Don’t Waste Time Waiting Around

A pot of water does not boil faster if you stare at!

At work today I ended up having to fix a bunch of things with my work laptop. I updated my operating system,  recovered a bunch of files from a backup disk, had to free up space on my hard drive when it maxed out, had to reinstall a whole bunch of software, etc.

A lot of these tasks required some activity to initiate, and then they just automatically run their course for 20-30 minutes or even an hour or longer for some tasks.

During the waiting periods I found myself just staring at the computer screen. As if my staring would make it go any faster!

Once aware of this I used the time to do some yoga in my office, write things down on a paper that I needed to get done and take care of a few conversations I had to have with co-workers.

It made me acutely aware at how much “slack” time we all have waiting around for things. Waiting for people. Waiting for traffic. Waiting for the copier. Waiting for a phone call. Waiting for a lane to open up at the swimming pool. Waiting for a dinner partner to show up. Waiting for a computer to boot. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Waiting isn’t inherently bad but the time could be better spent doing any number of things:

  • Stretch your back and legs out
  • Read something meaningful
  • Do some open eyed meditation
  • Take 10 deep breaths
  • Call someone you care about
  • Doodle something cute
  • Make a list of goals (or better, things you’ve already accomplished that week/month/day that you are proud of)
  • etc.

Anything but waiting around!

Deadlines Are Good

I’ll guess that 80% of meaningful work gets done in the last 20% of time left for a project.

Software bug counts drop. Papers magically extend in length with great polish. Videos are created and finished. Trips are planned. Home improvements are completed in the nick of time.

That final 20% is a magical time.

Deadlines are dreaded by many but I really like them. I like them so much I create artificial ones just to keep momentum high.

They keep me accountable to getting things done and ‘shipping.’

Over 500 'Namaste's' during yesterday evening's Wanderlust Seattle yoga practice in the lawn under the Space Needle in downtown Seattle.

You Have Enough Time

You have more than enough time in your life to do whatever you want to do.

If you think about the number of hours in your life, and then think about the small fraction of those hours so far that have been spent doing things that are worthwhile, memorable or generally fitting with your life goals – it’s clear that there is more than enough time available.

Still don’t believe me? Set a timer for 20 minutes and sit down on the floor. Do nothing but focus on your breath the entire time. Tell me that 20 minutes doesn’t seem like forever!

Time does seem to get crowded out with the mundane. Taxes, laundry, commuting, showering, changing diapers, etc. These things need to get done. That’s not the point. The point is to not let these things crowd out the time available for the remarkable things.

If in a given workday, less than 20% of your time is spend doing real creative work (with the rest spent browsing Facebook, gossiping with co-workers or procrastinating by ‘doing email’) – than why not try to make better use of the other 80%? The same goes with school or time at home in the evenings or weekend.

It’s not an issue of not having enough time. The real issue is lack of creativity in learning how to eliminate things that waste your time and a lack of courage and decision-making skill in actually eliminating those behaviors once you identify them.

On the flip-side, it’s also about picking some things you do want to spend time one. When you focus on the remarkable things, the unremarkable gets squeezed out.

The other day a student in my yoga class asked me how I have enough time to work at Microsoft and teach several yoga classes a week…let along train for ultra-marathons and triathlons – on top of other things I do.

There truth is that there really is no secret.

I just don’t let “not having enough time” become a reason for not doing something. In my experience I’ve found that when I am doing things I like, the time organizes itself to work things out. When I am training a lot, I find I am more efficient at work. When I teach yoga in the evenings, I make sure meetings are quick so I can real work done and leave the office on time.

I also have little patience for people who abuse my time repeatedly – through unfocused meetings, requests for information that they have access to themselves, etc.

I do think the key insight here is to start with the mindset of having abundant time in your life to do whatever you choose. From this mindset, you’ll eventually find ways to fit everything in that you want to fit in. It may take some creative thinking on your part, but that is part of the fun.

Galapagos seal pup says hello!

One Powerful Technique to Get Things Done

I watched a recent talk by Getting Things Done (GTD) author David Allen. A ton of folks in the technology community like the approach, possibly because it appeals to highly structure folks and those that love to create systems and use technology in new and interesting ways. I have no doubt that the GTD system could work well for people. I tried it for a week, but honestly didn’t give it a full go. It seems like overkill to me. Too much process. There are some good things about it, like the notion of writing things doing vs keeping lots of things floating around in your head makes sense. Writing things down is a cathartic activity. That is to say it makes it feel like things are under control and less overwhelming, especially when there is a lot going on.

