optimism_man

Jan 172015
 

When given a challenge, we usually forget to sharpen the axe.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

- Abe Lincoln

Are you a student? If you answered no, I believe you have the wrong perspective. Our world is changing ever faster, and I believe you must be a student all the days of your life. Jim Rohn agreed:

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.

sharpen the axe

The axe that I want to help you sharpen is your memory, and not by just a bit. I want to double or triple your ability to remember whatever it is that you want to remember, in a tenth of the time that it might take you now.

How? Learn (and practice (everything takes practice)) a proven technique from the ancient Greeks that has mostly been forgotten in the age of wikipedia. To start, please take less than an hour and watch these three videos, without distractions, without texting your friends, without checking your instagram, facebook, or e-mail. If you are not familiar with the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your iPhone, it is found under Settings / it is the 7th item down from the top on iOS 8.x.

Why invest your time? How much better would your life be if you could look at something just once and then remember it?  How much time would you save?  How much better would your social fabric be, if you remembered every person’s name when you met them, and the names of their spouse and kids too! What if you unfailing remembered the sports that the kids play and the schools that they go to, where the parents work, what they do, and what they are focused upon the last time few times that you spoke to them?

Why three videos? Because this is a new concept to most of us — and three times from three perspectives helps one learn and understand, when you are a newbee.

Video 1 — Joshua Foer

Joshua-Foer-Feats-of-Memory-Anyone-Can-Do

Video 2 — Idriz Zogaj

IZ-mem

Video 3 — Daniel Kilov

daniel-mem3

Sharpen your axe and chopping down trees becomes a heck of a lot easier.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I just bought the Kindle version of Dominic O’Brien’s book. I’ll give you an update in a few months. I’m on my way!

Jan 142015
 

The effects of stress take their toll on us. One of the aspects about stress that is very obvious, however, is that some people seem to handle stress much better than average. In typical American fashion, a great number of people turn to outside substances, be it Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, alcohol, or others, to reduce the stress that they feel, at least for a bit of time.

I’ve always been a believer that a large percentage of stress can simply go away if you find the right balance of optimism, self-belief, control, and mental perspective. The basic idea that life is 10% of what actually happens to us, and 90% of how we choose to react and what we do next, has always resonated with me.

Steven Covey explained the 90/10 rule this way:

Imagine that your daughter knocks over your coffee onto your business suit at breakfast. You immediately yell at her for her clumsiness, she runs upstairs crying uncontrollably, which results in missing the school bus. Still steaming, you now wind up driving her to school, she fails her math test because she remains upset all day, you get stuck in traffic, you then speed, get pulled over by Officer Smith for a speeding ticket, are late for a meeting with a client, and your boss is less than pleased that your tardiness jeopardized a client relationship. 

The alternative choice that could have been made was to smile, then tell your daughter that “it’s ok, mistakes happen, I have another suit upstairs…” and move forward in a positive fashion from the mishap. All the rest of those negative consequences could have been avoided by making a different choice.

The overall equation to preventing stress is bigger than just the 90/10 principle but 90/10 plays an important part. Below is a GREAT video by Dr. Mike Evans in Toronto, who discusses how we can learn to reduce our stress without chemical compounds. I highly recommend watching it today (full-screen is best):

drMikeevans

Click to play video on youtube

 

If you think you can, you can.

I.M. OptimismMan

Jan 092015
 

Most of my articles are one-topic-at-a-time but today, I’m simply going to take a random stroll through my brain for the top thoughts I have as I face 2015. I hope that you find a spark in just one or two of them.

We live in the best of times, bar none.

There has never been more opportunity to succeed in a hurry. More than 50% of the humans on the planet have been networked together. Many of us are fortunate enough to carry a magical smartphone that acts as a battery-powered always-on star-trek-inspired ATM to the vast and ever-growing knowledge-base on the network, indexed by Google. The world is not yet a pervasive knowledge utopia, but dang, this is awesome.

Not everyone appreciates it. My kids think that unlimited, always available information at your smartphone fingertips was simply the way it was. They can’t imagine 1984, although I have briefed them on that stone age before 99% of us had cell phones.

Why not make 2015 your best year ever, the year you really take advantage of some great opportunity?

Optimism makes you or breaks you.

If you do not believe in your plan, your vision, and your abilities, you will never get more than a few steps out the starting gate.

