Reflection and Quotes on MLK Day

There are so many different quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I could highlight. I choose these five favorites, well at least favorites right now. Over the years, there have been so many that I’ve really connected with and my top quotes are constantly evolving.

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. “

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”


There are times, especially over the last four years, that I’ve thought about how badly we need a person like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. again in our world. Nearly 60 years after he gave his I Have A Dream speech, it feels I don’t know what the words are, but that we have lost the momentum of the change that came through the civil rights movement.

There is massive work which is still undone.

As a white man, there is no more privileged position one can be in – in this country – from a gender and race standpoint.

My Jewish heritage is hidden behind my fathers last name. Driving down the street I won’t be pulled over unless I really try to get noticed by the police by driving excessively fast. At first glance, no one knows that I’m not a college graduate. Or that I’m the son of a carnival owner where we lived in a travel trailer until I was 7 years old. The only thing we couldn’t cover up was how poor we were. It was the kind of poor that you only had to see us driving down the street or come over to our 600 sq ft. house that had been built with remaindered wood and sitting on cinder blocks.

It wasn’t an easy life. And while I can be proud of how far each of us from our family have come, I know we did have it easier than if we had been black, or any other race but white. We could hide. My parents told us to hide. Never tell anyone our story. Don’t tell them about being Jewish, don’t tell them about where your family comes from, or what they do for a living. Never ever tell them you are a carney. Hide. And we could. Because of the color of our skin we could hide.

So long as white America denies that there is different America’s for different people, it is extremely difficult to make progress. Until we recognize the damage that has been done by those who even, to this day, continue to believe in a better America for some people than others. That rights are not for everyone.

My ancestors were killed, enslaved for millennia, persecuted and to this day despised by many because of their race and the religion they practiced. When I tell someone that I’m Jewish, I get – “oh, that makes sense”, but they can never explain what that means and why it finally all makes sense.

And still, as a privileged white middle aged man, I view every day as another chance to become not only better educated, but wiser. It is wisdom to realize that your experience is not everyone else’s experience. And because someone else is different from you, that does not make them your enemy.

There will never be a level playing field.  There will always be the haves and the have nots. And yet, it is important though that we live up to the promise we make that the level of the field will not be based on gender and race, sexuality or disability. Everyone is invited. This is the great fight that we are all engaged in, whether we realize it or not. To live up to the promise of equality.

I certainly don’t have the answers. And I know, that by even speaking my truth, I’m opening myself up to attack. The time for being quiet because you could make a mistake or be taken wrong needs to be over. We need to bring back civil discourse. Discussion. Sharing. And yes, I’ll say something wrong from time to time.

But I’m open to learning and trying. We have to do this if we want to make things better. Not better in a hundred years, but better today. We can peacefully fight oppression. It isn’t a matter of race, it is the duty of all to fight oppression.

As you read this, if you’ve made it this far, know that I’ve decided to still publish this even knowing it feels kind of incomplete. It isn’t a fully realized idea. And still, I think it important to share. To share on this day of service, this day of remembrance, and this day where learning to come together and share ideas is more important than getting it exactly right.

3 Ways To Stop Screwing Your Self Improvement

Get Out Of Bed

Self improvement books should be no more than 15% of your total reading.

There you go right to the point, no beating around the bush. No fancy lead in.

Quit reading so many self improvement books.

Unless you’re a self help book critic or teaching courses on the subject, there is no reason to read them all. There are a vast world of books to read and you will find help in your personal improvement from a variety of sources. Those other books will help you in your journey more than reading nothing but self help material.

Learning about self development and understanding the core principles makes for a strong foundation – that doesn’t mean reading every book on the market. There is typically one prominent book each year that brings something truly new to the table. If you haven’t found your one magic book that speaks to you, keep reading and you’ll find that one.

Outside of that, stop reading about improvement and improve.

Read about other things, other skills that you need. The whole purpose of self development is that it leads to improving yourself in a tangible way that you see better results and outcomes in your life, and you feel good about your improvement and your added successes.

The problem is that for some it is akin to reading about fitness and never getting out of bed.

Get to the root of your issues.

Dig deep and do the hard work. Work through what you are trying to solve for. What are your goals? Then break it down into manageable steps that you can start taking action immediately and consistently.

