…on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam—our pale blue dot.

It’s hard to find a more eloquent, humbling, and ultimately empowering statement than the inspired words of Carl Sagan. If you’ve had a bad day recently or need some perspective on your life, here it is. Watch. Listen.

In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, revel in the joy of sharing a planet and an epoch with your friends and family, with neighbors and strangers. With wistful clouds and chirping birds; with streams and rock and dirt.

Because with great fortune, you have the serendipitous opportunity of inhabiting, for a brief moment, a tiny fraction of a speck on our insignificant pale blue dot—a faint pinprick of reflected light suspended in an incalculable vastness. Cherish it. Hold dear the only home we’ve ever known, that solitary mote of dust.

Continue reading …on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam—our pale blue dot.

Steve Jobs has some advice for you

Steve Jobs died today.

I’m not usually a fan of corporate behemoths, but there was always something special about the way Apple—no, make that Steve Jobs—went about changing the world. You don’t need much more proof of the impact he had on the tech industry, or last generation or two, or the world today than the overwhelming outpouring of emotion after his death. If you were online, you knew. He was the entrepreneur of our generation, and one of the all-time great innovators and visionaries. The 60s/70s had NASA, and the 80s/90s/00s had Steve Jobs.

No matter whether you’re a fanboy or a hater, it’s hard not to argue that Steve’s passing leaves a huge hole in our culture’s soul. Steve and Apple certainly left an indelible mark on my life. He will be missed.

Perhaps one of his more poignant moments came during his Stanford commencement address. I’ve watched this video at least a dozen times over the years. The advice he gives is even more moving today than when I heard it last.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Watch the entire speech (or read the transcript). Either way, I promise that it will be well worth your time.

So let’s go make sure we all have our “one more thing,” moment.

A recap of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project

My 101 Things in 1001 Days challenge ends today.

The 101 list was an experiment to see if I would accomplish more than I would with New Year’s resolutions. I did. I figured that the longer time period and longer list of potential projects would allow me more flexibility in achieving the goals I had set forth. They did.

I completed just over half of the items on my list, quite a bit fewer than I expected when I began the project back in 2008. What I didn’t expect, however, was to be dealing with a major life change just a year into the project. I was making very steady progress on the list until life got a bit more uncertain. Suddenly, many of the items I had placed on the list no longer made sense or were unattainable, and there were a bunch of new goals I had that weren’t included in the original list.

How I did

In spite of falling short of the original goal, I’m happy with the progress that I made. I feel like I accomplished a significant number of items that I otherwise wouldn’t have without the project. I found it to be a worthwhile exercise and I’m happy that I tried. I also learned a number of lessons along the way that might be useful in your own 101 Things project, should you decide to embark on one.

Making your own list

I found that putting together a 101 Things list is actually quite a bit more difficult than it seems. In fact, it can be challenging coming up with worthwhile items that you’re willing to commit to. I found that a good mix of easy and more difficult items helped to keep my motivation and focus during long span of the project. Between reaching the more difficult or complex goals, I could mark off a few easier items and feel good that I was making progress. I also recommend including some items that have been nagging to get done for longer than you’d like to admit. You’ll feel great when you finally sit down and get them done.

One of the most important things to consider when putting together a list is to make your items as measurable and achievable as possible. Don’t settle on unclear items like “get in shape” or “lose weight;” instead, focus on things that someone else could easily measure, such as completing a 5k run or losing a specific amount of weight. Otherwise, you won’t have a specific goal to shoot for and you’ll have no real way to measure your success when you’re done.

I’d also recommend including only achievable items. Stretch yourself, but don’t make items so difficult that you give up. This is not a listing of your dreams—it’s a list of goals that you want to meet in the next 2.5 years. And certainly don’t include any items that you don’t have control over, such as falling in love or getting engaged.

Substituting items

Realizing that things might change partway through the project, I started a substitute list that I appended to the original list. That way, I could add things that I wanted to pursue as goals. This was a good move, but I always felt a little like I was cheating by substitution so I also kept the original items on the list to maintain perspective. My total count includes substitute items.

Tell people about it

Another lesson I learned early was to tell people about your list. Having people occasionally ask me how the project is going provided some useful reminders. Posting it online and linking to it also helps to get the word out and keep you invested and engaged in completing the project. I’d also recommend posting yours on the Day Zero Project website (you can also find some inspiration on the site) and updating others on your progress.

What’s next for me

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to embark on a new 101 Things list, or if I’ll try something else. Given the amount of uncertainty and change in my life right now, I’m leaning towards focusing on a “33 before 33” list, then maybe tackling another 1001 day project next year.

Since I’m unsure of the fate of the original post on 2mins.org, I’ve repasting it below.

