Nov 102017
 

Life is too short and there is too much opportunity, to work in the wrong environment.

I’ve had a bit of time to ponder this question, having worked for nearly a dozen managers of all different types, from John Wayne, to Yoda of Sales, to a master ambassador diplomat, to Rambo of customer service, to a micro-manager that meant well, to Action Jackson, and more. Most became lifelong friends and role models, each with an important lesson to teach. Looking for common factors that mattered most to having a positive, empowering environment in which one can succeed, I believe my quote below sums it up:

I have had two chapters of my life when I had the privilege to take the lead and manage others. My theory followed these exact lines, but was summed up simply by Coach Lou Holtz’s simple formula for success in life — (1) Do Right, (2) Do the best you can, and (3) Treat others the way you would like to be treated — in a picture that watched over me at my desk. Anyone that has read my blog knows I admire Coach Lou — here’s a great commencement address if you have never seen Coach speak:

I believe it is the leader’s responsibility to communicate a clear vision and specific goals, then find and inspire the best out of each person entrusted to him or her, first gaining understanding and mutual respect, then adjusting his or her coaching and style to best fit each employee. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves in a ‘my way or the highway’ top-down scenario, where a manager is far more focused on pleasing his or her chain of command, rather than asking good questions and helping the team succeed. People can accomplish great things when they trust you and know you are out for their best interest.

Don’t waste years working for the wrong person. I’ve been fortunate and had great managers who simultaneously taught me important concepts while helping me succeed, inspiring me to think out of the box, take prudent risks, break barriers, and achieve new heights. If necessary, have the courage to make a move. Drawing a couple of new cards to improve your poker hand, trying new things, challenging yourself in mind-invigorating ways, makes life worth living.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. Send me your feedback using the contact form. What important aspect did I miss in my quote above?

Sep 292017
 

If you are a frequent reader of OptimismMan.com, chances are you already realize that I believe there is a significant dark side to social media, beyond just the time that it appropriates rather insidiously. Every technology comes with positives and negatives, but often, the negatives are ignored until the evidence is overwhelming, common sense be damned.

Simon Sinek is one of my favorite thinkers and speakers. In the interview below, he covers an amazing amount of ground, primarily focused on what plagues Millennials in the workplace and in life. Lots of factors have conspired to make this generation have a sense of entitlement without hard work. Simon makes some great common sense connections to the role social media is playing, which results in far less real lasting connections and relationships, which ultimately matters in one’s happiness and gratitude.

Click below — this is well worth the few minutes to watch:

You have a choice. Everything needs balance. At a minimum, no smartphones at dinner is a great place to start.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

Aug 242017
 

Is your company designed so that its managers and associates will be happy at work?

Probably not.  The executives that build companies tend to focus almost exclusively on financial results.  “we have to make the quarterly earnings or heads will roll…”

But is that smart? Do stressed-out people produce better results?

+++

Is your kid’s select club soccer team, basketball team, or volleyball team designed and concerned about player happiness?

Probably not. Most teams that cost parents big bucks and travel to out-of-town tournaments focus on those win/loss results. “Our team has to win — I’m not paying $3 grand a year to play in Division 2!”

But is that smart? Do stressed kids of stressed, minutes-played-monitoring parents learn and play sports better than happy, relaxed kids?

+++

Is your kid’s school designed to keep kids happy while they are learning and maturing?

Probably not. Results darn it, results! “We must get the grades up to ensure our federal funding.”

But is that smart?

+++

When will leaders, when will companies, when will institutions, when will we — finally realize that happiness is a critical ingredient that leads to above average results and success, not a by product that comes after the struggle?

Start with that which is in your own control: Is your family focused on happiness? Are you focused and committed on making it so? Are you planning and doing things to make the family experience happier? What would it take to add a little more happiness into this week? A little happiness goes a long way.

Do you have influence on the job front? Are you a manager at work? Or are you a leader on your team? What can you do to inspire the spark of happiness within your little sphere of influence? Don’t be too surprised if your group starts out-performing as people smile more — just don’t tell the hard-nosed CEO until you have a one heck of a track record!

“There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Change your own world. Be happy to enjoy your life — you will find that success becomes easier when laughter is the norm. Most people are about as happy as they decide to be.  Don’t pursue happiness — Make it instead.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Mar 062017
 

Worrying about stuff that might or might not happen seems to have risen exponentially as we have become more interconnected. Facebook and the rest makes us feel like we are not succeeding fast enough or big enough when compared to all those people we personally know. Kids born today seem set up from birth to worry more than any previous generation.

