Friday Faves, Issue #31

Down and dirty list without the usual preamble, still #worthit ~

Destination of the Week: Ramadi, Iraq

Quote of the Week: “Take command, reassert your will to achieve your objective, and go on the attack.”

Band of the Week: Black Flag.

Meal of the Week: Blackened Salmon

Website of the Week:


REMINDER:   Your comments are always welcome.  Love to hear what you have to say, GOOD or otherwise.  If you fancy twitter, you can follow more of the muse there. My handle is @jhludlum ~

Enjoy the weekend!

“It Could Be Worse…”

“…it could be raining.”  The character Igor makes this off-hand comment while he and Dr. Frankenstein are standing neck-deep in a grave, filthy, digging up a coffin in the 1980’s comedy, “Young Frankenstein.”   A moment after the comment, a torrent of rain pours down on them, adding to the duo’s struggling, midnight efforts in the graveyard.
What’s the takeaway, besides the humor of the scene?
In the face of misery, obstacle, or set-back, it’s up to you to turn your attitude to good.  No matter how bad the circumstance, things could always be worse (in addition to being better).  Things are always relative, but if we give into the vacuum of despair and woe that’s on each of us.  So don’t do it.  It’s that simple.  It’s within your power as to how you’ll respond to any given situation.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Yea, but what about if things are really, REALLY bad…?  Then you have to be justified in feeling down,  hopeless, etc…, right?”
This perspective brings up an important insight.  It’s not about what is “justified”, it’s about what is the best way to cope when things aren’t going your way, or in the extreme, when things are really awful.  It’s not about “justice”, it’s about your psychological/emotional well-being, and having the ability to get through difficult times.
Need an example of “really awful”…?  Pick up a copy of the story, the “Forgotten Highlander“. In this true story from World War II, Alistair Urquhart shares in graphic and mind-bending form the story of his 750 days as a POW and slave laborer for the Japanese in the Pacific theater.   It’s a truly harrowing tale of struggle, brutality, misery, revulsion, and perseverance.
One of Urquhart’s remarks near the end of the story ring most true to the theme of choosing how you respond to difficulty in your life:  “Life is worth living and no matter what it throws at you it is important to keep your eyes on the prize of the happiness that will come.”
One of the key reasons that causes people to struggle is pretty simple, in my view.  We often get muddled in “why” of the situation, of the perceived injustice of the circumstance.  This trap is simple, obvious, and potentially devestating to our ego, our psyche, especially when we’re in crisis.
Rather than focus on how to cope, how to overcome a given difficult scenario, we focus on the high-minded view of what’s “fair.”  Or not.  I allowed myself to make this bad mistake just the other night.  I was having a tough go with my little kids around bedtime, I wasn’t feeling very well, and I let the difficulty get the better of me.
I focused on “Why me?” rather than “How can I change my approach to improve the situation?”  Thinking back, it is clear that I should have left the “why” for later, and focused on what I could do to make the situation better.
The “Could be worse…” phrase can be a simple mantra  you adopt as a little trigger in your mind to pause, detach from the emotion of the moment, and focus on how to cope, improve, or at least survive the difficulty you face.  That is the matter at hand.  The one who benefits first and foremost from this practical, pragmatic approach is you.
And if you can find a little humor for yourself (and even others) in the negative situation, all the better.  After all, it “could be raining.”

International Women’s Day 2016

800px-Frauentag_1914_Heraus_mit_dem_FrauenwahlrechtIt was probably destiny.

I come from a family of two boys, me and my brother.  Our mother was outnumbered.  It was just mom and the three boys (dad included).  So we heard from time to time, especially during our adolescent years, how we needed to respect women, and in particular mom.  She wasn’t about to let us roll over her.  And we didn’t.

Then when I got to college, there were a group of very intelligent, independent, stand-up-for-yourself young ladies I became friends with.  I called them the the “power women of Santa Clara University”, because they were all about leadership, speaking up about things that concerned them (and everyone), and making a difference in the world.  Lots more respect for women came out of those years.

So as a result, I think I’ve always been comfortable with girls, women, ladies.  Though that trait didn’t always translate to being readily successful on the dating scene, I’ve always had women friends.  I get along with them and seem to empathize effectively.  Yep, all in all, I can understand and relate to women pretty well I think (however, my wife might say different, at least some of the time).

Now I find myself with two daughters of my own.  It all seems to have fallen into place.  The next chapter is well underway in my life now.

I can say this for sure:  Though I know gender equality has a long way to go, it’s a lot better than it was even fifty years ago (at least in the U.S.).  I’m glad my girls will grow up here.

They’ll have great opportunities with women’s sports in school.  Professionally they’ll have a chance to work in a much broader array of disciplines and fields than girls had even just a generation ago (and further back too, of course).  Sure, glass ceilings still exist, but it’s getting better.  The awareness certainly is much greater.

There are more women in leadership, both in public life, and in industry.

