CAT | Misc.
Yesterday, my daughter wandered in and asked me if I had a good day. Yes. Yes I did!
“Oh,” she said, “What happened?”
Oddly enough, nothing spectacular. It was a not-too-busy day, but still filled with lots of good little things. No big events. No big projects. No surprises. Nothing spectacular.
But . . .
Wii Fit says I’ve lost a pound and a half in the last month!
I’m moving my latest book from 99.9% complete to 99.99% complete. Just waiting on two tiny things I can’t control.
I had a nice chat with someone who has been a sometimes-competitor and is now developing a new project – and wants me involved.
Then I had a nice long chat with another sometimes-competitor who has realized that we could create some amazing stuff together.
I outlined a new book I hadn’t thought about writing before. It’s now third in line on my list of products to create!
One of the organizations I’m speaking for asked me to make a connection that could lead to a much stronger relationship between two of my favorite clients.
I made a new friend that I’m certain will add fun and intellectual stimulation to the remainder of the year.
And I finished the evening with a meeting of people who get together once a month and are genuinely happy to see each other and share our victories and defeats.
So when I say nothing really happened, it was the kind of “nothing” that makes a day perfect.
Now let’s see what today brings.
I hope it’s not a big surprise that too much work is bad for you. I know I harp on it all the time, but there’s plenty of research to back it up.
I recently came across a great article by Nancy Shute on the effect of long hours on depression. See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030719. The key finding is pretty stark: “People who worked 11 hours a day or more, more than doubled their risk of major depression compared with colleagues putting in eight hours a day.”
That’s only three hours a day – and it doubles your chance of depression. The interesting thing about this research is that they found results across all socio-economic classes. So those white-collar executives who get a flat salary and put in super-long hours are NOT immune from the effects of long hours.
Those extra hours – about three a day – have to come from somewhere. Do they come from family time? Sleep? Relaxation? You need all of these.
We can all put up with on super-long day and bounce back. It’s the constant, non-stop long days that can literally kill you. People who work long hours non-stop are obviously more sleep-deprived, have a higher risk of heart disease, and reduced cognitive function. All in all, long hours can kill you.
At a minimum, it can make you miserable and depressed.
Depression is extremely serious and should not be dismissed as temporary sadness. Depression can affect everything in your life – and in the lives of the people you love.
You Can Also Work Too Little
Sometimes people hear the phrase “Relax Focus Succeed” and think I am advocating sitting on the couch all day doing nothing. I am absolutely NOT recommending that. People need work. We need to feel worthwhile, and that we contribute something to society.
We are now well into the fourth year of this recession and unemployment for some people has been dragging on a long time. And with that unemployment is a dramatic increase in depression. See http://www.livescience.com/13710-unemployment-depression-identity-job-search.html and http://www.livescience.com/13496-unemployment-stress-job.html.
Whether it’s you or your spouse, lack of work puts a huge strain on people. And that leads to all kinds of health problems.
I’m not sure what makes human beings different from all other animals. We get to choose what we do every day. You might think we’d choose to sit by a calm lake and fish all day, every day. But that’s not the case.
As social beings, we need to feel that we’re part of society and that we contribute our share. Yes there are exceptions. But let’s discuss things from the rule and not the exception. Overwhelmingly, people like to have a job, go do something at a “place of work,” and have a life outside the house. It’s normal and natural.
It’s a slightly different subject, but many people love their jobs so much that they can’t see how they are hurting themselves and their relationships by working too much. So they work and work and work.
So, whether the boss forces you to work long hours, or your choose to do it yourself, it’s still bad for you!
And working too little is bad for you.
Both lead to depression and imbalance in our lives. Sometimes we can control that imbalance and sometimes we can’t. But in either case, we can take action to improve our perspective on things. We can stop each day and re-focus ourselves. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get out of a depression funk. And I know how it feels to believe you have to work non-stop.
The goal is balance. Somewhere in the middle of all this perspective and balance. But balance never just happens: We need to work on it regularly if we value it and desire it.
Begin today. It’s never too late.
