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

Jul 312013
 

Are you in a job that you love, a job that feels like it was made just for you, a job that makes getting up a joy?

You have the freedom to be in a job that feels that right. We are in America, the land of opportunity and freedom. But opportunities only come if you are willing to decide and then actively pursue what you want. Wishful thinking doesn’t get you far. Too many people decide to go day-in and day-out to work that they know is not a good fit for them.

I made an important crossroads of life decision a few weeks ago which explains why I haven’t posted in a few weeks. After working for more than six years on my own smartphone software startup, I decided to sell my shares and plunge back into the Fortune 500 corporate sales life, the area in which I thrived for more than 15 years.  I carefully considered and re-considered my professional experiences with various employers and realized that working in major account professional sales, selling complex, strategic, business-enabling technology is the arena that I love the most and truly was at my very best.

Once I had that fact in my mind’s eye, where to go work was easy — I have a great interest and love for business intelligence and data warehousing. I decided to return to Teradata, the undisputed leader in BIG data warehousing and analytics, used by many of the largest, most successful Fortune 500 companies worldwide. I had experienced an early version of Teradata back in 1992 − 1993 and really enjoyed it, but outside influences succeeded in recruiting me away.

This crossroad was a great experience. It is liberating to decide — 100% for yourself — what exactly you want to do next. Deciding for yourself lets you jump in with both feet, fully committed to what you are doing and why you are doing it. Too many people let outside influences sell them on their next job, without planning what they truly want for themselves. They fall into their next job, and then they feel locked in for years to come, wondering about other possible pursuits, wondering why they don’t feel fully committed, and struggling to be more optimistic about their future. I thought about this crossroads for several years, narrowed my focus over time, and ultimately decided what I wanted. It didn’t happen quickly, taking another 18 months to finally have the right opportunity pop up. Luckily, opportunities always pop up eventually for the person that knows what he or she wants and has the patience all good things require.

I would encourage all you of you think through what makes you happy and positive at the workplace. Ask yourself the lottery question — if I had my choice and money was not the (primary) objective, where would I be working and why do I want to work there? Once you are crystal clear on this one question, it becomes a straightforward effort to find that job and move forward, optimistic and happy without the feelings of drudgery that accompany 8 − 5 at the wrong company.

When you are passionate and optimistic about what you are doing, you become a top ten or even a top one percent professional. Such professionals tend to get more opportunities, get promoted, and ultimately do very well financially too.

Discern what you want and make that crossroad decision. To quote Yakov Smirnoff, “America, what a country!” But you have to make a choice and you have to take decisive steps, to take advantage of the freedoms America truly offers.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 182013
 

We complicate our lives with stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. But does more stuff — and specifically most of your stuff — really add much to your happiness? Or does a lot of the stuff lead to stress and expense?

Watch this short video… it is food for thought:

Less is more. Shop less. Wait 2 weeks before you buy anything except groceries and basic supplies. Be happier.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 212013
 

The rut. We all fall into it. It seems inevitable. We go to meeting after meeting, drive back and forth to school, and work, and practice. We fill out the required forms and pay the required bills. Off to bed, up at the crack of dawn, our incessant alarm clock beckoning  Lift those weights, then put them back where we found them. Our life seems to become one big rut. Novocain for our minds.

The truth is that life is not designed to stay the same. Life makes no decisions; rather, life accommodates whatever you decide for yourself. Life is like a fresh white canvas, waiting to be painted by your daily decisions and daily experiences. We make the daily decisions to create our own ruts. All too often, we go out of our way to make things highly repetitive.

Don’t live this way. Don’t let others drive your life.

It is much more interesting and fulfilling to steer.

What if you decided to take one new class at the local community college each semester? What if you decided to go to lunch with one new person at work each fortnight? What if you decided to write one page of your great novel every Wednesday? What if you decided to read a classic book, or watch a classic movie monthly, instead of Sportscenter, or the news, or the View? What if you decided to create a perfect little garden in the ugly corner of your backyard that you have never liked?

Variety is a choice, just as the rut is too.

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 252012
 

You are either growing or you are dying. Never maintain anything. Never maintain a career, a marriage, a small business, a life.

I love Coach Holtz. This speech, which is broken into four parts due to youtube restrictions a few years ago, is well worth watching. You could live a great life with just the simple lessons from this 30 minute talk:

Living well comes down to making lots of good little decisions each and every day.

I.M. Optimism Man

P.S. A great goal is to learn one fun magic trick.