However, I think the GTD system can easily fall into the trap of being too much of a system. I have friends that get so caught up in the process of tracking their to-do‘s that they have far too little time and energy left to actually make progress on the to-do’s! There must be a better way. In fact, I know that there is.

I do something that is different from most people I know, but I think it is highly effective. I just the effectiveness of my “system” strictly based my response to the following questions on a daily basis:

  • Am I confident with my direction in life?
  • Am I contributing to the world in a positive way?

I feel like a good a good amount of stuff done. I generally do not feel stressed (maybe the yoga has something to do with that!) and don’t consider myself a work-aholic either. My technique is the anti-thesis of massive never-ending list keeping, prioritization and long to-do’s. I am a fan of occasional list-making, but that is not the super powerful technique.

Instead, my technique is simple. It just requires the accomplishment of ONE THING EVERY DAY.

That’s it: ONE THING.

The trick is, this ONE THING must be the one thing that makes you answer yes to both of the questions mentioned above at the end of the day. The first thing I do when I get into work every morning (well, after getting my coffee or tea!) is take out a post-it note or index card, and write down the ONE THING I want to accomplish during the day.

I write it out by hand, and stick the card in my pocket. I carry it around all day, and occasionally take it out and look at it. Come hell or high water, I will get that thing done. It doesn’t matter what happens. The sky could fall and I will still get the thing done. There could be 10 meetings in the day and I will get it done. There could be a blizzard and traffic hell (like the past few days) and I will get it done.

My ONE THING could be finishing a paper or presentation, reviewing a project and providing feedback, having a tough conversation with a team member, etc. The one thing I write down is usually something that requires a good degree of effort – in terms of focus, courage or creativity.

My "ONE THING" from a few days ago...finishing Joshua Slocum's book "Sailing Alone Around the World"

On weekends, I do the same thing….only instead of being a work-related thing, it is usually personal. My ONE THING on a weekend might be “finish a long run of over 3 hours with a smile on your face”. Or it might be “talk to Mom and Dad”. Or it might be “Finish reading that book!” Something like that.

The biggest trick is to not try to list out more than one thing. This is the trap….it’s easy to write down 10 things that must be done and accomplish none of them. Instead just write down the one thing you want to do, the one thing you will be PROUD OF DOING….and make sure you get it done. NO MATTER WHAT.

Think about it this way, if you do one big thing every day…over the course of the week you will have accomplished 7 noteworthy things, after a month you’ll have 30, and after a year you will have done a whopping 365 amazing things that required some degree of effort, courage, creativity, etc.

I have found in my own life that when do this every day, you end up by default accomplishing far more than just the one thing. Having the single point of focus is what makes it possible….your brain will start hunting out things and get the done…the trick here is focus. There is a saying that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” It is absolutely true. If you can accomplish ONE MEANINGFUL THING A DAY you can accomplish a lot more, but it must start with just one.

So there you have it, the most powerful technique for getting things done.

A CHALLENGE FOR YOU! Try it for yourself for the NEXT 10 DAYS. Every morning, write down on an index card the one thing you want to accomplish during the day. Make sure you get that thing done no matter what! At the end of the day, cross it off and be happy that you did something worthwhile. Keep the card visible on your desk and repeat for 10 days. After this challenge….look back on the 10 days and laugh at how much you were able to do, and how easy it was.

Give it a shot, leave a comment and let me know how it went!

Be Resourceful

We never lack resources just resourcefulness. The next time you think you don’t have enough time to do something, just consider how much time you spent thinking instead of doing. There is always enough time, money or skills available if you are willing to put aside excuses.

I always am at my best when I am super busy. Working on a bunch of challenging projects at work, training for an Ironman Triathlon, doing a yoga training or traveling. Having a lot going on forces me to be more resourceful with my time, money, energy and skills. It takes the slack out of life and helps me to operate in a way that is far more efficient and effective. I find that this way of being carries over to the more relaxed periods in my life as well. I’m able to get more done in less time and spent the extra resources on relaxation!

Next time you think that you don’t have the means to get something done… try being more resourceful. Think about places in your life where you could save time and money. Think about people you know that could help you out with needed skills and resources. Most importantly, stop telling yourself that you don’t have enough, and start telling yourself that you have more than enough – and the way forward will make itself known.

