RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed®. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com.

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Ponderable

I was reading a very old book by Seneca the Younger called On the Shortness of Life. Although it was written almost 2,000 years ago, it reads like a message for today.

Seneca talks about people spending all their time in foolish activities rather than leading their lives. When we look at our lives today we see the same thing. Instead of leading our lives, we spend too much time thinking about the future or the past.

The past is a powerful time waster. I’m not talking about reminiscing or remembering a particularly fun time. I’m talking about time spent dwelling on bad experiences, fears, embarrassing moments, and all the trivial things from days gone by.

You cannot change one minute of the past. It’s done. Baked. All you can do is waste precious time in the PRESENT reliving bad experiences from the past. You can re-write them and mis-remember them. Or you can relive the details in excruciating clarity. But you can’t DO anything about them.

The future is not quite as bad. We need to plan. But we don’t need to plan TOO MUCH. There’s a point at which we work so hard trying to get things perfect that we take no action at all. We need a healthy mix of planning and acting. The acting part is called living.

The thing about time is that it’s easy to waste. Most of us don’t place much value on time. But it passes at exactly the same pace for all of us. You can use it or you can waste it. Unfortunately, too many people use up too much of their time without a thought to how valuable it is.

You get exactly 1,440 minutes each day. The same as everyone else. The same as presidents and prime ministers; the same as actors and singers; the same as professors and teachers. Every one of us gets exactly the same allocation every day. How do you use your allocation?

Living? Planning to live – someday? Fretting on the past? Watching TV shows you can’t remember?

We all need to “recharge” our batteries and have downtime. But we also all need to take control of our lives and use our precious time wisely.

One of the guiding rules of my life is to work on the highest priority activities I can. From that follows a process of setting priorities. How important is giving the cat fresh water today? How important is meditating? Reading? Writing? Paying bills?

We are all very busy. Perhaps all overwhelmed at times.

And yet we let other people simply interrupt our day. The phone rings and we answer it. An email pops up and we read it. An instant message comes in and we stop whatever we’re doing and look at it. Someone walks into the office and we give them our attention.

I recommended to a coaching client last week that everyone in his office should keep an Interruption Log. Literally write down every time they were interrupted (by a beep, a tweet, a knock at the door, a message, a phone call, etc.). And then write down whether this interruption was high, medium, or low priority. In particular, was it higher or lower priority than the thing they were working on when the interruption occurred?

If you work from the perspective of priorities, you can always be working on one of the most important things that needs to be done. And when you do that intentionally, it becomes easier to resist interruption.

For example, talking to the sales person on the phone is almost never higher priority than anything else you can do in your day – personal or professional.

Live in today. Live in the now. And guard your precious time wisely. No one else will!

:-)

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I had a strange idea a few years ago. And slowly, I realize it is coming true.

It happened when I was traveling a lot and figuring out ways to be just as productive on the road. When I’m in the U.S., this is generally not a problem. Most decent hotels have decent Internet and decent workstations in the room.

Overseas, I tend to use FlipKey to find places to stay for 4-7 days at a time. In those places, I had to make absolutely sure that the Internet was good – and I needed the right electrical adapters for my equipment. So it took a little work.

In the end, I developed routines to be productive and connected in England, Europe, and Australia. My experience is that South America was much easier because my cell phone just works and the electrical outlets are the same as the U.S.

That’s when the idea started to form. I have created a life in which I combine traveling, writing, and speaking. So I found myself in Australia for twenty-two days. I topped off the trip with a week on a beach in New Zealand. Great Internet, great electricity, great cell service. And since my business is totally based on cloud services, I had perfect communication with everyone all the time. The time zone was a challenge, but only a minor one.

If I can travel for a month and plop down on a beach for a week at a time . . . Why not find twelve places where I can relax and “live there” for a month? The Twelve City Project was born. Even when the idea was fresh, I was pretty sure that the first place (not really a city) would be one of the beaches near Brisbane, Australia. I love Brisbane. And the beaches going both north and south are undeniably some of the best beaches in the world.

City One: Brisbane (or Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast)

Another obvious city is Sacramento, CA. Why? Well, I’ve lived here for more than 30 years and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world – and I keep coming home to Sacramento. It’s a great location for pretty much anything you want to do. San Francisco and Napa are a quick drive away. So are Lake Tahoe, the foothills, Yosemite, and just about anything else you want to do. Plus the weather is almost always better in Sacramento than anywhere else I go on any given day.