If you cut into a beautiful cake and the center is uncooked or super dry, it doesn’t matter how amazingly the cake was decorated. Getting good at making beautiful fondant is a great skill for a cake artist and baker. Doesn’t matter much if you can’t bake the actual cake. 

Many times when I’m helping someone with their development and as I’m asking questions to help challenge their thought process, we typically make a breakthrough as we get closer to the root of the problem. You see, we all like to stay away from pain. Our internal systems are designed around the pain/pleasure response.

The best breakthroughs come when we are willing to dig past the surface layer and begin to look directly at our issues. If you spend time making goals, and working on improving skills, and you don’t get to the root of the issue – you’ll still make progress.

Speaking of getting to the root cause, many, many times we miss the most basic parts necessary in making meaningful change in our lives. Start with the basics first.

Big Basic Four -Daily Energy Fundamentals

At this time of year it is very common to make commitments around fitness, our activity levels and our eating. This is a good start. Yet, we tend to not see these commitments through because we are focusing on the wrong thing, losing weight and being in better “shape”.

I’m on a personal kick to improve my energy levels. I find that I don’t have the energy always to keep up with what I want to achieve each day. My mental energy is lagging because of my physical condition.

Instead of making a huge push in one area of my life like getting on the treadmill every day for 3 hours. Which works in the short run but not effective in the long run as I’ll end up burning out, getting bored, or injuring myself.


What I’m doing right now is working on the Big Basic Four.

  • Sleep
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Activity

Each of these are interconnected in important and interesting ways.

What I eat before bed, how well hydrated I am, and if I’ve pushed my body with energy enhancing activity all contribute to how well I sleep.

How well I stay focused on eating more nutritious and energy enhancing foods, depends on how much energy I have to push off temptation. This is one of the ways that not having enough sleep can really impact my other Big Basic Four.

The moral of the story

Knowledge is good. Don’t let it become an addiction and substitute for getting off your ass and making it happen.

Dig past the surface layer and go after the real issue – you’ll multiply the results of your efforts.

The big stuff isn’t always the issue. Keep those basic and daily energy fundamentals in mind. Get good sleep, drink lots of water, put good nutritious things in your body, and do fun activities that keep you moving.

It may seem silly that we have to be reminded of such things, but it is the simple things that are at times the toughest to remember. We take for granted the simple and basic stuff.

Quick read on self management

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/jamesmarcusross_improving-the-quality-of-work-we-produce-activity-6680922554695323649-25Qi

Science on the mysteries of sleep

https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/the-mysteries-of-sleep-everything-we-dont-know-about-why-we-snooze/#:~:text=Decades%20of%20research%20have%20linked,doing%20them%20during%20the%20day.

Dark Side of Self Improvement

When we secretly believe there is something wrong with us.

We are not broken. We are just at a different stage of our development. Don’t fall to the Dark Side and follow someone else’s path.

The Dark Side of Self Improvement | Suzanne Eder | TEDxWilmington

Warning : You’re Doing The Two Minute Rule All Wrong!

If you are addicted to task lists you must institute this rule immediately.

You are wasting valuable time each day and may even fuel your procrastination habit if you are making lists without this rule.

The Two Minute Rule

If Task < Effort to Remember + Record + Categorize  + Prioritize +Time to Complete = Then Do It Now.

It is an absolute waste of time to write down, categorize and come back to an even longer list of activities you need to complete when it is something you could have knocked out in two minutes or less.

Except—-

There are also important rules for this rule.

Often, the two minute rule is misapplied to mean that this is effective at all times. Not at all. Only apply this rule when you are not in working or project mode. Otherwise, you are hijacking your productivity and attention.

The two minute rule is most effective when you are doing processing work, anything that is sifting and sorting. Or in those in-between moments in your schedule or between tasks.

We must reduce distractions and anything that can take us off task when we have scheduled something or working on something  that is a critical and important use of our time.

If you have devoted a specific time to a task – and think of something that needs to get done that is less than two minutes, then by all means write it down – and then if possible get to when you complete your scheduled work.

It’s about balancing the need for getting those tasks out of your brain and onto your list, prioritizing those items, and then placing them in your schedule based on their importance and the time you have.

