Category: Motivation

Say No To The Sequel

Honest question – has there ever been a movie sequel that was better than the original? I’ve been wracking my limited brain cells and can’t think of a single one. There’s certainly a few that at least equaled the original, but you wouldn’t say they were “better”… Godfather part II, Mad Max part II, Kill Bill Volume II, The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Aliens. There’s something about those original films that made them unique. Different film styles or special effects we hadn’t seen before. A screenplay with plot twists nobody had thought of before. Something that made you walk out of the theater and say, wow!

Naturally every movie studio and actor on the planet wants to cash in on the success of a blockbuster film, so they immediately begin planning the sequel. But at that point it’s no longer new. While it may be a great continuation of the story and characters, sequels just don’t have the wow factor the original had. Quite often it feels like the approach is, “well we made a truckload of money on the first one. if we just quadruple the special effects budget for the next one, we’ll really wow ’em!” Those films tend to feel like they filmed a bunch of cool special effects first and then tried to write a story to match the effects.

Which brings me to Christmas Eve. We’d planned on going out to an actual movie, but that fell apart for various reasons. No problem, we implemented plan B. Binge watching the Matrix trilogy, capped off by seeing the new Matrix release (Resurrections). With new movie releases being streamed immediately at home, will we ever go to a theater again? Anyway, on with the hours of Matrix immersion.

The first Matrix is one of those mind blowing films that had me walking out of the theater saying “wow”. How did someone come up with concept? Truely unique. The second one was pretty good, but started drifting towards the “hey, look at our effects budget!” problem. The third, while entertaining felt a bit like, “how are we going to wrap this up?”

I knew nothing about the fourth one, other than I’d seen a few comments on social media that it wasn’t very impressive. Oh well, we were hours invested in this movie binge. Too late to pull out now. We refreshed our drinks, snacks, and settled (back) into the couch and pressed play.

Within the first ten minutes, both Mrs Troutdog and I were looking at each other and asking, what is this? We made it through about 30ish minutes and turned it off. It was an incomprehensible mess. Dialog you couldn’t follow. Redos of story lines from the first Matrix that made no sense. Maybe they tied it all together towards the end, but the first 30 minutes was so bad I’ll never justify spending the time to find out. Had it been in a theater I probably would have walked out (which I’ve never done before). A truly awful film.

The lesson of Matrix 4 should be applied to life as we drift towards the last days of 2021. Recreating the magic of an original experience in a sequel is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do and more often than not ends in disappointment. The experiences of the past should remain in the past.

Do not attempt to re-create, fix, analyze, or otherwise dwell on the past. It’s the past. Any attempts to replicate or repair something from the past will fail. Don’t be that sad guy or gal trying to re-live high school or college glory. Mistakes made or relationships that dwindled… let ’em go. It’s the past.

Like a classic movie, it’s ok to look back fondly at it and remember how you felt when you first saw it. Just remember they’re in the rear-view mirror. Glance at the past from time to time to have a sense of where you came from, but you need to spend your time looking forward. Sequels are never as good as the original. Make yourself a new, original movie.

The In-Between Doldrums

doldrums [ˈdōldrəmz, ˈdäldrəmz]
NOUN
(the doldrums) a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

While we’re on the topic of definitions, here’s another one that’s often misunderstood/misused:
Inertia
a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

My default state of inertia can best be described as… sloth. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a pretty active guy. Once I start doing stuff, that feeds on itself and the next thing I know there isn’t enough time in the week to do everything I want. Once enough force is applied and I get going, my inertia is a healthy level of continuous movement.

The problem is that if anything derails that inertia, I default back to sloth mode. This is where I introduce you to the doldrums. In my part of the world, this happens twice a year. Right now, we’re in the winter doldrums. Fall is over. It’s cold. It’s rained enough that the trails are a muddy, torn up mess. You can’t run on ’em or mountain bike. Did I mention the cold? This makes a motorcycle ride an extremely unpleasant experience. There’s no snow yet, so my standard winter activities haven’t started yet. Finding outdoor activities this time of year, while not impossible, are exponentially harder.

Day by day my motivation and inertia wanes. Adding to that, it’s the holidays which means food. There’s just food everywhere. At the hospital, well-meaning families of patients are constantly bringing cookies, cakes, and candy. The staff break room is a never-ending cornucopia of calories.

