Skip to main content

Ian O'Byrne

Goals transform a random walk into a chase. - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi #productivity

Ian O'Byrne

Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus. - Susan Longacre In TL;DR — #drive


Ian O'Byrne

Exercise on learning from the view from above

On the final day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

The reflection for this day is from Meditations, 2.3 from Marcus Aurelius:

The works of the gods are full of providence. The works of Fortune are not independent of Nature or the spinning and weaving together of the threads governed by Providence. All things flow from that world: and further factors are necessity and the benefit of the whole universe, of which you are a part. Now every part of nature benefits from that which is brought by the nature of the Whole and all which preserves that nature: and the order of the universe is preserved equally by the changes in the elements and changes in their compounds.

In this I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us of our connection to nature, but also identifying a possibility for us to not be over attached to perspectives and actions outside of our own.

As indicated in previous posts, we have a lot that we can learn from our partners, friends, and colleagues. We can also learn from nature and our environment. The challenge is that we need to focus on our own goals and direction in life while striving for a life filled with virtue.

To remain focused on events in your locus of control, the following activity known as "the view from above" is recommended. This is a guided meditation that is aimed at focusing on the bigger picture in life and understanding your role in the world.

The audio recording above is a recording from Donald Robertson. Alternatively, you can read the script for the guided meditation here. Alternatively you can review the following video here.

Ian O'Byrne

Resilience and preparation for adversity

4 min read

On the sixth day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

The reflection for this day is from Meditations, 4.49 from Marcus Aurelius:

Be like the headland, on which the waves break constantly, which still stands firm, while the foaming waters are put to rest around it. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ On the contrary, say, ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without getting upset, neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future.’ 

In this piece, I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us that we can be prepared for the future, while not remaining consumed by what "might" happen. 

To achieve this, I think it is helpful to focus on two things. First, I strive to keep an objective accounting of events and goals in life. Second, I work to make a decision not to suffer in dealing with these events.

An objective focus on life

First, developing an objective, as opposed to subjective description of events in our lives. This means that we strive to describe and understand events in our lives in a "neutral" fashion without adding an emotional charges to circumstances.

In Meditations, Book 6, Marcus Aurelius explains the need to examine and simplify events in our lives without injecting emotion into the anaylsis: 

When we have meat before us and such eatables we receive the impression, that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of a bird or of a pig; and again, that this Falernian (wine) is only a little grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep's wool dyed with the blood of a shell-fish: such then are these impressions, and they reach the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what kind of things they are. Just in the same way ought we to act all through life, and where there are things which appear most worthy of our approbation, we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are exalted. 

Epictetus explains how this over-analysis and subjective description of daily events usually leads to troubles (Enchiridion 5):

Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.

Suffering is a choice

The second thing that I focus on when thinking about the future and preparing for adversity is that the world is full of positive and negative emotions and energy. We can choose whether or not we add these values and judgements to our lives. We can also decide whether we want to suffer.

The external circumstances of the world present us with opportunities to think about, and in most cases worry about things in the past and future. These thoughts about events which may have happened, or are yet to be cause us to suffer. As always, our thoughts are up to us to control.

Marcus Aurelius indicates in Meditations, Book 11:

Anger and frustration hurt us more than the things we are annoyed about hurt us.

Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Book 11) furthers this thinking by indicating that it is often times our viewpointor perspecitve about an issue that causes us to feel pain and suffer when we think about it. Just by believing that an event or action is "insulting" we add value judgements to the event and decide to suffer.

Make a decision to quit thinking of things as unsluting, and your anger immediately disappears.

In this we can decide whether or not to add value judgements to events in the past or future. We often cannot choose what the world throws at us, but we can make decisions about how to respond to it.


Image Credits

Ian O'Byrne

Seneca on practicing what you preach

2 min read

This morning's read caught my eye as I read a letter titled "On practicing what you preach" from Seneca.

The letter is advice provided from Seneca to Lucilius about becoming your own master and not losing sight of your goals or values.

