Jason McSheene

An Outlet for Thoughts, Ideas, and Discussion

Inspiration

Secular inspiration to motivate you to acheive

Value of Quiet

For a long time, I lost the “value of quiet”. With access to billions of hours of audio in our pockets, it’s so easy to cOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAonstantly to consume. For me, I always listened to the familiar: songs I’ve loved since high school. They never change, are nostalgia inducing, and help me get through monotonous tasks that sometimes come with lab work. Unfortunately, it became obvious that filling my time with songs I had memorized years ago lead to no time for thinking, so I moved on to listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

I’m the worst offender of all as hardly a day passes when I have not had earbuds in for at least an hour or two. This is mostly acceptable in the biology research labs I’ve worked in over the last decade or so, but I’d suspect it is not as common place outside of academia. I’m a media junkie and I know it, listening to the same music I’ve listened to a thousand times or one of my favorite podcasts while performing an experiment.

The good: I was constantly learning new things and different ideas.

The bad:  I had no great way of memorizing all of it.

The ugly: While listening to audiobooks and podcasts all day, I hardly had time to form my own ideas and opinions.  

If you’ve run into this issue too, try giving yourself a break. I turn off the podcasts and music outside of the car for a week and found it helped my concentration and memory. Of course, I’d like to go scientific in my assessment so maybe this will become an experiment for a few willing volunteers. After doing my usual morning pre-planning, the rest of the day was often amazingly productive. I am surprised that freeing myself from the distractions which I thought were improving my efficiency and multitasking made such a distinct difference by the end of the week. Additionally, I synthesized my own thoughts and criticisms without the constant flood of others’ words. 

While I haven’t given up listening to podcasts and music completely during the day, when there are particularly important or complicated tasks at hand, I have no problem putting away my iPhone. Have you encountered any problems like this or have any suggestions? 

Life is like a game: Specifically, StarCraft2

I shouldn't be floating so many minerals :(

Gathering my units for an attack!

I’m surprised how much I’ve learned about life from playing StarCraft 2. If you’re not familiar, StarCraft 2 (SC2) is a real-time strategy war game set in a space age between three main factions. Typically games place two players on opposite sides of a symmetric map with only a base and some workers. The players’ job is to defeat his or her opponent by obtaining resources and building a stronger enemy.  The army units you build are weak or very effective against units your opponent might make, hence creating a fairly elaborate rock-paper-scissors(-lizard-Spock, if I may) game.

SC2 is often compared to chess but without turns as each player needs to collect resources, spend them on units effectively, build buildings, search the map for more resources, set up defenses, take control of regions of the map, etc. Players are both moving their pieces simultaneously over a vast terrain.  While watching and learning from professional players (yes, professional), I’ve noticed that not only have I applied many principles to my games but also to my life.

1)      Start with a plan
Sure, improvising can be fun and spontaneity sometimes leads to surprises, however those are exceptions and not the standard. In SC2 I know I want to beat my enemy using a mixture of marines and tanks so all the resources I spend go into making that specific army stronger and better. As a 20-something, it’s not as clear cut as a 30-minute SC2 game. What do I want to do when I’m 30? How do I get that dream home and 2.5 kids by age 40?

There is a lot of goal assessment in these questions and rarely very straightforward answers. The goals will change but the game is always the same, so plan what you can for now and if conditions change, do your best. If there is a hiccup, remain focused on the outcome you desired.

2)      Be efficient with resources
Simple: don’t waste what you have and especially don’t waste what you don’t have.
In SC2 if I spend too much money on a new base, I’ll be way behind and very vulnerable to attack for a few minutes.

In life, if I get too behind on resources early on, then it is more and more difficult to catch up. Of course here resources are of many types: monetary, emotional, physical, mental, academic, etc. The key is to use what you can, give what you can, and save what you can. If done wisely, these investments will pay off.

3)      Know what the enemy is doing
First off, I hope you do not have enemies like those you might have in SC2. They are always trying to destroy your workers, obtain your resources, sneak inside your base, and overall make your life miserable. Therefore you want to be ready! You want to know what types of strategies your opponent is likely to use, roughly how many resources she might have, and when you think she might attack. If you can nail these points of knowledge, you’ve won half the game.

In your life, besides people who try to make you miserable,  think of the challenges you face and prepare what you can actually prepare for. I personally have trouble getting out of bed in the morning unless I preset my coffee machine. If I wake up smelling coffee and know that it will get cold and gross after a couple of hours, I’m more likely to get up and start my day. Is it hard for you to avoid eating snacks all day? Don’t buy snacks to keep at home. Do you have that one item of work you know you want to procrastinate on? Do that task first thing then be proud that you conquered it.