People are interesting creatures. We create an artificial thing called time, divide it into little increments, and then assign meaning to those increments. Today is Leap Year Day. We won’t get to experience February 29th for another four years.
In my book, Relax Focus Succeed, I discuss the topic of looking forward and backward. There, and in seminars, I give the example of five, ten, and fifteen years. Today let’s look at four years.
Consider four years ago – February 29, 2008:
- Where did you live?
- Who did you live with?
- What car did you drive?
- Where did you go to work?
- How old were you? Which milestones have passed since then?
- What was your favorite hobby?
- Who did you spend time with?
- What groups did you belong to?
- Where did you go to church?
- Which books did you read?
- What was your favorite TV show?
- Were you prepared for the financial “crash” in late 2008?
- What was your relationship status (married, single, dating, etc.)?
- What color was your office?
You get the point. Consider all the things that can change. How many things stayed the same? How many are partially the same? How many are very different?
It is often difficult to see the future. Humans have a tough time with changes they don’t create. But look at those questions again and turn them to the future. Where will you live four years from now? What milestones will pass?
On a very personal note, the last four years has been quite a time of upheaval and change in my life. Four years ago I was married and didn’t know it was about to end. In the last four years I passed the 10th anniversary of being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I also passed the anniversary of my father’s death (at age 50). And I passed the age 50 mark with a strong heart and no worries about my health.
In the last four years my daughter went from 15 to 19, from girl to woman, and from high school to college.
As I look ahead, I see me being better off financially in four years (2008/2009 was not good to me financially).
In four years my daughter will be a college graduate and maybe even in grad school.
In four years I’ll be driving some other kind of car, live in some other house or apartment, and maybe live in a different city.
My plan is to transition into writing more and making more money from speaking engagements. I already make a living at it, but I’m still very involved in a technical consulting business. We’ll see.
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Take some time today (or in the next few days) and consider where you’ve been and where you’re going. Place meaning onto this moment in time savor it. Soak it in. And begin building a plan for the future!
Awhile back I wandered into a restaurant that was refurbishing their side patio dining area. They were planting a number of palm trees. They had obviously put a lot of money into this project, including the purchase of a dozen good-size palm trees.
It really struck me as odd, however, that they planted the trees right up against the walls of the patio area. I mean right up against the wall. It was almost as if the landscaper didn’t know the trees would grow.
I’m sure you’ve seen this too. One time I bought a house and there was a tree planted against the back wall. I knew I had to dig it up before it got large or I’d have it busting through the wall and pushing up against my foundation. On a similar vein, I frequently see trees planted so close together that both of them have stunted growth. They have to share root space and a limited supply of nutrients and water.
To be honest, this article is not about landscaping: It’s about life.
When you look at an idea or an opportunity, do you see the idea or opportunity as it appears in front of you, or as it will be in the years to come? Do you see the new employee as the person in front of you or the person she can become? Do you see your child as the kid in front of you or the man he will become?
I think one of the most powerful forces in the world is a positive mental attitude. And that’s not something that just happens. You have to exercise your PMA just as with any other muscle of success. You have to practice seeing a better future. Practice visualizing what can be.
Trees aren’t the only thing that will change and grow. Everything will change! Your house, your car, your job. Your taste in food, your favorite coffee cup, and the hobbies you take on. Everything changes.
We are comfortable “in the now” because we know what it looks like. When we act on our world, we have a sense of how it will react back to us.
But we need to also look ahead, and look beyond the obvious. Don’t plant the tree you see: Plant the tree it will become. In other words, don’t just look at the world as it is today, but look at what it can – and will – become.
One of the important lessons I learned in creating and growing businesses is that I need to run the business the way I want it to be, not just the way it is. For example, I put in processes and procedures as soon as I can. So even if I only have one employee, I operate with rules and guidelines as if I had five or ten employees. This philosophy can be summarized as “Be the company you want to become.”
If you’ve ever refinished furniture or refurbished anything (toys, houses, collectible signs, etc.), then you know that there’s a skill in seeing what something can become, despite what you see in front of you. Interior designers can see the potential in the room while the rest of us just see the room as it is.
