Sunday, April 18, 2021

Life Lately: Measure the Right Things

A highlight of this week was beating Liverpool over two legs to advance to the UCL semi-finals. The picture on the left is from the home dugout at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Early in 2019, I became convinced I was overweight. I had gotten into the habit of recording my weight daily and I had watched the line trend upwards for months. So, like I had done before, I set a specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goal to lose about 10kg over the next few months. My plan was to create a calorie deficit, but I did not immediately define that in further detail.

Well, nothing changed over the next few months. I began eating less and exercising more, by a vague and varying amount, but that line tracking my weight continued to inch upwards. And then a chance conversation with Ehis helped unlock an insight I was aware of professionally but rarely applied in my personal life.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Life Lately - Who Can You Support This Week?

DMX and Prince Phillip. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Two famous men died on Friday. Prince Phillip, a 99-year-old British royal, died after a long and full life. DMX, a 50-year-old American rapper, died sooner than most people would like. The Prince was born into Greek and Danish royalty and married the British monarch. DMX suffered abuse as a child and turned to stray dogs for companionship after leaving home aged 14. The Prince’s gaffes made their way around the world. DMX’s music set records and inspired a generation. Their lives couldn’t have been more different, but they both left marks on the world. May their souls rest in peace.

*****

There has been an outpouring of good DMX stories on Twitter. I read through some of them and it’s clear he wasn’t just a celebrity acting nice. He was warm, welcoming, and didn’t think of himself as above his fans. It got me thinking about this line from the hymn Only Remembered, “only remembered by what we have done”.

There is an endless list of things that people do and are remembered for, but I wanted to focus on generosity today because I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about generosity in the context of sharing our time and material resources with people who are less privileged than we are.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Life Lately - This I Believe, Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Own photo from a live production of The Passion of the Christ; Trafalgar Square 2019

I really enjoyed evangelism as a child. There were few things I loved more than going out in the bus with my dad before Sunday services and special programs to invite people to church. Some kind people would come to the bus to request more information after hearing my squeaky voice over the PA system. They would tell me how surprised they were to hear a child speaking so passionately about God and they would compliment my confidence. A few of them even showed up to church – something that delighted me greatly.

Then life happened. I grew up and started to get sidetracked. Rather than focus on God’s love and redemption, which made for a simple and compelling message, I would let myself get drawn into lengthy discussions about the original meanings of Greek and Hebrew words, hair coverings, trousers, tithes, and church scandals. The message became complicated and more difficult to convey. I started to major on the minor.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Life Lately - Dealing with my unending workload

A view of London City from Victoria Park

The past few weeks were kind of weird. Despite working longer hours and with more intensity than at any previous time, I kept feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. So I did the usual things – I prioritized even more ruthlessly, I identified things ‘not to do’, I meditated more, and I worked even more hours.

None of this worked. My stress levels increased and I inched closer to burnout. At some point on Wednesday, I thought to myself that I couldn’t continue like that, so I tore myself away from the computer and went on a long walk to attempt a reset.

I started by quantifying things. Because I’ve been logging my daily hours for years, I know I am working about 10 more hours per week than I would be doing if I was going into the office. How could I feel like I was falling behind while working what was effectively six days a week? What did I need to do differently?

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Life Lately - My hack for better weekends, Trust in God


I cover two unrelated topics in this post. The first is on my approach to having better weekends. The second, inspired by recent conversations with new graduates, is about one of my favorite songs and how it helped me through an anxiety-inducing transition from university into work.

**1**

I had a really crap weekend just over a year ago. It was a complete wreck of a weekend. I slept too much, ate too much, discussed charged topics endlessly, watched TV for what felt like an entire age, and was completely drained of all emotional energy when Sunday evening rolled around. It took all my 'home training' to not call in sick on Monday, and as I sat in the train to work – tired and drained before the week had even started – I realized I had to do better in future.

I thought about it for a little bit and decided to list the things I found energizing and then fill my weekends with those things. Starting that week, I began making what I now call 'my weekend to-do list'. There’s nothing fancy on the list and it includes most of the usual suspects – call x, take a long walk, read y, check on b, see a movie, and so on. Making the list during the week helps me look forward to the weekend, and ensures I have a 'balanced weekend' mostly consisting of things that energize me. It also helps fend off the “where did the weekend go?” question.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cheat Day - Mother's Day, The Order of Time

Happy Mother's Day, Mrs. Ko

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who are reading this. Thank you for all that you do. I know this day can spark a variety of emotions depending on what’s going on in our lives, so I wanted to share this link to Nifemi’s post describing the joy and pain of Mother’s Day. If you’re hurting today, for whatever reason, I wish you peace and comfort.