This has to be done without creating longer and longer lists that grow faster than your ability to get to them, or as a mechanism for keeping that procrastination habit fed.

A Word (or 190) of warning about The Two Minute Rule.

This is also only useful in the standard and basic task based, list based, time management method and if you are not using a workflow management system.

 In our modern and sophisticated world, a lot skill and near mastery has been placed into nearly aspect of our lives with the intention to grab our attention. This attention grab is distracting us in novel and unprecedented ways.

For many of us, our brains are already wired for distraction and then you add in these designed to distract additions to our lives that we invite in through our computers, tablets, smart phones, televisions, voice enabled devices and speakers, and even refrigerators.

Each application and online service is screaming for attention brutally, incessantly, and subversively.

Everything is about attention.

Everyone is vying for your attention. And every bit of attention where you are not giving it as a conscious choice of your own, is a distraction.

This is where we must do more than only apply The Two Minute Rule. We must become more sophisticated in the use of our workflow systems and our own personal methods for being intentional with our time.

What methods are you using to not only be more productive but to take back control of your day and attention? Love to hear from others what they are doing. Share and learn from each other, every day.

  • For more on time management and productivity here is an in-depth dive into how to be productive and never busy.

Above all keep it simple. Say no to anything that doesn’t fit your priorities and values. And keep hacking away. Time is relentless and so you must be with your management of your time.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-productive-never-busy-james-ross/

Get more focused, think on your feet.

I’m really interested in the tension between overscheduled and unscheduled. As a creative person I need my time to do nothing and allow my nothing to produce. Yet, I’m also one that fills up my calendar. This is an interesting talk around leveling up our creativity through boredom.

Kyle T. Webster: Make Time for Boredom

Learning New Skills In Startup Land – My Journey

Working with three startup companies has been a new experience for me. It’s been a lot of work, stress, and fun – and we are only just getting started.

Commonly, startup businesses face a number of challenges.

Hiring Qualified Candidates, HR & Payroll, Competition, Lack of Clear Marketing Strategy, Capital and Minimal Budget, Lack of Structure, Poor Management, Communication, Time Management, Delegating Tasks, Focus –  Choosing What Not To Do, Self Doubt, Business Growth, Choosing Pricing, Products, Services – and Thriving on Limited Resources

Whether it be my own little coaching company I started a year ago, the startup job matchmaking marketplace technology company, or the accessible wellness and telemedicine veterinary healthcare company – each of these challenges come up and rear their heads in different ways. Some more ferociously than others, and some are lurking out in the mists waiting to take a swipe at us.

Those entrepreneurs and startup leaders that I coach and those in my network speak of these issues often. It isn’t glamorous but it is the reality of moving from a vision to building or running the thing. Passion is not enough. Neither is knowledge or skillset. While these are very helpful – they do not usually equal success.

You have to make more good choices than bad with the resources you have. Mistakes will be made and that is fine, learn from it and move on. However, you have to build momentum and properly make use of the resources you have. This means having a realistic strategy in place that takes into account the resources you have at your disposal.

Time is compressed in startup land. Everything moves at lightening speed. You move and pivot, adjust and learn on an hour to hour, day to day basis. It is learning on steroids. And it is an incredible amount of fun.

For myself personally, this has been a great challenge. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone in a number of ways and challenged some assumptions about how I show up. The most important thing is that I work with some amazing people. They are passionate. Each of them are leaders in their own right. Visionaries. They each have a huge contribution to make. I see them growing each day and as a amazing  that is one of my favorite things to see. 

Right now, the biggest thing I’m concentrating on is adjusting for the avalanche of things that need to be done – and ensuring that I give myself the space to do the important work that needs to be done. Sounds simple.

I have this internal rub that are at constant war with one another. I want to get the most out of every minute, every hour of the day, and I start to fill up my calendar with urgent and important things. Then I start to not have the time to get to some important items. I over commit because I start to think ‘work harder’, you can get it all done.

And this is all in direct competition with the fact that I get more work done when I’m playing, when I have a more open schedule – I’m able to actually do a lot more.

As I write this it sounds ridiculous, yet I think it is important to be vulnerable and share this personal reality because I know I’m not alone. I have some mechanisms in place to help reduce this scenario from coming to full tilt. – Still, there is always this tension in my scheduling and my work.

