Happiness Is…

 happy, Random  Comments Off on Happiness Is…
Mar 222015
two happy kids

Simple Happiness – My sister and I, circa 1973

We all seem to know when we’re feeling happy, yet many of us have a hard time finding this emotion when we’re… Just. Not. Happy. We also seem to have many different ideas and strategies for maintaining happiness.

So why am I pondering such a simple, basic, emotion? For one thing, yesterday was: International Day of Happiness. Also, my wife is reading: The Happiness Project, and at a recent family dinner, we were watching the documentary: Happy. That’s a lot of happy, and it really got me thinking about how I personally seek happiness – what has worked and what has proven to be poor strategies.

Being an L.A. resident for all of my life (minus the 3+ year stent in the OC), traffic has played a major role in how well I can maintain happiness. As the SNL sketch, The Californians, lampoons, we tend to focus a lot of our energy on navigating through the crazy traffic in L.A.

So, two weeks ago, when looking into my own strategies, driving in traffic was the first place I explored. My driving style was best described as: Aggro-speed-demon. Not only did I put most of my energy into getting my car to the front of the line (as if all of us are going to the same place) and everyone else on the road were just obstacles to be out driven. When another driver would do something that slowed or blocked my bee-line to wherever, I would fling my judgements of their inferior driving skills. I also kept telling myself – and my wife and kids – that by “venting” like this, I was maintaining some kind of mental balance and that it was all for the better to keep me from road raging and doing something stupid.

For the purpose of my exploration of “happy strategies”, I decided to change my driving behaviors to see if it had a positive or negative effect on my sense of happiness. I figured the easiest way for me to change, was if I switched my driving goal from: getting wherever as fast as humanly possible, to: being as kind and considerate to everyone around me. I fortunately do not need to drive as a part of my job. Instead, I just need to drive to get to my job. I also do not have a strict time that I need to arrive at work (thanks Gravity).

Not only was I still getting to my office around the same time as I did with my Aggro-speed-demon style, but I also felt less stressed out when I did arrive. This outcome may seem extremely obvious to those of you reading this, but you would be amazed at how hard it is to see past your own preconceived notions about something you’re deep in the habit of doing. Keep in mind that I have been driving in L.A. for over 25 years, and though I haven’t always been this aggressive, I have always focussed on getting places as fast as possible (yeah, reading that back to myself makes me wonder how I’ve been so dysfunctional). 25 years has given me a lot of time to come up with justifications.

Believe it or not, I stuck to my new strategy for the past two weeks. I have now also learned that I can get 75 more miles on a single tank of gas. Again, seems pretty obvious when you think about it. What I learned that I found most surprising though, was that I can honestly say that my temper has a much longer fuse than before. Turns out that for every action another driver did that held me up would be another piece of anger/frustration/rage that I would hold onto. I recall that stepping out of my car after those aggro-drives, gave me the sensation of relief. Like, “finally I’m here and that’s over.” Now with a different perspective, I can tell you that that was not relief as much as it was stress. It was stress that would follow me into the office or into my home.

Something else became clear to me from all of this. I realized that judging other people helps feed my own rage. I also found empathy for other drivers on the road. Instead of “What’s your problem! It’s GREEN!” and after passing them, “Stupid!”, I saw: “There must be something else on their mind right now.” That’s it. No need to make any judgements about someone I’ve never met. It also became clear to me that judging a person by a single action or inaction is ridiculous. The most powerful part of replacing judgement with empathy, is that instead of these incidents building up anger and rage within me as they happen, they build up understanding and a deeper sense of humanity. I now feel like I’m driving among other people instead of obstacles.

I wish I could describe this better. It has been truly transformative for me personally. In my case, happiness was often out of reach because of my own anger and rage. I kept thinking that if I could out-drive the horrible traffic, I could arrive happier than if I struggled through it. It is only a struggle if I make it one. I have the power to change this by simply not fighting the traffic. It blows my mind at how simple this really is. Why did I have to make it such a struggle for so long? I won’t linger on that question long. I’d much rather just be happy.

