Tag Archive: Change


Interruptions

Common Misconception: Your productivity is foiled by interruptions.

Harsh Reality: You allow interruptions to feel productive.

When the road ahead is tough terrain, you are easily diverted onto side streets.  Stopping or going in reverse on life’s freeway feels like failure, especially when everyone else appears to be racing by with relative ease.  Thus when struggling to move ahead on the chosen road, you consider every diversion, detour and alternate route.  Any exit ramp that might offer the chance to get moving again, even if it takes you further away from your desired destination.

Two months ago I was struggling to maintain my new exercise regimen, dietary changes, schedule adjustments and blogging activity—the very things that had enabled me to achieve so much during the first six months of the year.  My steady progress had slowed to a crawl.  It was frustrating.

And then my day job presented a very attractive side street.  Two major projects that required my unique combination of skills and talents.  With little hesitation, I changed course and allowed my rigorous pursuit to be interrupted for the benefit of my employer.  The subsequent busy days and nights provided temporary satisfaction, but ultimately kept me from moving closer to my desired goals.  I recognized it about a month ago, but was unable to get back on track.

So I am going to try again.

Quotidian Manifesto

Changing course is easy. Never reverting is hard.

Half way through the year and I find myself teetering on the edge of relapse. Some old habits are creeping back into my daily routine. I’m trying to fight them off. As part of that effort, here is a reminder of what I set forth to quit, start and substitute.

Quit

Being Ignorant – In this information age there is no legitimate defense for prolonged stupidity; you are a Google search away from insight and intelligence. Therefore, immerse yourself in books, online articles and videos focused on the long term effects of diet (good vs. bad) and exercise (regular vs. none). If nothing else, you’ll be smarter and preemptive guilt will help you avoid indulging late night cravings or spending the night in front of the TV.

Excusing Neglect – Tired. Overweight. Dispassionate. Lethargic. These things are not okay and should not be tolerated. Stop rationalizing your current state under the guise of more pressing and important concerns—spouse, kids, work, house, finances, etc. Your performance in all these areas is directly affected by your mental and physical health, so don’t ignore your daily diet and exercise requirements.

Eating Sweets – Most often sugars provide nothing than empty calories and momentary gratification. In exchange for this you incrementally give away your waistline and long-term health. It’s a bad deal. Give them up. Completely. It will be one of the hardest daily changes to maintain, but will pay out big over the long term. To ease your pain, allow one exception each day: a 30 calorie 85%+ cacao chocolate square.

Mindless Snacking – Whenever hungry outside of meal time, force yourself to wait ten minutes before heading to the kitchen; odds are the desire will pass. If it doesn’t, go ahead and snack on fruit. And after dinner, no eating. Period.

Start

Creating Accountability – Establish clear consequences (positive and negative) for your behavior. Whenever possible, make them visual and emotional. Weigh yourself everyday and display it on a Post-It stuck to the bathroom mirror. Use smaller plates and dish at the counter rather than the table so you have to physically get up for more food. Publicly track your exercise activity, books consumed and ideas generated. And don’t leave yourself an easy return to the past—throw out or donate clothes once they become too big or oversized, pay the fee and update your drivers license photo and weight, and blog about your successes and failures.

Thinking Big – Work on building or creating something bigger than yourself. Don’t worry about accomplishing it, just focus on the pursuit and know achievements will follow. Identify others with whom you can partner, collaborate and create. Give away your ideas, especially to those who are more capable of implementing them. Maintain an innovation wall. Practice edge craft. Plan, book and reserve your next vacation at least 9 months in advance. Create a life list.

Exercising – Incorporate at least 30+ minutes of physical activity into your day five times each week. Elliptical is fine, but mix it up; do some running, basketball, swimming and weight lifting as well. In addition, adopt a daily routine that includes stretching, sit ups and push ups.


