It’s Only Temporary

When I was in high school, running indoor track, I was one of the few mid-distance runners on the team. That means that my race event range was from 800 meters (1/2 mile) to 3200 meters (2 miles). On any given day, I could be training with the sprinters or with the distance runners. Despite the fact that it was very cold in the winter in Connecticut, the coach would often send us out to run up Case Mountain which wasn’t too far from the school. I played soccer in the autumn while the rest of the guys that I was running with were often running cross-country. Needless to say, they were much more accustomed to running up mountains than I was. About halfway through the mountain ascent, I started to lose steam and pretty soon was at the pace of a very light jog. At some point, the rest of the guys noticed that they hadn’t seen me in quite some time, and eventually came back down the trail to find me. Deciding that “they” needed a water break, the guys stopped and sat with me for a few minutes while I caught my breath. It was then that one of the captains of the track team said to me, “It’s only temporary.” Not sure to what he was referring, I uttered an eloquent, “Huh?” “The pain, it’s only temporary,” he told me, “but pride lasts forever.”

That’s it for today.  I’m not going to try to go too overboard on explaining this one, because to all of us, it will mean different things.  I recommend taking a little while to turn off distractions, close your eyes and reflect on what this means for you.

Have a great weekend!

Just One More, Please

When you’re out eating at a restaurant, you’ve been full since halfway through, and then the cheesecake bites come out for dessert, do you say no?  Probably not.  More than likely, you’ve already had a couple and when asked if you want more, you respond, “Just one more, please.”

So why is it so easy to see that cheesecake as tiny and consumable, but when it comes to making a positive change in our lives, even one little change can seem like it’s just too much?

Most likely, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  For some people, it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator to get to the second floor at work.  For others, it’s getting up 10 minutes earlier to avoid the crazy morning rush-around.  They seem so simple in theory, but then when it’s time to implement them, you might as well be asking us to breathe underwater.  Let’s not even talk, right now, about what it’s like to make MAJOR life change.  That’s just out of the question, right?

I have great news, though.  There’s a really easy secret that no one’s telling you…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Laozi

That’s it.  The secret was discovered by Nike quite a long time ago: Just do it!

However you want to hear it, either in a philosophical phrase or a company motto, it’s just as true as ever.  The truth is that what you want in life is not going to come to you.  You need to stop using the word “someday” and starting using the word “today”.

Here’s my simple challenge to you.  Write out 5 tiny little life changes that you can start doing anytime.  Start with any one of those, and focus on it for a couple of days until you’re really doing it.  Then work your way down the list, taking on a new item from that list every few days.  After a little while, you’ll have made some significant life change, just one tiny step at a time.

Yup, sometimes it’s that simple.  So when you know you need to change something, say, “Just one more, please.”

Make the Most of a Good Day

It’s been a good day.  Actually, no, it’s been a great day.  It started out a good day and continued to just get even better.

This morning I woke up with a lot of energy, and the day just progressed from there.

This may not be very profound, or even a very original idea.  But what I’m trying to tell you is that every day is what you make it.  The truth is that life isn’t always very easy, no matter who you are.  Great things aren’t handed to most of us all of the time.  That’s not to say that sometimes we’re not just blessed with great things and great days.  But when a great day drops into your lap, you’ve got to run with it.  Take even the smallest bit of greatness and make a great day of it. 

The older I get, the more I realize how so many of the angry people that I met along the first 25 years of my life ended up how they did.  Bad things happen to good people, and life is difficult.  I’ve seen people I love die young, and I’ve seen terrible people get away with great things.  I’ve felt every hope I had disappear into a night sky as I dealt with mistakes I’ve made.

I’ve also seen a homeless family get a free house.  I’ve seen stage four cancer beaten by a young father of three.  I’ve experienced hope returning as I was given support to move on from my mistakes.  Life isn’t all bad, and is seasoned with wonderful things.

The reality of it all is that life is what we make it.  Not everyday will be great.  Not every part of a great day will be great.  We can still take the great parts of a day, focus on that, and use it to create more great things to make it a great day.  Building a day from the good things are what turn a good day into a great day.

