Bacon Quotes.

(2016-01-22 21:26PT: See the “EDITED TO ADD” toward the bottom of the post.)

I don’t know if this exists, but if not, I hereby declare the invention of “Bacon Quotes.”

Bacon quotes are double quotes that consist of two squiggly lines (like bacon strips) instead of straight ones or apostrophes, and their use is for paraphrasing or summarizing a quote. For example, if someone said, “Go make some bacon, and put it in my mouth,” and I wanted to paraphrase/summary-quote them (new word: “summaquote” or “paraquote” [the latter exists on Urban Dictionary]), I’d use bacon quotes as follows (note: since bacon quotes are not yet – keyword “yet” – available in character form [I’ll work on that], I’ll use {baconquote} to denote a, well, bacon quote… duh):

Original: He once said, “Go make some bacon, and put it in my mouth.”
Paraquoted with Bacon Quotes: He once said, {baconquote}Make bacon, put in mouth.{baconquote}

Since bacon is awesome, and creativity is awesome, I encourage you to use bacon quotes combined with stylistic and fun creativity in your paraphrasing/summarizing techniques so that the paraquote not only begins and ends with awesomeness (bacon, of course, is awesome), but is also full of awesomeness in the middle (your stylistic/fun creativity). Example:

He once said, {baconquote}Make bacon. Bacon => Mouth.{baconquote}
He once said, {baconquote}Make Bacon + Bacon => :-O = :-D{baconquote}
He once said, {baconquote}Make bacon. Bacon => (°□° ){baconquote}

The “Bacon Apostrophe” should be a thing, too. Or, “Baconpostrophe.”

Spread the word! #‎baconquotes #‎baconpostrophe

P.S. Anyone know the process for getting a new symbol standardized into a Unicode charset?

P.P.S. Inspirational credit goes to the tilde (~) that’s used in mathematics for representing “approximately equal to” when combined with an equals sign. Rotate the tilde 90 degrees, add a squiggle or two to make it more bacon-y, and there you have the baconpostrophe. Put two of them, and BAM! Bacon quote.

P.P.P.S. If this has been thought of before, let me know so due credit can be given. I spent all of three seconds attempting to check, but Googling for “bacon quotes” gives back a barrage of quotes about bacon. So, yeah. 🙂

P.P.P.P.S. Any artsy people out there want to draw up some lovely bacon quotes so I can use them when applying for standardization into a Unicode character set?

EDITED TO ADD (2016-01-22 21:26PT): As “The Dad” commented:

…in the meantime, we could use reverse curly braces! They’re a reasonable facsimile of bacon:

He said, }}Make some bacon and feed me!{{

I love it! Reverse curly braces are a great temporary bacon quote (especially compared to “{baconquote}”).

@diabolical_mdog added a dash of brilliance by suggesting, and I bacon quote, }}Superscript it! #YOLO{{ <= (See what I did there?)

I took a comprehensive survey of a diverse population of unbiased humans </exaggeration>, and out of the following list…

  1. }}Testing a temporary bacon quote.{{
  2. {{Testing a temporary bacon quote.}}
  3. }}Testing a temporary bacon quote.{{
  4. {{Testing a temporary bacon quote.}}

…numbers 3 and 1 emerged victorious, in that order. #3 is preferable because it’s elevated and smaller, like a double quote, but since superscript curly braces may be impractical or impossible in some contexts (such as some mobile devices or apps), #1 is an acceptable temporary representation, too.

Thank you, “The Dad” and @diabolical_mdog for the great ideas! The bacon quote is going to change the world, and you can bacon quote me on that! 😉

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Jesus Smiled.

“Jesus wept” is a popular verse, primarily because it’s the shortest verse in the Bible. What you don’t see is a verse that says, “Jesus smiled.” Does that mean Jesus didn’t smile? To use an expression I often associate with Paul, “Certainly not!”

For whatever reason – concepts I formed as a child, influences from man-made depictions, etc. – I’ve never really thought of Jesus as smiling. I’ve always pictured him with a straight face – not lacking love, compassion, or welcoming arms, but rather I’ve simply never really spent much time thinking about his facial expressions and expression of emotion. The only things that come to mind are when he wept, and when he angrily flipped tables at the temple. I can picture those emotions and physical expressions, but what about smiling? What about joy? What about happiness?

I’m realizing the image of Jesus in my mind’s eye is grossly inadequate and incomplete. Jesus smiled.

As God continues to grow me and I increase in faith, love, hope, and joy, there are times where I can’t help but smile. Make no mistake, I have many more times where I can’t help but frown, overwhelmed by the brokenness and darkness in this world, but the ratio is changing, and I’m enjoying the moments when I can’t help but smile.

In those moments, I can’t help myself because I catch a glimpse of something truly and divinely profound: God loves everyone. That’s a loaded statement, and one that is grossly misunderstood. It warrants exploration, but not in this post.

God loves everyone. It is a deeply joyous and wonderful truth. I’m sitting in a diner right now, and everyone walking by me is loved by God. I wish everyone knew and understood that at a personal and life-changing level. My heart’s desire is for them to.

Jesus smiled. Both from everyday smile-worthy human experiences, and from divinely catalyzed joy stemming from profound understanding of God and His love for His creation. Surely he must have. 🙂

Technology.

Technology is so cool.

I was video chatting with my parents recently, and I looked down at the network cable plugged into my laptop and started to think about what was happening inside of it. Beneath the outer layer, millions and millions of bits were flowing back and forth between my computer and my router, all carrying information that got reconstructed into near-real-time feeds of my parents and the sounds that exist in their corner of the world.

I tried to visualize what that must look like, if seeing it in a visually meaningful way were even possible, and I was left feeling a bit awestruck. All of these electrical signals traveling at mind-blowing speeds, all through this relatively small wire sticking out of my laptop.

I then noticed that my foot was touching the same cable that drooped behind my desk. I lifted the cable with my hand, near where it plugged into my laptop, and thought about how all of the bits of data were flowing freely no matter what position the cable was in. I could move it up and down, sideways, or forwards and backwards, and so long as it stayed connected to its port, the signals continued to flow unimpeded. I tried picturing the electrical signals flowing within physical space as I gently changed the cable’s position.

I later thought about it further, and I marveled even more at how so many of these bits that were traveling through the cable were not only carrying information that could be reconstructed into a meaningful image, sound, or word, but they were also encrypted. Computers on either end of the connection were taking auditory and visual input, encoding and encrypting it, transmitting it across multiple links and systems, and reconstructing it on the other side – all at lightning fast speeds. Mind blowing.

How are we not constantly in a state of perpetual mind-blownness? It’s so easy to take for granted the modern conveniences and capabilities of technology. In fact, I even get so easily frustrated when something technological doesn’t work right or is “slow.” How dare I? 🙂 I ask that in jest, but really… how amazing, the world we live in.

I Want to Know What I Want.

I’ve never been one for goal setting; I don’t like it. I’ve always found it a daunting and tedious task. Perhaps I was over-analyzing it (psh, who, me?), or maybe I was just getting caught up in semantics (goal vs vision vs objective vs task vs …). Whatever the reason, I’ve only taken a real stab at writing out goals a couple of times, and the first set of goals grew stagnant and fell by the wayside after a short while.

But then I realized something: I want to know what I want.

Many of the successful, influential, and/or inspirational people I see around me share something in common: They know what they want. They’re working toward something. A goal. A vision. A dream.

I want that.

I’ve flown blind for most of my life, in a sense. I’ve had various goals and objectives here and there, but nothing all that concrete and life-defining. I knew I wanted to work in the information security industry, but I didn’t really know why or what I would do once I got there. I knew I loved working with kids, but I didn’t know what that had to do with my future beyond working in the children’s ministry at church. I knew I wanted something to do with protecting and serving others (think law enforcement ideals), but I didn’t know what to do about it. I knew I had entrepreneurial blood running through my veins, but I didn’t know what to do with that after dissolving my IT consulting business in favor of launching a full-time Information Security career. I knew I wanted to serve and honor God with my life, but I didn’t know what that translated to in practical terms. I didn’t really know what I wanted.

I would figure out little things here and there. I wanted to pay off all debt; I wanted to learn to ride (motorcycles); I wanted to get married and have a family; I wanted to de-clutter my life. But these things were haphazard and unstructured. It’s as if I was throwing a dart in the dark, and now and then a dart would hit somewhere on the dartboard, but I didn’t have enough light to make sense of it – the bigger picture.

This all changed for me a few months ago. Well, the realization has been in the making for a long time now, but things came to a head a few months ago when I suddenly saw goals in a different light.

I was in the process of trying to improve my time management strategy and practices (because I’m terrible with time management), and I was greatly inspired and motivated by a blog post about procrastinators (reader’s notice: contains instance of profanity) that resonated almost perfectly with me, and a time management strategy involving the Eisenhower Matrix, which I’d learned about before, but was revisiting again. While reading about the various aspects of the matrix, one site (I don’t remember which one) was explaining the difference between “Importance” and “Urgency”, something that had always hindered me from fully understanding and implementing the matrix in a meaningful way.

The part that finally clicked with me was this (in so many words):

  • Urgency has to do with things that need doing, such as paying bills, fixing the car, and taking a shower (you’re welcome, people I come into contact with).
  • Importance has to do with things that don’t need doing, but that are important to me – things that further my vision/mission/dreams in life.

Importance and Urgency can overlap, for sure (thus Quadrant 1 of the Eisenhower Matrix), but I realized that it’s imperative to differentiate between what’s important to me because it seems important (e.g. freakout because the car broke down) vs what is actually important. The question I suddenly found myself facing was: What is actually important to me?

Off the cuff, I could name some things that are important to me, such as loved ones and my relationship with God, but I’d never really sat down and intentionally sorted through everything that’s of highest importance to me in life. I decided it was time to do so.

This was not goal-setting. This was higher level highest level. This was vision definition. Mission evaluation. Life purpose analysis. Heavy stuff. Big stuff.

This was turning on the light and looking at where I’d been throwing darts up to that point, reviewing where they were hitting, and evaluating the board to figure out exactly what I should – and want – to aim at, and why. This was going toward the abstract, not the detailed.

I started listing out things that were really and truly important to me. What was most enriching to me? What had the most significance? What was I most passionate about? What do I want to invest my time and energy in?

The more I listed, the more I evaluated. I would reorganize things I was listing by being brutally honest with myself about what was more important to me and what I wanted most important, whether it presently was or not (based on how I was spending my time, energy, and resources). As I wrote things, I would ask myself, “What bigger picture concept is this thing really a part of?” I would then reword and sub-categorize things to get as high level as I could until I landed on one or two words that encompassed a major piece of the life importance pie.

For example, spending time with a particular friend is important to me. But what is that really a part of? Relational time with friends. But even higher? Relationships. Relationships are important to me.

From there, I could start breaking ‘Relationships’ down into sub-categories, such as ‘Family’ and ‘Friends’, and even further categories (sub-sub-categories) such as ‘Immediate Family’, ‘Close Extended Family’, and ‘Distant Extended Family’. (Don’t worry, friends who are like family; there’s a ‘Friemly’ sub-sub-category under ‘Friends’. 😉 )

Once I was two or three levels deep, goals suddenly made sense to me. They fit. They tied back to an overarching purpose – an overarching, abstract goal. Instead of the lower-level, specific goals being at the top of the mountain, which never worked for me, they became the map that showed me how to get to the top of the mountain. Every goal I created needed to fit under one of the overarching goals; if it didn’t, either it didn’t belong in my life or it was an indicator that I was missing an overarching goal.

*Cue enthusiastic typing, frantic cutting and pasting, and sense of clarity slowly coming into focus.*

I wound up defining six overarching goals, several sub-categories for each, and some sub-sub-categories and goals, as well.

It’s a work in progress, and my momentum took a hit due to some life things I won’t go into detail about, but I made significant progress. Suddenly, I felt like I was beginning to really understand what’s important to me, and I was able to start looking at my time and activities through that lens. The Eisenhower Matrix made much more sense to me, and I was able to start identifying certain activities as Q1 (Important & Urgent), Q2 (Important, but not Urgent), Q3 (Urgent, but not Important), and Q4 (Not Important & Not Urgent). This helped me to start making better choices with how I spent my time and what I invested myself in (time, energy, resources, etc). It also helped me realize that I needed to cut back in certain areas (which felt “bad”/”wrong” since the areas were, indeed, important to me) so I could invest more in other areas that were also important to me (e.g. balancing priorities).

I want to know what I want. And now, I am much closer to knowing what that is than I ever have been.

Air.

We think of air as nothing when really it is a lot of something.

When wind blows, it is invisible atoms colliding with other atoms and molecules.

