Busy Brain

This little episode comes to from the middle of the night. Yep, awoken by my busy brain just before 1:00am, capturing the moment to share a few thoughts.

Mind you, I just went to bed three hours ago, intent on getting a good night’s rest to start the week. Hmm. Didn’t plan on this little situ.

But here we are. The kicker that got me writing instead of just rolling over? A middle of night “bio-break”, as we call it at work.

When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

And now my mind is flooded with work thoughts, and parenting thoughts, and so on…it is a little sneaky overwhelming.

So figure I’d make some lemonade out of this lemon (and red-eye interlude) by jotting and sharing a few strategies I employ when Busy Brain hits. Not sure what the science says about how to battle this situ, but here’s what I do.

1/ Like I tell my kids all the time when they say they can’t got to sleep, “Clear your thought box.” In your mind’s eye, counter the Busy Brain directly by forcing out the thoughts. Push them out; take control of your mind. Be persistent and insistent; clear your mind, or otherwise, focus on what you want to, not whatever pops up.

2/ Count your breaths; and make them slow, deep and full. Start with ten. Then repeat. And repeat again.

3/ Do exactly what I’m not doing just now. Keep your eyes closed; don’t turn on any lights( no screens. 🙂

STAY IN SLEEP MODE. Insist on it. And stay relaxed; and cozy; and comfortable.

That’s what I’m going to do right now.

Busy Brain? Stay relaxed, stay in control, OUT.

Operation: Little Kids

“Being a parent of little kids is sometimes like being a special forces operator.” That’s the way it’s been feeling these last few days.

Of course, we don’t have to apply lethal force in the course of conducting parenting operations; and certainly we are not in harms way (typically) when parenting. So no one is trying to kill us, and we’re not trying to kill anyone.

But there are similarities otherwise.

Sleep. Interrupted or otherwise, often there will not be enough sleep. You have to operate at the highest level possible all the same.

Frequently you will be operating at night. Therefore, stamina is critical.

Non-lethal, hand-to-hand combat might be necessary from time to time. Wrestling or JJT skills can help in this regard.

Attention to detail, ability to quickly adapt, and a sense calm and focus under mounting chaos and discomfort are all very helpful attributes for field operators and parents.

Often times things with little kids don’t go as planned. You might the best intentions and ideas as to how to proceed on a particular objective, and then things go sideways. You have to be able to quickly and complete adapt to move the mission forward, improvise, and make the best of it.

Finally, as in special operations, personal excellence, solid teamwork, and fundamental ability to leave your ego at the door will all help in parenting little kids. Parenting: It’s one of the highest callings there is anywhere.

#dadlife #dadslife #parenting #perspective #worthit

At Capacity

Lots of context for this concept. You might be “at capacity” in any of a variety of ways.

At capacity in learning, a sort of plateau of absorbing new things;

At capacity with activities, not able to fit another event on your schedule on a given day;

At capacity in repetitions, not able to do another pull up or arm curl or plank;

At capacity with projects, every day already full with no room for another thing;

At capacity eating your vegetables at dinner; this affliction happens on nearly a nightly basis at my house.

You get the idea. But here’s the thing.

Capacity is a dynamic quality. It’s a parameter that must always be considered. Capacity might be limiting in the immediate, in the short term.

But in the aggregate, it’s just another variable that must be considered in striving for optimal outcome.

You should always consider capacity, and you should also test its limits. Carefully, thoughtfully, but for sure, test, push, strive to expand the limit.

The outcome?

It will make you better. It will help you reach your goals. It will make things GOOD.


Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about what games I can play with my kids as they get older.  This one fits the bill.  No screen, no board, no cards; all you need is a few peeps (two or more, actually), their brains, and a good attitude toward having some fun.

This game and post content courtesy of Mr. Seth Godin.  All credit due is to that fine gentleman.


This is my favorite game.

It doesn’t involve a board, there are no cards and it’s free to play. It works for two to six players.

You can do it in a car or a plane, it works great for two, and if you’re kind, you can play it with someone less skilled than you.

The more you play, the deeper and more fun the strategies go.

I thought I’d share the rules here, because more g-h-o-s-t is good g-h-o-s-t.Summary:

Go around the circle of players and each person adds a letter to a spoken string, striving to not be the person who actually makes the string of letters into a word.Players go one at a time, in order.

Of course, you can sit anywhere you like.

When each player has taken his or her turn, begin again with the first player.To play a round, someone says a letter.

The next person in the order has to add a letter to the first, beginning a word.

For example, the first person might begin by saying, “y” and then, the next person could say, “o”.

The third could say “u” because three letters don’t count as a word.

Beginning with the fourth letter, the goal is to not complete the word. So, if the letters are y-o-u from the first three players, the fourth player shouldn’t say “r” because that would make a word.

