Arm’s Reach and Your Life’s Direction

Arm's Reach and Your Life's Direction

If somebody puts Mint Creme Oreos on our kitchen counter, I will eat them. Why? Because they’re there. I will also put on weight and my blood sugar will get jacked out of proportion. Rarely will I win the battle to say “no.” After all, they’re small, taste so good, and they’re there.

Jonathan Cawte calls this the Law of Food Proximity. Briefly, “If you can see it, smell it, or reach it, you will eat it.”

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear—chapter 6 “Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More”—tells the story of Anne Thorndike, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who wanted to change the eating habits of staff and visitors to the hospital. She and her colleagues did this by designing a six-month experiment in “choice architecture” in the hospital cafeteria. By simply adding bottled water to the refrigerators next to the cashiers, which had previously contained only soft drinks, and positioning additional bottles of water in spots all over the cafeteria, they saw a soda sales decline of 11.4 percent and an increase in bottled water sales of 25.8 percent. This is the power of proximity. More water + less soda = healthier staff and guests.

We tend to make choices based on physics—location—rather than ideals. It’s easier. Advertisers know this and design grocery store layouts strategically to leverage this basic human tendency. Why do you think the Kit-Kat bars are staring at you while you wait in the checkout line?

What and who you have close at hand will largely determine the life you live. Jim Rohn has said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The choices in food, friends, function, and fun at your arm’s length are worth knowing and designing intentionally.

Here are some practical suggestions to design your environment for the outcomes you want:

  • Keep healthy foods in reach and in sight. Put junk food, if you have it, in a place where you must stand on tiptoes or a chair to reach it. Your brain will often translate that little bit of effort into, “Too much work. Just eat a piece of fruit.”
  • Keep exercise equipment out and close at hand. I telecommute and keep dumbbells in my home office two feet from my desk. They’re there, so I lift every day.
  • Put an app on your smartphone to limit time on social media. Constant nibbles on Facebook and Instagram are about as healthy as constant nibbles on the Oreos.
  • If you’re a musician, keep your instrument out of the case where you can grab it quickly. Even a little practice, done daily, adds up. I always keep a guitar out and on a stand.
  • Choose your social environments, and therefore your friends, wisely. A lot of our friends have become so simply because of proximity. Same workplace, same watering holes, same church and civic groups.

Suggested Resources:

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (David Allen)

The Magic of Thinking Big (David J. Schwartz)

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Sharp Tools Are the Most Effective

Fall 1994. I hired on as an apprentice carpenter for a company that built staircases and hung trim.  Thus began, for me, a lifelong enjoyment for working with wood, especially hardwoods like red oak and poplar.  I was privileged to learn how to build curved staircases and these now fill quite a few houses in lower Michigan, where we lived at the time and have since migrated back to.

A carpenter learns very quickly that it is critical to keep his tools in good repair in order to do fine woodwork.  Chiefly, this means sharpening cutting implements regularly.  You may be surprised to find that dull tools—saws, chisels, router bits, etc.—not only do inferior work, marring the wood, but they are also dangerous.  You risk injury using chisels with dull blades.  A sharp saw does the work quickly, effectively, and safely.

In life, we have tools that we use to mold our lives and become effective and reach our potential.  Like planes and gouges, they must be kept sharp to be effective.  Here are a few:

  • Vocational Skills – What talents and acuities do you have that you can sharpen now and in the days ahead? I work in Information Technology and am a musician.  I try to read up on the latest technological innovations as well as become more proficient with the software apps I use in my work.  And with my instruments, I practice and learn new stuff.  Do you have a plan for skills development?
  • Relationships – “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn) What kinds of relationships do you cultivate to 1) add value to others and 2) help in your own development?  If you walk with wise and ambitious people, you fuel your passion to grow and develop.  But if you make a practice of hanging with people who are pessimistic and complacent, like it or not, it will affect you.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  So is discouragement and criticism.  Choose wisely.
  • Reading ­– That readers are leaders is axiomatic. And you are called to lead.  What kinds of books do you plan on reading or listening over the next year?  Here’s a good place to start: The Magic of Thinking Big (David J. Schwartz); How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren); Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Sanders); Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman); Talent Is Overrated (Geoff Colvin).  Possibilities are endless, but whatever you do, develop a reading plan for the next year.
  • Physical Fitness – Your effectiveness is charged or limited by your physical fitness—or lack of it. Regular cardiovascular exercise 1) improves your focus, 2) makes you feel better because of endorphins and 3) increases your longevity.  Also, there are numerous other benefits to staying fit, fighting the national epidemic of obesity.  Your career and its growth are one of these. As some have said, “Your shape will shape your future.”

Now go sharpen your tools and build.  You will be astounded at what they produce.

 

Suggested Resources:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Stephen R. Covey)

Stay Sharp: 52 Ways to Keep Your Mind, Not Lose It (David B. Biebel et al)

 

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Put in Your Time

Jim 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 is not to praise 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.

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:  Sumner Redstone, Howard Schultz, Charlie Munger, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. Even Kate Upton (see the photo). Look for lots of increases in lots of different places 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.