A great life is made up of great days.

Stop Finishing Strong

It’s Friday afternoon.  By this time in the week you’re probably ready to just call it quits for the weekend, order a stuffed crust pizza and have a 2-day Netflix marathon on your couch.  That’s pretty much how we all feel a this point.  But why do we end up feeling this way on Friday?  I know for most of us, it’s because we’ve built up this grand idea of ‘Finishing Strong’.  The problem with that is that it leads most of us to start slowly, procrastinate and try to get a week’s worth of work done in the final day of the work week.  We’ve all grown accustomed to the Friday rush.

The problem with this routine is that we end up prolonging the stuff that we have to do, dreading it all week, working until our brains are numb on Friday and when we get home, we waste the entire weekend not actually experiencing life.  We sit on the couch, recovering, just long enough to wake up Monday and do it all over again.  So stop.  Stop wasting Monday through Thursday.  Stop finishing strong on Friday.  Just stop finishing strong!

So why didn’t I title this post, “Start Starting Strong”?  For one thing, it’s because it makes me sound dumb, and I already unintentionally say enough dumb things, I don’t need to choose saying dumb things, too.  For another thing, it’s because it’s not about doing everything Monday and coasting on Tuesday through Friday.  It’s about taking the upredictable gamma wave that is your life and evening it out so that when you’re ready for real life after work each day, you’ve got enough energy and brain power to actually enjoy life.

So how do I propose that we make our lives managable?

  1. Write down everything that you have to get done this week.  That’s right, every single thing on one sheet.  Look at that awful to-do list in all its glory.  Now that your hear rate is through the roof, we can move on.
  2. Take 5 more sheets of paper and write Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively on those sheets.
  3. Now take that first list and if any of those things have to be done on a certain day, put those on that day’s list, and put a star next to them.
  4. Distribute the rest of the items evenly between the 5 lists.  Make sure that the difficulty is also equal between the days.
  5. Now take the easiest item from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and add two to Monday and one to Tuesday.
  6. Draw a line under the item halfway down each list.  On the side, mark “AM” on top and “PM” on bottom, so now each day is broken up into morning and afternoon.
  7. Now hang them up in one stack in chronological order with Monday on top and Friday on bottom.
  8. As you finish things each day, cross them off.  Anything left over should go to the next day.  Try not to leave more than one item unfinished each day.

I firmly believe that if we don’t overwork ourselves and make the most of life outside of work, while also finding careers that we love, we can actually love life.

Crazy, right?

The 1-3-6-11 Plan

“You are what you repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Back when I was in shape, I played a lot of sports, and one of the things that we often did was interval training. Instead of just trying to push through all of our training at once, risking over-tiring or injuring ourselves, we would break up our training into segments of training and rest.  For example, on the track we would follow this regimen:

  • run 800 meters
  • walk 800 meters
  • run 1600 meters
  • walk 800 meters
  • run 2400 meters
  • walk 1600 meters
  • jog 400 meters
  • walk 400 meters

This was not only easier physically, but it was also easier mentally.  If you’re not much of a runner, being asked to run 5 kilometers is going to feel like being asked to lay in front of an oncoming bus.  However, being asked to run 800 meters, then take a break – that doesn’t sound so bad.  Eventually, you build up stamina and then even the 2400 meters ahead of you doesn’t seem so insane.

We can implement the same kind of technique into our personal development to make even big life goals not seem out of reach.  By taking our final goal and giving that a deadline, we can then set up little goals at certain milestones.  The human mind reacts to accomplishment as a pleasure, and we are thus psychologically motivated when we have made accomplishments of any size, and this motivation, which is an actual chemical reaction in our brains, is what’s needed to go the distance.  Little goals help us see our ability to succeed and cause our brains to desire more of the same pleasure that it derives from the reward of accomplishment.