Oct 012014

CorruptionI’m pretty sure everyone would agree that we have a problem with electing a representative government that has us in their best interests here in the US. With that being said, I wanted to share with you this morning’s shower thoughts on the subject.

Would it be completely crazy to bind US representatives’ pay to how their own electorate fare with them in power? My thoughts began with thinking about how big corporate CEOs are either getting some serious “quality” time with our elected officials or even getting public service roles of their own (like this one for instance). I wondered if what they’ve experienced in the highly competitive world of the private sector would offer anything useful to how the government operates. Almost immediately after applying my shampoo, I thought about the insane bonuses such CEOs receive for how their company’s shareholders fare. Before I even rinsed the shampoo out of my hair, I was already thinking about how such bonus incentives ignore the workforce behind any performance that results in stock performance increases. But, instead of just giving up on my thoughts in this matter, I quickly began to question if US representative pay could be somehow bound to the performance of their “shareholders.” No, not the ones that funded their campaigns, but instead, each of us people they are in Washington to represent.

It’s been a couple of hours since my shower ended, but this idea just won’t go away. The more and more I think about it, the more faith I have in the possibility of something like this effectively causing change in Washington. Good change!

So, I ask you… would this be a good idea? If not, please feel free to contemplate alternatives in your shower and share your thoughts here with me. I really want this pattern to change and I’m not concerned if it is done by way of my own shower thoughts or not.

Image source: Christopher Dombres

Nikola Tesla And What Could Have Been

 children, education, invention, nikola tesla, Random  Comments Off on Nikola Tesla And What Could Have Been
Jun 022012

Nikola TeslaI began reading Margaret Cheney’s biography, Tesla: Man Out Of Time, this week and after only completing five chapters I am deeply saddened by how he was treated and cheated time and time again. I somehow feel a bit guilty for the behavior of my country. Maybe I would feel this way if I saw such change in how we operate today, but what I see now seems so similar to the cutthroat tactics described at the dawn of our Industrial Revolution.

If an inventor like Tesla emerged today with a mind on fire with ideas that could change the world, how would they be treated? My take…? This new inventor’s ideas would be treated as resources to extract and profit whereas the vessel carrying them would be thought of as a necessary nuisance to deal with.

How can we truly change our future from one of profit thirsty greed, to one of innovation hungry contribution? To a world in which progressing people’s lives is valued much higher than increasing one’s wealth. Are we raising today’s children to become tomorrow’s problem solvers or are we instead training them to work the existing system? What do we want most from the education we all speak of as one of the most important things we can give to our children? Is it success? What if instead we focused on teaching our children to solve new problems from within themselves? Teaching them to solve problems that have already been solved in the form of testing can only keep them in line with some subjective standard. Does anyone honestly think that tomorrow’s problems will follow the same answer key used to grade today’s tests?

Nikola Tesla did study. He had an astounding amount of discipline within himself to achieve. A major difference though is that he worked to achieve that which no one else had ever even imagined. That is the kind of discipline I want for my own children. Yes, study what has been done and gain understanding of that which interests you. Don’t stop at passing a test on it though. Don’t stop at all. Surpass what has already been achieved and also continue to learn knew ways to do them with even less effort.

When Tesla was unable to gain capital for his own ideas, he worked at improving others’. Progress was the game he was in and I cannot think of anyone who played it better. Each set back was transformed into a new opportunity. Some of his improvements to Thomas Edison’s designs were even awarded patents.

If you agree with me that teaching our children to solve problems from within themselves is more valuable that training them how to solve problems they expect to see on a test, how best do you think this may be achieved? Well look at that… I’ve got myself an opportunity here don’t I?


[image credit wikipedia]

Sneaky Little Thing Two

 Family, Kids, Random  Comments Off on Sneaky Little Thing Two
Jun 082011

Text JunkieSo last night while I was traveling home via public transit, I was also trying to keep in contact with my wife via instant messaging. This is a common practice for my wife and I so that I can enjoy my trip more and she can know that I am safe and getting closer to home.

