Lessons from Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”

I’ve always kept a copy of Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” within reach, for those days when it seems necessary to remind myself of Jonathan’s story – of struggle, of questions and learning, of constantly challenging himself, and of keeping true to his curiosities. I’ve re-read it a number of times in the past several years (it’s a short book, digestible in a few hours), and it has never failed to uplift my spirits. It always feels like talking to a great friend that I’ve never seen for an extended period of time.

Here are some favorite lines from the book:

  • Do you have any idea how many lives we must have gone through before we even got the first idea that there is more to life than eating, or fighting, or power in the Flock? A thousand lives, Jon, ten thousand! And then another hundred lives until we began to learn that there is such a thing as perfection, and another hundred again to get the idea that our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. The same rule holds for us now, of course: we choose our next world though what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.
  • Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short, and with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.
  • “You can go to any place and to any time that you wish to go,” the Elder said. “I’ve gone everywhere and everywhere I can think of.” He looked across the sea. “It’s strange. The gulls who scorn perfection for the sake of travel go nowhere, slowly. Those who put aside travel for the sake of perfection go anywhere, instantly. Remember, Jonathan, heaven isn’t a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless.”
  • “To fly as fast as he thought, to anywhere that is,” he said, “you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”
  • “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”
  • “Look at Fletcher! Lowell! Charles-Roland! Judy Lee! Are they also special and gifted and divine? No more than you are, no more than I am. The only difference, the very only one, is that they have begun to understand what they really are and have begun to practice it.”
  • “Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be hard?”
  • “Oh, Fletch, you don’t love that! You don’t love hatred and evil, of course. You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every one of them, and to help them see it in themselves. That’s what I mean by love. It’s fun, when you get the knack of it.”
  • We’re free to go where we wish and to be what we are.
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Remember to Focus on Helping People

It’s easy to get caught up on writing a lot of automation, adding more process steps, and implementing stricter policies, believing we need them, because we think we’ll be safe from risks that way. We might have had a history of being carelessly bitten in the past.

So it is good that we’ve chosen to do something. But we have to be aware of the potential to get lost in the details.

Why did we have to do this work in the first place?

We don’t just want to add one more test to the suite. We don’t just want another meeting. We don’t just want customers to pay a fee when they request something for the nth time. What we want is to remember the big picture, what we want is to focus on helping people.

Lessons from Richard Bach’s “Life with my Guardian Angel”

The new year is always a great time to remember to talk to our guardian angel, to look at what beliefs do we have come to accept, and to remind ourselves of which sort of heaven do we really want to go to. 🙂 Happy New Year!

Some favorite lines from the book:

  • “You’ll never learn it all,” he said. “Nobody has learned everything about flying and they never will. But if you practice, you can learn enough to be a good pilot, even if you don’t know everything.”
  • Every context, every subtext means the same: heaven will be joy when we reach that place of mind, whether or not we reach its borders alive, or not-alive.
  • All the books I’ve read about death and dying, filled with stories and accounts and proofs that we go on after this lifetime, how can my heaven be exactly the same place that it is for everyone who’s died in the last thousand years or so? Is there one place in paradise where some folks enjoy cigars, a different heaven where others travel instantly to other places, others have houses, others don’t need shelter from winds or rains, which don’t exist in their heaven? Does heaven require space and time? Can heaven be kind of a dream, where we imagine space and time, but know that space-time doesn’t exist? How many heavens can there be? Two? Twenty? A million heavens, an indefinite number of heavens? Not just for mortals, but for every expression of life and love who recovers from the belief of dying? Do mortals share the same heaven with animals, with bees? There must be a heaven for dogs and cats who love people, and different heavens for dogs, cats, and other animals who prefer to continue without any humans at all. There must be a heaven for chipmunks and a separate heaven for crocodiles, and different ones for recently arrived spirits who’ve spent a lifetime thinking that no such place exists. There must be separate heavens to take care of the people who believe the various religions. Then different heavens for the different ways of thinking. Separate heavens.
  • Don’t you know? What you call ‘death’ is your chance to make different choices, make different stories about life and love.
  • What will your mortal’s life be like without tests, without adventure, without risk? Does the word ‘graveyard’ come to mind?
  • Your mission in every one of your lifetimes is to create love, to express love, to treasure love, to paint love in the biggest letters in every color of every language you will ever learn!
  • The world of space, time, and appearances can be wondrous beautiful. Have care, though, and don’t let your mortal mistake them for real.
  • You can work right now, today, as a mortal, to refine your beliefs, to make your heaven happier than the squirrelly heaven you’ve already built with your not-much-thought-about belief system. You can do this now.
  • We’re connected by the bonds of love that we’ve built. With anyone. With our parents, with our friends, with our pets, with fictional characters from books or motion pictures, with characters in our own imagination!