It doesn’t take many days of this, and I get into a bit of a funk. I didn’t go completely stationary… I managed to play golf a few times and did a couple of home repairs. But my default state the last few weeks has been couch-bound. And the more I sit the more my inertia starts resetting to sloth mode. It gets harder and harder to want to get up and do anything.

It needs to snow soon so I can resume my skiing activities. Otherwise, I might bust out the video games that have been in a closet for the last five or so years. If that happens, you probably won’t hear from me until spring. Unfortunately, what happens in spring? Doldrums part deux. The snow melts and we have a long period known as “the mud season”. You can see that this is a dangerous cycle.

Overcoming the moment of inertia – the force required to overpower the current mass and velocity of an object can be a complicated mathematical formula. The longer I stay still the greater the mass and friction coefficients become, and the required force becomes exponentially greater.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’ The time has come to apply some force and bust out of the funk of the doldrums.

With Discipline Comes Friction

I read a short article this morning about Tom Brady and other various GOAT contenders that made a great point. Brady said that he’s not the most gifted athlete on the field… just the most disciplined. Someone told a story about him playing in a celebrity golf tournament in early spring. He was spotted running wind sprints in the parking lot before the tourney. When asked what the hell he was doing, his reply was “trying to win a super bowl”.

That attitude is what 90% of the population lacks. There isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t know what needs to be done to lose weight and/or get in shape. We simply lack the discipline to do it. It’s hard. When everyone else at the table is having a cocktail, it’s hard to ask for iced tea. It’s hard to order just a salad without that creamy dressing when everyone else is ordering burgers and pasta. When you’re sore and everything hurts from yesterday’s workout, it’s hard to go back to the gym. That’s the friction that bombards us daily.

Friction is the enemy of progress. Friction is why my weight ballooned up. I couldn’t say no. Working out sucks when you can no longer do a pull up or run a mile, so why bother? I know I could change it, but it’s going to take a long time. It’s hard to picture six, eight, or ten weeks out before being able to get that pull up. You picture the discipline it will take to get the workout in every day for all that time… and it just seems like too much. And suddenly you’ve skipped a day. and then three. And we’re right back where we started. I already blew my diet today, so I may as well order pizza and start again tomorrow. I’ve been starting again tomorrow since August. Friction is a killer.

Tom Brady’s throwing coach Tom House has observed, “What separates these elite athletes, the Hall of Famers, is that they try to get better every day not by 20 percent but just 1 percent.”

“When you’re disciplined, with it also comes friction, because you’re not just doing what everyone else is doing. But if you’re willing to pile enough of those 1 percents together over 20 years, they can turn into seven super bowl rings”.

We’re on day five of the great reset. Down four pounds. Solidly in ketosis. Last night provided some serious friction. I had an event that I’d scheduled way before the reset that was all about good (non diet) food, wine, and desert. Skipping wasn’t an option. Normally this would derail me completely, but I’m determined this go-around to find a sustainable way forward. I worked out hard prior to dinner. I limited my calories pretty significantly during the day. And then I enjoyed the evening. I ate the food (and desert) and drank the wine. I fully expected to pay for this setback.

This morning I did not want to step on the scale or check my ketones. I guessed I’d be plus a pound and be knocked out of ketosis. But… ignoring reality is what got me here in the first place. I closed my eyes and stepped on the scale. And… down another pound! I checked my ketones and low and behold, still in ketosis! I’m not sure how that happened, but I’ll take the win.

Is it a 20% win? Nope. More like a 0.25% win. But it’s progress. It’s motivating. Ten weeks of work to get that pull up feels slightly closer. Definitely not skipping the workout today. Somebody needs to figure out how to bottle that feeling. Because that feeling, that glimmer of hope is what makes a diet and exercise plan successful. It’s not eating a magic combination of foods or buying the fancy piece of exercise equipment or gym membership. It’s the continued, small incremental wins against friction that make or break your march towards the goal.

I’m not on the downhill slope yet. In two weeks we have Thanksgiving. Travel. Family. Food. Lots and lots of food and drink for multiple days. I’m worried. I’ve clawed out some tiny improvements… I don’t want to go backwards. The next two weeks will be a hard core push to keep the discipline and make gains as a hedge against T-day.

Friction is a cold hearted bitch.

