Putting In Your Time and Paces

31 07 2014

Putting In Your PacesJim Rohn is one of my favorite self-development teachers.  I’ve been mentored by him over the past few years through his writings and recorded seminars.  I have never met him.  He died in 2009 after a full life.

Some time ago, I heard him dispense this nugget, worthy of wrapping one’s head around:

“Make rest a necessity, not an objective.”

Now that’s a new and powerful way of highlighting the importance of working hard.

Rest is something we earn.  This sounds foreign to American ears.  We are used to the “standard” of a forty-hour work week.  But forty hours of labor over a seven day period—as enough to get ahead–is distinctly Western and recent.  Our grandparents didn’t think like this.

I’ve heard it said that if you’re only working forty hours a week, it’s not likely you’ll get ahead–certainly not as far ahead as your dreams, goals, and ambitions.

Even God worked six days out of seven when He created the cosmos.  He wasn’t done on Friday afternoon at 5:00.

I have family members who are doctors, attorneys, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, Federal officials, and much more.  They’ve all gotten where they’re at the old-fashioned way:  They worked their tails off.  Nobody handed any of them anything.

Here are just a few benefits that will return to you with greater effort and longer hours, as you create a life:

  • You will certainly grow in your chosen fields of vocation and avocation.
  • Your sense of accomplishment will increase as you tackle and master more skills and meet goals.
  • You will run far ahead of the pack simply because many, if not most, are content to put their expected time in, satisfied with “working their forty hours.”
  • Your earning potential will undoubtedly increase, especially if the extra effort is focused and you strive for greater levels of excellence at all to which you put your hands to.

This isn’t a paean of praise to workaholism, far from it.  But in a culture that lives for the weekend, for partying, for good times and leisure, one tends to get an unrealistic picture of what it takes to win at life and realize your full potential.  It’s simply a matter of adjusting your perspective to accord with reality.

So my advice is this:  See work and labor not as a curse, but as a blessing.  Some of the most successful people in recent memory got that way, in sizeable measure, because they love working:  Donald Trump, Gene Simmons, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.  Look for lots of increases in many different ways as you likewise work harder toward fulfilling your destiny.

And, when you have striven and exerted and are tired, then rest.

You’ve earned it.

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Measurable Goals and Growth

23 07 2014

Measurable GoalsGoals.  How do you hit them?  How do you place them within sane and profitable range?  How do you avoid the extremes of setting the bar too low—being unchallenged and bored—and shooting unrealistically high (and being discouraged and defeated)?

I once had a helpful conversation at work. One of my colleagues and I were discussing the importance of setting goals that were challenging yet attainable.  My friend told me that when he was an insurance salesman, he and his fellow agents would huddle in the mornings and lay out their sales goals for that particular day.  His buddies would generally shoot for the moon:  “I’m gonna sell ten policies today.”  He would set more modest but sufficiently difficult targets: “I’m going to sell two of this policy and one of that package.”  And he would usually hit the mark, while his co-workers failed to meet theirs and were thus discouraged.

There’s an old adage that says “slow and steady wins the race.”  This, of course, is a nod to Aesop’s famous story of The Tortoise and the Hare.  Through patient plodding, the much slower and ungainly tortoise won the race over the flashy and fleet-of-foot hare.  If you persevere, you win.

This is not to discourage the practice of giving yourself a worthy but difficult task.  But it is important to keep a healthy balance between mediocrity and insanity.  Those who avoid the shoals on either side generally sail on to success.

What are your goals for 1) continuing education—whether at a learning institution or through self-education via reading, listening and viewing, 2) physical fitness and weight loss, 3) strengthening your relationships, 4) improving your vocational skills?  Have you written them down, which is critical to their fulfillment, having engaged your conscious and subconscious mind by doing so?  Have you a process, broken down into manageable bites—“baby steps”—whereby you can meet these destinations?

Here are some of the benefits one derives from setting goals and then meeting them:

  • You get the benefit of meeting the goal itself.  If you lose that portly thirty pounds, you feel better about yourself and have become healthier.  If you learn a new skill, you can use that to help others, elevate your station and earn more.
  • You receive a boost in self-confidence and self-respect rooted in genuine accomplishment, rather than in aspiration and fantasy.
  • You strengthen your goal-attainment muscles because you are encouraged that, yes, you can do this!

