The Dip – Seth Godin

I just finished reading “The Dip” by Seth Godin.

It’s about deciding what to work on and what to skip. Godin’s litmus test for whether to bother doing something is “Are you willing and able to do the work to be the best in the world?”.

I get it. Organizations should get out of markets where they cannot be world class in order to reallocate resources to areas where they can. In business, and maybe in a career, it works.


When you apply it to your personal life; to dreams, ambitions, and possibilities, it becomes terrible advice. The “best in the world or don’t even try” attitude is a dangerously false dichotomy when applied to living and loving your life.

Imagine if you will…

I’d like speak French, but since I’ll never speak as well as a native born diplomat I’ll just watch TV instead.
I’d like to snowboard, but Shawn White seems to have cornered the market so I’ll just hang at the lodge and drink.
I think it would be fun to play bassoon in my local orchestra, but since I’ll never make it to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra I won’t even try.

…or things that can’t be quantified…

Who is the “best” traveler?
Who appreciates art the most?
Who is healthiest?

If a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing terribly.

I wonder if Mr. Godin has hobbies?
Where is he in the dip?

Does it really matter?




34 to 31

34 to 31 is my plan to lose 3″ off my waistline in 2012.
As you may have guessed I currently measure 34″.

I hate shopping for pants, but when 34 to 31 succeeds I’ll have to.

I don’t really care about my waist size (34″ works fine for me). Plus, like I said, I hate the shopping.
You’d think I could leave well enough alone.

I do care about running though, and hiking, and yoga, and all sorts of other things. I don’t have the mental stamina to track all these separately as goals. Besides, individual plans would drive me crazy with scheduling and I’d feel guilty if I didn’t get to them all each week.

Faced with this dilemma I thought about the results. If I could find a common thread in the effects could I focus on and track the effect rather than the activities? I know that’s backwards from the goal setting literature but it seemed to be a fit for this scenario. (Do you think it will work?).

I spent a lot of time trying to find a through-line: Strength training would make my weight go up, eating more vegetables would tend to make it go down. Running would make my muscles stiff and tight, yoga would make them flexible.

Eventually I realized that each of them would trend me towards a smaller waist. When I figured that out I arrived at 34 to 31.

On the way to 31 I may make some of the following lifestyle changes:

PR a 10K
Run another 1/2 Marathon
Do 30 consecutive days of yoga
Do 100 pushups
Ditch soda
Go to sleep earlier
Eat more vegetables
Start swimming again
Start cycling to work again
Stop with the cookies

Or I may not.

I may make other changes instead. I hope the framework of the waist size goal will drive what kinds of habits I start while leaving me flexibility and spontaneity when deciding specific projects to begin.
When I execute on these ideas my waist size will drop.

Then I’ll have to buy new pants.


February Goal Review

My apologies for the delay in getting this update out.
I published the recap to Adventure #1 last week when I returned from Florida and I’m behind schedule on this one.

Here’s a brief run-down of my 2012 goals and the progress I’ve made on each.

1. Build the Boat

You would think that the person who books plane tickets and hotel stays wouldn’t lose track of the fact that he’d be traveling for two weekends of the month.

You’d be wrong.

I forgot the January travel schedule. I wanted to make huge progress and didn’t really get as much done as I wanted. But, I fixed a significant error from December, I hung a plank, and spiled another.

Hanging a plank means to attach it to the rest of the boat.
Spiling is transferring the shape of a plank from the boat/building frame to a pattern.

Not bad for two partial weekends of work.

What’s really great is that I am improving my knowledge and skills as I go, so each step should be faster/easier than the prior one.

I’m excited about the progress and eager to get back to work.
I only have two free weekends in February, but if I can re-produce January’s progress I’ll be in pretty good shape.

2. Post to

Posting to Cultivating Eccentricity is a simple goal, and I’ve been able to keep up with my (not very strenuous) twice a month plan. The bigger picture of this goal is that it keeps me thinking about what is important to me and about how I can help people. I committed to this goal because I thought that a regular writing schedule would provide insight to what’s really important to me and how I might be able to help people. I’m very pleased with my results so far.

3. 34 to 31

34 to 31 is my Fitness and Weight-loss goal for 2012. When the year is over I’ll have dropped 3 inches from my waist and my BMI will be firmly centered in the healthy range.

