Incentive driven motivation

Yesterday, while doing some yard work I went into the back yard to handle some massive overgrowth in our lawn. Completely disgusted with our yard, and utterly frustrated with the growth of the grass that my push mower just could not cut, I decided that the yard would just have to wait a little while so I could focus on the front of my house.

My 12 year old daughter, Rebekah, had other plans. Always the entrepreneur, she actually offered to cut the grass for a mere $10. To which I promptly replied “thanks, but no thanks”. I was of the opinion that the grass was maybe a $3 job since I had already cut some of it and the lawn is not that spread out.

So Rebekah sweetened the deal a little bit, offering to not only cut the grass but straighten up the patio. After much back and forth over price and what the work would cover for that price, we agreed on the following:

  • Cut the grass
  • Clean up all dog poop
  • Clean up all trash
  • Straighten up all patio furniture and toys
  • Clean up the tan bark areas
  • Sweep the patio and sidewalks
  • Do it all within three hours (from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM)

And the cost? $15, as agreed upon by the two of us, which to Rebekah was a bargain and to me was a steal.

So while I was out in the front yard working up a sweat she was out in the backyard earning her money. And you know what? For her, I discovered, money is an excellent incentive.

She managed to accomplish everything on the list of things to do (with the exception of cutting the grass completely, but this was no fault of hers). And she did it in two hours, not three. I was so impressed by her work ethic, her focus and her quality of work that I actually paid her $20 for doing such a fine job.

Looking back on this, I know there is a lesson in this. I could have asked the kids, all of the kids – you know, the ones that made that mess? – to clean the yard they helped dishevel. And I would have saved myself $20 in the process. But Rebekah, who has no problem working for her earnings approached me with a proposition of services rendered in exchange for payment. And ultimately it was that payment that drive her to accomplish such an impressive amount of quality in her work.

So if I take anything away from this, outside a clean yard of course, it will be that with the proper incentive, almost anyone can accomplish almost anything.

Banished to the working chair

Last night, while the family and I settled in to watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I decided to try to redeem some much needed work time and code while we watched it. So I took my position on the couch, opened my laptop and began to work. A few seconds later I heard “If you’re going to work, can you sit in the chair instead of on the couch?”.

The chair is not at all in front of the TV. In fact, it is to the side of the TV, so watching TV from the chair is not ever going to happen without serious neck pain afterward. So I asked “Is that my punishment for working during the movie?”. To which I was responded to with “No, I just don’t want you to take up space on the couch that the kids who are actually watching the movie could use.”. That made senses to me, since our couches are kinda small and in order for all seven us to sit on them we almost invariably have to have a child or two on either my lap or my wife’s lap. So I switched seats.

As I worked from my chair of solitude I was able to see my family sitting on our couches, all comfy and not squished, laughing at the movie and generally enjoying themselves. It was a scene to behold, momma with all her kids at her side, the glow of the TV reflecting off their faces, the small smiles every now and again creeping from their faces. There was one scene in particular, which I cannot recall since I could not see the TV, that really touched me in which all five of the kids and my wife chuckled and let out a corporate “Awwwww”. It was at that moment that I realized how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family to work as hard as I do for.

Yes, I would have loved to have been able to sit with them and enjoy the movie. Times being what they are, I had to work last night. For them. Because they are worth it, they deserve it and I love them enough to work for them. So my time on my little punishment of a chair was well spent, in my opinion, if even for a short time. And I’d do it again if necessary, though I hope the necessity of that will not show itself. Still, I work because I love them and want the best for them.

Perhaps next time I will be able to spend that time on the couches with my family.

Working works

Today I had to be accountable. This is something that I should be doing anyway, but it just had to be done today. And the coolest thing is that it allowed me to reap a grand harvest.

Today my wife and daughter had a scheduled outing. This meant that I had a morning home with my four other kids. It also meant that the promise I made to handle some of my “honey do” list items needed to be honored.

So I set out this morning to fetch some things I needed for some of the fixes and such that I needed to make today. I bought wooden stakes, some light bulbs, light switches, light switch plates, nails, a rake, some duct tape and some Vaseline. Ok, I didn’t buy duct tape and Vaseline. 😉

I got home from the store and made some breakfast and got started. And I worked it. Hard.

