On sale at book places. Learn more.

34: Cultivate the core

My year in review.

This one was on a blog that got deleted. Found a copy of the text and archiving it here.

When I turned 30, my birthday motto was Higher highs and lower lows.

When I turned 31, my birthday motto was Double down.

When I turned 32, my birthday motto was No problem.

Last year, my 33rd birthday coincided with my last day at the Robot Co-op and the beginning of Enjoymentland. My motto for the year was 33: Frugal to the max. I just did a little calculation and it looks like our spending over the last 12 months compared to the 12 months prior was 34% lower. So, at least on the money front, I think we did pretty well on the frugality goal.

In the meantime, I spent the whole year working on my own projects, and managed to stay somewhat afloat finance-wise. Also, we had a baby. I guess that’s not very frugal on the DNA front. But we did have the baby in fairly frugal way: without selling the house (not our choice), without buying a car, without doing all of the screening tests, and hospital visits, and without even requiring a hospital’s intervention. I’m pretty proud about that, and think Kellianne’s more amazing than ever for having gone through the process with such grace, strength, and confidence. And we were also very lucky, as there were a couple near misses on needing a hospital transfer, and I know that it’s entirely possible for someone who does everything right, and has the best intentions, to still have a high-risk pregnancy. Â We are lucky that we never had to draw that straw.

My brain on this morning of my 34th birthday is highly rearranged from previous years (I think I say that every year though). I’m not quite sure what this new arrangement is all about yet. I’m definitely still thinking a lot about building things. Over the last year, Locavore and 750 Words have been successful and highly enjoyable to work on, and I will continue to work on them, but I’m still looking for something. There is another less public project that I’ve been working on for a good part of the year, and I hope to be able to talk more about it soon. Its future is still in flux.

And I guess during this month that I’m taking off from working on anything, I am still thinking very much about what I’m going to want to work on, what I am working on, and what’s going to sustain us over then next 5 to 10 years.

At the same time, I’m rather obsessed with my 13 day-old son, Niko, Mr. Crane, and plan on putting a big chunk of my mental and physical energy into guiding his person and personality. I feel like my work and home interests dovetail into a common goal of enjoying and appreciating the short confusing surprising life we’ve found ourselves in, and if everything can find inspiration in that tangle, everything should tie together pretty well.

Retweeted last night, and still appropriate this morning:

“Human nature has a tendency to Admire Complexity and Reward Simplicity.”

Another somehow related quote from page 37 of Hemingway’s Garden of Eden:

“Be careful, he said to himself, it is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.”

You know, only a few years ago I had such a different view of parenthood and baby-making. I thought of it as a Plan B, something to do when you had struck out with your own personal ambitions. A way to pass the buck to the next generation. I interpret things differently now, of course, and think that building a family is a great foundation and source of strength to work with, for, and from. We all need a core, and that core needs to grow. A solid core will help make the right decisions and recover from mistakes and bad luck without sinking the ship.

It’s important to find the core, but it’s equally important to cultivate it. Rotate the crops, bring in new soil, let it rest and recover. It’s a living thing, and our deepest values and strongest convictions are going to ebb and flow and shift in the wind just like any other living thing. The core is going to have moods, and get sick once in a while, and the only way to keep it going for the long haul is to feed it, challenge it, allow it to change.

I’ve had a core set of goals to live by for 3 years now, and it has been shifting every year or so, adapting to my life. I post it on the front page of my homepage, busterbenson.com, as a reminder more to myself than anyone else.

Here they are, one more time, with a bit more temporarily added to each sentence.

  • You must not dilly-dally, so that the Resistance doesn’t trick you.
  • You must be your word, so that you trust yourself.
  • You must have good intentions, so that you do not betray yourself.
  • You must admit to being the maker of meaning, so that you know what you’re getting.
  • You must not feel sorry for yourself, so that you do not become a martyr.
  • You must have a vision that you are striving for, so that your work moves in a direction.
  • You must tie creativity and experimentation with survival, so that you don’t take your work lightly.
  • You must be the change you want to see, so that you don’t blame others.
  • You must rally others with your vision, so that your vision gains momentum.
  • You must stake your reputation on your better self, so that you become your better self.
  • You must be comfortable with the consequences of being who you are, so that you grow in responsibility.
  • You must share, so that your motivations remain clear.
  • You must make your own advice and take it, so that you trust your own instincts.
  • You must manage your stress, health, and clarity, so that your core stays in balance.
  • You must study your mistakes, so that you don’t make incorrect generalizations.
  • You must retry things you don’t like every once in a while, so that your tastes grow.
  • You must make time to enjoy things, so that you have time to enjoy things.

I want this year to be the year of cultivating the core.

Added to the Self-reflection pile.
May 28, 2010

Buster Benson (@buster) is a writer and builder of things. If you're new here, check the about page or see my entire life on a page.


Join my newsletter to get updates about my book and analysis of bias and unproductive disagreements in the wild. Browse the archive first, to get a feel.


I'm not great at email but I'm not the worst either. My DMs are open on Twitter as well.