City Two: Sacramento, CA

After that, I started thinking about my favorite places to visit. Some (e.g., New York City and London) are more “one week” cities than one month cities. I am pretty much done with these places after a week. That really makes them more vacation spots than “dig in and work” locations.

To be honest, weather plays a major role in my decision making. It will be fun to visit Scotland later this year, but I would not want to live in a place that’s so cold all the time. I imagine I will love it – for a week, not a month.

I have several candidate locations where I have stayed for a week and truly enjoyed myself, relaxed, and got some great writing done. Nomination for additional cities include:

– South Lake Tahoe in the Summer

– Del Mar (north of San Diego)

– Fort Lauderdale, FL

– Clearwater, FL

– Somewhere in Hawaii

Are you noticing a theme here? Lots of warm beaches. I am certainly open to other cool, fun places to hang out. Part of the experience is the local culture as well as the scenery. I really want to “live there” for a month. So I want a local bar and a place to go meditate. Beaches are good because I love meditating on a beach as the sun comes up and then going for a swim in the ocean.

If I can do all that and then take a shower and start my day by 8:00 AM, why not do it in a fun location?

Next Step: More Exploration

In talking to a few people about this, it’s clear that I need to visit Asia and I need to explore beach cities in Spain and Portugal. I need more non-U.S. cities. I found South America to be extremely inviting and friendly. And I certainly need to spend more time in the Caribbean.

Will I get there? Will I actually unplug from my tethered existence and live in twelve different places? Maybe! Along with the other great places I’m visiting this year, I’m going to spend 25 days in Australia – half of that on one beach. So Brisbane (are) and Sacramento really are the first two cities.

If nothing else, it’s a grand adventure!

Have you had similar thoughts or dream? If so, please feel free to share.

:-)

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Apr/17

5

Homing Pigeon

I’m starting a new business venture.

I bought a homing pigeon. I sell him on Craigslist.

In a good month, I can sell that bird four times!

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I recently did a webinar about the most important rules you need to follow to create a successful business. Afterward, I received a note from someone who said he could not attend the webinar because he has to run after customer service tickets completely non-stop twelve hours a day. This is truly the worst-case scenario that Michael Gerber talks about in The E-Myth Revisited: He is working too hard IN his business to take time to work ON his business.

I made a quick five-minute video on this. Here it is:

Here’s the sad truth: If you are over-stressed and burnt out by a job YOU created, you’re in deep trouble. That is truly the road to poor health and possibly an early death from stroke or heart attack. I’m not exaggerating here. You have to build balance into your business and your life before it’s too late.

Two books are recommended. For the self-employed, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is an absolute must read. Learn to work ON your business and create a sustainable business model that can grow.

Think about it. If you are working so hard you can’t see straight and you can’t take off ONE hour to work on improving your business, then your business model is broken. It is not sustainable. And it is certainly not something that will allow you to grow your business. You can’t scale that. Hell, you can’t even execute the business you have. How could you possibly grow?

The second book, of course, is my own Relax Focus Succeed – A guide to balancing your persona and professional lives and being more successful in both. Balance is what it’s all about. Only with balance will you create a sustainable business that allows you to thrive as an individual.

Balance, like so many things, will never just happen by itself.

:-)

 

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Feb/17

5

Mindfully Unplugging

I’m an amateur photographer. So when I see something really cool that I could share with others, my natural reaction is to take a picture. But there’s one important time when I can’t.

I love my hot tub. From this relaxing location I look across my back yard to a vine-covered fence where orange trumpet flowers invite hummingbirds. It’s also a resting place for birds and a playground for squirrels. And every once in awhile I see something that would make a perfect picture.

My hot tub is also a great place to meditate. I’m totally unplugged, warm, relaxed, and I have great scenery.

( I didn’t take this picture )

A few days ago I spotted a mommy and baby squirrel making their way across the top of the vines. Every once in a while they would stop and all I could see was two tails sticking up from the leaves. I thought, “What a great picture!”

But here’s the deal: I’m not taking my camera in the hot tub. It would take me less that a minute to either drop it or splash it. So I’m just not going to take the chance. And while I have a bit of frustration about that, it’s also a blessing.

