Mar 162017
 

Too often, we think that those who achieve something really special were born with huge advantages. Yet, if you read stories about the most successful people, the common denominator is not birthright but rather optimism, a tendency to take initiative and action without over analyzing a situation, a confidence that overrides the voices of “realists” and “pessimists” that are ever present, a willingness to take a chance when the odds looks favorable, and a belief that failures are simply little setbacks to learn from on a road of adapting and overcoming every step of the way.

A great way to look at it is “Why Not Me?

Others become millionaires in less than 10 years. Why Not Me?

Others graduate college with honors, and double majors, and masters, and Phd’s. Why Not Me?

Others change jobs, and careers, until they find a dream gig. Why Not Me?

Others have wonderful marriages, and loving families. Why Not Me?

Others run marathons, learn to fly airplanes, get in killer shape, become published writers. Why Not Me?

Others live without stress. Why Not Me?

Others are genuinely happy, every darn day. Why Not Me?

Of course you can. This is America, the land where the system does not keep the tenacious optimist from success. No one will give it to you on a silver platter, but if you define your goals clearly, create plans with milestones, and get started on the steps others have succeeded with before, you can get there.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

Jan 022017
 

What’s your resolution for 2017? After a lot of thought, I have decided on my one foremost priority for 2017: Improve quality on every front.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed that far too often, my workouts rated a B / B- / or C+ in 2016. If I’m going to invest an hour at the gym today, why walk away with a C+? I’ve noticed that far too often, my meals rated a B / B- / or C+ in 2016 as well. If I’m eating calories to live long and stay healthy, why eat fries? Actually, on a lot of fronts, distractions, too many conflicting attentions, and too many things-to-do resulted in sub-par effort and results. Each was a decision that I made of my own free will.

I have always believed that quality is far more important than quantity, but I haven’t been focused enough, in recent times, to translate that belief into daily habits of excellence.

This year, I will focus and do something about it. I will say “no” to a few more things, I will approach every aspect of life with an eye for “smarter not harder”, and give an A / A+ effort and time to all the projects and endeavors that I choose to tackle.

Pick a great resolution that resonates with you.  I’ve always believed in the power of resolutions and goals, especially when you log your results and review your progress each month.  I love January 1st.

I.M. OptimismMan

Dec 252016
 

I recently learned that modern society corrupted the word priority. One hundred years ago, there was no plural form: priority was singular only — it meant the single most important item.

Today, we have corrupted the word to mean “important” instead of the most important. I think we should return to the original definition.

So, as January 2017 is nearly here, what is your foremost priority resolution – yes, just one – for 2017?

I would suggest picking a self-improvement habit-of-excellence and focusing on just that one, until it truly is a habit in your life. Once your foremost priority becomes a habit, then and only then, create your next foremost priority resolution. Don’t dilute your effort with the list of 10 or 20 resolutions – that lack of focus is why most of us never seem to accomplish our long list of resolutions each year.

Once you pick your priority, leave reminders everywhere — on your computer, smartphone, and tablet wallpaper screens, your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, in your car. I really like the idea of have a calendar with red X’s on every day you made progress on your one true priority. Excellence comes from focus on building your own habits.

Some goals lend themselves better to the Red X system better than others. For a fitness goal, the Red X feedback is easy. For writing a book, break the long project into small steps, like writing a minimum of two pages or 300 words each day. For complex projects, you will need to pre-plan each day’s progress step with your first cup of coffee, but the idea is the same: make progress daily.

Although I am certain I have used this quote before, I can’t resist including it here:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

— Aristotle

Why not ask people in conversation what their “foremost priority” is — right now — whenever conversation allows. If you listen well, you will learn something of importance about your friend, and you might just inspire him to improve his focus and succeed more easily. Inspiration is a great gift to give, not only over the Christmas Season, but all year long.

Finally, build a habit of saying “foremost priority” instead of “priorities” in conversation. Let’s do our part to get back to the meaning of the word and do our part to beat back the constant distractions of our modern, smartphone, media, and internet dominated life.

Happy Holidays,

I.M. OptimismMan

Sep 082016
 

Most people think about goals in a far off in the future sense. Sure, goals are future-oriented but I believe it is better to look at them from both a forward-facing perspective and in the harsh light of “what did I accomplish” recently.

What if, on the first day of each month, you set an alarm on your smartphone that asked you to “write down the one goal that you accomplished last month…?”