I’ve been trying for a few hours, but I now have to admit I’m unable to do any serious writing in my current frame of mind. Therefore, I thought I’d instead share one of my favorite passages from Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time.

"We are not a collection of independent processes in successive moments. Every moment of our existence is linked by a peculiar triple thread to our past – the most recent and the most distant – by memory. Our present swarms with traces of our past. We are histories of ourselves. Narratives. I am not this momentary mass of flesh reclined on the sofa typing the letter ‘a’ on my laptop; I am my thoughts full of the traces of the phrases that I am writing; I am my mother’s caresses, and the serene kindness with which my father calmly guided me; I am my adolescent travels; I am what my reading has deposited in layers in my mind; I am my loves, my moments of despair, my friendships, what I’ve written, what I’ve heard; the faces engraved on my memory. I am, above all, the one who a minute ago made a cup of tea for himself. The one who a moment ago typed the word ‘memory’ into his computer. The one who just composed the sentence that I am now completing. If all this disappeared, would I still exist? I am this long, ongoing novel. My life consists of it." - Carlo Rovelli

Have a fab week, and see you next week.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Life Lately: "I can increase your happiness"

When I took this picture of Zajecarski, Serbia, I did not know I would be fast-walking (running) away from a dog on this street within the hour.

I don’t want a huge pimple on my nose; I don’t have one. In fact, given how much trouble I had with pimples as a teenager, it’s fair to expect my children to get a free pass. I don’t want to lie in bed unable to sleep because of the cacophony of generators; I don’t have to - for now. I am afraid of all dogs and don’t want to live in a house that has one; I don’t.

When we think about the things that make us happy, the things we are grateful for, we tend to focus on the things we want and have. Good memories of departed family members. Family and friends that are still here. Our jobs or businesses. Holidays – past and future. Money in the bank. PlayStation consoles.

We don’t often think about the things we don’t want and don’t have, things that contribute to our happiness by their continued absence in our lives. I haven’t made a list, but I strongly suspect the list of things I don’t want and don’t have is longer than the list of things I want and have.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Life Lately: Redeeming the time, habit stacking, and a gift for you

There were some really, really, beautiful days this week

Four weeks ago, at the end of January, I started that post by saying January felt like it zoomed by. I could say the same thing about February. In fact, when I woke up this morning, I thought to myself “how is it another Sunday already?”.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he asks them to make the very most of their time on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence. Whenever I feel like time is flying by, like I do today, I stop for a moment and ask if I am making the most of every day that passes.

The answer is never yes. Like most other people, I have good days and bad ones. Sometimes I bring my A-game and power through the day, other times I’m low on energy and slow waltz through the hours. I now think of St. Paul’s exhortation as an ideal, something to strive for on the journey to being better with each day that passes.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Life Lately: My first snowman and rediscovering a sense of play

My first snowman. I promise subsequent ones will be cuter.

I have been trying to play more lately. My natural tendency is to take things seriously and that is no fun, so I’ve been looking for opportunities to rediscover the sense of play I lost as I transitioned into an early adolescence. So, when it snowed recently and it occurred to me to make a snowman, I shut down my first reaction – which was “but I should continue reading this book about Index Funds”.

The idea of making a snowman and the reality of making a snowman turned out to be different. First, we didn’t have a lot of snow so I needed to shovel the snow on our balcony with a dustpan. Second, I didn’t realize I couldn’t just wear any gloves. I couldn’t compact the snow no matter how hard I tried in gloves and my fingers got wet very quickly. So I took them off and went with my bare hands.

It’s definitely not a handsome snowman but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that for those five to ten minutes when I scurried around looking for buttons for the eyes, a Sharpie to draw on the smile, and a bamboo skewer for the arms, I felt like the happy child I remember from the 90s.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Life Lately + Book Summary - Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work

"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

While scrolling through LinkedIn during the past week, I saw an update from someone who had made me a fantastic offer for a role in Product Management at an American Industrial Goods company towards the end of my year in business school. For a brief moment, I let my mind wander and explore what could have been if I had taken that offer, or any one of the other offers I received towards the end of that year.

This doesn’t happen often, but from time to time something will trigger retrospection and I’ll wonder for a few moments what those paths may have held. I always come away from these moments thinking the same thing – I followed an exhaustive process to make my decision and I made the best decision I could have made. As icing on the cake, detailed essays spell out the process I followed, the factors I considered, and the conclusions I reached. 

I think it is powerful to be able to move forward knowing I made the best choice I could have made. It means there is no lurking regret, no wishing I had done things differently. When I went through challenging patches in consulting such as a lengthy period on the bench or a poorly-defined project, I could think back to how I had chosen that position and trust the process.