 

4)      If you’re not attacking, you’re losing and leave your comfort zone
I’m the worst at this. I love collecting data and intelligence then calculating a perfect time to strike… except there never is a *perfect* time. At best I find a decent window that allows my attack to be a success. At worst, I went to attack when my opponent fully expected and was prepared. However, if I just sit there in my base too afraid to move out onto the rest of the map, I learn too late that my opponent settled 4 more bases than I have and now obtains 10 times the resources I do. Now her army is 10 times stronger and it’s a short game.

This might actually summarize my life: I love having as much information as possible before making decisions. However, there is never enough information to confirm a statement as 100% true. This is how science operates. You form a hypothesis, then through careful testing of certain conditions, you determine how likely it is that the hypothesis is false.

It’s important to take a step outside of what you are used to. Leave that bubble that you’ve build around yourself and take a risk, lest you stagnate in your growth and opportunities. I will do the same!

 

5)      Don’t stop until it’s officially over
There is an (in)famous SC2 professional player named Greg “Idra” Fields… and he’s a notorious quitter. In one game in particular, his opponent accidentally destroyed his own base so he was way behind. Idra felt like HE was losing, so he quit before his opponent resigned. Everyone in the crowd was shocked because Idra won but quit before he knew it.


Sometimes things don’t work and that’s fine. You’ll lose some but do not be in a rush to lose them. If you feel like you’re losing, look for some advice. Maybe if Idra had his teammates alongside him, they could of encouraged him to continue. Also (within reason) do not be too stubborn. I’ve found that doing what seems hardest at first thought is usually the best option.

 

6)     And finally… “Good luck, Have fun”

A good round of SC2 begins with “good luck, have fun” or glhf for short. I always meant it sincerely. After my opponent would beat me, I’d say “gg” for good game. Standard etiquette but most of the time I really did mean it. Kind of.

After those last words, I was reminded of the phrase “Life is like a game”. As such, it set off the song “Kaboom!” by I Fight Dragons (a favorite chiptune rock pop band of mine). Enjoy the lyrics and the video below!

“Kaboom!”
Life is like a game
We gotta choose a side
You try to play
Before you lose your mind
And fade away
But you could soon be gone

Who’s it gonna be?
You gotta tell yourself
Its never me
And you can justify
Most anything
So whose side are you on?

Well, one day they’ll drop the bomb
Who knows who they’ll drop it on
Maybe someone that you love
So before they get to you
Do what you gotta do
KABOOM! KABOOM!

Don’t try to say
That we could win it all
Some other way
Our pride will never fall
And never change
You better toe the line

Cause in the end
The only thing on which
You can depend
To attack is safer
than defend
But not for army line

Well, one day they’ll drop the bomb
Who knows who they’ll drop it on
Maybe someone that you love
So before they get to you
Do what you gotta do
KABOOM! KABOOM!

Pick which side you’re on, drop the bomb [6x]

Well, one day they’ll drop the bomb
Who knows who they’ll drop it on
Maybe someone that you love
Don’t wait for the evidence
No one’s really innocent
Send the judgement from above
And before they get to you
Do what you gotta do
KABOOM! KABOOM! KABOOM! KABOOM!

 

 

 

 

Be Your Own Top Priority (And Why It’s Not Selfish)

When asked “What is most important in your life?” your answer might sound like this list: my family, my friends, my work, or my religion (to just name the most common answers). But understood in each of those is that you are there to contribute to your family, your friends, your work, or your religion. If there is no you, your experience with all of those goes out the window. So it’s vital that you first take care of yourself.

Michael Hyatt commonly uses the air plane emergency procedure metaphor: In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks may be released from the ceiling. Properly place the mask on your face then help others with their masks. In other words, if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else adequately. I would argue that if you are unable to take of yourself, you will not even know what “helping others” truly means.
The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs From ''The Æsop for Children'', by Æsop Project Gutenberg etext 19994 http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19994 ==Used on== *w:en:The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs ==License== {{PD-Gutenberg}

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs From ”The Æsop for Children”, by Æsop Project Gutenberg etext 19994 http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19994 ==Used on== *w:en:The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs ==License== {{PD-Gutenberg}

Self care involves physical, intellectual, social, and emotional aspects, all of which become stronger when we allow ourselves to be interdependent. There are so many topics to discuss concerning the practical steps of growth in each of these areas but I’ll focus on the overall effect. I believe empathy is the most important ruler of morality and goodness. However, we often want so badly to help those around us by sacrificing resources (emotional, financial, physical, etc.) that we do not have to give. This is killing the Golden Goose for her precious eggs instead of nurturing her and allowing her lay them naturally and often. In other words, giving what you are not prepared to give is hurting yourself and damaging your ability to give later.

So how do we place ourselves first without becoming overly selfish? I’m not perfect at all, but I do try to actively infuse an attitude of service into most of what I do, even if it is for myself. All it takes is to ask “Why am I doing _______ ?”
Example: “Why am I exercising?” – “I want to live a healthy, long life to help set a good example and to reap the beneficial effects in my work to better provide for my family.”
 