Specifically, this section was valuable for me:

It is the mark, however, of a noble spirit not to precipitate oneself into such things on the ground that they are better, but to practice for them on the ground that they are thus easy to endure. And they are easy to endure, Lucilius; when, however, you come to them after long rehearsal, they are even pleasant; for they contain a sense of freedom from care,— and without this nothing is pleasant. I hold it essential, therefore, to do as I have told you in a letter that great men have often done: to reserve a few days in which we may prepare ourselves for real poverty by means of fancied poverty. There is all the more reason for doing this, because we have been steeped in luxury and regard all duties as hard and onerous. Rather let the soul be roused from its sleep and be prodded, and let it be reminded that nature has prescribed very little for us. No man is born rich. Every man, when he first sees light, is commanded to be content with milk and rags. Such is our beginning, and yet kingdoms are all too small for us! Farewell.

The quoted section above is guidance on practicing what you preach. Filling your days by living what you believe. There is the theme of poverty that is found in many of Seneca's letters. 

In that section, the line that resonates with me the most is the one that states "Rather let the soul be roused from its sleep and be prodded, and let it be reminded that nature has prescribed very little for us." I'm intrigued by this guidance that in living close to what our values might determine for us, there is an opportunity to temper our expectations for what we think we need...and instead listen for what the heart and soul holds for us.


Image Credit

Ian O'Byrne

Goals, Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics

2 min read

Whether you're working on a grant proposal, lesson plans, or planning for a project, it is important to write a clear account of your plan of action.

This plan may break down into component parts of goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics. 

GOAL - A broad primary outcome.

STRATEGY - The approach you take to achieve a goal.

OBJECTIVE - A measurable step you take to achieve a strategy.

TACTIC - A tool you use in pursuing an objective aligned with your strategy.


Most times we will include goals and objectives in written reports or proposals...but keep the strategies and tactics for our own information. Let's look a bit more at goals and objectives.

A goal is a brief, clear statement of an outcome to be reached within a specific timeframe. A goal is a broad, general, tangible, and descriptive statement. It does not say how to do something, but rather what the results will look like. It is measurable in terms of quality and quantity. 

goal is an outcome statement that defines what you are trying to accomplish at a large scale both programmatically and organizationally. 

In comparison, an objective is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. It is a series of objectives that must be attained to accomplish specific goals. Objectives define the actions that must be taken to reach the goal.


The SMART chart below may help you consider elements of your objectives.

S - Specific - What EXACTLY do you want to achieve?

- Measurable - How will you know when you have achieved it?

A - Attainable - Is it something that you have control over?

R - Relevant - Is it applicable to the place you are in your life right now?

T - Time-Bound - What is your deadline?


A goal is where you want to be and objectives are the steps taken to reach the goal.   


Image Credit

Ian O'Byrne

Using Logic Models to Organize Grant Proposals

3 min read

In the development of grant proposals, it can sometimes be a challenge to mix what you'd like to do, what you need to do, and what you'll actually be funded to do.

At some point in the grant writing process, I find it is a helpful task to create a logic model to use as an organizer of your ideas.

On a new document, I first write the title, goal, and objectives of the grant. As a reminder, a goal is a broad statement of what you wish to accomplish. Goals are broad, general, abstract, and do not need to be measurable. Objectives are individual, granular steps toward accomplishing the goal. Objectives are precise, observable, measurable, and concrete.

After writing the goal and objectives, I then develop a logic model to organize the proposal.

A logic model includes five parts:

  • Current Situation: What is the current situation, problem, and environment in which you are proposing to work? You need to identify the good, bad, and ugly in this description.
  • Resources: What current resources do you have at your disposal that will support your work in the proposal? What resources are you requesting as part of the grant proposal that will support your work in the proposal?
  • Project Activities: What will you (and participants) do as part of the grant? Include everything.
  • Outcomes: What products or consequences do you expect at the conclusion of the project as a result of project activities?
  • Impacts: What change or overall effect will last long after your grant has concluded?

I write all of the elements of the logic model on a white board or chart paper and write/discuss/revise over a period of time. An example of a recent planning session is below.