When a gust of wind hits you, it is a bunch of invisible atoms punching you in the face.

When you walk around, you are constantly pushing invisible atoms out of your way.

When an airplane experiences turbulence, it is a bunch of invisible atoms not getting out of the way fast enough.

When you breath, you are repeatedly pulling and pushing atoms into and out of your lungs.

Air is like the amniotic fluid of the born.

Bits of Rice.

A million years ago, when I first had the idea for this post, I was eating curry from a to-go container, and when I finished, I left bits of rice behind because it would have been inconvenient to get each individual grain, and I was full/satisfied.

It occurred to me in that moment that someone with little or no food would have seen those bits of rice in a very different light than I did; he or she would eat and value every last little piece. Why do I take them for granted?

Abundance.

Abundance leads to taking things for granted. I dare say this is a law of human nature. (Or maybe it’s just our culture/society. Or just me. I really don’t know.) I don’t like it. Why is it such a struggle to savor and appreciate things at a granular level of detail. It’s so easy to let things pass me by. To spend hours with a loved one while missing the depth and richness of the experience and relationship. To sip a delicious beverage and gulp it down without a second thought. To see a sunset without really appreciating and contemplating its beauty.

I don’t like it.

I live in a prosperous country, and, net worth aside, I am wealthy. By that, I mean this: I have access to modern conveniences, comforts, and countless options for lifestyles, foods, drinks, clothes, recreational activities, etc. It’s incredible when you think about the kinds of limitations and hardships others in the world face – including others in the same prosperous country in which I live.

I’m reminded of the movie, “Jungle 2 Jungle“. The main character’s son, Mimi-Siku, who was raised in a legit jungle, comes to New York, and he’s blown away by all he sees and experiences. All the new experiences, conveniences, fancy living… and then I think of how, in the busy pace of life, I can be so focused on getting from point A to point B, I don’t even take time to soak in and appreciate the things around me. I want to be more like Mimi-Siku and treat every experience like it’s a new one.

There are bits of rice in all of our lives. Every time you sit in your favorite comfy chair. Every time you hug your loved ones. Every time you tell someone you love them. Every time someone smiles at you. Every time you eat a meal. Every time you take a step. Every time you become aware of your own beating heart and breathing. All of it. Bits of rice. An abundance of truly amazing things and experiences that we take for granted because we’re so used to them. Some things are so commonplace, we practically forget they’re there.

Loose change, for someone not facing financial hardship, can be like bits of rice left sitting around. Where as, for someone scraping pennies, loose change could mean food for their family.

Moments with loved ones can be like bits of rice. Maybe you see someone so often, you don’t take time to appreciate the time you have with them. Not to depress you, but think, just for a second, how you would feel if that person were suddenly gone. Savor those relational bits of rice. Don’t let abundance pull you into a mindset of taking things for granted.

Cherish every last bit of rice. Take nothing for granted.

I make a conscious effort, when I think of it, to cherish a moment I’m in. Whether it be taking a bite of tasty food, hanging out with a close friend, sipping a delicious scotch, or listening to a favorite song – I soak it up. It takes focus and intentionality. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it. The problem is, I so often don’t think to savor the moment. I wish I did it more often.

I have never once regretted savoring and cherishing a good moment. I regret the times I haven’t.

Don’t take the bits of rice in life for granted. Savor them. Value them. Cherish them. Appreciate them. Soak them in.

Path Forward.

Just because you don’t see a path forward doesn’t mean one isn’t there.

Just because you don’t see a path forward to financial freedom doesn’t mean one isn’t there.

Just because you don’t see a path forward to freedom from addiction doesn’t mean one isn’t there.

Just because you don’t see a path forward to parenthood doesn’t mean one isn’t there.

Just because you don’t see a path forward to a super-intelligent AI (reader’s notice: contains profanity) doesn’t mean one isn’t there.

Just because you don’t see a path forward to a zombie apocalypse……

Just because you don’t see a path forward doesn’t mean one isn’t there.

But. #2

In the first post about the word, “but”, oh-so-cleverly titled, “But.“, I shared my thoughts about use of the word and its “inherent negativity”, yada yada blah blah. <== Tired laziness, not indifference. Go read the post. Every word in this sentence links to the post, so you have no excuse for not having a way to go read/skim it in lieu of me providing a worthwhile summary. (That took far more effort than it would have taken to actually write a decent summary.)

