Points to Ponder

Blogs that pose interesting conundrums

Failure Doesn’t Suck

Two comments from Sir James Dyson that resonate with me:

I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually. To me, solving problems is a bit like a drug. You’re on it, and you can’t get off. I spent seven years on our washing machine [which has two drums, instead of one].

In general, I don’t think we (as society) appreciate and accept failure as much as we should, or maybe we just mislabel them (i.e. call things failures that should be called something else).

Learning how (and when) to fail gracefully and with pride (instead of shame) has been a tough element to learn. However, I’ve found that being okay with failing has lots rewards that make me a happier person, in particular because I’m not as anxious anymore.


Waiting and the Power and Efficacy of Good Works

People frustrate me1, it’s hard for me to even find a word that appropriately reflects my sentiment. It feels like mass ignorance.

I see so many things wrong with the world, religion included — there are so many people who do things in the name of Christ that are downright unchristian and not supported by scripture.

When I come across someone who is spewing mass ignorance, I feel vehemently obligated to correct their erroneous ways. I felt like that is my only response: tell that person they are incorrect and, if needed, show that person why they were wrong, even if doing so required excruciating proof.

This has been my Standard Operating Procedure for many years. It was a frustrating one, but it seemed like the only way. I’ve desperately wanted to find a better way. Today may be that day.

Chauncey linked to post talking about 1 Peter 2:15 (ESV): “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

From thehandmaid.wordpress.com:

If atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is as a fury, which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the fury of atheism. If you converse with the unreasonable by derision, the darkness of unreasonableness is increased. If you think you will overcome the embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water over a fire.

I like this approach. The problem for me with telling people why they are wrong is that I end up getting all worked up as well. I may have won the battle, but I’m losing the war. This is why I like what Peter is saying, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”2

However, the flip side of this is that it often takes people a lot longer to recognize good deeds than to hear my technically correct but probably ungracious argument. I hate waiting. It’s probably one of the things I’ve had to practice the most in the last few years: being okay with waiting3.

I keep thinking back to this passage from Hustling God:

When I wake up in the morning, I can jump in the shower, grab a cup of coffee, and rush off to work to be productive. Inevitably that will destine me to a day of running. Like Jacob, I will either be running to make something happen, or running away because it didn’t happen as it was supposed to. But if sometime in the morning I become still with prayer and the words of God, then it will occur to me that all of the important things have already been accomplished today. The sun came up and the earth stayed on its axis without any help from me. The Psalms remind me of that. I have awakened to a world I did not create to receive a salvation I did not earn. The Gospels make that clear every time I read them. And I need that reminder, because there are so many temptations in the course of the day to be my own savior, which is always, always, a temptation to hurry in the wrong direction.

For me, it still really is about learning to slow down.

  1. I am “people” too, by the way 

  2. 1 Peter 2:12 (ESV)  

  3. See also: Haiti 

Vaporizing Lake Washington

Sometimes I wonder about interesting things, such as how much energy would it take to boil all the water of Lake Washington:

  • The volume of Lake Washington is 2.89 km31
  • The average lake temperature is 9.71°C2
  • It takes 4.19 Joules to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1°C: \frac{4.19 \mathrm{J}}{ 1 \mathrm{g^{\circ}C \: _{H_{2}O}}}3
  • The density of water is \frac{1 \mathrm{g}}{1\mathrm{cm^{3}}}

Putting all that together, we get:

2.89 \mathrm{km^{3}} \times \left ( \frac{1000\mathrm{m}}{1\mathrm{km}} \right )^{3} \times \left( \frac{100\mathrm{cm}}{1\mathrm{m}} \right )^{3} \times \frac{1\mathrm{g_{_{H_{2}0}}}}{1\mathrm{cm^{3}_{H_{2}0}}} \times \frac{4.19 \mathrm{J\:} }{\mathrm{g^{\circ} C _{H_{2}O}}} \times  \left ( 100^{\circ} \mathrm{C} - 9.71^{\circ} \mathrm{C}\right )= 1.093\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}

For comparison, the energy that hits Earth from the Sun in one second: 1.74 \times 10^{17} \mathrm{J}4

Basically, if we could focus all the energy from the sun that hits the earth, it would take…\frac{1.093\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}}{1.74 \times 10^{17} \mathrm{\frac{J}{s}}} = 6.281 \: \mathrm{seconds} …to vaporize Lake Washington5.

