Feb 152017
 

Most people get old long before their bodies really give out. I’ve met 35 year olds that act like they are 70, and vice-versa. Your mental perspective matters.

Getting old, in some very important ways, is a subtle series of small choices – and those choices are more important than the inexorable realities of biological aging.

Here is my simple 6 step test for true aging and recipe to stay younger longer. If you want to stay young longer (or become younger next year), I believe that:

1. you must have sincere goals (not just lofty never-going-to-get-there goals, but goals with plans, milestones, supporting tasks, and weekly progress to make progress to reach them),

2. you must learn new, good stuff and skills regularly (weekly at a minimum, and write down what you learned (or you are likely to forget it soon)),

3. you must create stuff that matters at least to you if not others (weekly as well because if you don’t do something weekly, it won’t be a habit and habits lead to success),

4. you must make smart choices on a daily basis regarding diet (easiest way is to log your food and drink in MyPlate or similar apps because having it in writing helps a lot),

5. you must exercise because strength, health, and vitality slips away all too easily while a person sits in front of a television, and finally

6. you must make new friends and make the effort to go do fun things together.

What’s one great goal that you want to achieve in 2017? Just one. Don’t have one, with steps and plans to get it done? You might be getting old. As Lou Holtz put it in this video, you are either growing or you are dying.

Don’t read books right now? Well then, what if you decided to watch just one TED video every day, and write down the equivalent of one index card in your journal as to what you learned? TED.com is an amazing resource. It is a continuing education. You can’t help but learn.

What’s your latest creation?  Selfies on Facebook don’t count. Why not write a short story, or start a new creative hobby, or even a blog about something that you truly believe in. It will add youth to your mind.

Are you eating enough fruits and veggies? Maybe buy a Mediterranean Diet cookbook and make one new recipe a week. That’s not a lot of effort, but it has a lot of upside. Here’s another idea – go vegan for one day a week!

Are you breaking a sweat three times a week? If you heart never sees north of 130 beats / min, it is sure to be aging quickly. I started playing a new sport a couple of years ago and was blown away by how it helped my perspective and excitement.

Who is your newest friend or interesting acquaintance? Why not call them today and meet up for lunch?

Stay younger longer, become younger next year. Little steps make a huge difference. Commit your focus and energy and it pays dividends. Lastly, read this book — Younger Next Year — it offers a great perspective — you may not agree with every word, but I promise you that the authors will make you think.

I.M. Optimisman

Apr 192015
 

When is the last time you jumped in and tried a new sport?

Last week, I started playing squash. The effect on my mind has been phenomenal. I’m fired up about going to the gym and getting better — squash is challenging and a lot of fun.

Check out this video:

squash-video

 

I did realize that this was my first new sport in about two+ years.  Actually, two years ago, I really didn’t start something brand spanking new, but rather started to play racquetball after staying away since the mid-80’s. That said, racquetball after such a long layoff did have the same effect that squash has had on me this month.

All this happy-neurons-effect has helped me think about the bigger picture — how much more excited would I be about life in general, if I planned and tried a new sport at least once per year?

Variety is the spice of life, yet why do we seem to gravitate to and stay in ruts for so long?

I highly recommend taking a little initiative. Be honest with yourself: when is the last time you started a new sport?  Why not dive into something new this month?

I.M. OptimismMan 

Mar 042015
 

When given a challenge, we usually forget to sharpen the axe.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

– Abe Lincoln

Are you a student? If you answered no, I believe you have the wrong perspective. Our world is changing ever faster, and I believe you must be a student all the days of your life. Jim Rohn agreed:

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

Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.

sharpen the axe

The axe that I want to help you sharpen is your memory, and not by just a bit. I want to double or triple your ability to remember whatever it is that you want to remember, in a tenth of the time that it might take you now.

How? Learn (and practice (everything takes practice)) a proven technique from the ancient Greeks that has mostly been forgotten in the age of wikipedia. To start, please take less than an hour and watch these three videos, without distractions, without texting your friends, without checking your instagram, facebook, or e-mail. If you are not familiar with the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your iPhone, it is found under Settings / it is the 7th item down from the top on iOS 8.x.

Why invest your time? How much better would your life be if you could look at something just once and then remember it?  How much time would you save?  How much better would your social fabric be, if you remembered every person’s name when you met them, and the names of their spouse and kids too! What if you unfailing remembered the sports that the kids play and the schools that they go to, where the parents work, what they do, and what they are focused upon the last time few times that you spoke to them?

Why three videos? Because this is a new concept to most of us — and three times from three perspectives helps one learn and understand, when you are a newbee.

Video 1 — Joshua Foer

Joshua-Foer-Feats-of-Memory-Anyone-Can-Do

Video 2 — Idriz Zogaj

IZ-mem

Video 3 — Daniel Kilov

daniel-mem3

Sharpen your axe and chopping down trees becomes a heck of a lot easier.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I just bought the Kindle version of Dominic O’Brien’s book. I’ll give you an update in a few months. I’m on my way!

Jul 222014
 

What if you could miss out on more than half the diseases that plague humans today? You can, and the medicine is not from Pfizer or Astra Zeneca. The medicine is simply making the right choices and having will power on a daily basis.

From a big picture level, the USA spends far more money on healthcare as a percentage of GDP than any other. The USA also is one of the most obese countries on the planet. The USA’s life expectancy trails a lot of other developed countries, despite all the money spend on healthcare. The USA’s healthcare outlook and staggering financial bill would change dramatically for the better with a lot less cookies, brownies, potato chips, and giggling midriffs.

chocolate

Each cookie, brownie, and slice of cake is trying its very best to bring about your demise a bit sooner, one morsel at a time. Many people will die today from the choices that they made over the years regarding diet and fitness. Obesity is one of the most reliable indicators and forecasters of a person’s health and longevity. Yet America — and much of the developed world — is getting fatter at an absolutely alarming rate.

Consider this 30 second video that shows the percentage of the US population hitting the scales as obese. I find it an absolutely stunning fact that this fattening of America has happened since the year that I graduated from college:

obesity

Make the choice to have discipline, eat right daily, and work out regularly. There are no guarantees, but your odds of avoiding a lot of health problems are really good. Health is required to tackle life with optimism and enthusiasm.

Here is the CDC’s take on obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

Consider this idea. It might just make all the difference. Half your health outlook is up to you and only you, one bite at a time.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Sep 082013
 

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

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

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

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

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

Here are twenty truths to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just do it now.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 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 042012
 

It takes courage, political smarts, and talent to disagree — constructively.

Most people avoid disagreement, especially at work. This is a mistake. Please watch this short video by Margaret Heffernan and understand why being a yes-man or yes-woman is a blockade to critical thinking and progress.

Question everything! And develop a trusted inner circle of friends and mentors that questions your theories and ideas. The mental challenge will make you stronger.

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 032011
 

A lot of people say “I want to live to 100!” Others wish to be slim and fit today. I go one step further and declare that “I want to live to 100, be fit every day for the rest of my life, and still be spry in my 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.”

This is not an easy goal given the sedentary nature of our modern society. Few of us walk, lift, carry, and exert ourselves as part of our daily life. We often sit for 90% or more of our waking hours hunched over a computer keyboard, talking on the phone, drinking our coffee. We sit in our cars stuck in traffic yet complain when we have to park a bit far from the front door of the supermarket. We sit at lunch, and at dinner, and in front of the TV at night.

The key to fitness is not one thing — the “how” and “how often” we exercise — which seems to be the topic most people bandy about.  Rather, success at health and fitness has everything to do with leading a life of integrity, staying disciplined on the core decisions that all impact your health.

One’s health comes down to a number of factors, many of which are in our own control and a few that are not. We cannot control our genes. We might not be able to control exposure to certain viruses.  But we can control many things that all play a big part in the equation.

Fitness mostly comes down to having integrity and discipline in seven main areas:

  • Exercise for strength
  • Exercise for aerobic endurance
  • Eating good quality food
  • Eating the right amount
  • Getting plenty of quality rest
  • Reducing and avoiding stress
  • Avoiding items that are clearly not good for your health
    (excessive anything, like alcohol, caffeine, bacon, butter, salt etc.)

Please take a minute and give yourself a letter grade (A B C D) in these seven areas. Are you going to the gym and lifting weights like Hans and Frans, but eating double whoppers with cheese twice per week?  Are you running 5 miles a day but then sleeping only 5 hours per night and skipping breakfast?  Are you eating vitamins like they are your one and only plan to win the health lottery?

Integrity is the true answer. If you have a goal of longevity and fitness, decide to get straight A’s from here on out.  Integrity demands that you make the disciplined choices.  It is easy to cheat when you are in your 20’s — a light workout followed by a pizza binge still works — but this all adds up when you hit the second half of your life.

From a personal perspective, I had a hard time committing to aerobic exercise, preferring to lift weights whenever I had a choice.  Two years ago, I decided to follow an every-other-time strength vs aerobic schedule, lifting weights on one day and then doing aerobic sessions during the next workout.  It works because I decided to no longer give myself the option.

The most common conversation at the gym is “how” a person works out, but most of the gym rats would be best served by focusing on what and how much they consume.  Diet is a huge component of long-term health, as is rest, as is stress reduction.

The debate should not be about the value of yoga vs. pumping iron vs. running vs. racquetball.  Building great habits takes time and persistence — adjust your habits a bit at a time and keep track of your decisions in a fitness journal. Making notes is very encouraging. Don’t get discouraged if you fall off the train once in a while — get right back on the next day.  Believe you can, and you will find that progress does in fact happen.  Yesterday does not matter whatsoever but choices made today matter a lot.

Integrity, balance, optimism, and discipline in one’s physical fitness plan is the answer to giving yourself a chance to earn fit, spry, and playing with great grandkids at 95.

I.M. Optimism Man

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 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!