Think back to your last four weeks. Did you accomplish one of your goals? I think many of us would say that we didn’t accomplish one of our goals — or make important steps toward a goal — but rather we just kept up with all the urgencies life throws on our plate. There is an immense difference between mission accomplished and mission started.

mission-accomplished

When we think about goals as a far off in the future concern, it becomes easy to let ourselves off the hook this week, or this month, and make no substantial progress for many months on end. No one else cares if we don’t accomplish our missions — in fact, some of the people secretly don’t want you to succeed — because it helps them feel better about their own lack of accomplishment. Most of us have no self-accountability feedback system… implementing this little alarm and reality-check on a monthly basis, while perhaps adding another reminder on a weekly basis, will change your goals momentum for the better.

The trick to momentum and accomplishment is to:

  1. have a plan for yourself,
  2. start first (contrary to popular belief, motivation come after you start),
  3. focus on one thing at a time with a specific plan in mind and full commitment now,
  4. write it down — the goal, the plan, and the progress log as it happens — and
  5. do not celebrate the announcement of intent but keep it to yourself until the mission is finished.

Finishing is everything. Completing three and a half years of college is not nearly as helpful as getting a diploma.

Build the habit of monthly progress on your goals. If you don’t, you will find that you are invariably making progress only on other people’s goals and not your own.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. If you don’t have a great list of goals defined, I have moved my free video goals workshop “GungHoLife” to youtube. You have a much better chance of accomplishing great things if you have specific targets and plans to do them.

Sep 052016
 

There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the “relative value” of a college education, especially in light of skyrocketing college costs and the corresponding student debt.

From my perspective, that’s the wrong debate. Common sense tells me that, if your goal is “to be all you can be” — to do your very best — finishing college is a given and a must. Sure, we have all heard the stories of the brainiac college drop-out who founded the next billion dollar startup. If your son or daughter has that special mix of entrepreneurial brilliance, unquenchable desire to learn on his or her own, and unstoppable drive, ignore the rest of this article. For most, however, I think the debate should focus on whether an undergraduate degree is enough.

Is a Masters degree worth the money and effort?

value-of-graduate-degree

After doing a little analysis, the answer is an emphatic “yes“; in fact, I would argue that a Masters (or doctorate) is critical to improve one’s cash flow, reduce chances of unemployment, and have a higher ultimate trajectory in one’s career. A Masters offers more doors of opportunity, more chances to succeed. Unfortunately, opportunity does not always equal achievement. Higher cash flow means you have the opportunity to save and invest more each year, but that does not guarantee that a person makes that choice. You must still execute on the job and make great impressions on lots of executives to have a chance of promotions. And of course, you must recognize issues clearly, actively network, and look for new opportunities when the career track you are on proves to be a dead-end. Lots of people with advanced degrees don’t hit the ball out of the financial and career happiness park.

Most studies seem to focus “how much a person earns upon graduation” because those are simple metrics to find, and then asks how many years does it take to pay back the cost of the extra years of school. I looked at it from an investor’s point of view, including factors such as an increased rate of savings, compounded returns on investments, and improved chances of promotions and therefore future earning potential. I also tried to bake in some insidious realities, the worst of which is that people who make more money often spend more money. In the end, my spreadsheet assumes 50% of your additional earnings will be blown in spending instead of invested wisely.

While it varies by area of study, in general, Masters degrees are worth about 30% more income in many fields. That gap tends to become smaller as the value of on the job experience comes into play, but then widens again when promotions into higher levels of management occur. I decided to keep the 30% gap in the model throughout one’s career based on the assumption that these two factors balance each other out.

The assumptions in my “Is a Masters degree worth it” spreadsheet are:

  • Masters degree graduate earns 30% more before tax.
  • My Bachelors graduate saves 10% of salary and invests it at 7.5% compounding (Why pick 7.5%?).
  • My Masters graduate saves 15% of salary (because of better cash flow) and invests it at the same 7.5% compounding return.
  • Bachelors gets 4% raises annually.
  • Masters gets 6% raises annually (assumes greater promotion opportunities / and factors in better supply and demand aspects of having a Masters).
    Note that there are a number of soft benefits of the Masters baked into this 6% number — for example, having a Masters degree from a good brand name college increases your networking and credibility. Also, if your Masters degree is different from your Bachelors degree, it gives you a broader range of jobs to choose from if times turn difficult in one industry (for ex. the cyclical downturns in oil and gas that we are seeing right now are really tough on a person with only a BS in Petroleum Engineering or Geology). Lastly, your “birds of a feather” networking benefit will give you better connections across companies. All in all, this factor might be considerably higher than 6%, especially if you reach the highest levels of a corporation.
  • The cost of the in-state (yes, price paid for the degree matters) Masters degree is paid back over 10 years with no interest (assumes a loan from family).
  • No inflation factors are in the spreadsheet – but if they were, both savings numbers would reflect it the same so I didn’t see the need to over-engineer.
  • My spreadsheet models working until 65, and assume the student attains the Masters in two years time (works two years less in their professional job than the Bachelors-only graduate).

