2014 has been a year our family will never forget, and I do hope you had a very big year too.
As per the usual, Sidd, Paul, Molly and I wish you the best in this Holiday time. We pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy. If life has gone sideways, our prayers are with you.
Our family has had its share of adventures.
- The boys are in a good place. Still the best of friends, still sinewy, still a deep source of goodness and light for Molly and myself.
- Sidd is 11 (5th grade) and certain his future has 5 pursuits. I see this as the start of a lifelong path that creates one's legacy.
- Paul is 12 1/2, (7th grade) and discovering, at times the hard way, the deep importance of clarifying your workload and staying ahead of it. Grade 7 has been a surprise for him and it's never bad when something makes you up your game. One concern I have: for the first time, I don't really see school fundamentally inspiring him.
- Molly has formally entered back into the “traditional” job market - that is, being a stay at home parent when children are very young is a demanding pursuit unto its own: now that the boys are older, she has taken a project management role at Allstom Grid, and likes the colleagues & new challenges.
- I am in my 10th year at MSFT - and it continues to be interesting personally. At a macro level the company is materially, cohesively proving a clearer direction, gaining internal momentum, and finding its own rhythm, again.
Here’s 10 Observations from 2014…
- Great Teachers Catapult You to New Territories - Two examples. 1) the boys' piano playing is 2x better in just a year due to a new teacher. Why? Her mix of inspired instruction, remarkable pieces and higher expectations. 2) "Let's start by running a two miles" was the opening of soccer practice this year. The boys replied, we didn't do that last year. "So? Have to run to win a soccer game right? C'mon, let's go." Unyielding, greater expectations = the team was in 4x better shape than a year ago.
- Focus on Long Threads of Exploration and “Public” Performance. Exploring the many options around you is vital, but as important is a) doubling down on a few, over years of time to really learn the craft, and b) having to execute more publicly, be it speaking, on the field, or a concert hall. You quadruple your focus when there is potential personal downside, and learn to live with, or thrive on, your stage fear.
- Illuminating Advice Makes Tightropes Vanish. A good guide can make the toughest, trickiest and oddest paths much more of a walk on land than a crooked tightrope. In 2014, I witnessed a chap, Jeff Shushan, demystify things into obvious, logical steps.
- God Bless YouTube - I am continually floored by it - from humor like Substitute Teacher, to Coldplay concerts to drier yet useful pieces like how to bend a soccer ball like Ronaldo or use vLookup in Excel
- Reinventing yourself only comes from actually going on the journey, each day. "2 finished pages a day" is the credo of Brandon Sanderson, who took over and completed the "Wheel of Time" series after Robert Jordan passed away. I have aspirations and related plans, but I am not delivering my version of "2 finished pages" - man I am not there by a country mile. Yet.
- Comparing is so easy and sooo dangerous. I fall into this LinkedIn racket: I read a person's intro, proceed to their schooling, skim their history, and start down the mental slide of "why am I here and not there?". Then I have to stop, at the least remember my Uncle Jim's comment, "life is relative". And choose to solve whatever I am reacting to by taking action; don't be bothered by it, don't ponder it.
- How Does One Stay Enthralled by the World Around Them? I don't hear as many big, bold ideas from my sons - like dinosaur farms, trains with one set of wheels, and drawings saturated in colors - and that worries me. They have homework, and extracurriculars, and phone games. Future, excellent sheep? Yikes, perhaps… But… less of the enthralled, wondrous view.
- Focus on Experiences with People, Not Acquisitions. I agree with a longtime friend, Abhay Pande, that most things I buy lose their allure in a day; but adventures and interactions always have an edge. Travel is a prime example. And the boys are amazing travelers - things like airports, exploring new places, chilling out with people - they are naturals at this. Sidd's tenet: "Dad, it's about people, not places. Can we just goof around with family and not go anywhere?" My hope: create a foundation for future, interesting walkabouts.
- I Do Prefer News Served With a Smile. 2014 was the first year I felt overwhelmed by the world's crises. Useful to me were Mike Allen's pithy daily political email update, and Fareed Zakaria's weekly "My Take"… but… the only person who sustained my appetite for the news was Jon Stewart. I felt okay as each bombshell landed, because Jon would call out what I felt inside - that it was too much, too crazy, too stupid, and I was not nuts for feeling this way.
- I Need to Break My Old Fashioned, Sequential View of Learning. After day 2 of a 2 week summer camp on computer programming basics, Sidd (then 10) was not excited. Paul summarized things,"Java has too much syntax, and BlueJ keeps crashing, dad." But the next day, things were better. Hmm, why? "The teacher said all the machines have Visual Studio Ultimate, and so we used it with C#." My first reaction: no way, a 10 and 12 year old? Using VS Ultimate? C#? Are they too young? No, my mindset is too old. Lord, rewire me, please.
What were your favorite books and movies? Here's a few I enjoyed…
- ColdPlay's A Sky Full of Stars
- Yuna performing Rescue on Jimmy Kimmel
- Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris
- Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson - simply grand story telling that filled me with the grandeur of astronomy
- Lunchbox - late in the movie the lead actor says, "all of a sudden I realized it was not my father I saw but myself and wondered, when did I grow old?" - my worry too.
Here's to a non-trivial, remarkable 2015. May you explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time, and find eye-opening ways to bring them to life. Do visit us while we are here – the summers in particular are like no other.
Take care and God Bless You!
Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe…