“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” Aristotle

There are few things more important than understanding your own personal strategic recipes for enjoying a positive, fulfilling experience of your own life.  What is a Strategic Recipe.  Let’s start with what constitutes a “strategy”.

“A Strategy is a system of producing a consistent result”. Tony Robbins

This sentence is deep.

A Strategy:

  1. is a System – repeatable, objective process
  2. of Producing – there is no strategy without action, “producing” implies that something must be done
  3. A Consistent Result – time and time, over and over again you achieve a specific outcome.

I would class these systems as “Recipes”.  A Recipe is a specific process and clear starting state (quantities of ingredients, saucepans, oven temperature, time required) that consistently delivers an outcome (delicious, tasty meal that impresses the guests).

Let’s call these effective processes Strategic Recipes.

My Strategic Recipes

Running in Nature – In my case, going for a run is a Strategic Recipe. No matter how crap and aimless that I feel before I start running (and often for the first 15 minutes of the run), by the time I have run for 20 minutes, my mental chatter starts clearing out and I start to be present in the day, in my body.  I start to reconnect to what is important for me, to the people that I want to be with today. I have (what feel like at the time) good ideas and clarity on actions that are important for today.

The gym doesn’t work the same way for me… it has to be running outside… I don’t know why this is, but that doesn’t matter…  it only matters that I have a Strategic Recipe for turning unmotivated fuzz into disciplined productive action.

Brompton with Daughter – Taking my daughter (the 2 years old one) out on the infant seat on my brompton bicycle and cycling around Barcelona is another Strategic Recipe.  It feels like a meaningful activity – and I love the way she shouts “Wheee!” and “Faster Daddy!” as we cycle.  We don’t have any real destination, but might stop off at a playground or a Starbucks along the way.  It has to be the brompton bicycle… going for a walk to the park doesn’t give me anywhere near the same positive emotion as the brompton (my daughter is also necessary… heading out alone is just a lonely loser on a bike without a destination…)

Drinking Makers Mark bourbon whisky at night is another Strategic Recipe.  (I don’t like that it is… but as I reflect I have to accept that it is…). Watching TV without the whisky makes me feel ordinary and boring.  Throw in a neat whisky and I feel like some sort of awesome sofisticated TV watcher.  Nuts.  (I don’t do this every night…  we had some alcoholism in my family and I really watch out for any regular habitual daily drinking… and stop immediately if I notice it)

Curious this…  I am sat in a Sandwichez coffee shop near my house and trying to think of the Strategic Recipes that I have in my life to achieve a positive mental state as a result…  and the recipes that I find are random…

Some other Strategic Recipes that I have:
  • Write a blog post – like just now…  20 minutes of activity and I feel that I have accomplished something for the day. They often trigger interesting comments or email dialogues with interesting people.  This adds a bit of feeling connected and significant to my day.
  • Networking on LinkedIn – I have a whole bunch of searches set up (I use the paid Sales Navigator version of LinkedIn) and I can identify a number of inspiring people that I reach out to.  My business Vistage depends on building deep, trusted relationships with a wide range of high integrity spanish CEOs.  LinkedIn is a gold mine for this.  (probably because I spent 15 years blogging, 8 years making videos and generally have what is known as a “personal brand”)
  • Cooking a Meal – I love cooking.  Gives me a sense of accomplishment, creativing and completion.  I start with raw ingredients, end with a tasty meal… all in 20 to 60 minutes.  My current favourite recipes are Thai chicken curry (yellow, green or red), Mexican fajitas or Indian curry (korma or tikka masala).  I used to love BBQ, but have lived in places where you can’t BBQ for last 4 years…  I do miss that.
  • Playing Cards with my family – they are very smart and there can be no distraction when I play… or I will be destroyed.  Tough to deal with when you are dealing with a 14 year old and an 11 year old.  But I always feel connected and intensely present during the games.  We currently play Dou-Dhi-Zou, Georgian “Stupid”, Hearts and Gin Rummy.  What other good card games are there for 3 or 4 players?
  • Watching Big Bang Theory with my older Daughter – we are on season 6… got hundreds of episodes to go.  Love the inside jokes that she and I can make based on Sheldon and team’s on screen antics.

