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.


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.


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.


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.


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 

Sep 162013

Is your life on auto-pilot?

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you break out?

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

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

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

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 082013

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

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

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

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

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

Here are twenty truths to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just do it now.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 102013

My readers are quite familiar with my belief that time is a limited resource and that it must be invested wisely. I believe that strategic progress should be made on a daily basis: a person who decides to get one strategic “big rock” task accomplished each day will flourish. 

How do you determine if a task is strategic? When considering a task, simply ask yourself if finishing this task will matter next month. Will this step build toward something bigger and more important? If it will not, the task fails the test and is not strategic. If you have not read my base articles about strategic big rock progress, here is one article that summarizes this important mantra.

The problem is that life and the tornado of other people’s urgencies rarely cooperate by giving you pristine blocks of time to make big rock progress. Everybody seems to want something now. In this always-connected smartphone age, everyone feels that he or she has the right to interrupt whatever you are doing and expect real-time instant responses. It is far too easy to taking your eye off your goals and simply stay busy while ignoring your own true agenda. Even those who have adopted the discipline of scheduling significant blocks of time — hard and fast appointments on one’s personal calendar — to accomplish at least one big rock each day, find that they slip up on this habit-of-excellence and sometimes go days, weeks, and even months immersed in the busy-busy of daily life’s activities.

What life does give you is gaps — little gifts of time, in small little blocks — that are difficult to use well because they are unexpected. Most people shrug their shoulders and let these gaps of time flow under the bridge and out of sight unused. Others grow frustrated, realizing that these gaps offered potential that was used poorly. There is a simple solution.

A bit of advance planning in anticipation of life’s gaps is the answer. With a little bit of forethought, a person becomes prepared to take advantage of the next time a gap of time appears, like when your wife wants to detour and “just run into the supermarket for just a few minutes” — an event that invariable results in waiting 20 – 25 minutes in your idling SUV.

Create five lists in advance on your smartphone and keep them fresh and up-to-date. The five lists are task ideas that you can accomplish in 10 minutes or less, planned for whenever life gifts you a gap of time. Ideas for the gap lists include:

  1. In car waiting (gap queue)
  2. In waiting area (gap queue)
  3. At computer with network (gap queue)
  4. At home (gap queue)
  5. At work (gap queue)

On each of these lists, create a number of tasks that you can make progress on during a gap. Distill these tasks to their essence, so that each is a simple, immediately actionable item that would normally take just five or ten minutes to knock out. For example, “plan customer appreciation event” is far too broad and vague for such a list, while “call BellaFlora florist at 972-555-1234 to get the pricing on 24 bouquets for the event” is distilled and ready for action.

Now you are ready. The next time you have to unexpectedly wait, you will be able to look at your pre-planned list of good things to do and jump into action. You will suddenly see the unexpected small block of time as a gift, avoiding the frustration that comes with cooling your jets sitting curbside while your wife is carefully reading the nutritional content on a Chobani yogurt inside the store.

You might not make strategic big rock progress every time during the gaps, but your optimism and peaceful state of mind will get a great boost, if you learn to take advantage of life’s little gap opportunities.

I.M. Optimism Man


May 252013

Are you tired of all the bad news? I am. Between the Eurozone, the newest flu, North Korea’s sabre rattling, the burgeoning national debt, the partisan quagmire in Washington DC, the IRS targeting the Tea party and any organization with the word Patriot in its name, and the tragedy whenever a Kardashian breaks a fingernail, it is hard to watch any evening newscast or even late night parody of the news.

The news media is hopelessly biased, and not just in the liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican kind of way. The media believes one formula sustains and accelerates it’s own financial success: Bad News Sells Newspapers (and drives TV ratings, and Internet banner ads). Sensationalism is the business model.

News Flash: The world — yes the entire world — is rapidly improving.

It is a big story. The problem is that few people realize it. It doesn’t sell ads, so the news conglomerates don’t put in on the menu. Instead, our teleprompted news media talking heads make sure that everyone worries on a daily basis and tunes in at 10 pm.

