Two Petals of the Flower

I think that this is the second time that I’ve posted the results of one of those silly "What kind of … are you?" in my journal — three, if you count the Which Crawford Cat Quiz that Jennifer and I came up with a few months ago — the one that prompted my aunt, my mother, and my mother-in-law all to declare, "Richard, you REALLY need to find a job!"

At any rate…

You are Civilian Calvin!
You don’t get to travel much outside your neighborhood, but you still manage to get in plenty of trouble. When you’re not acting up, you like to wax philosophical.
Take the What Calvin are You? Quiz by!

Just how accurate are these tests supposed to be, anyway?

Jennifer and I watched the Academy Awards tonight. I haven’t watched the show all the way through for several years now, and even tonight I was more focused on the novel I’ve been reading than the show itself. Shrek got Best Animated Feature Film. How spiffy is that? I was pleased that Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings received four Oscar awards. It was a stunning film; I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t get Best Picture, since there is still the stigma of the Genre Film, but LotR proved that good, intelligent, thought-provoking fantasy films are possible (as opposed to tripe like Beastmaster).

I received an e-mail a few weeks back from someone who was distraught that I was "giving up on your dreams", in response to my entry from February 28, 2002. I didn’t write back to her; I should have. I’m not really giving on anything, you know. I’m just sort of taking some time to refocus myself. I’m pretty sure that my life does have a purpose of some sort, I just don’t know what it is. I’m pulling back from everything I thought was my purpose, and giving myself some space and permission and time to discover that purpose.

To that end, I’ve decided to pick up my old copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? and wander my way through some exercises in that book. In that book, author Richard Bolles likens a person’s ideal career to a flower of sorts, with six petals and your skill set in the middle. One pedal of the flower represents your ideal location; for me, that is right here in Solano County. That’s one down. Another petal represents your fields of interest. And for the purposes of this exercise, you need to limit that to three.

How in the world am I supposed to do that? My problem all along has been that while my tangible skills have stayed relatively few in number, my interests have wandered all over the map: astronomy, botany, Chinese philosophy, xenobiology, philosophy, religion, archaeology… so how do I narrow it down to a mere 3?

Thank God for Perl. Bolles has a nifty little procedure in his book for prioritizing just about anything, and I spent a couple of hours yesterday putting together a Perl script that would let me write up a list of subjects in Emacs and then prioritize that list according to Bolles’s procedure (it’s very simple, actually; all you do is just compare every item on the list to every other item on the list, circle the one you prefer, and then count the number of times each item has been circled).

I admit that I cheated, by lumping biology, paleontology, evolutionary theory, ecology, and so on into "Natural Sciences" — mostly because I doubt that I’ll ever be able to focus on one field, and I find them all equally interesting. I also lumped archaeology, anthropology, psychology, and sociology into "Human Sciences".

So, using my program to narrow my list down to my Top Three, I get the following:

  1. Natural Sciences
  2. Travel
  3. Writing

Bolles also uses a method of writing up seven "life stories" from your past where you’ve accomplished something that you were proud of and that you enjoyed, and then writing down and listing all of the skills that you used in that accomplishment. He offers a list of nearly 100 skills just to get you started. I went through, and, to my surprise, I came up with nearly fifty separate skills. And then you have to narrow it down to the top six that you enjoy using and that you do well. Using this technique, and my program, I came up with these:

  1. Initiating, starting up, founding, establishing
  2. Creating New Ideas
  3. Writing
  4. Representing Other People’s Ideas
  5. "signing", miming, acting… "Hamming it up", in other words
  6. Helping people link up and communicate

I’m not entirely sure what to do with these lists. If I’m interpreting the results properly, it looks like I ought to retrace the voyage of Darwin’s Beagle and write a series of books and articles about it, and possibly establish a tour company and conduct the guided tours myself, then write some novels and role-playing games based on the places and people I encounter along the way.

Hm. Actually, that doesn’t sound all that bad. The only downside would be the little issue of being away from home for months at a time. I suppose it wouldn’t be all that bad if I could bring Jennifer along, but then we’d have to put litter boxes on the boat for the cats, and I’m not sure how well they’d fare aboard.

At any rate, I’ve made the inner workings of my soul public so that I could solicit feedback from anyone who has been reading this journal regularly — all two or three of you.

And one thing that struck me while I was writing up these lists and using my little Perl program to prioritize everything… Computers, programming, and web development did not show up in my lists anywhere, except at the very bottom. Hmm.

On a different note, I received an e-mail earlier this evening from the webmaster of While Jennifer thinks that this may be a 50-60% match to my own personality, I think it’s probably closer to 80-90% (I’m not all that drawn to recreational drugs or alcohol, for example). Whatever the number is, it’s good to know that I’m not the only "intellectual vagabond" out there.

Oh! And a follow up to my last entry… I’ve managed to get my Linux box working again. As always, it was a two- to three-hour project, but it was fun and worthwhile. Linux is not an OS for the weak or the easily frustrated…

3 thoughts on “Two Petals of the Flower”

  1. Thanks for the write-up on Bolles’ book.

    Do you still have the perl script for prioritizing items? If so, could you make it available for download?

    Also, do you think the hours going through the book was helpful to you in your career, now six years later?

    1. You know, I was looking for that script the other day, and I’m afraid it’s gone. I haven’t worked with Perl for years at this point, so I haven’t a clue how I’d begin rewriting that script. I may rewrite it in PHP, though.

      I honestly can’t say how useful Bolles’s book was to me in the end. At this point, I’m a web developer for UC Davis Extension’s Distance Education Campus, and while I enjoy my job it isn’t something I wouldn’t have necessarily pursued. With Bolles I never got past the “what are my interests and skills, really?” phase. I’ve also reached a point in my life where I feel that pursuing some of these exercises just wouldn’t do me any good.

  2. Thanks Richard!

    If this blog is anything to go by, you’re one of the better web developers out there. Good use of contrast (dark type on parchment background) makes it very readable. I also like the background design on the borders.

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