My 101 Things in 1001 Days list

Following the lead of others, I decided to forgo establishing any New Year’s resolutions in 2008, opting instead to start my own “101 things in 1001 days” project. I’m usually not big into the resolution thing to begin with, but recently I’ve been thinking much more about enjoying life and not letting it float past so quickly. The year deadline doesn’t appeal to me, and I think I may be able to mark off each item in the project’s allotted 1001 days. After putting together a draft list several weeks ago, I decided to retro-actively set my official start date as March 1, 2008. It’s a little bit like cheating, as I’ve already completed two items before I got around to posting this, but in my defense, I only completed those items in the spirit of the project. Some items should be a piece of cake to finish (delete old hosting accounts, attend a hockey game) while some might take a little bit more focus and determination (buy house, travel outside the continental US). I’ll continue to mark off items as I complete them, and may also add a separate post about such occurrences. Anyway, on to the list:

My 101 Things in 1001 Days Project
Completed 55/101 items
Deadline is Nov 27, 2010

buy a second car
buy an ultralight sleeping bag or tent completed March 30, 2008
buy a new ASU jersey completed September 8, 2008
buy a new camera completed April 26, 2008
buy a new mac laptop completed April 19, 2008
buy new glasses completed July 6, 2008
buy ASU pantscompleted November 29, 2009
buy a scanner completed March 2, 2008
buy/make a hiking pin display completed April 4, 2008
buy a nice big HD television completed September 20, 2008

Learn new skills
learn how to grill a great steak
learn 5 new photographic techniques
take advanced GPS or GIS course
take NEPA course
cook a chinese dish
learn to identify five new desert plant species
learn to identify three new bird species

Home organizing/decluttering
seriously organize the garage
get rid of the ford taurus completed August 2009
clean out file cabinets
donate or sell my button maker completed May 8, 2008
declutter my office
organize football memorabilia completed October 5, 2008
scan my favorite old photos
ditch my CDs completed October 6, 2008
set up a password management system completed April 26, 2009
scan all nps passport stamps completed October 24, 2008
organize/declutter hiking gear completed September 2008
donate another computer completed October 6, 2008

travel to the east coast
travel outside the continental US
visit at least three new states completed July 2008 roadtrip
travel to an ASU away game
rent an RV
visit 20 new NPS units completed July 2008
visit Ft Bowie National Historic Site completed Winter 2010 roadtrip
collect 25 passport stamps (renewals OK) completed July 2008 roadtrip
visit the north rim of the Grand Canyoncompleted Sept 2010
stay overnight in the White Mountains completed 4/20-5/1/08

go kayaking completed June 27, 2009
go on a backpacking trip of at least 3 nights
hike 25 new trails in the state 9 down
hike the backcountry of the Superstition Wilderness
visit 5 new wilderness areas in Arizona completed 2 (Bear Wallow, Pusche Ridge)
lead a Sierra Club hike (not a monument)
go camping with friends completed 4/30-5/1/08

New habits
learn to wake up earlier/get up early >25 days in a single month
consistently use an inbox for more than a month
get eight hours of sleep for at least 23 days in a single month completed May 2009
establish a morning routine
take at least 3 steps to significantly reduce our environmental impact 2 down (reduce waste by using reusables, buying only green electricity and reducing usage)
develop a regular stretching routine
improve my posture

transition scottspics.com to rscottjones.com completed October 5, 2008
redesign rscottjones.com
figure out how to use my desktop computers with my mac complete January 27, 2009
fully complete the switch over to mac completed September 2009
make a decision about all of the domains I own
upgrade the RAM on my iMac completed Mar 2, 2008
become more proficient in using my iphone keyboard completed
make a new avatar for myself completed April 5, 2008
create an online file storage/backup system
organize computer document files/folders
redevelop godevils.org
flesh out vacation listing completed October 12, 2008
develop reference or file/note management system on mac completed July 29, 2009
delete old hosting accounts completed October 5, 2008

get married completed July 15, 2008
get involved in a new nonprofit Completed May 1, 2008
contact three old friends from high school Completed August 11, 2008
re-enroll at ASU
write something meaningful
make flickr’s explore with one of my own photos
publish something
post 15,000 pictures online
“make” a birthday gift for friend or family member
write a personal manifesto
keep a hiking and outings log
count, log, and scan all of my nps passport stamps
make 3 new friends that I see regularly completed July 2009
participate in Pat’s Run

attend a hockey game completed October 23, 2009
bowl another 250+ game
visit Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza
attend camp tontozona no longer possible
watch 10 “classic/old school” movies (Done: The Candidate, Godfather, Soylent Green, Fahrenheit 451, Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Deliverance, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Taxi Driver, 2001: A Space Odyssey)
take a photographic tour of the city with flickr group
watch a meteor shower completed November 17, 2009
read at least one book from my bookcase that I haven’t yet read completed December 5, 2009
read Walden
surprise Kim with a nice weekend away
write my own list of top lifehacks

lose 15 lbs completed August 2009
complete a 5k run
max out my dental insurance completed April 21, 2008
get tooth fixed completed April 21, 2008
go one week without sodacompleted
write out a will/last testament
payoff all but one credit card
start/consolidate my investment accounts
buy my own home