The bottom line is that the person with a Masters, given the same amount of optimism, initiative, and tenacity in his or her career — as well as equal will power to save and invest — is likely to retire / start phase three with approximately twice as much in savings / investments. In today’s dollars, the end result @ retirement was $2,034,720 in investment accounts for Masters vs $1,071,274 for Bachelors.

For the student, it boils down to this one question: Why not spend 2 – 3 extra years in school to enjoy greater cash flow, have more opportunities, and save at least $1 M more by the time you retire?

Click here to dive into the details of my spreadsheet.  I could have added more fine-tuning but the case is quite compelling without a lot more spreadsheet work. Please email me with suggested improvements or observations.

masters-spreadsheet

Here is a really interesting research paper on the topic, including details by area of study. A Masters is not worth nearly as much in certain fields as in others.

earnings-by-major

Get a Masters. Do whatever it takes. It is not even close. I believe that continuing college, straight through to a Masters, is the best way… because once in the workplace, distractions abound. Discipline is crucial to success in every phase of life, no matter if you are working on your college degrees or your nest egg for financial independence and comfort: It is crucial to start saving and investing right away — starting late makes things much more difficult, because compounding requires lots of time to do its inevitable magic (See rule 21 here within my 22 rules for financial success).

Final thoughts: Given the woeful state of social security and the changes in longevity, I believe that “normal” retirement age is likely to change from 65 to 70 before 2050. In such a case, the Masters advantage will actually become much larger because compounding gains really kick in the afterburners in the latter years of the model. If you missed it, I really don’t believe in retirement as most understand it: here are my thoughts on retirement. Lastly, success and wealth is a broader topic than savings and investments. Here is an article from a few years ago that helps a person take a 360 degree view of everything that contributes to true wealth.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. Not every career is impacted by the masters degree equally. I am a professional sales executive in the high-end computer software space, an arena where no colleges (as far as I know) offer any degree. In professional sales, the masters doesn’t help regarding direct earnings which are usually target based, although it clearly does help with promotions and outside opportunities. If you are the parent of a student that seems destined to sell professionally for a living (hmmm, I wonder if there are kids that think “sales” when in school), I would suggest creating your own spreadsheet model and sharing it — I would love to contribute. My gut tells me it is still well worth it, due to the improved odds of moving up into upper management.

Jul 092016
 

The reality today is that lots of sharp minds around the world get left behind, missing out on the value of higher education, for a many valid reasons such as financial hardship, cultural barriers, or unfortunate domino-like events in people’s lives. Without the degree, the doors to many career opportunities remain closed, although a person might have the energy, drive, optimism, and capability to excel in a particular field.

The internet is changing everything — and it is inevitable that it will re-write the model of higher education over the coming decade. Here is a mind-opening presentation by Shai Reshef, the founder of tuition-free and yet accredited University of the People. I’m certain it is only the first of many more online institutions to come:

shai-reshef

Imagine the possibilities. They are limitless. It does take vision, grit, and optimism to pull oneself out of your current situation, but it can be done, one decision at a time.

I.M. OptimismMan

Jun 122016
 

It is halfway through 2016. Are you halfway done on your resolutions? Do you remember where you put the list? It is a great good time to review what you decided to accomplish this year.

I believe resolutions are a great tool to replace bad habits with good habits. Changing habits is not easy without daily focus, accountability, and willpower. For that reason, minimalist champion Leo Babauta is right: focus on one habit change at a time. Habits take time to change — usually 12 sincere weeks — so quarterly resolutions are a great idea, in my humble opinion.

Job one is to keep “it” — whatever it is — front and center. Front and center reminders might be different for different people. It might be on your computer’s wallpaper, smartphone’s wallpaper, bathroom mirror, and refrigerator door. Whatever combination works for you.

workout-willpower

The next step is to keep an honesty-with-oneself log. Let’s say your resolution is to go to the gym 15 days each month. Be specific: I believe you are better off to say 15 profuse-sweat workouts each month, because quality of effort gets targeted too. Log the days you go, what you did, and how much time you spent. Log the days you didn’t go. Review the situation daily. Pale ink helps willpower.