But it’s fine to say “t”.

If, on your turn, you are stuck and there’s no choice but to say a letter that completes a word (in this case, “h”), you lose the round.

Every time you lose a round, you get stuck with another letter in the word ‘ghost’, hence the name of the game. If you lose five rounds, you’re out of the game. The last person left, wins.

If you lose a round, it’s your turn to start the next round by picking a new letter.

Okay, three simple complications:

1. The letter you say has to create a possible word. So if the string is, “y-o-u”, you can’t say, “x”. (Unless you’re bluffing, see rule 2).

2. If the person before you says a letter that you believe is impossible, you can challenge their play. If they can respond with a legal word, you lose the round. If they can’t, because they were bluffing or in error, they lose the round.

3. No proper nouns, no contractions, no hyphens, no acronyms, no abbreviations. These words don’t exist in the game.

And the big complication, the one that changes everything and makes this a game for the ages:  Once you get the hang of it, the group can play reverso.

This means that when it’s your turn, you’re allowed to add a letter before the string, if you choose, instead of after.

So now, words can be built in either direction, and game becomes magical. ‘y-o-u’ can now become ‘a-y-o-u’ and then ‘b-a-y-o-u’.’r-d-s-c-r’ for example, isn’t worth challenging, because ‘hardscrabble’ is a word.

If you want to play reverso g-h-o-s-t as a finite game, with thrown elbows and strategy, it makes a terrific two-player game.

If you want to play it as an infinite game, setting up friends and family to do ever better, a game that never ends and has wordcraft and humor to it, you can do that as well.

Have fun.


And if you want more from Seth Godin?  Well, he’s got a bunch.  Check him out here.

Selfless Joy

Watching the Golden State Warriors win their second NBA championship  in three years tonight, the idea of selfless joy comes to mind. I’m no massive basketball fan, but I am a San Francisco Bay Area Native, so I route for the Warriors. Lot to cheer for of late, that’s for sure.

And like I said, I’m no big basketball fan. I don’t check stats regularly or go to games. I don’t follow the league season much. But like so many Bay Area peeps, I definitely have followed the Warriors.

Pretty well every time I heard commentators, analysts, coaches, or the players themselves talk about the team, it had the same theme: selfless play. What’s best for the team. How can they support each other to win. And that attitude served them well, all the way to lifting the trophy tonight.

But it goes further. It goes further to the possibilities of future years, with this team, these players, the organization remaining in tact, and focused on the fundamental goal of playing together at a very high level. Who knows how long the run might last?

And it goes still further. Listening to the players talk after the game, listening to Steve Kerr talk, seeing the kids on the podium, it’s clear that the selfless attitude goes well beyond the hardwood court. And when that joy spreads? Look out! Who knows how far it will spread? No doubt, a long, long way.


When I studied political science in college, we learned about linkage. The concept was applied with respect to the Cold War, the superpowers, and linking of attitudes, policies, behaviors, actions and consequences. 

Linkage is also true with respect to circumstances in our personal and professional life. Very little happens in a vacuum.  

Example? Last night things got crazy busy at home. There were crying, fussy kids, my wife was out with some girlfriends…I was solo dad trying to keep it together. 

 Everyone survived, but I didn’t get things done that I needed to: a few letters, some financial review, a couple emails, dishes, they got pushed out. That situation slowed everything down for today, changed the dynamic, and required adjustment. 

My response after some admittedly strong frustration? I poured a little cold brew coffee, took a few deep breaths, and considered my reality. 

What do I need to shift on the list, what must still get done on time, any meetings I can reschedule? I shuffle, jive, shift, and all the while, work to move things forward.

This sort of thing happens more than I’d like to admit. It’s why being able to handle change, adjust, figure out the best next step, and have a good attitude all the while is helpful. I do ok, overall.

I remind myself, 

“As long as you’re doing what you want to do, taking care of the people and things you’re responsible for, you’re on the right path.”

Change is the only constant, as they say.

The trick as I mentioned earlier, is to keep a good attitude overall as you go through the process. You need to maintain your focus on the big picture, even as you’re required to adjust your tasks, your tactics, your priorities.

Realizing that things are linked together, that you have to be ready to modify your plan and approach, that’s a big part of the secret.  

Change happens, as noted. The question is, what do you need to do to keep moving forward? 

The linkage between your attitude, how you approach your goals, and the realities of daily life is undeniable. How you respond is up to you. 

Friday Faves, Issue #35

Rainy spring day here in San Jose…perfect time to gather up this week’s list. ENJOY.

Destination of the Week:  A city of relative calm and prosperity in a dynamic region of the world, Amman Jordan was founded 9,000 years ago.  So it’s got some history, to say the least.