One of my closing thoughts of the first post was this:

I’ll leave you with this: I’m not convinced the use of “but” is something to avoid entirely, and I’m not convinced it’s not.

Since then, I’ve found myself settling more on this side of the fence: “it’s not [something to avoid entirely].”

My sister commented:

I think “never using it” is just another form of linguistic elitism…

I can see where she’s coming from. While I don’t think someone with that stance is inherently a linguistic elitist or has such intentions, I do understand her sentiment. i.e. I see how someone evangelizing a “never use it” stance could be coming from a position of linguistic elitism.

That’s neither here nor there. The point is this: I don’t think “never use it” is the best approach. I think the best approach is: “Be aware of your use of it.”

Awareness. A recurring theme in my life. Something to discuss in a separate post, perhaps.

In the context of “but”, the part of my journey that had the biggest impact on me was not the elimination of the word, but the awareness of my use of it.

The positive change I experienced in my life came from being aware of my attitude and the overall positivity or negativity of what I was saying and how I chose to say it. “But” served as a catalyst for this heightened awareness, but “but” was not the root cause. “But” was a means to an end. The end being awareness.

So, I think the dust has settled, and I find myself continuing to use “but”, but with an increased awareness, which is a net positive gain. That’s a win in my book.

My friend, Katelynn, recently shared with me some thoughts on how she found that “but” “can be useful when negating a negative”, and how, instead of eliminating “but”, we can “just revise our sentences and flip them around.” The example she gave was:

Instead of: “That band was really great, but the drummer needs to tighten up.”
You could say: “That drummer really needs to tighten up, but they were really great.”

To paraphrase Katelynn, by swapping the elements of the sentence around, you negate the negative, creating a positive.

In that example, it wouldn’t really make sense to use “and” instead of “but” (in either of the two variations of the sentence). It wouldn’t read well / sound natural, in my opinion.

But but but but but. I’m tired, but I don’t want to go to bed. I’m tired, and I don’t want to go to bed. Does it really make that much of a difference? Who knows. I’m too tired to form any more opinions on the matter.

Awareness. That’s the key.

But.

My cousin, Mark, brain ninja’d me when he was visiting with me earlier this year, and it changed my life.


Brain Ninja
/
brān ˈninjə/

verb
     
1. To subtly and/or profoundly alter someone’s thinking, especially unbeknownst to said someone.

noun
     1. One who subtly and/or profoundly alters someone’s thinking, especially unbeknownst to said someone.


Mark and I were discussing psychology-related things while walking downtown, and he shared with me something that his mentor taught him. Apparently, his mentor hadn’t used the word “but” in over six years.

I didn’t believe him at first. Naturally, being the inquisitive skeptic that I am, I asked, Why?

Mark explained some of his mentor’s reasons, and started making a case for why words like “but” carry with them, in most use cases, an inherent negativity – albeit often a subtle one. Allow me to elaborate.

Inherent Negativity

“But” is a dismissive word. It’s “this instead of that.” It’s like saying, “Ignore what I just said; what follows is what really matters.” It asks you to take your eyes off of something and look in another direction. It makes the “talk to the hand” gesture to what precedes it and points at what follows it. “But” is, as far as more suitably being described as positive or negative goes, negative – even when something positive follows.

It’s a subtle, and often unintentional, negativity. Think about this example:

“I understand how you feel, but…”

It doesn’t even matter what comes after “but”. As soon as “but” enters the picture, it reduces the sincerity and value of the preceding thought. The speaker wants his audience to feel understood and/or validated. The problem is, “but” dismisses that validation as soon as it’s out of the gate.

What, Then?

Using the same example above, what would my cousin and his mentor suggest I say, instead?

Replace “but” with “and”:

“I understand how you feel, and…”

Do you hear the difference? Do you feel the difference? “And” is additive. It’s “this along with that.” It’s like saying, “What I just said matters, and so does what follows.” It asks you to keep your eyes on something and watch what comes along side it. It places what precedes it in one open palm and what follows it in the other. “And” is, as far as more suitably being described as positive or negative goes, positive – even when something negative follows.

My cousin’s mentor asserted that there is no instance where “but” is a better choice than “and”. Or, inversely phrased, that there is no instance where “and” is not a functional substitute for “but”.