There are times when you need to put down the technology and just enjoy the moment – knowing that it cannot be captured. You can choose to live in this moment or spend your time fretting because you can’t do anything but live in the moment.

Some people define “mindfulness” as emptying your mind. Dismissing all thoughts. Stopping the flow of images and ideas through your head. But that’s not the only way to look at it. Being mindful truly means to stop and notice what’s going through your head. It means acknowledging what you see and hear. And then, without dwelling on it or passing judgement, continuing the journey of being mindful.

People often ask me if their running or swimming or other exercise counts as meditation. My answer is always: As long as you are unplugged. Exercising while listening to a book or songs with words is great. But you’re filling your head with those words. And as a result, you’re not fully focused on the activity and the experience. It’s not bad in any way. But it’s not the same as mindful meditation.

Even if you don’t have a hot tub, you can choose to unplug and practice quiet time without external stimuli.

Sometimes the experience is as simple as a chattering squirrel.

:-)

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Feb/17

5

Impartial?

Sometimes it’s good to be impartial.

But here’s a question to ponder: Can you ever be totally partial?

… and what would that look like?

:-)

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Jan/17

21

Rude vs. Unsafe?

A recent trip to Key West, FL, highlighted an interesting truth about branding. In the big picture, branding is about every single thing your business does. It’s not just your logo or your slogan. It’s how you deliver service, how you treat people, how you manage money, how you maintain systems, etc.

In Key West, there are no good options for taxi service. There are two primary companies – pink and yellow. There are smaller companies, but it might be a long wait for a cab. There are no Uber or Lyft services.

The “pink” cab company has a very abrupt (sometimes rude) dispatcher. When you call, she grumbles one word: “Cab!” No matter what you say, she has a standard second response: “How many?!?” which she delivers as if she’s pissed off that you’re bothering her. Her third and final interaction is always the same. She barks the order “Stay there!”

So a typical interaction for a jovial vacationer goes like this:

“Cab!”

“Good afternoon. We’re at ABC store on Duval Street. We would like to get a cab.”

“How many?!?”

“There are two of us. We’d like to go to . . .”

“Stay there!”

Then she never hangs up. You can just here her answer the next call: “Cab!”

Note: the actual cab drivers for pink are generally friendly. The cabs are new-ish and in great shape. They tend to be boxy and a big hard to climb into if you have old knees. But it’s a very pleasant ride.
After a few cab rides, we decided to try yellow. Much nicer. The dispatcher is clearly in a good mood. Sometimes they even ask if it’s our first day in Key West. They are engaging.

Unfortunately, the yellow cabs are typical American cabs: Old, no shock absorbers, not particularly clean, and the seat belts don’t always work. Bottom line: It feels unsafe. One driver was particularly crazy. The island is only two miles by four miles, so you don’t really need to speed through the side streets or run lights.
After a few rides with each company, we would ask each other, “Who should we call? Rude or Unsafe?” We had narrowed down our options to one word for each company. And our experiences were quite consistent. In fact, one time we called the yellow company by accident. Thinking we had called the pink company, I commented on how congenial the dispatcher was. Then yellow car rolled up and I checked my phone. Ooops.

Eventually, we just decided that it was easier to put up with abrupt/rude than dangerous/unsafe.

And both companies are good examples of why Uber and Lyft exist!

:-)

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Jan/17

21

High Class Bar

An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Latvian, a Chinese, a Japanese, a Kiwi, a Canuck, an Eskimo, a Fijian, a Turk, an Aussie, a Yank, an Egyptian, a Spaniard, a Mongolian, a Tibetan, a Pollack, a Mexican, a Spaniard, a Greek, a Russian, an Estonian, a German, an Indian, an Italian, a Brazilian, a Kenyan, a South African, a Filipino, a Pakistani, a Korean, an Argentinean, a Lithuanian, a Dane, a Finn, a Swede, an Israeli, a Romanian, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a Czech, a Croat, and a Panamanian go to a fancy bar…

The bouncer says: “Sorry. I can’t let you in without a Thai.”

:-)

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Dec/16

19

The Value of Free is Overrated

I’m amazed at the behavior differences between giving something away for free versus charging something – anything.

My city recently passed an ordinance (and the State of California did as well) that requires stores to charge ten cents for grocery bags. Now, people can either bring their own, buy an expensive bag, or get a cheap bag for ten cents. When you think about paying $50 or $100 or $150 for a shopping trip, spending a few cents on bags seems irrelevant. But the change in behavior has been dramatic!

