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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bad Habits

One of my 20-something friends was telling me how much she admired my energy. I, of course, wondered who the heck she was talking about, probably because I've been dragging myself around for nearly two months with a sinus infection that won't go away. I finally twisted the arm of my german doctor enough to get some high-powered anti-biotics week before last, and they seem to have helped some, although there is enough lingering congestion to make me wonder what has taken residence inside my head. But that is another story.

I sit here at 12:30 a.m. typing away as I wait for the Daily Show to come on More4. Actually the Brits are not as dogmatic about television schedules as Americans, so a regular 12:30 start time is often 5, 10 or 15 minutes later. Tonight it will start at 12:45, so 15 more minutes get tacked on to the end of a day that started at 06:00 what is now yesterday. And in the meantime I watch the NBC Nightly News on CNBC blather on about Geo. Bush's 34% approval rating ... I would normally skip NBC for the Daily Show, but tonight I get a bit of both and they play well off one another. Synergy ... just love the concept.

Speaking of synergy, I took the train to work today so I could study for Chinese class in the evening. I do the train a couple days a week, and the study time has done wonders for my Chinese, which had been suffering due to a lack of study time when I was driving every day and too tired to bother when I got home. I also started brushing up on my calculus, which I've started applying to some of the thornier parts of my job.

My colleagues have devised a number of linear functions that interact with one another in a complex array that is vaguely reminiscent of the system of spheres within spheres that medieval scholars cooked up to explain the motions of the cosmos around the earth. I look at all of that and wonder if applying a slightly higher order or math might actually make things easier, and indeed it does, so I crack open one of my old text books and remind myself how much I sometimes enjoy being a geek.

I'm really an average guy. I hated school when it was little more than a prison sentence (High School), but I actually started to like it when I had the freedom to stay or go (college) along with the concommitant risk-reward payoff that accompanied my choice on any given day to bother to show up to class.

I've never been a morning person. I hated dragging myself out of bed at 7 a.m. for calculus, chemistry, or fluid dynamics classes. But on most occasions I did. Woody Allen once commented that 90% of success is simply showing up. I think of that on most days when I would rather punch the snooze button for another hour or so.

I wonder how I dragged myself out of bed at 07:00 for school. I wonder now how I drag myself out of bed at 06:00 to travel and hour or so to work. And then I remember dragging my butt out of bed at 05:00 or earlier during my military days and 06:00 doesn't seem so bad any more. And then I remember that when I first moved to New York I would wake up at 05:00 and jump on my Nordic Track while watching the Tokyo Business Report to give me an idea of where my day was going to go in the first few trading hours. What was all that about?

And I wonder where I find this perspective nearly 15 years after what I thought were the last vestiges of my discipline had vanished into a later life in New York where I stayed out until 2 a.m. and came to the office at 10:00. I do miss that life, by the way.

Which is why I am up now watching the Daily Show. I am still programmed to stay out until 2 a.m. I am also still programmed to wake up at 05:00 or 06:00 or so. I don't think of myself as having so much energy, and to be frank, I feel like I am running on empty most days. Which is why it is more important for me to work smarter rather than longer or harder.

And so I crack open a calculus text or a chinese text on the train. Today I did both. What made it funny today was that the woman across the table from me was working a Sudoku puzzle, and noticed that I pulled out a calculus text and started working a few equations and sketching out a few graphs. She frowned a little as I finally put to rest a problem I had been wresting with for a few days between the interruptions of phone calls and meetings. Thank you, Sir Isaac.

But what was really precious was the look on her face when I closed the calculus text and pulled out the chinese text. That, plus comments abuot my energy, are what really keep me going. I'm not one of these superhuman, every-minute-of-the-day-is-planned types, but I would like to think I am living what Steven Covey would call a purposeful existece.

And I wonder at what point I will simply choose to start coasting through life, because that is the start of the end.


Blogger Maribeth said...

God bless you with your language and mathematical pursuits! Neither one is my strong area. Heck, I have trouble with my English!
Now dogs....I do understand those!

2:01 AM, December 14, 2006  

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