Give Thanks. Complain. Repeat.

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Experiment date: April 17-30, 2017. More experiments available here.

 

In this 2-week experiment I tracked two actions  – gratitude and complaining. I attempted to not complain for 14 days, failed miserably, and noted the details. Second, I tried to reflect on daily moments of thankfulness.

Day 1: Let’s Do This. The sun is out, spring is coming, and I walked the dogs without a jacket. In April. In Seattle.

In The No Complaint Experiment the author used a rubber band around his wrist as a reminder of his complaints. I adopted the practice, moving my own Bracelet of Remembrance each time I complained.

Day 2: Mmmm… Breakfast. I love the smells of breakfast – coffee (especially after this previous experiment), eggs, and sausage. Also coffee.

Day 3: Driving is Hard. I complained twice before 9am. Bad Driver #1 moved way too fast near the middle school.  Bad Driver #2 turned left at a roundabout. I scowled, gave him “the finger (not that finger) in a circle” motion – the international sign for “Hey moron, it’s a roundabout!” I’m sure he appreciated my traffic lesson. I got to practice moving a rubber band from wrist to wrist.

Day 4: I Love Technology. Today I accessed a book from the library without standing up. Or reading. The Overdrive app is a work of genius, bringing audio books to my ears for free, courtesy of Seattle Public Library. Gratitude all round – to the author for writing the words, the library for acquiring access, and tech nerds for building the phone and the app. Welcome to the future, people.

Day 5: I Hate Technology. The next morning the audio book skipped a chapter. I cursed at my stupid phone and the dumb, broken app… and then moved my little rubber band.

Day 6: Working from Home. For the past 8 years I’ve worked as a full-time telecommuter. It was sunny and 62 degrees, so I extended our afternoon dog walk to enjoy a Vitamin D boost and maybe encounter another human. Of course, I did all this in pajama pants and Crocs.

Day 7: Happy Birthday. I turned 41 today, so I started with gratitude for the 14,975 days on the Earth so far. I had shied away from social media earlier in the year, but Facebook is a must-visit on your birthday. I enjoyed dozens of well-wishes from friends and family, and I was grateful for relationships both online and off.

Day 8: Zelda. I’ve remained an avid apologist for play in general and video games in particular. The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game series of all time, and it had been many years since the last proper Zelda title. I’m grateful for the latest installment, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a masterpiece in game design.

Day 9: Free Stuff. Our neighborhood has a Buy Nothing Project group created to share items and services. Users can offer a gift or ask for support as needed. The group also posts gratitude to each other, which is really cool.

Day 10: Mmmm… Donuts. I would not have guessed Safeway would’ve been part of this experiment, but here we are. Safeway Monopoly combined two amazing things: the retro fun of licking stamps and free donuts!  After indulging, I immediately revisited the 12 Minute Workout.

Day 11: Togetherness.  If you’re looking for community, I have a sure-fire solution:  Complain. We are all too busy, and burdened with bills and kids and dogs and clients and weather and wrong-way drivers!

Not complaining is hard! (moving rubber band)

Day 12: Connection. Today I e-mailed a mentor from high school to express my appreciation of his impact. We had barely interacted for 20 years, so frankly I was a little nervous to send the note. “Hey Coach – You were on my mind this week, and I’m trying to take some time to reach out to people when they’re on my mind…”

His response was more than I ever could’ve hoped for, starting with, “You don’t know how much it means to me to hear from you…”  Our e-mail conversation made my week.

Day 13: Saturday! Sleep! Soccer! It was another sunny day, we all slept in (even the dogs), and I had soccer tickets. As the Sounders allowed three goals in the first half, I literally complained enough to break my rubber band.  In the final 15 minutes they miraculously scored three goals of their own,  snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat!

(I know! A tie! How exciting!)

Day 14: Making Long Hair Short. Courtesy of the aforementioned Sounders’ miracle comeback and a coupon from Great Clips, I enjoyed a free haircut!  Look at that smile of gratitude!

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For more on gratitude, I recommend this article, The Gratitude Journal, and this book, The Complaint Free World.

Photo Credit (top): Brian Brown, https://flic.kr/p/guLg2x

Photo Credit (bottom):  Brian Chandler, selfie, iPhone 7. Edited with Irfanview, one of the oldest and best image viewers/editors of all time.

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Make Good Art

Preface: My primary purpose of this post is to convince you to watch this Neil Gaiman commencement speech – one of my favorite presentations of all time.

In 6th grade a friend taught me to draw a simple maze, and since then I’ve drawn mazes on chalkboards, envelopes, sidewalks, and any other surface I can find.  For this 2-week experiment I drew a maze every day, producing 14 little pieces of art.