The big fret goes on, day in and day out, on whether we will have enough to send our kids to college; enough to travel the world like we always wanted to; enough to provide domestic security, defense, health care, and welfare; enough to buy our Lipitor, Crestor, and Norvasc; and enough to retire on. If the collective people were to awaken to all the positives, employers would invest more and hire more, which leads to faster innovation that creates more opportunities, which leads to an economy that grows more, which leads a greater haul of taxes skimmed from the people, which helps our representatives in government right our listing financial ship. Stop fretting.

Below are two related videos regarding some of the greatest news of this decade. Ask yourself why so few know the story — in our online, connected age, not being acutely aware of one of the biggest stories of the decade is clear evidence calling for the indictment of mainstream news companies. Watch both videos and you can’t help but become more optimistic:

Bono focuses on improvements in poverty:

Hans presents world health evidence that is quite clear, and coincidentally supports my overall belief that “whatever gets measure does indeed improve.” Watch this video:

Be optimistic. The world is not ending. We are not running out of power. We are not melting the ice caps. We are getting better. Progress that matters is all around us, but you must proactively look for it, because the media refuses to cover the long-term positive trends in favor of the short-term worries and sensationalism.

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 252012

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

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

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

I.M. Optimism Man

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

Nov 172012

People with little hope can get hope, get recharged a bit, if they use their imagination and dare to dream. Unfortunately, “take a goals workshop” is advice that doesn’t exactly get it done in neighborhoods where the struggle for one’s daily bread remains front and center.

Check out this great idea by Candy Chang of New Orleans, LA. She manages to combine the power of a community / social experience with the power of hope that having goals, or just one goal, has.

Fabulous idea!

I. M. Optimism Man

PS. More info about Candy and her ideas is found here: http://candychang.com/

Aug 212012

Imagine a football team that only tries to improve itself by playing competitive games. This team never practices, the coaches and players never discuss what strategy and tactics will be employed on game day, and no one even thinks about how it will match up against the next opponent. The quarterback doesn’t practice throwing routes with his receivers, the linemen don’t work together, and the running backs sit around playing Xbox 360 until its time to get their jerseys on.

Will this team succeed?

Of course not.

Football is a complex game that requires teamwork, forethought, and lots of practice. A single play is often practiced dozens, even hundreds of times until the coaches are sure it will be executed as designed, each player knowing his job and doing his job to the best of his ability. As a backdrop, each player will have spent countless hours in the gym and on the track, continually building up his strength and endurance so that he can still execute the plays deep into the fourth quarter or overtime. Practice and conditioning are paramount to winning championships.

Meet Jim Davis.

Mr. Davis is a hard working sales executive for Ashfordshire Corporation. At least once per month and often several times each month, Jim is faced with selling a prospect on Ashfordshire’s technology and solution. If he succeeds, millions of dollars will change hands, jobs will be secured, Jim will enjoy a great commission bonus, and Ashfordshire will score another marketshare first down versus its closest competitor, Devlin MacGregor Inc.

Does Jim practice? Does Jim improve his conditioning? Does he work on his technique? Or does he fall back on the “I have eleven years of experience” excuse and only plays the game during the heat of competition?

We know the answer. 99% of business competition is game time only, no practice, no conditioning, no preparation, no planning. But the game of life is just as complex and demanding as football!

How much farther would Jim get in his 30+ year career if he worked weekly on improving his speaking abilities? How much more would he earn in commissions if he learned better and better sales techniques? What if he spent hours researching his prospects before each presentation? What if he always took the time to conduct on-site surveys, to ask great questions, to discuss solutions with his pre-sales engineers, to develop a personal playbook that really works for each type of prospect? What if Jim practiced his presentations and planned for the unexpected?

Most people agree that Jim’s career attainment would be greatly enhanced if he did practice and perfect, before playing out the game in front of his live customer prospects.

So, here’s my question to you: What have you done to become better — this week, this month, this year — in your job / career skills? Do you practice before game time? When is the last time you practiced better communication skills? Toastmasters is everywhere, it only takes a couple of hours a week. Nearly every job requires or is enhanced by excellent communication abilities. When is the last time you worked on improving your writing abilities? Texting your teenager does not count, LOL!

Decide to become extraordinary and to be all you can be. Take the first step. Set a goal to become a better speaker or learn a second language. Read, learn, practice and you will become better. Don’t be the player that only plays in the game without practice and conditioning. If you do, you will leave too much unrealized successes on the table.

I.M. Optimism Man


Aug 112012

Most of us realize that it is difficult to achieve anything great, unless you have a clear goal in mind. I can’t think of one famous success in America that got to the pinnacle by sheer accident. I can’t help but wonder why so few people in practice have a crisp list of goals jotted down in black and white.

Here are five great quotes / reminders regarding goals and why it is worth working on your personal list this coming weekend:

Big goals get big results. No goals get no results or someone else’s results.
— Mark Victor Hansen

A winner is someone who recognizes his God given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.
— Larry Bird

Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all of your energies on a limited set of targets.
— Nido Qubein

People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.. It’s as simple as that.
— Earl Nightingale

Set one small goal, then do what it takes until you achieve it. Repeat with a second goal, and then again. You will build up extraordinary momentum in only a few months when you start keeping your own commitments. Private, personal integrity is liberating. 
— B. Sakalas

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 242012

Sometimes indelible lessons are found in unexpected places.


Jack Palance played the weathered and wise cowboy Curly Washburn in City Slickers. Few who have seen the movie can forget:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Curly: This. [holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

Life is not hard, goals in life are not hard, accomplishing great things is not hard, being happy is not hard — if you figure out the one thing that matters most to you.

Do you have your one thing figured out? Do you have your one thing written down? Do you read your one thing before you start each day?

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 272012

Do you want to be a remarkable person?

Contrary to popular and incorrect “birthright thinking”, remarkable is well within your reach. You do not have to be born with a castle in the family! Small steps can make a huge impact on the trajectory of your life.

How much better would your life be, how remarkable would you be…

1 – if you decided to life a life of pure optimism and gave up all complaining – really – day in and day out?

2 – if you decided to really “go for it”, to jump in with both feet, take prudent risks, and be all you can be?

3 – if you completely gave up making excuses to others and inside your own head?

4 – if you simply did everything you say you will do?

5 – if you decided to live in the present, never worrying about tomorrow
or thinking about past events?

6 – if you decided to do everything with 100% focus and effort –
in other words, your absolute best?

7 – if you started to ask good questions, then really listen and remember what people said,
instead of talking about your own stuff most of the time and thinking about what you will say next?

8 – if you sincerely looked for and found “what’s special” in every person you meet?

9 – if you planned one important thing to do each morning – by important I mean that it contributes to long-term progress in your life – and did it before nightfall each day?

10 – if you never told a lie from this day forward?

11 – if you limited your passive, time-wasting TV watching to one hour a day or less?

12 – if decided to not worry about what other people think or what they say about you?

13 – if you stopped for just 15 minutes each day, in peace and quiet, to think, to plan, to write down the things you are thankful for, to say a prayer or two?

Pick any one. Would you be better off? Pick any six. Would you be MUCH better off? Pick the entire baker’s dozen. Would you become truly remarkable?

How long would it take to make all of them indelible habits? Less than one year, right? Maybe a year and a half? The opportunity to become a remarkable person in one to two years seems great to me.

Most people think of “remarkable” people in flawed ways – remarkably famous, remarkably rich, remarkably intelligent, remarkably connected, remarkably talented, remarkably beautiful – yet all of these qualities have to do with God given characteristics, family birthright, and a healthy dose of luck – three things we cannot choose ourselves. So most people decide that they will be not remarkable, and strangly admire those few that fit in the categories above.

Yet, if you did just these thirteen small steps, do you agree that “remarkable” is quite accessible to anyone that wants to be?

Be Remarkable! It is your choice.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 042012

New Years Day is exciting. We wake up to a bright new outlook, a fresh new year to make extraordinary progress, to live better, to achieve great things.

This is a perfect time to set goals, to reassess our career, to make important changes, and to even decide to lose a few pounds. We live at an extraordinary time in a land of unlimited opportunities and unlimited freedom — what we do next is 100% up to us.