Rudy Ruettiger

You have to believe that you can — and — belief is a conscious choice one must make. Has anyone won an Olympic event without believing that she can? Has anyone started a new company that rocketed to stardom without belief? Has anyone performed on a national stage without having faith in themselves? On a smaller scale, has anyone become the captain of their sports team without belief? Would Rudy have had his moment in the Notre Dame sunshine without optimism?

Do you believe? It is not an option if you want to strive for greatness!

Every important mission deserves a plan.

Planning — specifically written planning — with key milestones and target dates, improves a person’s chances of success by a wide margin. Why? Because the act of writing it down helps logical thought. Writing it down helps one’s commitment level. Writing it down helps you visualize the future.  Every plan should answer the “why do I want to do this” question, because why is always more powerful than what.  When you know why you want to do X, the finish line is easier to reach. Having a written plan better enables you to solicit the advice of others, which helps debate the logic even farther. Dates in ink help prevent procrastination.

Sure, plans might change — in fact, they usually do change — but creating a plan (here’s how), having a plan, working the plan, adjusting the plan, is important none-the-less.

Do you have a mission in 2015?  If so, where’s your written plan?

Ideas are sparked by… books… not TV.

I’ve come to realize that books are far more thought provoking that any other media because they are usually a deep plunge into a topic. I find that I come up with more ideas — usually unrelated to the book that I’m reading — while reading a good book.

made-to-stick

Reading is nutrition for the brain and is darn near magical.

Want fresh ideas in 2015?  How many books will you commit to read?

A/B Testing

Most of us come up with our one best idea and run with it. Yet, there is a lot of evidence that people rarely come up with the best idea without trial and error. I think 2015 should become the year all of us come up with our two best ideas per problem or challenge, and test both. The second one might come in first more often than we realize.  Then, after you know which idea is a winner (lets say B), come up with a new A for the next A/B test and keep fine-tuning and improving.

All it takes is a bit more work to improve your chances of success.

Are you willing to create more than one idea or approach, then test and measure to achieve better success?

Ask for Advice

People love to give advice. Yet often, we don’t ask for it, and when we do, we don’t listen attentively, we don’t take notes, and we don’t mull it over for a few weeks. Wise is the person that can learn from others. There is a lot to be learned if one is willing to ask good questions.

There is also a great side-benefit to asking for advice. People will feel that you value their opinion more. This results in better, deeper relationships.

Why not ask more people for advice?

One Great Resolution

People make fun of resolutions because so few people follow through. Instead of a huge list this year, make just one, but make it stick. Write it down in a plan, with milestones, with target dates. Put a reminder card of this resolution everywhere.  Check off the milestones.  You will feel great when you succeed by December.

What is your one resolution that really matters to you?

Make the right choices and I’m certain that you will have a great 2015. Above all things, please realize that optimism is a choice, and optimism is the jet fuel you need to live large and achieve much in life.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

 

Dec 282014
 

Too often, one faulty thought enters the mainstream, is picked up as a soundbyte and disseminated by the media, and multitudes are affected by it. In this case, the thought was issued in 1966 by 32 year old Carl Sagan, when half the appliances in the USA were avocado and linoleum was in. The rest of the scientific community latched onto his quote and started doing math, coming to conclusions like the universe must be populated by thousands of planets that support intelligent life. Even today, “the math from the 60’s and 70’s” persists in many of our high school teachers.

CarlSagan-1966

As knowledge evolved, that math started to change. Here is an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this month. I don’t know if its 100% right (that’s hard to find) but it seems well worth considering.

I.M. Optimism Man

Preserved from the Wall Street Journal…

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God
The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Eric Metaxas

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).

Dec 142014
 

Are you failing often enough?

This is a very important question to contemplate, especially if you are not in the middle of spectacular, unusual successes.

If you are not encountering failure, you are not pushing the envelope of your abilities or the opportunities that are inevitably present in your life. Trying something new and daring is the only way to significantly accelerate and expand your life, not to mention feel challenged and enthused. As Lou Holtz puts it in this video well worth watching, “you are either growing or you are dying” — there is no longterm safety with maintaining the status quo.

Unfortunately, as people age beyond 30 or 35, they take less risks and try fewer new things. It should surprise no one that most leaps in society come from the young. What’s true for people is also true for companies; as most companies evolve, they often transform from bold and innovative to conservative, plodding, and risk averse.