This is a vast oversimplification of the forces and energies involved, but I think it’s still a pretty good estimate.

Update: Apparently I missed one critical element, enthalpy/heat of vaporization \Delta{}H_{\mathrm{vap}}6. “This energy breaks down the intermolecular attractive forces, and also must provide the energy necessary to expand the gas (the PΔV work). For an ideal gas , there is no longer any potential energy associated with intermolecular forces. So the internal energy is entirely in the molecular kinetic energy.”7

What we have above is the energy required to bring it up to 100°C, but not to vaporize it. To actually vaporize water that’s already at 100°C, we need to add an additional \Delta{}H_{\mathrm{vap}} = 2260\mathrm{\frac{J}{g}}8

Running this number back through our calculations, we now get:
2.89 \mathrm{km^{3}} \times \left ( \frac{1000\mathrm{m}}{1\mathrm{km}} \right )^{3} \times \left( \frac{100\mathrm{cm}}{1\mathrm{m}} \right )^{3} \times \left (2260\mathrm{\frac{J}{g}} + \frac{1\mathrm{g_{_{H_{2}0}}}}{1\mathrm{cm^{3}_{H_{2}0}}} \times \frac{4.19 \mathrm{J\:} }{\mathrm{g^{\circ} C _{H_{2}O}}} \times \left ( 100^{\circ} \mathrm{C} - 9.71^{\circ} \mathrm{C}\right ) \right ) = 7.625\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}

This is still within one order of magnitude from my original answer and really only takes slightly longer for the sun to actually vaporize Lake Washington \frac{.625\times10^{18}\mathrm{J}}{1.74 \times 10^{17} \mathrm{\frac{J}{s}}} = 43.82 \: \mathrm{seconds} 9.

  1. http://wldb.ilec.or.jp/Lake.asp?LakeID=NAM-09&RoutePrm=0:;14:load;14:load; 

  2. Average of all temperature data for 2011 for the Lake Washington buoy: http://green.kingcounty.gov/lake-buoy/Data.aspx 

  3. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie 

  4. According to Wolfram Alpha 

  5. ROM estimate 

  6. this is why I’m not a chemist 

  7. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/phase2.html#c3 

  8. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/phase.html 

  9. still a ROM estimate 

Delivering Understanding Versus Truth

One of the many things I like about Neil is how he parses a high level idea into separate parts. For Neil, education is more than just presenting the truth.

Being an educator means that you have to teach the truth, but you can’t just shove information on to people and say, “Here you go and if you don’t get it, too bad because it’s the truth.”

There is an art of persuasion involved which includes being sensitive to the students state of mind. You can’t just dump data on them, you have to combine the truth with how the student is receiving the information and adjust your delivery mechanism to create a lasting impact.

Likewise, you can’t be solely sensitive to the students state of mind. If they become upset when you talk to them about dinosaurs, that doesn’t mean you don’t teach them about dinosaurs. It doesn’t mean that you stop talking about dinosaurs. It doesn’t even mean that you stop acknowledging the existence of dinosaurs. It means that you find a way to teach them about dinosaurs while also acknowledging the reason they become upset to begin with1.

From 37signals.com:

And to do that, you have to understand what’s already in their head and how those ideas got there. Teaching is about bringing facts and external sensitivity together to have impact. This is powerful stuff and a great lesson for everyone.

Richard Dawkins “gratefully accept[ed] the rebuke” of Neil and then goes on to provide this hilarious quote from an editor at New Scientist that I think goes to show why sensitivity is important.

The editor, when asked, “What is your philosophy at New Scientist?” replied, “Science is interesting and if you don’t agree you can fuck off.”