The Secret Is To Be Still

I’ve made a decision to play more golf. As I’ve mentioned before, golf has been the one sport I simply can’t seem to get comfortable with. So, I’m going to make the commitment and put in the effort to become average. While becoming “average” doesn’t seem like much of a goal, it is when you’re struggling to get past awful. I’m not looking to shoot par, or join the senior tour. My desire is to be able to be paired up with any group and feel comfortable that I’m not going to embarrass myself.

So with this new plan to get better at golf, I made a little resolution to challenge myself and play golf three days in a row. What’s the big deal with that? Well, it meant going out as a single and probably being placed with a group of strangers. No only does that challenge my awkward social skills, it means embarrassing myself in front of strangers with my lack of golf skills. For you extroverts maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal. For us introverts, trust me it is.

Day one and I forced myself to go to the course. I thought about just going to the driving range, but made myself go into the pro shop and say the dreaded words… “do you have any slots open for a single?” Oh, happy days – not only did they have room, the course wasn’t busy and I was able to go out by myself! It worked out perfectly. I forced myself to overcome social anxiety and got to relax and play without anyone watching. It was a very enjoyable experience and I actually played ok. Probably because I wasn’t in my head and simply enjoyed the course.

Day two and I was much less anxious. I drove to the course and… the parking lot was packed. I nearly turned around and left. But to my credit, I forced myself to head to the pro shop and say the magic words. There wasn’t going to be any solo golf this time. I was paired with a couple of young guys. They were laughing and joking around. The pro clearly knew them. He said, “I know these two look like knuckleheads, but they’re good guys”.

As we went out to the first tee, they certainly didn’t look like golfers. Late twenties, early thirties maybe. Both looked like ratty skater dudes. Flat billed ball caps. T-shirts. Baggy shorts. Lots of tattoos. I thought to myself that they couldn’t be very serious about golf, so at least I won’t be too embarrassed. As we were waiting to tee off I noticed they were both wearing flip-flops. How committed a player could you be in flip-flops? The group in front of us moved on to the green so I stepped up to tee off. I actually managed to hit a decent shot. Not terribly far but dead center in the fairway. One of the guys yells “Steady Eddy, that what I want to see all day!” I was quite pleased with myself.

Now this first hole was a par 4, slight dog leg to the right, 300 some odd yards. I’m waiting for my two partners to tee off, but they’re just chatting away. I’m waiting. And waiting. Finally the group ahead clears the green. Skater guy number one steps up in his flip-flops and crushes a massive drive that lands on the green. Skater guy number two steps up in his flip-flops and also crushes his drive, landing just a few feet short of the green. I was speechless. Whatever stereotype I had of what a golfer looks like was blown away. I’ve never seen, in person, someone hit a golf ball like that. It’s one thing to see a massive drive from the pros on TV. But you have no appreciation for how far 300+ yards is until you see it in person. And these freaking guys did it in flip-flops. Why am I so obsessed over the footwear? Because I just bought a pair of fancy new golf shoes. Nothing like feeling foolish standing there in my shiny, brand new, fancy shoes while these guys crush it looking like they’re on their way to a beach party.

I did ok on the second hole, and then the nerves of playing with these guys got to me and the wheels came off. They were super nice and very supportive. I realized they would normally play back on the pro tees, but were playing up on the closer tees for me. They gave plenty of encouragement, but it was clear I was holding them back from their normal pace of play. Eventually they asked if I would mind if they jumped ahead a hole to play a bit faster. Of course I didn’t mind as it worked out well for me and them.

Before they left we shook hands and said the standard pleasantries. But one of the skater dudes did leave me with a bit of advice. He was quiet for a bit and then said, “You know, I think most problems with the golf swing can be fixed by just being more still”. And off they went.

I don’t know if that’s good golf advice or not… but it certainly felt right. It was an interesting experience. A wise, tatted up skater dude who crushes 300 yard drives in flip-flops. The next day I got rained out, so we’ll have to wait to see what the next round brings and if stillness is the secret. One thing is certain. I’m clearly trying too hard. Maybe I’ll put the new shoes on eBay.

Performance Anxiety

I have performance anxiety. Wait, that sounded bad. Not that kind of performance anxiety… I mean with sports. I could never be an Olympian or compete in some sort of professional sport. Aside from having to be talented, coordinated, and possessing athletic skill, those folks tend not to choke when it matters. I don’t have that ability.

