Jan 312011

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 292011

Choosing and developing great habits puts you on the road to achieving and maintaining excellence in your life.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


Jan 272011

When it comes to success in life, the pen is indeed far mightier than the sword.

Most success does not happen in a burst of effort on one day. Success comes from building good habits while eliminating bad ones. No matter if you look at sports, at the workplace, or at home, good habits and daily effort makes all the lasting difference.

Changing habits is far easier than most people realize, if a person uses Pale Ink and the mighty pen.

As an example, lets take a habit most of us realize we should change, but usually make little progress on:
Getting rid of complaining and whining.

Like most bad habits, whining creeps in slowly like weeds in the garden, but getting rid of the whining habit seems like a near impossible goal. It is not impossible.

I decided to give up complaining for the six of so weeks of Lent last year.  From memorable experience, it is far easier to forgo chocolate or beer than getting out of the habit of complaining.  We whine about everything from the weather to the guy down the hall to the traffic on I-635.  The reason it is easier is that eating or drinking decision moments only happen a few times per day, while complaining can happen any minute you are awake. It takes constant vigilance.

Yet I pulled it off — within 2 weeks of starting!  I went the next 4 weeks averaging less than one complaint per week. By the way, I had enlisted my family and coworkers to keep me honest and they reveled in the job, so I’m quite sure I did pull off it off.

How did the small miracle happen?  Pale Ink!

I carried an index card in my pocket and a pen — and forced myself to write down what I complained about, whenever I did it.  The power of the pen is awesome. When you realize that you have to write it down on a log, it instantly raises your awareness of the habit and how often you fall victim to its grip. It only took two weeks before complaints were essentially cured as a bad habit.

Pale Ink works for creating good habits too.  Later in 2010, I decided that I don’t eat enough portions of vegetables.  So I decided to write down every portion and review my progress week over week.  Four weeks later, my portions doubled, because keeping a daily log raised my consciousness.

If you want to drink less beers, don’t set a hard limit:  Just write each one down.  If you want to work out more often, put a calendar on the fridge and color in work out days in green.  If you have a bad habit of using curse words, write each one down and time and date stamp it.

Pale Ink on a simple log is an amazing motivation tool. Start today with one small habit that you would like to change and make a daily log. You will be amazed at how much progress you will make in just four weeks if you make a sincere attempt to write things down.

To become more optimistic, a good habit is to answer every “How’s it going?” with a “Great, couldn’t be better!” response. Why not log every time you answer the greeting with anything less than 5 star enthusiasm?  Within a few weeks, you will see great results and will find that this one little change will be a spark that helps the rest of the day go better.

Jan 232011

America, God bless her for her multitude of virtues, has a bit materialistic focus in her society. Capitalism, at our time of nearly unlimited media penetration and a populous that lives concentrated in major metro areas, results in a blitzkrieg of commercial messaging. TV, Internet, Radio, Billboards, Magazines, Opt-In E-Mail, and Spam E-Mail too — we are bombarded with a buy this, buy that, houses and closets and dog houses of the rich and famous, money money money is all the matters message. It promises to only become more invasive – check out how commercial messaging in the future is so plausibly imagined in the movie Minority Report.

As an optimist, I’m not against earning, having, and using money. But, if money becomes your personal scorecard of self-worth, when money becomes your overriding preoccupation, you have been infected by the Insidious($) virus.  Money is only one small aspect of true wealth.

The “money is all that matters” commercial blitzkrieg gets to people and greatly reduces the optimism that is so vital. It is garbage messaging that pollutes the mind. It drives many people to get down on themselves for the perceived inadequacy of their bank account and investment account balances. When one is infected by Insidious($) and these thoughts are festering in one’s head, it becomes hard to remain optimistic and confident.

To inoculate your mind against Insidious($), taking stock of one’s true wealth helps a great deal. There is a lot of truth to the phrase “you can’t take it with you.”  We often don’t appreciate what we do have.  Would you sell your eyes for a million dollars? …or ten million dollars?  Would you sell your son or daughter for that million dollars?  Would you forgo good health and accept cancer into your lungs for a million dollars?  It turns out that there is much that we would not sell for a million dollars.  These are the aspects of our true wealth.

Consider this:

  • I am wealthy because of my health.
  • I am wealthy because of my integrity.
  • I am wealthy because of my faith.
  • I am wealthy because of my family, and the love that is so dear.
  • I am wealthy because I have freedom and the ability to make my own choices each and every day.
  • I am wealthy because of my courage.
  • I am wealthy because of my relationships with friends and associates.
  • I am wealthy because of my education.
  • I am wealthy because of my reasoning ability, the way I am able to think, understand, and solve problems.
  • I am wealthy because of my emotional IQ that helps me make more friends and influence everyone around me.
  • I am wealthy because of vitality, my energy to make things happen.
  • I am wealthy because of my will power.
  • I am wealthy because I believe in learning from setbacks, not treating anything as a failure in itself.
  • I am wealthy because I maintain balance across the various roles in my life.
  • I am wealthy because of my experience, and my life’s experiences that have molded my character.
  • I am wealthy because of my awareness of the world around me and its ramifications.
  • I am wealthy because of my wisdom.
  • I am wealthy because of my ability to grow in understanding every day of my life.
  • I am wealthy because I live in a time of extraordinary opportunity in an extraordinary place. People had few choices just a few centuries ago.
  • I am wealthy because of my optimism, by hopes, my dreams, my goals, my reasons for living.
  • Oh yes, lest I forget, I am wealthy because of my bank accounts and investment accounts.

Clearly, there is more to wealth and your net worth that just the financial account.

Once you realize what an extraordinary array of assets you have, it is much easier to join the Optimistic Few.  It becomes easier to maintain a positive attitude through good times and bad.  It becomes easier to keep a steady confident hand on your own life’s tiller, no matter other people’s commendation and condemnation.  It becomes easier to overcome setbacks and challenges, no matter the balance in the bank account.

The next time you overhear someone saying “Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, or Michael Bloomberg is soooo wealthy…“, and you surprise yourself by saying “maybe he really is but maybe he is not… hard to tell by Forbes accounting alone…” you will discover that you are inoculated from the Insidious($) virus and well on your way to an Optimistic life.

I.M. OptimismMan

Jan 192011

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

Jim Rohn

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 132011

Count not today’s harvest; rather count the amount of seed sowed and sprouts nurtured.

Today, you are making a certain amount of money, your ‘harvest’ in modern day terms — and it seems that few are satisfied with what they are bringing home.  Many spend much of their brain cpu time counting their incoming bucks, worrying about their incoming bucks, and wishing for more incoming bucks.  They are missing a fundamental truth in life: counting today’s harvest does not help you increase your harvest during the next season.

The dollars or euros or pounds or yen which you harvest today are a direct result from seeds planted and sprouts watered over the last 3 – 5 years.  Sure, for some, seeds planted during their education continue to pay today but even a medical doctor still has to build a thriving practice.  Decisions made and actions taken more recently — usually in that 3 – 5 year timeframe — tend to produce the greatest variance in your current income.

This varies a bit by profession.  A salesperson selling an item with a short-term decision horizon tends to harvest seeds planted 6 – 12 months ago.  It still takes a certain amount of time to find prospects, qualify prospects, build up trust, pass the tests, and negotiate the deal.  Products with longer-term horizons and bigger price tags take much more time.  But, all in all, for most things, what we work on today tends to take around 3 – 5 years to pay off, if all goes well.

So why spend even an extra minute counting your harvest or worrying about its size?  You are getting exactly what you deserve today, based on the seeds planted 3 – 5 years ago.  If you want to enjoy a bigger harvest in 2014 – 2016, it is time to evaluate what you are doing this month to plant good seed in excellent soil.  All your energy and all your attention must be on the seeding.

Where should I start?

Ask the question: What is the one thing I can do today that will probably have the biggest impact on my life and my financial rewards 3 years from now?  You will find out that this is usually a big thing, something that immediately causes procrastination.  It could very well be “improve my skills so I can get a better job or the next promotion”.  It might be start a venture on the side, at night.  It might be improve my sales skills by taking classes and reading, so that I improve my close rate 30%.  It might be paying keen attention to your investments.  When is the last time you read a book to improve yourself?  When is the last time you took a class?  Most of us get too busy and the years fly by.  Watching TV or surfing the internet rarely improves your skills and value in the economy.

If you are a committed optimist, opportunity is teeming everywhere you look.  There are plenty of difficulties in the world and problems always need solutions.  Solutions tend to have value so solving problems tends to produce a financial harvest.

Whatever it is, that item or dozen items that can make a difference, don’t procrastinate.  Make plans.  Chop big scary-looking tasks into smaller pieces.  Put tasks on a calendar, with deadlines.  Start today and make progress.  Take action.  Action and optimism is everything — ideas are worthless without them.  Lastly, develop a queue of next seeds to plant, as soon as the current ones have sprouted.

Planting seed is not nearly as easy as counting and complaining about the harvest, but changing your focus to the seed side of the harvest equation will dramatically change your results in just a few years.

Jan 112011

Do you believe you could make a decision tomorrow that changes your life a lot?  Could you quit the job?  Could you get on shiny 757 for Vienna or Toronto or Seattle and be there before the sun rises again, assuming you have some paperwork in place and a credit card with at least a grand of room on it?  Could you decide to stay there and do something different for a year?  Would this decision change things a lot?  Is it possible?

The answer is yes of course.  We have the power to make any decision we want, although some may be wiser than others.

Each decision, even decisions to keep the status quo and change nothing, determine our life, chapter by chapter.  If you decide to do something different — lets say enroll in an art class at the local community college — it will in some way have a downstream effect on the canvas you are painting with your life.

I believe the single most important decision you can make tomorrow is 100% commitment to be an Optimist.  If you decide to be an optimist, a world of exciting possibilities reveals itself.  It is the only way to live large, to “live life out loud” as Rob Thomas sings in Someday.

Decide tomorrow to become a crazy over-the-top optimist and your difficulties will become opportunities.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
— Winston Churchill

Your God given talent won’t change tomorrow.  Your abilities will remain the same tomorrow.  The skills you have developed will still have their limits, until you have time to improve them.  But the opportunities will multiply instantly.  Magically!  Simply because you decide to believe extraordinary success is possible and believe it will work out.

Does any quarterback win the big game if they do not believe they can and they will?  Does any pro golfer sink the 28′ putt on 18 @ Augusta to wear the green jacket if they don’t think it will go in?  Does a doctor save the brain aneurysm patient on the operating table without faith in herself?  Believe it can happen — will happen — and you will live your life out loud.

The only logical choice is to choose optimism and faith.  The alternatives quoted by many — pessimism & realism — are easier on the psyche but horribly self-defeating.  The pessimist or realist makes it easy on themselves.  They will choose to never-start, or choose to quit before they see it through, and they will transfer blame to the “reality” of it all.

Choose optimism as your unwavering way.  Optimism makes every decision different.  The next time someone asks ‘how’s it going’, the only acceptable answer is Great!  Couldn’t be better! This all important decision — day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year — paves the way for an extraordinary life.

Never ever again say “I’m a realist” — its the surest step to nothing special.

Join the Optimistic Few.

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:


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.

Jan 032011

Resolutions at the arrival of each new year have a bad reputation.  Many people as they grow older stop making any resolutions because of subconscious memories of past failures.  “Why fail again?” is the thought of the day.

In past years, each of us is guilty of getting super-ambitious and creating resolutions that had little chance of success and never got out of the starting gate.  Worse yet, we didn’t follow through with the basics of success — which is to break the goal/resolution down into small, actionable baby steps that are easy to understand.  We didn’t put those small steps on the calendar.  Not surprisingly, we didn’t even get started, because the resolution looked so big and intimidating.

Consequently, many of us remember these past failures and miss the fantastic opportunity the new year’s resolution cycle brings.

What matters more: The choices you made yesterday or the choices you are about to make today? Forget yesterday.  Forget last year.  Forget the last ten years.  Today is a bright, fresh new day.  Make it a masterpiece.  Resolutions have extraordinary power to make good things happen, if you do it right.

What’s doing it right in regards to NYRs?

1) Don’t make your resolutions huge monumental items.

I think it is best to make your resolutions about changing bad habits and adding good ones.  Good habits turn into bigger and bigger things, building momentum as the years come and go.  Momentum is built by starting small and building a record of success.

2) Develop each resolution into an action plan.

Action plans are broken down into small manageable steps and measurable milestones on a calendar.

3) Decide that this is the year you will succeed.

Don’t be surprised when you do.  Decision is empowering.  You have the will power. The best way to really decide is to write down in black and white why you want this resolution.  The why is always more powerful a motivator that the what.

For example, lets say your resolution / decision is the all-too-familiar drop 20 pounds by summer one.  Write it down, but don’t stop there.  How will you do it?  Write down the plan.  Why do you want to do it?  Write that down too.  How much progress is reasonable by what date?  Perhaps 4 pounds per month or 1 pound per week?  Perhaps start out a bit slower with a 1/2 pound a week for the first 4 weeks.  Write that down too.

Now, it is important to face reality.  In this case, eating less and better is the obvious answer, far more effective than hitting the treadmill while still eating half a pizza at dinner.

So, what are the simple steps to get there?

Last year, I did lose 25 pounds.  My plan was simplicity itself — eat less, eat better, and don’t get in too big a hurry.

How? I downloaded LiveStrong.com on my iPhone for $2.99, put in my weight and set my goal to lose one pound per week.  The LiveStrong app is a great value.  It makes it brilliantly easy to look up foods and mark down everything you put in your mouth.  It figures out the calories you should consume to lose one pound per week.  It gives you credit for working out.  Total time spent at each meal on LiveStrong is less than two minutes and is easy to do because your smartphone is always within arm’s reach.

Writing consumption down makes you lose weight far faster than hours on the elliptical.  Self destructive choices like finishing off my daughter’s plate go away effortlessly!  The milestones were easy to see as I dropped more than four pounds every month.  Momentum builds quickly.

Don’t miss the wonderful opportunity each new year brings.  By all means, make achievable 2011 resolutions and write them down.   Then, go the next few steps and make simple action plans, breaking the resolutions down into small steps, with milestones to keep you on track and build momentum.  Write it all down.  Just as importantly, set a repeating alert to review them once each week.

Resolutions are a great first step to making 2011 your best year, ever.

Jan 032011

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.

Henry Ford