So why are we haunted by memories of resolutions and goals that we did not reach in the past? Why do less than 20% of people succeed at making positive changes based on goals and resolutions while more than 80% come up short? What can you decide today that will change this 80/20 equation in your favor in 2012 and beyond?

Its time to face the brutal truth. There are lots of reasons people succeed and fail, but one reason trumps all, by a wide margin: People who decide to be relentless, who refuse to give up, who have the tenacity — the burning all-in desire to succeed at something — are in fact, the ones that do succeed.

Do not set a goal unless you also decide to be relentless in its pursuit. Last week, I advised only setting and pursuing ONE great goal at a time. People with a burning desire adapt and overcome don’t let excuses hold them back and remain fully committed until the finish line.  People with a weak-hearted “wish” instead of a burning passion do not.

It really is that simple. You have to decide to be relentless. You have to believe you can succeed. You have to want it, really really bad! You have to be a burning optimist who believes anything is possible.

Happy New Years! Stay relentless my friends…

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 302011

Most people have a love / hate relationship with the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. We tend to get excited about the coming of a fresh new year, the idea of a fresh start on fresh challenges, and hopes for better things to come. But, in the back of people’s heads lurks the memory that resolutions often fall by the wayside before the first day of Spring.

If you are considering skipping the resolutions exercise this first week of January, why not try something a bit different in 2012, like my OptimismMan ONE (at-a-time) resolution plan.

It is important to understand what has tripped up our plans in the so that we can approach the new year smarter and better.

I believe people drop the ball on their resolutions for the following primary reason – people set too many goals and resolutions at one time. Focus, clarity of mission, and 100% commitment are what is needed. As the old saying goes, “If you chase two rabbits, both escape.”

Secondary reasons people have failed in the past are that they rarely bring their resolutions into clear focus:

  • Most resolutions are vague and not specific.
  • The resolutions are not developed into action plans.
  • A person fails to set good and obvious reminders that fire off during the year.
  • People don’t accurately measure their progress.
  • People do not think through contingencies ahead of time.

Why not Try Something Different for 2012?

Consider following the OptimismMan ONE program for 2012:

  1. Go to Starbucks, a bench at the park, or a scenic overlook – some great place where you can think in relative solitude – bring a small stack of index cards, a pen, and your 2012 calendar with you.
  2. Brainstorm a list of 5 – 10 resolutions that you would really like to accomplish in 2012 and write them down as one-liners at the top of each index card. Don’t go past 10 cards unless you really want to build some huge queue for the future.
  3. Go back through and use the space in the body of the index card to write down WHY you want to accomplish each resolution.
    + How will your life be better when this resolution is done?
    + Why is it important?
    + How does this resolution set you up for bigger and better things in the future?
    Five to seven sentences is just about right in most cases.
  4. Now comes the hard part: Pick the ONE resolution that is the ONE that will bring you the greatest satisfaction and happiness, the ONE you want the most, the ONE that is in harmony with your values and long-term desires. Put a number one in the upper left corner and circle it. Put the rest of the cards away for safe keeping – you will only need them again after this number ONE is done.
  5. Turn the ONE index card over and list the major steps it will take to accomplish that ONE resolution. Some resolutions take 3 steps, others may take 20 – if that is the case, write small!
  6. Go back through the steps and estimate how many days it will take to accomplish each step serially. Write the number of days next to each step.
  7. Pull out your calendar (paper or electronic – it really doesn’t matter) and, using the information on the back of the card, place each major step / milestone on calendar days as two entries – one is the day you start the milestone step and the other is the day the milestone is due. Add some time for real life and the inevitable distractions. When done, if you had 10 steps on the index card, you should now have 20 entries on the calendar, culminating with the completion date of your ONE resolution.
  8. Place a 30-minute “appointment” on your calendar every two weeks for review points during the resolution accomplishment period. Set alerts to make sure you don’t miss a review. You will use these appointments-with-yourself to make a diary entry of what you did accomplish on the ONE resolution over the last two weeks, adjust your plan timeframes, adjust your milestones, and change the plan steps when you find you must adapt and overcome new obstacles that will surely come up.
  9. As a final step, look at milestone #1 on the road to resolution ONE. Take a fresh index card and make a list of specific steps / tasks to make it to milestone #1. You will repeat this break-the-milestone-into-actionable-tasks exercise ever time you finish a milestone and embark on the next milestone mission. Put that index card in your calendar or in your wallet, so that it is easily found and seen every day. If you use a task management system, input those tasks into your task manager as well.