At the core of the problem is a myth about failure: Many believe failure is bad, embarrassing, and should be avoided at all cost, especially here in America. Even more people try to cover up their failures and hide them from others, immediately blocking them from their own minds in the cover-up process. The truth is that taking prudent risks, daring to fail, learning from failure, and treating every failure as an important learning experience is how one keeps failure in the right perspective.

sam-walton

I see failure and substantial success as gauges of “am I trying enough new things” — if I go six months without some spectacular setback or win, the alarm bells go off in my head, letting me know that I’m not trying enough new stuff, not taking enough new risks, and missing out on the successes and failures that come with pushing the envelope. Doing a few percent better this year than last is a clear indicator of wasted opportunity.

You must fail forward:

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.
– Denis Waitley

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
– Teddy Roosevelt

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.
– JK Rowling

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before success comes in any man’s life, he’s sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and the most logical thing to do is to quit. That’s exactly what the majority of men do.
– Napoleon Hill

Forget about yesterday’s failure. Time to try something new, exciting, and at least a little bit risky!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Here’s a list of rather famous and successful that failed forward:

Roland Hussey Macy

He failed at selling ribbons, provisions to miners and at a general store before going bankrupt in 1855. His next effort, Macy’s became the world’s largest store.

J. C. Penney

First store went bankrupt when he refused to give whiskey as a kickback for orders from a large customer. Penny went belly up and got a job in a drapery shop that he later purchased and expanded into 1100 department stores nationwide.

Henry John Heinz

Started his first company in 1869 selling horseradish, pickles, sauerkraut and vinegar. In 1875 the company filed for bankruptcy due to an unexpected bumper harvest which the company could not keep up with and could not meet its payroll obligations. He immediately started a new company and introduced a new condiment, tomato ketchup to the market. This company was, and continues to be, very prosperous.

Milton Snavely Hershey

Started four candy companies that failed and filed bankruptcy before starting what is now Hershey’s Foods Corporation. Mr. Hershey had only a 4th grade education, but was certain he could make a good product that the public would want to purchase. His fifth attempt was clearly successful.

Conrad Hilton

Lost all his hotels when he could not pay his bank during the Great Depression. Later, he bought them all back and built a few more. Things worked out pretty good in the end. Just ask Paris.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Famous architect lost his home, Taliesin in Wisconsin and was thrown on the street when business dried up in 1922. During the following decade, he designed some of his most famous projects.

Henry Ford

First two automobile manufacturing companies failed. The first company filed for bankruptcy and the second ended because of a disagreement with his business partner. In June 1903, at the age of 40, he created a third company, the Ford Motor Company with a cash investment of $28,000.00. By July of 1903 the bank balance had dwindled to $223.65, but then Ford sold its first car, and as they say the rest is history

Harry Truman

Opened a shop in Missouri after the First World War only to have it fail miserably. He was further humbled by having to move in with his mother-in-law. Truman later settled his debt for pennies on the dollar when the bank at which the underlying note was written actually went bankrupt itself. He is said to have learned a lot from the misadventure. And it all turned out OK in the in end. You may have heard, he eventually got a good job, in Washington, DC.

Walt Disney

His name is synonymous with Mickey Mouse and the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. However, Disney’s career wasn’t always a moneymaking venture. In 1921, he began a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri but was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later because his financial backers pulled out. It must have been fate because Disney then headed to Hollywood and became one of the highest paid animators in history.

Sam Walton

His first store was a Ben Franklin discount shop that he made among the most profitable and successful in the chain. Walton’s problem was a short lease. When it expired, the building’s owner canceled his lease and took over the store himself. Walton was broke had to start over from scratch. You may have heard, however, that things turned out pretty good in the end. After these early financial difficulties were behind him, he later created the largest company in the world and became a billionaire.

 

Nov 122014
 

I recently read a few articles that got me thinking about co-workers and hiring employees in general. In my job, I become part of virtual teams that self-assemble and de-assemble as needed for a particular opportunity. I am fortunate in the fact that I often serve as the recruiter, and therefore, am in a position to decide who I want on my temporary team to explore an opportunity.

good-team

When you recruit, you wind up picking people that you can count on to get the job done, while being enjoyable to work with. If one of these facets is great but the other is not, you will never pick that person unless you have no other choice in the matter.

Here is my quickly conceived diagram about what I think ‘picking your team’ always boils down to. The best people to work with are the ones that combine all five of these aspects:

people-I-love-to-work-withNow, here is the interesting paradox. When managers hire new people, how often do they hire in terms of “would I really like to work with this person on an intense project for a month or two?” I think a lot of companies often overcomplicate the hiring process — and as a result — make decisions based on obscure details that distract from what truly matters most. Hiring a bad apple is hard to un-do and often causes years of strife. While basic skills, experience, and subject matter knowledge are somewhat needed (and this falls into the ability to get the job done), keeping your eye on the big picture matters most.

This concept is important on a personal level, even if you are not hiring people: How do you rank yourself against this diagram? Consider asking five people that know you well, the five straight-shooters that will give you advice that is not candy-coated. If you come up short in one or more of these areas, why not decide to change yourself for the better? I believe that ranking in the top 10% of these five key aspects can put your career on a new trajectory with exponential benefits over 10, 20 or 30 years. Everyone likes a hockey stick chart, not just venture cap investors.

I.M. Optimism Man

Oct 282014
 

Nike has sold billions of dollars of shoes and apparel with its brilliant Just Do It campaign. The problem is that most of the people that buy Nike stuff are watching a scant few people Just Do It.

How many people have become better athletes by watching Sunday NFL? How may people become best selling authors by watching more TV? Or learn to play the piano? Or learn a second language? Or become accomplished artists? Or better business professionals? Or started their own company?

people-watching-tv

We have become the “Just Watch It” nation, sitting on our couches eating chips. Watching others do great things is the national pastime. I think it’s the great evil; unfortunately, it is easier to watch now that ever before. There are hundreds of channels. DVRs record all your favorites. If you forget to record it, it usually comes on again, or is available On Demand, or on Netflix, or Hulu, or at RedBox. If you miss the game, ESPN will talk about it all week, so that you can catch up before the next match. All you have to do is use your precious time to Just Watch It.

Consider these stats (Source: BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co. 2013):

Total Use of Television Data
Average time spent watching television (U.S.) 5:11 hours / day
White 5:02
Black 7:12
Hispanic 4:35
Asian 3:14
Years the average person will have spent watching TV 9 years / lifetime
Family Television Statistics
Percentage of households that possess at least one television 99 %
Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household 2.24
Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets 65 %
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner 67 %
Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV 56 %
Number of videos rented daily in the U.S. 6 million
Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV 49 %
Child Television Statistics
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television 1,480
Percent of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television 54 %
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school 900 hours
Hours per year the average American youth watches television 1,200
Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18 150,000
Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child 16,000

 

Nine years of the average life sitting and watching TV! My favorite stat in the table is that kids spend 30% more time watching TV than they invest in school. If you want to make more of your life, putting yourself on a TV consumption diet has to be top of the list. How you invest your time is crucial. If you find the will power to pull back on TV, please don’t substitute with low-value internet surfing like Facebook!

As I’ve pointed out many time in the past, the first step to changing any habit is keeping a journal, no matter if you are trying to eat better, reduce how much you complain, or reduce your TV consumption. Then, the ultimate next step is to use all that newfound time in a positive way, and that takes planning.

Are you going to go along with the herd or are you going to transform yourself from Just Watch It to Just Do It?

No one on their death bed wished that they had watched more television.

I.M. Optimism Man

Oct 082014
 

Teenage and young adult years are tough on kids, and particularly tough on girls. Peer pressure is as high as it will ever be, fitting in and being popular are deep rooted, if not often talked about ambitions, and confusing messages, painful lessons, and suave one-track-mind guys lurk around every corner.

There is one simple principle that will serve every girl well, but it is hard to remember in the heat of the moment, as those challenging “moments” happen when they are not expected: Stay classy no matter what. When facing any crossroads decision, small or large, remember Coco Chanel’s famous quote:

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
— Coco Chanel

coco-chanel1

Classy doesn’t let you down, doesn’t lead to moments, events, or pictures that you will soon regret. A good life is a life where you are always proud of yourself through success and setback, a life where you take the high road time and again. Sure, there may be a few times where you miss out on ‘being there’ when ‘whatever’ happened, but 9 times out of 10, you will have avoided a ‘whatever’ that could have become a scarred regret. When a girl decides, in advance, to stay classy and chooses to never cross that line, she will absolutely be better off, for the rest of her life.