Finally, each of us has a finite amount of daily willpower. It is much harder to do “it” after we have struggled to overcome ten other objectives throughout our day. I recommend doing “it” as early as you can, when your willpower tank still has a lot of willpower megawatts in it.

aristotle-quote-habits

Quarterly resolutions, one at a time, are the best way to adopt four habits for improvement and success, every year. Just be careful not to lose the previous habit when you move to the next.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. Idea for habits to improve, beyond the obvious fitness example above, include reading for 25 minutes per day (and writing down a couple of lines about what you read), learning one new thing per day (and writing it down of course), watching less TV each day (logging time and what you watched), or eating one truly healthy meal each day (always write it down).

In my opinion, time thrown away watching TV is right at the top of the insidious list of bad habits that is incredibly hard to improve: one main reason is that we are most like to turn the TV on after our willpower has been depleted for the day.

Feb 212016
 

Almost every conversation I’m engaged in or overhear contains a large number of “I wants…” within. I can’t help but notice that the vast majority of those wants remain unfulfilled for most people. I hear people say that they want to earn more money, but do very little, if anything, to earn more. I hear others say that they want to lose 10 pounds, but the weight stays velcro’ed to their waistlines.  I hear many say they want to find a better more-fulfilling job, but those same folks don’t go on interviews.

I believe what is missing for most people is “all in” commitment.  The answer is to convert your average “I want…” to “I must…

lincoln

Abraham Lincoln observed:

Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.

A great start to get this “all in” level of commitment is to write down your goal, in specific, measurable, concrete terms, and then clearly summarize in one or two sentences why this goal is important, now.  The “why” behind a goal is crucial.  Finally, a goal is nothing but dreamy, wishful thinking without a target date, so decide “by when” and write that down as well. Start right away, without delay.

commitment quote

What if you decided that you must lose 10 pounds this month, not someday in the future?  How would you approach things differently that you do now?

The iMUST method works if you concentrate and focus your attention and energy — having a dozen initiatives at the same time divides your focus and energy, and is a recipe for failure. I suggest pale ink and a little always-in-your-pocket logbook to help keep your focus and your memory accurate. If your iMUST goal this month is to lose weight, write down every calorie that you eat, jot down whenever you successfully choose the heart-healthy entree instead of the usual, accurately note your exercise achievements, and track your weekly progress.

Upgrade your attitude to iMUST. Commit, and you can and will accomplish your goals.

I.M. OptimismMan 

Jan 242016
 

Time is very valuable. How we invest it, matters. Time is scarce and fleeting, our most precious resource. Unfortunately, most of us choose not to manage our time well.

By the very nature of our hectic existence, each of us has very little “prime” time in our daily life. By prime time I mean time where we are at peace but alert, focused, our senses heightened, our thoughts clear and distraction free. In this state, a person is able to create new things, distill true meaning, plan with clarity, and make important progress on strategic projects.

The world around us conspires to grab a person’s prime time hours for use on other people’s urgencies and agendas — I call it the great Urgency Conspiracy. Many people deny that they are firmly in the grip of the Urgency Conspiracy but most people are infected. Although some people won’t make the effort, I recommend that you track how you use your time over the next two weeks and dutifully record what happens, half hour by half hour. If you complete this experiment, I believe you will come to the following conclusions:

  1. Few events are pre-planned unless it is a meeting with other people.
  2. You spend your best prime time hours on other people’s agendas right now.
  3. You spend very little time – if any – thinking strategically.
  4. You use very little time – if any – improving yourself and your capabilities and knowledge.
  5. You invest very little time – if any – making progress on something that remotely could be considered an important longer-term goal or mission.
  6. You tend to over-promise and over-commit to the point of capacity. When something goes wrong – and something often does – you sacrifice any personal time you have to make up for the shortfall in available hours.

We are surrounded by a multitude of outside influences. This is not new, as people were surrounded back in the 60’s 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s too. However, in the last decade, there has been a massive, unhealthy shift in people’s expectations of real-time / right-now urgency and immediate response on all matters, many of which are not urgent at all. The acceleration started with overnight Federal Express and fax, then came voice mail and paging, then e-mail, then instant messaging, and now instant Twitter and Facebook and especially SMS texting have changed everyone’s real-time expectations. The more one participates in the real-time world, the more it accelerates. The urgency conspiracy is spreading like a contagious airborne virus. It truly infects those who are proud of their multi-tasking abilities. The word of the day, every day, is busy.