Starting a new routine and creating good habits is one of the most difficult things that we as humans do.  Neurologists and psychologists have estimated that it takes anywhere from 21-30 days of consistently doing something simple for it to become a habit, something more difficult and complex can take months or even years.  That’s why it’s vital to choose intervals that will allow you to see your progress before you start to give up.

That’s where the 1-3-6-11 Plan comes in.  This stands for days, months and years.  When you’re brand new to any kind of change or personal development, you’ll want to check in every 20 minutes to see how you’re doing.  While this seems like a good idea, it can actually derail you through discouragement.  Humans love instant gratification, but it’s very unlikely that if you obsessively check on a goal that you’ll see the kind of progress that you’re dreaming of.

So check on your goals on these intervals and you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in such a short period of time.

Here is an example of some goals that I’ve set for my 1-3-6-11 Plan

1 Month

  • 4 Podcast Episodes
  • 12 Blog Posts

3 Months

  • 12 Podcast Episodes
  • 36 Blog Posts

6 Months

  • 24 Podcast Episodes
  • 72 Blog Posts

11 Months

  • 44 Podcast Episodes
  • 132 Blog Posts

1 Year

  • 48 Podcast Episodes
  • 144 Blog Posts

3 Years

  • 144 Podcast Episodes
  • 432 Blog Posts

6 Years

  • 288 Podcast Episodes
  • 864 Blog Posts

11 Years

  • 576 Podcast Episodes
  • 1728 Blog Posts

Tell Your Story

Settings goals is a great practice.  Without goals, success isn’t a possibility.  Often, however, we set end points without ever understanding our starting points.  Imagine trying to give directions without any starting point whatsoever – it’s impossible.  So why do we try to set goals for our lives but never take the time to evaluate where we actually are now.

Example: a goal of, “In 2014, I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”  We can know what our starting weight is and what our goal weight is, but does that mean that it’s been evaluated?  That requires actually looking at eating habits, weight gain/loss patterns, motivations, etc.

That goes for any goal.  No matter what you’ve resolved to do, you need to understand your starting point.  When your goal is about self-development, that means getting to know your story – not just for others, but for yourself.  When you can tell your story, your true and complete story to others, you’re ready to head towards your destination.  That’s not to say that you can’t start on your goal just because you haven’t written down your story, but taking the time to do that means that you’ve taken the time to learn your own story, and means that you’re much more likely to succeed.  Afterall, isn’t success your goal?

So, here are a few  questions to help you tell your story:

  • What are things you’ve had to overcome?
  • What are goals you’ve set in the past?
  • What are successes you’ve had in the past?
  • What are failures you’ve had in the past?
  • Are you actually accountable to yourself?
  • What are dreams that you’ve had for extended lengths of time?
  • What motivates you?  What kills your motivation?
  • Who have been important characters in your story?
  • What events have shaped who you are?
  • How would you finish, “If you really knew me…”?

These are just a start.  There are an unlimited number of things that can go into telling your story – it’s up to you to figure out what your story is.  Once you’ve figured out where you’re starting, you can truly see how to get to your destination.  The success is already inside you – are you willing to go find it?

I’ve accepted my own challenge to write my story and have decided to replace my “biography” with “my story” on my website.  It’s completely different than what my biography was, as this is a full, in-depth narrative which is more analytical than a biography.

Head over to My Story to read mine and I hope that it will inspire you to explore your own story.

Two Thousand and Teaching

2014 marks a decade of blogging and web designing for me.  The ability to communicate through websites is something that can easily be taken for granted, especially by anyone who’s been doing it for 10 years.  Towards the end of 2013, I transitioned from doing websites as a hobby to building and maintaining them professionally.  As more people around me found out about that change in my life, they started asking me questions.“How do I get a website?”

“What would I use a website for?”

“Do I need a website?”

“What would I even write about?”

 

Before I knew it, I had been ‘evangelizing’ for WordPress.  I was telling people about how easy it was to start a website, and how you can literally write about whatever you want.  I explained to them that when you start, you may not be any good, but you probably won’t have any traffic either, so it doesn’t matter how good your early stuff is, what matters is that you get started.  I showed people some of my websites, and then I brought them to the WordPress.org website to see examples of some amazing sites that are in the showcase.