Set goals.  Set them high enough to stretch you.  Write them down, with concrete dates and metrics indicating you’ve met them.  Then hit them!

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Just Practice? There’s No “Just Practice”

9 07 2014

Just PracticeI read a story some time ago that, while sad, was not at all surprising.  Former NBA standout Allen Iverson has fallen on hard times.  He made millions but is now broke.  It is a tale oft-repeated about people in popular entertainment (and make no mistake, professional athletes are, in fact, entertainers).

I recall watching his now-famous press conference–video gone viral–after he’d been fined by his team for missing practice.  He repeated over and over again, “It’s just practice.”  In other words, “when I’m playing the game, I’ll be all there.”

Really?  Try selling that to Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, or Magic Johnson.

God alone knows how this capable man went from riches to rags.  His career spanned the period of the mid 1990′s to 2010.  It’s a sad story, one that could happen, I suppose, to any of us.

I’m going to be candid.  I can’t help but wonder if Iverson’s dismissive attitude towards practice didn’t play some part in things going south for him.  Again, God only knows.  But ideas and mentalities have consequences.  Blowing off practice or refusing to run out an infield fly ball in baseball (something we’d have gotten benched for in the 1970′s) says a lot about a person.

I get bored very easily.  As a guitarist and pianist, I’m not content playing the same things over and over again.  Stale food.  No thanks.  So I have to do things that keep me growing and sounding interesting.  I don’t want to bore my wife or anybody else with ears.

In recent years, I’ve been doing some different things that have helped me play and think differently on the guitar.  And I’ve been having a blast doing it as well.   So I thought I’d share the wealth.

Play in alternate tunings.  A few Autumns ago, I got totally inspired watching Jimmy Page demonstrate how he plays Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to The Edge (U2) and Jack White (The White Stripes) in the outstanding documentary It Might Get Loud.  Jimmy came up with this years ago while playing around in an alternate tuning: DADGAD.  Operative phrase: Playing around.  It’s profoundly simple and cool.  (I’ve been playing “Kashmir” a lot and my wife digs it.).  With alternate tunings, you get a lot of voicings not available in standard tuning.  If you’re into this, learn a song by artists who’ve used alternate tunings a lot—Crosby, Stills & Nash, Led Zeppelin, Phil Keaggy, Pierre Bensusan, The Rolling Stones.  Better yet, create your own.

Play musical theatre.  A good deal of Broadway music is very involved, sophisticated and colorful.  Usually written by brilliant composers on the piano.  As a guitarist, you will find this extremely challenging.  Here’s something fun—learn really complex chords at various positions all over the neck.  You’ll love the colors.  Pick a show you like (A Chorus Line, Wicked, West Side Story, etc.) and go from there.

Learn a song by one of your heroes.  Eric Johnson used to learn—and I mean really learn—a song a month by Jimi Hendrix.  Eric would take the song apart like a car engine and study it.  His own readings of Hendrix classics are quite good.  Years ago, I’d learn songs by sitting next to the record player and picking up the needle, over and over and over again, and repeating the song until I’d nailed it.  Digital technology makes this so much easier.  Whether your hero is Stevie Ray Vaughan or Joe Satriani or Tommy Emmanuel, find something you love and learn it cold.  You’ll find that eventually you’ll develop your own voice and style.  It’s what millions of guitarists have done for the past sixty years.  Join their ranks.

Practice.  Yes, proficiency on a musical instrument involves drudgery.  Faithfulness outside of the eye and applause of the crowd.  Your fidelity to practice will absolutely show when you hit the court.

Now go play.  And remember:

It’s not just practice.

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Giving People A Superior Experience

8 07 2014

3 day Uyuni trip San Pedro to Uyuni, salt flat photos locosA few years ago, I read something from renowned editer and author Sol Stein in his excellent book, Stein On Writing. He wrote that the correct intention for a writer was “to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in everyday life.” I was really struck by that because, like many others who write and enjoy it, I do so “because I have something to say” or “need to get something off my chest” or “have a passion for this or that.” Stein’s point is that the focus of our writing is to enhance the life of the reader, give him or her something better than the predictable, workaday experience they currently enjoy or endure. It’s not about me.

