I just turned 37 a couple days ago. To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe “…makes a guy think….”

Approaching (hitting?) middle age for me means a few things, but the overriding feeling I have is that, obviously, time is fleeting. So what to do with fleeting time?

Here’s an idea. We live in an extraordinary moment when everyone has access to the sum knowledge of humanity. Stanford university is giving its courses FOR FREE online.

Khan Academy is teaching pretty much anything in a really great format and also FOR FREE through its app.

With this in mind, I’m learning maths on Khan and I’m reading up on the links between health, sustainability and interior design/architecture in a new book by Esther Sternberg.

Staying curious. That’s what I want for my 38th year and for any more time I get on this amazing earth. This sounds pithy but it’s true.

Happy Sunday Chimps.

Reading better

There is simply too much to read. The internet is endless and ever growing.

That’s why companies like Facebook and Twitter have done so well. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, if you’re bored or if you’re lonely, these companies will give you something to look at. It will link up with your social life, your browsing history and your location too, if you let it (yes, there is a choice). It will make you feel pleasure and excitement for a fleeting moment.

Calling the main page on Facebook and Twitter a “feed” is no coincidence. Like a baby screeching for mother’s milk, these companies recognize our thirst for connections and take the thought out of choosing what to read and what to consume.

But can we do better and can we read better? Any reading for a purpose is better than the default Facebook addiction. Managing what we expose ourselves to is a full time job but it’s worth it. Choose books and newsletters and RSS feeds. Choose active reading over passive consumption. Better yet, read something purely for the purpose of creating something.

Writing and loyalty rewards

I have recently started to take part in a loyalty rewards program. So much so, that I am a little obsessive over the points-claiming process – it’s because if i get enough points through exercise, then I get free coffee 🙂

Gamifying a loyalty process is useful in that it can alter behaviour. What was once a chore becomes a goal and my behaviour leans towards the gaining of points. However, true loyalty still only comes from the payback meeting expectations. A free coffee a week is enough for me to go and exercise daily, along with the knowledge that I am getting fitter. If i only got a glass of water as a reward, I might not be so loyal.

When we look at writing as the process, there is no shortcut to building loyalty. As a reader I don’t know of any loyalty reward points for following one author over another, other than the promise of more material to come. As a writer, the consistent drip, drip, dripping of content will build a readership. Giving them more than expected with a purchase will build an evangelical fan.

And when in doubt, throwing in a free coffee seems to work wonders 🙂

Family and the self

If you do something over and over not only do you get good at it, you start to expect it to happen and so do those around you.

Family is a beautiful thing, but starting one inevitably sucks your time and energy away from individual pursuits. I have to be careful here because I love my child and my wife and I love spending time with them…. but if I am not mindful of my time, I devote every second of the day to them and that is not healthy for things like creativity, relaxation, pursuing dreams.

So I have to start new habits and feed them into my family dominated routine drip by drip. I am now reading a book of my choice, just a little each night. I take time each night for myself and holy moly what a difference. I read better and then I sleep better. Not only that, but I can feel myself getting better at reading. The words fly off the pages and I reach that “zone” where I don’t notice the outside world much quicker than I used to.

All of this is probably for nothing as we are expecting another child soon – but til then I am enjoying regaining some of my lost time and reading some more good stuff.