Growing older and in fear.

When I was seventeen, I wanted to lift my Jeep. Because a complete kit would be out of my price range (bagging groceries didn’t pay very much), I researched and figured out how to cobble together the parts I needed to achieve what I wanted. I bought longer suspension coils, coil spacers, and adjustable control arms for the front. For the rear suspension, I bought drop shackles for the leaf springs which I would fasten to the existing shackles to get the height I wanted. Finally, I purchased new shocks for both the front and rear suspensions. Every component was a different brand.

Once everything came in, my brother and I got to work in our driveway. Armed with a Haynes Repair Manual (no YouTube back then), instructions from the parts I had ordered, and all the tools we could find and borrow, we began removing and exchanging parts. We wrenched on seized-up bolts, busting our knuckles as they finally released. We sweated and got coated in decades of road dirt. Neither of us knew what we were doing, but had no fear of screwing it up. All we could think about was how great this was going to look. That decade-old, scratched up silver Jeep wasn’t worth the value I gave it, but seeing my Jeep sitting a few inches taller made me proud. It looked great, and I did the work.

Back then, I was sure I was going to be an author, have a small camper and a jeep, and travel around the country. I would write about my adventures for Jeep and travel magazines. I imagined being in a convoy of off-road rigs snaking its way through Moab or crawling up rocks on a wooded mountain trail. I would be snapping pictures and taking notes about how it felt and smelled and sounded.

My brother and our friends used to sneak onto power line trails and other property around the county to test out what our Jeeps and trucks could do. Technically we were trespassing on government and private property, but that didn’t factor into our brains. We were living out our dreams in real time, crawling up rutted out hills, ripping through mud, and cutting-up over our CD radios.

Once, my friend got the front tire of his K5 Blazer twisted the wrong way down a bill. His whole truck started to roll forward. I was sure it was going to flip. But it didn’t. Instead is settled with the back left tire elevated about two feet in the air. He was freaking out because he was in the truck, but once he climbed down and could see the whole situation, he was excited like the rest of us. It was a new adventure—a problem to solve.

We hooked up tow straps to a winch of another Jeep, hooked the rear bumper of that Jeep to a tree, and started pulling the Blazer back. Once free, the Blazer was able to try again. My friend could have hurt himself badly. We were trespassing on government property. We could have destroyed our vehicles, which were our daily drivers, and we had no money to fix them. But I am so glad I have that experience in my memory bank.

What happened to that kid? That guy embraced unconventional thinking, tried things he had no idea how to do, and focused how incredible something was going to be instead of being scared of what bad thing could happen. He felt fear, sure, but in an exciting, want-to-know-what-that-is-like sort of way.

As adults, we look at teenagers and shake our heads in disgust at their utter disregard of risk and consequences. “Do they even think?” we ask. Older generations project their insecurities, fears, and regret at younger generations until they eventually wear those things themselves, like a cheap suit and tacky necktie. And we do the same thing as we get older.

Sometimes when get I angry at my fourteen-year-old for his lack of judgment, I make myself stop and think about what I was like at his age. I realize that what I express as anger is rooted in jealousy. I am envious of his passion for adventure and experience. My anger is not because I am disappointed with him. I am angry at myself.

How have I allowed myself to get old at such a young age? Why do I let the fear of risk overwhelm my desire for experience? Where has my sense of adventure and wonder gone? The older I get, the more I believe the voices that tell me, “play it safe,” or “that’s not how it works.”

As adults, we look back fondly on our younger years? “Those were simpler times,” we say as we recall our dearest memories. Like when my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I lived in a tiny brick house built in the early eighteen-hundreds. We were nineteen. She was pregnant. We worked at a restaurant, busting our butts to pay for our home and food, and save up for medical bills. We drove old cars (I still drove my Jeep) and had hand-me-down everything. We didn’t have any kitchen stuff when we first moved in, so we went to Big Lots and bought the essentials. The griddle we purchased lasted over 15 years, and I cried when it stopped working. The house hid in the woods in the middle of a busy suburban area. Thousands of commuters sat in traffic just two hundred yards away, but we were surrounded by trees, deer, and birds back in our little paradise. I miss those days. We had nothing except love and hope. Most people thought we would fail, but not us. We knew our future was sure to be amazing, and we focused on the adventure.