 

Suggested Resources:

Leading an Inspired Life (Jim Rohn)

Twelve Pillars (Jim Rohn & Chris Widener)

 

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Putting In Your Time and Paces

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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Your Environment and Success

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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Do The Math

You-Do-the-Math-560x374There’s a common saying in self-development that goes like this: “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”

Axiomatic.  But it doesn’t always register.

My wife and I are currently laying out our long-term goals—as individuals, as a couple, as two people created by God with certain bents, acuities, desires, and abilities.

Oh, and destinies.

After a year of unsuccessfully trying to sell our home, we’ve chosen to settle in the region we’ve occupied for most of our marriage (over twenty-five years).  We have business plans, educational paths to chart, places we want to visit, new experiences we want to enjoy, new relationships we wish to cultivate and proven friendships we want to nurture and enjoy.

One of the phrases we’ve used in recent years is “do the math.”  We’ve used this on ourselves.  We’ve employed it when guiding our children.  We’ve shared it with friends.

If you are passive; if you don’t have goals; if you don’t expend the effort to find out what your purpose in life is, you will then spend your life working for those who do.  They have plans of their own.  And they are working to see them realized.  If you don’t chart your own course, you will spend your life fulfilling the plans of people who’ve charted theirs.  They will even let you!  And what do they have planned for you?  Not much (as Jim Rohn has said). Passivity exacts a terrible price.

Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Doing the math means taking an honest appraisal of things—what you’re currently doing with your God-given skills, who you work for, the relationships you have, and then summoning the courage to see that, without being proactive, things will stay as they’ve always been, the status quo blissfully undisturbed.

Specifically:

  • Girls, if a guy’s a bum now when you’re dating him—lazy, abusive, possessive—he’s not going to change if you marry him.  You’re better than that.  Move on.
  • If your company keeps you at low pay even after repeated promises of wage increase, you’re probably not going to get the raise.  Or if you do, it will be modest.  Update your resumé, pound the pavement and find something better.  Or go into business for yourself.
  • If the people you run with are pessimistic, complacent, and perennial comfort zone inhabitants or whiners, they are affecting you.  If you spend a lot of time with them, you will become like them.  That is a law as certain as gravity. Modify your circle.

We’re excited to say the least.  There’s so much more ahead of us.  We are doing our dead-level best to own up to this reality: If we’re in the same spot in our growth in 5 years, we have only ourselves to blame.  Not God.  Not friends.  Not the economy.  Not the President.  Not our employers.

Challenge:  Write down at least 10 very specific goals for the next year as well as 5 years down the line.  I double-dare you.  Include a definite process for attaining them.

Then go!

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Sharpen Your Tools…and Avoid Injury

Sharpen Your ToolsIn early Autumn, 1994, I hired on as an apprentice carpenter for a company that built staircases and hung trim.  Thus began, for me, a lifelong enjoyment for working with wood, especially hardwoods like red oak and poplar.  I was privileged to learn how to build curved staircases and these now fill quite a few houses in lower Michigan, where we lived at the time.

A carpenter learns very quickly that it is critical to keep his tools in good repair in order to do fine woodwork.  Chiefly, this means sharpening cutting implements regularly.  You may be surprised to find that dull tools—saws, chisels, router bits, etc.—not only do inferior work, marring the wood, but they are also dangerous.  You risk injury using chisels with dull blades.  A sharp saw does the work quickly, effectively, and safely.

In life, we have tools that we use to mold our lives and become effective and reach our potential.  Like planes and gouges, they must be kept sharp to be effective.  Here are a few:

  • Vocational Skills – What talents and acuities do you have that you can sharpen now and in the days ahead?  I work in Information Technology and am a musician.  I try to read up on the latest technological innovations as well as become more proficient with the software apps I use in my work.  And with my instruments, I practice and learn new stuff.  Do you have a plan for skills development?
  • Relationships – “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn)  What kinds of relationships do you cultivate to 1) add value to others and 2) help in your own development?  If you walk with wise and ambitious people, you fuel your passion to grow and develop.  But if you make a practice of hanging with people who are pessimistic and complacent, like it or not, it will affect you.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  So is discouragement and criticism.  Choose wisely.
  • Reading ­– That readers are leaders is axiomatic.  And you are called to lead.  What kinds of books do you plan on reading or listening over the next year?  Here’s a good place to start: The Magic of Thinking Big (David Schwartz); How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren); Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Sanders); Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman); Talent Is Overrated (Geoff Colvin).  Possibilities are endless, but whatever you do, develop a reading plan for the next year.
  • Physical Fitness – Your effectiveness is charged or limited by your physical fitness—or lack of it.  Regular cardiovascular exercise 1) improves your focus, 2) makes you feel better because of endorphins and 3) increases your longevity.  Also, there are numerous other benefits to staying fit, fighting the national epidemic of obesity.  Your career and its growth are one of these. As some have said, “Your shape will shape your future.”

Now go sharpen your tools and build.  You will be astounded at what they produce.

Image Credit