Take golf for example. Golf seems to be my nemesis for some reason. I have a weird golf dyslexia that I can’t seem to get past. Despite a frightening amount of money spent on the driving range, lessons, and clubs, I still just don’t get it. I have zero confidence that when I step up to the tee, I’ll be able to hit the ball. As a result I hate the first hole. As in, I actually get butterflies in my stomach walking up to tee off. It makes no difference if I’ve warmed up on the range or not. All I can think of in my head is “don’t screw up, don’t screw up”. It happened just the other day. Mrs Troutdog and I were playing and got partnered with a 12 year old kid. He hit a beautiful drive that went a country mile. I stepped up and… chunked it about 10 feet. I set up to hit another… and chunked it about 10 feet. Sigh.

I know that half the problem is that I’ve gotten into my own head over this. I know I’m creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by obsessing over it. I just don’t know how to get past it. Mrs Troutdog laughs at me and says I shouldn’t care. We’re just out to have fun, it’s not like we’re trying to turn pro or impress anyone. She’s right. But I hate being bad at things, especially in front of strangers.

Maybe it’s a guy thing? I’m ok being bad when I’m a complete beginner. I’ve never been waterskiing. I would be really bad at it initially and that would be expected. But at some point you want to move up to being at least average. Especially if you’ve purchased all the expensive gear. Nobody wants to be a poser. Maybe that’s where my issues started? When I was young I did a lot of surfing. In the surfing tribe it was critical to fit in (or maybe it was just a teenage thing). You could always spot a poser. They’d have brand new expensive wetsuits and boards, yet were complete kooks in the water. As kids are prone to do, we mercilessly made fun of those guys.

That desire to fit in with the tribe as a kid probably left an indelible imprint that’s lingered into middle age. I desperately don’t want to be that guy who has all the expensive gear but not be able to walk the walk. Reminds me of a great old movie, “Man’s Favorite Sport?” staring Rock Hudson. The main character is a famous fishing guide who’s written books on the subject. Turns out he’s never actually been fishing. His boss enters him in a fishing contest and hilarity ensues.

With things like skiing and mountain biking, I’m comfortably average. I can reasonably ride most any terrain and know exactly what my fitness and skill limitations are. Even if I don’t know you, I’d happily go for a ride if you ask and be confident that I won’t embarrass myself. Ask me to play golf and I’ll spend twenty minutes making excuses. I hurt my back. Haven’t played since last year. I used to play years ago, but am just now taking it up again. Anything to cover for the inevitable flubbing on the first tee.

It’s silly, isn’t it? I’m a grown-ass man. Am I really so vain at this point in my life that I’d care about what you think of my golf ability? Apparently so. And I hate myself for even caring about it. I should strive to be Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik character in the movie Caddyshack. Loud, flamboyant, every golf gadget available, yet was hopeless at golf. He didn’t care what anyone thought because he was having fun.

Maybe that’s the ticket to busting through this weird anxiety I have? A form of de-sensitivity training. Perhaps I should go buy the most outrageous plaid golf pants I can find and wear an obnoxious Hawaiian shirt. Add some sort of ridiculous hat, tee up a bright pink ball on a naked lady tee and let’r rip. Maybe by going over the top and pretending I really don’t care what you think, I’ll convince myself that people actually really don’t care if I can hit the ball or not. Maybe. I’m just not sure Mrs Troutdog will still play golf with me dressed like that.

Discipline Equals Freedom

If you’re not familiar with Jocko Willink, he’s worth following. He’s a very frightening former navy seal commander who’s written a number of books, has a very popular podcast, and famously posts a picture of his watch on Instagram at 0430 every morning as he starts his daily workout. His mantra is discipline equals freedom. The more disciplined you are at getting your shit done, the more freedom you’ll have at the end of day. Admiral William H McRaven gave a very popular speech saying something similar – “Want to change world? Start by making your bed”. Life coach Jordon Peterson says to clean up your life, start by cleaning your room. They’re all advocating for some derivative of adding structure to your life.

