knowledge. I figured the best way to share her car-buying information was to let her explain it in her own words. Here is my interview with her: Question: Why did you want to buy a hybrid?  Answer: For better fuel economy and to help encourage industry to find better ways to be more environmentally friendly.

 

Q: Describe yourself as a shopper. Impulsive? Thoughtful? Unimpeded? Budgeted?  A: All of these.  I know I can be impulsive, so I stop myself in process and start analyzing. I have a budget; it's small.

 

Q: Why did you initially think a hybrid wasn't an option for you?  A: I assumed it was way out of my price range before I ever even looked into it.

 

Q: What changed?  A: While shopping for a new car, the sales people explained to me that there are many incentives from our federal government to buy or lease a hybrid, so that it was not only affordable, but more affordable than a regular non-hybrid car.

 

Q: What kind did you buy?  A: 2014 Ford C-Max Energi

 

Q: How do you like your new car?  A: Absolutely love it!

 

Q: What is it like to maintain compared to a traditional car? More expensive? Less expensive? Bothersome?  A: Easy, no different than any other new car.

 

Q: Do you have any hybrid-car-buying online resources you'd like to share? A: No, just Google

 

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to say about the experience?  A: Don't rule out hybrids if you're thinking of buying or leasing a new car. Explore all options.

 

Q: Please describe yourself. A: I am retired from two careers, military and civilian, living on a strict budget, and totally enjoying life. I garden, do a lot of volunteer work with veterans and animals, and I support environmentally friendly businesses, especially small businesses. ---- There you have it; hybrids are worth a look. When doing your research for tax incentives, add the syntax "site:.gov" to your search to obtain links to government websites. Earth-caring people get a lot flack about burning fossil fuels whenever they speak out against the companies that produce it. "Hypocrites," the antagonists yell. But Americans have been victims of a manipulated market, one that has blocked meaningful, affordable gas and oil alternatives from getting beyond the prototype stage. That's changing. We've passed the point of such alternatives being "right" and reached the point where they are "critical." Today's options may not be perfect, but if you dig a little you will find more are becoming available, ones easier to acquire than in the past. Thanks, Judy, for reminding us of that.

Everybody's Talkin'

December 5th, 2014
When Fred Neil released "Everybody's Talkin'," the stuff on his mind was different than what's on mine. Forty eight years later, I sing his lyrics because I too often hear: Sell. Sell. Sell. Buy. Buy. Buy. "You need..." "Isn't it time..." "Aren't you ready for..." "This is the most revolutionary..." "How did you ever do without...." Blah. Blah. Blah. It's gotten worse. Advertising voices are everywhere. They break in at a frequency and volume that has become unbearable. Why? Is it because there are more of us on the planet, so more of us have to shout to survive? Is it because so many of us already have what we need that sellers have to work harder to convince us to buy what we don't? Is it because our economic engine is straining from the weight of the billionaires, the new millionaires? The Christmas holiday takes a lot of heat for its role in turning up the volume. I too must wonder if Santa isn't some ploy in a commercial conspiracy, planting a message in kids minds at an early age, "Life is about getting stuff." However, I don't blame Christmas, because this is the one time of year when commercialism is exposed, like catching Santa with his pants down. Truthfully, I always enjoyed the magical mystery of the North Pole story. And now, being older, I realize that the presents were only a part of what made Christmas morning so great. (Sorry faithful ones; going to church for a birthday celebration wasn't it either.) To me, the morning was about getting up before dawn (mom's groaning), sitting around a pretty tree and an old train set in our cozy PJs and smiling in the company of family. My brother wasn't mean to me. My dad wasn't yelling. My mom laughed easily. Christmas morning was daily strife interrupted by happiness. Sure, the presents rocked, but the anticipation was bigger than the receipt. I tried to open slowly, to savor the moment. And it never failed, Christmas night sucked. What did I have to look forward to then? Whether it's Christmas, a birthday, some Hallmark holiday, or just your daily routine, I'd like to suggest ways you can help tone down the selling chatter? I'm not talking about grinding our economic engine to a halt. I'm simply talking about changing the channel. • Stop buying junk -- particularly gadgetry junk. Challenge: this Christmas do not buy a single electronic gift. Why? It's too easy and, next to car sales, electronics represent the noisiest babble of all. • Use your purchases as a vote. Send a message that you will only buy inventions that solve real problems. The inability to lock your car door while flying over San Francisco is not a real problem. That you still need to fuel your drive through town with fossils is. • Shift anticipation away from materials toward experiences. Extend the happy family time by doing something inexpensively fun. • Buy from local small manufacturers whose budgets for product development exceed that of product peddling. • Be creative and give of yourself. Make your gifts. Share your possessions. Offer your time. • Consider all that you have when analyzing what you need. • Stop counting billionaires. Who cares anyway? • Sacrifice low, low prices for high, high quality. And finally, when they start talking at you, put in some earplugs and say, "I can't hear you." ---- Tell me, how do you deal with the noise?

