Crummy Paintings

Back ~20 years ago, I took up painting. Fun hobby.

The problem with taking up painting is that you sorta end up with a lot of paintings you can’t use. I mean, you hang up a dozen paintings and eventually you run out of wall space.

So I started selling ’em. The town I lived in had a pretty great farmers market, and they let near anyone in there, so I set up a small table and for a few weekends, I was pitching my “If Bob Ross had cataracts” style of paintings.

Vivian. Tall lady, with a huge hat that made her look massive. Sparkly thick pink glasses. Had a hoarse laugh and deep laugh lines like she had laughed for years. Sparse red hair and equally sparse teeth. Talked with me for an hour about her kids, her grandkids, her dead husband, and her deadbeat brother. 

To this day, she is only person to this day I’ve ever heard say the word “deadbeat” out loud. 

She really liked this ONE painting that I had not been able to even GIVE away. And I really wanted this sale.

She held the painting and stared at it for what felt like an hour. Told me about her daughter who came by on Thursdays to do laundry with her who’d have loved it. Told me about how it reminded her of Mount Si (a mountain here in Washington) and how she used to pick blackberries by the coffee-can full near the river there, and the river in the picture looked just like it, so much you could hear the constant rush and gurgling of quickly-moving water.

She was going on so much, I thought she was milking me a bit to try to get me to lower the price.

It was one of my last paintings, and the market was gonna close, so it was kind of working too.

“Well, I’ve got to pack up. Did you want to take it with you?”

“Oh no. Wouldn’t match the bathroom at all. Totally wrong colors. My bathroom’s pink.”

And then she walked away. Just smiled and turned away. I was left packing up with a table, my cashbox and the remaining 3 paintings.

2 of ’em I scraped the canvas and painted over. You can do that once the oil dries.

But I kept the one with the wrong colors.


And when you attach a lot of your self worth to what you do, that ‘not fitting’ can hurt. And when you’re not able to see folks in your day to day, that ‘not fitting’ can hurt. And when you’re the only person on your team that can do what you do, ‘not fitting’ can hurt.

Vivian loved the painting for about an hour.

But did it fit? Nope. Didn’t match her bathroom colors. Vivian was right. It’d look terrible on a pink wall.

I kinda like it on mine though. I’ve gotten pretty used to it.

Moving The Goalposts

Goalposts that move are a pain. They feel unfair, like you’ve been duped into working toward one thing, when you should have been working toward something else entirely.

Or worse… that the progress you made wasn’t really progress at all. It was some larger step that you didn’t realize you signed up for.

Here’s the dirty secret though: Moving your goalposts is precisely what you have to do to keep growing.

As you improve, the goals you set will not really be challenging enough for you to keep.

As you learn, you realize the goal you set isn’t really what you actually want.

As you try new things, you realize and say “this isn’t as important to me right now.”


Weight Loss – My ‘I Improved’ Story.

I mentioned having a goal around fitness in a couple prior posts. Check ’em out: Post #1 and Post #2

Specifically, I wanted to lose a fair amount of weight at the end of year 1, with a slowly downward push in 10 years. My goal was to get to 230-235 by the end of the year.

After the annual ‘Fitness Challenge’ contest weigh-in from my CrossFit gym we do every January-March, I weighed in at a whopping 257.7lbs! The next day, I joined Noom.

As of March 6th, I was down to 234lbs!!!

Here’s my Noom referral link, if you wanna try it. I’m really happy with it.

I have already met my ‘annual goal’. Since it was only early March the goalposts had to move.

New goalpost: 220lbs, and once I get there, maintain it for 5-6 months while slowly adding more calories back into the mix.


Retirement Funding – My ‘I Learned’ Story

My retirement funding goals were mentioned same posts as my weight (from above). I was targeting a simple approach: fully fund my 401k and my IRA.

However, after watching a few lectures about retirement on my Great Courses Plus subscription, I learned there might be a better choice.