Some Thoughts: “Positive” vs. “Negative”

All of this isn’t to say that what follows “but” or “and” is guaranteed to be negative or positive, respectively. For example:

“He was rushing to catch his train, but he missed it.”

-vs-

“He was rushing to catch his train, but found a briefcase full of money, instead.”

The first has a negative outcome, the second, a positive one. It’s the conjunction that’s inherently negative or positive in nature. Substitute “and” for “but”:

“He was rushing to catch his train, and he missed it.”

-vs-

“He was rushing to catch his train, and found a briefcase full of money, instead.”

Same outcomes, different overall aura of negativity, subtle as it may be.

Some Objections

You may be shaking your head and thinking, “This is stupid.” If so, I understand how you feel, but… 😉

As my cousin and I discussed this seemingly absurd idea, I raised some objections.

Admittedly, I recognized how “and” differed from “but” in a subtle way, and how using “and” in a sensitive conversation involving someone’s feelings may very well be the better choice. That was the extent of my agreement.

Here are some objections I had:

  • I thought, “There’s no way ‘and’ can work in place of ‘but’ in every possible case.”

I had trouble finding an example where the rule of thumb didn’t hold true.

  • I thought, “‘But’ is also used to draw contrast between two things; that’s not negative!”

This is true. This is where it got weird.

I realized that even though drawing contrast is not negative, contrast can still be drawn with “and” as a connector, and “but”‘s inherent magnetism for the negative somehow disqualified it as the better option. Ever.

My ‘But’-tastic Journey

Honestly, I was opposed to the idea my cousin was presenting. I thought it was ridiculous. It was as if some part of me was offended by the claim. And simultaneously, I was intrigued.

Almost immediately I began noticing when I’d use ‘but’. It suddenly stuck out like a sore thumb. While I wasn’t a “believer”, I couldn’t help but (<– I’ll address this later) think through what he had told me each and every time I caught myself using “but”.

I slowly started realizing how “and” really was an acceptable alternative, and how the overall aura of things I wanted to communicate was affected by switching from “but” to “and”. Sometimes the effect was so minor, I questioned if it was even present. Other times, switching to “and” profoundly changed the “feel” of what I was saying.

One thing that really blew my mind was how this thought process affected my construction of sentences. In some instances, attempting to change “but” to “and” would lead me to completely reword my sentence. Whether breaking up a sentence into more than one thought or simply reorganizing the sentence flow to eliminate “but”, the changes were always positive. I could find no complaint with the end results.

As much as that little part of me didn’t want to accept what I was experiencing, I ultimately came to embrace the notion of refraining from using “but”. That being said, I’m not as hardcore about it as my cousin’s mentor with his alleged six year of abstinence; I still use it here and there – sometimes out of sheer laziness and habit, and other times because I think it’s the better choice (I may be wrong).

The most mind blowing part of this journey was seeing how the whole thing affected my entire perspective of myself, others, and circumstances. I kid you not; exploring the notion of eliminating “but” from my vocabulary fundamentally changed my perspective on life.

I started recognizing subtle differences in the overall “polarity” of things involving both myself and people around me. Regardless of whether or not “but” was being used in a given situation, it was as if I had become more sensitive – no, aware – of “positivity” and “negativity” in general. It was weird. It still is.

The most meaningful aspect was becoming more aware of the degree of positivity and negativity in myself. My thought life, my attitudes, what I brought to a situation or conversation, how I interacted with someone, how I processed an experience… and more. I started choosing my words and actions more carefully, and I focused on being intentional about gravitating toward positivity whenever I could.

All of it happened because of a simple concept communicated to me by my cousin during a casual downtown stroll.

Watch Out for the Masqueraders

As I attempted to eliminate “but”, I found myself trying to substitute other words in besides “and”. Words such as “however”, “yet”, “except”, and “although”. I learned that these are simply words masquerading as “but”. They’re “but”‘s cousins, and should be treated as such.

Exceptions

Earlier, I used “but” in the following sentence:

“While I wasn’t a “believer”, I couldn’t help but think through what he had told me each and every time I caught myself using “but”.”

This is an example of an occurrence where I’m “at peace” with using “but”. 🙂 Call me a traitor if you want; in my opinion, in such an instance, it serves as an expression devoid of a positive or negative quality.