Once you have some agreement, the logic model moves to a digital space for further revision and use in planning and writing. Using Google Drawings in a Google Doc makes this super easy. A digital example of the info from the white board above is included below.

You then need to identify "flow" or order of actions across the logic model. In this you add arrows to show how activities lead to outcomes and ultimately to impacts. If you do not show a progression or connection across the need to create a space for this in your model, or remove it. An example of the logic model with the arrows included is available below.

As you write and revise your proposal narrative, use the logic model as a guide to organize your thinking. You may choose to have a critical friend review the grant proposal using your logic model to ensure that everything connects to what you've written. If possible...have an outside evalautor create a logic model from your proposal narrative to see if if it connects.

Ian O'Byrne

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. - Aristotle

2 min read

In our lives, the number one priority should be the expansion of our own self awareness. We need to become aware, accept, and in some cases adjust the truth about our selves and our world.

To examine this narrative and build self-confidence, we have the possibility of reversing that narrative and speak from expertise as the person we would like to believe that we are. We are who we think that we are.

We can achieve this through the following:

  • Cease automatically and arbitrarily defending your own viewpoints as being binary (i.e., right/wrong, or black/white). This relentless attack/defense stops us from receiving new ideas.
  • Problematize and reassess your concepts, values, belief systems, assumptions, defenses, goals, hopes, and truths.
  • Understand, evaluate, and revise your real needs and motivations.
  • Learn to trust your intution. 
  • Observe your mistakes and try to correct them. we learn more about ourselves through this process.
  • Love yourself and others.
  • Listen without prejudice and evaluation. Train yourself to listen to WHAT someone is saying without auditing their expressions.
  • Recognize what you are defending most of the time.
  • Understanding that the end result and your unlocked awareness will provide the means and motivation needed to enact further change in your life.

Ian O'Byrne

Ideas without action are worthless. - Helen Keller

2 min read

In the development of new ideas, innovation and other acts of entreprenuership, our days are often filled with a glut of ideas. This includes interacting and mingling with others that bring ideas to our attention. 

In many spaces, these ideas are incredible and lead to new ideas and opportunties. Most times these ideas lead to a time suck that takes us away from our true goals and aspirations.

In my own work, I'm typically an ideas person. I come up with (possibly) too many ideas. My brain is always churning and trying to find new ways to hack the system and make it operate better.

I also try to execute on these ideas. Without execution, I think there is no value in identifying and thinking up ideas. It's all talk and blather.

My challenge is that I like to follow through on ideas as well. My reputation is important to me, and I want to be viewed as someone that thinks up ideas, innovate, executes, and follows through. I don't want to drop the ball on anything.

The challenge in this desire to follow through is that you need to identify objectives and goals on a granular scale. You also need to focus on being an ideas leader and not tied in to being a manager. Finally, there is a need to know when and how to kill things off and move on.

The first step is making sure that you allow your ideas to gel, and execute on these when they become actionable. 

Ian O'Byrne

Motivation becomes easier when we transform a chore into a choice. Doing so gives us a sense of control - General Charles Krulak

2 min read

This quote comes from the book Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg.

As we try to make sense of our own lives, and make room for the dreams/goals that we hope to achieve, the first step is to identify the roadblocks and impediments that thwart motivation and our ambitions.

These roadblocks come in the form of emails, meetings, and busy work that suck up our time. In most careers throughtout our past, we were taught that it was good to work long hard days. Punching in at 7 and punching the clock out at 5 every day was a good thing. What you accomplished during those hours didn't matter. The fact that you were there was the only thing of value. 

The fourty hour workweek, and the hours spent "working" were the only metric of value.

My hourly wage, and multiplying that by the number of hours I worked, gave me an estimate of my value and worth during that time period.

As I move to a position where my time is worth whatever value I place on it changes everything. I can work whenever, whereever I'd like. I can focus on anything that I choose and head in whatever direction seems best.

There are certain things I have to show up for. Meetings, classtimes, meals. In the remaining times, I can work in whatever function or fashion I choose.

Changing chores into choices empowers me. It provides me with an opportunity to decide how I'll function in these responsibilities.