Substitute

Productive for Busy – Get things done and ship everyday. Identify fixed commitments, tasks that cannot be delayed without rapidly increasing penalty (cooking, exercise, If it can be completed in under two minutes, do it. If not, list it. Don’t browse the internet during lunch. Instead, watch one TED or BigThink video (20 minutes and your out). Limit email checks to three times a day—morning, lunch and 30 minutes before end of business—and advise everyone of this schedule and your cell number. Blog everyday for at least 30 minutes and publish whenever a post is 90% finished; if you work on it for more than three consecutive days, move on to a new idea.

Nutrients for Calories – Mind your portions, but don’t starve yourself. Instead, swap out high fat, high sugar and low nutrition foods for lean, nutrient rich superfoods. Consume more fruits and vegetables. Lots of them. Don’t skip breakfast. Drink unsweetened iced tea in place of soda; cut out red meats and use portobello and shiitake mushrooms in their place; snack on frozen grapes and fruit smoothies rather than ice cream. Be sure to start every morning with a cup of green tea, a hard boiled egg and some fruit with non-fat yogurt and a little granola. And supplement one of your meals with a capsule cocktail that includes multivitamins, fish and flax oil, turmeric and curcumin.

Books for TV – Instead of ending the day falling asleep on the couch in front of the television, conclude by reading a book in bed. Trade out mental sedation for intellectual stimulation. And when you do want to watch something, do it while on exercising.

There are many more things to quit, start and substitute, but this list will do for now.

Personal Investment

An initial meeting with an investment advisor typically begins with a series of questions designed to find out what level of risk you are willing to accept.  Along those lines, consider the following investment scenarios:

A) You invested $50K in college tuition and after three years have received no visibility to how you have performed—no report card, no grades, no professor comments, nothing.  Are you willing to write a check for the fourth year and commit to another $50K for graduate school?

B) Over a five year period you invested $50K in a retirement plan that never provided visibility to its financial performance—no quarterly reports, no growth charts, no portfolio tables, nothing. How willing are you to continue giving them a portion of your paycheck?  Are you in for another $50K?

C) You invested $50K in a new business venture that never reported back to you its revenues or expenses—no cash flow statements, no profit-loss analysis, nothing. Are you interested in investing another $50K in this company?

Odds are none of these investment scenarios are attractive or appealing to you. Understandably, there is an unwillingness to invest in anything that lacks accountability or fails to provide visibility to its performance.

And this seems perfectly reasonable.  We shouldn’t assume simply attending classes will lead to graduation; and we shouldn’t assume blindly contributing to a 401k will yield enough money for retirement; and we shouldn’t assume a business is profitable simply because it keeps its doors open. To fully leverage an investment, we need visibility to its performance so we can continually evaluate its return.  And if that isn’t possible, we should be hesitant to invest more. Right?

So what about you? How much have you invested in yourself over the last few years? Let’s assume you’re working full-time and require another twelve hours each day for sleeping, eating and general health needs. That leaves you with roughly 2,300 discretionary hours each year to invest however you desire. Given the U.S. Census Bureau estimates median annual earnings for men working full-time in 2008 was $46K+, or roughly $22 per hour, means each year you have an opportunity to invest roughly $50K in yourself.

So how is that investment performing? Is it paying dividends? How do you know?

If you don’t, are you assuming showing up, blindly contributing and keeping your doors open will eventually provide you with a solid return? And if you weren’t willing to accept that level of risk in any of the scenarios above, what is different when it comes to your time?

I am no longer comfortable with such an investment strategy. I realize my time is limited, so I must invest wisely.

A few brief notes on three books consumed during March…

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs – We are living in an ever-expanding ocean of knowledge that we will never be able to fully explore. Nonetheless, everyone should jump in and swim around as much as possible; it is one of the many adventures life offers. One man went to extremes and read all 33,000 pages of the 2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica. This is his story.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – Conventional wisdom is that sustained success is the product of talent plus hard work.  Gladwell adds two more variables to the equation: opportunity and legacy. Bad news: three of the four are entirely beyond your control. Good news: you can still be successful.