Exactly seven months ago we made the decision to begin divesting from work and starting the move towards retirement. And exactly seven months ago I wrote a post lamenting that I needed more structure in my life. And how has that gone? Well, I, uhm, errr, ahem… haven’t done anything different. I wake up every day with exactly zero plan for the day. Of course there’s always the random appointment you need to keep, or a trip that was set up, or a social get-together. But my plan for the week is never anything more than a vague thought in the back of my head. I know it’s going to get hot later in the week so I’ll mountain bike Monday and Tuesday. I should probably mow the lawn before the weekend. It looks like Wednesday is going to be a powder day, so I’ll go cross country skiing today. We’re out of salad dressing, so maybe I’ll go to the store on the way home. Or maybe tomorrow. That’s it. That’s the sum total of my structure and planning, week in and week out.

It’s pretty hard to complain about that. I truly have a blessed life. It feels like I’ve been pretty damn busy the last seven months. I certainly haven’t had any shortage of things to fill my days. I think it’s clear I won’t be one of those guys who retires and then has no idea what to do with himself every day. But what have I actually done? I’m not actually sure what I’ve been doing all this time. There’s been some focus around the new ginormous motorcycle, but the rest of my time has been a bit of a blur. I know I’ve kept myself occupied, but doing what?

I had grand visions of making gourmet meals most nights and being on top of all the shopping and various household errands. There’s a number of household repair and yard maintenance things that need to be done. Getting back in the swing of a regular workout routine was high on the list of things to do. Being more focused on hobbies was also something I wrote about seven months ago. None of that has happened.

With a complete lack of structure, I’ve drifted along with whatever random thought came into my head on any given day. And like a spoiled child, most of my thoughts have been about playing and not necessarily taking care of business first. While it seems idyllic, I think the edges are starting to fray a bit. My weight has gone out of control without any sense of routine. Free feeding is not a recipe for success. The less I take care of business (home repair, cooking, yard work, etc…) the harder it is to be motivated to do those things. It’s hard to think about long term plans, like travel for Mrs Troutdog and I or even the next trip on the ginormous motorcycle when I don’t even have a plan for tomorrow. Even my copious playtime is starting to simply repeat the same things over and over. What happened to rediscovering some of my other hobbies that have been back-shelved for a while?

This is an incredibly fortunate and first world problem to have. But nonetheless, one I suspect I need to sort out before too long. As Jack Torrance said in The Shining, “all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy”. Ok, maybe that wasn’t exactly what he wrote but you get the gist. I still don’t see myself restarting a bullet journal or getting up at 0430 each day. But adding some level of structure to my week is looking more and more important. Maybe it’s just committing tasks to the calendar at the beginning of each week? Wait, that’s sort of the bullet journal isn’t it? Sigh… I don’t know. It’s terribly hard to become disciplined if that hasn’t been your nature. Maybe I’ll invent a new planning/tracking/goal setting methodology for newly retired folks. Become a retirement life-coach. This blog has been searching for a focus ever since I started writing it, maybe that’s what it should be? Can I practice what I’d preach? Hmm. Check back in six months and see if my new best selling “Life goals for retirement” book is underway. Meanwhile, I’m going mountain biking today. I’ll look at the calendar later. I promise.

It’s All In Your Head

I may have mentioned once or twice here that I ride a motorcycle. I have some experience riding on the street but very little in the dirt. I may also have mentioned once or many times that I’ve recently purchased a new ginormous motorcycle that’s in the “adventure bike” category. That means it’s perfectly capable of going both on and off road. I’m somewhat intimidated by it which makes me a very timid rider in the dirt, unsure of my abilities to stay upright. Many of my little stories are about conquering my fears and pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. This story is about the power of the mind.

The new ginormous motorcycle has more electronics than the space shuttle and enough buttons to rival a modern airliner. So many buttons in fact, they had to make an on-line simulator to practice with. I’ve only figured out about half of them so far since it takes the majority of my limited brain cells just to stay upright. I don’t need to make things more complicated by fiddling with buttons and switches. Anyway, I was reading some on-line forums about the bike and stumbled upon a thread about something called the “G-switch”. Folks were raving about what a difference it made in the dirt for traction.

If you haven’t ridden a motorcycle in the dirt, traction is where my fear comes from. Riding around a corner and feeling your rear (or front) wheel start sliding is a very unnatural feeling and causes my stomach to pucker up. So naturally anything that improves traction is going to make my life better. I quickly opened up the manual and then the on-line simulator and figured out how to turn the G-switch on and off. Time to jump on the bike and go find some dirt!