The speaker in those videos talked about 401k plans, and mentioned how some 401k plans also offer a ROTH option. I decided to check, and it turned out that yes, my 401K did allow for ROTH funds to be contributed, just as easily as I set the contribution for my regular 401K.

All I had to do was to put in a percentage and voila, the next pay cycle, I’ve got money going into the ROTH option.

So with the new learning, I decided move the goal posts. Instead of ‘fully fund both plans’, I moved to a new goal: Fully fund the 401K, with a mix of pre and post-tax dollars, then fund the regular investing goal, and finally do the IRA with leftovers at the end of the month.

Doing it this way, I mix up my taxable and non-taxable accounts, so that I have more tax options in retirement. Options are nearly always good, especially when it comes to sources of money in retirement.

Do I miss out on the tax write off on fully funding the IRA? Maybe a little, but assuming I don’t fall completely off the savings wagon, I should be good for at least a portion of that tax benefit.


Guitar Lessons – My ‘I Tried’ Story

This one hurts a bit. My uncle made these guitars, and they’re beautiful.

The thing is, the more I looked at it, me taking guitar lessons NOW or LATER doesn’t really have much of a difference in terms of my happiness.

I love my guitars. I play on them often.

I just don’t really care about taking lessons right now.

So, I’m moving the goalposts. For now, I’m calling ‘guitar lessons’ as a within 10 years goal, rather than a ‘do this in 2021’ goal. For now, self taught is good enough.


To recap, moving goalposts is a necessary part of goals. As you improve, learn and try, your goals must change with your new abilities and knowledge.

That’s just life. It moves from out from under you.

When it does, move your goalposts.

A Stupid Little Story

Back in 2011, a friend of mine from high school was trying to push his music career. His band had a local following, and was playing gigs in Seattle bars every weekend.

He wanted to fund some studio time, and that’s expensive as hell, but he didn’t want to beg a-la “GoFundMe”, so he put up a post on his bands’ Facebook page, offering to write and sing custom songs for donations to his band’s studio time fund.

Most of his friends are weirdos, so some crazy ideas came out of it. I remember a great acoustic version of ‘Safety Dance’ he did (soulful as hell). The dude is crazy talented and has been forever, so I had to get in on it, and I sent him a couple bucks.

Here’s the MP3 he sent me (OneDrive share link). A 22 second song called ‘Christopher Brown is the greatest guy ever.” I asked him to do something that I could use as a professional wrestler theme. The horns at the end represents me taking a steel chair to the face (my interpretation.)


10 years later. A podcast I listen to sort of fell off the map. A young couple posting a weekly finance and goals podcast while living an adventure in an Airstream sort of stopped posting for a bit. After about 2 months of seeing/hearing nothing, I sent them a note.

(What follows is the general gist of the note, because I don’t have it anymore.)
(Yes, I delete emails once I’m done with them now.)
(After going through 15 years of Gmails that I kept, 99.996% were minutiae that I should never have archived.)
(They were stupid, and only served to have Gmail send me more and more personalized ads.)
(I stole this multiple parenthesis thing from the opening essay in Shea Serrano’s 10 essays about Scrubs.)
(I know it’s weird but it’s charming and I love it.)

Hey, your stuff is awesome, but you’ve fallen off the map. I wanted to let you know that if you think nobody’s listening, I am. I know it’s lame for someone to complain about something free, but I’m risking looking lame because you’re doing a great job and it’d be a shame for you to stop. If you’re running out of ideas for topics, here are a few:

1) Houses are a ton more work than an Airstream
2) How to separate your money from your feelings of self-worth.
3) Christopher Brown is the greatest guy ever.

(The topics are sort of inside for the podcast listeners, but now that you’re reading this, you get to be the inside on the last one.)

It took another month, but episode 39 came out in March… and you’ll never guess who’s mentioned in the first 2 minutes. And again at the end near minute 32.


