I say it over and over again. I repeat myself. My blog is an extension of my habit of writing down ideas.
A short pencil is longer than the longest memory.
“Writing is among the greatest inventions in human history, perhaps the greatest invention, since it made history possible. Yet it is a skill most of us take for granted.” Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing.
The book begins with the statement “Life is difficult”. It is my failure to understand this, believing that my life should be easy and problem-free that is the root of suffering.
Life is not meant to be easy, and is a series of problems which can either be handled or ignored.
Discipline is required to solve life’s problems rather than ignore them. Discipline is made up of 4 aspects of how we chose to live our lives.
The 4 Aspects of Discipline:
Delaying gratification: Sacrificing present comfort for future gains.
Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for one’s own decisions.
Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.
Balancing: Handling conflicting requirements. Scott Peck writes of an important skill to prioritize between different requirements – bracketing.
Carl Jung, said “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Neurotics make themselves miserable; those with character disorders make everyone else miserable. Everyone is neurotic or character-disordered at some time in their life, and the balance is to have a structure and relationships in your life than can help you see your lack of balance before you hurt yourself (or others).
Dedication to the truth represents the capacity of an individual to modify and update their worldview when exposed to new information discordant with the old view. Dedication to truth implies a life of genuine self-examination, a willingness to be personally challenged by others, and honesty to oneself and others.
Really coming to terms with oneself is very hard and painful work. Most people prefer to complain about their pain and continue their self-destructive patterns than to take up the challenging task of constructing a self and a life they could really live with.
This video is about Building Trust – and how building Trust will Improve Relationships and the Enhance the Quality of our Lives. After you have food and shelter, it is the quality of the relationships that really make your life. Relationships are about trust. Where there is no trust, there is no relationship.
Jack Daly says “you are either practicing in private, or you are practicing in public”.
This video is about Excellence. What is the path to Mastery? What do successful people do differently?
Success is the choice to practice in private. in this video, I also celebrate this week’s milestone: 50,000 subscribers! Thank you to all who subscribe, comment, share and contribute to the community that helps support me as I develop these ideas.
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.
First understand the do-or-die importance of focus.
“If you don’t learn to focus, you will have a shallow and unrewarding life without any meaningful achievements.” Derek Sivers
That is worth repeating.
“A shallow and unrewarding life.”
You Need to Learn to Focus
So make it a priority.
Yes it’s hard. The world is designed to distract you. Facebook is a research laboratory focussed on human distraction. They invest billions and are excellent at their work. When facebook slip up, hard on their tails come Apple, apps, youtube, caffeine, bored friends, problematic neighbours and general office bullshit.
Apps are designed to be as addictive as possible.
Assume you are dealing with crack cocaine. If you can see it, you will use it. If you can hear it, you will use it. Willpower is not going to get you through this.
There are many reasons why we delay work. I think the most insidious is that I have a belief that the person I will be in future will be better than the person who I am today. I have a consistent inner belief that I will be smarter, better, faster in the future. The work that is hard today will somehow become easier for the better future me. But, what if’s not? I will only be better in future if I do the hard work of pushing through distractions today.
Who is Good at Focus?
I have spent a lot of time interviewing high performance athletes. My goal was to understand their motivations, how they train, how they prepare mentally, and how they face anxiety. These successful athletes have an ability to focus on the one next step and, in the words of Nike, Just do it!
Josef Ajram, one of Spain’s top endurance athletes, tells himself “I will run another 15 minutes. Come on. Anyone can run another 15 minutes.” In Josef Ajram’s words, he has completed the Marathon de Sables – 243km across the Sahara desert in 6 days – by only ever allowing himself to think about the next 15 minutes.
How to Learn Focus?
Use The Pomodoro* Method.
Here are my simplified instructions for following the Pomodoro method.
Pick a specific project you would like to work on. For example “Write a blog post on focus”.
Set a timer for 20 minutes
Work only on this project until the timer stops. Stop completely no matter where you are when you hear the timer. Mid sentence is excellent (it makes it easier to re-start this work later).
Count how many timers you can complete in a day. I bet you will not complete one single complete timer the first day you begin this habit. I didn’t.
*Any interruption*, you must reset the timer to 20 minutes.
If you need a drink of water, go get the water, then reset the timer.
If you need the bathroom, go, then reset the timer.
If you must check wikipedia to find out a fact, check wikipedia, then reset the timer. (better… resist the need to check facts now, and use a future timer to work on the project “research focus and collect sources”)
If you must respond to a phone alert, respond, reset the timer.
I think you get the idea. Only by working on 1, and only 1 project for the full 20 minutes = you get to count it as 1 timer.
* You can find the original Pomodoro Method described here: Pomodoro Method.
Do you plan your days, or do your days run as a reaction to what pops up? In Washington DC, one of our EO leaders at the EO Leadership Academy was Christoph Magnussen – here in this he shares a tip we learnt about how to take control of your day.
This is a lesson that was shared with the group by Warren Rustand. Warren Rustand was a White House scholar back in the 1970s and spent 4 years as the appointments secretary to President Gerald Ford. This meant that for 4 years, he controlled how President Ford spent his time.
In a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, former U.S. President Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
The image to the right shows a 2×2 matrix using the two axis of Important and Urgent. This gives us 4 types of task:
Urgent & Important
Urgent & Not Important
Important & Not Urgent
Not Urgent & Not Important
In an un-disciplined person, category 2 tends to be completed before category 3. In a disciplined person, category 3 is completed before touching category 2.
Success is rarely Urgent
Jim Rohn gives one of the most powerful definitions of success:
“Failure is a few bad decisions repeated every day. Success is a few simple good habits practiced every day” Jim Rohn
There is a saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Health success is an apple a day. Failure is a donut instead of an apple each day. You can say “what difference does 1 donut make?” You won’t notice the damage today, you won’t notice tomorrow… but over a year: a donut a day starts to extract a price.
The urgent is often the result of avoiding the important.
By the time the painkillers are needed, it is too late for the vitamins.
Vitamins are important.
Practice Saying “No”
If you wish to spend more of your life on the important things, and less on the urgent things, there is a tool…
Warren Buffett’s definition of integrity: “you say No to most things”. If you are not saying No to most things, you are dividing your life up into millions of little pieces that are being given to other people’s priorities.
Learn to say “No”…
…without the word “no”.
The most powerful ways to say “no” do not involve the actual word “no”.
Another is to raise the cost of your “Yes”: If someone wants to meet for coffee, I say “yeah sure, I am free on Friday at 7am at my office in Sabadell [25 mlles away]”. If the person still wants to meet then it must be important. 90% end up not following up. The few that do, will come prepared and have done their research. They know what they want from me. They know whether it is worth their time.
Celebrities and Politicians have entire staffs dedicated to restricting access. Bono, the singer of U2, has 25 people who review requests for his time, his money, his attention in order to allow only the important requests to reach Bono himself. Barrack Obama has a whole White House staff whose mission is to ensure that he only spends time and energy on important things, that only he can deal with.
If you don’t start developing methods of saying “no” now, it will only get harder as you become wealthier, wiser, more famous, more experienced and more resourceful.
What urgent task will you say “No” to today?
Some other great posts on Robert Glazer’s blog Friday Forward: