An Astronaut’s Tips for Living in Isolation

Leave it to the world’s finest to already have this self-isolation thing figured out…

Adapted from a Twitter Thread by astronaut Anne McClain

One thing astronauts have to be good at: living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Here are some tips for all who find yourself in a similar scenario.

Thought this was great. Wanted to share as more and more states issues shelter in place orders.

An Astronaut’s Tips For Living in Space – Or Anywhere

Worried About Toilet Paper? Take a Breath and Look at The Big Picture

Did I ever tell you about my time in Pakistan and the guy whose job it was to scoop shit out of a port-a-john?

In 2005, I was on deployment in the western pacific and I got to be part of a multi-national military effort providing disaster relief to Pakistan. Devastating earthquakes had rocked the country, and the US was tasked with leading the relief effort. As a very junior officer at the time, this was quite an opportunity for me not only to travel to another country, but to spend about four months living with a group of people who hadn’t had Americans in their country for a few decades.

People who lived a very different way of life than my cushy American upbringing.

Not only did the joint efforts help with food, supplies, temporary housing (many homes in northern Pakistan were built in to the hillsides and thus destroyed), but we also brought out and deployed Army and Marine hospital units. We even had one or two full-blown MASH units that provided surgical care, trauma centers, dental care, and more.

I remember at one point people bringing reports and commentary back from those field hospitals. Many of the people they were seeing and treating said they had NEVER received care like this. Nor even had the option for care like this.

Before these MASH hospitals…before the world’s disaster relief efforts came to town…before the earthquake, many of these Pakistanis had never even seen a dentist, a pediatrician, or a doctor period.

This earthquake was estimated to have killed over 70,000 people and left close to 4 million homeless.

Think about that. And we have these MASH units ready to go in our backyard.

The Big Picture

image via wikipedia

Step back and take a look at your house, community, city, state, country…compared to other parts of the world. Don’t just look at other “advanced” countries. Remember there are “emerging” and “developing” countries as well.

For this report we grouped countries into three economic categories: “advanced,” “emerging” and “developing.” These categories are fairly common in specialized and popular discussions and are helpful for analyzing how public attitudes vary with economic circumstances. However, no single, agreed upon scheme exists for placing countries into these three categories. For example, even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund do not always agree on how to categorize economies.

—Pew Research

Take a quick look at this 2019 report from the United Nations. It lists the various country classifications with slightly different terms but the same concepts. There are large parts of this world that aren’t worried about the local store running out of toilet paper.

They just want to be able to eat with a roof over their head.

Or get paid to scoop shit out of a port-a-john.

Back to that Deployment

I wasn’t exaggerating about that. The local contractors that were hired when I first showed up outside of Islamabad, helped with some basic facility support. We were essentially camping out for a few months next to an ad hoc airport. We had the military tents, gear, and people…and they provided things like port-a-johns, water supply, some transportation, etc.

One day I was sitting, eating an MRE, and saw a gentlemen with a large ladle looking thing…almost like a shovel but the end was larger, flatter, rounder. Then I saw him start scooping shit…out of the portable outhouses we had been using.

This contractor didn’t have large trucks that could suck all that stuff up in to the back to later dispose of it at a treatment facility. These guys had to scoop the shit out before they got all the rest of the blackwater out!

Needless to say I lost my appetite for that MRE.

That give you a different outlook on your toilet paper tensions?

Values

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

I have always appreciated the perspective that being in the military gives me. For some reason, I don’t talk much about my work here. Most likely because I normally see this site (and my past websites) as an avenue for me to express myself and my interests outside of work.

However, I would be doing a disservice to those who read this to pretend that my work is not a big part of who I am. I got to college, met my wife, and have a career…all because of the US Navy.

I have taken courses on leadership, ethics, thermodynamics (unfortunately), constitutional law, engineering, joint military operations, and national security. Leaders throughout my career have taught me humility, selfless service, hard work, sacrifice, harder work, and core values of “honor, courage, and commitment”.

Take Comfort in Your Leadership

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I am writing to my fellow Americans, but I hope that this can speak to those beyond our nation’s boarders. Yesterday I wrote about companies that are closing up but still paying employees, three days ago there was an Italian opera singer who serenaded his neighbors, professional photographers are giving away their paid courses for free, and so much more!

I can only assume that if you a re reading this, you probably don’t have it that bad.

YES – doing what you can to prevent further COVID 19 spread is important.

YES – take your local authorities seriously

YES – do your part

But please, step back….look at the big picture….and know that you are ok.

I trust our leaders have our best interests at heart and I know (for a fact) that they are working around the clock to make sure that people are taken care of. Those leaders that taught me how to lead, to serve, to be a man of honor…many of them are retired and work in government now. As a collective, our representatives and leaders will help us through this and we will be ok.

And please, don’t sweat the toilet paper.

At least you’re not scooping shit out of a port-a-john.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

How to Make Your First $50 on Medium

You can do this…here are the 3 steps you need.

Ok, as of publishing this I’ve only made about $43 and change…but looking at my Medium stats I’ll reach $50 soon. I am going to teach you the (less obvious) things I’ve learned, and 3 steps you need to start.


One of the things that I never expected when I first discovered Medium was that I would make money there.

I wrote on my own blog for a few years off and on, and thought the initial Medium experiment was just that…an experiment. The earliest posts on Medium were all about the clean design, typography, and quality content.

the very first Medium article
the very first Medium post!

A couple years ago when the Medium Partner Program started up, my interest swung back around. The program matured and the metrics for payouts moved away from “claps” to time spent reading content. A much better method. A little like YouTube video watch time for creators making money there.

