Thursday, February 28, 2013

Talk Is Cheap

On this blog, I write a lot about doing great work. You can find numerous other blogs and books that also talk about the importance of doing great work. We can talk about taking chances and not fearing failure and not caring what other people think until we are blue in the face, but talk really gets us nowhere. Once we are done talking, it is difficult to actually make changes to who we are and what we do. Without making changes, the only thing we will be able to do is continue to talk about doing great things.

I know it is hard to change the way you do things and how you think. I have the same difficulties myself. I'm not as productive as I would like to be. I don't always do the things I want to do. There are times I let fear control me. I don't take risks as much as I should. I don't speak up. Sometimes, I just try blend in with everyone else. I don't always volunteer for the tough projects. I don't stick my neck out enough.

In all honesty, this frustrates the hell out of me. I urge others to do all of the things I don't do as much as I would like. This makes me feel like a hypocrite, but I know these feelings of frustration and disappointment are not productive. Instead of these feelings, I need to use this as motivation for living the life I talk about. If I want to do more, then I need to make sure I am doing more. I am the only one responsible for my actions, just as you are the only one responsible for yours.

You see, no matter what, life isn't about perfection. We are going to have our ups and downs and we are always going to strive to be or do something more than we are right now. We all have room to grow and we all have the ability to improve. Feeling down about the things we aren't doing isn't the way to grow. Instead, celebrate the things you are doing well and learn from the things you are not doing as well as you would like. Make changes to try to improve the areas where you think you need improvement, but don't beat yourself up over what you view as shortcomings. Just keep working towards doing better.

You are not perfect. You are not going to do everything exactly like you think you should every time. You are not always going to take the right risks or do as well as you would like. You can learn to do more of the things you want to do. You just have to be conscious of the things you need to do and force yourself to do them. Force yourself to speak up in a meeting and share your idea. Volunteer for the next project offered. When you feel fear holding you back, do exactly what you are scared of.

Be cognizant of what you aren't doing as well as you would like. Don't let this frustrate you, but recognize what you need to do, acknowledge the things holding you back, then overcome them. As I said earlier, you are the one in control of your actions. If you don't want anything to hold you back, then don't let anything hold you back. You can accomplish anything you want to accomplish. It's going to take work. You have to hold yourself accountable. You know what you must do to overcome whatever has stopped you in the past.

I know I will never be perfect, but I can be better than the person I was yesterday. I will continue to work on the things I want to do better. I will be more productive. I will not let fear stop me. I will take more risks. I will speak up more often. I will volunteer for the tough projects. I will stick my neck out. I will do more than I ever have. Will you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Instead of worrying about your reputation, shouldn't you be more worried about what you create? It doesn't really matter what other people think of you, if you are happy with what who you are, what you do and what you stand for.

Before you can create, you have to get your priorities straight. Spending time worrying what other people think will only lead you to produce mediocre work. Take chances, do crazy things and stop caring so much about what you think others think. They only have as much control as you give them.

Reputations change. Being able to constantly produce great work---now there is something to strive for. It will matter far longer than any reputation you may achieve.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life Is What You Make It

I have been thinking about the idea of life is what you make it. I know we often talk about being in control or taking control of your life or doing what you love or anything of the sort, but how often do we really do any of these things? How often do we actually take control of our life instead of reacting to the stimuli constantly occurring around us? How often do we head in the direction we want, instead of following the path the winds are blowing us towards?

Some things are out of our control and it is important to make the best out of what happens around us (and to us). You may lose a job or a relationship will end or a manuscript will be rejected or you will be passed over for a promotion or any number of bad things that can happen to you. Don't dwell on the bad things when they happen. We've all heard the sayings: "there's more than one fish in the sea" or "when a door closes a window opens" or "everything happens for a reason". While we all know these are true, we have to do whatever we can to really make the best out of things that happen.

There are times, though, when you just can't make the best out of what happens. Instead of falling into an abyss of depression, sometimes you just have to shake your fist (often with your middle finger extended) to the heavens and use the anger as the fuel to learn as much as you can, pick yourself up and move forward. Not everything is going to work out in the end. That's perfectly normal and okay, no matter how many people mention a cute, little quote like the ones above. Sometimes shit just happens and we have to continue to get up in the morning and live life. We don't have to make the best out of these situations, but we do have to keep moving forward doing the best we can.

It would be great if someone could just give us a shortcut on making life exactly what we want it to be. We look around and we see people who seemingly are living the life they want and we just want to know how to get there. The real answer and the one most people don't want to hear is they worked their ass off. Yes, they may have had some lucky breaks along the way, but they still worked their assess off. I know, it's not the answer I wanted either. I was hoping for an easy way too...but everything you really want is going to take a lot of hard work. There really aren't any shortcuts on this journey, unless you don't really care about the outcome.

As you are trying to make your life what you want, remember no one really has all the answers. If they act like they do (or actually think they do), they are going to do more harm than good. You can read tons of books or listen to people speak or subscribe to all the self-help blogs and podcasts out here, but you are never going to find all the answers externally. Part of life being what you make it is knowing what you want with your life. Other people have their own agendas and ideas that probably don't mesh with yours. The only way to get all the "answers" from other people is to give up your own ideas. No matter how you spin it, this sounds a little too cultish to me (and trust me from experience, no matter how smart or well-known a leader is, they aren't going to be right about everything).

This life is what you make it. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the anger, the joy...everything rolled into one. While we are never going to have control over everything that happens, we do have control over ourselves. We can react to the things that happen and we can work towards the things we want to happen. We can fight. We can get angry. We can work our asses off. We can get lucky from time to time. We can have things ripped from our grasp. We can try to make the best of the shitty things that happen. We can just dust ourselves off and push forward when the really shitty things happen. We can curse the gods. We can thank the heavens. We can learn and dream and hope and pray. We just can't stop trying.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Role Do You Play?

As a "huge" snowstorm continues to head towards Kansas City, it makes me think of the roles we all play. Some of us will go in early to make sure work gets done. Some of us will sleep in. Some of us will just work from home. Some of us will bitch and moan about how difficult the snow makes things. Some of us will welcome the snow. Some of us will stock up on food and water. Some of us won't worry about anything. Some of us will spend this time with friends. Some of us will spend this time alone. Some of us will not venture out at all. Some of us will go sledding.

We all have a role we play. What's your role? Do you like it? If not, what do you need to do to change it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Keep Your Coins

Today, your life is going to change. The change might be monumental or it could be minimal, but today will be different than yesterday and tomorrow will be different than today. How are you going to react to this change?

Maybe you will be scared of the change. Maybe you will run and hide and hope nothing really changes. Maybe you will do everything in your power to keep things exactly as they are. Maybe you like the way things are and even if your life isn't exciting or passionate, you are content. Maybe you will shirk from opportunity.

Maybe you will embrace the change that comes along. Hell, maybe you will encourage the change and cause your own changes to happen. Maybe you will realize life isn't meant to be played safe. Maybe you will take risks. Maybe you will try new things. Maybe you will run with whatever life hands you. Maybe you will be excited for something new.

No matter what you do, today is going to be different. Tomorrow will too. Each day to come will be different than the last. Since change is already going to happen, wouldn't it be great if we learned to embrace it? Wouldn't it be great if we could welcome it and work our asses off to actually change things for the better?

Well, what exactly are we waiting for?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Defusing a Bomb

Not knowing what to do and doing nothing are not the same thing and shouldn't be treated as if they are.

Pick something and do it. Unless you are defusing a bomb, you can always choose something else later if what you pick isn't what you expected. Just quit wasting time in indecision and procrastination and get to work.

Your future self will thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Fact: At some point in time in the future, you are going to die.

The important question to ask yourself: What are you going to do to make today special?

(Really think about this...don't just read this post and then pass by without actually thinking. Pause right now and spend a little time figuring out how to make today matter for you. Do something crazy or new or different or scary or brave or happy. Just do something. Then, repeat this exercise every day.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do A Little Each Day

In my last post, I wrote about how embracing discomfort will help us succeed. As an example, I mentioned running and how the little voice likes to scream at me to stop during the first part of my run and then somewhere near mile two. If you would have told me six months ago that I would be able to run two miles, let alone more, I would have laughed. Six months ago, I wasn't able to run 100 yards without being extremely winded.

Six months ago, I may have looked thin, but I hadn't exercised regularly for a couple of years. It had been nearly a decade since I had regular cardiovascular exercise. I have been an on again-off again smoker most of my adult life. For a good number of years, I drank way more than is healthy. I was lazy and spent very little time taking care of myself. I would have been extremely overweight if I hadn't become vegan a decade ago (as I was overweight prior to this). I wasn't a healthy person.

I was driving to work one morning and saw a billboard for a run in town and decided I wanted to be able to run a 5K. With delusions of grandeur running through my mind, I believed I would be able to get in shape and do this very easily. I was wrong. The first time I tried to run, I thought I was going to die. I hated every second of it. My body hurt, my lungs burned, my mind screamed and I thought I was an idiot for even attempting this. I wanted to give up and just say running wasn't for me.