I’m trying to make a point here. Two, as a matter of fact.

First one, I’m awesome. The greatest guy ever. Multiple people confirmed, including a soon-to-be nationally awarded podcast. I have like 25 Twitter followers and everything. Total up and comer.

Second, don’t be afraid to put your stuff out there. The fact that you are trying counts, even if you don’t make a mint. You are learning by doing, and learning and doing are the best things a human can do. Even if what you make isn’t for everyone. Even if it’s just a blog that only a dozen folks read.

The Imposter

I have teenagers. I hear about how much I suck on a regular basis.

But when my teenagers tell me I suck, it’s usually for something I’m pretty proud of: making them eat vegetables, do homework, save up their own money to buy something rather than buying it for them, ad parental nauseum.

The problem is, it isn’t usually the teenagers that have my ear.

Imposter syndrome is a helluva thing.


Imposter syndrome is what they call the feeling that you don’t belong or deserve the things you have. That your social status, your job, and anything else you have is completely and unequivocally unearned.

The feeling that you don’t deserve it.

That if the rest of the world only knew, they’d call you out as a fraud.

What if they knew that I pass off feelings and intuition for facts, like constantly. (You now know this, so read on with a critical eye.)

What if they knew I was a hick from nowhere. (Palouse region nowhere, thank you!)

That my “knowledge” was all off-hand bullshit I got from having not enough to do, and mostly came from being too lazy to get up from the computer.

Some say the best way to deal with imposter syndrome is to remember your empathy. That ALL people have similar self-doubts.

Frankly, it has never been a comfort for me to know that.


That only way I know how to combat imposter syndrome is to admit what I don’t do well, and hold myself to task on it. To shit, or get off the pot. Decide the priority on fixing it, and then get busy fixing it, or let it be.

Fundamentally, it comes down to giving myself permission. It’s perfectly acceptable to suck at some things. But the things I don’t want to suck at, I’ll work to improve.

A peach is a terrible apple, but both make wonderful pie.


In that vein of holding myself accountable, here’s a list of things I suck at.

I have a degree in English, with a concentration in creative writing from Western Washington University. With said degree, I have published nearly nothing. I don’t even blog all that often.

I still have pages I wrote twenty years ago. I recently read some, and it all sucked. It was preachy and self-important and one time, rather than using the world “mental” to describe a process happening in the mind, I made up a word.

“Mindic”.

In my word processor, there’s a red squiggly line that shows me that even my personal dictionary doesn’t include “Mindic” quite yet.


In tech, I suck at just about everything. Nearly all networking stuff. Kubernetes. Go and Ruby. Most programming languages that aren’t in my standard wheelhouse. Certificates. A lot of security stuff. Game development.

I do CrossFit five times a week, and after three years of doing it, I still suck at the following: double-unders, a pull up without a band, running faster than a 10 minute mile, Turkish Getups, Snatches, and pistols.

I am not a great boss. I’ve had many people report to me, and only a scant few of them are happy for it. Most simply tolerated it. Some had marked contempt for it.

I have 2 guitars that my uncle custom-made. I still can’t play anything beyond Mother from Danzig, or a slow version of Blind Melon’s No Rain.

I suck at cars, beyond checking the oil.

My wife rechecks the dishes after I wash them, to make sure they’re clean.

I’ve been told I need better aim in the bathroom.


See, the thing is, even after writing all that stuff out, it really isn’t all that bad. It ain’t my best work, but it’s honest.

If my boss (Hi Brian!) reads this blog and notices I’m not great at Kubernetes, well, I can work on that.

If my wife reads this and notices how the bathroom and dishes stuff was relegated to the bottom of the list, I’m sorry, and I’m working on it.

If my teenagers read this: Get back to your freaking homework! Eat more vegetables! And for the love of god stop begging for things and save up your allowance if you need it so damned much!

Photo Credit: Bobby McKay from Flickr
Used with permissions from the Creative Commons License 2.0