I have no doubts that anyone that tries this ONE resolution system, no matter how many times they have missed on previous year resolutions, will find success in 2012. You will find that there is much greater gravitational pull on a resolution when you are clear as to why you want to accomplish it.  Getting started is always hard so putting a good plan together is just that start you need.  Finishing is never easy, but regularly accomplishing milestones along the way helps build momentum, determination, and most importantly, optimism.

Make 2012 your best resolutions year ever!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> As you may have guessed, when you finish your ONE resolution, go back to your fortress of solitude, pull out your remaining index cards, perhaps add one more new one, and then decide on the new number ONE, and complete the above planning exercise. If you finish the first number ONE resolution by May, don’t wait until 2013 to work on the next number ONE.

Life is too short to waste time. We all have been given wonderful opportunities. That said, be wise and chase one rabbit at a time.

Jun 232011

Lots of people feel stuck in a rut — some in a big rut, others in a small rut. No matter the size of the rut, the rut is the same — getting up every morning, slugging a coffee or Diet Coke, sitting in traffic, fighting through the all too familiar yet unfailingly urgent issues, hustling home, rushing around for the final hours, vegging in front of the TV, and falling into bed dead tired — repeat. Genuine first downs, and the satisfaction of accomplishment, don’t happen often enough.

Are you being wise about getting what you want? Here’s a news flash — step one is knowing exactly what you want next.

What are your top ten goals for this year?  What is your top goal for this month?  Most people can’t answer these two questions without a lot of thought.  If you can’t, don’t be surprised that you feel stuck in a rut and making little progress.  The best rifleman in the world can’t hit a target he can’t see.

Make a top 10 list.  Rewrite it on an index card.  Keep it in your wallet.  Read it three times per day, right after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Work on #1 on your list whenever possible, at least a little bit every single day.

Motivation follows getting started, not the other way around.  Follow this ever so simple system and be amazed how you will suddenly leave the rut in your past.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 122011

The day that you decide to surrender your dreams and have no concrete goals is the day that you become old.  Dreams and goals, with sincere determination to achieve those goals, are the fountain of youth.

Forced retirement should be outlawed.  Retirement kills.  Everybody knows somebody that went from firecracker go-getter to listless and irrelevant in that first year or two after retirement.  If traditional retirement doesn’t kill a person, it definitely maims many people’s psyche.

Who invented retirement and why is it set at 65 years of age?

Doing a bit of researched revealed something quite startling.  A German chancellor — Otto von Bismark — invented social security in 1884 AND he decided that 65 was the right age in his estimation, given that very few people at that time lived much past the average life expectancy of 46 years (in Germany in the 1880’s).

Conveniently, Herr Bismark, in this one brilliant checkmate move, also eliminated his closest competitors for the position of chancellor, but I’m sure this had nothing to do with picking that random 65 number 🙂

65 a silly number to fixate upon!

Life expectancy has soared WAY past 65 in the last century. Many people are very capable at 75, 85, and 95 years old — remaining productive and valuable in society. Being productive and valuable, striving for personal and organizational progress is what keeps a person vibrant and young. Yet almost everyone is brain-washed into hanging up their six guns and spurs just when a lifetime of experience is hitting full stride.

Let’s rename retirement to one’s Personal Financial Independence Day.

What we should strive for is our next chapter, our next project, the one that really makes our eyes sparkle with hope and intensity.

Everyone has missions at different phases of life. In today’s model during our short time on earth, we grow up from students to young singles to young families to empty-nesters to retirement to home-locked.  I think those last steps should be renamed to “financial independent and creating my great legacy” phase, not the golf, fishing, sitting, and TV is all I have phase.