It would be good to have a set of Strategic Recipes in our armory that allow us to meet the 6 human needs:

  1. Safety (or Certainty)
  2. Risk (or Variety)
  3. Significance
  4. Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

What are your Strategic Recipes?

I’ve been going through a 2 month period of feeling unmotivated.  I had a very busy May, June, July and it put me off balance…  I am only now noticing that I am unmotivated and would like to get more clarity and fulfillment back into my days.  I’d love your help.  What works for you?

I’d love to hear from you.  What are your Strategic Recipes?  What set of steps systematically lead you to a consistent positive feeling (through meeting in some way some of the 6 human emotional needs)?

Comments below are excellent, but more than happy to hear from you via email.

 

“If someone followed your life and took 24 hours of film of everything you do for a day and they edited that into a one-hour documentary… the editor could decide to make you look like the worst villain ever or the greatest hero ever… it depends on which parts of your day he puts into the documentary” my friend Raul Aguirre over dinner in Buenos Aires

This video is about a Paradox that we must come to terms with in order to live a full human life. I’ve made it in Montevideo, Uruguay on a trip here to teach Leadership Communications at the IEEM Business School (part of the University of Montevideo).

We need to find a balance in our lives between the forces of external and internal success, between intentional, goal-directed living and a sense of peace within. The paradox – is that these are two forces that clash. How do you find the right balance?

I’d welcome your help on Balance between Ambition and Peace

I need your help- how do you find this balance? Do you have this balance? Do you ever lose control to one side or the other… and how do you recognise this and regain the balance in your life? Thanks… trying to regain this balance in my own life…

If you liked this, you might also like to see my recent video on Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life (an Exercise).

I have worried for too much of my life about whether I am a success or not.

This video shares the simplest and most empowering definition of success that I have found.  It comes from Pema Chodron.  It is a wonderful reflection for me about how I am living my life.

Am I learning to forgive myself and to be a positive addition when I am with other people?

Thank you for your comments, reflections, shares and likes!

This week’s video is about Steven Covey’s 7th Habit of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Burning yourself out is no service to anyone.  Running your car without changing the oil will destroy the engine.  Running at 100% all day and all night will destroy your own personal engine.

Feeling good doesn’t just happen.

Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself.  You know what to do, but do you make the time for renewal?

Sharpen the Saw means taking care of the greatest asset you have: you.  Here are some examples of activities:

  • Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
  • Social: Making social and meaningful connections with others
  • Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
  • Spiritual: Spending time in nature, meditation, music, art

As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish.  Not a good life.

I ran out of battery on my iphone this afternoon while sitting in starbucks.  I was waiting for 2 people.  I had to stay.  It was good that I ran out of battery, because I ended up looking at Tibidabo mountain for 30 minutes and thinking about life.

I was thinking about my post on Fear of an Ordinary Life from yesterday and the responses that it generated.

The Origin of a Fear of Ordinary

Where did this fear of living an ordinary life come from?

I read intensely as a child.  I would read anything, but by far my favourite type of novel were the fantasy or science fiction novels where a young unknown hero saves the universe.

From age 7, I watched Star Wars repeatedly.  I would watch 10 to 15 minutes each morning during breakfast before going to school.  The books are terrible, this was a movie world not a book world.

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The final Dune book, in my hands today

Starting from age 11, I read fantasy books.  My favourite fantasy world of all was Dune.  I found Dune aged 12.  There are 8 books (I still have them here on my bookshelf) in the series.  We follow the life of Paul Muad’ib from his life as an unknown son of a small time aristocrat to his becoming the Divine Emperor of the entire known galaxy, including mystical powers of telling the future and reading other people’s minds.  I fancied myself as a version of Paul.  I tried the mental skills that he was taught in the book.  Never did work.