When you get in the habit of seeing potential in all situations and all people, it gives you a certain mental push. For me, it brings a positive spin to things.
What can this opportunity become? What can this relationship become? What can this writing become.
Give it a try!
Plant some trees. But don’t just plant the tree you see.
Phones haven’t been phones for awhile now.
Those who use their phones to make phone calls are “quaint” to the technorati that use their phones for buzzing around the world, twittering, Facebooking, searching, browsing, yelping, 4squaring, texting, and . . . well . . . everything but making phone calls.
I used to have a phone that was GREAT at texting and email. Oh, and phone calls. That used to be important.
Then I won a Blackberry at a vendor show. Knowing it was the future, I connected it up to my cell provider and proceeded boldly onward. Then I got addicted. The crackberry, as some call it, is as addictive as a drug. Email shows up amazingly fast, no matter where you are. The camera was great. Texting was fast and easy. It even (accurately) predicted text.
I loved everything about it.
So when it came time to get a new phone, I got a bigger, better, faster, cooler Blackberry. And with the Blackberry Tour I got even more addicted. It’s Facebook app was extremely powerful and flexible. The camera was as good as you could ask for. Texting was even easier.
And after two years with that phone, I had become one of the people who just doesn’t use the phone for phone calls any more.
The only real weakness of the Blackberry was it’s Internet connectivity. Slow. Microscopic. Impossible to use. And all services related to the Internet were also slow and unbearable.
In the meantime, almost all my friends had moved to iPhones and Droids. So when I got the chance to step up to a Droid, I did. Motorola Droid 3. Cool. Faster Internet.
The primary strength of the Droid is the fast Internet and related services. You can Google something, find addresses fast, and map right to a place. Super cool.
But . . . No addictive.
The Droid is clunky compared to the Blackberry. There was no premium placed on design here. Texting is slow and irritating. Voice recognition is cool, but you spend 25% of the time erasing. The interface is not intuitive, even for users of the older Droid systems. Battery life is very short.
Overall, the Droid 3 is poorly designed from an ergonomic perspective. Every time you touch it, you accidentally make something happen that you didn’t intend to.
The camera is “fine” but not great. The Facebook app is terrible.
Not only do I find that I text a LOT less, but I have virtually given up posting to Facebook in real time. These were two addictive features on the Blackberry.
Sometimes I leave my phone in another room, or in the car, for five or six hours.
The addiction is over.
Maybe it’s good. I need a solid, sensible phone that works competently. I don’t need an amazing device that makes me long to hold it and play with it. I need to let the phone be a tool instead of a toy.
I could go back to the blackberry. And I know I’d be totally addicted again.
But the key things that make the Droid great — Internet browsing and applications — are the killer apps of the future. I’m told the next generation of Blackberry will address these. But for technical reasons about how Blackberry works on the back end, I’m convinced that their days are numbered.
So I have given up something I truly love in order to use the technology that will eventually win the day.
And I’ve learned that an addiction can be overcome.
Not too long ago I was speaking to a group about automating social media. I mentioned that I post to Twitter with socialoomph.com, and that Twitter feeds Facebook and LinkedIn. I also schedule newsletters in advance, as well as some blog posts.
My humorous line was that, if I died, no one would know it for a month.
That was on a Friday. Monday, my friend Jim Locke passed away. I found out about it Tuesday morning. Monica had been at my presentation and emailed me a note that someone should make sure his feeds are stopped.
My own Facebook wall is an embarrassing collection of news and chat that mixes up the sad news with everyday posts. I put up a heartfelt note about Jim, and less than half an hour later an automated promotion for a podcast was posted. Then someone popped in and posted an interesting news article link about the Myth of Multitasking. Then an automated “Relax Focus Succeed” meditative thought for the day posted.
I will never forget the day my father died. I was in Michigan (he lived in Washington State) in grad school. I remember wandering around the campus overwhelmed with sorrow. And I thought to myself “Don’t these people know that everything’s changed? Don’t they know the world is different?”
