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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Paul Tevis

Entries in things i have learned (123)


Owning Failure

Last night, I discovered I’d made a rookie brewing mistake and ruined the five batches of beer I brewed in July. This post is me taking my failure bow.

Short version: When sanitizing my bottles, I didn’t give them enough time to dry, leading to a significant flavor of sanitizer in my beer. Oops.

This mistake came at a particularly opportune time, as I’ve been reading The Gifts of Imperfection, which talks about the importance of acknowledging that we make mistakes. In that process, we have to keep in mind that:

  • “I want to be better. != “I can’t make a mistake.”
  • “I made a mistake.” != “I am a mistake.”
  • “I am not perfect.” != “I am not worthy of love and belonging.”

Do I like that ruined five gallons of beer? No. But there’s nothing I can do about that now. What I can do is surrender the feeling that “I am wrong” by acknowledging that “I did something wrong.” I can decide to do something to move forward, rather than dwell on something I can’t change. I can choose to own my failure, to be vulnerable in such a way that it no longer has power over me.

So: [arms up] [dumb-ass grin] Thank you! I have failed! [bow]

Now to make some more beer.


Writing and Not Writing

Why have there suddenly been posts here in last week or so, when there hadn’t been for months? What’s been happening recently that’s different?

Quite simply, I’m writing more because I’m reading, watching, and listening more. I write when I feel I have an idea worth sharing. Those ideas largely come from somewhere outside my head, from a book, an article, a video, or conversation. They then bounce around inside my head, collide with each other, and turn into something new. For the first four months of this year, though, I wasn’t exposing myself to those idea sources nearly enough.

And that has changed.


Every Day is New Year's Day

I’m going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
Gonna pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I’ll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I’ll get up and do it again
Say it again

Jackson Browne, “The Pretender”

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Last year I linked to Scott Berkun’s article on why we’re so bad at keeping them and how to make better ones. This year, I noticed Alistair Cockburn’s Post-hoc New Year’s resolutions, and I thought it was fabulous. And I find it strange that we often wait for a special occasion, like the changing of the numbers on the calendar, to try to make change in our lives, when we have the opportunity to do it whenever we want.

So I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I’ve got things I want to accomplish in 2012. The way I’m going to get there, though, is by making Today’s resolutions, and This Week’s resolutions. I don’t live my life a year at a time, so I don’t like trying to make resolutions at that scale. I’m going to pick the things that I need to do now, and do those every day until I need to do something different. When will that happen? Maybe a year, maybe less; I’ll know when I get there.

I understand the symbolism of New Year’s resolutions, and I understand the importance of symbolic resolutions to help inspire you. More important, though, are resolutions that help you do the hard work, day after day, that get you to your goal. And those can happen any day of the week.


Thank You

Two things have come into focus for me today:

  1. I had a great 2011.
  2. Many people I hold dear did not.

If you’ve been reading this at all, you probably have a good idea of some of the things that contributed to #1. I could not have done any of those without the love, support, inspiration, and encouragement of almost everyone I interacted with this year. Thank you all for that; I realize how truly fortunate I am to be in the place I am now.

I know that not everyone has been so lucky. This year I’ve witnessed friends and family — both close and not-as- — deal with professional setbacks, health problems, the ends of relationships, and the deaths of loved ones, and my heart has hurt along with them. To everyone, I offer the same love, support, inspiration, and encouragement people have shown me over the last year.

Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Let’s prepare for 2012’s opportunities and see what we can do with them.


Life Moves Pretty Fast

For our last Fourth Friday Challenge (which got moved to the fifth Friday of December, but that’s neither here nor there), Becky asks:

You’re in a good and growing space right now. With your gentleness and wisdom, write a letter of love and advice to a past self, a self in need. Perhaps age 14? Or 20? Or … ?

Dear Fourteen-year-old me,

The next year is going to be pretty crazy, so hang on.

Your first year of high school is going to be a roller-coaster of emotion, but you’ll be better for it. You’ll get terribly angry with your best friend about a girl, but the two of you will become closer as a result and you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process. You’ll finally start to have meaningful social interactions, which will set you on the path to eventually (a decade later) figuring out that you’re not actually an introvert. You’ll get to be a precocious freshman, which will have both good and bad parts, but the former will outweigh the latter.

Then, about halfway through the year, you’ll find out that you’re moving to a new city, a process that will uproot you from these new-found and long-term connections. You won’t try as hard to make new one as you should, but I can hardly blame you. Maybe it’s because you know you’ll only be there for three years before you go off to college. Still, knowing what I know now, it would have been a better idea to take some risks. Stick with the cross-country team for more than a year. Go to some parties. Ask the girl out. (And the other one. And the other, other one.) Keep focus in your senior year and finish high school strong.

Regardless, things turn out pretty well. Four years from now you’re going to meet this funny, smart, beautiful strawberry blonde. Seven years from now you’re going to ask her to marry you and she’s going to demonstrate an inexplicable lapse in judgement by saying yes. Things are going to be crazy for a little bit yet; from my vantage point the benefits beat the costs. And more than anything, it’s the next year when you really start to figure out who we are. I know that you’ll pay attention to it; I remember that. Somewhere between your now and my now you’ll forget to do that as much as you should, but we’ll get it back.

Enjoy the ride. I’ll be waiting when you get here.

—Thirty-three-year-old me