Sadly, when we occasionally receive a gift of unexpected free prime time, we are usually not ready to do something good with it. Instead, we grab the smartphone and log-on to check e-mails, surf websites, check out Facebook to see what our buddies are doing or eating, or read newsfeeds. When was the last time you saw a news story, or a tweet, or a Facebook entry that actually changed your life and mattered 3 weeks later? When was the last time you read a text message that mattered 3 weeks later? We have become junkies for real-time but mostly useless information.

Our fast-paced lives can be compared to professional sports. When you have the ball, the defense is right on top of you, giving you no time to think, no time to look up, no time to make a good pass. The best pros, the select few with long all-star careers, are the ones that find tricks that can create some time and space to set up the creative play that winds up scoring and winning the game at the critical juncture.

You must reclaim your prime time in your daily life and invest it wisely. Most of us will never have more than a couple of hours each day of prime time. But if you make space to think, if you set appointments on your calendar to not get interrupted while you work on the important project that matters to you, you will find that you will accomplish your strategic goals and create things of lasting value, instead of just staying busy on faux urgent matters.

Building a good habit takes 12 sincere weeks. Start small — reclaim 30 minutes of prime time each day by making an appointment with yourself — 30 minutes is surely not too much to ask. Plan those 30 minutes at a time (mid-morning?) when you are typically fresh, alert, and attentive. Pre-plan what you will work on during that 30 minutes of prime time and focus on this one objective. Put the smartphone on silent for that 30 minutes. Disconnect from all your usual sources and feeds. Leave the office if you have to, or at least close your door. If you follow this habit for one month, you will discover pre-planned prime time is not only possible, but critical. Then step up to two 30 minute appointments, pre-planned each day, for the next month. See how far investing time wisely can take you.

A person that reserves and invests just one hour of prime time each day will complete a novel in less than a year; or create a great new web site; or develop a new app while learning javascript; or build a pretty little gazebo in your backyard; or learn to fly a plane; or record a video blog for your kids when they are grown and you are gone; or begin to speak French. What can you create or accomplish, of lasting long-term value, if you stop living exclusively to the busy busy drumbeat of other people’s urgencies?

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. If you enjoyed this article, please read my related Red Pill Clarity post from early 2011.

Jul 042015
 

I tried everything to make it happen, but nothing worked.

How often have we heard this? Actually, how often have you said this yourself?  Was this statement ever true? 

The truth is that nearly everyone gives up after trying just one or two ways to achieve a goal. Three distinct attempts is quite rare, reserved for only the most important of endeavors. People shoot themselves in the foot when they announce that they “have tried everything” because nothing can be farther from the truth. When you make announcements, they become your own limiting belief. Sadly, a lot of people get mentally stuck, simply trying the same methods, over and over, expecting different results but not getting them.

I see few examples of anyone trying multiple paths and methods. This is true for the math teacher trying to get her lesson embraced by her student, or the student who tries to memorize the key elements needed for the upcoming exam. This is true for the coach trying to help his team win, the manager striving to make his sales team hit the forecasted numbers, the entrepreneur trying to win customers for her start-up, and it’s true for millions of people hoping to improve their physical fitness. Most everyone tries only one or two ways — sometimes for months and years — and then gives up.

So how do the extraordinary few actually succeed?

Getting started as soon as possible is truly step one. Waiting for all the lights to turn green before driving across town is futile — yet many wait for the perfect moment and fail to get out of the starting gate. As I have observed in another article, getting started comes before getting motivated. Many believe it is the other way around.

But, what truly matters most — in the long-run — is whole-hearted, stake your life on it, commitment. Jumping into the deep end — with both feet — makes up for any shortcomings that you have in raw talent. Your commitment level is the single most important factor that changes how many distinct ways you will try to overcome a challenge. If you decide that “I must succeed at ________ ” instead of “I want to succeed at _______ “, you will find that your success percentages will dramatically improve.

vince-lombardi

Winning means you are willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else.

— Vince Lombardi

Imagine two people, Nick and Mike, who both hope to invent the next big thing. Nick, in his own mind’s eye, simply says “I want to” and so, he will work on his project whenever time allows, after he does his day job, hangs with his family, works out at the gym, sees his friends, checks his social media, watches the ball game, and catches up on the news. Mike, on the other hand, commits whole-heartedly and says “I must” — this one little difference makes all the difference. He etches out hours, each and every week without fail, he pivots, adapts, and overcomes, he gets to the finish line of the project, succeeding with persistence and tenacity. It is rarely about talent alone. Success is invariably about your commitment. Commitment is the seed of will power. Only the committed are relentless in the pursuit.