Any way you look at it, we had more to fear back then than we do now: lower income, stressful jobs, no education, no margin. Today, with more stability and a comfortable lifestyle, we find ourselves in protection mode and scared of what might go wrong. We want to protect everything we have collected and achieved. That makes life more stressful and less enjoyable. We make things more complicated than they need to be. Why?

My Jeep ultimately broke down in an apartment complex parking lot. It was almost 15 years old and needed a new motor. I sold it for parts. By that time, I was driving a family sedan, something more practical for my new son. I regret selling it now. Especially when I consider how just four years earlier, I would have embraced the adventure of fixing it myself.


Back to basics.

Now and then, you have to take a look at where you are at, what got you here, and what you are doing.

Sometimes what go you to where you are, won’t get you to where you want to go.

Other times, we abandon what has been working because it got boring or because we started taking it for granted.

Most of the time, it’s a combination of both of these things.

I like to sit down periodically and ask myself, “What is working, broken, missing, or confusing?”

I do more or what’s working. Try to fix our outsource what’s broken, add what’s missing, and clarify what’s confusing.

The more often I do this, the more attention I pay to my actions each day.

And as we all know, it’s the little daily actions that add up to the significant lifetime accomplishments.


iOS updates I am excited about, parenting, and more advice for building software.

My digital detox continues. I am reading articles that get recommended to me by people I trust, and I have culled the RSS feeds I follow to focus on higher value content. Here is what I have read and written this week.

Stuff I read… 3 Ways iOS 13 Will Make You More Productive

Jason Snell:

This also opens the door for iOS to really take advantage of external displays. Imagine docking an iPad Pro to a 4K monitor and having all your apps automatically adapt to the presence of a large screen, keyboard and pointing device. That new capability could make the iPad (or maybe even the iPhone) a much more flexible device.

I hope this happens. Other things mentioned in this article are mice support, windowing for apps, and Safari being treated like a desktop browser on iPad. If this stuff can happen, we will be so close to my dream of having one device for everything.

Read the post on I Raised Two CEOs and a Doctor. These Are My Secrets to Parenting Successful Children

Esther Wojcicki:

We are in a crisis of trust the world over. Parents are afraid, and that makes our children afraid — to be who they are, to take risks, to stand up against injustice.

This article is not about defining occupation as success. There are some great ideas about raising kind, confident children.

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Stuff I wrote… What software is for.

Scott Reyes:

The way I see it, software should free people to do what people do best: create things and solve problems. When you spend your entire day interacting with software, you don’t have time for these things.

This thought resurfaced recently. If you have been following for the last couple of weeks, you know I have been radically adjusting the way I use my devices and the internet in general. Software should free people to be more human.

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Book recommendation… Deep Work

Cal Newport:

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.

Newport’s other book, Digital Minimalism, was so helpful to me in regaining clarity and focus, I decided to read this one as well. It seems everything I have read online about focus parrots what Newport says in this book. It’s great information and applicable advice if you’re tired of feeling distracted and fuzzy-minded.

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What software is for.

When I started working on my business idea seven years ago, I saw an opportunity to make a better version of software for a hyper-niche industry. What was out there was bloated and complicated. As a result, people were spending most of their time in front of it. That product was FM Dashboard.

The way I see it, software should free people to do what people do best: create things and solve problems. When you spend your entire day interacting with software, you don’t have time for these things.

Somewhere along the line in my career I came across the term: Exception-Based Management. It’s a system where you set up a process and automate as much as you can. Then you can spend your time on work that matters.

The first of these is important work. I define important work as work that makes things better or prevents bad things from happening. Writing a process, finding trends in data and using it to make positive changes, and exercizing and eating well are all important work.