Since I believe we are the architects of our own mental psyche, I believe we can train ourselves to worry less by being mindful about our own thoughts and living in the present.

Below is an article that I stumbled upon on LinkedIn.com from a guy named Brian Howe.

I don’t know Brian, but his article hits the nail on the head. Here it is in its entirety because I don’t know how to link to a LinkedIn article without LinkedIn trying to track you and acquire you as a user. If you like it, consider following Brian Howe, from Inuvo, Little Rock, Arkansas on LinkedIn:

7 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Should Be

Life can be a real struggle sometimes, no question about it.

As a culture, we worry way too much. In fact, we worry because we are worried that we are spending too much time worrying. We are worried that we don’t know our futures; we are worried that we don’t know exactly what people think about us and we are worried whether or not the stove was left on when we left the apartment and when we get back the building will be burnt to the ground and it will all be our fault….. Its sad that these are the sorts of things that keep us up at night. These little things can end up making your life 10x harder and drive you insane.

We live in a generation that is so anxious at every blinking moment of our lives. Here are some ways you’re making your life harder than it should be.

Sticking to a plan: You have begun to realize that life is a stage, and that you are the star of your own show. So, if life starts to stray from the Hollywood script you naturally start to panic like a middle schooler who missed their line in the annual school play.

It is common that your life is actually a lot more complicated and a lot more stressful. That scripted sitcom you’re used to watching where no-one seems to ever work but can still afford that awesome apartment is by no means reality. So, if life doesn’t follow the standard Hollywood script: its ok, no one’s does.

Dwelling on the past: Dwelling on the past can literally turn you into a crazy person and will eventually get in the way of the life you are currently living. How many times have you been standing in the shower, coming up with snappy comebacks to all the arguments you never won? Let it go – it happened 3 years ago.

Being dramatic: It’s easy to think this way. The moment something doesn’t go as you planned, you immediately think about the worst-case scenario: They’ll kick you out of college, you’ll be fired, Donald Trump will give up all his power to Putin. It never ends up being as bad as you thought, so keep that in mind the next time you feel like toasting your bagels in the bathtub.

Taking things personally: That jerk cut you off in traffic, you turned in your resume but haven’t received a response, your grandma cancelled weekly bingo with you because you’re not as fun as she thought.

Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you’re the collateral damage. It doesn’t feel good, but don’t take it personally.

Comparing yourself to others: Its late at night, you have chip crumbs on your shirt, a diet coke on the coffee table and Netflix just asked you if you’re “still there” because you’ve been binge watching your favorite sitcom for the past 5 hours. Scrolling through your Facebook feed, you might feel the same feeling of disappointment we all do when we see another person get engaged, score a brand new job or buy that fancy new car. Heck, even the kid who ate the teacher’s goldfish in middle school got his life together. All you see is an endless stream of achievements, re-affirming your choice of bourbon for breakfast.

Keep in mind that Facebook is the highlight reel of people’s lives and they’re only going to show the touchdowns and tackles, not the part where they throw up on the sidelines or fumble the ball for a loss.

Taking risks: No one will care if you take a leap of faith and you fail – they’ll just be impressed that you took the leap in the first place.

Caring way too much: We spend a lot of our lives caring what other people think of us but, no offense, no one thinks about you all that much – apart from your mom of course. But this is a good thing: once you wrap your head around the fact that almost everyone is an egotistical narcissist, you realize that they care about themselves too much to pay much attention to you…and that’s liberating.

I hope that you enjoyed Brian’s article. Choose to worry less… just do you best today… and consider rationing your social media exposure to a couple of times per week — I believe it will help.

I.M. OptimismMan

Nov 242016
 

Happiness is a state of mind, unlocked only by being grateful, not only for the big blessings in your life, but for all the little details too. I believe people are missing too much of their life by “living within their smartphones” although the smartphone is a blessing too. I searched for a quote that captured it all, but, unable to find one, I created my own:

img_8456

Happy Thanksgiving and don’t Black Friday too much – happiness is not found at the altar of commericialism and retailing.

OptimismMan

Aug 152016
 

As you can imagine, I, OptimismMan, am a great believer of the power of positivity. But I have to confess that I have had my doubts about dedicating time to social networking and gaming, as both of these clearly seem to conflict with all my theories on investing one’s time instead of spending it in foolish ways. I’ve also explored what people regret when they are dying for clues to how to be brave and live better.