What’s happening in your life today? What are you trying to achieve? Where you should upgrade your commitment from “I want to succeed” to “I must succeed?

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Jun 222015
 

It turns out that common “wisdom” — the idea that announcing your goal will help you achieve it — might in fact be false.

Here is a short, simple three minute presentation to consider, before you announce that you are going to lose 10 pounds in the next 12 weeks:

derek_sivers_800x600

Try it out and see if Derek is right.

I.M. OptimismMan

Apr 122015
 

A lot of people believe leadership comes from position in an organization. Because so many believe it, position does matter, but only to a certain point.

I believe true leadership comes from a state-of-mind that looks for innovative solutions to problems, combined with credibility that is earned through competence, integrity, vision, decisiveness, and the ability to communicate effectively.

While a lot of things must come together to create the magic of “earned” leadership, two of the most important are initiative and clarity. Consider these two quotes:

 

Initiative is a great differentiator between a leader and a follower. Keep a log of new things that you initiate. Log initiative that you see taken by others in your network. Pale ink will open your eyes and help you see how rare initiative is, and highlight the opportunity you have to lead.

— Bob Sakalas

Colin Powell

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.

— Colin Powell

Do you want to lead and grow as a leader?

Don’t wait until someone “appoints you” as a leader. Start today by taking some initiative and communicate your vision clearly and concisely. Then, evaluate your effectiveness. Does your initiative cause change? Keep a log and study what happens. Everything takes practice yet so few actually practice, especially in the workplace. Writing it down will keep you honest with yourself, keep your momentum, and help you learn and improve.

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

Aug 022014
 

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

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

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

dead-poets-society-photo

And another:

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

And another:

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

oh-captain-my-captain

Carpe Diem,

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 012014
 

Many foolishly believe that having the brilliant idea is what makes a person succeed or fail. I believe the truth is found in the value of discipline in our lives. Hundreds of good ideas come and go during any given year. If a person is not disciplined, none of them will pay off. Discipline is the ingredient that makes all the difference.

Here are ten great quotes about discipline to consider over a cup of coffee:

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It doesn’t matter whether you are pursuing success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general: The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.
— Harvey Mackay

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
— Stephen Covey

It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.
— Zig Ziglar

Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear.
— Bernard Law Montgomery

Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.
— Roy L. Smith

Discipline is just doing the same thing the right way whether anyone’s watching or not.
— Michael J. Fox

The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.
— Bum Phillips

It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.
— Vince Lombardi

Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is usually painful.
— John C. Maxwell

The world conspires to steal and waste your time. It takes true discipline to stay on track while television, social media, and friends of leisure beckon.
— Bob Sakalas

Bruce-Lee-Enter-the-Dragon

If you embrace self-discipline, you will go far in life. Discipline matters. Discipline is what you must be made of.

It — no matter what “it” we are talking about — will not be easy if it is a worthy pursuit. One of the disciplines that I believe matters most is the discipline of optimism and enthusiasm. Rare the success that isn’t fueled by true belief and an excited mind.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 042014
 

America is a society built on impatience. And impatience can sometimes – only rarely – be somewhat of a virtue. People with ambition are impatient for progress and it helps a fortunate few. America’s impatience has helped it become the only true superpower.

jenny-mccarthyHowever, there is a dark side of impatience, and many Americans seem to not to see it. Get rich quick schemes are everywhere – yet don’t really work. Lose weight in six weeks or less, without much effort, magazines proclaim – this doesn’t work either. Jump from one career to another – or one spouse to another – until you find what you want – well, that doesn’t work either. There is proof everywhere that impatience is not the road to true success.

Yet, people, silly people, want to believe there are effective shortcuts when in fact, there are none.

Our society’s Achilles heel may in fact be lack of patience. Wall Street is a perfect example, where titan companies lose billions of dollars of market cap valuation because they missed a quarterly earnings announcement by 1% versus analyst expectations. Yet these same analysts are often just guessing when they create those expectations. As a result, executives make damaging decisions to “fix” quarterly results, like dramatically discounting deals to customers when discounts were not needed, training customers to wait for fire sales when there really is no fire. Yet, if these same executives owned their own corporation privately and did not report to the whims of the investment crowd, none would act so impatiently and irresponsibly.

You can see it everywhere. Kids in high school are suddenly taking steroids to become stronger and faster atheletes quickly, even though the science clearly shows that there are dire health implications. People go on diets eating nothing but protein and fat that damage their health, in part because they have poor will power, but primarily because they lack patience to lose the weight at a healthy rate. It is a crazy crazy world and impatience’s dark side is very real.