Here are a few more quotes worth considering:

A guy wants a classy girl who is smart and has goals – someone that he wouldn’t be afraid to bring home to his parents.
— Victoria Justice

I have always believed that if you need to take your clothes off to get your man, you’ve begun to lose the battle. If you pull it off right, you can do it in a very classy way… Being sexy is about suggestion; it’s about the tease. It’s not about being obvious and forcing yourself out in the open. That takes all the fun out of being a woman.
— Bipasha Basu

I grew up loving actresses or actors who were very classy but who seemed a little bit mysterious because you couldn’t grasp what they’re really thinking. I mean, Grace Kelly always looked impossibly glamorous, yet you could always see there was something behind her eyes.
— Diane Kruger

cocochanelquote

Being different doesn’t mean taking the low road. I’ve argued in past posts that personal integrity is a great differentiator. As a parent, teaching this one lesson — always make the choice to stay classy — is a crucial step in making sure your daughter becomes all that she can be.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. If you enjoyed this article, please read Remarkable is Not a Birthright

PSS. If you have not always taken the high road, you can make the choice to start now, this very instant, and never look back. Today and tomorrow matters much more, than yesterday and yesteryear.

PSSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 1 and Part 2.

PSSSS. While the lessons are crucial, don’t take my belief in “staying classy no matter what” as a wholesale endorsement of Coco or any of the authors quoted. The concept is what matters.

Oct 022014
 

What will matter to you when you are dying?

It seems like a difficult, mysterious question but, perhaps it is not. While not every person thinks the same while vibrant and viable, it seems that when your number is up, people of all races and religious beliefs have a lot in common as their personal end draws near.

It turns out, once a person truly knows that the jig is up, the final minutes for most of us are peaceful and reflective. Three overwhelming thoughts tend to dominate those who are taking their final breaths:

  1. There is a need for forgiveness, for reconciliation for the things and events that a person may regret.
  2. There is a need for remembrance.
  3. There is a need to know that one’s life had meaning.

Am I making this stuff up?

No, not at all. Watch this succinct, powerful video from Matthew O’Reilly, an EMS professional that has witnessed the last breaths of many critically injured people:

matthew-oreilly

So, here is my question to you:

Why not live your live now – all your life in fact – with:

  • true quality,
  • forgiving and being forgiven,
  • avoiding as many situations as possible that could cause harm and cause regret,
  • accomplishing meaningful goals,
  • impacting people’s lives in meaningful ways, and
  • doing what it takes to take comfort in having a life that was indeed meaningful?

When you know what will matter to you in the end, it makes it easier to make the right decisions and put in your best effort, today.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

PS. When dying, no one wishes for more money, more time at work, more shiny cars, more bigger and bigger houses, more parties, more martinis, more time watching others (TV, Facebook, sports, celebrity news, you name it) instead of living. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Why do we spend some much of our lives on the less-than-meaningful agenda?

Sep 252014
 

For more than 100 years, the population of developed countries has coalesced and formed sprawling metropolises, as cities offered ever greater opportunity to excel and succeed. One of the prices paid for the density of humanity is the gridlock of traffic that is the bane of any thriving metro today.

rushhour

I question everything, study everything, and observe how people react to situations. Traffic seems to be a nearly universal challenge that brings out the worst in most people. Traffic, so mysterious, so out of our own control, leads even the best of us to complain. I now believe that there is an invaluable lesson to be learned while you sit in daily traffic, yet exceedingly few manage to learn it.

Bear with me for a second while I make a pretty big leap: This lesson can be traced to the extreme hardships vividly documented by Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl’s mother, father, wife, and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps. Viktor endured hunger, cold, and brutality in Auschwitz and Dachau. He knew that he would probably be killed any day. He lost all his belongings, including his life’s work, which was a scientific manuscript that had taken extraordinary time and care to create.

viktor-frankl

Frankl’s situation was dire. He could have easily given up all hope – most people in fact did. But Frankl emerged from the tortures an optimist by cultivating an empowering idea: he reasoned that even in the worst of situations, a person has the freedom to choose 1) how they perceive the circumstances and 2) to create their own meaning from them. Gordon Allport notes in the preface to the third edition of Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” classic, this is what the ancient Stoics called the ‘last freedom’. The evil of torture is not so much physical, but the active attempt to extinguish it is dibilatating. A favorite quote of Frankl’s was Nietzsche’s “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

Fast forwarding to Los Angeles, Houston, NYC, Dallas, Portland, or Chicago, the minor torture one endures daily is traffic. It infuriates, it shreds our positive attitude, it becomes a great source of complaints, and there is no escape or relief. It is clearly far less daunting than Viktor faced, but traffic is a modern, incessant torture just the same.