Instead, I decided to do things in a smart way. I followed the advice of others and began the Couch to 5K program. I built up my stamina by running shorter periods of time, enough to feel it, but not enough to make it hell. I still wanted to quit, but every time I was supposed to run, I did. I forced myself to put on my running shoes and get out the door. I didn't give myself an out, even while I was on my honeymoon. After a while, I looked forward to my runs. Exercise became fun.

Then the holidays hit, the weather turned cold and I stopped again. I came up with excuses about why I could wait or told myself that I could take time off and start again later. I convinced myself that starting this time would be easier and I would be able to start right where I left off. I was wrong. My first run was horrible. I had gone from running five miles to nearly falling over after ten minutes. I was frustrated and wanted to quit, but I wasn't going to have it.

I found that no matter what it is, you have to put in the work. If you just do a little each day, it becomes easier to do more. But, if you take a day off, it becomes easier to take the next day off. Once you take off two in a row, it starts to become a habit to not do what you want to do. I know I can't run every day, but I can do squats every morning or chin ups at night or sit ups or push ups or anything else to get some exercise in. The key is to do something each day to help you towards your gaol (no matter what the goal is).

I use the same mindset for writing and reading and flossing and anything else I know I should do or want to do. Start doing things in small increments and then build them up over time-just make sure you do something every day. If you want to write, start by writing a sentence each day. If you want to read, read a paragraph each day. If you want to learn a foreign language, start with one word each day. It's never going to be easy to start, but it can be hard to keep going. Figure out what you want to do and get up off your ass and start. Then, do it again tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Get Good At Discomfort

As I was reading one of the blogs I follow, I came across this quote: "Get good at discomfort. Avoiding discomfort is very common, but a big mistake. Learning to be OK with some discomfort will change your life." The idea of learning to be okay with discomfort has stuck in my mind and I know we would all be better off if we followed this advice.

I look at my own life and think about the times I have kept going, despite discomfort. Hell, I can think about my morning run today and my mind screaming at me to stop, even though I was just a few minutes in. I was able to quiet it down and keep going, but the voice popped up again about 2 miles into the run. I have a love/hate relationship with running and feel the discomfort each and every time I hit the street. I don't let it stop me. I know I am going to feel it and keep on going.

Many times, we shirk away from things that make us uncomfortable or feel discomfort. We don't have the difficult conversations. We don't speak up for our ideas. We don't try new things. We don't set goals and stick to them. We don't exercise as much as we want or should. We don't go to new places. We don't strike up conversations with strangers. We don't ask for help. We don't push ourselves as hard as we could. We don't chase our dreams.

We don't do a lot of things because we might feel some distress or mild pain. We choose to stay where we are and avoid discomfort at all costs. Does this make any sense to you? Look at your life and any accomplishment of which you are proud. Did it come without discomfort? Were the great things in life the easy to accomplish?

Get good at discomfort. Hell, for the next couple of weeks, go out of your way to do things that bring discomfort. Feel some distress and mild pain and see how easy it is to keep going. Don't listen to the voice telling you to stop and keep on pushing. You are never going to know what you are capable of accomplishing until you push further than you thought possible.

Discomfort is good...when you feel it, you know you are trying. Stop avoiding it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stop Listening

Sometimes, you have to stop listening to what other people think. If you know what is right for you, then it really doesn't matter what they think anyway. They aren't you. Stop using them as an excuse. Stop allowing them to let fear in. Stop letting the doubt creep in because of them. Stop blaming them. Stop holding back.

Be confident in your choices and your abilities. Trust in yourself. Don't let anyone hold you back from doing anything you know you should do. Go after what you want and need, no matter how scary it seems. You deserve more (and better) than anyone else thinks. Take control of your life and get to work doing what you want to do.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Will Make This Week Better?

It's Monday morning and as you are getting ready for the week ahead, what are you going to do to make it better? What are you going to do to make this week different? What are you going to do to step out of your comfort zone? Here's a short list of ideas to get you going:
  • Do something that scares you
  • Go out of your way to make someone happy
  • Learn something new
  • Start a new project
  • Make time to read
  • Focus on smiling
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Make "to do" lists every morning
  • Volunteer
  • Buy a homeless person lunch
  • Start a conversation with a stranger
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy meal every day
  • Listen to people
In all honesty, it doesn't really matter what you do, just as long as you are doing something. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Stop wasting time and start doing what you need to do to live the life you want. Start today. What are you going to do?