But they didn’t know. The world keeps turning. Life keeps going for the living.
Facebook is a wonderful combination of personal and professional. A mix of friends, associates, business connections, and strangers. It’s a big, buzzing, busy world of thoughts and pictures and videos.
It’s really a lot like life.
And sometimes there’s great sorrow.
It’s an interesting thing that Facebook keeps on chugging away, even in times of great sorrow.
No disrespect is intended. But there’s a strange kind of “in your face” feel to it.
My friend Kari Hagensmith wrote a book called The Girlfriend Will. It gives advice from one woman to another about all the things that need to be taken care of on the personal side when you die. It is somewhat light hearted, but also very thoughtful.
You want to close down the social media accounts. But you also want someone to clean out your computer history, certain drawers, and boxes around the house. The online component is only part of it. But as technology marches on, the online component will become more and more of what we need to tend to when someone passes away.
I am sad for my friend Jim. But he will be remembered in large part for being a driving force in creating communities – online and off. So managing his online presence upon his passing makes perfect sense.
This is not a blog about sex. It’s a blog about life. About balance. About all the things that make you a happier, healthier, more productive, more successful person. Well one of the best things you can do for yourself is to develop a happy sex life.
At some level, pretty much everybody “likes” sex. What’s not to like? But, all too often, we get busy. We’re tired. We approach it at the end of the day, the end of the week. It’s easy to put off. And then it becomes an occasional thing instead of a regular part of life.
I encourage you to chat with your mate and make sex a higher priority. In fact, a high priority. In addition to being a core element of bonding between two people, sex is a shared experience unlike anything else. It is, literally, unique.
Wanting sex is not bad. It’s biological. Having sex is not bad, as long as it is among consenting adults. What you do and how you do it can be a lifelong exploration.
And women: Please believe me that men take sex very seriously even though we love to joke about it. Monogamous sex with a dedicated partner is a huge turn-on for men. I’m not sure who writes movie scripts and TV shows, but I suspect they have deep emotional scars and very bad sex lives!
If you want to see the latest research on the health benefits of sex, just Google “Sex Is Good For You” and read the results. Web MD is one of the best sites on the Internet. Start there. But also look for several articles on Ten Health Benefits of Sex or Seventeen Health Benefits of Sex, etc.
One specific article that caught my eye was Ten Surprising Health Benefits of Sex. Anyway, do your research. Here’s some of what you’ll find:
Sex lowers your blood pressure.
Sex lowers stress.
Sex increases self esteem.
Sex is associated with lower diastolic blood pressure.
At least for women (haven’t seen research on men), hugging your partner lowers blood pressure.
Sex is directly related to increased levels of immunoglobulin A or IgA, an antibody that can protect you from colds and infections.
Sex burns calories. About 170 per hour. Can’t keep going for an hour? Well, just like any other physical activity, build up a little more each day. :-)
The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported that the frequency of sex was NOT associated with strokes. And that’s a large study done over 20 years. So no excuses there.
Sex two or more times per week can reduce the risk of fatal heart attack by HALF for the men. Haven’t seen a stat on women.
University of Texas researchers published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They listed 237 reasons people gave for having sex. How many can you count?
Sex increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps people bond to one another, feel trusting, and generous.
Even better, oxytocin increases the level of endorphins, which decreases the level of pain. Suffer from an injury or long term illness? Sex may be just what the doctor ordered!
And, of course, oxytocin helps you sleep better.
Sleeping better is a whole different subject with a long list of benefits. The point here is that sex is a good way to help you get the sleep you need.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve let your sex life slip, maybe right now is a great time to consider what you can do to get back on track. You might just live longer, be happier, sleep better, have less pain, feel more generous, lose some weight, feel better about yourself, and fall deeper in love with the one you love.
. . . Oh, and have fun, too.
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Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You’re responsible for your own actions. Blah, blah, blah.
Do You Worry Enough? Part 3
This is the third and final installment of the series that started here with “Do You Worry Enough?
Worry brings benefits. That sounds odd to us. Let me rephrase it: Spending time thinking about problems brings good things into our lives.