So then I stumbled into Jane McGonigal, a game designer who argues that gaming can play a role in avoiding the most typical regrets of the dying. I believe in questioning everything, so today, I’m simultaneously questioning her game-centric conclusions as well as my previous thinking, wondering if the time “spent” gaming might actually be more of a time “investment” than I ever appreciated. I don’t have a conclusion just yet — maybe I never will — but I suggest watching her excellent talk and thinking about it for yourself, especially if you have a kid that spends a lot of time gaming right now:

2016-08-21_0757-jane

Interesting, right?

I.M. OptimismMan 

Apr 032016
 

Success is empty and hollow without sincere, good friendships. The problem of course, is that most friendships are not true lasting friendships; rather, they are shallow friendships of convenience that do not weather the storms, the misunderstandings, the disagreements, the years, or the separations. A friend is not a friend if they only show up when they need your support.

As with all worthy pursuits in life, great friendships require optimism and action. To have great friendships, you must invest valuable time and positive energy. Even the most beautiful flower withers without water, food, and sunshine.

Consider my top ten thoughts about friendship:

True friendships are one of the best measures of a person’s net worth.

A person is rich if he has three true friends to count on, no matter what happens over the coming decades.

True friendship always is based on true understanding of each other. Friends strive to understand and to be understood.

Do not plunge into friendship quickly. Be nice to everyone but intimate with few. Make sure those few have passed many tests.

Trust is essential. It is worse to distrust your friend than to be deceived by her.

You must seek, you must invest the time, you must plant the seeds and nurture the saplings of friendship, dozens or even hundreds of times, to earn one true lifelong friend.

Listening, remembering, understanding, empathizing, collaboration, and forgiveness are critical ingredients of friendship. People that only talk of themselves barely rank as acquaintances.

Keeping your friend’s secrets secret, even if she did not ask you to, is priceless.

Friendship requires that you tell your friend the truth and your sincere opinion, not what he wants to hear. 

True friends love their friend, no matter her faults, frailties, and blessings. A true friend only wishes for the best, no matter the situation.

Is there a good friend that you have neglected over the last few years? Today is the day to pick up the phone and rekindle that connection. We are all too busy — that’s not an excuse. The paperwork can wait. Don’t let him or her get away for lack of effort and optimism at your end.

I.M. Optimism Man

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

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

Jun 092015
 

When’s the last time you really laughed out loud? Or could not stop laughing? I think for many people, me included, its too long ago and too rare.

charles-barkley-laughing

If you are one of these people that seem to have forgotten how to live life laughing — and there seems to be more and more of us as we turn 40, and 50, and 60 — what can you change to rediscovered your un-jaded, childlike heart?

I.M. Optimism Man

PS.

Laughter-Quote1

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 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 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

 

May 102014
 

Many people, perhaps most people, relax from the daily grind by vegging out in front of a television and getting spoon fed mindless entertainment.

But does that really refresh you? Does it change you? Does it change how you think? Does it expand your possibilities?

You have a choice to try more, do more, think more, be more, if you want to.

I would bet Randall Munroe spends less time than you do in front of the TV. I find the freedoms we have incredibly fascinating. The internet lets us connect with people so easily, to create a new circle of friends and associates in just weeks. In our newly interconnected world, all barriers are obliterated. Please watch this short 7 minute clip, and then consider what might be a better way to refresh your mind after the daily grind.

2014-05-10_0739-randall-munroe

Why not be all you can be?

I.M. Optimism Man

Bonus PS> One of Randall’s comics from his xkcd.com website:

2014-05-10_0814-xkcd

Apr 132014
 

Last December, I made an important, personal breakthrough regarding my understand of peace and happiness. I wrote about it in my article Why So Happy? If you didn’t catch it the first time around, please read it now, so that the rest of today’s note comes into sharp focus.

This month, I discovered how shopping — yes, something so commonplace and benign as shopping — is actually a strong, negative force on one’s happiness.

The main point of Why So Happy, Volume One was that being grateful for everything you have is a key that unlocks personal happiness. When you appreciate your family, your friends, and all the other blessings in your life, you simply can’t help but be happy.

A new discovery just happened for me. This month, we started to talk about moving to another home, a subject from the past that we decided to revisit. The basic idea is to move to a location that would eliminate much of the time we must spend in traffic today.

dallas-preston-hollow

I made a startling discovery. Although nothing had changed, the basic activity of looking and shopping seemed to taint what we have today. It seems that longing for something — which in this case was actually not longing for something nicer but rather a more convenient location — decreased my satisfaction with our home that I loved and didn’t question just a few month’s earlier!

Today, we have made the decision to stay put, unable to find a home in the right location at a price that makes sense. Once the decision was made, I found my happiness and calm on this topic slowly returning into my consciousness, albeit slowly.

The more I started to think about this phenomenon, the more I realize that a dark-side of shopping does exist and most people don’t see it. I remembered that a few years ago, I couldn’t say enough good things about my car, yet the minute I visited a few car dealerships, I found myself less and less happy with it, until I talked myself into making a change. I think this happens all the time, and not just with big ticket items. Rationalizing “longing” requires that a person must decide that what he or she already has must not be good enough.

stonebriar-mall-frisco-texas

We live in the one of the greatest countries in the world. America is an outstanding place, but it is commercialized to the extreme. Malls, car dealers, stores, TV commercials, and magazine ads are all adept at creating the feeling of longing. Yet, more than ever, I have come to realize that shopping is a torpedo targeting your gratitude, and gratitude is the #1 key to happiness. That means that America, this land of plenty, also offers temptation that sabotages personal happiness.

We all have the power to choose. Choose to be minimalistic. Less is truly more. It is far less complicated and stressful, and I believe it is cornerstone to happiness.

Here is a great experiment to prove this point: make the decision to buy nothing discretionary — and avoid all shopping — for the next three months. When you take buying (and therefore shopping) off the table, I believe you will discover how much more grateful you will be for the blessings that you already have. Once you have felt the power of this discovery on your own life, you will be wiser and hopefully will no longer get torpedoed as often by the evil dark-side of shopping.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 112013
 

Last weekend, we lost power for more than 12 hours, as Dallas got hit by a nasty ice storm. No electricity for just one day — a dark, cold house without warm water, internet, or T.V. — combined with the inability to drive anywhere — will wake you up to how much goodness you take for granted. That got me thinking, yet again, about the essence of happiness.

Dallas-Ice-Storm

I’m happy and at peace. Very happy. All of the time. Being a hyper-analytical guy, I wonder why. Why am I so happy and at peace, when many others seem to be less happy and less at peace to varying degrees?

It is not because I have enough time — I don’t — and I’m a person that is quite focused on investing my time wisely. It is not because I have more than enough money — finances are tricky most the time — there is always more to invest in, more to fix, stuff to improve and buy, than there is budget available. It is not because everything goes smoothly — it never does — Murphy’s Law seems to be getting stronger all the time. It is not because I’m caught up — my list continues to expand like the universe — I’m frustrated when important items remain undone for months, even years, on end. But I’m very happy and at peace none-the-less.

I want to understand the “why” behind happiness. Why am I at peace in a tumultuous world? How can clearly understanding happiness lead me to help others to be happy too? One of my theories has been expectations: if you are always longing for more than you have, it is hard to be happy. A key is to love what your already have, and I do.

When I look at my life, I see nothing but countless blessings. I love my wife, truly and completely, happy in every way that she said “yes” nearly twenty years ago — she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love my kids truly and completely, and could not imagine them turning out better in any way than they already are. I’m very proud of them. I love my mom and am very happy she has moved to Dallas. I love my home, my stuff, my laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones. I love the color of my office. I love my coffee cups and my chair. I love my constant flow of geeky gadgets. I love my vault of ideas that grows every day, full of promise, even as I know that I won’t be able to sincerely work on 99% of them. I love my Macs. I even my Windows laptop (Lenovo T510) and it takes a leap to appreciate your windows machine sometimes. I love that I live in this age of extraordinary progress. I love that the (public-sphere) internet was born in the 90’s — how did we live life before wikipedia and googling something?

I have just discerned a key component — if not the key component — to happiness. I was on the right track, but a bit hidden in kind of a “cart before the horse” equation. Many people think gratitude is a product of being happy, but, after watching the video below, I have come to appreciate the subtle difference of “gratitude leads to happiness” not “happiness leads to gratitude.”  When you start from a perspective of being grateful, of being thankful and feeling blessed for all of the people in your life, as well as the wonderful little not-so-important things, it puts you on the right road for true happiness and peace.

Please watch this rather “zen” video when you have a few minutes of tranquility to think without distraction:

david

Peace, Joy, and Happiness this Christmas Season. It is definitely not about getting a new Lexus, no matter how shiny it is!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Like this article? Try these two from last year — Escaping Average and Want to Be Happy?

