Aug 032020
 

Here’s is an awesome comic from the website / webpblog xkcd — if you have not seen Randall’s work and wit, definitely check it out at xkcd.com.

Recently, I’ve decided that I want to lose some weight. There is nothing super unique about having such a goal, I know, in an America that is trending toward XL. I’m a believer in making sure you have a written “why” to go with a goal and mine is straightforward: I really want to be a super-spry old guy, most spry old guys tend to be slim and trim, and I figure it’s a bad idea to start becoming spry when you are actually, officially old. Today, I still feel as young, enthusiastic, and energetic as I did when I was 25, although my vertical while playing hoops is less than half of what it used to be, but who knows if that changes when your grandkids are hopefully born someday. My grandfather raced me in a 60 yard dash when I was in grade school and I want to do the same.

But COVID hit, schedules, gyms, hoops, racquetball, squash, all that stuff got torpedoed. No excuses, right? So I started my home version — bought some weights, fixed up the treadmill, got a rower, cleaned up my mountain bike, started tracking calories with the MyPlate app. I’ve been now doing this routine for months, and my weight… wait for it… has not changed an ounce.

I just realized that one of the things I espouse all the time is the definition of crazy: doing the same things and expecting different results. For the last 90 days or more, I’ve been doing the same things and nothing has changed: Losing the 10 – 12 pounds is not happening. There is only one logical conclusion — do something different, do something more and / or eat less, or all of the above. Find a Plan B that actually shows measurable progress in reasonable time. Wishful thinking and misguided expectations are not changing a thing.

When you want something, and the Plan A that you are repeatedly trying is not working, it is time to face the reality and make some changes. Why is something so obvious so often forgotten? Maybe I need to find some stairs to spend 3 sessions on per week… seems like a good social distancing idea.

Here are my original observations from a post in 2011: Crazy Expectations. And one more worth reading about Embracing Change.

Nothing is impossible if it is 100% within your own circle of control. Eating and fitness sure is in my little circle. I know that I can!

I.M. Optimisman

May 242020
 

Answer this one question, with a bit of planning color, in writing, for 8 weeks every Sunday morning with your cup of coffee.

Eight weeks is long enough to start to build a habit, and great habits lead to excellence. After eight weeks, decide if you want to keep the habit.

What is my #1 top priority this week?

Why is this #1?

What will I do about it — exactly and specifically — this week?

What’s the minimum I will get done?

What’s the best-case progress that I will strive to achieve?

Small changes, small course adjustments, can make a remarkable difference.

I.M. Optimisman

May 242020
 

Many, if not most people tell me that they are too busy. Too busy every day. Too busy at work, too busy at home. They are just barely keeping their head above water, juggling it all.

I believe there is an art to finding time, making time for what’s truly important versus what is “busy-work.” A lot of busy-work looks and feels important and urgent but, if you ask yourself “will this task or project that I’m spending time on matter 90 days from today…” the answer is often no.

This question — will this task or project that I’m spending time on matter 90 days from today — is the one that we must ask ourselves dozens of times each day. This question is the one that separates wasteful tasks, mediocre tasks, and good tasks, from great tasks. Only the great tasks contribute on your journey toward a longer-term worthy goal. Good things to do are usually the insidious culprit — they prevent us from doing the great things to do that matter the most — while we feel reasonably good about what we did ‘accomplish’ during the day.

To find more time, we must evaluate the longer-term value of each task before accepting it, before telling someone that you will get it done. Once you say that you will, keeping your word, which is crucial to maintaining your personal integrity and the other person’s trust, takes over. You must learn to say “no” much more often — up front, politely, respectfully, but unequivocally. The “art” is to say “no” in such a tactful way that people still look at you as a core colleague or friend. It usually helps to explain that you have other pressing priorities and give them some ideas of how they can get their task done without your direct involvement.

Quote: Good things to do prevent us from doing great things to do. Its easy to stay busy but go nowhere fast. Sakalas

Your positivity about your life is fueled by progress toward your goals and grand purpose. The simplest habit is to pre-plan your week and each day so that you don’t give in to other people’s tasks and urgencies.

Learn the art of no.

I.M. Optimisman

Apr 252020
 

If you have one goal, and only one goal, for this year, your odds of accomplishing that goal are much better, than if you have five goals.

Most people don’t accomplish their January resolutions. Odds are you have already given up on any goals that you came up with last January. COVID and social distancing surely has not helped.

So why not reset now, in April? What’s your one goal, now? Is 2020 the year you lose 20 pounds permanently? Or is this the year you finally write that book? Or is this the year you manage to rekindle the relationship with that long-estranged family member? Or the year that you learn to be a pilot? Or the year that you climb Kilimanjaro?

Write it down. Keep it in your wallet in that see-through window where your drivers license is supposed to go. Don’t stop there: Make a plan, with dates and milestones. Put the milestones on your calendar application, in a different color. Don’t stop there: Make small steps weekly, and keep a special journal for just this one goal. Make it happen — no excuses.

