Sunday, January 11, 2015

For the Love of a Good Winter Blast

      We spent the last  twelve days in Southern California welcoming our Grandson Vaughn Alexan to our family.  When we left Chicago, our house was in full Christmas bloom with trees, lights both inside and out, wreaths, candles, and assorted what they call table top accessories.  All that was missing was the snow and cold.  When we got to Pasadena it was in the 50s.  It was warmer than it was in Chicago for sure but apparently cold for Californians.  Some of them were dressed in winter coats, scarves, and gloves.  It was kind of funny.  
     The past few days, it had warmed up there.  It was quite pleasant in the 70s and even low 80s.  I even wore shorts one day.  It was nice.  At the same time, there were news and facebook posts, OK mainly facebook reports, of a snowy cold blast hitting Chicago.  It was so cold that the schools were all closed Thursday and Friday of last week.  People from Illinois, Michigan, and Massachusetts were posting and texting about how cold it was and wondering why they were living where they were living.  Folks in California were telling me how lucky I was to be there and not home. 
     Actually, they are all wrong about my being glad to be away from the cold and snow.  I like the seasons.  Fall is by far my favorite.  The shocker is that I like winter too.  The winter that I like is exactly the kind I was missing:  a polar vortex, cold bast, frigid snowy, single digit temperatures, and wind chills in the negative teens. I missed that at Christmas as it was a bit too warm and there was zero snow.  It just didn't feel right.  When I express my love for the cold and snow, people, especially in California, question this saying "But it is so cold."  Yes it is and that is exactly the point.  It is good to bundle up in wools or corduroys, big fat sweaters, fleece liners, parkas, boots, gloves, and stocking hats.  It is good to walk in the cold.  It is good to pop the car in the 4WD (yes my 4Runner is that old) and drive in the new fallen snow.  I like winter.  I have even written about it a few times in this blog:
  1. This first part of a 2009 piece It All Began with an Air Bath.
  2. My January 2005 letter, Winter Survival ,about my Boy Scout days.
I guess it is just a matter of getting used to it. 
     When we landed at O'Hare, it felt great to step outside, breath in some cold air, and blow out a vapory exhale.  When we got home, I got out of the car, and having the wrong shoes on, almost fell on my ego.  From the photo I took out the front door this evening upon getting home, it is clear that this is exactly the kind of winter weather I am talking about.  
     Looking forward to bundling up and heading out in the morning for the first day of classes in the Spring term.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

18 Minutes? 4 Seconds? Just Do It!

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     I saw an email earlier today. It was an announcement for a webinar from ExecuNet that had a phenomenal promise: 4 Seconds — All the Time You Need to Stop Counterproductive Habits and Get the Results You Want with Peter Bregman. It is to take place on Wednesday, January 07, 2015, 1:00-2:00 PM ET or as I am in Los Angeles, 10 - 11 am PT. Wow... 4 seconds. What could a curmudgeonly, prone to woe is me, fellow like me possible do in 4 seconds to "stop counterproductive habits and get the results" I want?
     How could I not sign up for this? 'Tis the season for resolution making after all.
     All I can think of is that Peter Bregman will be revealing some very special magic words, incantations that were revealed to him through some revelation, or perhaps he translated some hieroglyphic no one else has been able to decipher.  Maybe I would learn to babble in tongues for a mere 4 seconds and voila be transformed!
     4 seconds! Sounds incredible.
     Of course, I googled Peter Bregman. I should have already known about him. He is well educated with BA from Princeton and an MBA from Columbia. He runs an eponymic consulting firm, Bregman Partners, which specializes in advising CEOs. The webinar title is the same as his new book being released in February of 2015.  4 Seconds is his not his first book on time and time management. The first was published in 2012: 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.
     Now mind you, I have read neither book and lord knows I could use every tip, trick, and lifestyle mindset perception, you name it, to help me find my focus, stop becoming the master of being distracted, and most certainly improve my ability to get the right things done, done well, under budget, and ahead of schedule. Given this long winded caveat, I am not afraid to jump into what the esteemed Mr. Bregman has written dedicated 560 pages to... without the benefit of having read anymore than the title of his two books.
Sidebar:  People buy self-help books with increasing frequency.   There is a clear need for helping people lead more healthy, productive, and loving lives.  Oddly, the percentage of folks who actually help themselves is probably constant.  These books have really excellent engaging and attractive titles.  We read these titles and taglines and think that forking over $30 for a book that will enable such great things is a mere pittance.  Too often the results are less than we crave.  Very often the messages in all of these books are the same (did someone say isomorphic?) and are simply repackaged and marketing in a different way.  
     Why 18 minutes and not, say, 20 or even 15 which is a natural increment our smart phone calendars easily deal with? If a non-standard number of minutes were to be chosen, I would have opted for 17 as I believe there is magic in them there prime numbers. OK, let's go with 18 minutes. Taking 18 minutes at the end of one day or the beginning of the next to establish ones focus and priorities for the next day is time well spent.  Every productivity self-help book will offer some version of this as a good thing to make habitual. If one is really busy with complicated tasks in a job laden with random events that require one's attention, maybe another 18 minutes can be allocated for regrouping at midday or mid-afternoon.
     Maybe 18 minutes can also be the amount of time allocated for distractions. Call your mom. Do a crossword. Check Facebook (though be forewarned, 18 minutes is like 1 second in the land of Facebook). Do whatever you want whenever, just don't used more than 18 minutes. In a ten hour work day, that is like 1.8 minutes per hour! Live it up. Enjoy.
     Let's look at the math here. The 18 minutes in the title of his first book is 1,080 seconds. The second book, and I remind you that I have read neither, is, kinda sorta, offering the same thing but in only 4 seconds. Wowsers. Talk about progress! Why read the first book when the second gets you in the same place in 96.73% less time! The Nobel folks need to consider this accomplishment.
     What can one do in 4 seconds? Here is a list of encouragements and admonishments that probably each take a second or less to say.
  • Just Do It! (the Nike classic) 
  • Snap out of it! (the Cher classic from the movie Moonstruck)
  • Hunker down!
  • Stop complaining!
  • I think I can. (the childhood classic from The Little Engine that Could)
  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • No pain, no gain.
  • You can do it! (from the movie Waterboy)
  • Put down that twinkie!
  • Don't stop believin'... (having Journeyed myself from the fictitious South Detroit)
     Add any number of others you can think of. Create your own list.  Have fun with it.
     Given your list, slap four them together as you see fit depending on your own needs. Record them and play them back on your smart phone, pad, or computer whenever you need that a 4 second jolt of focus and motivation. Record several. Record one in our own voice. Have your mother or wife record one. Have your surliest boss do a set... if you can talk him or her into it. Pay James Earl Jones to record a Darth Vader version. 
     Heck, if you can get the right phrase, you may need only 1 second.
     Ah, if it were only that easy.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Vaughn Alexan