This mentality applies to activities that may be purely seen as recreation to someone who is not sharing your point of view. For a personal example, I love playing a strategy game called Starcraft (which will be featured in a future post). To an outsider, hearing that I sat down for an hour on a Sunday night to play this game might sound wasteful when I could be working on various projects. However, I know I must set aside some time during the week to relax while using my brain, especially after a long week of working in the lab. This is a way I recharge intellectually, emotionally, and socially (since I am an introvert).
Example: “Why am I playing Starcraft?” “I need this recreation time in order to restore balance between work and play. If I do not feel this balance, I do my worst work and I am emotionally/socially unavailable to my girlfriend, family, and friends.”
 
With a service mentality, you can assign meaning to tasks you feel might be pointless, profoundly important, or just plain fun. Never forget to perform the bulk of your activities with those people/things/purposes you are servicing in mind.Do you feel too overburdened by outside factors, people, or responsibilities to be able to put yourself first? Leave a comment for discussion! Thanks -J

Improve Your Goal Setting for 2014

When it comes to changing into the person you want to be, you have a leg up on evolution because you can be intentional. Evolution is random and messy, but you can think, plan, strategize, and succeed with an end in mind. You’ve made progress on some of your life goals this year but you’re not convinced that you were all that you could be. If you’re like me, you had work goals, health goals, life goals, relationship goals, hobby goals, etc., but only a few came to fruition. I’ve had a better than average year thanks to focus and planning, so here are some methods I encourage you to try. I hope they make your planning more effective.

CoffeeReading

    1. Write a year-end summary… from your December 31st, 2014 self.
      Who are you going to be a year from today? Make some quiet time to sit down with a pen and paper (or computer if you prefer) and think of the version of you that exists in one year. I’m sure you’re eating better, exercising more, and making final edits to your forthcoming novel. That’s all great but how did you get there? Where did you struggle along the way? Who helped you? Why are you feeling better about yourself now (future now, not now now). Remember back to the future of what made the better version of you possible. Use this frame of mind when you…
    2. Record your goals.
      People really dislike writing down their goals but it is simply a must. For best results, keep them visible or in an online document medium like Google Drive or Evernote. You should refer to them a few times a week and record progress as it happens.
    3. Make your goals detailed, measurable, and meaningful.
      The best goals are specific, can be measured objectively, and are important to some aspect of your life for a good reason. For example, a personal one of mine for 2014

      “I will read 2 books each month, one non-fiction and one fiction. This will broaden my knowledge and imagination, and will strengthen the quality of the content I produce.”

      For this example, I have already planned out each of the books I hope to read. The fewer decisions you have to make “in the moment”, the better your chances of success.

    4. Limit your goals to no more than 10.
      You know this one already. Way too many goals makes for chaos. People can remember only about a dozen things at once, so the fewer goals you have, the more likely you are to always be working towards all of them. Also, the fewer you have, the easier it is to incorporate the tasks into a routine. You will always be able to lose weight more effectively if a morning run becomes as much as your routine as that shower and cup (mug, Big Gulp, gallon, fuel frigate, whatever) of coffee is.
    5. Take a steps outside of your comfort zone.
      We learn this in science over and over again: performing the same experiments we’re used to rarely changes any result. The new, exciting findings come from being creative or having the courage to try the experiment you’re not convinced will work. Good is the enemy of great. You cannot make “being comfortable” a goal if you’re hoping for more out of your life.
    6. Find a goal buddy/accountability partner.
      What have you been afraid to do but you would if you had someone pushing you? You know there are a few action items you’ve been meaning to do but need encouragement and someone to hold you accountable. Find someone you trust: a best friend, a partner, a trusted co-worker and share some of your goals with him or her. See where your partner’s strengths and weaknesses can complement your own. Have her push you to keep you commitment; force him to write that networking e-mail he’s been dreading. If you stay honest with one another, you’ll make huge strides.
    7. Take advantage of the New Year’s energy.
      Finally, hit restart. When your inbox has 5,000 messages to be read, sometimes you just need to delete them all and start over. With the new year comes a new energy that can keep us going for a little bit but it is up to you to keep up with your future self. Don’t try to steamroll goal after goal, instead use the concept of evolution. Build upon the successes, don’t hold on to what’s not working. If you have a “tiny goal” work on that first to feel the dopamine release you deserve. Remember what that feels like? Good, now work on goal #2-10!
The sooner you establish these goals, the better you’ll feel about working towards them. But
 don’t rush! You want these to be true, obtainable goals. If you’re earning $10 an hour and are still bogged down by debt, be working towards increasing your income and getting out of debt instead of planning your month long Hawaiian vacation.
What is your top goal for 2014 and what is going to prevent you from reaching it? Let us know in the comments.
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