Get Back in the Groove

I have a tendency to go to extremes. I set clear and sometimes audacious goals, achieve them (at at least give it a good attempt) and then frequently fall off the bandwagon a bit as I succumb to what I call the “post-goal blues.” When I raced triathlons, I found this “disease” to be common amongst my racer friends.

We’d train hard all year for a big race, and then the day after – feel relieved that the event was over. No more worries about squeezing a workout in, dealing with soreness or dreading another track workout. A week later, we’d be enjoying our time off from training. A month later, we’d be scratching our heads while looking at our ever-growing bellies and wondering what the next big goal is gonna be – but feeling too unmotivated to actually come up with one. I experienced the “blues”big-time after my last Ironman – totally stopping any sort of training routine for over a year.

Time away from a purpose-driven and goal-driven life can be a good thing. It is like going on vacation and getting away from all the demands you might have at work or home. However, at some point, you need to get back in the groove and reconnect with those things that really motivate you long-term, even if those things might require a bit of work on your part (like getting in the gym, learning to speak that language, hitting the trails or writing that book you’ve been putting off, whatever it is!).

All athletes have an off-season, even folks like Lance Armstrong – 7-Time Tour de France champ – takes at least a month off at the end of each season, chowing down on burritos and drinking beer. Even in my place of work, our executives tend to check-out during the month of August, enjoying the summer time and relaxing while they can. The key, though, is not to let yourself take too much time off and fall off track.

I’ve written a lot about goal setting and vision boarding. One of the great things about vision boards is that they give you a visual reminder of what is important to you. They become super important at times when you feel yourself getting off track and taking things too easy. We all know the difference between taking a little break and just being lazy.

If you haven’t checked in on your new years resolutions (or as I like to call them, new years “intentions”) or looked at your goals sheet or vision board in a while. Now is the time. Take it out, dust it off and remind yourself what is important, and think about what you can do right now to make progress against those things that at one point were so incredibly important to you, and assuredly are now too.

(a 1-room cabin in the high in the Rocky Mountains, where I spent 5 days fasting and meditating in utter silence).

Better yet, if you have a chance to get away for a few days and check-in on your goals and new years intentions, that can be incredibly powerful. Find a cabin or a bed & breakfast that is away from the hustle of your current life, and just take time to reflect on what you achieved this year so far, and what you are looking forward to achieving during the rest of the year. Recommit to achieve those things that are most important to you. Get yourself back on track.

Simplify

It’s harder to be simple than it is to be complicated.

Even though most of us know that having a simple life is actually one of the keys to finding happiness, it is a tough thing to put into practice. Entropy is always at play, and things seem to expand and grow to fill up space. Simple activities, thoughts and words grow and grow until they become mind-numbingly complicated.

It is harder to live happily with fewer material possessions than it is to allow yourself to acquire and stockpile lots of random and useless things. It is harder to write clear and concise prose than it is to drone on in an essay. It is harder to eat simple and healthy food than it is to consume lots of overcooked, overspiced, oversized meals. It is harder to speak clearly and briefly when talking to friends and family than it is to ramble and talk over others. It is harder to look neat and cute in simple clothing than it is to over-accessorize with designer duds.

Being simple is hard, at least at first. However, like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. You can train yourself to welcome and embrace a simple life, but it takes work to counter the inertia that pulls in the other direction. After some time, that inertia will lose its grip, and you’ll find the simple life as a normal way of being, and not something you need to work hard to maintain or achieve.

Just Do It

Just do it.

I really like that slogan. Say what you will about Nike….

When you are on the fence, non-committal, waffling and not sure if you should or shouldn’t do something, just committing and trying it out (in my own experience) is the best approach. Only by committing and just doing it will you ever figure out if it is the right thing to do. By just doing it you can discover your own talents and maybe even discover that whatever you are doing is just not the right thing for you to focus on at this moment. A little bit of action can make the next steps seem so much more clear.

Indecision paralyzes. Decision moves you forward.

Make your move. Just do it.

5 Tips For More Energy

People ask me all the time about what I eat (since I am Vegan) and what kind of smoothies I drink and why. Most people ask me these questions because they want to loose a few pounds or gain some strength, but in almost all cases I think the real motivation for the question is something deeper.

People are really looking to have more energy to live their lives. I’m not just talking about being able to keep your eyes open during a boring meeting at work. I’m talking about having the energy to perform at a high level both in mental pursuits (working on a hard problem at work or in school) and physical pursuits (like a power yoga class!).

I thought it would be good to share my top 5 tips for energizing your life. These are things that I do on a regular basis – and they work. I think experience is the best teacher – and I have learned well 🙂

  1. Avoid Caffeine. I know I know – sacrilege! Despite the supposed health benefits of drinking coffee (and even tea), the reality is that when you borrow energy you need to pay it back. This might not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth. If you are serious about energizing your body – cut the caffeine. Or (as I do right now), limit it to 1 serving in the morning.
  2. Hydrate. Your body is 75% water. Your body also has 2-3x as much lymph fluid in your body as it does blood. Lymph is the watery substance in between your cells that allows nutrients to flow in and toxins to flow out of your cells. Staying well-hydrated is critical to proper energy transfer into and out of the cells. A great way to stay hydrate is not just to drink water, but to avoid dehydrating your body with caffeine, refined sugars and other highly processed (and dehydrated) foods.
  3. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods. I’ve written a great post about this. In summary, you should focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits and green/bright colored veggies that have high water content and high nutrient contents on a per-calorie basis. Did you know that broccoli has more protein than steak on a per-calorie basis? The truth is sometimes surprising but it is the truth nonetheless.
  4. Eliminate Refined Sugars. If it says “cane sugar,” “brown rice syrup,” “corn syrup,” or any other kind of processed sugar on the package, don’t eat it. This includes most energy bars! Your body will just experience a sugar rush and crash cycle when you consume these things. Instead, eat fresh fruits. The sugar in the fruits is processed differently by the body and they won’t cause the same spike in blood sugar. You’ll also help your body to stay hydrated.
  5. Breath Properly! This is perhaps the single most effective thing you can do. I wrote a long post about the importance of proper breath work. If you are at all committed to having more energy in your days – you should read this post. Essentially, cultivate a practice of consistent and deep nasal breathing – especially under times of stress and while sleeping. It may take some practice but the benefits are well worth it.

Have any other tips to share? Please let me know in the comments!

How to Keep Your House Clean

I am a big fan of not creating problems that I will need to solve later on. I do not love cleaning, but I do enjoy a clean home. The best way I’ve found to keep my house clean is to not make it dirty or messy in the first place! This sounds incredibly intuitive and simple – and it is – but it amazes me how many people still don’t actually do it.

For example, let’s suppose the dishes pile up, the carpets get tracked with dirt, clothes are lying all over the floor, laundry is left half-dry in the dryer, food is spoiling in the fridge, receipts and mail are littered about the counter, etc.

This is quite a mess, but not out of the ordinary for the typical home every. Just think about how frusting it would be to live in this kind of environment. Cleaning once you hit this breaking point would just add another layer of frustration to the mix.

Instead, consider the following changes:

  • You don’t put dishes in the sink, but directly in the dishwasher
  • You slip off your shoes when you enter your home
  • You have a hamper in your bedroom for all your dirty clothes, and another for the clean clothes that are yet to be folded
  • You eat what is in your fridge first before dining out, and get in the habit of freezing things you know you won’t eat in a few days
  • You have a shoebox for receipts, maybe a few shoeboxes if you have a home business
  • You immediately throw all junk mail out before you set the mail down on your counter (and then take steps to stop junk mail for good)

Continue reading How to Keep Your House Clean

Things Seems Worse From A Distance

I’ve had experiences lately where I have not wanted to do things. Practicing yoga, teaching yoga, going to work, eating healthy, calling someone, doing my taxes, cleaning up, etc. Normally I don’t need a lot of motivation to do thing, but the past few weeks have been an exception.

Reflecting on this experience I find that things often appear to be far worse from a distance. That is to say, they seem to take more effort, work, time, etc. It’s like a little kid inside of my throwing a little tantrum saying “I don’t want to do this!!!!”.

In all of these cases, I’ve done the thing anyway, and have been happy I did. The tasks were never as arduous as I thought they would be. In all cases I learned something from the experience and ended up having a better day as a result.

I guess the lesson here is that sometimes when you don’t feel like doing something, and are half-committed and waffling abut, just committing and doing it anyway is the exact right thing to do.

Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

8bc72ed7It’s another year, and another time to reflect on the amazing things have been created over the past year, while also considering great new possibilities for the coming 12 months.

It’s also a time of year when gyms and health clubs are packed and hordes of people are crowding the organic produce sections at the local grocer in an attempt to clean up their diet, their bodies and their overall health. Yes, it’s that time of year – resolution time.

Even though history shows that the vast majority of resolutions set at the beginning of the year go unfulfilled – people still go through the process of setting them and then charging out to achieve them with reckless abandon.

I mention health specifically since it is the most common resolution people tend to make, but there are many more. Exercise more, eat better, make more money, work less, etc. However, despite the variety, there is a still a unifying thread under them all.

Each and every one of these resolutions (at least the vast majority) will go unfulfilled. Most will not make it past January 15th.

This has nothing to do with the capabilities or level of dedication that someone has to see a goal through. It just has everything to do wih the actual resolution itself. A poorly set goal is a waste of time  – plain and simple. The key here is the power and ultimate motivation (intent) behind the goal to begin with.

It is the intention, not the resolution or goal itself, that truly matters.

New Year’s Resolutions Cut Off Choice

When you resolve, you decide. That is to say, you close off all possibilities. If you are standing on a trail in the woods, and you come to a fork, you have a choice to make. You can go back (turn around) or go on one fork or the other. Taking a course of action essentially precludes the others. While in theory you could take one fork for a while and then turn back and take the other – this doesn’t happen in real life (as an aside – in real world studies of people who have gotten hopelessly lost in the wilderness, backtracking almost never happens, even when they have no idea where they are going!).

When you take a path, it is human nature to close off other possibilities. Our brains are wired so that we can filter out information that isn’t in line with our goal and identify information that is. The issue here is that while focusing in on a goal is a powerful skill, life is often far from clear cut, and when we commit to accomplishing some thing, we may miss out on noticing other things that could be even more aligned to our true needs and support our life in a more positive way.

For example, someone may make a resolution to jog every day for at least 30 minutes.This seems like an admirable goal at first, and frankly, exercising every day is a great thing for most of us to aspire to. However, suppose that what this person is really after is to have more energy in their life so they can come home from a busy day at work and still have the energy left to play with their kids.

Jogging is a nice goal, but consider how this resolution could actually close of other possibilities for to get exercise – opportunities that might involve other things besides jogging – and might actually preclude activities that could incorporate having fun with the kids while getting exercise at the same time (like playing ball, tennis, hiking with them, etc.).

In other words, resolutions restrict opportunities by focusing the human attention on a very specific goal, a goal that might not be directly aligned with the underlying motivating force for change.

The Power of Intention

It’s the “Why” that matters, not the “What.” If you have a goal to get six-pack abs, lose 20 pounds or clean up your diet – those resolutions are all about the “What.” They don’t consider the “Why.” This is why so many resolutions like this fail hopelessly.

The “Why’s” are the compelling reasons that will motivate you to get up early and stay up late in the pursuit of something that truly matters to you. In the case of losing weight, ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” Is it because it will allow you to live longer? Play with your kids without getting tired? Play sports at a higher level and more safely? For each of those “Why’s,” there is in turn another another set of reasons that are driving them. Continue down this path of asking why, and you’ll notice a series of deeper intentiuons that will bubble up.

These fundamental intentions are the driving forces that will be strong motivations for you over the long-term, when the going gets tough and the initial energy and zeal behind your goal fades away. They will serve as powerful landmarks that will open you up (and more specifically open up your sub-conscious mind) to people, places, things and experiences that are in line with your intention.

8 Steps to Connect With Your Intentions

Here are a few simple steps I take to come up with my intentions for the new year. I’ve done this for the past 4 years or so (modifying the process along the way) and it works incredibly well. Try it out even if you already have your goals all set for the new year, and see how it can help you to get even more clear on what your real intentions are for the year.

Brainstorm.

Begin by taking few blank sheets of paper. I recommend doing this by hand (not on the computer) to avoid distraction and allow for free-association. You can even put on background music if you like. It also is a good idea to do this with others (friends, family) for extra motivation and accountability. Take 10 minutes and just brainstorm all the different things, people, experiences you would like to come into your life. Don’t worry about the time-frame. Just brainstorm. Let your mind flow. Be sure to consider your health, wealth, relationships and career. Think broad. Your goals should be to keep writing without stopping.

Classify.

Take a moment and them write a 1, 3, 5, 10, or 20+ next to each item in your list based on the time frame for the item. For example, you might have “buying a house” as a 5 year goal, but “losing 20 pounds” as a 1 year goal.

Prioritize.

Now, circle your top 5 (you choose how many….3-5 is a good range to start) goals for 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.

Cluster.

Re-write your circled goals on another sheet of paper, but instead of writing your goals in a list, you will do an affinity map. To do this, begin to write goals that are similar to each other close to each other. For example, if you have a goal to “lose 20 pounds” and another to “run a marathon” these might be close to each other because they are related to health and fitness. If you have sticky notes available, you can even write all of your circled goals on stickies and then arrange them into little clusters based on similarity. At the end of this step, you should see a few clusters begin to emerge.

Embody.

For each cluster, consider the person you would have to become to achieve those goals. This is where you begin to develop your intention. For me, I structure my intentions in the form of “I am…“. For a cluster of health-related goals – for example – I might write “I am a strong and lean physical powerhouse.” Putting the “I” at the beginning makes them personal, and using “I am” precludes that you are already that which you seek – your job is just to discover that and see it in yourself! Once you have discovered this intention, write it down as the title for the cluster.

Prioritize.

Look across the intentions you have created…all starting with “I am”….and if you have more than 5, circle the top 5 (ideally you would have 3-5 at most). These would be five things that – if you really embodied these intentions for the year – would completely transform your life and the lives of those around you.

Purpose.

Now – for each of these 3-5 intentions – write a short paragraph about why they matters. Think about the people you will impact for the better. Think about how your life will be better. Think about how you will feel when you embody the intention every day of your life.

Clarify.

Revisit the list of specific goals you have for each intention (look at the affinity map clusters you created) – and add any additional goals that might have come to mind for you. Take about 10-15 minutes to really flesh these out. You can also take this time to get more specific about goals you have already identified. For example, if your goals is to “lose weight,” perhaps you can get more specific and say “I will lose 10 pounds of fat while gaining 5 pounds of muscle in the next 3 months.”

There you have it! Post your intentions in a clearly visible place and reflect on them (and the goals that support them) every day.

Through following this simple process, you will used your brain’s natural desire to set and accomplish specific resolutions/goals to uncover the fundamental intentions that are driving your desires. You will also have a specific set of goals that map to each intention, giving you a clear place to start from and march toward.

However, unlike traditional resolutions, the intention – that is to say – the role that you have created for yourself (the “I am…..“) is what really matters.

Keep reading these intentions to yourself every day, and your brain will continue to serve you by being on the lookout for situations and experiences that can help you become the person you intent to become.

I’ve used this process to achieve big things in my my own life, I hope that it is useful to you. Please try it out and let me know how it goes in the comments!

The Dip – When to Quit and When to Stick

Source: Seth Godins Blog

Source: Seth Godin’s Blog

I was reading Tynan’s blog and his recent post about Seth Godin’s book, “The Dip.” I just finished reading Seth’s most recent book “Tribes” <very short and very good> so this caught my eye. So much so, that I just headed over to the library to check it out.

Now, less than am hour after reading Tynan’s post, I have finished reading “The Dip”! Yes, it’s a short one.

The book is about being the best in the world at something, and the effort that goes into that pursuit. Being best in the world is itself subjective. It could be best in your town or whatever micro-market niche you are in. Regardless, being the best at something always involves some amount of effort and toil <the dip> before coming out the other side and seeing the benefits.

Most people quit in the dip.

The trick is to know when to push through the dip and when to quit. Lifting weights is a great example. It is the last few reps that produce all the gains. Most people quite before they break a sweat. Those last few reps are painful.

On the flip-side, quitting is also important since languishing in mediocrity is a sure-fire way to waste a lot of resources (time, money, opportunity cost of doing something great).

So in the end…we all need to decide what to stick with AND what to quit. The book is a great and very short. I highly recommend reading it a few times (I plowed through it in less than an hour).

Below are some random notes I took while reading.

  • Being the best in the world is important. The best get out-sized rewards.
  • Everyone wants the best, nobody wants the second best.
  • Being the best in the world means quitting lots of things where it is clear that you won’t be best in the world….and sticking with things that do have promise, even when the going gets tough.
  • Best in the world is subjective. It is the best in terms of the range of your customer. Best in the world might really be the best in your town in the price range that your customer can afford. It’s about being the best in your niche.
  • The customer determines what the “best” is…not you. And their definitions may change.
  • People who are the best in the world get really good at answering the questions that are hard, the things that they don’t know. That’s what they specialize in. If they skipped the hard stuff, their skills would not be valuable.
  • Be exceptional in the areas that matter.
  • Dips don’t last as long when you whittle at them. Successful people don’t just survive the dip, they lean into them.
  • Jack Welch made the decision for GE to only stay in businesses where it was #1 or #2 in its industry. He was a great “quitter.”
  • Quitting when you hit the dip is a bad idea.
  • Quitting means deciding ahead of time that you are done.
  • Write down under what circumstances you are going to quit! Don’t quit in the moment.
  • Questions to ask before quitting:

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p style=”padding-left:60px;”>1.    Am I panicking?
2.    Who <or what> and I trying to influence?
3.    What measurable success and progress is being made?

If you are making a decision about when to quit in the moment, you are probably making the wrong decision. – Ultramarathoner Dick Collins as quoted in Seth Godin’s book “The Dip.”

Keep It Simple

Tynan has another great post about life simplification…this time it’s about fashion. Can you imagine only owning a single pair of pants? A little grungy sounding I agree, but can you also imagine how easy it would be to get dressed every morning!

No wasted time or energy deciding what colors to wear or having to avoid wearing the same thing too often.

Just last week I managed to fill up another trash bag with old clothes, and plan to do the same this weekend. I recently bought a few new things, and want to make sure I am not hording old stuff that I rarely wear. I want my closet to only be filled with things that fit me well and that I enjoy wearing.

Everything else must go to someone else who needs the clothing more than I do.

Smart Phone Made Me Stupid

In March I disconnected the data service to my Smart Phone. This means no e-mail, Facebook or web browsing on my phone. Text messages are OK, that’s it. My phone may have less IQ right now, but boy was it a good move.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this single move has had the biggest impact on my ability to get things done, focus and more effectively manage my time in the past few years.

My Motorola Q <not so> Smart Phone

You see, when I have 24/7 ubiquitous access to email <work and personal> I take advantage of that to allow what I call “slop” to encroach in during times when I should be focused. Instead of focusing and getting work done during the day so I can relax and spend time with friends at night, I dink around during the day and then try to stay connected and take care of business when I shouldn’t.

It also makes it so much easier to just react to other people’s bad behaviors. I work in an environment where people e-mail at all hours of the day and night. In only a few limited cases are these after hours emailed really urgent (like maybe once a month if that). When I had e-mail access on my phone, I would play into the drama and react to mail at the wrong times.

…and don’t get me started about Facebook….updating my status over phone had zero impact on solving world hunger.

Perhaps the biggest thing….is that work would just be on my mind more. Checking e-mail quickly before walking into a movie theater would keep me from really enjoying a movie. Any thought leaves a residue behind and it takes a while for that residue to fully dissolve. It keeps me from really being in the moment.

So now, 10 months after embarking on what was a 30-day challenge to go “smart phone free” …..I am still sticking with it and have no plans on turning back. Right now, I just don’t have the will power to use and not abuse the full capabilities of a Smart Phone and my guess is that neither do most other people.

Stimulus Response

I am a mouse on a wheel. It might be a shiny, diamond-studded wheel that spins all nice and smooth, but it is still a wheel. I’m a stimulus/response machine. I don’t see this as an inherently bad thing. It is what it is. It’s this behavior that has helped me succeed in many things. It helps to multi-task at work. It helps me to juggle multiple to-do’s at home. It helps me just put the blinders on and get things done even when those things might not be fun or overly exciting (like training hard or doing the laundry).

Part of this change has to do with my new role as a manager. I am no longer defining my success at work in terms of what I do, but in terms of what my team can do. I am having to deal with many more varied projects and problems than I have ever had to do in the past. Like it or not, since I spend so much time at or thinking about work; this work-based stimulus response behavior pervades the rest of my life. It is not good or bad, it is what it is.

However, I’m starting to see a dramatic contrast. I just returned from a whirlwind 8 day trip to China, Korea and Taiwan (for work). Talk about stimulus-response overload! Now, in the throes of holiday season, most of my team and peers are on vacation. E-mail has flowed to a trickle. I haven’t had a phone call in days. My stimuli are all gone! Oh no, what to do! It’s actually taken me a bit of time (a day or so) to make the switch from dancing monkey (stimulus response addict) to normal human being.

As a “normal human being”, I feel much more calm; but also less excited about stuff. I am able to think long term, but am actually not nearly as motivated to get a bunch of near-term (easy) stuff done. I am more looking forward to going to work in the morning (less pressure) but a little more bored when I get there.

So yes, there is a change. It’s not good or bad. It is what it is.