Blogpost, self-reliance

Sharpen Your Own Axe

In Stephen Covey’s wonderful book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” the seventh habit is “Sharpen the Saw.” The concept is personal renewal throughout the process of improvement. The other six habits are specifically aimed at a part of the internal or external battles that each of us must fight. Although the chapter is called “Sharpen the Saw,” I’m going to depart from it slightly with the use of an axe. Even though a saw is an effective tool that largely does the same job as an axe, my life almost never feels like a saw cut piece of wood. There is not a perfect line cut through the wood with bits of sawdust lying on the ground. It is a hacking type of motion that gets the job done but isn’t always pretty. Maybe you can relate.

Now that we’ve agreed on the axe metaphor, it’s important to realize exactly how important its renewal is. One of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous quotes is “If you give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.” His equation looks to spend two thirds of the time on the preparation for the task. Humans are not robots (yet haha). We require more than menial tasks to keep us engaged. The repetitious nature of the present situation calls for even more sharpening. We are hacking away at a life that does not look anything like what we’ve encountered before. It is mundane and separate. Also it carries with it a longevity that we cannot predict. Getting back to normal is what we all desire but we can’t know when that will happen, no one does. So it is more important than ever to sharpen.

Since each of us is our own person (axe), we each have distinct ways that we renew. A good book, a game on the TV, a walk, a run, meditation, or a myriad of other activities can help to elevate a person’s ability to perform at their highest levels. The thing that you need to know is what actually feeds you. There is a difference between leisure activities and renewal. Some people can sit in front of a TV for an hour and all it makes them want to do is watch more TV. Others it is respite that energizes. Often that comes down to the focus of the programming.

That is the point exactly. Where do you personally need to put your eyes, ears and maybe soul/heart for a while in order to come back refreshed? This is a personal thing that only you can know for sure. Other people may find banging their head to heavy metal music to be draining but if it gives you a boost, then bang away! Have these in your back pocket and available at any time. You’ll need some for a quick sharpen to get through the day and other longer ones that put a razor’s edge to you. Know what they are and use them when needed.

There is a reason why dull is a word that is used to describe people at times. Those are people who have not learned what it is that they need to do to keep themselves sharp. It’s your life, it’s your axe. Keep yourself sharp because life is going to hack at you for the next few months (maybe a year). Be ready to hack back!

Timber!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Attendance Will Be Taken

I showed up on Senior Skip Day! That is probably the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever admitted in my blogposts. It’s pathetic for two reasons that I can think of. 1. Because of the fact that I went. 2. Because no one cares. There’s no moral judgment placed on the kids who don’t go. The valedictorian didn’t even show up if I remember correctly. It was the kids who had too many unexcused absences, the kids who got 100% attendance every year and me. Another sad fact is that I wasn’t one of 100% attendance kids. I would take days off from time to time, just not that day.

The 100% attendance kids were a bit of a mystery to me. I was never quite sure if their parents made them come everyday, they got some kind of prize, or they valued their education that much. Although I’m not going to ask you to follow directly in their footsteps, I am going to suggest that you have a stellar attendance record.

Your goals require a stellar attendance record. Every goal is going to have its own schedule. Some goals might be oncer per week. Others may be every day. Regardless of the schedule, there are going to be days when you don’t want to show up. Most likely those are the days that you need to show up the more than any other. We all desire comfort, a rest or a day off. The problem is that once those desires are exercised, they grow stronger.

If you wait for motivation, you’ll get very little done in this world. Motivation is neither a consistent state of being nor is it a power that is bestowed by God upon a select group. Those people who seem as if they are extremely motivated, just have better established habits. “First you make a habit, then the habit makes you.” Stolen from Trevor Moawad. So what do I have to do to make a habit? ACT!!! Don’t wait for motivation, until you feel like or someone tells you that you have to. Once you act, your mind will catch up to your body and send a message about why you are doing that thing. If you act consistently enough, eventually your mind will get ahead of your body and start calling on you to do that thing.