I trimmed the bottle brush trees on the side of our driveway. I raked the little patch of yard below the bottle brush. I trimmed some street level bushes. I trimmed a bush in the tan bark patch near my garage. I straightened up that tan bark. I pulled some weeds in the yard. I removed some dead bushes to clear a path for living plants to grow. I fixed some bender boards in the back yard. And I replaced two switches in my kitchen that needed to be replaced.

Do I tell you all of this to tempt you to pat me on the back? Not at all. I tell you this because I really, really didn’t want to do it. But I had made a promise to my wife that this weekend I would take care of some of the things that she has been waiting a very long time to be handled. She has been exceptionally patient, and very gracious, and I have been very nonchalant in my promises. It was time. She had waited long enough and I had gone back on my word long enough.

Men, there is a lesson in this for you. If you tell your wife you are going to do something, do it. Don’t whine, don’t make excuses, don’t not do it. Just get it done. My wife was very appreciative of me taking care of these things. And I was happy to do them. I didn’t want to actually do these things. But I wanted to show my wife that I am her man, that when I say I am going to do something I do it, and that she means enough to me to be honest and accountable to her.

Yeah, it was only a little fixing up and cleaning up here and there. But it allowed me to cross a few things off the list of things that need to be handled. And it also allowed me be a man to my wife. I love doing that.

And you want to know a wonderful side benefit to all of this? I lost four pounds today. How awesome is that? Heck, I may just spend all winter doing some kind of physical on the weekends. It’s almost like a trip to the gym without all the meat heads, gym rats and expensive memberships.

Spending some work time bonding

Today I had the awesome pleasure of spending a few hours working. I know, that doesn’t sound right. The truth is I wasn’t happy so much about the work but that company that I had with me. My oldest daughter, Sarah, who is in Junior High but seems to have the homework load of a college Senior, was with me.

We had planned this out for a while because she has struggled somewhat in getting her homework done on time. When I asked her why she was having a hard time she told me that she was having trouble staying focused on the work she was supposed to be doing. Like father, like daughter, I guess.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I spent a few hours at a local coffee shop drinking coffee and coding. And I was able to accomplish great things that day. It was quiet, for the most part, peaceful and there were no interruptions. So I figured that if it was good for me that day then it would be good for both Sarah and I today.

We got up early, packed our backpacks and headed out the door for a nice brisk walk up the street to Mission Coffee. We got there, set up shop at the big table and got cracking. It was nice to be there with her, too. Even though we didn’t talk much while we were there we did get a good bit of talking time in while walking there and walking home. So altogether we had about 40 minutes of daddy/daughter time this morning on our way to work. And work we did.

After only three hours or so we were ready to call it a day. Well, we were ready to come home. I still had a boat load of work to do but that was besides the point.

The nice thing was that in just a few hours this morning she was able to get a ton of homework done and I was able to get through quite a bit of stuff that needed my attention. I wasn’t able to get it all done and I still needed to work for several hours after coming home and making a call to a client. But overall it was a nice experience for both Sarah and I. And it is one that I think I will be trying to do again until at least the end of this school year.

Coffee, WiFi and coding

Today I had the pleasure of working. I know, that sounds really weird, but it is true. It was a pleasure. The reason it was pleasurable is because I was able to work outside of the home in a fairly quiet place that served all the coffee I could drink for $1.50.

Thanks to Mission Coffee and their free WiFi internet connection I was able to spend about three and half hours working on a project that I have spent entirely too much time on already but seriously needs to get done. It was clean, quiet, conducive to programming work and, well, it had coffee. Lots of it. And it was only $1.50 for never ending cup.

It was a nice feeling to get out of the house today. Usually as I am at home working I get derailed by the screams of children fighting or someone needing something. Being out meant that the distractions that I am faced with at home were virtually non-existent (save for guy that sat behind me and talked to himself in a quasi-farci-spanish mix). I had an entire table to myself, off in a little corner, where I wasn’t messed with by anyone. Mostly.