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner –  Eat in moderation; heavy on fruits, veggies and nuts while avoiding meat. Make physical activity part of your lifestyle; consistent but not strenuous. Live with purpose; it doesn’t have to be world changing, just meaningful to you. Surround yourself with a support network; relieve stress, anger and anxiety constructively.

Unreasonable Request

A man walks into a Ferrari dealership, approaches a salesperson, hands him a picture of a Ferrari Aurea GT and states “I’d like to buy that car today; here’s $15,000.”

The salesperson politely informs the man he is unable to meet the request because 1) it is Sunday and car sales are prohibited by state law; 2) the model he desires does not exist as it is a concept car and the photo is nothing more than a 3D rendering; and 3) there is no viable alternative model Ferrari available for $15,000.  He suggests the man visit a Toyota or Ford dealership tomorrow to find a used car that better matches his criteria.

Who here is being unreasonable? The customer anxious to spend $15,000 on a fictitious Ferrari or the salesperson unwilling to compromise in order to make a sale?  Conventional wisdom would find the customer to be unreasonable, if not certifiably insane. And in all likelihood, the salesperson will send the man on his way and then enjoy a good laugh with his co-workers at the customer’s expense.

And that is the problem with conventional wisdom; it embraces the status quo and dismisses the unreasonable request, the wacky idea, the crazy concept or the nonsensical approach. Yet within these absurd notions we might derive future products, markets, industries or entire economies…

  • At one time it was unreasonable to request a custom configured PC be built and shipped in the same day for less than $1,000. Dell met that request.
  • At one time it was unreasonable to request a car rental agency come pick you up at home or work. Enterprise met that request.
  • At one time it was unreasonable to request instantaneous, electronic delivery of a single song for a fraction of the album price. Apple met that request.
  • At one time it was unreasonable to request free hosting and distribution of your homemade videos on the Internet.  YouTube met that request.
  • At one time is was unreasonable to request publication of your book for free with complete editorial and copyright control. Lulu met that request.
  • At one time it was unreasonable to request the purchase of three uniquely patterned individual socks. LittleMissMatched met that request.

You don’t have to meet an unreasonable request; in fact, most often it is likely in your best interests to decline it altogether. But if you have any desire to grow, advance, evolve or improve you should at least give it some consideration. Playwright George Bernard Shaw once stated:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

And so when presented with an unreasonable request, at a minimum ask what would have to change to meet the demand in the future—either fully or partially—and what would be the resultant benefit.

It might not be feasible to sell make-believe sports cars for $15K on Sundays, but what if…

99th Percentile

I am in rare company on this planet…

  • I own a house, a car and a computer with access to the Internet
  • I have a job and a bank account
  • I have medical insurance
  • I have a college education
  • I have freedom to practice my religious and political beliefs
  • I have a consistent supply of food
  • I have convenient access to a safe water supply

More than 99 percent of people in the world cannot make all of these claims.

It is time to stop chasing the few individuals that have more and focus on helping the multitudes that have less.

Book Report: Change

Here are some quick thoughts on the three books consumed during the month of February…

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin – If you choose, an opportunity exists (now more than ever) to leverage your work to create art—”the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.” It is not easy, there is no map and there is no guarantee you will accomplish what you set out to do. But you will be rewarded. So push past the fear and start shipping gifts to the world around you.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath – The Heath boys offer their version of Change 101: Give clear direction to your logic and focus on what works; appeal to your emotion with small steps and a sense of identity; ensure your surroundings encourage desired behavior and develop habits.

Anticancer: A New Way Of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD – Cancer is not hereditary but we all have it.  Our diet, environment, mental health and exercise regimen largely determine whether it develops beyond the control of our immune system. Bad news: the affluent Western lifestyle we enjoy today fosters cancer growth.  Good news: we can change.

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