Building Tom

I’ve been engaged in a lot of deep reflection of late.


Maybe it’s the change of seasons. When I look back at a lifetime of notes on Being Tom or Becoming Tom, I notice I get a little more reflective towards the end of the year. That’s natural then, I guess.

The oldest entry in my Evernotes is from April 2013, however, and it says “find purpose.” Following those two words is a list and a paragraph, I assume both lifted from some book or another. For reference sake, this was three years before the original TBT. It says:

  1. Superior ability that other people notice in value

  2. We love doing it and want to do it as much as possible.

  3. It is energizing for us and the people around us.

  4. We keep getting better.

It’s an interesting list and I can project a few things in my life into it these days. For example, I have a superior ability to drink beer, I love doing it as much as possible, it is energizing to me and people drinking beer with me and, with practice, I could probably learn to do it better.

But do you people notice any value in it? 😉

The paragraph below that says this:

“First of all DON’T ASK OTHERS what to do with your life. You will only hear what they want you to do. If you can’t find an answer within yourself, just keep thinking about it, and clear your mind frequently through meditation. Even if you can’t seem to find an answer, LIVE THE QUESTION.”

Now that I read that I think I remember the book. “Three Simple Steps” or something like that. At that time in my life I was looking for that elusive “one big thing” that lends us our purpose, focuses our attention and propels us into a life of overwhelming success. Within a couple of years I realized “one big thing” was not for me.

Before Evernotes there were spiral notebooks. I have a stack of them in a nook in the hutch to the right of my computer. Every morning I used to pull out the current spiral and make notes about Tom or direction or life or what have you. The oldest entry in the oldest one is from September of 2005.

What does it say?

I’m glad you asked.

At the top left of the page it says “Week of 9/25.” Below that is a short list of to-dos: clean office, order contacts, setup satellite service. That last one is weird because I had been living in the house I was living in then for a year and a half and certainly had satellite service already (or I would have missed the entire 2004 football season). But let’s not hover on details, eh?

To the right of that list is another list. I’m an incurable list person. “Things I Need,” it says. A treadmill. Some free weights. A palm pilot. A mission. Yes, it really does say “a mission.” That one is circled. The palm pilot is crossed out. The other two are still pending.

But below that is another list. Yeah, I know. But it is the most curious of them all, because it lists updates beneath it from November 2005, February 2006, August 2006, and May of 2007. This list is titled “Things I Want To Know More About.”






From the updates: futurism, politics, culture myths, psychology.

So unlike 2013, in 2005-2007 I fancied myself more of a polymath than, say, a virtuoso. No one big thing for me; I wanted to be a jack of all and master of none.

Ah, but that purpose. That mission. It makes all the lists.

I’ve been engaged in a lot of deep reflection of late. This reflection has been geared towards management of time, of which there seems to be so precious little these days. I’ve been listing priorities, not just small ones but large ones. Sure, fixing the sink stopper in the bathroom where I keep losing contacts is a big one but self-improvement is every bit as important as home-improvement. And like home-improvement self-improvement never ends. We are never “there.” The last project is never crossed off. As we make progress we find more things that need attention.

In December of 2013 there is an Evernote that says “The Next 10 Things.” Listed beneath it, as you can imagine, are ten things.

  1. Read every day for 20 minutes

  2. Learn to Code

  3. Invest in the stock market

  4. Meditate

  5. Write

  6. Take naps

  7. Practice brain exercises

  8. Go dry

  9. Explore spirituality

  10. Stay up on current events

My latest entry has 11 and is called “Priorities”:

  1. Walking, Exercise

  2. Improving Work, Making Work Mine

  3. Self-Improvement

  4. Getting Organized, at work and home

  5. Home Improvement (list)

  6. Unleashing (planning, updating, gaming)

  7. Social (text, see, FB, twitter)

  8. Reading (books, articles, news, comics, newscafe, blogs)

  9. Blogging

  10. Football (Rams, fantasy, Madden)

  11. Games (Civ, Democracy)

I never did learn to code. I could probably stand to have a dry spell still. I skipped 1-8 this morning and went straight to priority #9. Nobody’s perfect. But the act of listing definitely helps me focus, even if I don’t follow the list.

It is the 4th of October in the year 2019. I’ve been engaged in a lot of deep reflection of late. I don’t see that ending anytime soon. That’s what I do, what I’ve always done. Find Tom. Improve him. That’s the best that I can do.

