Egotistical or Self-Aware?

After writing many posts about myself, a concern crept into my mind, am I being egotistical and selfish or am I becoming more self-aware?
“Know thyself” is generally considered wise.
Being egotistical is not.
Often one seems to be confused with the other.
Is this one of those fine lines where a virtue can turn into a vice?

John D. Mayer Ph.D says “People who display such an ability [to know thyself] understand themselves and know who they are.  They evaluate others more accurately and therefore make more allowances for others’ foibles; they are better at acknowledging their own limitations, too”. Making allowances for others’ weaknesses and acknowledging ones own limitations doesn’t sound like being egotistical!

“Our Ego Is the Enemy of Self-Awareness” states Sara Canaday.  In her article by the same name, she makes several good points. Confronting the reality of yourself, truly looking at our weaknesses and strengths always includes pain.  To our ego the pain isn’t worth the price of genuine self-knowledge.  She provides several good suggestions for improving self-awareness, take a look, if you dare!

Bringing back everything to yourself or relating to yourself can seem self-obsessed, especially if done in a rude way (which is not necessarily selfish, it could be a lack of social skills).  I found an interesting post by Peter Kowalke on where he shares his experience with self-awareness and how it’s different from selfishness.  He does make a point that we should guard against selfishness and there seems to be a risk of it in the unschooling method.

Using this knowledge, my plan is to keep writing and assessing myself. My hope is to improve self-awareness and avoid being egotistical.

What is your plan?


Know Thyself by John D. Mayer Ph.D

Our Ego Is the Enemy of Self-Awareness by Sara Canaday.

The Fine Line Between Self-Awareness and Selfishness By Peter Kowalke

Die To Learner?

From an early age I liked to test the boundaries. My Dad (Pickering), would watch me as a child and I would intentionally roll off the edge in Marble Madness the Original Nintendo Game, to learn just how far I could get to the edge.

Marble Madness (U)
Marble Madness Screen Shot

No, it was not because I liked to lose or “die”, but knowing where the boundary was would allow for increased game performance.

Personalized insights From GALLUP:  Learner

“Instinctively, you enjoy examining books, journals, documents, artifacts, or data. They broaden your knowledge and allow you to acquire new skills. Firsthand experiments and personal experiences contribute mightily to your qualifications and credibility as an expert and specialist. It’s very likely that you thirst for new ideas and knowledge. Often you lose yourself in a book. You pore over the ideas contained on its pages for long stretches of time. Why? You want to absorb as much information as you can. Driven by your talents, you value education and scholarship at any level and at any age. Your thirst for knowledge causes you to explore many topics of study or specialize in one particular subject. You thoroughly enjoy opportunities to acquire additional information, skills, and experiences. Chances are good that you long to gather information about individuals. Your “need to know” is rarely satisfied. The more facts you gather, the easier it is for you to understand the person’s unique strengths, limitations, interests, likes, dislikes, or goals. Unquestionably, you study human beings one by one. Your ongoing observations of selected individuals probably provide you with interesting insights into human nature. By nature, you yearn to know a lot. It makes little sense to you to skim through a book and read only the highlights. You delve more deeply into intriguing subjects than most people do. You love to gather all kinds of information. This explains why you take time to grasp ideas that appear in print.”

GALLUPs insights are generally fitting, except the bit about skimming a book to read the highlights. Some books are only worth skimming, although I prefer the term “inspectional reading” used by Adler in his book, How to Read a Book.  First, a book should be inspectionally read, and then if warranted it can be given an in-depth analytical reading!

Take a look at my post about my study process for more on this strength.

Balancing “Giftedness”

In another post I raise the question of being a Weirdo, Obsessive, a Perfectionist or Gifted?

Now let us consider how to balance our gifts, the ones that lead to social stigmas and cause frustration in our lives.

The book The Gifted Adult makes a good case for the extra need of the gifted Adult to achieve balance. The author compares being gifted with an underground river. If you completely block the flow of water it will seep into cracks and eventually burst out somewhere. When we let the water flow at full speed it will cause damage to whatever it’s directed at. The goal is to control the flow of water and direct the optimal amount towards the right places.

The tendency towards perfectionism is a good example of a gift that must be controlled. With it we can always envision something better. When directed, this ability can lead us to great insights, creativity and guide us towards making the world a better place. Unchecked or repressed it can make us negative, bitter and ungrateful or cause us to become apathetic because, after all, nothing will ever be 100% perfect.

My religious beliefs also advocate preventing our strengths from becoming our downfall.
I consider all my strengths as gifts and all must be managed, moderated, and balanced.

Things I do to maintain balance:

  • Weekly exercise routine: 2-3 times 90% at max heart rate for 30 minutes, plus 2-3 times strength training of major muscle groups.
  • Diet: eat whole grains, avoid added sugar, limit saturated fat.
  • Sleep: go to bed and wake up regularly, close to the same time most days
  • Unpaid Service: around 10 hours per week of religious and community service
  • Time with children: reading, praying, eating, discussing and playing
  • Dating My Wife
  • Weekly visit family & friends
  • Outdoor activities: camping, hiking, walking, swimming.
  • Sunday church attendance and break from regular work
  • Strive for humility (give credit to god)

How do you maintain balance and manage your gifts?
Have any suggestions based on your experience?