Well things seemed fairly normal in the conversations I was having except it did seem that she was having a harder time than usual understanding what I was saying. I had a long wait between buses and I was getting pretty hungry, so I started instant messaging questions about my dinner options for home. In come responses from my wife that they had “GoodStuff” for dinner and when I asked if there was any left for me, a resounding “Yes!” with smileys came back. I knew that they must have finished eating hours ago, so I made a request for her to start reheating it so that I could eat quickly and then move on to doing bedtime for our two daughters. I was so happy when a quick IM response came back saying: “Sure! OK!” and again a long line of various smileys.

More small chat continued until I arrived home to find an empty table and empty stove. Although it was nice to see that everything was so neat and clean, I was a little disappointed that there was no hot dinner for me after the IM conversation we just had. I then noticed that my wife was busy with our laundry and my 7 year old daughter (aka: Thing Two) was next to her holding my wife’s phone (we use our phones for instant messaging). Not only was Thing Two happy to see me, she was also laughing a lot more than usual. I asked my wife about the IM conversation we had moments ago, and she looked a little confused. This is when Thing Two jumps up and says: “I fooled you Daddy! You thought I was Mommy!” We all had quite a laugh.

It was just shocking at how I was not able to notice the difference. My wife tends to be very terse in her IM communication, so it did not seem odd for me to ask a long question and then receive a small “ok” response. Boy has Thing Two come a long way in her pranks. I’m both proud of her and a little scared for what we’re in for as well.


My Klout drops when I work hard

 klout, Random, social media, Technology  Comments Off on My Klout drops when I work hard
Jun 012011
the plight of my klout score

the plight of my klout score

I tend to focus less on my social networks when I have my head down coding. This time however, its effect on my klout score is pretty dramatic. LOL

I guess this is just a consequence of the typical life:work balance, but I wonder how other tech professionals maintain such a high score while also paving new roads in their field.

A couple of examples of the type of tech peeps I’m talking about:

  1. Jeff Atwood – 73: klout.com/codinghorror
  2. Matt Cutts – 73: klout.com/mattcutts

Anyway, I’m not complaining here people. I am just confused about how others manage to keep up their tweeting/blogging while “deep in the cut” of some tech project.

Do any of you have any tips? Please speak up here and let me know.

Time To Relax

 Family, Life, Random, Work  Comments Off on Time To Relax
May 302011

Image credit: audi_insperation

Things have been so exciting working @gravity this year and I am amazed at how much we have accomplished in the last few months. All of this excitement and hard work has worn my not-twenty-something body out just a tad and my family has become quite used to my MacBook on my lap during weekend afternoons.

So…. How nice it is that we all get a 3-day weekend to relax and spend some quality time with those people (and/or cats) in our lives that do not work at Gravity? I have also been able to work on this blog once again. After a nice day out with the family on this beautiful spring day, I found myself curious about what I needed to do next… NOTHING!

How great is that? I was really dumbfounded for a while until my brain chimed in with a wonderful suggestion: Relax! Well that is just what I am doing right now.

Here’s to having a moment to relax and accepting it! Hope you get a moment or to yourself.


The Comfort of Your Own Phone

 Android, Random, WordPress  Comments Off on The Comfort of Your Own Phone
May 182011

Gee, it sure is nice to blog from the comfort of my own Android phone. It is just so easy to do with WordPress.

Not much more to say than that…

g’night intarwebz…

Spring and the Renewal of Life

 Life, Random  Comments Off on Spring and the Renewal of Life
Apr 102009

For years I've actually dreaded the arrival of spring simply because of the effect this season has on my allergies. This year however the season comes at a time of welcome changes in my life. Is it that these changes are fresh in my mind that the season seems to be in tune with my life or could it be that my life is truly linked to nature's cycle of life? Whatever the relationship may be, I feel it and it is refreshing.