Just like me, it’s possible that you’re the only one who will remember that you showed up. There won’t be a gold star put next to your name. You’ll just be a step, an inch or a millimeter closer to that thing that you want. That stellar attendance record will eventually start paying dividends. The sooner you start, the farther that you’ll be along the path in a week, a month, or a year. So ACT NOW!!! No one else is checking to see if you show up. Therefore, you have to!

Bueller! Bueller!

Pete

Blogpost

Using Your Bad for the Good

weightWe’ve all got them.  They lurk around and create mischief in our daily lives but we have trouble letting go of them.  Bad habits.  The things that we realize that we should not do at all or possibly overindulge in them.  There power over us can be based in our childhood, boredom or addiction.  No matter who you are, you’ve probably got a habit, vice, addiction or pattern that is less than favorable.

On the other hand you’ve got those good things that you cannot seem to get yourself to do.  You know it!  If you did that thing, it would help you in either the short or the long term.  Regardless of how much good you know that you’d get from it, you still don’t do it.  Perhaps you make up excuses about time.  Or you tell yourself that next week would be the right time to start or you need some other resource.  Again you’ve set yourself up to not follow through because your reasons are just not strong enough.

If you’re like me and you have this scenario in your life, I’m going to suggest that you use the bad to create the good.  Most recently I’ve been publishing, my blog on a daily basis.  In order to facilitate that happening, I do not eat until I have posted (WARNING: This is not a good course of action for everyone!  Eating disorders are a real thing for millions.  Know yourself and your issues.  Act responsibly!)  For me it is putting my bad habit of overeating against my need to follow through on my positive.  This requires a level of self-control but it is completely doable.

So if you are in need of a positive kick in the butt from yourself, try it.  Don’t use your cellphone until you’ve gone for a walk or run in the morning.  Don’t have that morning cup of coffee until you’ve done the laundry.  The habits don’t even have to be “bad”.  You just need to leverage the things that you do in order to have yourself take action on the things that you would normally skip.  It can be a powerful tool if you’re willing to hold yourself to it.

Have a great day!

Pete

Blogpost

I’m Broken (The Only Mechanic Is Me)

meaningMy first car was a 1977 Chevy Nova!  I inherited it from my great aunt and it was the perfect first car.  It had holes in the floor boards where you could actually see the road below you.  It had an 8 Track tape player in it that never really worked.  It was pale blue and covered with rust spots, as you can tell from the description, I loved it!  There were plenty of reasons to love it that had nothing to do with how looked or how it ran.  And now looking back on it, I understand even better that it was the perfect first car exactly because it was a piece of junk.  At no point did I ever have to worry about messing it up.  I learned how to change the oil, replace the bulbs and change tires on that car.  At no point did I think, “If I mess this up, I’m screwed!”

Fast forward to the present day and I don’t even change my own oil anymore.  Cars have become computers and more complicated, therefore the idea of doing my own maintenance while possible is much easier to outsource.  There are so many things like that today.  Complexity of many systems within our world have changed us from capable amateur mechanics to people in the waiting room in anticipation of someone else fixing our problem.

While this may be helpful or even necessary with many of our possessions, it seems to have become pervasive to the point of a cultural norm.  Day care, personal trainers, landscapers, etc. are all examples of outsourcing things that used to be done by the amateur ‘owner’.  While these services can be helpful and possibly ‘necessary’ in a modern context, there is one thing that we can never turn the complete management over to someone else: your mind.