I had to ask myself, “How do people experience my place in their lives?” Being honest I had to admit that at times my involvement in the lives of the people I live and work with have energized them. And at other times—being brutally honest—I’ve drained them. Usually the drain part comes when it’s all about me. And the energizing quality comes when I forget me and seek to “provide (name) with an experience that is superior to the experience (name) encounters in everyday life.”

Be honest. How do people experience you?

The world was changed and moved in a seismic way by the work and thinking of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers. When Steve passed away, I happened to be reading Leander Kahney’s excellent book Inside Steve’s Brain. The one thing that emerged very quickly from my reading was that the experience of the user was one of the absolute core values of Steve Jobs and Apple. Still is. Millions of dollars and countless thousands of work hours were and are spent to provide Apple customers with a superior experience in their interaction with modern technology. Jobs examined every aspect of the experience of an Apple customer and, with his outstanding team, honed it endlessly to ensure that the complex was simplified and that the experience of the buyer—even down to the opening and assembly of a new computer—was superior to anything else out there. Jobs’ solution to the problem of pirating of music (through illegal downloading) was to provide such a superior experience for one visiting the iTunes Store, that one would be willing to pay for the tunes and files they wanted, rather than pirate them. A superior experience as a curative for a moral and economic problem. Brilliant.

Challenge for the day: Ask yourself how people experience your presence in daily life. Be honest and willing to make adjustments, shifts in thinking, learn new stuff, whatever. You may be surprised how people jump out of the woodwork when they see how their lives are enhanced just by being with you—a superior experience.

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Your Environment and Success

7 07 2014

Your Environment and SuccessWise mentors tell us that to be successful in life and meet our goals, it is supremely important that we prepare our environment in a way that maximizes our potential to succeed. Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The Bible tells us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20).   Pretty important, therefore, to choose carefully those who inhabit your orbit.

Both positive and negative mindsets tend to be contagious. I’ve observed that the tendency toward being negative, defeatist and pessimistic is a little more “natural” than the opposite tendency—that is, towards finding the good in life. This is a by-product of living in a fallen world. But it does not have to be that way. It just takes effort. And it is worth it.

Choose wisely what and with whom you associate. “Like attracts like.” This I’ve found to be true. If I’m angry, sullen, mad at the world and depressed, I tend to attract people just like me—without even trying! My anger somehow validates them. And of course such anger is usually cloaked in righteous sounding garb. But it is a downward spiral and simply has never worked.

I’ve discovered that as my thinking is positive, loving, cheerful and optimistic, I attract people with similar thinking and outlook. And I’ve noticed that what appeals to the optimistic and cheerful tends to repel the pessimistic and angry. Want to find out something really interesting? Look at those who were drawn to Jesus and those who were repelled by him. Invariably, those who were repelled by Jesus were angry, punctilious, religious people whose view of God was ultimately evil. If you are ultimately more focused on evil than on good, you are demonstrating what one author calls “practical atheism”—that is, you have more faith in the supremacy of the power of evil than the power of good. Hmm….

Some suggestions:

  • Read and listen well. There are all sorts of helpful resources in the digital universe, as well as library and bookstore shelves, that can help you on your way.  Avail yourself.  I’ve been particularly helped by books, video and audio by people like Brian Tracy, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jack Canfield.
  • Choose friends carefully. You must approach friendships aware that those whom you surround yourself with will affect you for good or ill. Both optimism and pessimism are contagious. Some friends will feel threatened when you become healthy.       Become healthy anyway. Love them but understand you may have to, for both your sakes, limit your involvements.
  • Look for good in every situation. You generally find what you’re looking for.

Now go succeed!

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Take COMPLETE Responsibility For Your Life

23 04 2014

responsibilityThe opening chapter of Jack Canfield’s fantastic book, The Success Principles, has this challenging title: “Take 100% Responsibility For Your Life.”

 
The chapter is worth the price of the book. Easy. It is slowly but surely changing my life. The concept will radically alter your destiny if you embrace it and practice it. And great mentors talk about this as the fundamental step that will reinvent your life. Jack Canfield. Stephen R. Covey. Brian Tracy. All attest the same.

 
100% responsibility.

