On Friday, Ralph J. Roberts passed away at 95

My thoughts and prayers for his entire family and to all who have known him. Comcast has been a great place to work, and has been great for family, and to give back to my community, and I know that springs in no small part to its founder.


Comcast: Ralph J. Roberts, Comcast Corporation Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Dies at Age 95

Philly.com: Comcast founder Ralph Roberts, 95, dies

Billy Penn: Ralph Roberts: From selling milk and playing poker to founding Comcast and building the cable giant in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Magazine: Ralph J. Roberts: My Philadelphia Story

On Mindfulness

I’ve just finished an eight week mindfulness course and I’ve been asked a few times if I got anything out it. Yes I have: I improved my card playing technique.

Hear me out.

There is a card playing metaphor me and my little brother have shared through the years to help get through difficult times: The goal is to play the hand you’ve been dealt, to the best of your ability. Don’t think too hard about the hands you’ve been dealt in the past, or worry about the cards which may come in the future, they are are out of your control.

If you spend too much time looking at the past, or worrying about the future, you will not make the best choice you can in the moment.

People who know me well, know I quote this quite a bit. It sounds so simple, but think of your own experience, and you know it is anything but.

The next few hands might mean winning or losing everything, and this day has been nothing but work, work, work, and you’re always losing these things so why are you sitting there anyway, and.. well.. Your adrenaline is probably pumping, and the moment you’re in might feel like the most critical moment EVAR. What happens next is what matters… right?

Hold onto that for a moment while I shift gears. I promise to return to this.

But first, let me ask you, doesn’t time start to really fly as we age? Blink and days, weeks, even months seem to zip by.

That’s because most moments, maybe this one if you are skimming (you probably are, lets be honest), are not an examined moments. Intentionally or not, as our experience grows, so do the stories we mentally collect, to filter our world by.

It is absolutely necessary. We need to do it to survive. Pondering the rain can keep you from seeking shelter and avoiding a lightning strike, and lightning rods are awesome.

It is probably the advanced pattern matching ability we have that differentiates humans from most animal life. And from one another.

We see someone react well, or poorly, under certain circumstances and we think that it is a sure sign of their innate intelligence, or their innate resilience. When, underneath it all, the truth is, they’ve had some experience, some teaching, some lesson that got absorbed.

Watch children play before they get too caught up in thinking before acting. They are experiencing the moment fully and learning from it. Sight, smell, sound, everything is getting recorded for pattern analysis and reuse. That’s why time moves so slow for them. Each moment is a learnable moment. Forming connections, stories, experiences that will get used in future situations. There is a lot of input getting written to memory. Absorbing that takes time and energy. So time moves slow.

Eventually all kids start to think about the future and the past, and that removes them from the current moment. How is school going suck tomorrow? Why didn’t my so called friend call me back? Time moves faster as the now is less and less examined. It does that because they no longer are in the current moment. They’re elsewhere.

When this becomes habit, whenever they are in a moment where there isn’t flooded with new stimuli (even though all moments are unique, how quickly we lose that!), you’ll hear, “I’m bored”.

So, full circle, back to the metaphor, the card game. The class has given me some techniques to get my head in the moment, to strengthen the quality of my attention, and to do so non-judgmentally. So I can hopefully see my hand of cards and recognize my mind’s attempts at zipping to the future or the past, to see the moment as a teachable one, once again.

Hearing classmates share their own struggles and journeys helped me to realize I wasn’t so alone. As our instructor shared, though we may all have different experiences, we feel similar things. We weren’t as isolated as we may think. Speaking of the instructors, I’m thankful for how they constructed the class, its pace, and making it easier to connect with concepts that can be very abstract and hard to grasp with self study.

Being non-judgemental is key. It’s necessary in order to observe those stories, those filters, that might have once been all important, when now they limit the choices I might make, or the enjoyment I might feel, if I let myself take in something fully.

As a child might, with a beginners mind.

And it’s not easy. It’s not about relaxing or positive thinking. It’s work to take your head out of your ass once it gets used to being there. It’s forming new habits to replace the old.

That means practice, one day at a time. One moment at a time.


Ferris Quote

(Shit! This is deep wisdom now isn’t it?)

Video: Underneath the snow is… Spring

My friend Maurice Gaston put together a great video, in first person video game style, of shoveling one of the last snow falls of the season on Vimeo. Check it out.

SnowDay from maurice gaston on Vimeo.

“Hotel 22”: a bus in Silicon Valley, a shelter

The New York Times today featured a short film from Elizabeth Lo where she reveals the long, lonely ride of the homeless in Silicon Valley, using Line 22 for a shelter for the night.

Her quiet short (8 minutes long), captured something that felt hauntingly familiar to me. In the early 90s I spent 2 weeks sleeping on the Frankford El, and like the temporary residents of this bus, did not know where to go, or who to talk to.

This is the 3rd in a series of 3 short films they are featuring, from independent filmmakers, supported in part from the Sundance Institute.  Make sure to checkout the other two films.

Find inspiration in handwritten verse

Howard has been posting a new collection of his handwritten poetry, and is nearing the end of its 30 day run. Each day he’s posted something to think about.

Human billboards

Check out the work on his blog.

My Condolences Dave

One of the earliest friendships I made on the Web was to Dave Rogers, it must be over ten years ago now. Dave, if you’re reading, a few of us old timers are are thinking of you and your loss.

Howard Hall: “All I need to know I learned in Karaoke”

I know quite a few folks who make it a thing to go out to Karaoke more than a few times a year. My good friend Howard Hall (whose birthday is today – Happy Birthday Howard!), posted some thoughts on Karaoke  on a lesson it has for all of us.

Happy 40th Richelle!

It’s a shame that the world has no idea who Ludwig van Beethoven wrote this letter of love letter to. ludwigletterBut it did give a perfect expression of the kind of love we share. One that has endured much, so many stormy and calm days in the great sea, and one focused on the truly important, in the here and now, expanding my heart at the awesomeness of it all. Emma and me are so blessed to be part of the family we are part of. She loves you as deeply as I do, and her bond is even more powerful. You wonder why we sometimes get these cocky grins on our faces? It’s because we know something that the rest of the world doesn’t get. Maybe like old Ludwig did. But we want the world to know. I love you Richelle. 

My ever thine. May you ever be mine. And the life we live ever ours.

(Note, this was originally posted to my private Facebook account and upon reflection, realize it really should be here)

For more on the letter, check out Letters of Note’s post on “Immortal Beloved“.

Dancing with Cinderella

Our family dentist, a father, saw me yesterday for a cavity. Earlier this week he had given my daughter a checkup. I told him about a dance night at her school that I was getting ready for. He suggested dancing to a song which I had never heard. I just listened to it and yeah, I’m sitting here crying while writing this.

So here is the song on YouTube, by Steven Curtis Chapman, “Cinderella”:

Life Lessons from Programming: Check your assumptions

Jon Udell wrote a short piece that resonated with me on taking a principle from software engineering and applying it to discourse and relationships: “Check your assumptions”.

He takes the idea that when debugging, you should:

Focus on understanding why the program is doing what it’s doing, rather than why it’s not doing what you wanted it to.

And translating that to:

Focus on understanding why your spouse or child or friend or political adversary is doing what he or she is doing, rather than why he or she is not doing what you wanted him or her to.

That flips your behavior from one that is trying to modify someone else’s behavior to someone that is listening actively.

Pretty profound.

What other examples of this to think about?