Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bucket Lists

Alejandro wanted to talk about bucket lists. Are they a good idea? I had a few thoughts to share:

As much as possible we should do the things that we want to do now, not in some distant future. Who knows what the future holds? We might not be into the same things then or might not be able to do them anymore.

If you can't do something yet, maybe because of your financial situation or schedule, put a plan in place to do it as soon as possible. If you need money, save it. If you need time, make it.

The anticipating and preparation can be as much, if not more enjoyable than the goal itself. For example, if you want to buy a sailboat it can be great fun to research the possibilities, do sea trials and visit boatyards. Same applies to visiting a distant place or buying a house.

Another reason to act on your desires is that fulfilling them might help you discover your passions. You might initially think that going scuba diving is something you just want to do once, but after you do it you might realize you love it and want to do it more. You might become a professional scuba diver! You wouldn't want to wait 20 years to go scuba diving and then regret you didn't devote yourself to it. On the flip side you might realize the experience was not as fun as you thought, which would lead you to explore other activities sooner.

Be careful with goals you are unlikely to achieve in the near future. It can become frustrating to have a goal that remains unachievable year after year. I think it is fine to have ambitious long term goals but try to break them down into smaller more achievable components. Stepping stones if you will...

I asked the boys what each would put in his bucket list:

Ale: shave with an old fashion blade.

Paco: go skydiving.

Nico: act in a good movie.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Step Functions

Paco spoke about how some learning curves follow "step functions". You are flat for a while, then boom! you move up. Then flat for another while, and up again. He experience that when learning to kitesurf. I mentioned other learning curves: linear, exponentials, logarithmic.

Nico didn't know what a logarithmic curve was. I explained that you improved very fast early on but as you became better it took longer and longer to make incremental improvements.

These curves are easy to identify once you see them in perspective but if you just look at too small of a section of the curve you might mistake one for another. For example, exponential or logarithmic curves look like linear curves in some areas, and the time horizon is not always clear. It might be seconds or minutes for some things, e.g., some chemical or biological reactions, but centuries for others, e.g., climate change, evolution. And of course when we are learning in a step function it often feels flat and frustrating. So we need to remind ourself there is a step down the road that we will eventually climb.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Slippery Slopes & Tires

Nico spoke about slipper slopes. He had a friend over who wanted to exceed their allotted screen time by "just a couple of minutes" and Nico said no, it would be a slippery slope. I mentioned that some slopes were slipperier than others. In the example of the screen time, while a couple of minutes might be a short time, the fact that you are exceeding your limit is clear and absolut. The limit was 120 minutes and you are at 122. Yet other situations are much less Black and White. For example, what does it mean to avoid distractions while driving? Texting is clearly a distraction, but what about looking at the navigation system? How about changing the music? Speaking on the phone hands free? If you wanted to avoid slipper slopes you probably shouldn't do absolutely anything not strictly related to driving while moving. Don't adjust the climate control, don't talk to a fellow passenger. This might seem excessive, and I doubt anyone would go this far, but where to draw the line is not at all obvious...

The topic reminded of the myth about the Nordstrom customer who returned a set of car tires. Nordstrom was a pioneer of great customer service and would accept any return with no questions asked. Supposedly a customer once returned a set of tires even though Nordstrom doesn't sell tires! Maybe this was Nordstrom way of avoiding slippery slopes: if the customer says he bought something at Nordostrom and wants to return it, they would take it. If they start asking for receipts or checking inventory lists they would enter a slippery slope that might end up with some customers becoming unhappy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

De Tal Palo Tal Astilla

Ale had a significant insight recently: he is, at least to some extent, the result of the genome that he inherited from Cindy & I. He realized that he has traits that come from Cindy and traits that come from me. He sees them. This also made him realize that he is probably more similar to his brothers than he thought - since they also inherited their genomes from Cindy & me. He asked Paco & Nico if they had realized this and both said no.

I thought this was very cool. We obviously see in our kids the traits that come from us, but I think most people don't see the flip side until they are adults. And the implication about Ale's brothers was great. I wonder if Ale will now have more patience with them and a greater realization that, in many ways, he was like Paco & Nico when he was their age - and still is like them in many ways.

Of course we have tens of thousands of genetic traits (or is it millions?) and many are only carried, but not active in our parents. So each person, apart from identical twins, is unique - to a point at least...

I asked Ale about the specific traits from Cindy & me that he recognized in himself but he wouldn't tell me. I am very curious...

[Spanish: De tal palo tal astilla. English: From such stick such splinter].

Thursday, January 10, 2013

No Explanation Necessary

I read a story in yesterday's newspaper about dealing with friends and relatives who invade our privacy. The author suggested establishing clear boundaries and stating clearly those things we rather not discuss with the "offending" friend or relative. A specific recommendation resonated with me: don't provide explanations for your requests. If you do, there is a good chance the conversation will become about your explanation rather than about your request.

For example, suppose a relative always calls when you take a trip. He probably wants to check to make sure you arrived OK to your destination. Yet you don't like this. You could simply say: "please don't call me when I am taking trips" and leave it at that. Or you could offer explanations such as "because I am tired when I get home, or, I have a lot to do after trips, or, the airplanes are often delayed". If you do, there is a good chance your relative will respond by suggesting you take fewer trips or use a different airline. Before you know it the conversation is no longer about your request for him not to call you. You are now discussing how to make you more amenable to talking on the phone after your trips!

Disclaimer: the above mentioned "relative" is totally fictitious. Any resemblance with an actual relative of mine is entirely coincidental.