 
Think about it. Aside from obvious things over which we have no control (planes crashing into our house, forms of disease, tornadoes, and such), we really have the marvelous opportunity and ability to craft a life.
To do this, you must become a good swimmer. Why? Because the current of our society flows against personal responsibility. It has strong undertows of victimization, blame-shifting and an unrealistic sense of entitlement. And it has kept leaders from emerging. You must swim against it. And you are well able to do it.

 
I heard Brian Tracy once say that assuming complete responsibility for our lives is the mark of adulthood. It means being a grown-up. As kids we long for that moment. Now, we can maximize all the possibilities.

 
Here are some challenges for the coming days:

 
• Every day embrace the reality that you have the God-given ability to better your life and circumstances in some way. Viktor Frankl learned this in Hitler’s death camps. He realized that the Nazis had no power whatsoever over his thinking and inner life. Unless he gave it to them.
• Every day work to improve your skills of attention, concentration and laser-like focus for whatever task you happen to be doing. Be all there. Be fully in the moment. If it isn’t worth doing with all your being, is it worth doing at all? I did this last night as I walked for two miles in the bone-chilling cold air of winter. I embraced the frozen air and punishing wind. And became stronger because of it. I enjoyed it and improved my physical and mental life as a result.
• Write down your goals. There’s something about putting pen to paper that sets a course in motion within you towards the fulfillment of those goals. Your subconscious mind engineers reasons and plans for achieving what you’ve set as a target. Dream it, write it and be very specific. And then work your plan.

 
This is your moment. Hold nothing back.

 
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Getting Airborne

16 02 2014

FlightIf you’ve ever flown in a large airliner and been seated on or near a wing, you’ll notice that there are adjustments made to the size and configuration of the wings before the pilot begins his takeoff roll.  Flaps and slats are extended, which increases the surface area and shape of the wings.  Large jet aircraft need this.

I remember vividly a terrible object lesson that illustrated what can happen when this crucial pre-takeoff step is omitted.  I lived north of Detroit, MI, in August, 1987.  One very hot and muggy Sunday evening, I was busy making donuts for the next day’s business at the bakery where I worked.  Sweat poured off me.

About an hour into the shift, a newsflash interrupted the regular radio programming announcing that a large airliner departing from Detroit Metro Airport had crashed upon takeoff.  There was one survivor—a little girl named Cecilia who was shielded by her mother.  It was an event that haunts Michiganders even  now, years later.

The ensuing NTSB investigation yielded the crucial piece of information as to why this flight was doomed.  Engine failure? No.  Mid-air collision with another aircraft?  Again, no.  The pilots had forgotten to extend the flaps and slats.  It was a hot, muggy night and this important pre-takeoff adjustment was even more critical.  The plane didn’t get the lift it needed and collided with the light towers of the nearby car rental area just northeast of the airport and came down on Middlebelt Rd.

The crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 was a tragedy.  Lives lost and families changed forever.

In life, we talk about “hitting the mark for our lives.”  We speak of our dreams, things we want to be and do.  Doing so, we often use the metaphors of flying.  “Fly high—the sky’s the limit.”  And so forth.

Often, we fail to get lift not unlike the jet that crashed that muggy August evening.  And, like an airliner, it is because we don’t prepare ourselves–emotionally, mentally, and physically–to accelerate into the wind and get airborne, moving towards a better future.

All the jet engines in the world will not get a plane off the ground if the shape and volume of the plane’s wings are incorrect, either by design or failure at during pre-flight adjustments.

Can I suggest that some basic modifications—and these are not big—can help us all really to roll on down the runway, get the lift we need, and soar?  Here are some:

  • Don’t be dependent on the approval of others before you roll down the runway.  Hitting a “Like” button on a social media website really doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight in the long haul—unless, of course, you let it.
  • Be honest with your makeup, drives, loves and preferences.  It’s doing something for which you have both aptitude and enjoyment that ultimately helps you fly.  Yes, we all have day jobs which we may or may not “love” but we can leverage these as well as our hobbies and avocations for the flight.
  • Avoid negative people.  They “drag” you down.  Drag hinders flight and is the reason that any jet you watch lift off the runway pulls in its landing gear immediately.  Drag will keep it from flying high and can bring it down.

Now soar!

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