Testing Goals for 2019

All year round, I’ve spent some considerable time thinking about where I am and where I want go next. Where I am is where there’s some sort of stability, a status quo. Where I want to go next is some place where there are unknowns.

It would be interesting to experience a full-time remote gig, in a role that challenges my skills in either building automated scripts or mobile app development. But even though a full-time gig, it should still enable me to work on personal side hustles.

After increasing my overall strength to at least twice since the start of the year, I’d like to surpass that achievement in the coming year. That likely means making better food choices and improving cooking skills.

I want to build my portfolio site from the ground up and get more acquainted with web development.

And it would be great if I can finish the art project I started this year, to complement the portfolio site.

I believe I did well with my testing goals this year. My lifestyle got better, but I’m not where I want to be just yet.

Takeaways from Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Body”

This year, I decided I was going to get better at exercising. To do that, I thought about reading a few books to give myself an idea on how to go about it. One such book was Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Body“, which is a goldmine of content. In it are suggested exercises that gets the job done, walkthroughs, and some science of how things work. But the book is so much more than just a guide on physical exercises. There’s ideas on self-experimentation, adherence, being proactively skeptical, harajuku moments, a slow-carb diet, and more.

Here are some favorite takeaways:

  • Science starts with educated (read: wild-ass) guesses. Then it’s all trial and error. Sometimes you predict correctly from the outset. More often, you make mistakes and stumble across unexpected findings, which lead to new questions. If you want to sit on the sidelines and play full-time skeptic, suspending actions until a scientific consensus is reached, that’s your choice. But don’t use skepticism as a thinly veiled excuse for inaction or remaining in your comfort zone. Be skeptical, but for the right reason: because you’re looking for the most promising option to test in real life. Be proactively skeptical, not defensively skeptical.
  • We break commitments to ourselves with embarrassing regularity. How can someone trying to lose weight binge on an entire pint of ice cream before bed? How can even the most disciplined of executives fail to make 30 minutes of time per week for exercise? How can someone whose marriage depends on quitting smoking pick up a cigarette? Simple: logic fails.
  • Take adherence seriously: will you actually stick with this change until you hit your goal? If not, find another method, even if it’s less effective and less efficient. The decent method that you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.
  • Self-experimentation can be used by non-experts to (a) see if the experts are right and (b) learn something they don’t know. When you study your own problem (e.g. acne), you care more about finding a solution than others are likely to care.
  • If results are fast and measurable, self-discipline isn’t needed.
  • If you want to be more confident or effective, rather than relying on easily-defeated positive thinking and mental gymnastics, learn to run faster, lift more than your peers, or lose those last ten pounds. It’s measurable, it’s clear, you can’t lie to yourself. It therefore works. The Cartesian separation of mind and body is false. They’re reciprocal. Start with the precision of changing physical reality and a domino effect will often take care of the internal.
  • Job not going well? Company having issues? Some idiot making life difficult? If you add ten laps to your swimming, or if you cut five seconds off your best mile time, it can still be a great week. Controlling your body puts you in life’s driver’s seat.
  • Recreation is for fun. Exercise is for producing changes. Don’t confuse the two.
  • People suck at following advice. Even the most effective people in the world are terrible at it. There are two reasons:
    • Most people have an insufficient reason for action. The pain isn’t painful enough. It’s a nice-to-have, not a must-have.
    • There are no reminders. No consistent tracking = no awareness = no behavioral change. Consistent tracking, even if you have no knowledge of fat-loss or exercise, will often beat advice from world-class trainers.
  • For a long time, I’ve known that the key to getting started down the path of being remarkable in anything is to simply act with the intention of being remarkable. If I want a better-than-average career, I can’t simply go with the flow and get it. Most people do just that: they wish for an outcome but make no intention-driven actions toward that outcome. If they would just do something most people would find that they get some version of the outcome they’re looking for. That’s been my secret. Stop wishing and start doing.

Lessons from Mark Manson’s “Models: Attract Women Through Honesty”

I picked up Mark Manson’s Models: Attract Women Through Honesty” because I was intrigued by the title and because I am at a time in my life where I’d like to meet more interesting women. It did not disappoint. The book was insightful, and, like other compelling reads, it pushes me to look hard at myself and how I’ve been living my life, this time particularly on the subject of women. The concepts of neediness and vulnerability are, for me, the main takeaways.

