“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”  – Anne Lamotte

At the age of 45, I learned something about myself. I should have known it before – all the evidence was there, but I ignored it because to take it seriously would have meant changing things I did not want to change. But at last the evidence is overwhelming, and I have to pay attention.

I am useless from a creative standpoint after 2 PM.

Any writing I get done has to happen before 2 in the afternoon, or it won’t be any good at all. Any critical business decision I need to make needs to happen before 2 as well (see the life-changing book Willpower for why that is).

There is nothing magic about 2 PM. It is more about I wake up at 6 in the morning, and my brain is really only good for about 8 hours. I don’t think it was always like this. I used to have late night writing sessions, where I would power up on coffee and pizza and power through.

But if I am serious, none of that writing was actually very good, either.

No, everything I have written in the last decade I am proud of happened before 2 PM. After that, I just have to reboot. I don’t think it is a consequence of growing older, but more recognizing something about myself I hadn’t paid attention to before.

But, as I am fond of saying, it is better to know than to not know. Because I know, I can arrange my day so that after 2, I don’t have critical meetings, I don’t try to do creative things, and I don’t demand too much of myself.

This doesn’t mean I can’t work after 2, of course – but it does mean that I need to structure things so that things after 2 don’t require my creativity or heavy decision-making skills. Light meetings, status updates, rote work – all of that can happen after 2, and probably should.


I once knew an older man who went to the casinos outside Memphis every day. He would take $300, and he would play the $5 craps table, and he would play very safe bets and when he had doubled his money he would quit for the day. And then tomorrow he would come back, with $300 and do it again. If he got down by $100, he would quit for the day.

He made good money. When I asked him his secret, he said “Money management. Most of life is just money management. Deposits and withdrawals, credits and debits.”

I know nothing about casinos. Or craps. Or even money, really. But I do know about relationships. And I am here to tell you that relationships are like a checking account.

We make deposits and withdrawals into our relationships with other people. I smile when you walk in? Deposit. I share something you wrote on Facebook? Deposit. I help you move? Big deposit.

We have a disagreement? Withdrawal. I ate all the chips and didn’t tell you? Withdrawal. I don’t show up for our lunch date? Withdrawal.

We all do this. We all have debits and credits with each other, and while we don’t keep score, per se, it is obvious when someone only makes withdrawals. We avoid those people. We get tired of them quickly.

The truth is, some people only withdraw. The guy who only calls you when he needs your help. The person who only critiques your work, but never affirms it. The guy who “just wants to play devil’s advocate.”

Those people are not automatically bad people. There are probably lots of accounts they routinely make deposits into. But that account they make deposits into isn’t your account.

In your account, they are overdrawn.

Food shopping

In our house, I do most of the cooking. That is both by choice and by inclination – mainly because I enjoy it, and the other resident of our house does not. A part of our division of labor is that I am in charge of groceries, and she is in charge of dry goods.

I am fortunate enough at this point in our lives that my life is not so overscheduled that I can do it (most days) and thus get to do something both that I enjoy, and that is useful on a near-daily basis.

I am a pantry cook. I enjoy looking at what is available and putting together a meal out of it, with trips to the store being mainly to fill out what is lacking or to get something I need that is fresh.

But even when I get to the store, I treat it like my pantry too: I look for what is cheap, what is on sale or what has been discounted and use that as the basis for my meal planning. I have some rules of thumb in this department. For example, I am attracted to any form of fresh meat that is below $2 a pound, especially boneless meat.

I also mostly go to only one store – the grocery store near my house. There are lots of reasons I shop there. For instance, that is where my neighbors go, so by shopping there, I am in solidarity with them. I also get to know that one store really well and learn the rhythms of their discounting and sales. I also get to know the staff there, and I believe you should always have a relationship with the people who feed you, and, by my shopping there, I feed them as well.

Most days I stop by there after work to get whatever fresh thing I need for tonight’s dinner: a head of lettuce, some green beans, a pork chop. Actually, most days it isn’t to get the pork chop because my limited freezer space is filled with meat I bought when it went on manager’s special, their term for meat nearing its sell-by date and thus is heavily discounted.

But when I am there, I am constantly scanning. What is discounted? What is on sale, or just a really good price? What are we low on at home? Canned beans and tomatoes are a staple, as are frozen vegetables. I make it a rule to never leave with just what I came for. I am always stocking up the pantry.

