Six years ago today, the overhaul began.

Facebook showed me a face this morning that I barely recognized. It was a self-portrait, taken in a hospital bed, while doctor-prescribed morphine set my brain alight, and my appendix continued its slow melt into a puddle, flooding my bloodstream with potent bacteria. I looked like a half-ghost, one foot in the world of the living, the other in the world of the dead.

For most of our existence, barring providence, appendicitis was a sentence to a slow and painful death. I wasn't afraid of dying then. I had enough baseline medical knowledge to know that I'd walk out of the hospital, just as I walked in. What I didn't know is that I wouldn't walk out the same person.

The person in the picture was living on borrowed time. He had done most everything important wrong for the past four years. He had ignored what was essential. He had distracted himself with equal parts blind ambition and self-destruction. He was ignoring the billowing, black smoke pouring out of the engine and the oil change that was 10,000 miles overdue. It took the failure of an organ the size of his pinky for the entire system to start breaking down.

Most important, it took that failure for the overhaul to begin.

Tipping the cap.

Over time, I've developed the same healthy respect for a well-honed sentence as I do a loaded gun. Ideas articulated with precision are equally dangerous. Expressing yourself in writing is perilous business. While it's not likely to get you killed, you are putting yourself at risk.

For me, good writing is about exposing personal vulnerabilities. Willingly offering that kind of insight takes guts. I don't get stage fright, but the prospect of anyone reading anything with my name on it is terrifying.

This is why I have the utmost respect for anyone who writes from this place of vulnerability and does it well. Someone doing that right now is a former classmate of mine, Mike. You can and should read his blog here, where he recounts his struggle during the war in Afghanistan and on the home front. 

Mike's story is of courage, and the telling of the story is itself a courageous act. We should all read it closely.

 

I have no cause to complain.

Try and go a day without complaining. It's almost impossible. Whether you verbalize it or keep it internal, complaints worm their way to the surface, poisoning thoughts and attitudes.

I've been trying -- with mixed results -- to complain less. It's difficult to stifle the whiny voice that pipes up at the first sign of discomfort, or the slightest hint of insult. Taking it a step further, when I hear that voice start to chime in, I try to turn whatever it's saying around and find something positive behind it. This mental exercise is taken from this video by Jocko Willink. Watch it. It will get your blood pumping.

If for no other reason, I've prioritized eliminating complaints because complaining is not a constructive enterprise. From my experience, it produces only more negative thoughts and feelings. It further sours outlooks and dispositions. It's also contagious. I've seen it bring down an entire office. It is an ineffective use of time and effort.

If time is the ultimate commodity, and complaining is not a constructive enterprise, then why bother complaining? I have too much to do, and I'm sure you do, too.

Mental strength training.

Stress is a force to which we can inoculate ourselves. As Dr. Rhonda Patrick points out in her most recent newsletter, stress, in small doses, can be beneficial to the body. Take green tea for example. We all accept at face value that it has health benefits. Ever wonder why?

You've probably never felt stressed by drinking a glass of green tea, but compounds in the tea trigger a mild chemical stress response. Your body reacts to compounds in the tea by bolstering its antioxidation response, resulting in a net benefit from the mild stressor.

This is where the science ends and the philosophy begins. On a genetic level, we are built to handle stress. I'm not saying that living in a constant state of life-or-death fear is beneficial. However, we are capable of accomplishing great things under pressure. And moreover, we're made stronger by the stress. Something to keep in mind as we head into another work week.

Building the perfect rocking chair.

I have the highest respect for craftsmen. Today, a friend sent me this photo of a beautiful set of rocking chairs and a table in various stages of production. I try and use the mindset of a craftsman for the things that truly matter.

A craftsman doesn't think of his work as art -- though it is. A craftsman doesn't think of her occupation as a higher calling. They simply employ their God-given, or practice-honed skills. Their tools become an extension of their hands and their minds -- an extension of themselves. To call it an avocation puts an obstruction between the work and the worker.

I just want to build a really great rocking chair. And then do it again.

Learning from indecisiveness.

Indecisiveness is a murderer of good intentions. I've seen many sound plans get crushed under indecisiveness -- an unwillingness to commit because something better might be looming over the horizon. 

I try to live by the Gen. George S. Patton maxim that "a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week." Perfect is often the enemy of good. Perfect is often another weapon of Resistance.

Time shouldn't be wasted waiting for perfect. Not when things are good, right here and right now.