A wise person can choose to make the golden years the greatest chapter in the book of one’s life. If a person that achieves financial independence at an early age, she just earns more years to make a outsized difference in the lives of others.

Just as importantly, if you keep your goals alive, you will find that you live — really live — those final chapters and not get stuck watching TV for 40+ hours each week (yes, the survey I found say that the traditionally retired watch more than 40 hours per week, on average).

Be spry and prosper,

I.M. OptimismMan

Mar 202011

The first day of Spring has arrived in North America. Grass is already turning green, we’ve had some fantastic weather, the trees are blooming, and the song birds are frisky on the patio, driving our cat crazy. Life is good.

I find the first day of each season a great marker to review and fine-tune yearly resolutions. Whoever came up with resolutions as only a start-of-the-year item got it wrong. Resolutions should be a year long event where we improve ourselves on the path to “be all you can be.”

Time for a grade. Here are my resolutions from the beginning of the year, and my assessment of my progress:

1. I will plan the one most important, strategic task I will do tomorrow every night before going to bed. This is my Strategic Big Rock (SBR) of the day. I will write it down on my daily plan for the morning.

To qualify as a ‘strategic task’ in my book, a task must pass my test of future value.  I look at any task and ask two simple questions – If I work on this task, will the result continue to produce value one month from today?  Will it continue to produce value six months from today?  A task is not strategic if the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions.

I got off to a great start in January and February but the final two weeks of the winter quarter had significant breakdowns in this habit.  Still, I grade my effort as an A- and feel that I’m well on the path to success on this front. Changing one’s habits is never easy as pie.

2. Work on the one SBR task as early as possible the next day, with a goal of finishing it before lunch.

Other people’s issues and urgencies tend to invade our agenda as the day goes on.  The sooner I can get focused on my SBR, the more likely real progress will be made.  Every day, I will write down in my journal exactly what happened.  In my opinion, there is no greater motivator in the world than Pale Ink, a topic of its own that is coming to OptimismMan.com soon.

I only managed a B here. My log showed that only 50% of days did I even start on the SBR before noon.  All too often, I counted on a burst at 6 pm to make up for procrastination earlier in the day.  I can do better this.

3. On the fitness front, I will work out daily all of 2011, alternating between aerobic and strength training every other day.

In other words, I will lift weights on odd days and put in aerobic work on even days or vice versa.  My goal is to have a maximum of 24 days off, without a workout, in 2011.  And like everything else, I will jot down what I did daily in my journal.  Its far to easy to have selective memory if you don’t make accurate notes.

To quote Larry the Cable Guy, I got’r’done on the fitness front. Celebrating an A+. I missed one day in the winter quarter, but had four days where I worked out twice, putting me at net +3 workouts going into the Spring. I’m especially proud of the fact that I injured my back playing basketball but still managed to put in the sessions, albeit a bit less aggressively than normal while nursing the back.

4. Start a sideline venture in partnership with my wife that is up and running, selling product to customers by July 4, 2011.

This is my only resolution that is not about changing my habits for the better but rather it is a specific project which promises to be both exciting and difficult.  More to come as the venture progresses, but, like everything else, our first job is to create a good plan with bite-sized steps before we try to eat this elephant.

We made progress but the timetable seems too tight. We will have to really put the pedal to the metal in the spring time and see if the July deadline is makeable. I’m rating the winter effort only a C.

5. Reduce watching useless television by half.

I really don’t watch much TV right now, but it is really hard to find value in 95% of time spent when watching the tube.  No matter how you look at it, TV is quite successful at addicting us to hours without productivity.  So, I will do three things on this front.
a. I will watch no TV for half the days of 2011.
b. I will strive to have activities planned to do while watching TV.  For example, having the TV on while folding laundry or walking on the treadmill is far better than sitting on the couch.
c. I will keep a clear log of all my TV time spent.  Pale Ink is powerful stuff.