I rode up to a high mountain lake on slippery, loose gravel and dirt roads. With the G-switch engaged it was like I was riding on rails. My tires were glued to the dirt and I rode at 2x my normal speed. What an amazing difference! With the G-switch on it was like I was a different rider. Why hadn’t I discovered this earlier?

Once at home, enjoying an adult beverage after my ride, the engineer in me decided to figure what what the G-switch actually does. What engineering marvel did those designers create when they crafted that magic switch? It took quite a bit of research to find the actual specs. And it turns out… it has nothing to do with traction really. It changes how the clutch works.

*crickets*

How in the world did I ride so well then? It’s amazing what the brain is capable of. I know there’s plenty of cute fables out there describing the power of belief, but I never thought I’d experience it. I was sure the G-switch was doing something to help me and therefore I relaxed, trusted the bike, and rode better than I thought I could. I have to laugh at myself. It will be interesting to see what happens on my next ride. Will I revert to being cautious since I know there’s no magic G-switch helping me? At the same time I now know I’m capable of riding more confidently than I have been. My guess is somewhere in the middle. Regardless, the lesson learned is that we’re all far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

I Got Yelled At

  • People in the hospital are rarely happy (ok, maybe in the maternity ward). I’m generally not seeing people when they’re at their best. I accept that and knew it going in. I understand if someone gets a little snippy, or forgets to say thank you if you go above and beyond to do something for them when they’re in significant pain. This week however, was a special low point when it comes to patient and family behavior. It started with a schizoaffective patient constantly screaming at me to stop playing mind tricks on them, and then having to be brought back by security after running amuck through the hospital hallways. That’s a mental illness, so I don’t take it personally. Then there was a family member accusing me and anyone who came in the room of not caring about the patient and ignoring them and their needs. Constant very passive aggressive loud muttering about everyone having their heads up their asses and waiting 30 minutes after pressing the call light (it was 5, our system shows us exactly how long it’s been). Sigh… deep breath, their family member doesn’t look to have a good outcome. I’ll cut them some slack.
  • But then there was the real humdinger. A patient and family member who were both serious meth-heads, combined with a rainbow of other illicit substances, with no money, resources, or insurance, who were there for a trauma. For two days straight the patient yelled, screamed, cried, manipulated, and generally behaved like a flaming asshole to anyone unlucky enough to go in the room. The patient was getting enough pain medication to tranquilize a horse, yet screamed and cried that we were inflicting intentional torture. The family member would show up, hear this, and begin the litany of demands to see everyone from the charge nurse, floor supervisor, hospital president, and city mayor. The family member would then announce they couldn’t take their level of anger and had to leave before ripping someone’s head off. They’d return an hour or so later and it would begin again. This pattern repeated all day long. Any attempts to engage, refute, or otherwise point out they were being unreasonable only resulted in additional yelling, just at a louder volume.
  • Twelve hours a day, for two days is a lot to take of that sort of behavior. I was pretty angry and frustrated each night when I got home. Upon reflecting on those days, I think I’m most angry at myself for putting up with it. At the time it seemed easier to mostly ignore it. All three scenarios were verbal battles that I wouldn’t win. These were not people who’s minds were going to be changed. It’s often less stressful to simply nod and say mmm-hmm and get out of the room as fast as possible so you can get on with the thousand other tasks you have to get done. But I didn’t realize how much the cumulative impact of continually taking the verbal abuse would affect me. On the drive home after day two I briefly thought what the hell am I doing? At my age I don’t need to put up with this crap. But I still like the job. It’s rewarding in many ways that working as an engineer for mega-corp never was. But it seems like the hospital population is more and more the mentally ill, the indigent, and drug users who are not capable of dealing with life in general. The bad behavior has become so common that when receiving report on the rare, “nice”, patient a nurse will make a point of letting you know, “you’re lucky, he/she looks like a normal person”.
  • I’m not sure what the answer is. I could move to a clinic of some sort, but just taking blood pressures all day would be like watching paint dry. Besides, I’m in a spot where I have the perfect schedule. It would be hard to replicate it working on a different floor. I think I’m going to try an experiment. For the next few weeks I’m going to be a semi-jerk. There will be no shit taken from anyone. You want to be an asshole? I’m going to be one right back. Of course, in a professional manner. This may make my day more difficult (and certainly the charge nurses – people LOVE to escalate any perceived wrong at the drop of a hat), but I’ll be curious if my mental health will improve? Will I have an overall better outlook if I go home knowing that I didn’t accept any crap from people? Nursing is such a hard balance. How do you continually be compassionate for people in a bad situation, yet not let yourself become a doormat? If you know the secret, please let me know!