We recently moved into an apartment not too far from Robin's Mom's house. We were living with her Mom temporarily while we were trying to both rent out our Yorba Linda townhome and find our own apartment here in our hometown of Culver City. All of the stress such a situation can bring was pretty high and constant. It was a relief to have another caring member of the family to help out with our kids and we were blessed with such an opportunity. The stress was primarily caused by the need to simultaneously get someone renting our place and solidify our own housing locally.

The new apartment is located on a street rich in families with children and so many of these children are close in age to our own children. We now find ourselves surrounded by an urban village of friends, playmates, and support. This has enriched our family’s life and allowed more moments that Robin and I can do activities together without the kids. I’ve longed for such a village for so long that I cannot even remember when such a wish was born. Our two girls are adjusting well to this new environment as well. I was beginning to think that some of the things that made my childhood great just aren’t possible anymore in today’s world, but now at least they can bounce from house to house after school and on weekends. Each household provides for which ever children enter into. If three neighborhood children are over playing and I’m making dinner for my own, I’ll ask each of them to check with their parent if they can stay over to eat. The same goes elsewhere, and even though we’re months from July, we’ve had at least 3 BBQ’s with our neighbors.

children at play

So this year I welcome spring and the new things in my life. I’m looking forward to how things will blossom and grow from these beginnings.

25 things you might not know about me

 Life, Random  Comments Off on 25 things you might not know about me
Jan 272009

Stephanie tagged me on Facebook, and so here I go with this task. Since Facebook FAILed to save my completed “Note” (why they don’t call them blogs is beyond me) I’m doing this on my on blog and it’ll get sucked into my notes via RSS.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with
25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose
25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I
tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these
instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag
25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