Didn’t stop me imagining. As a teenager, I read the Dune books twice; from start to finish.  Each time, it was a 6 month journey.  (I have only ever read 3 books twice:  Dune, Lord of the Rings and Steinbeck’s East of Eden.)

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The bottom of my bookshelf

I remember the first time I finished the Dune books, I searched everywhere to see if there might be a ninth book.  There was no google, no amazon – only my local library and local bookshops.  When I realised that it was over, that there was no more adventure to be had in the fantasy world of Dune (and that Frank Herbert had passed away…  the final book was finished by someone else) I was devastated.

Real life never felt as intense or as alive as the experiences that I was living in these book-based worlds of fantasy.

In the real world, I went to school (boring), did my homework (boring), climbed trees (fun), ate breakfast, lunch and dinner (alway enough and healthy).

I think it is this immersion in these fantasy worlds for much of my childhood that shaped my fear of living a life that is ordinary.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

The Fantasy Worlds I Lived In

The Author’s & series that I loved during the ages of 10-15 (in order of preference):

  1. Frank Herbert – Dune Series
  2. Isaac Asimov – The Foundation Series
  3. Terry Brooks – Sword of Shannara
  4. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
  5. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings
  6. Stephen Donaldson – Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
  7. Arthur C Clarke – 2001 Space Odyssey

My anxiety: It’s not FOMO but FOOL

Last week, I was given the thoughtful gift of a book “How to be Bored“.

It describes the anxiety arising from the Fear Of Missing Out, made famous as FOMO. I have a hard time sitting at home doing nothing productive. I have a sense that I am wasting my time.  Classic FOMO.  (I won’t mention the clues of social media addictions…  I had to delete facebook from my iphone…  it was becoming too consuming).

Summer amplifies this anxiety as I have too much time to think.  I don’t teach too many classes and spend a lot of time reading, reflecting and thinking.

As I reflect, I think my fear is less FOMO – fear of missing out, and more FOOL – Fear of an Ordinary Life.

I am a F.O.O.L.

…it does cause anxiety late at night, through the morning, before lunch, after lunch…  etc.

Fear of an Ordinary Life

It strikes me as supremely arrogant to believe that I deserve a greater than “ordinary life”, but there is definitely a striving inside myself pushing me to live a meaningful life. I have the feeling that I was given great gifts in this life: where I was born, when I was born, the brain I had, the health I had, the options that a good education has opened for me.

As a meditative exercise I sometimes reflect upon how tiny I am in this universe. It is 11 billion years old, and more enormous than I can imagine. I am miniscule. In 100 years I will be forgotten. In 1 million years… why does any achievement or lack of achievement matter?

This meditation takes away the rational questioning about whether I should care about doing meaningful things or not, but it doesn’t take away the underlying unease with myself.

The Buddhists say that this is an itch I should not try to scratch. I should learn to observe the itch without being driven, moved, affected by it.

I am a poor observer of the itch. FOOL is running like a clogged back-end server process on my brain’s CPU.

Where’s Ctrl-Alt-Delete?

I was in London the last 2 days.  It struck me how many large office buildings are under construction.  There were also many large residential complexes going up.  It is a marked contrast to Barcelona to see so much construction activity.  I don’t know what it says about economies, but on the surface it looks like London is really booming.

Here’s me in front of that famous buildboard display in Piccadilly Circus.  My brother’s business (Bitposter) manages outdoor display advertising spaces… hope they get these big displays onto their system soon (if they are not there already…)!

If you find your job is boring and lacks excitement, and you don’t have a good view from your office…  I have a suggestion:  You could work with these guys…

This year Shakespeare is celebrating 400 years since something… I can’t remember if birth, death or first theatre performance.  Here’s me taking a #selfie in front of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

And here’s the boat that kept Sir Francis Drake attacking the spanish merchant fleet and stealing all their new world gold.  I guess the spanish had stolen it from the Incas, so Sir France Drake was stealing pre-stolen gold…

 

I was skiing with Florian, Rose and Alvaro yesterday in the Andorran resort of Pas de la Casa.  There was not much real snow, but the Grandvalira resort have worked magic with the artificial snow production machines… and so we were able to ski most of the pistes.