There are two types of “focusing” on problems. The first is to open your mind and let the problems flood in. Perhaps focus is the wrong term. This is more like out-of-focus. Sit down with a pencil and paper and relax. Take a few deep breaths and try to clear your mind. Think about nothing. Focus on the way your breath feels moving in and out.
If you have things to worry about, they will interrupt your relaxation. As a “worry” presents itself, write down a brief note (not a long paragraph). For example, you might write
- College Savings
- Business partner
- Ad revenues
Don’t pass judgment, don’t try to solve the problem, don’t get into details. Just list your worries. Set yourself a time a do this listing for ten or fifteen minutes each day for a week. I guarantee that by day four you will be a lot less worried at night or when you’re concentrating on something else during the day. Why? Because your mind has been allowed to spend some time on the things it knows you should be thinking about!
The next step is to focus more clearly on your problems. For the next several days spend your 10-15 minutes sitting comfortably and “organizing” your problems. You may want to sort the list into categories such a family, finances, employees, etc.
Then spend a little time writing a bit of detail about each concern. For example:
I’m worried about college savings for my kids because I’m starting late. I wonder what college will really cost. What’s my goal? How do I get started? Who can help me? I need to talk to my spouse about this.
Set yourself a strict limit on this activity. No more than 30 minutes a day! You’ll be amazed! It will give you energy. Worry will stop draining your energy. And as you focus on the problem you will naturally break it down into smaller pieces that are much more manageable.
This, in turn, will lead to taking actions that address the problem. In other words, you’ll be working on a solution! What you’ve done is to stop spending your energy trying not to worry. Instead, you are spending a limited amount of energy focusing on issues that need some attention.
Instead of letting “worry” have an unscheduled, unlimited amount of your time, you have allowed a specific amount of time to be used improving your life!
Again, I guarantee that you will see a dramatic reduction in the amount of time spent on unscheduled worry during the day (and night). Your mind knows that you need to spend time on these activities. When you allot this time, your mind is more relaxed and it doesn’t need to force these thoughts upon you.
And, even better, when such thoughts pop into your mind now, they will be productive and bring solutions. The process of focusing on a problem for a specific period and then setting it aside has tremendous power. It organizes your unconscious mind, which works on possible solutions while you’re doing other things. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the solutions come forth into your conscious mind.
Problems never solve themselves: You need to worry in a healthy way and you will find a solution. Just as we have to focus on our happiness and our family and our health, we also need to focus on our problems.
You will never be without problems. But you can be without excessive, unnecessary worry. Allow yourself time to work on your problems and you’ll have a much more restful mind throughout the day. Because you’re worrying enough—and not too much.
“Do not anticipate trouble,
or worry about what may never happen.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Do You Worry Enough? Part 2
Last time we discussed “Do You Worry Enough?” We started by framing a workable definition of the word worry.
Now we know what worry is. How much worrying is the right amount? That’s difficult to quantify. I believe we need to think about the problems in our lives enough so that we understand them. Notice I didn’t say that we need to “solve” the problems. If a loved one is gravely sick, there’s little most of us can do to “fix the problem.” We’re sad, perhaps depressed, maybe scared. We have a flood of conflicting emotions that we “don’t have time for” or otherwise wish to avoid.
In such a circumstance, we need to force ourselves to sit down and think about what’s going on. Let the emotions flood in; become overwhelmed; have a good cry; say a prayer; and then go back to our routine for awhile.
It may be necessary to do this every day for some time. We need to let ourselves feel the feelings we’ve been trying to avoid. We need to let all the aspects of this experience come out. It’s difficult and physically draining. But you need to let yourself experience what’s going on.
Some problems you can solve, but right now you don’t see the solution. For example, financial problems. Too many bills, or not enough income, or an unexpected expense. It’s all too overwhelming, so we set it aside. Intellectually, we know the problem will just get worse. But it’s “just too much” to think about right now.
The answer, of course, is to consider all the pieces of this problem: Your income, your regular bills, your credit, possible sources of loans or other income, payment plans, and so forth. This is definitely a problem that can be solved. It requires a lot of thought; it requires a plan of action; it requires some change in behavior; and it requires asking others for help.