Sep 042012
 

Many people spend their lives wishing that they were dealt a different hand of cards to play. In doing so, they waste valuable time or even waste their entire life. You must play your hand in life’s game of poker, no matter if you hold a lowly pair of deuces, three kings, a full house, or nothing more than one ace.

This video is well worth watching. It runs a little over an hour. I promise you that it is an 76 minutes well spent. Randy Pausch might just change your life for the better.

After you have watched Randy’s lecture, I have a small challenge for you to think about.

Have you written a letter to your spouse and kids in case you get run over by an 18-wheeler on the way to the work today? Or recorded an audio file? Or taped a video? It is worth doing. Randy has left something truly great for his kids. And it has a side benefit — it might help you play the cards you have been dealt better too. Remember that pale ink helps you think clearly.

Rest in peace Randy.

I.M. Optimism Man 

May 132012
 

Websters defines Toxic…

1tox·ic adj \ˈtäk-sik\

Definition of TOXIC

1
: containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation <toxic waste> <a toxic radioactive gas> <an insecticide highly toxic to birds>
2
: exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis <the patient became toxic two days later>
3
: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful <toxic sarcasm>

A lot of people worry about toxins in their life and start imagining toxin buildup in their bodies. The snake oil / vitamin shop salespeople have stepped up to the plate and push lots of remedies to detox oneself, making millions. While I have doubts about toxin buildup, I have genuine disbelief that a magic potion of seaweed and beetlejuice will remove it, if it were to exist.

There is one toxin that we can do something about, however. Answer this question for yourself, before reading the next paragraph: Who is the most toxic person in my life?

What was your first reaction? Who came to mind? Was it someone that tries to tear you down? Was it someone that fouls your mood? Was it someone that tells you that you can’t or that you will not succeed in your newest endeavor? Is it some frenemy (friend-enemy if you are too old to know this recently added to the urban dictionary word), jealous and loaded with backhanded compliments?

Why do you keep a toxic person in your life?

Make your life easier. Optimism flourishes when one associates with other optimists and optimism is essential to success, peace, and happiness. Detoxify your life, not with some snake oil potion that promises to remove toxins from your body. Detoxify your mind and your perspectives by getting rid of / or at least greatly limiting that toxic acquaintance that is tearing you down and ruining your positive outlook.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 272012
 

It is easy to fall into a rut of not helping others. “I’ve got too much on my plate already!”

Help one person this week, someone that doesn’t expect it, someone who will never know that you did. How does it make you feel to have made a little difference?

If you have never read about Mother Teresa, it is well worth the five minutes. Click here for the Wikipedia entry on this extraordinary woman.

Little things add up. Few people on earth make as big an impact as Mother Teresa. But what if you made one good little thing happen every week for the rest of your life? Would it touch some people’s lives? Would it make a difference for some number of people? I think it would.

Helping others is a key step on the road to your own fulfillment and happiness.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 182012
 

Generosity is a forgotten key to your own happiness.

A lot of my articles focus on happiness because I see that happiness, though sincerely sought, is often elusive to many. Too many people pursue happiness by seeking in the wrong places — most people do not find genuine happiness in money or the things money buys — but it is hard to see that fallacy when corporations spend billions to convince you that the newest BMW or a blue box from Tiffany’s is the ticket to happiness. Others seek happiness in the pursuit of power and influence, but it is exceedingly difficult to shoulder the responsibility that comes intertwined with growing power. As the truism goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. There are many other misguided pursuits and addictions but none reliably lead to true happiness.

An inconvenient truth is that you handicap your own pursuit of happiness if you focus on yourself. Focusing on oneself directly embraces the dark side of the force. Focus-on-self drives envy, suspicion, gossip designed to tear down perceived competitors, and greed. The bottom line is that focus-on-self invariably tears down the fabric of your own character. Over time, a person comes to realize that his or her character is no longer pure. When that happens, underlying unhappiness grows and festers even if a new Porsche sits in the driveway of your sparkling suburban palace.

We live complex lives in a complex society, but there is an antidote, a simple solution to become happier over time. It is to focus on helping others. The secret key to happiness is generosity. Genuine generosity, not convenient show-off-for-other-people — what’s in it for me — generosity, will make you happy, guaranteed.

Be generous with your time and attention. As I often observe, time is out most precious and scarce resource. In truth, money is much easier to give. When you give undivided attention and time to someone else, you have become genuinely generous. If you manage to inspire that person, to help that person in a meaningful way, without expectation of a favor returned, your generosity creates unexpected long-term results. You will find that if you do at least one selfless, generous act each week, your happiness will grow and gain momentum.

