‘It’s All Too Much’ by Peter Walsh 📚

The first book I finished for my goal of 35 books in 2015 was 'It's All Too Much' by Peter Walsh. I never would have chosen this book on my own. From the cheesy cover to the author's sweet spot of helping hoarders, it strikes me as a book I just don't need to read. Enter Merlin Mann, gentleman about the Internet.

In Back to Work episode #202, Merlin mentioned this book along with 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen as the two books that influence him greatly and he continues to recommend to everyone. Being a big fan of Merlin and the other book, I immediately ordered this one from Amazon. It was a good call.

This book could help anyone, provided you realize one thing: clutter in your life is everyone's problem, not just the hoarders on TV. If you can open this book with an honest intent to listen, there is good stuff to be found here.

First, Walsh's philosophy will sound very familiar to Christians. His basic premises are:

  • We all have too much stuff
  • The stuff you own, will end up owning you
  • Clutter is not about your stuff, but about how you see your stuff

This is true. Mankind is bent to love created things more than the Creator. This leads to disordered views of possessions, which is what drives the clutter in our homes. Walsh's best contribution is giving us tools, questions and patterns to think through the emotions, thoughts and issues behind our junk.

Walsh's recommendations for how to approach the home are good across the board, and they will benefit everyone. The chapters that walk through the average home and provide strategies for de-cluttering and organizing are helpful. But it's the chapters that reveal how we think about our stuff, and how we need to process our emotions relating to our clutter, that really carry the water in this book.

We already had a plan in place to do some purging in the new year, and this book provided a clearer way to think through it than I had before. It honestly helped me get started on our plans, and in a more productive way than I previously had in mind. It was well worth it.

The one note of redirection I will add for my fellow Christians is simple: the control over possessions and environment that Walsh advocates is crucial for reorganizing your life, but it's not the answer. Walsh tells us to ask ourselves "do my possessions will help me have the life I envision?". But, instead we should ask, "do my possessions help me have a life that glorifies God and seeks to see him glorified?"

With that one minor redirection in place, I can heartily recommend this book to anyone. It's definitely better than the cover suggests.

A New Year

Stability is not a given, and when we have it, it's usually not a blessing. That might sound crazy to you, but I've come to believe it firmly in the last year.

When I looked forward to 2014 a year ago, I was fairly certain that I knew what our year would look like. Turns out, I was a fool for being so certain. 2014 was, on the whole, a great year. But it wasn't stable, and it wasn't predictable.

Creatively, this past year was mixed. Personally, it was a year of dreams but not much action. I did not finish any of my major writing projects. My goal to blog more fell flat. I did launch a tech blog, but its following is not large—which is commiserate with the amount of writing I put into it.

But all was not lost. Story Team had an amazing year, and it's still getting better. I'm proud of the team and the work we've done. I love our writers and I' to lead them. The wins we've had as a team definitely overshadow my personal failures, but I still want 2015 to be different.

Professionally, 2014 seemed to hold a lot of promise, and there were a lot of accomplishments. I had an amazing team that I love working with. Last year I got to work with some of the smartest colleagues in my career so far. However, not all things work out as they should, but that's another story for another time.

Personally, 2014 was a good year. Our marriage is great, the best it's ever been. Other than professional and creative struggles outlined above, my life was pretty dang good this year. But there have been lots of internal changes: I'm more organized about my work and my responsibilities. I overturned how I do many, basic, things. I've grown and matured spiritually. I'm also more unsatisfied with my creative failures. I grew unsatisfied with my professional goals. I reworked my priorities across my entire life. I intentionally refocused my vision and goals around the glory of God and a desire to see Christ exalted.

That's a lot of turnover, and it's not done yet. 2015 will be unstable. There will be ups and downs and surprises all along the way. But, I know it's good for me. I know that's what God will do to keep growing me.

We all need instability. We need change and uncertainty to force us to rethink our beliefs and actions. We need to be tested and tried. We need to learn to lean on God in our struggles, and not ourselves. None of this happens in a soft cushy life. We won't grow if we know what every day will bring, and if we know we can handle it. We need to be pushed. We need to be tempted.

We need to be unstable. Across the board stability is not a good thing for a believer. It's an obstacle to sanctification. I'm glad that obstacle was removed in 2014. I pray that 2015 will be just as unpredictable.

→ A valid counterpoint

From Poul-Henning Kamp:

That is the sorry reality of the bazaar Raymond praised in his book: a pile of old festering hacks, endlessly copied and pasted by a clueless generation of IT “professionals” who wouldn’t recognize sound IT architecture if you hit them over the head with it. It is hard to believe today, but under this embarrassing mess lies the ruins of the beautiful cathedral of Unix, deservedly famous for its simplicity of design, its economy of features, and its elegance of execution.

One of Brooks’s many excellent points is that quality happens only if somebody has the responsibility for it, and that “somebody” can be no more than one single person—with an exception for a dynamic duo. I am surprised that Brooks does not cite Unix as an example of this claim, since we can pinpoint with almost surgical precision the moment that Unix started to fragment: in the early 1990s when AT&T spun off Unix to commercialize it, thereby robbing it of its architects.

It’s very easy for me to get overly confident in the open source movement and ethos as the only way forward. It’s good to hear a valid counterpoint every once and a while.

Perfect for writing

I don't know if it makes me shallow or not a real writer or something, but my writing often depends on being in a specific mood. Right now, it's 50-something degrees outside, and there's a light rain. The window is open, and I have a mug of hot tea in hand. On the screen in front of me is a project that I'm excited about.

This is the perfect setting for me. I love it.

Observations from a Node newbie

It’s been a few months since I started playing around with Node.js, and in the last few weeks I started writing my first full application in Node. I’ve found myself really enjoying it, even if I have not figured out all the nooks and crannies yet.

In this time I’ve come to realize that Node is very different than other languages/frameworks I’ve coded in. Most of these differences impressed me, but some of them led to quite a few frustrating moments. This list below is a subset of my observations of a few months of working with Node—all just my personal opinions, of course.

  • Everything in Node just feels, well, fast. Most of my web development work lately has been with Rails, and I know this probably feeds into the old stereotypes of Ruby, but Node feels faster. Not that Ruby is slower actually, but Node feels lightning quick
  • Everything about Node is flexible. Because of the nature of Node and its implementation, it is incredibly flexible. Even within most of the established frameworks it is incredibly easy to write your application exactly as you want it. In many ways Node feels like the dream of those who love higher level languages. Throw the right npm modules into your package.json, and off you go
  • Everything about Node is almost too flexible. For good or for bad, it feels like I can do anything I want. From reading blogs and other community discussions, it seems like there is not yet a “Node way” in all but the most fundamental aspects of the language
  • It’s still JavaScript. I don’t mean that solely as a knock. Much of the power and flexibility of Node comes from the language underneath it. But, all the things about JavaScript that bug me are still there, and they still bug me. But there is enough value in the whole package to make it worth it. To like it even
  • Asynchronous, event-driven programming is a great fit for the server side. Especially for APIs. Today, I would’t pick a different tool
  • YMMV, but for me the community is still coalescing, and there is not yet a consensus on the “Node way” for many things yet. One of the things I earnestly love about Rails is the fact that the community has a cohesive point of view on how to use the framework. You don’t have to follow it, but it makes discovering and adopting best practices easy, which is good for the coder and their users
  • I have not found the right way for me to do TDD in Node yet. Maybe it’s a lack of tools, or maybe I just haven’t found what works for me, but testing is very important for me and I’m not yet comfortable