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A wise person is one that exhibits patience when patience is the right thing needed. There are few shortcuts to becoming a nuerosurgeon or for that matter a great salesperson. It takes lots of time, and experience, and learning, and patience.

The more patience you have, the more likely you are to succeed instead of giving up. Time, patience, and a little water carved the extraordinary Grand Canyon. If you decide to accomplish great things, these too will take steadiness on purpose and more patience than most can muster.

There is an interesting phenomenon in regards to patience. Careers that take the most time to train – neurosurgeon for one – are usually great longterm careers without a glut of people in the field. The reason is lack of patience. Few have the patience to study for eight more years after graduating from high school even though, if they had, it would set them up financially for life. Patience and sacrifice are closely related.

The good news is that there is great opportunity for the patient when you live in a land of the impatient. Zag when the others zig. Choose to be extraordinary. Combine initiative and creativity with patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It will yield extraordinary success.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 152014
 

No one ever succeeded because of how many projects they started but abandoned unfinished. While getting started is required, in truth, finishing is the thing that matters most.

In this day of exponential networking and explosive knowledge-sharing growth, ideas multiply like rabbits. It is all too easy to start a new website, form a new business, create a new venture, and become available to much of the planet. But for all the ease of the start, finishing is as difficult as it has always been. It is also important to recognize that in many ventures, there is a long series of finish lines, not just one. Version one rarely takes the world by storm.

If you want to change your trajectory, action is required. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing. Nothing great happens without optimism, decisive action, tenacity, and patience. The last two, tenacity and patience, are what it takes to finish. Finishing is the only thing that matters in the long run.

airplane-restoration

Before you start something new, I suggest weighing all your options. Plan well, which means creating not only Plan A but Plan B and C to. Plan with great detail. The value of planning is not that every step will go according to plan — it will not — but rather that you think things through with great detail and logic, and commit those plans to paper. A plan gives you a skeleton to solicit the feedback of others as well.

If you are having trouble with creating a great plan, try this trick — plan the project backwards. Start with the end in mind — the “what” you will accomplish. Then clearly write down “why” you want it. The “why” gives goals life, and fuels tenacity. Then, working backwards, discern all the detailed first downs (the “how”) that you must accomplish to get to that end-point. I personally prefer outliner tools to do this, but index cards and post it notes also work well. I believe pale ink on paper is magical.

It will not be as easy as you think it will be, but don’t let that stop you. Start less, but when you start, you must have the zealot drive to finish.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Getting Started comes before Getting Motivated

PSS> Finally, on the occasion when you do not finish what you started, be sure and capture as much learning as possible. That is the only take away you will have — don’t waste it. Once again, pale ink matters. Keep journals of ideas and lessons learned, and review your journals at least one weekend per year.

ideas-in-journals

Dec 282013
 

Christmas Day 2013 has come and gone. New Year’s Day is just around the corner. People are starting to think about the bright promise a new year brings. The new year seems to give all of us the courage to make a few changes, to adjust the course of our life. I think all of us should draw a new card annually at the poker table of life.

Unfortunately, people often make a feeble attempt at new resolutions, all the while doubting that they will see their goal through. They recall how they failed last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Many give up and wave the white flag.

As all my friends know, I am a fervent believer in the power of goals. Goals keep you young. Goals keep you learning. Goals give you courage. But I’ve come to realize that what many people need are not new goals, but rather a new found discipline to see them through.

My suggestion is to only pick the one goal you really want to nail in 2014. Just one (for now). Pick a goal that you can accomplish by July 4th. Write it down in, followed by the words “whatever it takes” and then post the message everywhere — on your fridge, in your car, in your wallet, on your screensaver — everywhere. Then commit wholeheartedly to do “whatever it takes.

Tenacity at its best.

Kerri Strug in 1996 – Unforgettable Moment

Whatever it takes is a magical phrase. You can do it — it is only one goal. Chase this goal with all your heart and all your might. Go all in. Aim for June. It will be the best July 4th you ever had, because you will have conquered, you will have proven that you have the right stuff, you have what it takes.

Knowing that you can do “whatever it takes” is empowering. Positive changes, big or small, add up. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make your resolution proving that you have greater tenacity than the average guy or gal. You can, if you believe you can. Commit wholeheartedly to the pursuit.