One goal, one focus, one commitment is magical. Make 2020 count, COVID be damned.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 242019
 

Having a great idea is not the same as making your idea happen. Having great intent to help is not the same as being of great assistance. Having a awesome goal is not the same as accomplishing it.

In this age of social media, daily posts, and group texts, we are more likely than ever to announce our intent. I believe this is counter-productive and will often torpedo your accomplishment. Why? Because all your friends and colleagues will give you positive feedback right away. “Great idea!” “Fantastic goal!” “You are the best!”

Reality check: most goals, ideas, and projects take time — lots and lots of time and determination. If you have already basked in the glow of recognition, what will help you persist? What will help you adapt and overcome? What will drive you to the finish line?

Don’t announce it. Do it first. Well done is much better than well said.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 092018
 

I have always maintained that discerning your purpose and finding meaning in your life are crucial to understand your own true north.  Once you know your true north, all decisions, all challenges, all setbacks become easier to overcome.  A fulfilling life is more than simply finding a state of happiness — meaning helps you achieve lasting happiness.

If you only read one personal improvement book, I believe “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” should be considered. Stephen Covey did a masterful job in help people figure out their own guiding principles and find meaning.

Watch the following video by author Emily Esfahani Smith. It is great food for thought.  I especially found her points about storytelling to oneself enlightening — I can see how a person dedicated to optimism will build an internal story about themselves that will help them adapt and overcome:

Purpose is what gives life meaning,

I.M. Optimisman

Jan 122018
 

How often do people say “I’m bad at remembering names…” Oh, if I only had a quarter for everytime I have heard that. On the other hand, I have said it a few too many times myself, although I have made some progress in recent years. This trick is to have a memory strategy, a technique that helps take that short-term thought and anchor it in long-term memory cells.

The human mind is more than capable of incredible feats, whether we are talking about remembering names, doing mental mathematics, or studying 10X better for a language test. It’s a matter of training your mind and improving your technique.

Don’t believe you have the potential. Watch this and be amazed.

You never know unless you try!  What if you watched one less TV show per day and developed a mental skill for a year? Although I don’t have scientific proof, I’m quite certain that — based on common sense and emotional understanding — people who remember names have better chances of success than people who do not.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. Arthur has a book — The Secrets of Mental Math — if you are interested. I plan to read it soon as I just bought it today.

Dec 042017
 

Saving just a few dollars every day can make a big difference, if you invest it.  This lesson is lost on many teens, but it is worth talking about. I don’t care how you save it — I’m not trying to pick on Starbucks per se — you can do the same thing by drinking water in restaurants or simply comparing prices of everything you buy on your shopping app — but saving and investing early in your career is crucial, if you want a better financial future.

I created a little spreadsheet to prove my point, downloading the actual returns of the S&P 500 index for the last 40 years, without the added benefits of annual dividends.  This is important because actual returns would be quite a bit better than my model, but I thought it would not hurt to be conservative and realistic.

I then decided to save the cost of one Venti Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappucino per day — roughly $5.  Almost anyone, if they pay attention, can find ways to save $5 per day, once out of school and working for a living.

The difference between just saving your money vs. saving and investing it, is stunning.

The ‘saver‘ would save $73,000 over 40 years.

The ‘save and invest‘ person, assuming they religiously purchased the S&P 500 ETF over the 40 years, would have $510,000. The majority of this savings kicks between year 30 ($250,000 at that point) and year 40 (over $510,000), due to powerful nature of compounding. In truth this number would be larger due to dividends, but I think my point is simple enough.

  • Graduate school.
  • Get a job (in a career you like, at a company that is growing).
  • Don’t get into debt, other than possibly debt that has opportunity for appreciation (real estate).
  • Be careful to save money and invest it. The more you can invest, the better off you are, especially early on. Investing is a matter of engaging, taking a prudent risk, and building a habit for success.
  • 40 years for now, you are quite likely to have 700% more money than savings alone, and much more compared to someone who doesn’t save, or doesn’t save early on. Compounding takes time to work.
  • Financial success is not brain surgery but it does require a bit of discipline and foresight.

Some might say that saving and investing $5 per day “won’t make me a millionaire.”  Well, saving $7 per day would, on the same little spreadsheet that I know is too conservative. Take a quick look at the average net worth of America in this article. Even worse, CNN Money reports that over half of adult Americans don’t have savings to cover a surprise $1,000 expense and would have to rely on credit cards or family members to bail them out, although I find that statistic a bit hard to believe and question how it was determined. But the bottom line is simple — save and invest $150 or more every month, unfailingly,  starting the day you start full time work, and you will greatly exceed average.

Speaking of averages, this entire model assumes you will only do “average” as in the S&P 500 average by buying the SPY ETF shares. I don’t believe that average is in your destiny, if you question everything.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. The Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappucino is over 500 calories — it won’t hurt you to miss that too 🙂

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