  1. Feel free to replace “dinosaurs” with any other topic, such as evolution 

Dreaming About Tomorrow

Generally, I try to be content with how things are. This has been a challenging mix of rejecting the status quo when I believe it is required but also not getting sucked in by Shinny Object Syndrome (rushing off to the next latest and greatest thing, what I think George Leonard would call “The Dabbler”1). This has been a careful mix because I feel like I’ve spent much of life “moving on” from one thing to the next, always trying to reach some je ne sais quoi.

Since I graduated from college, I’ve been trying to use my time for good, being involved in things that I think are important and extending my network of connections. Over the last year though, I’ve had to trim this back as I’ve simply got too many things going on. I even had to come up with form letter to send out because of all the awesome opportunities I got:

Unfortunately I’m at capacity (actually probably a bit over capacity) for doing things right now and I’m going to have to decline your invitation to help with the INSERT_EVENT_NAME_HERE. This year I’ve had a lot to manage and be involved in, which is a good sign: I’m gaining responsibility and learning a lot! But when push comes to shove, I tend to eliminate the “me time” first because that’s, unfortunately, the easiest thing to eliminate. I’ve slowly but surely been pushing back on that, reclaiming the time I need in order to function in the rest of the areas of my life.

Ultimately, that results in me having to say no to a lot of great opportunities. At some point in the future I may be at a point where my other responsibilities have dropped to a point where I can take on new projects. The time isn’t now though.

This has been a season of saying “no” for me and it’s been heart breaking. You haven’t been the first person or group that I’ve had to say no to and you won’t be the last. The thing that gives me hope is that it means that I’m on to something. It means that I’m cultivating a “thing” that is valuable and people want. I just need to figure out how to clone myself now.

Until we get the cloning thing perfected, I respectfully must decline your invitation to be involved with the INSERT_EVENT_NAME_HERE. Thank you for the consideration though, it does mean a lot that you thought of me.


I was talking with some friends a few nights ago and got some solid honest feedback about what I do really well that I may not know about. A lot it seemed to revolve around this “thing” I’ve been spending my time cultivating: being honest, willing to tackle tough questions, childlike curiosity.

I’ve also had some really awesome comments from friends over the last few months about my passion for engineering, technology, and even my job.

I feel like I’m brewing something amazing, but I don’t know what it is yet. And yet I’m afraid that this thing I’m brewing won’t come and one day I’ll wake up and find that I’ve stopped dreaming, in part because I’ve tried to slow down and all the time I’ve put into it will have been wasted.

I’ve been following Neil deGrasse Tyson for about a year now — ever since I saw him give a lecture, Adventures of an Astrophysicist, at the University of Washington. I may not agree with everything Neil says, but I have the utmost respect and admiration for him. In my books, he is a champion of honesty, curiosity, and willingness. He has spent time enlightening everyone from Congress2 to the Internet at large by doing a questions and answers session on Reddit.

When asked what he would do if he were President by the New York Times, Neil answered:

From www.haydenplanetarium.org:

The question, “If I were President I’d…” implies that if you swap out one leader, put in another, then all will be well with America – as though our leaders are the cause of all ailments.

That must be why we’ve created a tradition of rampant attacks on our politicians. Are they too conservative for you? Too liberal? Too religious? Too atheist? Too gay? Too anti-gay? Too rich? Too dumb? Too smart? Too ethnic? Too philanderous? Curious behavior, given that we elect 88% of Congress every two years.

A second tradition-in-progress is the expectation that everyone else in our culturally pluralistic land should hold exactly your own outlook, on all issues.

When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you. It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.

One objective reality is that our government doesn’t work, not because we have dysfunctional politicians, but because we have dysfunctional voters. As a scientist and educator, my goal, then, is not to become President and lead a dysfunctional electorate, but to enlighten the electorate so they might choose the right leaders in the first place.

Neil gets it, he rejects the status quo as insufficient. Neil dreams and he doesn’t get sucked in to Shinny Object Syndrome. Neil has a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

Sometimes I worry that I don’t have a long-term BHAG. I worry that I’m not ultimately working towards something that is clear to me.

