Pastor Jim was driving along one day and saw a little boy trying to reach a doorbell. He stopped the car and got out to help the boy. He pressed the doorbell for him and said,
“Now what do we do?”
“Now,” the boy said, “we run!”
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.
- – - – -
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!
A mother walks into the kitchen and sees her daughter with the whole box of animal crackers spread on the counter top.
Mother: “Why did you pour out the whole box?”
Daughter: “The box says, ‘Do not eat if the seal is broken.’ I’m looking for the seal.”
I’m a big advocate of balance. In work and play and everything else. Ironically enough, you have to WORK at balance: It simply won’t happen by itself.
Part of balance means saying no. Make that “NO!”
Business owners tend to be doers and joiners. When someone drops a request on our laps, we tend to say yes. Whether its a client, a service organization, a church, or even our own business. When the world puts an abandoned puppy on our porch, we take it in.
But we all know that we have a tendency to do too much. We find ourselves on committees and members of clubs, starting new ventures, and joining others. At some point, we simply can’t live up to all of our commitments.
January’s gone and February is upon us! If you haven’t complete a beginning-of-the-year review of your commitments, there’s still time. Just ask yourself whether you might be over-extended.
When you’re over-extended, several things are wrong:
- You’re not living up to your commitments.
- Others are relying on you and you think you might be letting them down.
- Your business may be suffering due to inattention — or attention to the wrong things.
- You feel stress because you “can’t do it all.”
In the big picture, you’re spending time doing the wrong things. You’re energy is bound up trying to figure out what you should be doing — instead of doing something (anything) fruitful!
So why don’t we stop? Why don’t we drop some of these activities? The two primary reasons are guilt and habit.
Horace Mann said “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.”
There’s very little we can do about our habits except to commit ourselves to change. Once committed, we must unravel our existing cable one thread at a time and begin weaving another to take its place.
Guilt is another matter.
Perhaps the best way to deal with guilt is to get some perspective.
Ask yourself: are you really obligated to [this cause/this committee/this organization/etc] simply because you have participated in the past? Probably not. So why do you participate?
Legitimate Reasons to Continue:
- I find it personally fulfilling
- I need a change from the other activities in my life
- I enjoy the people/the project/etc.
- It makes me feel good/important
- It helps me in my business
- People express gratitude for what I do. I’m not taken for granted.
- It makes me happy
- It contributes to my physical or mental health
- It is profitable!
Poor Excuses to Continue:
- Other people expect me to be there
- If I don’t do it, who will?
- I made a commitment at some point
- I started this and now a lot of people are expecting it
- If I quit, I’ll feel like a loser
Notice I added an extra line there?
Above the line are legitimate reasons to continue. Below the line are poor excuses to continue. Most of them involve you believing that the stuff won’t get done without you. Sorry to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
Some time ago I took on the job of program chairman for an organization because the president was over-worked and needed help. Two years later I found that I had taken on too many “outside” activities and needed to cut back. I felt that this one thing needed to be done by me because no one else would step forward.
Then I realized that was stupid. After all, the group existed for many years before I joined and has many members. Any group that relies solely on my participation for it’s existence has a pretty weak foundation.
Some people go through this filtering process once a year. Some more frequently. In January a gave up a number of projects and commitments that just we’re working anymore. Part of me wants to feel guilty about that.
But I know that achieving balance means taking stock from time to time and deciding where to spend my energies. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is arrogant and selfish to think that communities, organizations, and projects can’t survive without you.
When you re-evaluate and re-organize your commitments, you’ll end up with more energy to dedicate to the remaining activities. You’re time and talents will be more keenly focused and your contribution will be more meaningful.
So do yourself a favor: Re-evaluate your commitments. Put it all in perspective.
And have a happier, healthier, more balanced year!
A couple brought their newborn baby to the pediatrician for its first checkup. The doctor said, “You have a cute baby.”
Smiling, the man said, “I’ll bet you say that to all the new parents.”
“No,” the doc replied, “just to those whose babies are really good-looking.”
“So what do you say to the others?” the father asked.
“He looks just like you.”
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.
As we prepare for the Christmas vacation in the U.S., my mind wanders to vacations and family gatherings. These are sometimes combined and often separated.