These are just a few examples. In each case the amount of “worry” (thinking about the problem) required is the same. You need to think about it enough to understand the problem.
Oddly enough, most of us spend more emotional energy avoiding our problems than we would spend understanding them if we tried.
You can reduce the amount of “worry” in your life by taking time to relax and simply reflect on what’s going on. If you take time every day to sit down and relax and focus on yourself, you will find these problems a lot less overwhelming.
I try to sit down every day and reflect on four aspects of my life:
- Myself as an individual
- Myself as a partner in a romantic relationship
- Myself as a father
- Myself as a businessman
I rarely make lists of what needs to be done or what problems need to be addressed. I simply think about what’s going on and what I need to do today. If there’s a problem in one of these areas, or with something else, I let my mind consider it. I don’t look for solutions or answers. I do try to consider all aspects of the problem. The goal is to understand everything about the problem. When I think I really understand the problem, then it becomes clearer what I need to do.
Worry brings benefits! More about that next time.
How do you feel about being incompetent? Honestly: Is it good to be incompetent?
I say yes!
I was reading a book recently and one section was about how no one wants to be seen as incompetent. One character in the book was having a crisis of incompetence.
That got me thinking about the times when I have felt the most incompetent. In every case it had to do with a new job or a new role. On my first day, or preparing for my first day, I felt incompetent.
The truth is, I’m NOT competent in most things. The same is true with everyone. At any given time, you are only competent in a few things. They might be related to your job, your hobbies, or the roles you play (parent, spouse, friend, sibling, etc.).
What are you really great at? What are you a little bit good at? Okay. Well, you’re not good at everything else! We are each incompetent about almost everything! And it’s okay.
The reason we feel particularly incompetent in a new job is that we have taken on something and we want to be good at it. So often we find ourselves saying “Well I asked for it!”
You only feel incompetent when it involves something at which you want to feel competent. In other words, the self-awareness of incompetence comes hand in hand with a desire for excellence.
In my life there have been two examples of incompetence that stand above all the rest: My first day as a teacher and my first day as a father. As it turns out, I did a pretty good job in both endeavors.
As a teacher, I had lots of reasons to feel competent. I had credentials, degrees, and many years of experience learning the subject I was going to teach. I was even given guidelines, sample course outlines, reading lists, and all kinds of resources to help in my success.
But I had never done it. I had never run a class for a semester. I had never graded papers or managed a classroom. I had never dealt with assigning deadlines and sticking to them.
And on and on. I had experienced good and bad teaching as a non-teacher.
As a new parent I felt even more incompetent. I had two great role models with my own parents. But I knew nothing about how to do this job myself.
Unlike teaching, I had very little “education” on parenting. I had read a lot about pregnancy and childbirth. My wife and I felt reasonably confident that the birth would go well. And in the final analysis, my role was primarily that of a supporting partner. I didn’t have to eat right, get sick, go through dozens of doctor visits, or do any of the pushing on the day of delivery.
But once my daughter Victoria was born, I was a full participant in the process . . . for the rest of my life.
I remember being particularly struck by the fact that they let us just leave the hospital with this new, tiny baby. “Don’t they know how incompetent I am?”
Of course with parenting, this feeling of incompetence continued for . . . well . . . 18 year so far! I feel more competent in many areas. But every new parent-related challenge has been a first.
The reason we feel so acutely incompetent in some areas in that these are the things that are most important to us. We feel the lack of competence precisely because competence is so important to us.
When I look at the complexity of an aircraft engine, I don’t feel incompetent. But I certainly am. It is overwhelming and annoying and almost miraculous to me. But I have no desire to be good at designing, fixing, or doing anything else with aircraft engines. So while I am supremely incompetent, I don’t feel incompetent.
We need to keep things in perspective. Remember, you only feel incompetent when you seek to be excellent. Incompetence is really a reflection of your desire and commitment to excellence. Being aware of your incompetence is the first step on your road to something amazing in your future!