Your Personal Study Process?

My personal study process typically starts with
When I’m interested in a subject I’ll search for and find the top rated books for the subject, then based on some internal formula that balances cost, current time available for study, interest and need, I’ll buy several of the top books and put the rest on a wish list. Often I’m debating starting the study of a subject or purchase of a book, then I’ll either put it in the cart and save “for later” or just add to the appropriate wish list.
I have 58 wish lists, 876 items, average of 15 items per list (yes, there are some no-book items, like software, but mostly books!).

Once I receive the book, if I’m really excited about it, I’ll jump right in and start reading, otherwise it is placed on my to-read queues: top of my desk, family room book shelves, my white throne room, exercise bike, and bedroom dresser. See pictures of locations of my “to-read queues”

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Hutch on my desk
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Family room book shelves
My White Throne Room
My White Throne Room
Bedroom Dresser Queue
Bedroom Dresser
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FitDesk Exercise Bike

While I’m reading a physical book I use 3×5 cards of varying colors as a bookmark and a self-created index. I also index for areas that have personal significance that I would like to return and delve into more deeply. See images (front and back) of 3×5 card for The Gifted Adult book.

personal study wordpress trello-1414357131personal study wordpress trello-1387460416

I also will write down inspiring and “ah ha!” thoughts on various notebooks, binders, paper pads, and/or in computer software (OneNote, Outlook/Remember The Milk tasks and Trello primarily).
See the images of my desk, you’ll see the papers and notebooks (on the hutch).personal study wordpress 20150703_101122

When I’m finished studying them, they make their way to “hope to study more in-depth” study piles or to the “library” bookshelves.

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Library Bookshelf 1
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Library Bookshelf 2
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Library Bookshelf 3

At the gym I listen to educational audio (from audible primarily).
I also use the computer (Kindle, Internet, other eBooks) to learn and study.

Finally, the next fun part about learning is finding and designing opportunities to put into action, and gaining experience related to my studies. Very exciting!

What is your personal study process?

Weirdo, Obsessive, Perfectionist or Gifted?

What makes a person gifted vs just a plain old weirdo? Is having a tendency towards obsessions simply a mental disorder? How about perfectionism? Are these primarily problems of a deranged mind in need of therapy?

An alternate theory provided by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen in her book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius she claims that there are at least 20 million Gifted American adults, our schools only have 3 million gifted children. How can we have so many more gifted adults? Many gifted adults are misdiagnosed with a disorder. The most common mis-diagnosis are: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Mood Disorders such as Cyclothymic Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Depression, and Bi-Polar Disorder.

I have never been diagnosed with any of the above mentioned disorders, but at times I have thought that I was struggling with depression and/or Cyclothymic Disorder (a mild form of bi-polar). After reading The Gifted Adult book and the articles I reference, a much more likely scenario, is being an unidentified Gifted Adult (and child). Our current process for identifying gifted children is an IQ test. As a child I never scored “gifted” as far as an IQ test is concerned. One, I lacked test taking skills (of which I never really mastered until college) and two, I doubt I would have scored high enough to qualify even with lacking in test taking ability. The author of The Gifted Adult makes a strong case for the limitations of IQ only as test for giftedness.

The Gifted Adult is intense, complex and driven. Of this I strongly relate, but we have been taught that our strong personality is excessive,  weird, and therefore wrong. The reason for our intensity is being more sensitive to light, sounds, touch, taste and smell. This increased sensitivity also makes us more complicated, we naturally perceive a complex depth beyond what is on the surface. We’re driven because we have an innate sense of how things should or could be, which gives us the urge to perfect (perfectionism). The author has counseled hundreds of gifted people and the gifted are regularly confused by their own unexplained inner conflicts. The inner conflict is largely due to a loss of identity often identifying with some kind of social stigma or disorder instead of their natural gifts. The key is to manage or balance our giftedness. This enables our strange tendencies to become blessings instead of a curse.

Are You a Gifted Adult? (Questions From the Book)

  • Insatiable curiosity?
  • Own worst critic, due to very high standards (Perfectionist)?
  • Have a powerful need to be a seeker of ultimate truths?
  • Have been criticized for being “too much” of just about everything?
  • Extremely energetic and focused, yet constantly switching gears?
  • Intensely sensitive, able to intuit subtly charged situations and decipher others’ feeling?
  • Criticized for not “sticking with one thing”?
  • Bothered by bright lights, aromas, and noises that others ignore?
  • Can see many sides to nearly every issue and love a good debate?
  • High energy and driven by your own creativity?

There is a test in the book and a longer list. You should get a copy at the library or purchase the book if this sounds like you, or someone you care about!