This one is a C- because I just did not start in January and ignored it all the way until Ash Wednesday. I’m now on the right path as a Lent observance but this was a good lesson of start right away, or the resolution will (almost) get away.

6. Improve my diet, especially adding more portions of vegetables and fruit.

Last year, I dumped 27 pounds using the pale ink method… I wrote down everything I put in my mouth.  I used the excellent LiveStrong.com app on the iPhone that they acquired from Daily Plate.  I got away from writing it down over the last number of months, but now realize that although I’m not looking to lose a lot of weight in 2011, writing it down helps with good diet decisions every day.  The ‘cost’ is only two minutes per meal (cheap!) but offers great benefits.  So, I’m committed to writing down everything I eat and drink in LiveStrong’s application all year.

I earned a B in writing it down and using LiveStrong, missing some days.  However, the focus on more veggies and fruit came in as a B- as I know I have more room to add a better mix to my diet.

7. I will schedule two one-hour sessions per week for personal improvement activity.

I always have things I want to learn, things I want to do that are completely outside my mainstream flow of life.  For example, for years I have said that I want to learn Spanish.  I have lots of tapes and CD’s and books.  Yet, I have not ever gotten started.  I have wanted to write a few simple programs in Javascript, but have not yet learned Javascript at all.

I will change this ‘never get started’ scenario by putting sessions on the calendar for personal improvement items every week.  I may have to change locations (library or Starbucks perhaps?) just to put walls around the time, but I will do it.

Wow, this one never got out of the gate.  An F, pure and simple. Time to get the habit sparked.

8. Post to OptimismMan.com two to three times each week.

Back in 2002, I did a podcast series that was very fulfilling but time consuming.  Interestingly, the term podcast didn’t even exist then, so engineering the audio took lots of time.  OptimismMan is the next step in my underlying drive to share my thoughts and ideas in hopes of helping others.  I will stick with it.  WordPress technology makes this very easy to do so there are no excuses.

I am feeling good about my Optimism Man momentum although I had a week or two with a bit less activity than hoped. Still, a solid A rating.

9. Eliminate all complaints.

Sounds a bit crazy I know, but I have experience.  I gave up complaining for Lent last year — it turns out to be much harder to do than giving up beer or chocolate, because you have to be conscious every waking hour.  It turns out that it can be done.  I engaged my family.  They became quite adept at spotting a complaint and telling me about it on the spot.  The trick was to put a tally application on my smartphone so that I could quickly and easily log each complaint.  The same power of pale ink, writing it down when it happens, works on this front too.

I have managed to really make this a good habit. It helped that I focused on this one last year as well. All in all, eliminating complaints is going well. Another A rating.

10. Change my discretionary spending habits for the better

Last year, I started jotting down (yes, in the smartphone again) every time I spent money on a discretionary item.  My definition of discretionary is not necessary, which is an interesting concept in our current age: is spending on your smartphone service ‘necessary’?  (I think it is ;-) )   A better example for discretionary for me is ‘do I need another T-shirt when I have a hundred in my closet’ but its really up to each person to define their own version.

This year, I will do two things.  First, I will get rid of impulse purchasing completely.  If I see something that I want, I will write it down in my task management software for one week minimum before returning to the scene on the crime to purchase it.  I think most things, once you think them over, wind up not getting purchased at all.  Secondly, I will continue to write down all purchases… little purchases, often small and mostly useless, tend to add up.  If you don’t write them down, its easy to forget where the money went.

Got an A here too.  I have it all jotted down and even managed a 6 week period without a single purchase in the discretionary category.

Spring Time Adjustments / New Targets

Lots of A’s but one F. #2 and #7 will be the focus of the Spring.

I think the list is ambitious enough without adding more. Overall, I’m happy with 2011’s progress on nearly every front. One simple way to make things better will be to review this list twice each week.  In the winter quarter, several weeks would speed by without a true review of what I want to have happen regarding resolutions.

Feb 142011

Imagine winning the Superbowl without a playbook of plays your team has learned and will execute with precision.

Imagine building the house you live in without an architect first creating blueprints.

Imagine building a new highway interchange without surveying the ground and skipping the creation of plans on paper.