Sep 162013
 

Is your life on auto-pilot?

Life in the western world, and especially in the true land of opportunity — America — is what you make of it. There a thousands of stories where a person started with next to nothing and became something special in just 5 or 10 years. People that expect the extraordinary — the spectacular — tend to achieve it. People that expect mediocre and “good enough” tend to get mediocre results.

Why is that? Your expectations matter because they change the small, daily decisions that you make. Over time, these decisions add up to some very large differences in your personal results.

To achieve the extraordinary, you must make tough decisions, take calculated risks, leave many tasks undone, go against the grain, and prove critics wrong. You must plan ahead, plan carefully, and take initiative. A dead-end career will remain a dead-end career unless proactive steps are taken and short-term risks and sacrifices are embraced.

A life on auto-pilot will not get you to extraordinary. Yet, if I were to ask the 124 people with whom I am chasing the afternoon sun on a west-bound flight this afternoon, almost every one of them would indeed reply that they are living on auto-pilot.

The enemy of greatness is good enough. Good enough tasks keep you away from great goals. Most “good enough” tasks arrive on your doorstep without proactive decisions on your part.

So how do you break out?

Step one is to define your goals if you have not done so. If you want my help on the goal setting effort, visit http://www.gungholife.com. Then, once you have some clear and concise goals in mind, start making daily decisions to make steps toward achieving one great goal in the next three months and another great goal within the next year. Don’t tackle everything at once but rather build momentum slowly and steadily this year.

If you expect more out of yourself, if you expect more for yourself and your family, and you spring into decisive action with dogged tenacity, you will not fail, no matter the obstacles you will encounter on the journey.

Expect more. Expect greatness. Turn off auto-pilot.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 082013
 

Check up time: How is your New Year’s fitness resolution? For most people, not so good.

The time is right to break the “habit of defeat” when it comes to fitness. Now, in September. The gym is not crowded in September. Its a great time. By the time January rolls around, you will have a great rhythm established. Don’t make excuses.

First, decide why you want to have better fitness. Why is what matters. People often set goals with what. Write why-I-want-to-be-in-good-shape down in one sentence on the back of a business card. Keep it in your car for the first three months so that you will see it daily.

Why not set a goal to get in the best shape of your life? For many of us, it is still quite possible.

For me personally, I want to be mobile and agile when I’m 70+ — I want to be a dynamic older guy when my grandkids want to learn basketball, soccer, or ultimate frisbee — this is my “why” and I think long-term. I have witnessed, first hand in recent years, way too many seniors who limit their life’s potential by losing their mobility early. You will not be agile when you are 70 if you just wish for it, nor will you start when you are 65. No one starts at 65. To be fit in the future, start now.

Here are twenty truths to consider:

1. The gym will not work overnight. Become realistic in your goals. Set something truly achievable. Losing one pound per week is a great idea. Losing 10 pounds a month is not going to happen unless you are starving yourself.

2. No matter what Hans and Frans the personal trainers say, losing weight is 75% about what you stick in your mouth, not what you do in the gym. To lose one pound per week, eat 250 calories less every day, while burning 200 calories more.

3. The easiest way to eat better is to look up the calories for the meal you are about to eat before you eat a bite. Without trying hard at all, you will find yourself leaving 1/3 on the plate.

4. The reason to go to the gym is to burn calories, improve your cardio health, and tone up those sitting-at-the-desk-too-long muscles. It is not to lose weight. Eating better does that.

5. Things in biology take time. The gym is not designed to make you instantly feel better about yourself. If it was, it would be a sports pub with free ice-cold beer.

6. Pick a routine for the first 3 months that is reasonable and routine. Take daily decision-making off the agenda. I would suggest 6 days x a short 35 minutes, Sundays off. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, do aerobic / sweat stuff. I don’t care what you do so long as your heart rate stays over 130 for most of the 35 minutes. The other three days are weights. Chest and triceps on Monday, legs and abdominals on Wednesday, and back and biceps on Friday.

7. Show up. Showing up is much better than not showing up.

8. Buy a heart rate monitor watch for the three aerobic days. Costco and Sams Club sell them nice and cheap. Its the only way to be sure you are getting over 130 beats a minute and staying there.