The best therapist in the land can be employed for multiple hours each day and still, it is on the individual to get their hands dirty and do the work.  No one can change you without your conscious or unconscious consent.  Recognizing this fact, I am amazed at how many brain owners keep waiting for the world or their life to make them happy.  That is like expecting your neighborhood to take care of your lawn without ever communicating with them about it.  And even if you did make that request, I’m sure that you’d get some raised eyebrows or questions like “why is that my responsibility?”  So in this area, we need to realize that that amateur mechanic ethos is absolutely necessary.  Help is not only desirable in most cases, it is necessary but it is on each and every one of us to maintain, diagnose or even overhaul our mind at times.  With the amount of anxiety, depression and other mental concerns that seem to affect most of the population, it is time for all of us to recognize that we are all broken in at least a small way but we are also the mechanic.  Learning about yourself, your habits, fears, triggers and so many other components of your mindset is no longer an option.  Developing the tools to navigate this complex world is not only your job, it’s integral to your survival.  So remember, you’re broken (but so is everyone else) and you’re the mechanic.

Get your hands dirty!

Pete

self-reliance

Prove It!

Geometry was probably one of the easiest classes for me in high school.  Despite its relative ease, I had trouble staying engaged with it.  I found it tedious to give all of the reasons why something was true.  It was usually pretty obvious whether a problem was going to withstand the scrutiny of the different theorems that we were learning at the time.  So it seemed like a relative waste to my teenage self to write out all of the steps in proving or disproving a problem.  Especially when the answers (to the odd problems usually) were in the back of the book.

In our every day lives, there aren’t a lot of ‘proofs’ to be done.  Very few things are black and white.  So regardless of how SURE you are of your argument, there’s someone out there with the exact same information screaming the opposite (just think of our present political situation).  So if we have nothing to prove, maybe the aim should be to improve.

Although there are few cold hard truths that we encounter daily, we do have a sense of who we are personally and what it is that we want for ourselves.  So recognize the fact that you have nothing to prove.  Even if you were to prove something, the circumstances of tomorrow may wipe away the thing that your proved today.  However, each day we have the ability to improve.  In small and subtle ways, it is possible for you to see progress in yourself, your life and your circumstances.  Almost nothing about you is going to stand the test of time like Pythagoras’ Theorem.  That does not mean that your life is meaningless.  You are a sand castle that can be improved and enjoyed for the time that it exists.  Get digging and sculpting because when the tide comes in, you’ll wish that you had!

Have a great day!

Pete

 

Uncategorized

Call Him Double Down

DoubleDownMike – “This is Trent. We call him Double Down.”

Trent. – “Stop right there!  Ladies, don’t you always double down on an 11?”

Lisa – “No matter what. Like splitting aces.”

It’s a smart play to double down on an 11 in Black Jack because your chances of hitting 21 are worth the extra gamble.  On the other hand, it’s foolish to double down on a losing hand.  In cards your chances are based on mathematical probability.  Playing the odds is the name of the game.  Avoid the slim odds!

In our lives, the game is not entirely mathematical.  Decisions are made for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with probability.  Emotion, prior programming and a host of other variables lead to the less than logical decisions that we humans make regularly.  For example I double down on mistakes.  It’s not something I do intentionally.  It happens less today than it did a few years ago but it happens.  Most of the improvement in this area is due to habits and pre-scripting.

Like doubling down on an 11, daily habits that have the greatest possibility of working are key.  Usually these habits are not hard to find.  You know what they are but in the moment people get overwhelmed by emotion and choose the easy/comfortable route.  The path to where you want to go is not hard to find, it’s just hard to follow.  The more times that you follow that path, the easier it becomes to stay on.

Actors can definitely ad-lib their lines but for the most part, they work from a script.  Pre-scripting particularly difficult actions in your mind can be an effective way to get past them with the best results.  Visualizing the event in advance puts you into a proactive state of mind rather than reactive.  It does not resolve the situation in advance but can reduce the amount that emotion carried to it.

So go out into the world and bet on yourself.  Double down on the things that lead you to the life that you want.  Don’t allow yourself to bet on lottery number odds with your life.  Getting what you want is not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of time if you set the game up right!