The lesson to be learned and appreciated is similar. In concentration camps, Frankl learned that, even though captive, he had the freedom to either let his circumstances infect and corrode his attitude or he had the freedom to choose his attitude and make the best of it. The lesson of traffic is the same: you can either let it get to you, or you can choose to enjoy the day, traffic be damned.

Consider these quotes for a minute:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

— Viktor Frankl

The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.

— Andrew Bernstein

Nothing gives one person so much an advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

— Thomas Jefferson

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Complaints, either voiced out loud or simply thought out inside your own head, are a mental cancer that ruins your day. Decide to have a great day, no matter what happens, and you will have your great day as your reward.

— Bob Sakalas

This masters-level life lesson is universal. You often cannot choose your circumstances but you can choose your attitude. This applies universally to almost any situation you can’t control. If you are a student, you can’t control that teacher who doesn’t do it your way. If you are a parent, your teen will argue to the point of no return. You may have coworkers that drive you crazy day in and day out. There is no finite list of circumstances as Bernstein pointed out above.

Recently, I unwittingly started complaining — mostly inside my own thoughts — about how much back-to-back business travel I had to endure in the last few months. Although I didn’t voice it often, it was on my mind and my internal complaints began to corrode my attitude, which has a domino effect on everything like productivity, effectiveness, clear thought, focus, peace, optimism, and gratitude. This week, I finally realized the downward spiral I had inadvertently decided to put myself on. I have the freedom to ‘whistle a happy tune’ as I board flight 255 or let the circumstances infect me. Only the former helps things turn out for the best.

Tomorrow morning, I will sit in traffic, thankful for the opportunity to catch up on my stock market awareness while I listen to CNBC. I have seen the light. I hope that you do to.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. FYI, I did in fact whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith show as I boarded an MD-88 this week.

Sep 222014
 

Most commercials offer little value. Once in a while, however, Madison Ave manages to capture an idea brilliantly in just 30 or 60 seconds. Here is one such spot well worth thinking about if you have a daughter:

girl-engineer

I hope that you take it to heart. It is really easy for parents to be protective. We have a kid who wants to build, to invent, to have her own tool box. I believe it is time to let her breathe, even if it costs a few bandaids.

Don’t miss Have a Daughter? Part 1, here.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I have no idea how this actually sell more Verizon phones and plans… but I’m glad that they funded it.

PSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 1 and Part 3.

Sep 162014
 

Warren Buffett is a smart guy. In my book, it is more important to have great common sense than it is to just be I.Q. rocket-science smart. Mr. Buffett is both – he clearly stood in line several times as God was dealing out common sense before he was born.

warren-buffett-hi-res

As many of you know, I am a long-term investor and I have read Warren’s shareholder letters with great interest for years. I don’t agree with Warren on every front (mostly politics) but he does author a lot of great, common-sense quotes worth thinking through.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
    ~
  2. Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.
    ~
  3. Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
    ~
  4. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.
    ~
  5. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
    ~
  6. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.
    ~
  7. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.
    ~
  8. The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.
    ~
  9. Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.
    ~
  10. It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.
    ~
  11. Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it.
    ~
  12. We believe that according the name ‘investors’ to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a ‘romantic.’
    ~
  13. If a business does well, the stock eventually follows.
    ~
  14. You’d get very rich if you thought of yourself as having a card with only twenty punches in a lifetime, and every financial decision used up one punch. You’d resist the temptation to dabble. You’d make more good decisions and you’d make more big decisions.
    ~
  15. Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.
    ~
  16. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you.
    ~
  17. The trick is, when there is nothing to do, do nothing.
    ~
  18. No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
    ~
  19. Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.
    ~
  20. Never lie under any circumstances.
    ~

neverbetagainst

There’s a lot of wisdom, and great reason for optimism, in less than 500 words.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 022014
 

I have two teenage daughters so I’m truly conscious of how difficult it is to grow up in America’s totally faked “what is beauty” ideal. Every TV show, every magazine, every commercial seems to tell girls that they should not be happy with what God gave them and that they should strive for an ideal that is frankly, a mirage.

Here is a typical beauty shot:

covergirl

Dove ran a series of commercials that exposes how contrived the concept of beauty has become in society. Please watch these two videos as a reminder, especially after looking at the picture above:

dove-evolution

Dove Evolution Video

dove-body

Dove Body Video

I hope all parents can convince their kids, and especially their daughters, that beauty starts from inside. What they see, far too often, is skin deep and unattainable without a lot of photoshop distortions.

