A Prepared Mind In the Time of Covid- Part 1

About 7 months ago I wrote about how Covid had challenged all the assumptions I had made architecting my life over the past decade(Oops, my life choices). I had no idea that the shitshow was only getting started! I struggled to make sense of this new world and abandoned hope of coming up with a good plan and making the best decisions without considerable introspection. There’s some wisdom from Honest Abe that springs to mind.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours  sharpening the axe. - Abraham Lincoln | Abraham lincoln quotes, Give it to  me, Lincoln

Metaphorically, I was staring blankly at a giant redwood with a dull axe. Rather than stare blankly paralyzed by the weight of uncertainty, I needed to find a sharpening stone and GET TO WORK. In these situations, my go to weapon has always been the mighty book. Not particularly flashy, advanced or groundbreaking but they’ve been getting the job done for centuries so must be doing something right.

I had been building a pretty extensive “wish list” of books over the prior 18 months, as I longed for the time to sit and read again while I managed thru my daughters illness(see for details) and running Freight Farms. Fortunately, I love non fiction (biographies and company building stories specifically) and have for as along as I can recall. My list inevitably was already populated with stories of brilliant people and how they think, operate and live. The first dozen or so only required I curate my list to focus on the task at hand which made jumping in pretty easy.

As I read each book, I felt my mental axe grinding. Bit by bit from a useful edge like that of a spoon to that of the formidable butter knife. I was nowhere near paper thin sliced tomatoes sharp, more like make a mean peanut butter sandwich until I shifted my perspective. I was attacking the problem like studying for a test or looking for the answer, feeling intellectually entertained, but getting supremely frustrated. I wasn’t making real progress.

The big unlock came with the simple realization that I didn’t need “the” answer, I need “my” answer. To carry the analogy to it’s logical end, I could see that the razor sharp axe makes no progress unless you swing it. I needed to embrace the majesty of the and. I could swing my mental axe and sharpen it at the same time. The non linear path being what it is, the wisdom that provided the unlock had been in my brain for months already. I dug threw my pile of books to find the one I thought held the answer then BOOM! I found and reread Ben Horowitz’s What You Do Is Who You Are, that brought it all together for me.

In Chapter 3, The Way of the Warrior, I found the construct that spoke to my exact idea.

The samurai had a code we call “bushido,” or “the way of the warrior”. Bushido looks like a set of principles, but it’s a set of practices. The samurai defined culture as a code of action, a system not of values but virtues. A value is merely a belief, but a virtue is a belief that you actively pursue or embody.

What You Do Is Who You Are, Ben Horowitz

I finally had the construct to develop “my” answer and haven’t looked back since. I’ve spent a few months to integrate this structure into my thinking and get to work. Everyday I feel my “mental axe” taking chunks out of the proverbial tree and it’s an AWESOME feeling! I’m learning and evolving in real time at a pace that I’ve not experienced in years. I encourage you to think about your “mental axe”, put aside some time to stop hitting the tree and find the construct to sharpen your edge. If this construct appeals, read the book and get to work.

I started this blog almost a decade ago to “learn in public” long before I knew what that was, as an outlet for my thoughts and to document the journey. Its only appropriate that I chronicle this leg of the journey here. Maybe this time it will be more helpful than tips on biking in the rain!

Stay tuned for the underwhelming reveal of my personal Bushido, more of the reading list and how I architect my life for the future!

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