  1. I used to have such a speech impediment in the 3rd grade, that my best friend would translate for his mom when I’d visit.
  2. I sang tenor, baritone and bass (not at the same time) in my church choir from high school through Junior College.
  3. I was in the bell choir for one year in my church as well. a regular ding dong ya know.
  4. My first job was at L.A. Gear in 1989. I was basically a slave to any clerical task.
  5. I have eaten Balut before. Seems so wrong, but I used to work in a warehouse with many Filipino, Cambodian and Vietnamese co-workers and they gave me one for my sending off party when I left Office Depot.
  6. The first music that I ever purchased was Van Halen – 1984
  7. In 1985 & 1986 I attended a two week performing arts camp run by Jane Fonda called: Laurel Springs. This is what propelled me into instant fame and popularity within my family only. I found my comedic balance and timing there working with sketch comedy and improv workshops. It was a lot of fun. My most surreal memory from this camp was one night I was feeling depressed about my parents’ recent divorce and my cabin mate noticed my tears and ran to get his mom to help console my sobbing. That may not sound too strange, but the boy in my cabin that ran to get his mom was Troy Garity and his mom was (and still is) Jane Fonda. She happened to know about kids and divorce and was very nurturing.
  8. I barely squeaked by in High School and Graduated with a whopping 2.75 GPA. If it wasn’t for the make-up courses that I took the summer before and the extra periods my senior year, I wouldn’t of made it.
  9. My favorite show on TV in High School was robotech. And seeing just the opening from the video I linked here makes me miss it a lot. This show sooo kicked ThunderCats‘ ass!
  10. My first geeky passion was not computers, but instead audio/video. My family couldn’t afford a computer of any kind until I was out of High School. I used to love to make mix tapes and remember hand twisting one side of the cassette to get just the right gap between songs. My dad had lots of old stereo components and I would wire them all up to make a monstrous sound
  11. One of the stupidest things I can ever remember doing was once in High School me and my best friend got up before dawn to ride to the beach and watch the sunrise. I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life and to this day don’t know how we missed one tiny obvious detail… the sun rises in the East! I mean we planned that trip for a couple days. Well… the cool pre-dawn bike ride was nice though.
  12. When I was in the 2nd grade my sister and I would come up with roller skating dance routines in the court yard of our apartment building. I remember them being with music, but sadly I know we had no portable radio, so it must have been us singing along as well. In my defense, the Ice Capades were huge in the 70′s!
  13. I’m obsessed with my online presence and work (probably too) hard at maintaining it.
  14. I go to great lengths (sometimes heights and widths as well) to find a new and alternative way to look at something. I question just about everything. I also try to find humor in everything (which has gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years). If I could sum up my take on the world as described by comedians, they would be: George Carlin, Bill Maher, and Stephen Wright.
  15. If I had an unlimited gift card for Jamba Juice and they remained open 24/7, I would never go hungry. I am a total Juice nut and cannot resist the yummy goodness that their twenty-something blender wizards spin up each day.
  16. I have seen (the original) Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) over 200 times and I surpassed 200 before the age of 13. We some how got a copy of it on Betamax when I was about 9 or 10 years old, and well… I just could not stop watching it. ;)
  17. Even though I work @ MySpace and have become quite the fan boy, my MySpace Display Name was at one time: “Robbie Hates MySpace” …and for the record, I changed my mind about the site before working here and in fact before my call for an interview. ;)
  18. previous to the 8th grade, I was extremely shy. I used to do the sets and lighting for the theatrical performances in my Jr. High school and never thought I would have the guts to be on stage with the lights on me. Not sure really what happened, but now you can’t take a mic or spotlight away from me. lol.
  19. I never took the SAT. I was even more arrogant back in High School than I am today. It just really made me want to challenge such a lame system. I won… sort of… It took me many years to return to college and finally get an education that I wanted, but it’s done and w/o the freakin’ SAT.
  20. I once bought a 1-900 number that provided fortune telling. I think I should have called the number before signing the check, because they may have been able to tell me it wouldn’t earn me squat. Taught me a lesson in advertising though. Not in me doing advertising, but instead it taught me more about not believing in the advertising you see.
  21. I went to the Philippines in 1986 with a group of High School and College kids from my church. We went to help support our previous pastor who had been involved with the revolution that was just coming to a close there in Manila. We were there for 2 and-a-half weeks and visited sites that tourist tours never go to. The biggest thing we did was build a gated playground for a nutrition center located in a squatters’ area along the RxR tracks in Manila. At first I didn’t think we were doing anything too helpful. I mean, these people had a lot of core needs that were pretty obvious. Then I learned that the children became so accustomed to the train tracks, that they built little cars to ride and play on the tracks. There were children dying every week from the freight trains that would speed by. The playground was a success. We put in a basketball court and a high wall and fence around it to keep the children away from the tracks. I wasn’t much of a worker, and ended up playing and singing with the local children. Some really good memories there.
  22. I used to think that the entire Wizard of Oz film was in Black & White. My family’s only TV was a black and white one. We didn’t get a color TV until I was at least 10. So when Dorothy stepped out of the house and into the land of Oz… yup… still black and white on our TV. The first time that I saw it on a color TV I made a remark to a friend that: “I can’t believe they colorized this classic film. It looks so fake.” lol.
  23. Between the ages of 9 and 13 I used to listen to Dr. Demento on KMET while lying in bed to go to sleep. I used to have nightmares (previous to the musical dementia provided by the Doc) and my mom suggested I listen to music to fall asleep to. My favorite station at that time was KMET and Sunday nights was Dr. Demento. It may not have really done anything for the nightmares, but I sure do remember asking my mom a lot of questions about the off-color things I was learning in my Sunday night bedtime routine.
  24. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was in Junior High. I was terrified of the water and rightfully so as I had almost drowned three times before the YMCA that I attended day camp and numerous summer camps with forced me to take lessons. They told me that I could not go to any more camps until I took lessons and was able to pass the deep water test. I was 12 for Christ’s sake! This lesson taught me more than how to swim, it taught me how big something can become in your head if you put it off due to fear.
  25. The first complete novel I ever read was The Da Vinci Code in 2006. I never really liked reading and would constantly fall asleep mid-chapter any time I tried. How’d I get through school you may ask…? Well besides my #8 above, I would take Theater classes that covered most of my English requirements. Now the most reading I do is for Thing One and Thing Two. A common scene is me sitting with one or both of them as I read some stories and as I start to dose off, one of them will yell: “READ!!!!” and open up my eyes with their fingers.