How Do You Get Paid?

From the FAQ page:

Partner Program writers are paid monthly based on how much time Medium members spend reading their stories. Earnings are calculated based on two components:

– How long members spend reading your story. As Medium members spend more time reading your story (“member reading time”), you’ll earn more. When we calculate your story’s earnings, we’ll also include reading time from non-members if they subscribe to Medium within 30 days of reading your story.


– How much of their monthly reading time members spend on your story. By calculating a share of member reading time, we support authors who write about unique topics and connect with loyal readers. For example, if last month a member spent 10% of their monthly reading time on your story, you will receive 10% of their share (a portion of their subscription fee).

Imagine an author writes about fly fishing. She finds an audience of fly fishing enthusiasts who subscribe to Medium primarily to read her stories, meaning she receives a strong share of reading time from each of her readers. In contrast, a generalist author might receive smaller shares from his readers, who also read a variety of other authors. The fly fisher can earn relatively more through the share calculation, even with a smaller audience.

Pay close attention to the last bit. My own earnings seem to confirm that writing towards the interests of a specific audience is important. Almost 70% of what I’ve earned came from 1 article. That story was about when I almost died rock climbing. It got picked up for Medium’s “Outdoor” section…thus getting pushed to more people with that interest.

my highest earning story on Medium

How can you make sure your articles pop on Medium?

1. The Push and Pull

This is my term but others may call it the flow. The reason I call it the push and pull is because that is how you write something engaging. Good articles start off with the author’s position, promise, or a primary question for exploration.

To engage readers past that initial push, you pull them in with a story that almost takes their mind off of that first promise. Then you push them back to the main point. This cycle can repeat throughout your post. Done well, this makes for an engaging read…especially for long articles.

And on Medium, higher “member reading time” is how you make money.

2. The “Medium Format”

This may seem obvious to some but it wasn’t for me at first. Yet I have learned that there is a format that works well here. I came across another author that spells it out quite well.

This article is FULL of great tips, tricks, and advice. After reading this and adjusting how I format my posts on Medium, I started getting picked up by Medium editors for distribution.

I recommend reading this article. Using images and white space, linking to your own work, and having a strategy for choosing the right tags…it all matters. Trust me.

Read that article and save it. I still go back and refer to it every now and then.

3. Spend Time (but not too much) on the Title

Obvious I know but it’s important.

On YouTube they say to spend a lot more time than you think on your video thumbnail. After all, if people never click on your thumbnail, they will never watch your video. The same advice applies for titles on Medium…or anywhere. Luckily titles don’t need photoshop expertise.

But you do need a cover photo that matches the tone of your title.

BE AWARE though. I came across the above article that did a statistical analysis on all the “standard title advice”. The author boiled it down to this:

The only thing that matters is writing about a subject people care about, and writing a title that suggests you’re giving them something of value. That’s it.

Great advice and a valuable read that will save you some time in the future. I skimmed past the data science parts of it to the meat of what most of us are looking for. What works, what doesn’t.

Topic + Simplicity + Value Proposition = Good Title = Clicks = Readers = $$

Photo by Gia Oris on Unsplash

Where to Start

  1. Sign up for the Partnership Program!! – It’s easy and I was surprised when I started getting paid. Although I guess I shouldn’t have been.
  2. Save this post for future reference – Click that bookmark or archive button. I saved the articles that inspired me and you will be happy you did too.
  3. Start writing – You can even import old stuff you’ve written from other websites. Don’t be afraid to share your free ‘friends and family link’ with…your friends and family. Sharing is caring and helps get your article read.

I hope this has helped give you that push to start writing here. YOU CAN DO IT!!!

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

Links of the Week (3/02/2020)

Leadership mindset, the infinite game, and philosophers who fled…

Why aren’t companies getting more bang for their leadership development buck? Our latest research suggests it’s likely because most leadership development efforts overlook a specific attribute that is foundational to how leaders think, learn, and behave: their mindsets.

I bet you have seen this firsthand. How a leader or manager ‘normally thinks’ about work, or whomever they are managing, dictates their success.

To Be a Great Leader, You Need the Right Mindset


Many vision statements sound more like long-term goals. And they are pretty egocentric. To be the biggest, most respected X kind of company in the industry by X date. To offer the greatest value with the highest-quality products. That is not a description of the world we want to live in. That is a description of the company you want to build. That kind of stuff is fine and good. But it is not visionary. A good vision statement would be to create a world in which the vast majority of people wake up inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day.

I think Simon Sinek is brilliant. His movement to inspire people is just that…inspirational. In the Navy, leaders are often urged to write down a “vision” or “mission statement”…and like Simon, I think that can be dangerous if that vision is too goal oriented and thus short sited.

Simon Sinek: The Best Way to Run a Business Is Without an End Goal in Mind


There is no such thing as winning an infinite game, since it has no end. It occurred to me that business meets the criteria of an infinite game.

Like the previous link, this concept of the ‘infinite game’ in leadership is great.

Simon Sinek advocates ‘infinite-minded leadership’ – Director magazine


Many thinkers have been killed for their ideas. Some got away with exile.

Most of the ones we’ll look at here were driven out by the government, but others fled for their own safety.

The fact that some of these thinkers are still famous centuries after their exile suggests they might have been on to something, even if their countrymen disagreed.

I was curious to read this article at first because I wanted to see what philosophers were named and shamed for their work back in their day. Then it made me think again about how lucky we are that we (in the US) don’t live in a place that would do that.

7 philosophers who were exiled from their societies