Quote of the Week: “…if I could, you know I would…let it go.” That song’s so good, here’s another version, from a few years earlier.

Band of the Week:  Given the quote, no surprise…it’s U2.  You too probably have at least heard of them.

Meal of the Week: That old Irish standby, Corn Beef and Cabbage. This recipe guides you start to finish.

Website of the Week:  Yet another great resource for parents, for families…for GOOD. Right here.


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!


Three hundred and thirty three.

That’s about how many calories I had in the little plate of food I ate for dinner with the family last night.  So I wasn’t successful in my “no food” fast day, but I was close (see yesterday’s post).  A couple bites of chicken, and some pancit my in-laws left with us from the weekend.  Also a spoonful of potato salad.

My decision to mini-dine was based on the circumstance of the moment.  We were trying to get our three little kids to the table to eat their dinner, and with them facing the usual distractions, I thought, “If I eat a little, maybe that will help them.”

It really didn’t do much…they still wandered around while my wife and I ate our dinner.  But the thought was pretty sound, I think.  Damn the complete fast, and let’s try to help the bigger cause.

One lesson I took from the experience is, parenting and family factors will frequently play into things — indeed SHOULD play into things — and we parents need to be flexible to adjust, modify our plan, do what’s necessary, and then keep going forward.  That’s life.  That’s parenting.

I also reminded myself that I’ll take the UP side of the experience from the fast — 333 calories (or there about) isn’t much — and try again soon for a complete fast.

Meanwhile, I’ll hope for a more successful dinner hour tonight, and take the partial victory of the partial fast, and call it GOOD.


Ownership: It’s on YOU


The title says it pretty well.  With maybe capital letters to accentuate who needs to step up.  YOU have ownership.  Of EVERYTHING.

Lately I’ve been listening to a great voice on leadership, Mr. Jocko Willink.  Am sure I’ve mentioned him elsewhere in this blog.  Suffice to say, he knows a lot about leadership, and has some very defined ideas about what that looks like.  Want a taste?  His first podcast was a great indication of the content he’s bringing to the world.  Fresh yet timeless, simple yet not easy, and worth applying to YOUR life for sure.

What’s maybe the best thing I’ve gotten from following Jocko is taking his motivations and inspirations and examples and spinning them into the context of family and parenting.  In fact, when I think about it, a lot of what he has to say I’ve heard time and time again throughout my life:

Take responsibility for your life, for what you do, who you are, and where you want to go.  You can’t control a lot in this world, but you can control yourself. So focus on that.  That is how we make it better.  That is how we make ourselves happy.

It’s simple.  But often not easy, for sure.

With current events in my world right now, taking responsibility, taking ownership for everything that I can control is key to moving forward positively — and just plan maintaining sanity — on a day-to-day basis.

Over the past week I’ve thought more about engaging my family — my wife and kids — to take this approach as well.

I’m very thankful that they’ve taken steps in that direction.  Of course, we all “take ownership” in our own way.  The main thing is not the how — that will evolve, it will ebb and flow — but to simply to think differently, to be responsible.

Here are two quick examples.

First, one of my main roles at home is to be the dishwasher. Especially when the kids were infants, it was a task I could do easily, do quickly, and help keep the house running.  Besides, I was raised that way.  I’m happier that way.  It’s ingrained in my DNA to keep the kitchen sink clear of dirty dishes.

However, in the last few weeks I’ve not had nearly the discretionary time at home in the evenings to do my duty.  This week my wife stepped up to support our family (and my own mild neurosis) by doing the dishes.   That’s ownership.  In this case, my wife took ownership of something I was lagging on to lend a hand.  BIG help and I’m grateful.

The other example is related to the kids.  As you may have learned from my other blog posts, we have three little kids.  They are five years old and younger.

I’m responsible for taking the kids to daycare on my way to work.  It’s a tight time frame. To cope, we have a very established routine in the early morning to leave the house in timeline fashion on workdays.

As we’ve worked to maintain this routine over the past five years, I’ve been thinking of late how important it is for each of the kids to be more responsible for being ready to go.  How does this translate for a five year old child (or three, or two year old)?

They like having their loveys with them on the ride to daycare.  Up to this point my wife and I are the ones who make sure the loveys are in the car when we leave the house.  More than once I’ve elected to go back in the house and find the fuzzy little dog because one of them has forgotten.

I’m taking a new tact starting this week.

I’m reminding my kids that each of them needs to be sure they have what they want to take to day care; they can’t simply rely on mom and me.  That includes their loveys.  Granted, it’s early in the process, and I’m sure they’ll falter some.  We ALL forget things, at least some of the time.

The main point is, learn to be responsible.  Take ownership of the things you want in your life and the things that happen in your life.  It’s the only way you’re going to change things for the better.  It’s really the only way to be happy.