Now I think I’ll go cross that circled “mission” off my 2005 list.

And maybe buy a treadmill.

19 thoughts on “Building Tom

  1. Tom, the gift of the evolved person is the ability to self evaluate and make adjustments. You are not just existing, you are living, And the fact that while you are existing you are still interested in improving yourself makes you the most desirable of people to be around. I hope you never stop doing this. Your existence has improved my own…how about that?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the kindest and greatest think I’ve ever heard, as a matter of fact. My sincere hope, always, is that constant search for self-improvement not only makes me a better me, but helps others in some way, too. Thank you, Bill. Every day is a test and an adventure. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The treadmill is an interesting, and useful, reminder that it takes a lot of effort just to remain in place, and what you can accomplish if you redirect that effort to something else.
    There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I can’t quite seem to reach it, and offering any advice would be contrary the purpose. So, lacking words of my own, I’ll borrow some from the singer Dave Davies and one of my favorite songs:
    And if I feel tomorrow like I feel today
    We’ll take what we want and give the rest away.
    Strangers on this road we are on,
    We are not two, we are one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A beautiful homage to my supposition, dear friend. And you’re right, the treadmill is a metaphor for moving but going nowhere. But it is also a tool for self-improvement, as exercise improves both the body and the mind. Sometimes we have to stay in one place to find our true direction. I think that makes sense, you tell me. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Need a lifeline? When, in your journey, you cannot go forward I will carry you. But not across the sand like Jesus does in the poem because the sand is hard to travel through and my back still hurts from building that shed. Ah, you don’t need me, anyway. Living is better than thinking most of the time which is why I have a 20/80 balance of thinking to living and a lot of beer.

      Still, I like the answers I have found so far. Maybe I ought to make it 30/70?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would say your superior ability (that other people notice in value, love doing, getting better at) is this: listening. Yes, listening! You are incredible at it Tom! In terms of you being a blogger/reader, I would say your ability to absorb information, understand it critically and communicate that to the author earnestly is an incredibly precious gift you have Tom! Judging by your always engaging, deep-thinking, smart, kind comments section (among the warmest I have seen in the often cold blogging world) other people are inspired by this rare gift you have and want to get better at it too (myself included).

    As to “finding your purpose”, based on your actions, I would say “goal achievement” in and of itself is your purpose. However, since you keep course-correcting, changing goals, reassessing, making new lists, it seems you are definitely on a search, a continuous search for that elusive purpose…perhaps something worthy of all these efforts. This is something I also admire and identify with, keep going Tom!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That may be the most inspiring response yet, my friend! You’re right, I’m never satisfied with being “here” even if I spent years in arriving. As I said yesterday in my private journal I am at the best place in my entire life. Love at home. A home I love. A great job I enjoy going to. A chance to write. Hell, even the Rams are competitive. Whatever gods there be, if there be gods, they have smiled upon me in my late 40s/early 50s. I will not take for granted what I have.

      But neither will I be done. There is still work to do. Love needs nurturing. We are never “finished” in our personal growth. My purpose is that quest, and that quest is never-ending.

      I would say your ability to listen, absorb, understand, and communicate is at least the equal of mine, and I appreciate it greatly. Thank you, MP!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ignore MyDang, go on and learn to code. Skip Java, c# or the other 4GLs and learn JavaScript and what’s called Vue. If, on the other hand, you want to explore data through analytics, python is a great language. And here’s another reason to learn Python: You can learn about the stock market AND learn Python. Coding is brain candy, when you get past a certain threshold.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom,
    Another list maker! Yay! Me too. The items on my lists are far more mundane than “find a purpose. ” Do you enjoy reading? If you haven’t read these two books before, they’re fairly short: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Illusions by Richard Bach. I think they might intrigue you on your journey. BTW, there’s something about building–it seems to me that building a shed might have brought forth some interesting philosophical thoughts on life and living. If so, I’m all ears, my friend! Thanks for sharing!🙂 Mona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, I do love to read! I’ve read Frankl, great book. I’ll put Bach on my list. I read more political stuff these days than self-improvement stuff, but I went through a ten-year phase where I read every positive psychology book I could get my hands on! I love Csikszentmihalyi and have read a couple of his books (Flow, The Evolving Self) more than once. In fact, I intend to read TES again soon, as it always gives me new perspective every time I read it, since I have generally evolved from the last time that I had. 😁

      More philosophy to come. It seems I’m always building these days!

      Liked by 1 person

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