Over lunch, Rose sat in the bad seat.

The table behind kept knocking into her with their ski jackets and ski helmets and ski whatevers.  They kept doing it, and there was no sorry, no acknowledgement whatsoever.

I told them of my first 3 weeks at university.

Nobody messed with me.

I made a fine first impression.

I arrived at Nottingham University aged 18 years old in September 1991.  My mum dropped me and my 2 bags of belongings off to my rooms in Cripps Hall (an All-Men hall…  not my first choice).

In the first week, two things happened that would affect how I would make my first impression on fellow students:

First, a local barber was offering free haircuts (marketing plan?).  A friend suggested that if we shaved off all of our hair, we would save money on haircuts for quite a while.  The barber, for this free haircut, shaved off my hair.

Second, I went to try out for the university football team.  I was doing quite well, until mid-way through the first half I went to head the ball… and the defender went in to head the ball…  I got the ball, he got just above my right eye.

I was taken off to the hospital bleeding profusely.

After a 6 hour wait in the public hospital, I had 6 stitches put in just below my right eyebrow.  I was told not to drink alcohol for at least 10 days.

At this particular crucial life moment, I was wearing black t-shirts with heavy metal angst bands (I can’t remember which bands first week…  A little later in the year it was Ministry).

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Trainspotting

I spent the first 3 weeks of university with a shaved head, a nasty black eye and an angry black t-shirt.  I looked like an extra from Trainspotting.

Nobody messed with me.

First impressions make a big impact.

Even if it is not the impression I’d have liked to have left.

Inspiration

PS. I was inspired to write this by Florian who responded to my story with “That is an awesome blog post…  If you don’t write it, I will!”.  You should read his blog over at http://florianmueck.com 😉

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Release

In excitement and childhood joy at reliving my youth, here is a few videos from the Star Wars Franchise.  Are you going to see The Force Awakens?  Have you seen it?  What did you think?

Official Trailer

The Official Teaser

Jimmy Fallon and crew making fun of the Star Wars Anthem

Have a great Friday and I hope to hear your thoughts on the movie.  I watched the original Star Wars over and over on my parents’ betamax video player.  I used to watch 10-15 minutes each morning before heading to school.

Don’t forget my old set of posts on Jedi Productivity:

Do you know what is the worst question that you can ask yourself?

It is a powerful question If you intend to avoid living a life that is fulfilling at all the levels: safety, risk, connection, significance, growth and contribution.

What big goals do you have for yourself?  (You do have them, whether you have taken the time to write them out or not.) What is the next step?  The step that takes you from where you are today towards where you need to be for your goal to become realised.

Now, when you look at that step, there is a question that is guaranteed to kill the chance of you achieving the goal.

It is guaranteed to stop you taking action.

It might be fitness action, it might be relationships action, it might be learning reaction, it might be better eating action… but this question is guaranteed to stop you.

The Kill-Joy Question

It is a simple question, it seems a reasonable question to ask oneself.

I hear it all the time.

It gets into every nook and cranny of our lives, it seeps in to every effort.

I use it too often myself.

The Small Life Question

What is the question?

“Do I feel like doing this?”

Each day is an opportunity to make an incremental difference in how your journey in life pans out in the long-term.

Every day that you do “what you feel like doing” is a day that doesn’t build you a better platform for tomorrow, nor does it give a sense of a day used for fulfilment today.

Do I feel like writing now?  No.

Do I feel like going for a run before lunch?  No.

Do I feel like calling my accountant and getting our accounts closed before year end?  No.  (Definitely no).

Do I feel like making a detailed plan for 2015?  No.

Even the things that make me happy, are things that I don’t feel like doing just before I start.

PS You probably already know this, but this is an important reminder to myself this morning…