There are basically three approaches to the change. First, many people don’t take bags at all. They just put all the stuff back in the cart and then transfer it to their trunk. Some of them do this because they forgot to take bags from their car into the store. So they end up bagging their own groceries in the parking lot.

Second, many people buy fancy bags with handles that can be reused indefinitely – for $1-$3 each. In other words, they avoid paying ten cents by paying three dollars. Then, as often as not, they forget these bags in their trunk and buy more. Or bag their groceries in the parking lot.

Third, some people simply pay for the bags they use. After all, with a shopping cart full of groceries, the price you paid this week versus last week could easily go up or down one dollar in total. So the cost for two or three bags at ten cents each is lost altogether in the mix. Personally, I would have predicted that most people would fall into this category. In fact, almost everyone is in one of the first two categories.

With the cost of little things like chewing gum and candy at the checkout lane, you would think people would spend zero effort worrying about a ten cent bag. But that’s not the case at all. An entire industry of exotic reusable bags has sprung up. People’s behavior has changed overnight.

One of the things that always irritated me with the old system was that too many bags were used. Baggers double-bagged a lot when it wasn’t necessary. Now we’ve gone in the other direction. Paper bags that cost ten cents are jam packed to the rim with cans and bottles that are far too heavy for the bag. I have to tell them to use more bags and try not to sound like a jerk when I say that I’ll spring for the ten cents!

 

Professionals and “Free” Events

I attend a lot of meetings. The common wisdom is that you have to register a lot of people for free events – because 30-50% of those who registered will not show up. This is true even if there’s free food. Some events just have coffee and donuts. Others have actual meals. Some include breakfast, breaks, lunch, dinner, and a reception. Still, fifty percent of those who registered don’t show up!

At the same time, events that cost money are well attended. People rarely pay to get into an event and then fail to show up. Some are still no-shows, but it’s more like one percent, not fifty. Hence one of the new trends for “free” events is to charge a fee like $99 before the event – and you get it back when you attend. This has worked well for some organizations.

I belong to a local business Meetup (see www.meetup.com). It was growing and growing every month. Eventually, this free event grew to have 60-70 people at every meeting. As you can imagine, there aren’t many free meeting spaces that large. So eventually the organizer decided to charge $5 per person so she could rent a meeting room and have a guaranteed meeting place each month.

Attendance dropped to about a dozen people the next month! I was amazed. These are business people who were unwilling to invest $5 in their own business – even though everyone raved about how great the meetings were. Over time, people came back. But the nature of the crowd changed.

The crowds grew back to about 40-50 people per meeting. But the people who showed up were much more professional. After all, they were willing to invest a little in their own business development!

Just charging “something” gets you a more serious following than charging nothing.

 

The So-Called Internet Economy

One of the great fallacies of the new-ish economy is the idea that you can build an audience with people who get stuff for free and turn them into buyers. This strategy has proven false again and again.

The idea of the original internet bubble of the 1990’s was that a product or service would take over a market by giving everything away for free. Then, once they dominated, they would start to charge. One by one, virtually everyone who tried this failed. Look at the grocery bag example.

Even if something is pretty much required, there are people who will work really hard to avoid spending even ten cents on it.

Today we see a lot of online products that have a free version and a paid version. The free version has advertising, or nags you all the time, or is missing the coolest features. Still, 70% of people who download apps never pay for anything. The crippled, nagging, advertisement-riddled version is good enough for them!

Personally, I avoid free products. For tiny payments (ten cents, ninety-nine cents, of even $19.95) I get the real deal. The developer gets a little money so they can stay in business. I have someone to contact when things go wrong. Personally, for me, the tiny bits I pay give me a much richer experience.
Where do you draw the line? When is the free version “good enough” for you?

And more importantly, what does that say about your bigger picture of the world?

Something to think about.

:-)

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Dec/16

19

What Does Your Dad Do?

Two young kids were talking one day.

“My name is Billy. What’s yours?” asked the first boy.

“Tommy,” replied the second.

“My Daddy’s an accountant. What does your Daddy do for a living?” asked Billy.

Tommy replied, “My Daddy’s a lawyer.”

“Honest?” asked Billy.

“No, just the regular kind,” replied Tommy.
:-)

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