After about three and half hours I was asked to move because the wall I was sitting next to was getting artwork hung on it. As soon as I stood up I realized that it was time to get home. It just seemed right to be done at the time. And I have no regrets. The day was productive, the environment was nice and the coffee was great.

So if you are ever in Fremont and need a coffee joint to sit at and spend some time on the Internet, hit up Mission Coffee. You’ll be glad you did.

Work it like a man

Oh that I would be a man and do the things that men do.

Robert Gonzalez

I have so wanted, as of late, to stop being a wimpy, cowardly, weak male and become the strong, dominating, adventurous, aggressive man that I was created to be. And for the most part I have begun this transformation, authoritatively, taking back what I should never have surrendered to begin with. And I have found that with this step toward exercising my authority, dominance (as a person, not as a man over someone) and power that I have also been faced with challenges designed to poster me to to that very thing.

What I mean by that is that I have felt the need recently to display my strength to myself. My physical strength, the stuff that comes out of the broad shoulders, large legs and muscles that God gave me. As I man I have been created strong and I believe that is for a purpose. But a purpose in design is nothing more than an idea if it is not put into practice. It is my intention to put my design into practice as often as I can and with that shatter the notion of what I used to be when being a man was not a priority to me.

To that end I have decided recently that I needed to begin the handle the management of the finance in our home. If you have ever read any of my more recent entries you would know that our finances are pretty unstable right now. There are a number of reasons for this and to be honest, I do not see Sandi handling the finances as a reason at all. I would say that any real man would take responsibility for ceding that role to his wife.

Now hear me as well as you can… I am not saying a woman cannot handle finances. Lord knows there are plenty of men out there that have put their women necessarily into the position of financial manager of the home. But I have to say that even though my wife is skilled at handling a checkbook and several bank accounts, it is my calling as the head of our home to handle that, very often stressful, responsibility. I am the hunter, the gatherer, the conqueror, the killer. My wife is the preparer, the tender, the handler of the kill. Together we are the consumers of both my work and hers. I believe it is my role to ensure that my wife has all of the tools the she needs to do her work adequately and effectively. It is my place as a builder to build her a platform upon which she can live out her calling.

To that end I am now in charge of management of the finances. Not blindly and in complete isolation. To the contrary, we are both involved intimately in the finances, we both know where we stand daily and we both are aware of what is coming up. The difference now is that I am making the hard, sometimes painful decisions that were really entirely too heavy a burden for my wife to carry for so long and she is supporting me in that.

So after church this morning my wife gave me some time alone to get the finances and accounting log in order and then we talked about it. I had to come to some pretty hard decisions and some pretty inevitable conclusions, but it felt good to do something I am supposed to do. Even Sandi told me that she is feeling better with this change. How can you not when you begin to fulfill your purpose?

Later on during the day I was working on something for a client. Lord knows we need the money something awful and this project has gotten so sidetracked by things in my personal life and the busy-ness of my client. It needs to be done, both the work and the project, and I need to get it done. I am a worker and builder after all. This is what I do. And I was doing it. And something came up. Something that needed my manliness at that moment.

My two older daughters’ bunk beds needed to be put together.

One of the funnest things a man can do is use tools of any sort and physical strength to forcible manipulate those tools. We love that kind of stuff. So much so that some men go into trades that require that daily. My friend Ray is a prime example. He is millwright. He gets to break stuff, build stuff, work on stuff, work with tools, get dirty, get bloody knuckles… the full gamut, daily. I write web applications. I still get to use tools, but not the kind that put the feel of cold steel into a burly hand and demand that the steel be wielded. So when I get that chance I run to it.

I was able to take apart my two daughters’ beds and reassemble them in a way that allowed me to stack them. The I had to assemble the rails and what not so that Sarah doesn’t fall on her face in the middle of the night. Then, the coup de grâce was that I had to coordinate the lifting of the upper bed onto the lower bed and move the assembled bunk into position on the wall that we decided to put it on. Outstanding. I haven’t worked like that, physically, in a long time. And it felt great.

After this I was a little tired (from waking up early primarily, I will explain that in a day or two) and from all the other activity this weekend. But it felt good to use my physique for its designed purpose. And it felt good to be tired because of physical exertion. I needed that. In more ways than one.