Staying Put

May 23rd, 2014
Last week's post prompted a comment from one of my favorite, online writer friends. In his A World of Words blog, and well as widely published articles and guest posts, Sven eloquently captures how I feel. He points out eco-focused problems with an appropriate dose of humorous storytelling and then wraps up his perspective with real possibilities for change. Like me, he is of German descent, so he is tenacious. He keeps laying down building blocks, because he stubbornly believes things can change. He spun my rant against a disconnected, forever-traveling society into encouragement for more tales about the benefits of remaining grounded in place when he wrote:
"...structural changes have to be driven by cultural changes. And those cultural changes I believe can come through the stories we tell about how enjoyable it is to have mom & pop stores or nearby farmers..."
Although better described as heartwarming than enjoyable, The Valley Cafe immediately came to mind. Admittedly, I must drive 20 minutes to get to this little restaurant, but residents in the communities of East Greenville and Pennsburg are within walking or biking distance. (Again, admittedly, one would have to use the shoulder of a very busy Route 663 to get from Main Street to the cafe, but that's one of those structural issues.) Last year, I nominated The Valley Cafe for the local Chamber of Commerce's Outstanding Small Business award ... and it won. As the nominator I was asked to introduce the catering manager and owner at the award ceremony.
Karyn and Craig Keyser

Below is a copy of what I said, offered to you (and Sven) as an example of the value in soliciting your local restaurant instead of migrating to a fancy chain in the next town:
When traveling back through history on a visit to any historic American town, three buildings seem to always be left standing: the jail, the bank, and the gathering place. The jail and bank still stand because their walls were fortified. The gathering place still stands because it fortified the town. Sure, in these modern times, we’ve done a great job of building the ability for people to succeed alone. We have everything we need to remain isolated yet connected. However, I still believe that the gathering place is relevant to a community’s success. Therefore, I nominated The Valley Cafe for this award, because it is managed in a way that understands the simple strength that is community. Any given weekday, you’ll find businesspeople using the cafe as a meeting room, allowed to linger, never rushed in order to fill the table with more orders. But what made me think of the Cafe for this nomination comes in the form of a story told to me by Karyn, the Cafe’s catering and marketing manager. It was in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Neighbors were beginning to venture outside. They were beginning to realize that the public service warnings were accurate: the power was going to be out for days. Many were prepared for an outage; too few were prepared for week or more without heat, light, or stove. It may have been luck that kept the lights on at the Valley Cafe following the hurricane, but it is the compassion of the staff that made it a respite to those in need of a warm place and a good meal. I got to talk with an exhausted Karyn one week after the storm; I learned just how much the cafe cared about people. Doing what it does best -- food -- it kept serving up what it could while allowing folks to eat slowly. She described one elderly lady who came regularly during that period, always alone, looking more weary and colder each day. Karyn told me she respected the woman's privacy, but would gently inquire as to her well being, to make sure she was O.K., if there was anything she could do. In the end, it seemed just being open for business and letting her be at a table was exactly what she needed. It’s a little story, told with an authenticity that could not be faked. This hospitality in an age of hurry-up-and-catch-the-next-customer is why I nominated The Valley Cafe for the Outstanding Business Award.
Nothing in that introduction talks about low prices, outstanding food, or unbridled variety, the things for which we drive all over the globe. I bet if you look closely enough, you can find a Valley Cafe in the shops and restaurants close to where you live, but in order to find out, you need to stay put. And thanks for the encouragement, Sven. Consider this one more brick in the wall of change. ---
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Behind the Wheel

May 15th, 2014
We all want a good life. Yet, for many of us, our desire for happiness and satisfaction is met with anger and frustration. After a short errand this morning--a four-mile drive during rush hour--I wondered how good it would be if we all got out of our cars. Americans drive constantly. It's not just the ridiculous daily hours spent sitting in commuter traffic, it's engrained into everything we want or have to do. Expose your kids to extracurricular activities? Gotta' drive 'em. Get food for the week? Gotta' drive. Catch a ballgame? You don't just gotta' drive; you have to cut out in the seventh inning so that you can beat the traffic home. Want to go out for a few drinks? Gotta' designate someone to drive. Go on vacation? Getting there involves the longest drive of the year, a dread-filled fact that haunts your entire holiday, because if you want to get home, you gotta' drive it again.
Rolling past one scenic view after another during a vacation to Colorado.

Public transportation, while good for many reasons, isn't much better. It still involves a lot of time that could otherwise be spent on better things. Whenever I get to feeling low about our culture, I try to imagine what it was like back in the days when we had REAL problems. Typhoid fever. Abusive masters. And a general need to labor over every task. We tackled them through time, especially the general laboring part. Work was replaced by machines, just as walking has been replaced by cars. Now we've taken the matter so far that, instead of weaning us off our vehicular addiction, we're investing in the creation of smarter cars. No amount of technology will fix the fact that we need to stop this constant migration. Life is really good for people like me. I have the tools to deal with the majority of hardships that come my way, and even when I don't, help is at hand. Still, it's in my nature to want things to be better, and in that vein, I prefer labor (walking) to stress (driving). Meanwhile walking--or even biking--simply isn't an option around here; the infrastructure just isn't in place. But I can still dream and hope for a trend that brings us back to community, to neighborhoods, to villages, to being happy with the amenities nearby, and to be able to spend the majority of my days without getting in the damn car.
How some spent a beautiful Sunday in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania ---
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