The Zen of Forty

A series of small bits of wisdom that have helped me, at 40, become the happiest I’ve ever been in my life by remembering to review them each week, and try to live by them as much as I can.  I share them with you with the hope that they’ll resonate with someone who is reading through them and provide that little extra motivation to point yourself in the right direction.

  • Ask yourself each day what you’re considering important and whether it would be 100 years from now. Does it matter as much as the energy you’re putting in to worrying about it?
  • Try to make each day a “no more zeros” day. Do something each day that furthers your life goals, even if it’s just a minor step in that direction.
  • Take care of the 3 you’s.  Thank the past you for good decisions you’ve made, cater to the present you by keeping attention and focus on whatever you’re putting your time and effort to at this moment, and do favors for the future you by making choices that further your goals. Treat your future self like you would a best friend.
  • Forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made in the past.
  • You control how you react to everything that happens in your life. Whatever emotion you’re feeling, you can choose to change it if you want to. It’s totally up to you. Choose to be happy.
  • The world really is a playground if you’re willing to let it be.
  • Stop complaining and try to look for opportunities or moments of happiness instead.
  • It’s ok to have regrets. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that having something you regret is something you should be ashamed of.  It’s how you learn and become a better person.
  • The king and the pawn are put back in the same box at the end of the game. Don’t get too wrapped up in who you think you are on the board from day to day.
  • Be honest with yourself about everything. That’s a responsibility you have to yourself.
  • Start facing problems head on, and taking care of small problems before they become big ones later.
  • You can choose to let your day run you, or you can run your day.
  • If you’re feeling down, upset, regretful, or any other negative emotion, then just do something – anything. Action is always better than inaction.
  • Your job isn’t your worth, and it isn’t your life. Let your job fund your life.
  • Start being authentic and making your own happiness a priority.
  • Build a life that is tailor made for you.
  • Take responsibility for mistakes and failures, and clean up your own messes.
  • Think about the person that you want to be, and act like that person until you ultimately become them.
  • Running away from problems in life is a race that you’ll never win.
  • Make time in every day to enjoy life and the world around you.
  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself.  Everyone has their own obstacles to overcome. Very few people are born with a free pass.
  • It’s worth repeating, choose happiness whenever possible. It’s possible more often than you think.
  • Be kind to others.  Remember that other people have it tough too.
  • Don’t defer happiness until a future date. That’s a terrible idea, because that date may never come.
  • Possessions will own you if you let them. Keep things simple, and remember that a few great things will always trump a multitude of mediocre ones.
  • Be silly, be honest and be kind.  It’s better for you and everyone around you.
  • Think about who you would call and what you would say if you only had one hour left to live.  Does that person know?   They should.
  • Remember not to live only for the sunshine. Instead, don’t be afraid to dance in the rain too.
  • When you feel like you have no time, remember the key to prioritization: golf balls, pebbles, sand and a jar.
  • Read and do things that nourish your mind every day.

Good luck. Keep smiling.


Being in charge of security for anything is a lose-lose proposition

The resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson prompted a discussion between a friend and I about jobs that focus on being in charge of the security of something. For the purpose of our discussion, the something didn’t have to be the President of the United States.  It can be the security of a campus network, a physical structure, or something as large and complex as the Department of Homeland Security.

The four links included above are a very small sampling of fairly recent examples of the head of some sort of security being forced or voluntarily resigning their duties in the face of security breaches and the ensuing backlash.

Unfortunately, in most of these cases, the person charged with directing security was fighting a losing battle from the outset. Taking on a role as the head of security for anything means that you’re saying essentially “I believe that with limited resources, and finite time, I can protect against a variety of threats that have nearly unlimited resources and infinite time.”  It’s crazy to believe that’s possible.

I personally don’t believe that Julia Pierson got in to the position of leading the United States Secret Service while simultaneously not understanding how locks on doors work, as Congressman Darrell Issa seems like he’d like me to believe by asking Ms. Pierson ‘$800 million a year, millions of dollars or more during your tenure, each year, than the president’s request, and that door was unlocked with no one standing at it when Mr. Gonzales came through?

Unfortunately the reality is that providing security is really mostly about preventing exposure of easy areas of vulnerability, and making whatever it is you’re charged with protecting a *slightly* less attractive target that the next thing that might attract the attention of attackers.

When security incidents ultimately do occur, someone has to take the fall, and in almost every case, it’s going to be the person charged with leading the security effort. This despite the fact that if someone stays in a security related position long enough, it’s nearly inevitable that some sort of incident will occur that draws criticism from those outside looking in, wondering how the person in charge could have let this happen.

Success as the head of a security operation seems to me to be largely dependent on your timing. Joseph Clancy, the man who has been named as interim Director of the Secret Service to replace Pierson, is a good example of timing working in your favor.  Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011 after heading security at Comcast.  After his departure from Comcast, there were several security incidents, but since Joseph Clancy departed before the breaches actually occurred, he gets to reap the benefits of a successful security tenure there, and now moves back to the Secret Service to take over for the departing Pierson, who’s timing wasn’t so lucky.