I.M. Optimism Man

PSSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 2 and Part 3.

 

Aug 252014
 

A lot of people think that I’m a true “morning person” but unfortunately, that is not the case. Being a morning person implies that you jump out of bed, fully awake and ready to go, naturally, almost magically. Maybe some people are that fortunate but I’m not one of them. I burn the candle at both ends far too often, working hard and working out, daily. Jumping out of bed is not in the cards for me — my wife can attest that watching me get up is akin to a time-lapse photography sequence.

Yet, I decided years ago to transform myself into a morning person of sorts. What I really am is a rhythm and habits person, who believes in will power and forethought.

Just because I’m up at 5 am daily does not mean that it is easy. In fact, this graphic sums up mornings perfectly, from my perspective:

not-a-morning-person

After years of experimentation and observation, I believe that getting a good, early start in the morning produces killer benefits for the rest of the day.

A good start must be defined, because I believe it is not plunging headlong into the rat race sooner than most everyone else.

  • A good start involves reading a bit to kickstart fresh ideas.
  • It definitely includes pre-planning your day and your top “big rock” priority.
  • A good start must include forward thinking, as well as a bit of reflection.
  • It also should include comprehensive stretching, which works wonders physically.
  • If you are a believer, saying a short prayer or two helps orient yourself to your higher calling.
  • Finally, when the weather cooperates, it also includes stopping, watching, and appreciating the sun rise.

It takes 6 – 12 weeks to build or break a habit. But once you get past the habit barrier, I believe that there are great benefits to the choice of becoming a “morning person” — at least my kind of coffee-sparked morning person. The 10 reasons to become a morning person include:

1. Peace
When you get up early, you find moments of peace and solitude in an otherwise crowded, busy, loud-as-heck, full-of-distractions world. Peace and solitude is great for the soul. I’m not exactly meditating on my patio, but I get it.

2. Reflection
Early mornings are great for reflection, especially as you move to cup of coffee #2. One of the things I started a few years ago is keeping a smartphone based journal. I find, in the peace of the early morn, reading over my recent entries helps generate more ideas.

3. Self-Determination
You an either set your own priorities or others will set them for you. Early mornings give you time to think about whats important to you. It helps fight the urgency conspiracy driven by other people. Get up early to find the time to set your own agenda, your own priorities.

4. Magic
The sunrise is in fact magical. Try it for one week. Then, tell me I’m wrong.

5. Avoiding Some Stress
If you have to go somewhere, you will avoid 90% of the stress of traffic, while saving a lot of time as well. Most cities are busy but not jammed before 7 am. If you go in early, you will avoid that stress that every 8 am commuter feels.

dawn-runner

6. Sharpness
If you get up early and go for a workout, your mind and body are running at full speed by the time others start arriving, sleepy and groggy. Being the sharpest person in the room is a fantastic feeling and it doesn’t hurt your chances of accelerated promotion.

7. Balance
By getting up early, you get more balance in your life. When you take time to plan your day, you tend to be more thoughtful about it, which in turn leads to prioritizing your tasks and plans, both at work and in other pursuits.

8. Special Projects
When you finally forge yourself into a morning person, you will find that you have the capability of getting special project started and completed. I wrote my book, Seizing Share, using the early morning system. Interruptions don’t wake up and start interrupting until 7:30 or 8 am.

9. Improved Optimism
The more mornings you enjoy with a good start, the more often you will have the right, positive attitude all day. Optimism is a crucial ingredient toward success, so with improved optimism, you will often see more success. It becomes a self-sustaining upward spiral.

10. Better Sleep
A lot of people struggle to fall asleep. However, if you get up early, you are more worn by the time bedtime arrives. As a result, you fall asleep quickly and sleep more soundly all night. Our bodies like rhythms. The trick is to keep to the schedule. Once you have a great schedule, you will find that you sleep better, feel more fit, and ultimately become healthier too.

Consider becoming a morning person. I’m living proof that it can be done, even if you are a night owl today.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 192014
 

Complaining seems to be the national pastime — perhaps it has always been so — but I’ve become so sensitive to it that I can’t help but overhear it, evaluate it, and even rate it everywhere I go.