Imagine that you are the leader of a SWAT team, invading a bank where the bad guys are holding hostages without looking at the building plans to see how the rooms and entries are positioned.

Or imagine invading a city full of insurgents without detailed intel, scouting, and a carefully drawn up plan of action.

It is hard to imagine success in any of these attempts without clear, specific, detailed plans and contingency plans, isn’t it?

So, why do 95% of adults go through their life, day after day, week after week, month after month, without a written list of their top 10 personal goals? For the slim minority that do have a written goals list, what percentage do you think convert that one line goal into distinct projects and then step-by-step tasks with milestone dates, to achieve that goal?  The answer is less than 1 in a 100.

So, right now, lets see what a difference pale ink / thinking on paper can make. Pick one of your goals that is a pretty significant one, perhaps achievable in 6 months or a year if you get started soon. Pick any one of your goals. Right now. Grab three blank sheets of paper and a pen. Let’s scribble up a rough plan.

Answer these dozen key questions about this one goal:

(1) Description of the goal.
(one sentence)

(2) Why do you want to achieve this goal?
(one paragraph – be sure and include the benefits you will receive from the achievement)

(3) How will you know that you have achieved the goal / how will you measure it is really done?
(one or two sentences)

(4) When do you want to achieve this goal by?
(specific date)

(5) What are the intermediary steps in high-level bullet form that are anticipated steps to achieve the goal?
(one line sentences, but leave 5 lines of space between each sentence)

(6) Please put dates and any other quantitative measurements you can on each one of the intermediate steps so that this goal will be on track to make the date specified in step 4.
For example, if you are writing a book, the number of pages written by a date offers a great second milestone that can be measured, not just the date itself.

(7) For each of the intermediary steps from step 5, list 5 – 10 tasks that are subcomponents of getting that intermediate step finished.
(one detailed line each)

(8) Whose help will you need help from to make these tasks happen?
Write down not only the people or organization but also several bullets about the exact kind of help you will need from these people or organizations.  Add dates to put these resources together.

(9) Are there any skills that you need to develop to make these tasks happen?
If there are skills that need developing, this is a subproject that needs its own tasks and deadlines.  Add these bullets to your plan.

(10) Is this goal in line with your overall direction in life?
If it is not, it might not happen, because you will be fighting against the current of your life’s river every step of the way.

(11) After jotting down this plan, are the time frames and milestone dates achievable?
Its ok to be aggressive but if the plan is completely unreasonable, you will find that you give up soon after you get started.  You must make it mission possible, not mission impossible.  If the milestones look way out of logical possibility, go back and adjust the dates and final achievement target.

(12) What are the first 5 tasks? Put them down on your near-term list with deadlines.
Get started on time, since getting started is the key to getting motivated. It is much harder to push a car from a standstill into motion. Once rolling, it takes less power to keep it rolling forward.

Congratulations! You now have a rough plan for this one goal.

To understand the important difference, please complete the second half of this exercise.  Think about another goal that you have.  Make sure that its a goal of roughly equal size and scope, something in that 6 – 12 months of effort category. Let’s plan this one only in your mind — do not write anything down.  Take your time, just thinking about it.

Which one of these two goals has the best chance of success?

If you want to really answer this question honestly, set an alert on your calendar and ask yourself this question one month from today. Goals in your mind’s eye are dreams without a plan. Goals on paper are a little better, especially if you carry the list with you and look at it daily. But goals that get the magic of pale ink, the magic of thinking on paper and some level of planning are exponential better. These goals have an excellent chance of follow through and ultimate achievement.

If you asked a number of people what their personal goal is at their job, getting a promotion is one of the most typical responses. How many people have a written plan to win that promotion? Less than 1 in 100. What if you decide to be that one in one hundred with a good plan? Do your odds improve? Of course they do.

Use the power of pale ink and become more successful – it really is that simple. Once you have written plans for your top ten goals, your optimism grows because you have daily important tasks in line with your dreams.  You are empowered to act decisively.  A person that is making steps toward his or her goals feels inspired, has purpose, has energy and excitement, and is full of optimism.