I will continue to share my journey and I’d love to hear more from others which of these areas have reared their head in your world, and how you work to overcome them.

Let’s keep daring to fail and sharing what we learn.

It’s Your Story – Two Steps To Edit Your Behaviors

Start writing a new story. It’s yours, edits as you see fit.

We all behave within the confines of how we define ourselves. We do this in all kinds of ways. Our tape is on continual replay.

What do you say to yourself?

Do you say you are no good at math?

Are you calling yourself shy?

Or no good at cooking?

Or unmotivated?

Or stupid?

The list goes on and on. We each have some sort of story that we tell internally and of course it leaks out externally as well.

What we say becomes a loop, over and over again.

Mental Programming

Whether we recognize it fully or not, our brains work in many ways similar to a computer. We have all sorts of programs running. Many running in the background and even more working without us even realizing it.

And while our minds are undoubtedly messier than a computer, with all sorts of things colliding into one another and not running in the same exact logic gate manner that we understand with computer – there are similarities that we can use to better understand how we can make adjustments in our lives.

One of the reasons that many people find it difficult to make significant change in their own behavior is because of the power of this ever present program that we have on a loop. It is constant and pervasive. And if you don’t take control over the language you speak about yourself – it is very difficult to make any lasting change.

Our Language Becomes Our Reality

The language we use to describe ourselves has a lasting impact. Because not only does it sit inside ourselves; in our self conscious and our subconscious, we use it over and over again. We repeat it over and over again, each time giving it more reinforcement.

Then our actions follow suit with the words we use. We are bad at something, so we don’t do well with the thing, and that reinforces our belief system, proving we are right. The thing we don’t think we are good at, becomes the thing we don’t like to do. It’s uncomfortable which is close enough to pain to trigger our pain/pleasure response. That in turn reinforces our body and minds desire to protect itself from pain and to only do the pleasurable things.

See I told you this is a waste of time. I knew that would never work.

Knowing this, it becomes apparent, one major way to hack your behaviors is to hack your thinking.

So easy, right.

Absolutely not.

Simple not easy

It may be simple to understand. It may be clear. But it isn’t easy. If it were then everyone would be doing it.

The problem is that we’ve had a lot of time to be set in our ways, we’ve played this episode over and over again in our head – and so it is very challenging to break away and unchain ourselves from our old ways of thinking. It’s who I am. And if that is what you believe than that is unlikely to change without a major event shaking your thinking and belief system.

While it isn’t easy – there are ways to start priming your brain and adjusting your habits.

Always Start With Gratitude

The first is to start every day with gratitude. While it may seem that we are suddenly introducing gratitude into the conversation and it may not seem to track. But gratitude is the antidote to many things.

Starting each day with gratitude adjusts our thinking. It requires us to think about the positive. To be grateful for what we have. This is the antithesis of anger and fear, concern for the future. All of the things that we can start our day with and becomes a slippery slope. You’ve come a long way, be grateful for what you have, be grateful most for the people you have in your life.

This is a great exercise and practice to get used to the first thing in the morning when you wakeup. Not, oh, I’m so tired and I’ve got so much to do today, and where is my coffee because I need a jolt to even think about starting my day. Gratitude is a great entry point to priming your brain for positivity.

STOP

The next thing is to stop it, every time you hear yourself telling a story about who you are that is inconsistent with what you want to be.

Find a word, like Stop, that you can tell yourself. It isn’t enough to stop yourself midstream and move on, the thoughts have already been formed, so you have to connect it to something that is a mental reminder that it isn’t true. Stop, that is a story and the wrong one, it doesn’t have to be true. That is what I’m telling myself when I say stop.

Build this habit. It will take a while but that is okay. What you will notice at first is how often you need to do this. Until you spark your awareness and are looking for these stories, you won’t realize how pervasive they are in your mental dialogue.

Edit

There are other steps to take to adjust your story and then move into hacking those habits. For now, just do these two things, and do them well. It isn’t good to try and take on too many steps at one time.

Write a better story for yourself. First by expressing gratitude and then by stopping the stories that don’t lead to the behaviors and outcomes that you are looking for.

You can do it. You deserve it. And you can change.