Complaints help no one. If you complain, you are not better off, the people you are infecting with negativity are not better off, and you are slowly but surely causing a social rift between yourself and others. Nobody likes a whiner, even other whiners.

crybaby

Complaining is a brilliant way to relive a bad experience over and over. OK, perhaps traffic was painful this afternoon, but why live through it again and again, all evening long? Life will often offer up the irate customer, the difficult relationship, the frustrating store clerk, the thin lukewarm coffee, and the inevitable meal with too much seasoning. If you decide to put “it” behind you minutes after “it” happens, and never mention it again, I know you will have a better evening.

I believe we all have the power to choose what habits we build and what habits we leave behind. Whining is a beast that can be defeated, if you decide and follow through. It takes six to twelve weeks to build a habit of excellence when you have resolve. Here’s how.

kwitcherbichen

The benefits are numerous. When you stop whining, you will reduce your stress. You will smile more, laugh more, believe more, become more optimistic, relax more, enjoy more, appreciate more, and have more gratitude, which is the ultimate key to happiness. Today is the day to start. Make a commitment. Make it happen. Make a great new habit reality.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

Aug 062014
 

Most of us really feel good about ourselves when we accomplish something great. Yet, far too often, we only wish a key accomplishment would happen, rather than taking the initiative to start, and then putting in a concentrated burst of effort to change our status quo.

I find that when I really want to make it happen, midnight can be magical.

Consider one of my favorite quotes:

The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Burning the midnight oil

When is the last time you burned the midnight oil? Perhaps today is the day. When you make things happen — great things that are not part of the norm — you become more hopeful and happier overall.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 022014
 

I rarely watch the same movie twice, but this week, I decided to watch Dead Poets Society again. The first time I saw Dead Poets was in 1989, while living in San Antonio. I didn’t remember the movie clearly, but I remembered I really liked it the first time around. Indeed, I now know why. If you have not seen Dead Poets, give it a shot.

That said, oh my, this was a great quote — recently featured in an Apple’s ad:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

dead-poets-society-photo

And another:

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

And another:

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

oh-captain-my-captain

Carpe Diem,

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 222014
 

What if you could miss out on more than half the diseases that plague humans today? You can, and the medicine is not from Pfizer or Astra Zeneca. The medicine is simply making the right choices and having will power on a daily basis.

From a big picture level, the USA spends far more money on healthcare as a percentage of GDP than any other. The USA also is one of the most obese countries on the planet. The USA’s life expectancy trails a lot of other developed countries, despite all the money spend on healthcare. The USA’s healthcare outlook and staggering financial bill would change dramatically for the better with a lot less cookies, brownies, potato chips, and giggling midriffs.

chocolate

Each cookie, brownie, and slice of cake is trying its very best to bring about your demise a bit sooner, one morsel at a time. Many people will die today from the choices that they made over the years regarding diet and fitness. Obesity is one of the most reliable indicators and forecasters of a person’s health and longevity. Yet America — and much of the developed world — is getting fatter at an absolutely alarming rate.

Consider this 30 second video that shows the percentage of the US population hitting the scales as obese. I find it an absolutely stunning fact that this fattening of America has happened since the year that I graduated from college:

obesity

Make the choice to have discipline, eat right daily, and work out regularly. There are no guarantees, but your odds of avoiding a lot of health problems are really good. Health is required to tackle life with optimism and enthusiasm.

Here is the CDC’s take on obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

Consider this idea. It might just make all the difference. Half your health outlook is up to you and only you, one bite at a time.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Jul 162014
 

Stephen Covey will be remembered most for his book — The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — which was a runaway best seller. If you have read this book 20 years ago, when it was most popular, I suggest reading it again. While some of Covey’s ideas can be traced to the work of many before him, his succinct and well architected compilation is very valuable.

As we grow older, our interpretation of books and ideas is getting better. Re-reading a good book after putting it aside for a decade makes sense, because it results in new ideas and newfound appreciation.

stephen-r-covey

Here are a dozen great quotes from Covey that are well worth thinking about while in your own fortress of solitude:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Life is not about accumulation, it is about contribution.

The key is taking responsibility and initiative, deciding what your life is about and prioritizing your life around the most important things.

Live out of your imagination, not your history.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

We become what we repeatedly do.

Leadership is a choice, not a position.

I have an abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger.

— Stephen Covey

Now, here’s the kicker — after thinking deeply about these core ideas, will you decide to adopt just one of them, make it a habit, and change yourself for the better?

Everything good starts will making a good decision.

I.M. Optimism Man