9. Use an iPad or Kindle to read on the elliptical or treadmill. It will make the 35 minutes go by much more easily and productively. Better yet, start playing racquetball once a week. Fitness is fun if you embrace new things.

10. Dump the fries all day, and all carbs after 8 pm at night. If you feel compelled to buy girl scout cookies, give them away. Kids will think you are awesome when you give them a box.

11. Don’t expect perfection at the gym. There is always a crazy loud spin instructor cheerleader trainer / girl, there is always a weird lurker guy, someone will not wipe down the bench after using it, and there is always a guy that smells like Indian food. Get over it and make the 45 minutes count.

12. For aerobics to work, you have to sweat. That recumbent sit down bike / la-Z-boy crossover machine doesn’t work. There’s a reason the way-way-overweight-folks like that machine.

13. Don’t buy a 500 calorie protein shake after a workout. 99.99999% of us get plenty of protein. You don’t need the extra non-meal calories. It takes an hour on the elliptical at level 12 to shake off 500 calories.

14. Most energy bars are disguised candy. Don’t kid yourself. If you eat one, you have to cut your calories at lunch to accommodate it.

15. Forget the trainers. Learn it. Live it. You don’t want to get in a situation where your trainer is a crutch for will power. If you don’t know what you are doing, hire a trainer for 2 weeks, learn how to do things well, and then save the money. You must build up your will power unless you plan to fund a personal trainer for many years.

16. Don’t buy exercise machines for the house. They don’t work because it is way harder to get motivated when you are in close proximity to your own fridge.

17. Don’t take easy classes. Its simple: the human body responds to demands that you put on it. If it is easy, you might as well be watching Seinfeld reruns on the couch.

18. Always remember that muscle shirts are for guys with muscles. Really, really.

19. Talk to people, learn their names, find out what they do for a living. It makes going to the gym a heck of a lot better. Just watch out for the guys on steroids with headphones so loud you can hear the Metallica. Those guys don’t want to spot you because you are messing with their flow.

20. Most important, start now. It will be easier now than next month or next year. No one can do this for you. I know you can do this. You know you can do this. Bring your own music on the iPhone — it helps.

Just do it now.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 152013
 

We often get too caught up in the daily struggles to realize that life should be full of wonder, it should be cool, it should be fun, it should be creative, it should be beautiful.

We need more projects like this one (watch it in full-screen):

The world needs many more projects like the bridge. Chances are that you or I won’t build something quite this ambitious — but — what project can you create that can add a bit of beauty and wonder to your world? It’s time.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 072013
 

Stephen Covey was brilliant at summing up essential facts in such a way so that others not only understood them, but did something about them, incorporating them in their lives.

Happy couple embracing and laughing on the beach

Here is one of Covey’s memorable lists: Twelve Things Happy People Do Differently (paraphrased a bit)

1. Express Gratitude

When you appreciate what you have, what you have becomes more valuable to you. If you are not thankful for what you already have, you will have a difficult time ever being happy.

2. Cultivate Optimism

Optimists see their world as one of endless opportunities. Hope is crucial. It keeps you happy when times are challenging.

3. Avoid Social Comparison

Comparing yourself to someone else can be toxic for your own attitude. The only person you should compare yourself to, today, is to yourself, yesterday. Always strive to improve yourself.

4. Practice Acts of Kindness

When is the last time you were kind to someone else? If it is more than a few hours ago, you are missing a great way to improve your own happiness.

5. Nurture Social Relationships

Happy people have deep, meaningful relationships.

6. Develop Strategies for Coping

Murphy’s Law remains strong. Develop healthy strategies for coping with unexpected life changes.

7. Learn to Forgive

Harboring ill-will or feelings of hatred is horrible for your own well-being.

8. Increase Flow Experiences

Flow is the state when time stands still and you are in a zone. It happens through focus. Stop multi-tasking as much to get in the zone.

sunset

9. Savor Life’s Joys

Stop and smell the roses. Happiness cannot exist unless you slow down to enjoy. Rest and be thankful to be alive. Experience the joy in life.

10. Commit to your goals

Commitment and persistence leads to accomplishment. Magical things happen when we commit ourselves to accomplish goals that we set for ourselves.

11. Practice Spirituality

Recognition that life is bigger than ourselves happens when you practice spirituality. Surrender the idea that you represent the greatest life-form ever.

12. Take Care of your Body

Without good health, happiness falls apart. Good nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand. It is important to be well-balanced and happy.

Thanks Dr. Covey for leaving a legacy.

I.M. Optimism Man