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.

Jan 312011
 
2011-02-01_0728-coach

Don’t ignore the other half. While its important to be physically strong and healthy, sharpening your wits is too often ignored.

To maintain the body we have built, we eat food several times each day.  Some of us watch the quality of what we eat, read countless labels for trans fat and calories, track the quantity of calories, and spend money on books that design diets for us or offer healthy recipes.  A smaller percentage of us hit the gym or the road, wearing out perfectly good Nike’s or ASICs as fast as we can.  There is no doubt that physical fitness is important for living our lives to the fullest now, and even more so when we get older. Does anyone really plan to do nothing but sit in a chair the last 20+ years of their lives?

This national obsession regarding physical fitness has blinded most people into ignoring the other half of the fitness equation: Mental fitness is just as important, or more important for lots of reasons.

Our smarts, our attitude, our wisdom, our situational awareness, our ideas, our drive determine what we do, how well we do it, how much value we add to the economy, and where we end up.  A person’s mental fitness results in promotions or stagnation, excellent parenting or kids gone wild, inspiring goals or no dreams, great plans or aimless wandering through life, optimism or pessimism, courage or cowardice, a fulfilling career or drone-like work.

In truth, you need both: a body with health and vitality to get you “there” and a mind that wants you to go “there”, wherever your “there” really is.

Your mind needs good food daily. When was the last time you read a good book that inspired you?  How many books have you read this year?  (Here’s a good one – Tipping Point)  You feed the belly daily when the body gets hungry.  How often to you feed your mind?  Conversely, how much time do you turn the noggin completely off and watch the game, singing contests, or sitcoms on television?

The internet offers the potential to do much better because we can look for specifics.  There is really good stuff to be found on the web if you sincerely search for it (see ted.com for an excellent example), but there is exponentially more trivia, garbage,  disinformation, and fluff on the web as well.  The book paradigm remains the overall best source — authors struggle for months and years to produce the best they can on a specific topic, and the result is that good books really fill you up with fresh thoughts and nurture the imagination.

Coach John Wooden

Defining Success

Your mind needs a workout too, in addition to wholesome sustenance. Your mind does not get a workout when you repeat mostly the same things day in and day out for months on end.  On the other hand, if you do something creative, something unusual, or learn something new, your mind blossoms and grows, much like your biceps grow after a few months of serious curls at LA Fitness.  The simplest, most accessible creative work you can do is writing.  When is the last time you wrote a well thought-out letter?  Better yet, when is the last time you researched a topic and wrote a report on what you learned?  Have you ever written a poem or a song?  Or a comic strip?

The problem, of course, is that feeding and exercising your mind takes planning, scheduling, and commitment, just as physical fitness at the gym takes planning and scheduling as well.  Good things don’t happen by mistake — planning is mission-critical for achievement and excellence always is preceded by habit.  Either you plan your time, or other people’s urgencies will do it for you.  Daily habits are the answer to many things in life  — one book, no matter how good, read in a few days, is not nearly as good as a year of reading just 15 minutes each and every day, with your first cup of coffee or tea.

When you focus on your mind’s fitness, plan specific time for it, feed it good food on a daily basis, and find creative exercise for your mind, you will find that it helps improve optimism and productivity across all the facets of your life.

Jan 172011
 

Weeks, months, even years, fly by. We are incredibly busy but can’t remember what we were busy on three days ago, or last week, or last month. In this tornado life with howling winds of other people’s urgencies (the Urgency Conspiracy), it is not surprising that we often feel frustrated.  The constant state of frustration comes from lack of real progress in our lives that we subconsciously crave.

To make real progress, there is a natural order of steps. Making progress while reducing frustration and stress is quite possible for the Optimistic Few. But it is impossible to jump out of the tornado and onto the real progress path without clearly and accurately knowing…

  1. where you are today,
  2. what you are spending your time and energy on most weeks, and
  3. understanding the triggers that suck you back into the Urgency Conspiracy for another tumultuous week.

I’m a huge proponent of Pale Ink.  I take this phrase from an ancient anonymous quote “A good memory does not equal Pale Ink.

Pale Ink is the extraordinary technology that will bring peace to your mind and progress to your life. Luckily, ink was invented around 2,500 BC by the Chinese and Egyptians so we can be assured that the bugs have been shaken out of the system nearly 5,000 years later.

Start a little journal today and don’t stop jotting daily notes down for the rest of your life. I promise that you will be far better off for it.

When you make notes about how you spend your day, you have taken the single most important step toward investing your time better in the future.  Write down what you did, what unexpected items and people took over certain days, how you succeeded, and what set backs you suffered.  Don’t make the Harriet-the-Spy mistake of letting your journal fall into the wrong hands and if you decide to make comments about others that would be damaging in the wrong hands, please do those in code.  Daily journaling is step one in leveraging the extraordinary power of Pale Ink in your life.  More to come on Pale Ink in coming weeks.

How you set yourself up is a matter of preference. My personal system for journaling is rather interesting. Having watched several close friends suffer the loss of a critical hard drive and valuable data in the past, I overcompensate against loss. The good news is that I have worked out a process that does not cost much time. I spend less than 15 minutes per month to gain 100% protection against loss on all my journal notes, except for the most recent few pages.

1) I prefer real ink on real paper for notes, and the journals I use are Moleskine’s sweet Cahier notebooks @ a nice 80 pages each, thin and light enough, yet big enough for several months of notes. Barnes and Noble carries them in-store or there is always the time saving web.

2) Before starting the new journal, I mark every ten pages as a spot for a backup.  When my journaling reaches the backup spot, I use my smartphone to take pictures of the last ten pages and email those pictures to my free Gmail** and Evernote** accounts for safekeeping in case of loss.  This step results in three copies of the journal as the pictures taken also reside on the smartphone.  When I connect the smartphone to my PC a few times each week, another copy is made.  Lastly, the auto-backup programs (see Step 4 below) I have wake up while I’m sleeping and replicate the PC files to two more locations before the dawn of the next day.

3) When I forget my journal, I take temporary notes on my smartphone, then transfer them later in the day to my journal.

4) My PC automatically backs up its data to two places – another PC at my home using free DeltaCopy** and a hard drive at my friend’s house on the other side of the city using free CrashPlan** encrypted backup system, so ultimately, I have onsite and offsite backups of my journal images. We live in an amazing time and diskspace is really cheap. If you don’t yet take advantage of the great backup systems that are available, it is time to spend an hour and learn how easy it is to protect yourself and not lose all those irreplaceable notes and family photos.  If you only want one, try Carbonite or CrashPlan.

Keep a daily journal and you take an important step toward the wisdom of knowing thyself.

** Note:

Google clearly makes great money on ads, but there are a lot of venture capital fueled, equity-burning businesses out there giving us consumers free services that are clearly valuable.

Given that some of these will fail, I think it makes obvious sense to have a lot of backups in this free-services era.  All will not survive on advertising alone.  Many are trying to make it giving away their service to 90% of the casual users while making money on the 10% power users.  This idea may crack too, although Moore’s Law is really helping give it a fighting chance as the cost to provide virtual services continues to plummet year over year.

There is so much opportunity if you are an optimist.  The fact that Wikipedia continues to grow like kudzu on the back of donations is awesome.  If Wikipedia had to, it could go to ads and make extraordinary money overnight.  So there is lots of hope too.  Lest we forget, Google started as ‘no ads’ and has since changed its collective mind to become the most dominant force on the internet planet.

Jan 082011
 

The ‘why’ people do things is far more interesting than the ‘what’.

I have always been a believer in the ‘you better use it or you will lose it’ way of thinking.  I also tend to have a rather long range view of the future, so it is probably not a surprise that the reason I work out diligently at the gym – through aches and pains, day in and day out – is that I have a clear vision of becoming a spry old man.  In fact, I hope to one day earn the nickname Spry from all my friends.

I read a great book on this topic a few months back that I am enthusiastically recommending to you.  I’ve always had plenty of opinions about the need for strength training and I knew I needed more aerobic work, although I too often skipped the aero and lifted in years past.  The authors helped answer a number of ‘whys’ for me and they did a great job of cementing the balance needed — strength, aerobic health, diet, mental, social — with the science behind the scenes.

If you have a desire to be all you can be when you are 70, 80, 90 or beyond, the time to start is now.  Reading Younger Next Year is a great kick start.  There is also a Younger Next Year for Women, because the first version was overly tilted to the male ways of thinking and motivation.

Here’s a link to the book at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Younger-Next-Year-Strong-Beyond/dp/076114773X

A word of warning: If you read this book, you are highly likely to run out and purchase a heart monitor watch.  I personally got the Suunto T6C and wow, its sweet.  But that post will come another day.

Vaya con Dios, Amigos!

Jan 062011
 

Resolutions are goals – goals with a deadline of one year or less to get them done.  The beginning of a new year is magical for getting people to revisit their goals and plans for the future.

Five key steps will help you make your resolutions happen:

  1. Tell every positive, encouraging person who you respect, and whose respect you want, what your resolutions are.
    The most important people in this group are the ones that are the most positive, the ones that want you to succeed and encourage you to follow through, the confident ones that are never jealous, the optimistic few.  By telling this group, you help yourself, because your integrity is on the line.  If you value your integrity, you will nail your resolutions because you want to keep the respect of your love ones.  Avoid sharing your goals and resolutions with people that have proved to be stealth naysayers.  When someone casts doubts on your plans, it hurts your chances of success as your will power can waver.
  2. Go the extra step and write down “why” you want to accomplish this resolution.
    Why is always more inspiring than what.  Writing it down is always more powerful than thinking it alone.
  3. Make a plan, with concrete steps and milestone dates, to accomplish each resolution.
    Without a plan, many things look like elephants, too big to eat.  With a clear and detailed plan, the elephant is cut into small bite sized pieces.
  4. Get started on each in January.
    Getting started is always hard.  People often say they are not motivated.  Motivation is a by product of getting started, not the other way around.  Many times, I don’t feel like going to the gym.  But if I get in car, walk through the gym doors, my motivation for the work-out returns.
  5. Make a point of reminding everyone from step #1 above how you are doing and what progress you are making all year long.
    Put it on your calendar.  Have the conversation.  Good, positive people will help you get through the stumbles and obstacles.

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe its a great idea to make resolutions that change your habits for the better.  Habits tend to build into bigger and bigger accomplishments because they have a “sharpen the saw” effect.  It is not always best to simply saw and saw and saw to cut down trees.  It makes a lot of sense to improve yourself, to take time to sharpen your saw, because it makes cutting trees down a lot easier when your blade is razor sharp.

If you have not been setting and accomplishing New Year’s Resolutions in past years, start small this year.  Set only one or two, and make them well within reach.  Accomplishing one is better than writing down a dozen and accomplishing none.  Momentum grows when you start nailing your goals.

So, in support of Step #1, here are my resolutions for 2011, most of which are targeting positive habit change.  I am Optimism Man so I decided 10 would be a nice ambitious number — after all, I’m an optimist.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.