The second is process exceptions. These are outliers, problems your processes were not equipped to handle. It could be that someone did not do what they were supposed to do or that a product failed to operate properly. These are generally urgent and important items which require problem solving skills. (Note: these exceptions could result in doing important work to keep them from happening again).

The better software is at automating and handling repetitive or process tasks, the more time you have for work that makes a difference. Since your software and processes are catching problems, you don’t have to waste time looking for them.

My company is launching a new software in the coming weeks. It’s for restaurants, and we are inviting beta customers who qualify. If you’re in the restaurant industry, or you know someone who is, head over to the LineCheck website and take a look.


Weekly planning and distractions.

This post is a list of my favorite articles I read this week and a recap of what I wrote.

Stuff I read… Deep Habits: Plan Your Week in Advance

Cal Newport:

To visualize your whole week at once allows you to spread out, batch, and prioritize work in a manner that significantly increases what you accomplish and goes a long way toward eliminating work pile-ups and late nights…

I have been making changes to my productivity processes with a focus on intentionality. This is something I am working into my routine. I will be using my Bullet Journal instead of email though.

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Stuff I wrote… Facebook notifications.

Scott Reyes:

Today, I received a text from Facebook notifying me that my stepdad posted a photo.

When you stop using their service, they try to use anything they can to get back your attention.

Read the post on Reducing digital distractions.

Scott Reyes:

A trend started appearing in my daily journal three years ago: I started noticing I was feeling less mentally sharp, more anxious, and less clear on my goals.

Here are some of my thoughts that led to my decision to take a month off of using my phone and social media as much as I have been.

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Reducing digital distractions.

This week, I went through old handwritten journals from back in 2012 before I started my company. I was amazed at how clear my thinking was at the time, the insights and ideas I had, and the amount of ideas I produced. I don’t feel that way about my production these days.

The Internet is incredible. Access to information is powerful. The speed at which we are able to communicate is unbelievable. I have received most of my education through apply what I learned from online courses and blogs to real life situations. It has not only made it possible for me to pursue my goals, it has been a catalyst to achieving them.

But for the last few years, my Internet habits have become more debilitating less catalyzing.

A trend started appearing in my daily journal three years ago: I started noticing I was feeling less mentally sharp, more anxious, and less clear on my goals. A couple years later I wrote and entry about noticing my online behavior shifting from active learning to passive consumption. I used to go online to learn about a specific topic. That practice transitioned into a habit where today, I go online to see what the internet has served up for me.

I believe in intentionality, having a clear picture of the end goal and taking deliberate action towards that end, but I have been unable to focus, think, and act at the level necessary for me to reach my goals. This has to change.

I am realizing that all of the shortcuts technology offers me in task management, relationship management, and education has come at a cost. I am using less of my brain power. My attempt to free myself from the limitations of analog tools and resources has handcuffed my ability to be productive.

Here is what I am doing about it.

I looked at what I was doing during the time when I felt the most creative and productive and doing those same things.

For starters, I switched back to a notebook for notes, planning, calendar, etc. I’m testing the Bullet Journal method and keeping it simple—no doodles and elaborate pages. I like writing ideas out and problem solving on paper over a computer, and I am ok with having to duplicate the information on a computer when necessary. (This post is a combination of notes from the last two weeks of notebook entries.)

Second, I am reading physical books and reading with the intention of learning. The rule is I must take notes on things that jump out to me and think about action steps I will take as a result of having the new information. I can put my computer and phone away, sit with a book and a notebook, and learn more than I would get from clicking through my blog feeds. I have read two books in the last week.

Finally, I have crippled my iPhone down close to what it was like in 2012. I deleted all social media apps and any app where the work is better done on a computer. My inspiration for this came from one of the books that I read: Digital Minimalism. I don’t want to be distracted by my phone, scrolling and tapping away while I could spend time on more productive pursuits.

I feel better. It’s only been a couple weeks since I started this process, though I feel my brain coming back to life.