Here are just a few of the noteworthy lines from the book:

  • In our post-industrial, post-feminist world, we lack a clear model of what an attractive man is. Centuries ago, a man’s role and duty was power and protection. Decades ago, it was to provide. But now? We’re not quite sure. We are either the first or second generation of men to grow up without a clear definition of our social roles, and without a model of what it is to be strong and attractive men.
  • Seduction is an interplay of emotions. Your movement or lack of movement reflects and alters emotions, not the words. Words are the side-effect. Sex is the side-effect. The game is emotions, emotions through movement.
  • In surveys among literally tens of thousands of women, across all cultures, ethnicities, age groups, and socio-economic standing, and even time periods, there’s one universal quality in men that they all find desirable: social status and access to resources. The amount in which they desire it varies from culture to culture and from age group to age group, but the desire for it is universal.
  • Social status is determined by how you behave around other people, how other people behave around you, and how you treat yourself.
  • Female arousal is somewhat narcissistic in nature. Women are turned on by being wanted, by being desired. The more physical assertiveness you pursue a woman with, the more aroused she becomes — sometimes even if she wasn’t interested in you to begin with.
  • How attractive a man is is inversely proportional to how emotionally needy he is. The more emotionally needy he is in his life, the less attractive he is and vice-versa. Neediness is defined by being more highly invested in other people’s perceptions of you than your perception of yourself.
  • All people eventually return to their baseline levels of investment. And until one is able to permanently alter his baseline level of identity investment in themselves, they will continue to attract the same types of women, and end up in the same failed relationships. Permanent change to one’s investment and neediness in their relationships with women is hard and a process that encompasses all facets of one’s life. But it’s a worthwhile journey. As a man, it may be the most worthwhile journey. And the key to it is probably something you wouldn’t expect. In fact, it’s something that most men turn their nose up to when they hear it. It’s vulnerability.
  • Making yourself vulnerable doesn’t just mean being willing to share your fears or insecurities. It can mean putting yourself in a position where you can be rejected, saying a joke that may not be funny, asserting an opinion that may offend others, joining a table of people you don’t know, telling a woman that you like her and want to date her. All of these things require you to stick your neck out on the line emotionally in some way. You’re making yourself vulnerable when you do them. In this way, vulnerability represents a form of power, a deep and subtle form of power. A man who’s able to make himself vulnerable is saying to the world, “I don’t care what you think of me; this is who I am, and I refuse to be anyone else.” He’s saying he’s not needy and that he’s high status.
  • Show your rough edges. Stop trying to be perfect. Expose yourself and share yourself without inhibition. Take the rejections and lumps and move on because you’re a bigger and stronger man. And when you find a woman who loves who you are (and you will), revel in her affection.
  • The biggest criticism of showing interest to a woman that you want to be with is that it immediately shows you as highly invested in her responses. When you say, “You’re cute and I wanted to meet you,” that translates roughly to, “Hi, I want to be with you and am officially invested in the prospect of it happening.” What they miss though is the sub-communication going on underneath what’s actually being said. The sub-communication is, “I’m totally OK with the idea of you rejecting me, otherwise I would not be approaching you in this manner.”
  • True honesty is only possible when it is unconditional. The truth is only the truth when it is given as a gift — when nothing is expected in return. When I tell a girl that she is beautiful, I say it not expecting anything in return. Whether she rejects me or falls in love with me isn’t important in that moment. What’s important is that I’m expressing my feelings to her. I will give compliments only when I am honestly inspired to give them, and usually after already meeting a woman and displaying to her that I’m willing to disagree with her, willing to be rejected by her and willing to walk away from her if it ever comes to that.

Five People and Their Thoughts (Part 8)

Sharing a new batch of engaging videos from people I follow, which I hope you’ll come to like as I do:

  • Workarounds (by Alan Richardson, about workarounds, how you can use them in testing, custom-using tools, moving boilerplate to the appendix, bypassing processes that gets in the way, understanding risks and value, technical skills, and taking control of your career)
  • 100% Coverage is Too High for Apps! (by Kent Dodds, on code coverage, what it tells you, as well as what it does not tell you)
  • Open Water Swimming (by Timothy Ferriss, about fears, habits, total immersion swimming, Terry Laughlin, compressing months of conventional training into just a few days, and the power of micro-successes)
  • How To Stop Hating Your Tests (by Justin Searls, representing Test Double, on doing only three things for tests, avoiding conditionals, consistency, apparent test purpose, redundant test coverage, optimizing feedback loops, false negatives, and building better workflows)
  • Meaning of Life (by Derek Sivers, about a classic unsolvable problem, using time wisely, making good choices, making memories, the growth mindset, inherent meaning, and a blank slate)