For the sake of intellectual exercise, here’s how I might change the above sentence to eliminate “but”:

“While I wasn’t a “believer”, I couldn’t help it; I was compelled to think through what he had told me each and every time I caught myself using “but”.”

-or-

“While I wasn’t a “believer”, I found myself compelled to think through what he had told me each and every time I caught myself using “but”.”

-or-

“While I wasn’t a “believer”, I still thought through what he had told me each and every time I caught myself using “but”.”

You get the idea.

Even though I allow exceptions in my own use of “but”, the exceptions themselves act as a flag to remind me to consider the positive and negative nature of what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. So even in that way, my accepted use of “but” still serves as a way to keep my linguistic “polarity” in check.

Final Thoughts

I’ll leave you with this: I’m not convinced the use of “but” is something to avoid entirely, and I’m not convinced it’s not.

On one hand, I can’t deny the positive effects my semi-prohibition of “but” has had on me. On the other hand, I like using “but”, and I think there are instances where it delivers a linguistic punch that no other word can achieve. There must be a balance – a middle ground.

Perhaps the value of this journey is the heightened awareness of positivity and negativity I’ve gained, and perhaps the journey itself is more important than the intended goal. Perhaps, as with filtering water, the impurities of subtle negativity are being removed, and what will eventually be left is a refined understanding and use of the word “but”.

Here’s an interesting/fun challenge: In the comments, post examples of sentences that you think only work with “but”, and I’ll see if I can come up with an acceptable alternative.

Life-Changing Passwords.

I read an article (reader’s notice: contains language) about how a man turned passwords into an instrument to bring about life change, and I decided to give it a try.

It changed my life.

For those of you who don’t read the article, here’s the basic idea: take a password you use regularly and change it to something that represents a goal you’d like to accomplish or a change you’d like to bring about in your life. For example, you could change your computer password to CLEAN*RoOm@Da!ly or cReat3_Deb+_P@yoffPLAN.

The idea is to put the goal in front of your mind’s eye multiple times a day, forcing you to think about said goal more often than you otherwise would. There’s also an added bonus of helping you remember your password. By tying it to something important, meaningful, and purposeful, you – warning: highly scientific explanation ahead – reinforce magical brain stuff that helps you with recall.

Once you achieve the goal, rinse and repeat. The technique is quite simple, and surprisingly effective. I’ve used it for several months now, and it’s worked each time.

Sometimes it takes longer than others to bring about change. When you factor fear, procrastination, and laziness into the mix, your mileage may vary.

So far I’ve used this technique to:

  • Achieve a goal related to combating a particularly bad habit.
  • Get on a better and more consistent sleep schedule.
  • (current) Work toward achieving a personal goal related to my job.
  • And I think there was one other thing somewhere in there; it’s not coming to mind at the moment. (Must not have been that important, eh? 😛 )

The most life-impacting change so far was the second bullet: Getting on a better sleep schedule. I’ve tracked my sleep patterns for many months now (with an Android app called SleepBot), and my “hours of sleep per night” graph has looked like an erratic EKG until recently. What changed? My password.

I changed my work password to one that constantly reminded me of when I needed to start heading to bed to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Every time I entered that password, I thought about my goal. I thought about how I had or hadn’t achieved it the previous night, and I thought about what I’d do to try achieving it the coming night. It took a while to work – or, to consistently bring about the target change; I was constantly procrastinating and fighting my night owl tendencies.

Finally, after several weeks, discipline kicked in, and I started heading to bed at a consistent time. I made myself commit to doing it for at least a week, and the payoff was well worth it.

Could I have brought about that life change some other way? Certainly. For me, the password technique put me face-to-face with my goal almost every hour of every work day, and it was that constant reminder that finally gave me the boost I needed to take action.

It was like a mental drip that slowly eroded away the psychological and emotional obstacles standing in my way.

Go ahead; give it a try. Let me know in the comments if it works for you. And remember: make sure to generate secure passwords. Don’t just create a password like SaveUpForTrip. Make it long, add special characters, mix up the case of letters, add unpredictable variety, etc. In fact, I recommend checking out this post from Bruce Schneier on ‘Choosing Secure Passwords’. He explains a great technique for turning a passphrase into a secure password.

And don’t use the passwords I’ve used as examples in this post; now that they’re on the Internet, they aren’t considered secure. 😉