Day 1. I decided to draw a maze on a Post-it Note. It’s small so I can create it in just a few minutes. Also, I have to think ahead a bit, because there isn’t much room for messing around. Third, the Post-it is the perfect size and shape to scan and upload to Instagram, which seemed fun, so I tried it. Here is Maze #1.

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Day 2, 3, 4. By drawing mazes on Post-It Notes, I developed a quick idea, executed it, and 3 minutes later created a thing to share.

Day 5, 6, 7. I added another Post-It Note maze over the weekend, and then began thinking about other maze-related art to create, like larger art projects or something related to the process.

Day 8. As I was cleaning up some old journals today I found mazes I had drawn years ago, so I posted them. After uploading, I wasn’t sure what to do with the hard copies of papers and Post-Its. Keep in a drawer? Throw them away? Stick them on a wall?

Day 9. I have never had formal training in “maze design,” and I don’t even know if there such a thing. So today I tried to figure out how to make an effective maze in a very small space – a 6×6 grid. With only 36 squares I created this.

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It was not the most challenging puzzle, but maybe a good start toward “basic maze theory” (again, I think I made that up). What are the fewest number of grid squares to make a truly challenging maze? What makes a maze fun?

Day 10. As I figure out how many 6×6 mazes I can make, I felt like I was learning something, and I had a feeling I might’ve stumbled upon actual design principles with real names and rules and stuff. Or maybe I’m just a big nerd. Probably both.

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Day 11. I got some new pink Post-it Notes! Woohoo!

Day 12-14. I found and scanned a few more older mazes. I also thought about some fun ideas for the future, like sticking the Post-It notes randomly in public places so people could work a maze if they wanted to, or just take it with them.

For now I’ll keep messing around with it, posting mazes as I make them at @littlemazes on Instagram.

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Coffee Break

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During most of my life I did not have interest in coffee. My college study sessions were fueled by Jolt Cola (All the sugar! Twice the caffeine!), and – somehow – my infant-induced sleep deprivation did not drive me to drink (at least not coffee).

Then I moved to Seattle.

Now I am a java junkie, like my father before me. The first pot in the morning has become unconscious ritual. Coffee is a normal part of my life. Every day.

So I got an idea. An awful idea. I got a wonderful, awful idea. “I know just what to do!” I said with an evil Grinch grin, “I’ll skip coffee for two weeks and see if I become a monster.”

So that is the experiment – no complex rules, just don’t drink coffee. No decaf. No Sanka.

Day 1: And so it begins. My first “replacement” attempt was Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Zinger. It did not go well.

However, I was surprised that a few hours into the day I did not feel my body was missing the caffeine.  I wasn’t groggy or comatose – just annoyed by the disruption to my normal.  Then 3:00 happened.  Headache. Advil.

Day 2. Woke up with an increasingly-strong headache behind my eyes. I have a bad feeling about this.

Day 3. For the past two days I continued making a morning pot of coffee for my wife (I know, I know – partner of the year).  I assumed this might make it harder to not drink it, but I found the opposite to be true. Keeping some of the experience, the ritual, eased the pain.

Day 4. Today I miss the can-do attitude of Coffee. When I turn to my mug for an afternoon caffeine boost, Tea stares back at me like a grandmother, with kind eyes and wise counsel. Tea is patient. Tea is kind. But Tea does not care about my deadlines. Tea does not share my fear of failure.

But Coffee! Coffee is my partner in crime. My encourager of deeds. My “Yes, you can do it, but you need my help. Drink up, Tasky McTasker, and get the job done!”

Day 5. I’m feeling dehydrated today, realizing a significant proportion of my fluid intake is usually – you guessed it – coffee.

Day 6. Oh, Saturday morning, waking slowly, pouring a cup-o’-Joe, watching my wife drink it as I jealously try tea again.  Discovery: green tea tastes like water, but worse.

Day 7, 8. Guess what? There are more flavors of tea than black, green, and Lipton! Last night a friend introduced me to Lapsang Souchong, also known as “gun powder tea.”  This stuff is smoky, strong, and bitter. Maybe we’re getting somewhere!

Day 9. I went into a coffee shop! A Seattle. Coffee. Shop.  I breathed through it, ordered an interesting-looking, fancy-ass tea, and liked it almost as much as coffee.*

* That is not true.

Day 10-13. Through all the internal (ok, and external) complaints during this experiment, the headaches subsided and I feel better – especially in the afternoon – without coffee. So I’ve started researching decaf in an attempt to make the switch. I cannot believe I just typed that sentence.

Day 14. The transition is complete. I found a decaffeinated coffee to try and carefully informed the household.

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Epilogue. So, I tried this decaf idea for a few weeks, learned more about tea, and then discovered something very important.

I really, really like coffee.

Upper photo credit: Rafael Saldaña, https://flic.kr/p/Tub7ea