Tenacity matters. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. A few quotes to consider:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
― Thomas A. Edison

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.”
― Amelia Earhart

 

Nov 252013
 

Jim Rohn is one of my favorites. His philosophies and mine are most often in harmony.

In my opinion, Jim is the perfect guy to listen to when you decide a three day retreat to some lonely, beautiful mountain top cabin would do you a lot of good. Mr. Rohn was not the most succinct, but his message was absolutely outstanding. Here are my choices for a Jim Rohn Top Ten Quotes of all time.

jim-rohn

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

I would argue that discipline and execution are where most of us fail. We all have ideas. Few ideas are ever converted into written goals, a failure of discipline right out of the gate. Those written goals then need to be distilled into written missions with due dates, missions are distilled into projects (with due dates), and projects into readily achievable tasks (with due dates). Tasks need to be managed on the calendar, and discipline is needed every step of the way.  That is execution.

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.

I would rather suffer the pain of discipline. Let’s take staying in shape as one small example. Staying in shape takes a discipline of eating well and keeping a fitness routine. Yes, there is pain to get up a bit early and fight the bitter wind to get to the gym. But would you rather lose your mobility at 70, and spend your golden years stuck in a senior center? I’d bet the pain of regret is worse than the pain of fitness.

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

Never stop learning. Too many folks stop learning after school. Yet, all the people that knock it out of the park have three things in common:

  • they have the discipline to set written goals and plans while driving toward accomplishment,
  • they prefer to suffer the pain of discipline over the pain of regret, and
  • they embrace learning new things, seeking out knowledge at every life’s turn.

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

Prudent risks must be taken. This one element stops 99% of people on this planet. Choose to be one of the one percent.

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.

If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking risks. All progress involves failing forward, never giving up while taking chances. The US Marines teach the idea of adapt and overcome, and they are dead-on right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.

People think they can’t change. Change involves a decision made in a millisecond. If you don’t believe you are shackled, you are not.

Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.

Becoming a remarkable person is your responsibility and your duty. Read my previous article here.

You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.

Few people understand this simple economic truth. I would add that supply and demand of your value-added abilities matters too, because the marketplace is quite efficient. But, in the end, find a way to offer more value than most others, improve yourself in valuable ways, and you will make a lot more income in the end. Financial success is not a mystery.

Make measurable progress in reasonable time.

Too often a week goes by, and I don’t make a first down that matters. Sometimes a month goes by. Sometimes a year… Keep a log, keep a diary. Measurement requires pale ink to stay honest with yourself. Make sure that you are making meaningful, measurable progress. No one will worry too much about your lack of progress except for you.

And my all time favorite Jim Rohn quote:

Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others argue over small things, but not you.
Let others cry over small hurts, but not you.
Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.

Rest in peace, Mr. Rohn. Job well done.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Taking a three day contemplation weekend — without T.V., without radio, without noise, without crowds —  is something we should all do, at least once every three years, but it is easier said than done.

mountain-cabin-in-winter

Nov 032013
 

Fall back. Standard Time is here. My favorite month or two of the year.

Why? Because it is now far easier to get up early and get great things done while others still sleep.

One of the most common excuses we often hear is “I wish I had more time each day… I would write a book… I would start a company… I would, I would, I would…

There is more time. Through a side-effect of an idea that many credit to Benjamin Franklin to save energy (although others claim it was invented by George Vernon Hudson or William Willett), we get a great gift each fall. Clocks are adjusted one hour backwards. All you have to do is continue to get up at the same time you have been getting up. You gain a pristine, quiet, free-of-interruptions hour each morning. Ben’s “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” still applies in the age of the internet.

One of the formulas for success often cited is to burn the midnight oil, to work while others are in bed. I agree. If you want to get more done, you ultimately need to spend more time working on your ideas than the average guy. But instead of late nights (that I should say do work well for some individuals), my theory is to get up early, because you are fresh and the worries of the day haven’t yet overwhelmed your mind.

Too often, people say that they are not morning people. Being a morning person is a choice, a decision, not a genetic excuse.

You have been getting up at 6 am. Starting today, get up at 5 am. It is the same time your body is used to. You can do it because you have been doing it. I have been getting up at 4:55. Now, I will go for 4:00 straight up. Ben has given me 55 great minutes if I use them wisely. Start working out if you have not been. Starting writing that book, or that software, if you have one or both of those goals. Start planning your day before checking your e-mail — you will be amazed at how this simple concept changes everything. Use the quiet, magic hours of the morning to make something great happen. You do have the time to change your trajectory. Do you have the will power?

Never miss a sunrise.

I.M. Optimism Man