Consider these wise observations:

Many men have been capable of doing a wise thing, more a cunning thing, but very few a generous thing.
— Alexander Pope

Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.
— Frank A. Clark

The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.
— Albert Einstein

When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.
— John Ruskin

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
— Buddha

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.
— Winston Churchill

Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.
— Jose Marti

Generosity leads to happiness and happiness leads to optimism. Optimism leads to success. Success allows you to be more generous, completing the perfect circle. Set a goal, look for your first opportunity to be generous, and jump at the chance.

Inspiring others is one of the easiest and best things to do. Lots of people doubt that they can accomplish something. Pessimists surround them, telling them they can’t or won’t succeed. Go out of your way to tell them that they can. Notice when a young person does something special. It takes a little time, a little attention, and can make a great difference in someone’s life. Do whatever is within your means to help, and be amazed at how the circle of success grows from your little seeds.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 272012
 

The world is full of wishful dreamers. They dream of their first book, their first product, their first business, their first million, their tenth million.

Within this vast multitude of dreamers are a minority of people who are both optimistic and action-oriented. These two qualities, more than any others, ignite the engine of achievement. Starting something is far easier to do than finishing a project with gusto. I’ve personally have plenty of experience at starting without finishing. I have outlined nearly a dozen great book ideas but only finished two. I’ve wasted dozens of business ideas without getting nearly all of them to first base, watching others create successful enterprises that I had imagined years earlier. We tend to regret what we did not do, what we did not finish. Finishing is priceless.

Our society rewards those select few who create something real, not just dream about it on a bar napkin. This one of the most  famous bar napkins of all time because it became real.

If you want to succeed more, start less projects — a lot less — but finish everything that you start. Nike made “Just Do It” famous, but I personally like “Just Finish It” better.

“We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt”

Before you turn over a new leaf, forgive yourself and forget the past. All of us have started a lot of things that we did not finish in our past. Don’t regret. Learn and move on. Yesterday doesn’t matter. You must believe that you can and will become a finisher. Decide that you are a finisher. When you look in the mirror, you must see a finisher. If you can forgive yourself, you have seen the light.

You must become highly selective. Evaluate every idea and decide against nearly all of them. There are always many more worthy projects than a person can tackle. Opportunities are everywhere.

Less is truly more. The trick is not to start more projects. Don’t multi-task when you are chasing your dream — multi-tasking is over-rated while focusing is under-appreciated.  Refuse to procrastinate — procrastination makes simple tasks much more difficult.  Choose where you will invest your best time carefully — there are only a few hours of high-quality, sharp-mental-state time in each of our days. Get obsessed about finishing whatever you started like your life depends on it.

Plan to overcome. Count on every project requiring more time and effort than you imagined. Then there is pesky Murphy and his unescapable law: whatever can go wrong usually does, in fact, go wrong. You have to plan for things to be difficult. You have to decide to adapt, persist, and overcome. You have to anticipate that you will lose momentum but you must not stop until you finish. Become relentless.

If you have not been finishing in recent years, the trick is to start small. Pick small baby step milestones. Write them down and review them daily. Keep your promises to yourself. Be flexible. Setbacks are not failures but lessons along the road to final success. Your momentum will grow. Pretty soon, your bar napkin might turn one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

Don’t be one of the dreamers… the many who spend their life starting without finishing. Successful people get the job done after the excitement and the novelty have worn off. They get the job done when it is no longer fun. They get the job done when they run into roadblocks. They don’t use excuses. They don’t give up.

A few posts back, I mentioned that the gates of opportunity are often overlooked because three fierce guard dogs scare people away. Those guard dogs are risk, sacrifice, and faith. Perseverance is not easy. You will have to sacrifice to finish projects. You will have to put off things that you want. You will miss events that you will wish to attend. You will have to choose to work long hours and burn the midnight oil to finish what you start. Success only comes before work in the dictionary.

Optimism is the secret ingredient. It is optimism that sparks the successful, the extra energy that helps people get over the hump, even when it looks too difficult to see it through.

Believe in yourself, believe in your ideas, start less, always err to the side of action, always finish what you start, follow the commandments of financial success, and you will be rewarded with an awesome life.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Here is a great quote from one of the authors of the bar napkin above. Herb is one of the most optimistic, action-first, business leaders that I have ever met:

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