Song of the day: Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take it (Extended Version)

What’s Your Risk Tolerance?

  • I just got back from a four day road trip on the ginormous motorcycle. It was a fantastic trip with a couple of “bucket list” rides. I mentioned in my last post that I almost cancelled due to a threat of inclement weather. Sure enough, day one I got caught in a pretty severe rain and hailstorm. Let’s just say that large hail at 60 mph on a motorcycle hurts! The important part is that I survived and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d built it up to be in my head. I rode a few other sections that were high speed highway (70 and 80 mph speed limits) with plenty of large semi’s and some high winds. Serious white knuckle time in the beginning, but I wasn’t thinking about it much towards the end of the day. The point is that the unknown is scary and it’s easy to let that fear get the better of you when try to visualize what it’s going to be like. I guarantee that most of the time reality will prove to be nothing like the horrible scenarios you let run away in your imagination.
  • Which leads me to my question on risk tolerance. Pushing through fear is all well and good, but you still need to do a reasonable risk assessment of the situation. A brand new motorcycle rider attempting a busy freeway on his first day is stupid. The lack of skill makes the risk factor way too high. So how do you evaluate risk? When it comes to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, I have a reasonable amount of life experience. I’m an RN, was a member of a search and rescue team for years, comfortable with navigation, and feel pretty comfortable with knowing my physical limits. My risk tolerance for hiking in the backcountry is pretty high. Barring serious injury, I’m not terribly worried about surviving a few days if something went wrong. I’m reasonably confident I could put myself in a position to be found or self-rescue. More importantly, I feel like I’m less likely to put myself in a bad position in the first place. Most of our rescues on the SAR team were for people who had no idea they were even putting themselves at risk until it was too late.
  • Which brings me back to the ginormous motorcycle. I have many years of riding experience. Unfortunately most of it was simply commuting back and forth to work. The long road trips are new to me, but I feel like I still have enough overall street experience in those scenarios to make good risk assessments. But what I really want to do is spend more time riding in the backcountry. I have no dirt experience. At what point, when riding by myself, am I being stupid? Most of my fears revolve around being stranded. A crash or other mechanical issue that disables the bike. Dropping the bike and not being able to pick it up. A navigation error and running out of fuel or getting into a scenario I’m not capable of riding. Now what? With the motorcycle it’s easy to go distances beyond a simple hike out.
  • So, do I not go out by myself? Do I simply start slowly and go a little further each time? Do I spend days beforehand making a battle plan with every possible scenario for each ride? At some point that’s no longer fun. On one hand, what’s the worst that could happen? Again, assuming no serious injury, the bike breaks down and I’m stuck. A few days of hiking or until someone finds me. While it would suck, very survivable. It’s extremely rare that someone goes missing and perishes before being found. But that’s not a fair burden to put on loved ones waiting at home, thinking the worst.
  • At what point are you being so cautious you’re limiting activities due to fear of the unknown? At what point are you placing yourself needlessly at risk because you failed to adequately prepare and didn’t recognize that you were in over your head? For me I think the answer will be to go slow and over-prepare initially. Of course I’ll seek out more experienced riding partners… but I don’t want to sit at home waiting for that to happen. The other option is to sign up for one of the various riding schools and learn/improve my dirt skills. I suppose I should do that regardless. How do you evaluate risk? Pro’s/con’s on a spreadsheet? Avoid it at all costs? Just do it and whatever happens, happens? I’m honestly curious how others evaluate risk?