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children
The Gifted Adult
Self-Knowledge Self-Esteem and the Gifted Adult

My Top Five Strengths

The wisdom from successful people says that we should each focus on our own and each others top strengths. To help me identify my top strengths I read the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and took the online companion test.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 Gallup Press, 2007
Strengths Finder 2.0

My top 5 strengths are listed below, with summary quotes from the test results:

1. Relator
“People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep
satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.”

I do have many close relationships with friends, co-workers, and family members. I work to understand their hopes and dreams and to identify great goals that will help us all achieve our desires. There are times that this, as my number one strength, makes me feel a bit out-of-place, as I don’t particularly care about technology; I care about exploiting technology to deliver value to those I care about. Many “technologists” have a leaning towards technology over people (or at least equal fascination). I use this strength to my advantage at work by making sure I’m delivering software that people want and need, as opposed to simply building it to a specification.

2. Learner
“People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.”

I recorded the number of non-fiction books I studied during the year 2014. There are 68 listed on my spreadsheet which didn’t include Scouting and LDS scriptures. I have completed a master’s degree and I am proficient in 16 different programming languages, OK, yes, I think this strength applies…

3. Achiever
“People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

My typical weekly routine, that I enjoy, looks like this (with 168 hours per week):

  • 55-80 hours working, learning and studying
  • 10-15 hours of Church service
  • 5 hours exercise and studying (listening to educational books)
  • 48-55 hours sleeping and other self-maintenance tasks
  • 5-15 hours dating my wife
  • 5-15 hours raising my kids
  • 1-4 hours playing a game or reading some fiction

Yes, I do think this strength applies!

4. Ideation
“People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”

I keep a spreadsheet of my software ideas, business ideas, people solutions, as well as many OneNote notebooks and I have physical note books for ideas in all areas of my life: Work, Religion, Family, Roleplaying, Software Development, etc…

5. Analytical
“People strong in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think
about all the factors that might affect a situation.”

A personal case study on this: After taking this strengths finder test, I decided it would be great if some of my close friends and family could take it without paying for the test. So, I devised a spreadsheet and a method for self-scoring and then helped my friends and family analyze their own strengths. This task also made use of my Relator strength (learning about close relationships and developing them further) and Ideation strength (helping them think of connections). I assume my continual use of spreadsheets to track projects completed, books read, food eaten, etc… fall under this strength as well…

Indeed, I am grateful to have the fortune of making use of my top talents!

I have written more in-depth posts each strength:

  1. Relator
  2. Learner
  3. Achiever
  4. Ideation
  5. Analytical

For more information about Strengths Finder see GALLUP Strengths Center

#3 Achiever

My personalized insights From GALLUP, for my third strength:
“It’s very likely that you are eager to get started on a project once you realize what you can accomplish in the coming weeks, months, or years. You work very hard to breathe life into your big dreams. These often push and pull you into the future. By nature, you sometimes delight in working or studying by yourself. When you team up with people, you might be disappointed when they fail to appreciate your ability to outperform them. A few individuals may be threatened by your work ethic, persistence, or diligence. Driven by your talents, you dedicate yourself to practicing your craft and expanding your knowledge base. Becoming highly proficient is a priority for you. You likely have established a reputation for being very well-informed, well-practiced, and well-prepared. You typically have great difficulty working with individuals who wing it — that is, do the best they can without studying or planning. Instinctively, you do much more than just try to live up to your commitments. You persist working until you can deliver on your promises. This certainly enhances your reputation for being trustworthy, reliable, and dependable. Because of your strengths, you normally toil for hours to produce topnotch results. Being the very best at something is quite important to you. You have little, if any, tolerance for mediocrity, especially about the things that matter most to you.”

Being the very best would be a bit of an exaggeration; yet, I do strive for excellence, I work for my best, and if that falls short of being very best, I’m OK with that. Achieving to me is not about surpassing other people; it is about producing value added results, while maximizing one’s talents and abilities.

I recently had a discussion with my parents about what I was like as an 11-year-old.
They said I was driven to work on “projects”. I would relentlessly pursue each one until completed and then I would be on to the next project of focus. The featured image for this post is the wedding ring, one such project, that I created for my wife over 17 years ago. Below I have listed some of my significant achievements.


  • Married for 17 years and stronger than ever
  • 5 Children (Most of the credit goes to my wife)
  • Over 17 years experience in software development:
    • Over 100 completed projects
    • Proficiency in over 16 programming languages
    • Across many industries and companies
    • Successful small business management
    • LinkedIn Profile (for more detailed professional achievements)
  • Real estate and business investor
  • High school accomplishments:
    • Debate captain, awarded a college scholarship for speech and debate
    • Jewelry producer: wife’s engagement ring and a box full of jewelry
    • Completed six months early with Math and English college credit
    • Graduated with honors
  • Created my own tabletop RPG game systems, as a teenager and as an adult
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Self studied from 70+ educational books in 2014
  • Active LDS Church member (avg. 10+ hrs./wk. service for the past 8 years)
  • Varsity Boy Scout Coach of the Year Award
  • Lost 60 pounds (and I am keeping it off!)