     What a great day. What an auspicious day. What a great day for a birthday. We are delighted to welcome our second grandchild and second grandson to this world. Vaughn Alexan Kapamajian was born today at 9:36 am in Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. Weighing in at 8 pounds and 11 ounces and 21 inches long, Vaughn Alexan was the biggest baby born on the Gavoor side of the clan that anyone can recall.  His numbers are middle of the road for the Kapamajians
     Judy and I are fortunate enough to be able to be in California to enjoy both this special time of the year and a special time for our family. We celebrated New Years with our Los Angeles family, we went to the Tournament of Roses Parade, and I finally made it to the Rose Bowl. Then, after the holiday festivities were winding down, Vaughn Alexan commanded our focus.
     Vaughn Alexan's parents, Armene and Michael are delighted, excited, and exhausted first parents. There is no need to get into the details of delivery suffice it to say that mother and son are both doing very well. There is a collective expression of joy and welcoming warmth the Vaughn Alexan and his parents. In the age of social media and smart phones, everyone that wanted or needed to be was kept in the text loop through the night and wee hours of the morning. It made it all more exciting with the village all involved in Vaughn Alexan's arrival. 
     Vaughn Alexan's birthday is amid a very busy festive season. First he shares his birthday with his great-aunt Nancy Gavoor. Nancy could not be more delighted. I am sure their bond just a bit more special because of it. A normally festive time has just gotten even more festive for our family. Beginning with the Winter Solstice, December 21, we celebrate the birthday of our daughter in-law Anoush. Of course, on the 24th and 25th of December we celebrate Christmas followed shortly by Michael's brother Andrew's birthday on the 28th. The 31st is Armene's birthday and New Year's Eve. Of course, January 1 is New Year's Day, the Tournament of Roses Parade for the Pasadena part of the family and all the bowl games. With one day off, we move right to Nancy and Vaughn's birthday followed on January 4 with Michael's mother Ana's birthday. The finish off this season of festivities, we have Armenian Christmas Eve and Christmas on January 5th and 6th. What a wonderful season this has evolved into for us.
     When a chid is born, the possibilities, hopes, and aspirations of the parents, grandparents, and family are limitless. All things considered, we wish a long, happy, and healthy life to our new bundles of joy. These three factors are perhaps the best definition of success there is. Beyond this, given the birth of our first two grandchildren, both grandsons, in a seven month span, we wish that the two cousins, Aris Gabriel and Vaughn Alexan, are as close to each other as they are in age. Cousins are a blessing too often underplayed and undervalued.
     Welcome Vaughn Alexan!