Short term dreams — zero to two years — I love. I can manipulate those short-term dreams in my mind and they feel tangible (which is not necessarily the same as feeling achievable), but how do they link up? How do I take my somewhat disparate dreams and make them into something worthwhile and awesome? I worry that when I dream about my future in the long-term, my dreams are fuzzy; and it’s not because I don’t have ideas — I do. Still, I wonder what is it that I’m ultimately working toward? Am I spending my time wisely?

Exploring the Solution Space (Source: http://blog.intercom.io/criticism-and-two-way-streets/)

I’ve been spending a lot of time doing Exploration, and I love it. But what about Refinement? Sometimes I feel like I’m not spending enough time on the refinement aspects because of Shinny Object Syndrome. At what point do I decide to switch from Exploration to Refinement?

So that’s some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately: How do I spend my time? What is my BHAG? How do I do all of this in as a Christian? How do I know if I’m doing God’s plan?

  1. Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard 

  2. Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program, Senate Commerce Committee 

First Thoughts on Being Back From Haiti

I’m not sure what I want to say. I keep jumping all around in my mind, a nontemporalproximal place.

The number of emotions that sweep over me remain overwhelming.

I feel a sadness now that I’m back. I feel like I’ve died.

I feel a great relief to be back home though. Yet, I hate what home brings with it.

I am acutely aware of the sounds: the low murmur of cars on I-5. The buzz of the street lamps in their orange glow. The people yelling down the street. The cars as they drive past me.

It’s so cold here. I’m not used to sleeping with all these blankets.

I put my ear buds in and play a podcast…not my usual one, but one I would listen to in Haiti. My whitenoise maker reminds me of the airplane engines. I fall asleep.

As I walked to the next gate at the airport, I felt inundated with commercial advertisement. What is this product? Why do I need it? Why the fuck are they even advertising this, nobody needs this.

I keep looking out the window, not wanting this plane ride to end. Planes and airports now remain my last vestige of something that means so much, yet I can’t accurately explain what or why.

I don’t want to collect my bags on the carousel. I don’t want to leave the airport — it means I have to say goodbye.

There’s something special about spending such intimate time with these people. We eat together, we sleep together, we pray together, we ride together, we laugh together, we cry together, we work together. We created a new being — a new life form — that existed for 11 days. It was symbiotic and it will never exist again like it did.

I don’t want to go to sleep, because it means I have to move on.

It feels weird to be alone, knowing there’s no one just around the doorway.

We see each other at church and naturally gravitate toward each other.

We seem different now. Sure, we’ve all taken our hot showers; but it’s not that. We act different.

I don’t want to look at my email. There’s 116 new emails covering at least 50 different topics.

Work, even life here, seems too complicated. Too complex. Too overwhelming. I just want to curl up into a ball and cry.

I want things to be simple again. I want to focus on what’s in front of me right now, not what may or may not happen in two weeks.

3026 photos, that’s a lot of memories. I look at them and replay the trip over in my head. I look at the photos from the very beginning of the trip, from when before we really knew each other. Who are these people?

Coming back this time was different. Last time, I was excited to be home because I didn’t know when I was going to get home. This time though, I could anticipate getting home. I knew almost precisely when I would land.

There was no large contingent of people waiting with bated breath for us at the airport. Just our parents, significant others, or roommates.

We sang our song one last time. It was beautiful, amazing, poignant, awesome…just like Haiti was.

I don’t know if I want to go back. I love the simplicity of it. I love Bruce and Deb. I love to see what God is doing. But I hate the politics. I hate that things don’t make sense. I hate that people sometimes try to take advantage of me because I’m “blan”1; it doesn’t feel good when I’m trying to help.

I don’t want to let go of that feeling of being down there. I want to hold it close to me. But I don’t know how to do that and still live and work here.

I don’t know what’s next. I just want to feel that way again.

  1. white 

What’s Next, or Not?

From 37signals.com:

The tech world is obsessed with what’s next. It has become so used to the constant flow of new products and new companies that newness itself has been placed on a pedestal. But outside of a few breakthroughs here and there, most things that are good are good because they got there slowly.

One of the constants on my mind is, “What’s next?” This is a hold over from Andrew Ferguson: The First 23 Years, in which I was always focusing on what was next, and which I acknowledged and talked about in The Blessing.

