“Routine is the enemy of time.”

One of the reasons why I love being a professor is that every day has a different schedule, an alternative spin to the routine. It helps keep things fresh, interesting.

And what are the 3 best reasons why one should be a university professor? Well, that’s easy:

  1. June
  2. July
  3. August

Seriously, I still get summer vacations, and I’m 52 years old. Months of not going to work creates opportunities to break out of routine for extended periods of time.

I was reminded of my good fortune when I watched a video about Jedidiah, who “…quit a job that he loved to ride his bicycle from Oregon to the southern tip of South America.” The video’s inspiration is in his ability to extend time by obliterating routine, because when you bike tour–especially the way he’s doing it, where you cycle through places that you are afraid of, and in doing so confront your fears–you go beyond routine.

I love my life because what routine I have is minimal. And by minimizing the routine, I have more time to be me.

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“Luck is believing you’re lucky.”

I’ve been thinking lately about how lucky I am. Lucky to be a consultant, lucky to be a professor, lucky to be a husband, a bike rider. My entire life is pretty dialed-in right now, and I’m trying to understand why that is. Why I’m so lucky.

My father taught me a long time ago that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I’ve always lived according to that definition, trying to be prepared for what is currently the “unknown”, trying to recognize opportunity when it presents itself.

This June, I’m going to go on a bike ride with my daughter Kait. We’ll take a train to Spokane, bike up to a friend’s cabin in Spirit Lake, Idaho and hang out there for a few days, bike over to Seattle to visit extended family, bike down to Portland to visit Evan (my son, Kait’s brother), and then bike back to Wisconsin along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Am I lucky to partake in such an adventure? You bet. Am I making this happen by deciding to do it and planning accordingly? No doubt. Am I thrilled that Kait decided to join me in this adventure? That’s an emphatic “yes”.

How many fathers have daughters that want to go on big bike rides with them? How many of us have the opportunity to take 5 to 6 weeks out of the routine of life to travel around the country? I consider myself lucky to have this opportunity. I’ve prepared for it. Now I just have to wait for June to come around so we can do this thing.

I believe in the power of belief, and I believe I’m lucky.

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The work of Franz Gertsch

Last month, Sue and I visited my friend Robin who lives in the mountains outside of Napa, California. We stayed down the road at the Christian Brothers Retreat Center; fortunately, it’s next to the Hess Winery, which has an art collection that includes the work of Franz Gertsch:

Gertsch, though a leading Photo-Realist painter, is emphatic in drawing a distinction between the simple imitation of a camera’s view and achieving, by means of brush and paint, a creative depth that is sometimes absent in the photographic portrait. Currently, he uses projected transparencies only as a guide for his extremely large works, images whose intense intimacy of detail belies their majestic scale. The artist has stated: “The more I focus on the photographic original, the more I move away from it.”

Creating depth that is sometimes absent in the photograph. Intense intimacy of detail. It’s what distinguishes Gertsch’s work. It’s what his paintings do what a photograph cannot.

You stand in front of the painting and gaze into the portrait, sensing an intimacy that seems only possible when looking into someone’s eyes.

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A mindful cyclist

People have numerous reasons for using a bicycle as a primary source of transportation — protecting the environment, caring for their health, urban congestion, economic savings, just to name a few. But one reason that stands out is the development of one’s thought process. Can biking provide the solitude needed for daily life? That’s the topic I want to explore when I present in a couple of weeks at the Wheel and Sprocket Bike Expo–how bicycle commuting and bike touring serve as vehicles for mindfulness.

Here’s the mental recipe:

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It takes some time to explain this mental paradigm; why not come to the event to find out more? It takes place Saturday, April 8th at 4:00 p.m. at the  Bike Expo. Hope to see you there.

A powerful mind

Shelby, my half-Siamese/half-tabby, can sit in a chair for up to 8 hours at a time. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it–to sit still for hours on end. My dog Rush (whose pedigree is a mystery since he’s a rescue dog) can sit in the same chair for hours at a time–but not 8 hours. That takes true talent, the type of skill set that Shelby’s nurtured his entire life.

Buddhism espouses the concept of zazen, or sitting meditation. Master Dogen wrote:

For zazen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Cast aside all involvements and cease all affairs. Do not think good or bad. Do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thoughts and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha.

Shelby is gifted at zazen. Rush and I need to learn from the master.

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Rush practices “just sitting” and looking out the window.

The long now

A couple of weeks ago, Sue (my wife) had to travel to the Northern California to deliver some work-related presentations. The company she presented to rented her a sweet Airbnb in Point Richmond, just across the bay from San Francisco. I went with her, and while she worked, I enjoyed the bungalow we were staying at.

The bungalow was full of original art. I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with art rather than the representations of art, to have paintings rather than posters of paintings. One painting in the bungalow stood out, an oil on canvas titled “the long now,” created by Serena Hazard.  It’s a monster of a painting measuring 36″ x 78″. 

For 4 days in a row, I gazed out the window, watching sailboats and tugboats go by. Then I’d focus my attention on The Long Now. Both scenes offered drama and seemed to complement each other.

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Going slow

I went for a long bike ride on Sunday, a route that took me through a residential neighborhood. There was a sign in the neighborhood that said “Go Slow.” The words were painted on a turtle, as if a child created it. It had the desired affect–I slowed down.

I love cycling slow. It enables you to see more, to pay more attention. It enables better thought. Everyone I work with is speeding up, trying to get more done in less time. I’m tired of trying to do that. No more. I’m with whoever made this sign: let’s slow it down.

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Epiphany Consulting

If you follow this blog, then you know that I took a bit of a break from it so I could focus creative energy on a new project. Well, I can return to blogging because the project is live. I started a new business, epiphany consulting. Basically, I help people have big ideas (or “light-bulb moments”), so they can better solve big problems. Check out the website.

I’ll write more about how the new business takes shape. I met with my first client last week, and his enthusiasm has dissipated any concern I had about starting a new adventure. God, I love adventure.

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