This way of eating (and shopping) assures that our overall food costs will be lower than average since I am buying most things when they are heavily discounted and  that we eat far more fresh things than is normal for most folks.


My new blog

For years I have been an active blogger, writing on various sites both personally and for work. And for years, “blogger” was a big part of my identity.

But over the years, the web has changed somewhat, and my job has changed somewhat, and I became less of a blogger and more of an essayist. Not that there is anything wrong with being an essayist, but I missed just blogging. No pressure, no finding the perfect image, no sense of obligation, no mission other than sharing your interior life with other folks.

So I started a new blog. Just for fun.

This isn’t where I expect to share grand insights into the human condition, or talk about my work of building radical communities of inclusion, or where I will link to things that give me hope for the future of our species.

It is, however, where I will share pictures from my garden, or vignettes from my day, or muse out loud about something I am dealing with. I might share a recipe that worked for me or a rant about the cable company. There will be few images, no long essays and no editorial vision.

It isn’t for work, or for money or for serious. It’s just a blog, yo.

My Media Diet – January 2018

What are you reading these days? I get asked that a lot.

I read a lot. Not as much as I used to, but still, a lot. I mention my favorites in The Hughsletterevery Monday, but that ends up only being a fraction of what I actually read. And these days, I am consuming other forms of media, too – like podcasts and shows on Netflix or Amazon. I want to be intentional about remembering the things I read and watched that gave me pleasure or growth – all too often they slip away. (Anyone out there know how many movies they watched last year? And were they good?)

So, inspired by Jason Kottke, I intend to keep track and sharing quick reviews and ratings of things I watched, read or listened to every month.

Note: I have a short attention span, so I quit many more books and movies than this. I only include the ones I finished.


This month, they were all nonfiction.

How to shoot video that doesn’t suck – Steve Stockman: I want to be better at video. Not just my performance on video, but I want to understand how it works. This was a good overall guide to the theory behind why a thing works, as well as rules of thumb. I don’t think it would make you amazing, but would, as the title says, keep you from sucking. (B+)

Theft by Finding – David Sedaris: – It got well deserved rave reviews, and I liked it, but it would be most interesting to people who already follow his career. (A-)

Ex Libris – Anne Faideman: A collection of essays about books and reading. Good if you like books or reading. (B)

How to cook a wolf – MFK Fischer: I adore her. She was a badass proto-feminist who loved to cook and took no shit, especially from men. And what do you do when the wolf shows up at your door? You cook him, of course. (A+)

The First 20 Hours: How to learn anything fast. – Josh Kaufman: The premise is that learning a skill and mastering a skill are different things, and most of us just want to learn to play the guitar, say, and not be master shredders ala Jimi Hendrix. And the author believes it takes 20 hours to learn most skills. I liked it. (A-)

My role is shifting at work, as we bring in managers to run the day to day operations, and I am spending a lot of time thinking about what my role is going forward.  I like Dorie Clark’s writing and style. I read a lot of business books, if for no other reason than the people I seek to most influence read them, and I want to know what their influences are. These, however, were very useful, and highly recommended. (A collective B+)

Reinventing You – Dorie Clark

Stand Out -Dorie Clark

Entrepreneurial You – Dorie Clark

Stand Out Networking – Dorie Clark


Hurry Slowly – a new-ish podcast about creativity. I listened to the first 10 episodes. I like her pacing and questions, and episode 4 (about swimming with the sharks – not a metaphor!) was my favorite. (A-)

The Tim Ferris Show – I have a love/hate relationship with this podcast (and the guy, honestly). He is abrasive and arrogant, although less than he used to be. He does long-form interviews with amazing people, however, and this episode on prisoners, forgiveness and second chances was brilliant, partly because he was the quietest I have ever seen him. The episode is a strong A+. The podcast overall is a B-.


The Post – Every bit as good as everyone says it is. First time I have been in a theater in years where the audience clapped multiple times during the showing. (A+)

Broadchurch – Season 1 (Netflix) A murder in a British beach town. Starring the guy who played Dr. Who and the woman who played John Watson’s wife. The pacing was good, the themes were dark and it drew you in. (A-)