That’s not to suggest that Clancy is a poor choice, or unqualified for his role, it’s just a reminder that being successful as the head of security for anything is really as much about your timing as it is your skill and experience in the security world.

It’s also a not-so-gentle reminder that when it comes to personal security, both in the physical world and online, it’s unwise to depend on anyone regardless of their credentials or history, to do all of the work for you. Be smart, and help make yourself a less attractive target.  It’s also wise to consider whether you think your timing is good enough to allow you to be successful leading any security effort.



OMG I am so shocked

I doubt the veracity of this article.

“The likes themselves are a combination of obvious and baffling. Liking “Kathy Griffin,” “Juicy Couture,” or the musical “Wicked” were found to be strong indicators that a man was gay, while liking sports-related topics, “Bruce Lee” and “Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps” were more popular with straight men, according to the the study.”

Nobody likes Kathy Griffin.


Put your mouth where your money is

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s requested cuts for next budget year would reduce funding for the state’s colleges and universities by almost $35 million, according to the Higher Education Policy Commission.

“I have said it time and time again: a good education today means a better job tomorrow.”    “I was the first person in my family to receive a college degree, and I know I would not be standing before you today without it.”

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin


What’s the Argument Against Reasonable Gun Control?

President Obama today proposed a series of measures aimed at reducing gun violence in the US.  What he proposed was largely expected – a push to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, along with expanded background checks and restrictions on ammunition capacity.

As expected, as with any policy, proposal, idea, or dream that Obama has, it was almost immediately met with resistance and criticism from across the aisle.

A typical response:  “Instead of a thoughtful, open and deliberate conversation, President Obama is attempting to institute new restrictions on a fundamental constitutional right.”  – Sen. Grassley, Iowa.  Not surprisingly, it’s easy to note the NRA’s continued support of Senator Grassley since 1990 (

I am by no means anti-gun. I’m not naive enough to believe that taking strengthening background checks, or restricting the type of ammunition you can purchase would stop some of these tragedies from happening. I have a concealed carry permit, and I own several rifles, handguns, and shotguns myself – all purchased legally in various states over the last 15 years.

What I am though, is confused how attempting to restrict the type of weapons you can purchase, and controlling the amount of effort required to purchase them, is an attack on the second amendment. Several GOP senators have said that’s what they believe President Obama’s proposals amount to.  There are fringe groups that even suspect that the “government” orchestrated the Newtown and Aurora tragedies to set the stage for an attack on legal gun ownership so that they might begin the process of taking the right to bear arms away from the American people. 

Even forgetting the nutter fringe groups, just allowing yourself to believe that banning assault weapons outright is attacking your right to keep and bear arms fails even the most basic test of critical thinking skills.

First of all, why would the government be interested in taking guns away from the population?

One traditional answer has been that the second amendment was, in effect, a right to revolution.  As long as the general population is allowed to arm themselves, the government has a constant deterrent against oppression, as a well armed population can revolt against it at any time.

While that may have made perfect sense when the British army was carrying muskets and beating on their snare drums, it makes little sense today.

U.S. Gun Sales Reach Record Levels In 2012This is an AR-15 Assault Rifle.  It’s the kind of rifle that the proposed assault weapons ban would make it illegal for the average citizen to own. It is essentially a civillian modified, semi-automatic version of the M-16 military rifle. The civilian version typically comes with a magazine capacity of up to 30 rounds, with some ammunition providers offering modifications providing up to 100 round configurations.

I’m not sure what type of animal you might be hunting or what type of skeet shooting you might be doing that would require a 30 round magazine, and I can think of no reasonable reason why you would need 100 rounds.

However, for the sake of the “right to revolution” argument, let’s say that we let civillians purchase these with up to 100 round capacity so that we don’t misstep and infringe on their second amendment implied right to revolution.

Abrams-transparentThis is an M1 Abrams battle tank.  It has armor made of meshed depleted uranium that is almost 2 times more dense than lead and can withstand close range hits of anti-armor and anti-personell rounds fired from other M1 Abrams battle tanks.

Even if you were able to get 1000 of your craziest, AR-15 armed friends together, agreeing on the same time, place, and level of discontent, to march on Washington, DC and take the government back, you’d stand little to no chance with even one or two of these looking back your way.  The US has so many of these now (over 9,000) that even the US Army is telling congress “Seriously guys, we don’t need any more of these.

Ok, but maybe you don’t think the second amendment is about a right to revolution.  Maybe it’s just about preserving the right that the Founding Fathers intended all citizens have?  Even there, a clear reading of the second amendment itself tends to fall more in line with the thinking of the gun control crowd than the gun lobby.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Well regulated meant then, as it does now, controlled and regulated by proper training and discipline, and provided as a right to those who were exercising that right in the defense of their home, life, and liberty.

I am not saying I’m in any way in favor of everyone marching down to the nearest checkpoint and handing over their weapons – but I do think we as a nation are way off the rails in the knee jerk reactions that some groups have to the idea that the government is in some way attempting to take away a right by suggestion that just maybe AR-15’s should be a little more difficult for mentally unstable 20 year olds to get ahold of.