Song of the day: Lily Allen | The Fear

I Feel Kinda Guilty

  • Our hospital is in the midst of a horrible staffing shortage. Every day I receive texts from unit supervisors pleading for folks to come in because the floor is short staffed. They offer overtime, premium pay, Covid pay, any combination of hours you want. I delete the texts immediately. Yesterday, while at work, the floor unit coordinator came to me and asked if there was any way I could work tomorrow? I actually would have said yes, but I’m leaving on a trip today on the ginormous motorcycle. I felt a little bad telling her no, but I did have a legitimate reason. Later that night I got an SOS text message from the hospital. They were so short staffed, patients were being treated in ambulances parked in the emergency room bays because there were no beds or staff available to bring them into the hospital. Supervisors were pleading for anyone available to come into work. I felt pretty guilty after reading that. My coworkers are going to have a horrible shitshow of a day today and I’ll be off playing. I don’t feel bad for the hospital, but I don’t like feeling as if I’ve let my coworkers down.
  • In my previous life as an engineer for mega-corp software company, I fully embraced the do or die for the company attitude. I never took time off. There was always some project that, if we just worked really hard for another few months, we’d deliver to the customer and then everyone can relax and take time off. And then we’d miss that deadline. And another. I had hundreds of hours of accumulated vacation time, never used. It was so bad Mrs Troutdog and I actually bought a time-share in Mexico thinking that at least that will force us to take a vacation once a year. We went quite a few years with that warped sense of priorities. Slowly it began to dawn on me that the corporation doesn’t care about you. Oh sure, they pay lip service to “our employees are our strongest link” and other such happy horseshit. Eventually you realize that you’re just a cog in the wheel. I don’t care how important you think you are to the company, if you leave you’ll be forgotten within the week and someone else will take your place. Work hard, do a good job, but realize that any company exists to make a profit and it’s their job to extract every last ounce of work and time from the employees. You can be replaced at any moment. Take all of your vacation time. Stay at a company only as long as it’s benefiting you. If another opportunity comes up, take it. Life is too short to waste it thinking the corporation actually cares about you. I know that sounds terribly negative. Yes, there are companies out there that treat their employees fantastically. Just don’t lose sight of that fact that you are still just an employee and your life is not work.
  • Today I leave for another multi-day trip on the ginormous motorcycle. And sure enough, all of a sudden the forecast is now calling for strong winds and a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. My brain immediately thought, oh I should probably cancel and go another time. I have to continually remind myself not to be that guy anymore. Don’t let fears get in the way of experiences. If it rains, then I’ll get a little wet. So what? Am I really going to postpone a trip because conditions may not be perfect? I always thought I was a semi-adventurous person. Looking back, my “adventures” were only well within my comfort zone and with activities and places I knew well. On my own I’d rarely try something new or go someplace completely unknown. The “new” things and adventures I’d do were with friends who were experienced and able to lead and plan the activity. It’s amazing how ingrained worry about the unknown can be if you you’ve spent a lifetime being cautious. So, I’m going to hop on the bike and go. Maybe I’ll get wet and the ride might be miserable. Maybe I won’t find much sightseeing and this will end up being days spent being bored in crappy motels. Maybe the bike will break down and I’ll get stuck on the side of the road with no cell service. All of that may happen. But I’ll never know if I don’t try.
  • The interesting balance that I need to learn to strike is at what point is a “just do it” mentality crossing the line into a stupid risk scenario? This weeks adventure is just a road trip to a handful of smaller towns. Probably a few areas with limited cell coverage. Very little risk, other than being on a motorcycle. The other type of riding I really enjoy is dirt and getting into the backcountry. I did a ride a few days ago where I ventured a ways into the forest. Nothing dramatic, but far enough away from civilization that a breakdown or a crash starts having more potential for bad outcomes. On this ride I still saw a few vehicles and if I had to I could have hiked out pretty easily. But the trips I really want to do are much further in the backcountry. At what point is doing a ride like that by myself becoming too risky? At the moment, those fears of the unknown are overcoming the “just do it” attitude. I suppose time and more experience on the bike will dictate how far I’ll push my risk scenarios.
  • My last trip (which was also my first one) on the ginormous motorcycle went mostly undocumented. Just a few pics from my phone. I didn’t want to deal with cameras, video, or more electronics than necessary. I wanted to concentrate on riding and just absorbing the experience. This time I think I’ll try to make a video. I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. I’m no Ken Burns. Most of my video footage ends up being two hours of nothing but a view of the gas tank because I didn’t realize the camera moved. We’ll see how this goes.

Song of the day: The Big Push – These boots are made for walking’ / Satisfaction / Everybody