There are fine organizations like He for She that are doing amazing work to further women’s issues and rights AROUND THE WORLD.

There’s the work of people like Yassmin Abdel-Magied ~ a young women bending stereotypes from start to finish and inspiring young people (and many others!) to make a difference in the way they think and act and DO.

Closer to my home, there are the Silicon Valley Roller Girls.  This organization is grass-roots, runs several flat track roller derby teams for ladies (part of a national movement of teams and leagues around the US) , and is all about empowering women, especially as they come of age from adolescence.

Yep, with my two girls now to the fore of my mind every day, my lifetime orientation to women is at a whole new level.  I’m glad to know there’s so much awareness and effort and action behind moving the world toward gender equality.

A lot more good stuff on this topic found here:



On Maneuvers


Often it’s important to circle back to things you’ve walked away from to have another look.  You get fresh, valuable insights from this practice.  Here’s the latest example I’ve come across.

I was 75% along the way to joining the US Navy out of high school.  I was going to use an NROTC scholarship to pay for college.  I wanted to be a Marine.

Ultimately I made the decision not to proceed along the military path.  Over the many years since that time, I’ve come across lessons time and again that stem from military practices and history.  I’ve taken to heart a lot of those lessons.

The concept of “maneuver warfare” came up most recently that has me thinking about the parallels to how we approach our lives, getting things done, being busy, juggling personal affairs, work, and family.  Some basic principles stand out.  Applied regularly (daily) you’ll find these five tips quite helpful.  At least I have.

[Note:  These are my paraphrases, not necessarily direct quotes.]

  1. Be ready for the unexpected.
  2. Be able to adapt your plan while keeping focused on the same goal(s).
  3. Don’t just give orders.  Empower your squad.
  4. Take calculated risks with the knowledge you and your team can recover if necessary.
  5. Maintain a Positive Attitude and Esprit De Corp.

I boiled these five “hacks” down from  Jocko Willink’s fast-growing, fast-moving, often insightful podcast.  He focused on H. John Poole  during one early podcast, a veteran of Vietnam who studied, wrote, and trained thousands of soldiers on small unit tactics.

Funny where you can find lessons if you’re open.  In the daily maneuvers through your life, remembering that might be the most important thing of all.

Friday Faves, Issue #30

Yep, it’s another Friday, and it’s another list to share the wandering and varied thoughts and things I’ve come across this week.  Quite a journey!  ENJOY.

Destination of the Week:  Kanchanaburi is the town in Thailand.  It was where during World War II, the Burma Railway built a bridge that crosses over the River Kwai.

Quote of the Week:  “Remember, while it always seems darkest before the dawn, perseverance pays off and the good times will return.” –Alistair Urquhart.

Band of the Week: Not a band, but an epic crooner from the mid-1900’s in American music history.  Here’s one of Johnny Mathis’ best known songs.

Meal of the Week:  Gang Keow Wan is number three on the list, but any green curry is number one in my book.

Website of the Week:  Anonymous web searching?  I’m in!  DuckDuckGo ~


REMINDER:   Your comments are always welcome.  Love to hear what you have to say, GOOD or otherwise.  If you fancy twitter, you can follow more of the muse there. My handle is @jhludlum ~

Enjoy the weekend!


engage_jean-luc picardEngage.  It’s not just Jean Luc Picard’s mantra.  It’s the basis of everything we humans accomplish.

How is that, exactly?

We only get things done, move things forward, by engaging with the world around us.

It’s the foundation of the relationships we have those closest to us — our family and friends, our work colleagues —  and people we meet up with every day.

It’s also the cornerstone of efforts we make to accomplish goals we’ve set for ourselves, or overcome obstacles we’ve run into along the way.  We must “engage” in order to do; the alternative is inaction, stagnation. Not good.

Jesus with the tax collectors and prostitutes, as well as other “untouchables” of his time comes to mind.  If you’re a fan (or follower) of this particular Jewish carpenter, you’ll recall he didn’t turn the other cheek when it came to those on the fringes of society.  He ENGAGED them.

Amen to that.

Another more recent example from the shoes of the fisherman himself, Francis’ “Year of Mercy” seeks to stir in the hearts of everyone to practice more active compassion, for those in need.

As it’s presented, “the Year of Mercy is an invitation—an invitation to love, kindness, and unbounded generosity. Pope Francis is offering you the opportunity to encounter the incredible mercy of God. Encountering mercy means encountering God. It can transform your life, your relationships, your work, and your ability to embrace and experience all of life. Learn more about the Year of Mercy with our resources below.”

Amen AMEN.

But you don’t need to be a believer to take the path of engagement.  Engaging with the world around you is the fundamental way to live — for connection, for caring, for surviving.

Yep, that can’t be understated.  Engaging the world around us, the people around us, it’s fundamental to LIFE.

So make it so.  Engage.  It’s #worthit ~