Bonus/substitute items
refinish cedar chest gave it away
backpack at least 20 miles on a single trip
visit either Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, or Boston completed December 30, 2009 (NOLA)
save $5000
tour ASU’s football facilities completed November 28, 2008 (thanks Jerry!)
go completely paperless (bills, financials)
find solution for grill equipment
buy framed ASU/Sun Devil Stadium photo completed November 8, 2008
put together a home inventory
create a digital archive of important files and add to safe deposit box
scan and post hiking patches
buy Pat Tillman jersey completed November 8, 2008
redesign scottandkimmie.com completed December 24, 2008
re-establish a regularly scheduled event with friends completed
complete a daily self-pic for six months completed July 2009
launch a blog & write consistently for at least three months
Go on a kayaking/canoeing trip of at least one night completed September 28, 2009
Attend a home 49ers game

Seeing Flogging Molly on St Patrick’s Day

When I think back over my life, I often find that while I’ve done some cool things, I’ve also failed to participate in the common high school and college activities. Not drinking or doing drugs, having long-term relationships (thereby skipping the dating scene), and working and volunteering frequently pushed my life in a different direction than most of my friends.

For whatever reason, I was also far less interested in many of the popular culture activities that most people that age seem to be. Movies, tv, fashion, and music are all examples. Concert-going in particular was something I just seemed to miss.

Kim brought me to a Pearl Jam concert—my first concert experience—several years into our relationship. I had a blast, but that’s what you’d expect in seeing your favorite band perform live.

Fast forward another 8 years or so, and my concert total remained unchanged. That changed on St Patrick’s Day when I joined a few friends at the Flogging Molly concert at Tempe Beach Park. I’m not a big music fan, so while I had heard of the band before, I didn’t know any of their songs. I had a good time—in spite of the pushing, flinging sweat, and attempted theft of my iPhone—and enjoyed the experience even though I didn’t fully participate in the bouncing, fist-pumping, and singing.

I’ll probably never enjoy live music to quite the degree that my friends do, but maybe I should give it a shot more often.

What this photo from 1989 says about loyalty

Growing up in Mesa, Arizona

I value loyalty.

I hadn’t ever thought of myself as being an especially loyal guy until a friend raised it as one of my personal qualities a couple of years ago. I reflexively disagreed, but upon further reflection and discussion realized that it was probably an accurate statement. Hey, sometimes it takes you a few decades to learn about yourself.

I posted the picture above, which was taken in mid-September 1989, to illustrate this point. I was looking at a few of my old pictures for today’s Facebook meme and ran across this one. Besides the smile, I loved some of the insights the photo provides into who I am (more on that below).

But first: loyalty.

Despite the prominence of the tape player, the first thing I noticed about this photo was the ASU poster in the background. The second thing I noticed was my head-to-foot 49ers outfit. Recent events reminded me of my loyalty to both of these teams.

Earlier today on a work conference call, we scheduled our big annual event for a November weekend on which there’s a home ASU football game. It’s the second time in as many years. It will be only the third time I’ve missed a regularly-scheduled home game since becoming a fan in 1987. I’m already feeling bad about missing the game, even though I don’t have high hopes for next season. There have been far too many of those seasons, but alas, I continue to buy season tickets and root on the team. I’ve never willingly left the stadium before the bitter end, no matter the score or weather. If you know me, you know me as a loyal ASU fan.

The same concept, albeit to a lesser extent given the circumstances, applies to the 49ers. To be sure, the Niners had a grand glorious run – one for both the record and history books. But those times vanished when Eddie D gave up the team, and the team has had precious little success since then. Still, I’ve never wavered, even as it became fashionable for root for the Cardinals. In fact, everyone expects me to root for the Cards—I’m a native after all—and are usually shocked and a bit miffed that I’d rather the Cardinals lose every game they played. (For what it’s worth, they should have lost the last one.) Part of that is residual anger over their lawsuit against ASU, disrespect for the Bidwell family, and the fact they got a new stadium deal they didn’t in any possible way deserve. But much of it also boils down to the fact that the Cards and Niners are both in the NFC West. What can I say – I’m a loyal 49ers fan.

Of course, loyalty to a particular football team is hardly a personal characteristic you’d want engraved on your tombstone. There are far more important ways to be loyal, people to be loyal with, and values to be loyal to. But nonetheless, I think it’s a clear indicator of a larger and more meaningful pattern.

Speaking of indicators, let’s get back to the photo. Some other quick observations about what this picture might say about me, even at the ripe age of 10:

  • Tape cassettes weren’t cutting-edge, but I clearly enjoyed technology.
  • I was anal enough even back then to keep a running score tally on the ASU poster. Luckily, I wouldn’t get any database software for another couple of years.
  • Office supplies were in my future – notice the legal pad and pad holder. I’m such a geek.
  • I’m still refusing to acknowledge the GI Joe sheets.
  • I was nostalgic and sentimental even back then – notice the ticket pinned up next to the poster and the pom pom on the left side of the window sill. Those were less signs of fandom and had much more to do with saving memories.
  • Friendship bracelet FTW!