I remembered, as a kid, that traveling to see cousins in another city was just was much fun as driving to see a national park or an old fort. For us these were both chances to go somewhere and do something.
Vacations are opportunities to “get away” and relax. Don’t work. Don’t worry. Just enjoy life.
We all know that we need to do these things to maintain balance. But somehow we feel guilty.
In these days of technology, it is easy to stay in touch with work, keep up on email, and never actually escape while we’re on vacation. Should you feel good about combining work and rest, or should you feel guilty? I, for one, feel very good about it.
I’ve worked very hard to combine my vacation time and work time. For about fifteen years now, I have been traveling a lot. Sometimes as few as five business trips a year. Sometimes ten, fifteen, or even twenty. As a way to create a little balance, I started added days to the beginning and end of my business trips.
So, for example, I travel to the business city a day or two early. Then I have my meeting. I might travel back right away or add another vacation day at the end of the trip. When I’m going from city to city, I might add vacation days in either city, or even in the layover city.
In this way, I accomplish three things. First, I never have a quick fly-in and fly-out that’s 100% business. Second, I always have a more relaxed business trip. I get to take vacation days. I get to visit friends. I get to actually SEE the cities I visit. And, third, I get to have some very relaxed time to catch up on reading, playing, and putting my toes onto sandy beaches.
Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally take a good five day vacation all at once with no business. But I don’t feel like I’ve taken less of a vacation if I take five days off between two business cities.
For example, 2011 started out with me on a plane at 6:30 AM on January 3rd. I went to Charlotte, NC and spent the next day with a friend, visiting sites and wandering into South Carolina for BBQ. Then I had my business meeting. The next day, I flew to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. There, I hung out on the beach, visited friends, sat on the beach, wrote poetry, and had a BLAST for five days.
On one of those evenings, I attended a business meeting.
Then I hopped on an airplane and flew to Portland, OR. Almost as far as you can go from one end of the contiguous United States to the other. I did another show and then headed home. I landed back in Sacramento on January 12th. In all I had eleven travel days. And while I had plenty of time meeting with friends and relaxing, I had exactly four true “business” meetings. The rest was travel time and relaxation time.
That wasn’t the norm for the year, but it was sure a great way to start the year!
In all, over the last twelve months, I’ve made 18 trips to various cities. I had a total of 76 travel days and 48 days of vacation. By vacation I mean a whole day off work with no business meeting scheduled.
I’ve seen New York City at Christmas Time. I’ve been to Atlantic ocean beaches on three different vacations, and Pacific ocean beaches on three different vacations. Somewhere in the middle I’ve visited half a dozen lakes. I’ve gone on boat cruises, fishing trips, and family get-togethers.
So, for me, the question of whether I should feel guilty is very simple. I do not feel guilty about checking my email between bar hops in Vegas or after spending the day hiking around Lake Tahoe. Email helps me feel confident that the world keeps spinning and that my businesses are going along fine without me.
It’s not cheating to check in and make sure things are fine.
Stopping the vacation to deal with a problem is different. If you do that, you can’t count it as a vacation day. But you have to keep it in perspective. That job that wants to invade your holiday is probably the same job that makes the vacation possible in the first place. Respect it, but keep it in its place.
Many people are taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For many of us, taking off all that time is nerve-wracking. So don’t feel bad about checking email and tuning in to work once in awhile. The key is balance. Are you on vacation with an occasional email check? If that balance works for you, don’t feel guilty about it!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all!
A regular customer walks into the bar and says, “Bartender, one round for everyone, on me!”
The bartender says, “Well, seems you’re in a really good mood tonight.”
The man replies, “I sure am! Yesterday I was hired by the city to go around and collect money from the parking meters!”
The bartender congratulates the man and proceeds to pour the round.
The next night the same man walks back in, “Bartender, TWO rounds for everyone, on me!”
The bartender says, “If you’re so happy just over having this new job, I can just imagine how happy you’ll be when you get your first paycheck!”
With a wondrous look on his face, the man pulls out a handful of quarters from his pocket and says, “You mean they’re gonna PAY me too?”
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.
If a spider is in a corn field, does it make cob webs?