After all, you wrote the story to begin with. It’s yours. It’s time you own it and edit as you see fit.

  • Here are my top 3 practical ways to give thanks and build your gratitude muscle.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/we-together-3-practical-ways-give-thanks-today-begin-ross/

  • Mary Morrissey shares 3 priming examples to help you move toward your goals and dreams with greater ease and speed.

Priming Examples That Influence Behavior | Mary Morrissey

  • Four minutes with Jim Kwik on negative self talk

Jim Kwik: How to End Negative Self-Talk

Start The Day With A Cup Of Earl Grey : Magic Morning Moments

Start the day with a cup of Earl Grey.

There is nothing like starting the day with a scalding hot cup of tea. The warmth as I cup the mug. The steam wafting upwards. Looking into the water watching the tea darkening the water and infusing it with it’s deep and strong black tea flavor. Putting it down on the table next to me as I write and waiting for it to drop below lip scalding tolerances. This routine sets the morning into motion.

Popping on my headphones I pick my first track of the day and set to writing.

The first thing I always do is write in my personal journal. Here is where I get to freeform and write whatever I feel like. Not worrying if it is good writing, or if anyone will ever read it. Writing to get what is first on my mind out and on the page. For me, it also really helps to organize my thoughts from what can sometimes be a messy and unkempt room.

Then I move onto this blog. Some times what I’ve jumped into for the day in my journal becomes the basis for the blog. Otherwise, I pull out my list of topics and things that have been of interest to me lately.

I also really love researching things and following my train of thought into the online verse and seeing where that research takes me. Following one search after another. Along one word or phrase to grab my attention and become the focus of my next search.

The morning allows me the time to do this more readily. Once the day gets going any research or learning is very specific to the task at hand. This is my time to learn. And these connections are invaluable.

 I’m a curator of information and connections. There is a great rhythm and movement to the world. A connection between our experiences. A truth that begins to become apparent the more we learn.

I’ve gotten made fun of a lot in life for knowing or being interested in learning about things that I will never use. Useless information.

And while, surely with the amount of data the world is generating every minute, there are things of little to no value, I’ve been fortunate to be able to put to use most things that I’ve learned. I may not always know when it will be of value. And some of it is just plain fun and in the moment I have no idea how it will connect back to anything. And still, I routinely find circumstances to put even the most esoteric of threads of knowledge to use.

This could be the contributing factor in my being made fun of for collecting such information since I don’t mind sharing it with others when the time seems right.

Sorry, not sorry. It is who I am.

The joys of life are found in the moments. Check out this oldy but goody that I wrote a couple of years ago as a way to get your day going.

https://jamesmarcusross.com/2019/11/13/wednesday-motivation-november-13-2019/

  • Following the lead of my favorite starship captain, my go to tea is Earl Grey.

https://www.chateaurouge.uk/blogs/gourmet-discoveries/what-every-tea-drinker-should-know-about-earl-grey

  • Here are some fun useless facts to put to use. Everyone deserves to have purpose.
  • First track of the day : Higher Love – Kygo and Whitney

Kygo, Whitney Houston – Higher Love (Official Audio)

One Way To Start Your Day Right

Working Your Day or Your Day Working You?

There will always be those occasional days where everything gets away from you. Crazy days where everyone needs something from you, you are adding more to your list then you are actually getting done, and everything becomes a priority. If those days happen more than occasionally then your days are probably owning you. Which means you’ve probably surviving in firefighter mode.

With so many working from home, I’ve been speaking with more and more professionals who are struggling with balancing it all. One day is blending into the next, one week into the next, and while they are working hard – they are not at their best and not feeling like they are making much progress.

If this feels like you at all, it’s time to grab ahold of the reigns and take control of your day. It may not be complete control and things will still get in the way. But the first step is to start the day in a way that sets you up better for success.

Start today off right

The topic of prioritization is a big one. There are plenty of different methods to setting priorities both in your overall life and your daily work. Some are very effective and many depend on your particular preference of what speaks to you.

To make all of that prioritization work more effective it is also important to know your values and goals. Those help define and become the basis for making decisions on what has the most priority right now in your particular life at this particular time.

We won’t dive into those today.

Instead let’s build a basic prioritization habit that will get you moving and back in control of your day.

Most Important Work First

What is top of mind for me right now, is daily priority setting. The simple act of making sure that you know what your top three priorities are for the day. I like to take a small yellow sticky note and write all three down and then circle the one that must get done first. Eating the frog first really helps ensure that you don’t procrastinate or let other things suddenly get in the way. It also builds momentum in the day. You’ve taken care of the most important thing and you can move on to the next with a bit more ease. Each success building on the next.

How You Start The Day – Sets The Tone For The Day

The simple act of having only three priorities is also a good habit to get into. You have way more than three things to get done today. You will do more than three things today. But will they be the right three? And if you allow yourself to have a priority list of more than three you’ve just made another task list, not a priority list.

Three Is Magic

Stick with three. When you make you big items, your important and must do items, a priority and then knock them out -you’ll be making real progress. When you haphazardly get work done, working through a giant list of tasks, you aren’t putting your effort into the most important items that will get you the most bang for your buck.

There are a lot of benefits to using a simple method like this. It fits well into other prioritization methods and it’s simplicity allows you to get right to work. In less than 5 minutes, you’ve got your sticky note, and can get to work on your #1 Frog. Chomp away my friend.

Boost

I will give a little bonus advice that I like to always use when setting my priorities. Look for those items that will boost the rest of your work or goals. When you are able to knock out a top priority that also sets up things for tomorrow, then you are getting a multiplier effect. I try never to do work that won’t have any real or lasting impact into the future.

Since you can’t get enough of the Development Geek, check out, Driving in Circles

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/driving-circles-you-busy-being-truly-action-oriented-james-ross/

N/LJINCI 
Are you Busy 
being Busy, 
or are you 
truly Action 
Oriented? 
James 
Marcus 
Ross

Always one of my favorites, Admiral McRaven, commencement speech that was turned into a good motivational book. It’s a quick 15 minutes and perfect for us Development Geeks.

Admiral McRaven Leaves the Audience SPEECHLESS | One of the Best Motivational Speeches

Konrad delivers in this quick 5 minute video that will help you get back control of your day.

3 Lessons for Taking Back Control of Your Day

TODAY 
was STOLEN

5 Steps To Embrace Failure

I failed. That’s really dramatic and accurate.

More accurate is that I failed to write and publish a blog every day. I missed yesterday. And while I don’t like failing- I absolutely #@$%^& hate it – it was also inevitable.

I’m working on building a habit of writing and publishing every day. Writing with quality every day in 30 minutes is a tall order but it is part of what allows it to fit into my very full day. This habit will help reinforce my goals and my beliefs. It will help me build new skills and improve my writing. There are lots of reasons to be make this successful and are wonderful motivations but that isn’t full proof when building a new habit.

And I could give a whole lot of excuses on why I failed yesterday. It was a rough day and I had like 10 priority items that had to get done and even more that I had others waiting on me for. –But that’s a subject for another blog. 

Deep breath.

I do have to admit, it almost feels good. Now that I’ve gotten that failure out of the way I can learn from what happened and put somethings in place to deal with it to lessen the reoccurrence. It also removes the pressure from maintaining perfection.

Life is a journey. This is a learning journey.

Failure is the natural result of doing something we haven’t done before. It is inevitable. It is how we learn. And yet, failure becomes this personal thing where we allow it to feel like a stabbing wound in our chest. We take it personally. We make it emotional. We have to give ourselves permission to fail when it happens.

Embrace it. Call it what it is. Be real. And give yourself permission to learn.

Fight the perfection monster

One of the reasons failure takes such a toll on us is that we have created this unrealistic expectation of perfection. When we make our plan or imagine ourselves doing the thing, we always imagine everything going right. We create a vision of all being good and no obstacles to overcome. Slay that perfection monster. My trick this time with my writing was to get that failure out of the way quickly.

Last night, when I was falling asleep on the couch after a long day, I could have forced myself to rally and get that writing done. It would have kept that checkmark on the calendar. I didn’t do that. I decided to slay the monster. If I had gotten it done last minute – I would not have been growing my habit. In fact, I may have given myself an out in the future to get it done at the end of the day when that is not the habit I’m working on building. The stakes would not have been high enough to change behavior by almost missing my goal. It’s a forced wake up call to make adjustments. And now, I don’t have to worry about perfection, I can get on with building this daily habit.

Here I am first thing in the morning raring to go and writing which is one of the aspects of the habit I’m building.

Recognize the inevitable obstacles and barriers

Another way to deal with unrealistic expectations is that after you’ve set a goal for yourself, imagine what obstacles you will face. Try and pre-design your process around overcoming those things that will inevitably get in your way. A bit of scenario planning is always helpful. You won’t be able to account for it all. There is no way to think of everything and life always has new curve balls that will smack you in the face. Instead you will have a decent plan for dealing with the obvious that we sometimes don’t think about when we dream plan.

Adapt

Looking failure directly in the face only way to learn from those mistakes. Confront it dispassionately and accept that failure isn’t a bad thing. Most critical is to identify what went wrong, what you can do differently next time, and adapt your thinking or process to be able to deal with this scenario differently in the future. Adaption is key to success in overcoming failures and learning.

Move on

Once you’ve recognized the failure, learned from it, and adapted; don’t keep twirling it around in your brain. Don’t make it personal by giving it more room in your mind than it deserves. Self talk is a computer program and it’s one that will run and take root. It’s time to move on. You’ve got new things to learn and mistakes to make, failures to learn from – and that is all part of what will make you greater than you were yesterday.

I failed. I’m not a failure.

I’m only a failure when I give up, when I don’t learn, when I don’t adapt, when I replay the event over and over again, when I let the program of failure take root in my brain, when I don’t embrace my learning journey, when I don’t give myself permission to be a fallible human that is seeking to do better each day.

If you are doing anything worthwhile at times you will fail. But you are no failure.

You are learning and growing.

Off to find my next failure.

The Undisciplined Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline

It is my dirty little secret that I’m not disciplined.

I haven’t been a disciplined person and it doesn’t come easily for me.

Rather, for most of my life I’ve kind of fought with discipline. Discipline, for me, becomes at odds with freedom and autonomy. It goes against my messy nature. The natural go with the flow that I have in me that is pushed down by my knowledge that you can’t just go with the flow in the lackadaisical way and actually get to where you want to go.

I wasn’t raised with much discipline. Plenty of punishment very little discipline. So, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Being half way through my life it would be silly to bring this all up in a effort to place any sort of blame on my parents. I don’t. While I may not have come from or raised in an environment that provided me a positive example of discipline – it’s my life and my responsibility to grow in skill in the areas that I find important.

What I’ve come to realize is that discipline doesn’t have to be at odds with freedom and autonomy when they are a choice. When being disciplined about a subject leads to a positive habit. When it leads to meeting a goal I’ve set for myself.

It is because of freedom that I can choose to be disciplined about something important to me. And through that discipline I can gain freedom of time and choice in other aspects of my life. It is a skill to be wielded as I choose and not a personality trait to covet and give self talk to that I’m just not good at.

When you get up close and personal with my work you see that it is quite messy. I employ certain process and organizational methods that allow for work to get done that has the same appearance as being disciplined. I’m constantly working to improve and adjust my habits to better serve my goals. Because I know I have to put that energy into those habits in order to get done what needs to be done.

This is something, given what I do, that I shouldn’t talk about. Being self-disciplined is an important trait that we look for in others. It is one certainly that I look up to and admire when I see it. And as a coach and leader it almost seems foolish to admit.

And it is wrong of me to say that I have no self discipline. My life would be a right old mess if I couldn’t ever buckle down and overcome. And there is a certain aspect of discipline that I have grown a great deal of skill in.

Yet, I know this one isn’t a natural personality trait for me and it is one that seemingly everyone talks like they have it down. Especially those that are leaders or who practice personal development.

Take it from me -someone who has had a lifetime struggle with discipline and works regularly to build this skill – it isn’t easy but it is worth it. And I if I can do it, well, probably anyone can do it.

Here are my top five ways to overcome those impulses, feelings, and overindulgence that continually get in the way of accomplishment.

Remove temptations

Limit access to what is tempting you. Remove whatever it is from being around you. This may not be an all time solution, but especially in the beginning remove those temptations.  It may be tough to say no when it is right in front of you. So reduce the need to dig deep and tough it out. If those temptations are around you, it is so much easier with access to slip when your resolve bends.

Don’t wait for it to feel right or to get in the mood

Our feelings are fickle. They want to protect us from feeling bad. And that protection in fact can lead to a cycle where that protection method makes us feel worse. When we are trying to do something new, or something we don’t like to do, our feelings get in the way. They are trying to protect us from something that could harm us. If you wait for the mood on something that you may say you want to do, but really just want the results from doing the thing, you feelings may be getting in the way. The first step is to remove the self talk of ‘not feeling in the mood’ to do something.

Forget motivation

It’s important to know your motivations and to use them as the reason for action. The why you want to do the thing is important. While, on the other hand, waiting to be motivated is a bad move. It’s very close to waiting to get in the mood. Waiting for an external source to give you an internal feeling that makes it easier to take action – that definitely isn’t taking responsibility for your actions or in this case, inaction.

Plan for action

Limit your planning time. Thinking and planning is vital to success but don’t let it get in the way. Your plan needs to support quick action. Something that can be done today to get things going. Too many times, we plan and plan, and don’t build real sustainable action into the plan. Remove barriers to action and get on with it.

Keep it simple

This is always good advice. I should probably stick on everyone of my top 5 lists. Simplicity is genius. The world is complicated enough. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be to take action and stick with a thing. Find the easiest way to keep up with whatever you are trying to be more disciplined about.

As an example, for me, I like to use my calendar. It tells me everything that I need to know. I’m very disciplined about following my calendar, so I know that any new thing I’m trying to make happen and that requires discipline means that it probably has to either be incorporated into my calendar or not be at odds with my calendar.

  • If my Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline don’t do it for you, here is a good article by Deep Patel writing for Entrepreneur.com.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/287005

  • Along with Self-Discipline – Self Management is a great trait to have especially in our WFH world or if you ever want to lead others, first you have to lead yourself.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/self-management-first-lead-inspire-yourself-james-ross/

  • Will is one of my favorites to listen to talk about self-discipline. Great way to start the First Monday of the New Year.

SELF DISCIPLINE – Best Motivational Speech Video (Featuring Will Smith)

Bored Brains Don’t Develop

Companies are spending a lot of money on learning and development. Jamming content down everyone’s throat. Getting excited about new systems and programs. There is always a new book to read, a new program to introduce, a new way of doing things to get certified in.

Yet, for all the money spent and effort put in to yearly development plans most employees look skeptically at all of this.

Most view development as something to be done when trying to get promoted, and even then it is more about appearances and networking then on truly making lasting change or building new skills.

We have to change the conversation. We have to adjust the plans and systems. We have to quit chasing the latest and greatest books that are rehashing the same content with a different wrapper.

There is an opportunity here to really dig deep and start making some lasting change for each of us. And part of that comes with reframing how we look at personal and professional development and our own growth as human beings.

Part of this comes with how we must adjust our relationship with our jobs and careers. For most of us, gone are the days of a lifelong career. And certainly, for most, the days of a lifelong job have clearly passed us by. Many companies and leaders are lying to themselves about employee retention. The best and most talented are not staying in the same role, the same job for years on end.

This is a generality. Sure there are some that will stay because their life circumstances at the moment make it so that they need to coast right now and so they stay put. There are those who are feeling less than, in their career and are settling for the job they have, for right now. Some have golden handcuffs and won’t leave while their pay is so high, waiting to be vested in those stock options, or they have so many weeks of vacation that they can’t think of leaving…right now.

The best and the brightest have an expiration date on their retention. It is reset when they are given a new challenge, a new position, or anything that adds to their skills set and their brand. 

It is important to have a firm understanding of this as we look to change the way we think of development. Learning new things should be fun. It is in the play that we don’t notice the learning. It is in the play that we find enjoyment. And it is in the enjoyment that it allows our brains to soak up information and to do so for longer.

Bored brains, no matter how “motivated” will never be able to soak up the learning needed, especially as we get older, to put that learning into use and become experience.

Self fulfillment and reaching full potential as a human being takes reaching deeply into who we are and growing from what we were to what we can be. We have the potential to be more than what we are. To grow.

And it is time we bring back fun and make it a part of our learning, there is no reason adults can’t have fun. Our brains will thank us for it.