Pete

 

 

Blogpost, self-reliance

Don’t Marry Your F#@% Buddy

FBuddyIt’s so obvious on one level.  A spouse is someone that you are supposed to spend most of your days and the rest of your life with.  So choosing a person that offers a one dimensional relationship is absolutely ludicrous.  It would make for a very long and difficult daily road because all of the other areas of your life would suffer.  The sex would be great but what do you do with the other 23 hours 59 minutes of the day?  Most likely that extra time would be spent trying to makeshift a life with someone who should have been a guilty pleasure but has become a daily burden.

This is a description of a very extreme situation that is probably not realistic to most people.  Almost no one marries their “f#@% buddy” because it makes no sense and few of us would make that foolish decision.  The reason is that it is such a big decision that it would usually get sorted out before the cutting of the cake.  Signs would be so obvious that either self-examination or friends would intervene.  But what happens with the small things?  Marriage is a big decision or at least is should be.  The small decisions might be the ones that sneak through almost undetected.

Each of us has them, the guilty pleasures that we love probably more than we should.  Ice cream, chocolate, Youtube,  beer, physical affection and so many more are pleasureful things in their correct amounts.  However when we “marry” them and make them a central part of our existence, they wield an unbalancing power.  Just like the fictitious marriage that seemed so obviously out of place, relationships with items and experiences can create a burden in the other areas of your life.  It’s easier to dismiss because it is not a person that you need to take home with you.  It’s a thing, a moment in time that you deserve and the consequences will be dealt with later.

So now it is up to you!  Are you married to one of your “f#@% buddies”?  Then choose!  You don’t need to break it off completely (unless you want to).  The key is to put this relationship into its proper context.  See it as it really is and not let it take over.  Then you are available to marry the things and experiences that you really want!

Have a great weekend!

Pete

Uncategorized

The Habit of Habits

There are many reasons why I’m thankful for having an older brother.  One of the most important is the idea of having a “scout” in front of me.  On many occasions my brother indirectly taught me things that I could and could not get away with.  Also I was introduced to certain things early enough that the pulls of peer pressure made no lasting impression upon me.  For example I couldn’t have been much older than nine or ten when I tried smoking for the first time.  It was such a horrible experience that I didn’t try it again when my friends did in eighth grade.  So I was able to avoid years of a smoking habit through that one bad experience.

Habits are extremely powerful tools that can lift us up or drag us down.  At certain points habits become so ingrained in us that they feel like part of who we are as people.  So the key to habits is to choose ones that drive us forward and eliminate ones that hold us back.  The question is: how do you create/eliminate habits?

Habits are ingrained because there are neural pathways in our brains that act like highways toward that action.   The number of times that we repeat the action only widens the highway.  However, even a highway has to start somewhere.  Habits start with a cue.  Something that triggers it to begin.  The development of the habit needs to be locked in with some sort of reward the first few times that it happens.  This reward reinforces the behavior.  However the reward does not particularly need to be received every time.  Only consistently enough at the beginning to lock in the habit.  Cues and rewards can vary immensely depending on the habit and the individual.

Habit Creation

You can create positive habits by developing cues and rewards for yourself.  Although you may feel like you’re defrauding yourself at the beginning, the alternative is much worse.  It is much better for you to be tricking yourself into a positive habit rather than advertisers or peers tricking you into a negative one.  The key to habit creation is making it into a cycle.  The cue leads to the action and the action gets rewarded.  Therefore our brain will look for the cue again because it knows where this highway ends and it’s a positive place.

Habit Replacement

Habits cannot be completely eliminated but they can be replaced.  The old habit needs to be overwritten with a new one.  Using the same cue to get a different action and a different reward is the process of replacing a habit.  This is a very deliberate process because the identification of the old cue is the first step to replacing the old habit.

Get into the habit of creating your own habits rather than letting them be created for you.

For a deeper discussion on habits, watch this video with Charles Duhigg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voX0gUn_JOI