But how are we supposed to slow down? How do I live in a world that is going a million-miles-a-minute1? I have this vision from “Time Out of Joint“, an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. The Clock King has a device that allows him to operate at an extremely accelerated time rate apart from the rest of his reality. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the episode, but basically Batman and Robin are in Batmobile and the Clock King sticks his device to their car, making all the cars on the freeway appear super fast (I’m going to ignore the obvious relativistic implications of all of this):

Video clip if YouTube is being lame.

That’s how I sometimes feel about life (especially the part about me being Batman): I’m sitting in my awesome Batmobile and the world is passing me by and I need to do everything I can to bring myself back in-sync with the world. It’s also why my goal for this year has been pace; I don’t want to feel like I have to be trapped going at tortoise speed and don’t want to feel like I have to be forced to go at hare speed. I want to go at my pace; I want it to be good, even if that means slower than everyone else. And I have to say, it’s been harder than I expected with lots of things pushing and pulling me in every direction.

  1. a mere 1/11th the speed of light 

The Pale Blue Dot

Amazing and stunning and poignant and beautiful:

We were hunters and foragers.

The frontier was everywhere.

We were bounded only by the Earth, and the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls.

Our little terraquious globe as the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds.

We, who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; Are we to venture out into space?

By the time we’re ready to settle even the nearest of other planetary systems, we will have changed. The simple passage of so many generations will have changed us. Necessity will have changed us. We’re…an adaptable species.

It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars. It will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths, and fewer of our weaknesses. More confident, farseeing, capable, and prudent. For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.

What new wonders, undreamed of in our time, will we have wrought in another generation? And another? How far will our nomadic species have wandered by the end of the next century? And the next millennium? Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that whatever other life there may be, the only humans in all the universe come from Earth.

They will gaze up, and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of raw potential once was. How perilous, our infancy. How humble, our beginnings. How many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.

-Carl Sagan

via ✪DF



What is discretion, as it relates to cautious reserve in speech? There is this idea of discretion, it’s kind of a tricky I feel — maybe not all the time, just times that it has huge implications.

I see discretion as a continuum, with tight lipped vagaries on the left and loose lips sinking ships1 on the right. Discretion lies somewhere in between, in this hazy fog where it’s hard to navigate.

And even if you think you’re doing a good job of being discrete, someone else always has a different opinion of discretion; a different opinion of what should or shouldn’t be said.

I feel that discretion has a lot to do with expectation and uncertainty. I tend toward full disclosure when I don’t know because, for me, information is a way to reduce uncertainty, and giving more information should help reduce the uncertainty in any given situation. Right?

But is having more information always better? Information can empower, but it can also overwhelm. Take, for example, the paradox of choice:

From www.columbia.edu:

Current psychological theory and research affirm the positive affective and motivational consequences of having personal choice. These findings have led to the popular notion that more choice is better, that the human ability to desire and manage choice is unlimited. Findings from three studies starkly challenge the implicit assumption that having more choice is necessarily more intrinsically motivating than having fewer options. These three experiments which were conducted in field and laboratory settings show that people are more likely to purchase exotic jams or gourmet chocolates, and undertake optional class essay assignments, when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than an extensive array of 24 or 30 choices. Moreover, participants actually reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections and wrote better essays when their original set of options had been restricted rather than expanded.2

While this study doesn’t explicitly deal with truth, I think it’s an interesting corollary: More is not always better and even when we think more should be could, it can actually be bad. Does this hold true for information as well? Maybe I don’t really want-to-want to know the launch codes for the nuclear missiles.

So, what is is threshold on the continuum of truth and disclosure? Where do I find the middle ground? How do I find the middle ground?

Ne quid nimis.

This, like many things, is a continuing process for me, and this is pretty much where I’m at.

  1. “The War Advertising Council’s “Loose Lips Sink Ships” public service ads reminding Americans of the dangers of revealing too much information are still remembered today. This particular campaign encouraged Americans to be discreet in their communication to prevent restricted information from being leaked to the enemy during World War II.” – http://www.adcouncil.org/default.aspx?id=127 

  2. Iyengar, Sheena S. and Lepper, Mark R. When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? 

The Blessing

For everyone at The Colorado School of Mines, class starts today. Despite the fact that I’m not in school, I still like to celebrate this day, taking note of its significance. For me, it’s almost like New Years day, being the start of the school year and all.

I’ve been thinking recently a lot about the desires and challenges of life and where they lie. I have fond memories of playing in my backyard with my brother and my neighbors when I was little. During the summer, I would design tree forts and think, “If only I had the money to build this.” I had a desire to have the means necessary to fund my adventure.

Back then, I got something around a $5 allowance/week. And I could earn some extra money by doing some extra chores. But the $250 in materials needed was freaking huge. I dreamt of ways to come up with money so I could build the ultimate tree fort; I mowed lawns through middle and high school and eventually started fixing computers for friends and family who would also pay me. It never seemed like enough and always got spent in other places, mostly LEGOs. But I desired for the day that I would be a grownup and making lots of money; and then I could do anything!

Of course, there’s a certain innocence in being a child. While I wasn’t making any money, I also didn’t have to worry about other adult things, like figuring out living situations, paying for rent and utilities, working a little bit, and being generally responsible.

I had a desire to go to college, learn about engineering and get a job. Maybe I would build airplanes. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was prepared.

I went off to college and learned a lot. I had to deal with finding food on my own. Mom and Dad were no longer there to cook meals and I was 1000 miles from home. I had to do laundry, get up on my own, plan ahead, and keep my grades up; all without anyone else being there. I had several internships where I traded in some more responsibility for some more pay. But it wasn’t enough. I felt restricted in what I could do as an intern and in the limited confines of a classroom. My desire was to be done with school and to grow up; to go out into the world and make a difference. I wanted to make my mark on society and I was going to do this by challenging myself to be the best damn engineer the world has ever known1.

When I graduated, I took on an entirely new set of responsibilities. I had a job — a real, full-time job — and practically all the responsibilities of being grown up2. I had to deal with insurance in all its wonderful forms, making doctors appointments, scheduling vacation, getting enough sleep, budgeting, etc. I was working on integrating myself into society as a contributing member of what makes this world work. I had the desire to grow up more though, to contribute even more to society. My new challenge was to meet a woman, date her, marry her, and start a perfect nuclear family3.

Several months ago, probably starting during my trip to Haiti, I took pause.

At every point in life, I was measuring my level of happiness not by what I had, but by what I desired. It was never enough to have accomplished what I set out to do, because there was always another bigger desire behind it. And each desire became increasingly complex and time consuming. What was I really chasing?

I wanted to be grown up. I think I saw not being grown up as a limitation on what I could accomplish and a limit on what my opportunities were.

I came across this bit from C.S. Lewis4:

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

This was one of those “A ha!” moments for me. Before, being an adult meant being grown up. But now, I can start to see the difference between the two. And so I think about what my desires for life really are; what are the things that I truly could not bare to be without?

So far, I’ve come up with three things:

  1. A loving relationship with my creator.
  2. A loving relationship with the people I care about.
  3. Never to be left unchallenged.

The last one, while it is last for a reason, is also important. As Scott Adams has pointed out, “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.”

I love solving things. I love figuring things out. What makes me excited to wake up in the morning is knowing that I have still have so much to figure out. I know I can be a better Christian, a better boyfriend, a better friend, a better engineer, a better coworker, a better person. I know there are so many things left to explore, there are many questions left to ask, and there are many challenges left to solve. I know I won’t be able to accomplish everything, but I that’s not the point. Besides, if I were to accomplish it all, what would I do with myself?

And so I wake up saying, “Today, I will try to be better than I was yesterday.”

Perhaps this is the blessing5 and what makes me so excited: a God who loves me, friends that care about me, and things — such as dating Carly — that challenge me in all the good ways….and vice versa.

Here’s to another successful trip around the sun.

  1. or something like that 

  2. or so I thought 

  3. this is simplified version of a complex challenge, but I think the point still stands 

  4. emphasis mine 

  5. read Hustling God by M. Craig Barnes for background