In January I made one solid and consistent change that has now become a habit.
I read a post at NoMeatAthlete on how to make a good smoothie. I took Matt’s recipe and started making a smoothie every morning. I’ve replaced my typical breakfast of cereal and milk with fruits and vegetables.

I tweaked Matt’s system a little by adding three handfuls of chopped kale.

I have three good results to report:

1. I like breakfast better when I have smoothies instead of cereal.
2. I don’t get as hungry through the middle of the day.
3. I feel lighter, like somebody lifted a weight off my stomach.

I also started doing the Angry Birds Workout from Nerd Fitness. You should read Steve’s full post for details, but it’s all about short body-weight workouts. In the time most people would play a level of Angry Birds you can do mini workouts to gradually build functional strength. In addition, Steve created a series of tiers so you can level up your workout from time to time.

My squats have moved from level 2 to 4 and I can do 10 more pushups than when I started. My right shoulder doesn’t hurt any more either.

While that’s all good news, I haven’t really established this as a habit yet. Maybe February will bring consistency.

I think it’s too early for another waist measurement, but my pants feel a little loose.

4. Monetize a side business.

I haven’t done anything. I’ve thought a lot, but no action.

5. Adventures

I experimented with minimalish travel with my family and had a great trip. I think we’ve cleared every hurdle we had to travel (except $). I can take my wife and kids anywhere we want to go and that’s a great feeling. For more details see Adventure #1 and my followup post.

I’m ahead of schedule on the adventure goal. I need to complete one every three months, so knocking one out in January puts me in good shape. I’ve completed some planning steps for the spring and summer adventures but nothing’s concrete yet. More details as things firm up.


January was awesome!
The whole month was jam-packed with living intentionally instead of sleepwalking through my existence.
I had a great month and I’m really excited about the clear progress I’ve made on my goals. I’m pumped up about February and everything I get to do in the next several weeks.

Bring it on!

Adventure #1 Recap

Let’s hear it for the Rainbow Tour, it’s been an incredible success.
-Tim Rice, Evita

So, I’m back from my minimalish travel adventure. If you didn’t read the original post, I took my family to Disney World for 9 days taking only the items that fit in a small backpack.
The night before our departure I looked at a final weather report and traded my 2nd pair of pants for a pair of shorts. Other than that my packing matched the pics from the earlier post.

My biggest surprise was that I was still over-packed. Once you decide to wash and re-wear during a trip your clothing needs drop almost to zero.

Items that turned out to be completely extra: two t-shirts, three pairs of socks, one baseball cap and a pair of underwear. If it hadn’t been so cold in Cincinnati I could have skipped the jeans as well.

What I didn’t know at the time of my last post was how little the rest of the family was bringing. All in all, we had 5 people packed in 4 carry on bags (princess and pirate costumes included). In addition, we took one carry-on full of breakfasts for the trip (you don’t want to buy five $7 muffins and $6 drinks for 9 straight days) and one bag of stuff to entertain the kids through airports, flights, etc.

After we cleared security in Orlando we had some time to kill before our return flight. I looked around at my family. The 2 year old was sleeping in our stroller, 6 & 8 year olds sprawled on the concourse floor reading, and Jeanne knitting. I was struck by how smooth it all was. The kids have done the security drill enough times that it’s no big deal (2 year old is a wild card there, but still…). In another year the big kids will have less struggle handling their own bags and the two year old won’t need to be carried as much to keep up. Where couldn’t we go?

I’ve dreamed of taking the whole family to Europe for a long time, but over the years I’ve had 3 concerns about taking such a trip.

  • First, what will customs/border security be like? I remember West German security tearing apart toys in a search in the 80s and I hadn’t crossed a border since September 11th. What should we expect? (Got this answered traveling to Mexico, summer 2011)
  • Second, you have to pack light. There was a time when we packed so heavily that we couldn’t have gotten our bags where they needed to be without curbside check-in at the airport. That doesn’t really lend itself to moving around unfamiliar destinations with a language barrier thrown in for fun.
  • Third, the security line is a place of very little power for travelers; you really want some solid expectations about how your kids will behave. If one of them wanders off into a secure area would you be able to retrieve them without shutting the airport down? Would that get you detained? Arrested?

I have my questions answered. We’re ready.

Oh, and one thing we didn’t over-pack?

The flight home was a little bit of a gamble.