Weekly Update #11
Another week in New York City with no snow 😔 Definitely a bummer of a winter it's shaping out to be in terms of weather. I hear next weekend we might finally see some snow, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
Core Maintenance Activities
The main topic for this week is something that came to me on the treadmill. Like the shower, I feel like that's one of those times and places where ideas come together in interesting ways.
This particular idea is something I've been calling "Core Maintenance Activities." It's basically the set of things, or the routine, that if you can keep up with then you'll be able to continue feeling good physically and mentally even in the face of high stress in life and work.
My core maintenance activities are the following:
- Wake up at 5:15am and go to the gym at least 4 days a week
- Clean the kitchen every morning
- Eat 90-100% home cooked meals
- Shower every day before work
- Go to bed on time so that I can wake up and do it again
- Clean the bathroom, vacuum the house every weekend
- Keep my system up to date
Lately there has been increased stress in both my life and my work, and so I haven't been able to do much else around this routine. But incredibly I feel good in spite of that! I continue to have enough energy to meet my obligations, and I have been able to maintain the emotional stamina required for not breaking down. In fact, I feel stronger than ever because I know that the me of even just one year ago would not have been able to handle this situation.
There is an important line between core maintenance activities and other things that go into your preferred routine. For example, my preferred routine involves at least an hour per day of reading and an hour per day of working on some personal side project. But when things come up in life and work (especially life), it becomes necessary to move things around and drop things from my schedule to make time to deal with what is most important. You'll notice neither reading or side projects are on the list I gave above.
I'm not saying it's easy to drop activities that aren't on your core maintenance list! On the contrary, I know how hard it is. I get a lot of pleasure and fulfillment from reading and working on side projects. Having to put those habits aside for even a few months hurts. But putting things in perspective, looking at the bigger picture, I know it's the right decision. My physical and mental health, which enable me to be there for people in my life in a sustainable way, are crucial to maintaining the reality of the person I want to be. And so the things that make it onto my core maintenance list, the things that don't get dropped, are the things I need to stay strong physically, mentally, emotionally.
And so the utility of having a well thought out core maintenance list is that it helps you make the hard decisions of what to drop and what to keep. When times get tough, and your overriding purpose demands that you prioritize something over your favorite hobbies, at least you know that you are keeping the fundamental routines that will make it possible to show up, and keep showing up, for who or what you've decided is most important.
I know I said above that I don't have time to read at the moment. That's true: I like to predictably have an hour per day and right now all that is predictable about my free time is that I have none. However, that doesn't stop me from keeping books at my desk and sneaking a few pages while my code is compiling.
This week I came across some words that I had to look up and figured it would be fun to include them in my newsletter. It so happens that each of them are from a single work that I was reading this week, The Idea of a University, by John Henry Newman. I'll give the word, the definition, and an exerpt from where it was used in the book.
- Fecundity: the ability to produce many new ideas.
Considering the prodigious powers of the press, and how they are developed at this time in the never-intermitting issue of periodicals, tracts, pamphlets, works in series, and light literature, we must allow there never was a time which promised fairer for dispensing with every other means of information and instruction. What can we want more, you will say, for the intellectual education of the whole man, and for every man, than so exuberant and diversified and persistent a promulgation of all kinds of knowledge? Why, you will ask, need we go up to knowledge, when knowledge comes down to us? The Sibyl wrote her prophecies upon the leaves of the forest, and wasted them; but here such careless profusion might be prudently indulged, for it can be afforded without loss, in consequence of the almost fabulous fecundity of the instrument which these latter ages have invented. We have sermons in stones, and books in the running brooks; works larger and more comprehensive than those which have gained for ancients an immortality, issue forth every morning, and are projected onwards to the ends of the eath at the rate of hundreds of miles a day.
- Recondite: (of a subject or knowledge) little known; abstruse.
Religious teaching itself affords us an illustration of our subject to a certain point. It does not indeed seat itself merely in centres of the world; this is impossible from the nature of the case. It is intended for the many, not the few; its subject matter is truth necessary for us, not truth recondite and rare; but it concurs in the principle of a University so far as this, that its great instrument, or rather organ, has ever been that which nature prescribes in all education, the personal presence of a teacher, or, in theological language, Oral Tradition.
- Daguerreotype: a photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor.
The general principles of any study you may learn by books at home; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all these from those in whom it lives already. You must imitate the student in French or German, who is not content with his grammar, but goes to Paris or Dresden: you must take example from the young artist, who aspires to visit the great Masters in Florence and in Rome. Till we have discovered some intellectual daguerreotype, which takes off the course of thought, and the form, lineaments, and features of truth, as completely and minutely as the optical instrument reproduces the sensible object, we must come to the teachers of wisdom to learn wisdom, we must repair to the fountain, and drink there.
I'll end by sharing an album that I've been enjoying very much. The sound is relaxing, interesting, and moving.
Stay safe and see you next week ❤️