Jan 152016
 

Life tests us. Life wants to know what we are made of. One simple rule matters most: never give in. Stay true to yourself, your values, your principles, and your beliefs, no matter what.

All of us makes decisions about ourselves. In essence, we decide our mental DNA, we design our daily habits, we control our attitudes and our outlook.

n-hill-quote

One person stays gung-ho about life, even when he stumbles or encounters unexpected challenges. He decided to go from one challenge to the next without any loss of optimism, enthusiasm, or tenacity. Facing the same situation, another gives in and doesn’t swing the bat with the same gusto after a few strike outs. These two people’s lives will come out remarkably different.

quotes-success-not-final-failure-not-fatal

Giving in becomes a habit. Never, ever, ever give in, and never give up your enthusiasm.

I.M. OptimismMan 

PS> One of my favorites that I’m certain I have posted in the past:

enthusiasm-churchill

Dec 262015
 

People, especially young people, are predictable when asked what their important goals are in life, goals that specifically will help them achieve happiness. Invariably, money and fame appear at the top of the list.

Well, it turns out that there are few comprehensive studies about happiness over a lifetime. Studies are relatively easy to pull off when they only last a few years. Studying people for a lifetime, on the other hand, almost never happens.

Here is something extraordinary: a study that has focused on happiness and lasted 75 years. The conclusion is well worth thinking about:

robert-waldinger-on-ted

In previous posts, I have argued that, in my humble opinion, gratefulness is the key to happiness. Robert Waldinger makes the case that the quality of your social relationships is the most important key to achieve happiness. Maybe just maybe, gratefulness and great relationships go hand-in-hand and rank as #1 and #2. No matter, the clear point is that money and fame are not answer.

2016 might be the year to take a hard look at your own life. Are you investing the time and energy it takes to build extraordinary relationships?

I.M. OptimismMan

Dec 102015
 

Hindsight is 20/20. When I was asked recently for my best advice to a struggling college student (see previous post), the discussion of finding and picking a starting job when graduating came up as well.

picking the first job

Lou Holtz has observed that we should never try to maintain a certain level: as Lou summed it up in this speech, You are either growing or you are dying, there is no middle ground. I believe this is just as true for individuals as it is for companies. I think the graduate should — first and foremost — strive to start her career at a company that is growing rapidly. With growth comes opportunity, happiness in an organization, improved teamwork, reduced politics, and a feeling of success and purpose. A company that is growing quickly — perhaps 20 – 25% a year – hires many more people, creates new teams, and has opportunities for healthy promotion and advancement.

Companies that are running near flat in terms of revenue or profit growth offer few chances for real advancement and expansion of responsibility. This is a hard environment to gain momentum, as promotion usually requires someone in management to leave and vacate a spot in the stagnant org chart.

Working hard in school, participating in extracurricular activities, adding practical experience with internships and on campus leadership positions, and being optimistic will all help expand the number of offers you receive at graduation time. If all goes well, you will have a number of choices to pick from. Pick the job offer from the firm with a healthy, growing environment.

I.M. OptimismMan

Dec 072015
 

There are millions and millions of pages written about how to succeed. Yet for all this nuance, fundamentals always matter most. A key aspect to success is making lasting, sincere friendships and influencing people is a positive, optimistic way. Leadership and influence is not just about title — true leadership involves having personal influence that transcends position in an organization.

Dale-Carnegie

One of the best works written on the fundamentals of this topic is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People which has clearly survived the test of time. Below is a great reminder that I stumbled upon just today:

dale-carnegie-how-to-win-friends

I.M. OptimismMan

Nov 252015
 

As the end of 2015 approaches, how many good ideas did you write down this year? How many did you develop from one-liners into a solid little outline? How many have grown into a short white paper?

Albert Einstein observed that imagination is more important than knowledge. Napoleon Hill said first comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The genesis is within your imagination, but imagination must be nurtured and developed into great ideas to make a difference.

foster-ideas

Be honest: How many ideas did you simply write down in 2015? Pull out your journal, or log onto your system now, and look at them. If you don’t write ideas down, in a system that will stand the test of time, they will evaporate.

If your answer is zero or just a scant few, what will you do in 2016? What goal will you set, with reminder alerts to keep idea development top-of-mind? Perhaps one idea a month, or one idea a week? Imagine 5 years from today, with one good idea per week written down and one idea per month taken to the next level of detail and development. Could it change your life? Would it make you at least 10% more brilliant? I think the answer is a resounding yes. Idea development is a cornerstone of personal differentiation.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. Don’t have a good system?

write-down-your-ideas

A paper journal works and is better than nothing, but it is exposed to loss. I like the Day One journal (if you are a Mac user) with a backup email sent to my own Gmail account, using a tag like #freshideas which makes it easy to search for later. The truth is Google is unlikely to fail, and Gmail is one of its crucial products, so an email to self at Gmail is about as safe and simple as it gets. For the redundancy backup-minded, it is easy to set up two accounts — one at Google and one elsewhere (a good bet IMHO would be Outlook.com (Microsoft)) and then email your ideas to both from your ever-present smartphone.

Nov 162015
 

I was recently asked by a parent for my one and only one best nugget of advice I would offer to a college student who is struggling a bit. Limiting any answer to such a broad, open-ended question is brilliant, because it makes you pause and think carefully before answering — I suspect I will write an article on this “limits make answers better” concept in the future — but for now, I’ll turn to the challenge at hand.

My best advice is to evaluate and then choose your best friends carefully. College (and high school for that matter) gives you a lot of opportunity to select which friends you would prefer to get close to. Unfortunately, many students fall into a group without forethought, just as many adults fall into a job.

college-friends

If you fall into a group that is more concerned about the next party than the next homework assignment or upcoming exam, the gravity of the friendship will inexorably influence you to party more and achieve less. If you surround yourself with lazy pessimists that only hope to graduate in 6 or 7 years, don’t be surprised if you join the same track of dropping classes more often than finishing them. If your friends have no vision of their future, ponder why they are there, and still believe that their parents will somehow magically arrange their future, you will too. On the other hand, if you carefully choose and cultivate friendships with individuals with passion, drive, leadership, charisma, and other characteristics that you yourself aspire to, you will find vision, momentum, and encouragement when you need it most.

It is never too late to reassess. Are your close friends helping you succeed or dragging you down? Are they true friends or are they only friends of convenience? Is their heart in the right place? What do they say about you when you are not there? If they are dragging you down, make a bold decision, change your friends for the better, and you will find that you will change your trajectory. Looking back, I was fortunate with the close friends I made at school, starting with a good first “suite” of achievers in the freshman dorm (that was a lucky break, not one of my own choosing). Like everything else, it is not a matter of wishing things were different. Change only happens when you make clear decisions and then do it, finishing what you started.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. A couple of quotes, because I love quotes.

Consider each of your friends in this context. I would add help you “be all you can be” but this quote goes a long way in capturing the essence:

best-friends-quote

It isn’t all that hard to test your friendship:

nice-things-to-say

You can’t really know until times get tough. Everyone is your “friend” when things are going well:

hard-times

Oct 172015
 

A lot of people talk about achieving ‘balance’ in life. The part that no one seems to mention is that every single decision in life comes with a price, and that balance is an achievement of wise decisions made.

I’m a fervent believer that you must strive for balance: it is far too easy to succumb to the gravity of daily work, so much so that you miss the rest of your life, including your family, your health, and brilliant moments of peace and happiness.

balance-matters

The most difficult decisions wind up costing a lot in time and effect your financial flexibility, ultimately changing your outlook and life’s balance.

Consider this:

1. Every decision has a direct price to be paid
2. There is a domino effect, a likely consequence, that changes what decisions are available to you, next, after the immediate decision is made
3. There are both direct and indirect benefits
4. There is a cost to some other aspect of your life’s balance

Those that foresee these four aspects clearly and are right about what the short-term and long-term domino effect will be — at least 80% of the time — will have a better balanced life.

How can you improve your decision making results? Write the facets of each decision down, with what you anticipate regarding the four points above, before you decide, in your permanent journal. Then, revisit and review on a set schedule (at least once a year) — there is a lot to learn when you see how your own thinking actually plays out. Most people forget the logic that they followed in the past and are therefore doomed to repeat mistakes of judgement in the future. Don’t forget to write down what you learn, as that too changes over time.

Learn to make decisions better. I believe that it can be done.

I.M. Optimism Man

Oct 042015
 

Basic knowledge doesn’t get you far. If it did, everyone with a smartphone and access to Google would become CEO of Skynet or some other growing multi-national corporation.

Ideas are far different than knowledge. Fresh ideas — your ideas — your ideas blended with other ideas — are one of your most important assets. A great idea person is welcome in any group, whether work associates, sports teammate, or personal friends.

The problem is that ideas are often like fine wine — it takes time for them to grow in character.

wine

I have posted often about keeping journals — writing it down is helpful. But, as I personally have discovered, ideas that are inter-dispersed in chronological journals get lost — the signal disappears in the surrounding noise.

Do you keep an ever-growing, well-indexed vault of your ideas? Do you read over your ideas on a regular basis, so that they serve as a catalyst for new ones? How do you distill ideas so that they don’t get lost in the clutter? How do you improve them over time?

Imagine if you started when you were young — lets say as a middle-school student or a freshman in high-school — and wrote down every idea! you ever had in a permanent vault. What if you then re-read and added to your ideas at least once every three months?

This would constitute managing your ideas as an important asset. Do you manage your ideas as an asset?

If you have no idea how to start, I would suggest Day One if you are an iPhone / iPad / Mac person. Evernote is another possibility although I find it cumbersome to review and improve. IdeaMatrix is a good tool that I helped invent, if you are happy with text only idea management (which offers brilliant speed and ease, but gives away pictures). As I type, I realize that I have not done my homework because I don’t know how to effectively export and backup from Day One or Evernote — and it is pretty clear that most tech companies expire after a few years. Trusting one of these with your idea vault also means that you must backup / offline / in a export-import friendly format. I will update this post after I work through the backup capability investigation. [here is an update on Day One — export to an adobe ‘pdf’ file seems to be the best backup — of course, that means you should do so on a regular basis, but in general, I’m comfortable with the capability.]

A few quotes to consider:

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
– Victor Hugo

“Ideas are great, but mostly worthless, without action and optimism.”
— Bob Sakalas

“Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”
– Alfred North Whitehead

Are you an idea person? Manage and refine your most valuable of assets. If you are not an idea person today, start a vault today — it isn’t magic.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. An article worth reading… how IBM encourages invention.

Jul 252015
 

clock-eye-invest

If you invest your time and money, you will become rich. It’s really that simple.

— Bob Sakalas

Why not keep a daily diary, a small little log, of what investments you make each day?

in·vest·ment
inˈves(t)mənt/
noun
noun: investment; plural noun: investment
  • The action or process of investing money for profit or material result.
  • An act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.
If you keep a daily log, it will open your eyes and you will see: few devote enough daily energy to investments that can or might pay off. Create something, learn something, write something, buy something that will gain value — just re-tweeeting someone else’s article doesn’t really count — but even that is better than watching T.V. or scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Don’t be part of the Just Watch It” nation that wear Nike “Just Do It” t-shirts while sitting on the couch.

 

I.M. Optimism Man
Jul 182015
 

A few weeks ago, I discussed the need for whole-hearted commitment and the will power that results as its by-product. Today, I’m compelled to mention the obvious: There is no substitute for working hard on your pursuit. If you don’t invest the hours, the sweat, the blood, your chances of seeing your finish line diminish greatly.

Consider these observations:

Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.

— Nadia Comaneci

nadia_comaneci

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

— Vince Lombardi

You aren’t going to find anybody that’s going to be successful without making a sacrifice and without perseverance.

— Lou Holtz

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.

— Ann Landers

The biggest trick in life is finishing what you start, and the number one ingredient is the will power to do the hard work, the unexpected work, without hesitation.

— Bob Sakalas

There is no substitute for hard work.

— Thomas Edison

colin-powell-flag

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

— Colin Powell

Would you rather suffer the pain of hard work or the pain of regret? If you are optimistic, I think the answer is clear.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 022015
 

I posted a large bundle of Warren Buffett quotes last year, but I find this one worth repeating:

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.

buffett-optimist

Where are you patching a boat right now?  Is it chronic?  Are you willing to do something about it?  Why not?

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 302015
 

There have been a lot of articles and books written about applying big business success formulas — like branding for example — to a person’s personal career. Maybe there’s some truth to it.  After all, the companies that differentiate themselves, the companies that stand for a clear ideal (want a safe car, buy a Volvo…) tend to survive and flourish.

I have started to think about this idea in a different light: What is an individual person’s lasting, sustainable competitive advantage?  Companies, after all, try hard to find an edge that would help them take marketshare from their closest competitors.

I think I know the answer.

First, consider this quote from management hall of famer, Jack Welch:

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Change-today

I would like to transform this statement into my own:

An individual’s willingness and desire to question everything, to seek knowledge, to synergize it with current challenges, to gain insights, to learn lessons without always enduring the scars of experience — and then — to proactively change his or her approach, to experiment with optimism, to dare to fail, to strive for the new and the great, is the only possible competitive advantage a person has.

Fortune is on the side of the optimist: 98% of people do not like to change, fear change, or at a minimum, avoid change.

Therein is the gold plated opportunity, available to the optimistic few.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I was thinking about personal differentiation a few years ago — this article is well worth reading. Combine these thoughts of proactive learning, embracing change, and living with integrity, and you are sure to go places.

Mar 152015
 

Can you think differently? Really creatively? Can you ask “why am I doing things this way?” or “why am I doing this at all?” at a truly atomic level?

In many things — business, school, life — we seem stuck on rails, unable to stop doing things the way we have done them, the way they have been done for prior decades — even if we have many proof points that question whether we are on the right track.

One of my most obvious examples is managing public companies for results every 90 days. The “quarterly results squeeze” invariably results in a whole host of problems, including net margin compression, motivation destruction, loss of quality employees, loss of quality in general, investing only for the short-term, and all kinds of foolish wasted time and energy. Yet, almost every public company continues the sad practice unabated. It hits the company that is struggling hardest of all, which helps many good firms auger into the dirt, unable to pull up from the dive.

This TED video is a great test to see if you are able to think differently on a large scale. I believe Ricardo is a wise luminary who tests most people’s ability to take a leap of faith. I’m sure others will see Ricardo as flat out crazy.

ricardo-semler

I think his ideas, ideas that have actually been tested in his company and in education, should be considered, given the dismal results many of our current paradigms in business and education are delivering.

Most importantly, all of us have opportunities to do things differently, to question everything in our own personal sphere of influence. What is a topic in your like that you should ask “why” three times in a row on, and what can you try to do better, to do differently?

Please watch the video, and then decide — are you able to truly think differently, or are you cemented in the status quo? You are not on rails — you can, if you believe that you can. Choice is all powerful.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 042015
 

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 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

 

 

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 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 a 737 this week.

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

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