Some people were still a little hesitant, not sure if they were ready to commit, so I suggested that they get started for free on WordPress.com.  But it also occurred to me that I wasn’t even using WordPress.com and wasn’t actually familiar with exactly how it worked.  I had done all of my work with the WordPress software for my self-hosted sites but was also aware that it operates slightly differently than WordPress.com.  So I started a blog at nickadamstv.wordpress.com to get familiar with using the WordPress hosted software to be able to help people who choose to go that route to get started.

So I set a goal for 2014: Help 100 people get started with a WordPress blog on either WordPress.com or self-hosted with WordPress.  Part of that entails encouraging them to keep going and teaching them how to understand things so that they can be self-sufficient, and hopefully someday they, too, can become a WordPress ‘Evangelist’.

To put my money where my mouth is, I am also committing to post on this blog, as well as my WordPress.com blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in 2014.  If you notice that any Monday, Wednesday or Friday goes by and I haven’t posted, just shoot me a message through the “Contact” page of this blog or nickadamstv.wordpress.com and I will donate $20USD to any charity of your choice.

Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Preparing for Down Time

I was sick for the past couple of days. I felt awful and the last thing I wanted to do was think about writing – I just wanted to sleep. But I’ve committed to publishing blog posts on a daily basis. For a while, I didn’t have a contingency plan. When I was sick or otherwise unable to write a post, that day went without one. It was when reading “Platform” by Michael Hyatt that I realized that there was an easy solution to my problem. For the past few months I’ve been using my days of extra motivation as a time to write a lot of extra posts and saving them for “sick days”. If you’re using WordPress, you can just save these posts as drafts and then publish them on the day that you’re sick. If you know that you’ll be unable to post because of travel or something else, you can always schedule a post so that while you’re busy doing what you’re doing, your content is still delivered right on schedule.

Why I Ditched My Smartphone

In 5th grade I was voted Class Computer Genius in our yearbook. Not much has changed. So I’m a techie. I’ve accepted that as who I am. So when I told my friends that I was ditching my smartphone, I had to watch my toes so they didn’t get crushed by dropping jaws.

Just as I had accepted my title as a techie… I had something else to accept – my smartphones were driving me crazy and hindering my productivity.

I’m working, why doesn’t my phone?
Smartphones have glitches. We deal with it because we don’t have a choice. But when your phone is frozen, or apps keeping crashing, often the phone features, such as calling and texting, also don’t work. What you’ve got here is a $600 paperweight.

“Sorry, my phone’s dead again.”
I can’t tell you how many times a client has called me and my phone has died after just 20 minutes on the call. By switching to a good dumb-phone, I was able to handle multiple hour-long phone calls without running for an outlet.

Annual service for the price of 5 computers
Have you ever felt awkward about limiting yourself to the dollar menu at Wendy’s to save money? I bet you don’t think about how much you spend on monthly cell service while you’re eating your 30th Jr Bacon Cheeseburger this month. But as service costs soar, there are cell phone plans that cost $15 per month (that’s what I have) and free wifi is everywhere.
You can take the $100 that you’re saving each month on phone service to put towards all kinds of things to help you get organized and productive… such as finally buying that office desk so that you don’t have to keep using an ironing board. Our better yet, save up and buy a decent laptop that isn’t 6 years old and doesn’t take 5 minutes to open Firefox…

Look forward for once
This is possibly the best reason.  Without my smartphone constantly whining for my attention, I sullenly remember what it’s like to listen to a whole conversation or see where I’m going when I walk down the street.

Individual results may vary.

Scheduling Creativity

I’ve heard it a million times, “You can’t schedule creativity.”  And to be honest, I was one of the people saying it for a very long time.  But you know what I eventually figured out?  Sure you can!  I can’t schedule when I’m going to come up with a good idea, and I can’t schedule when I’m going to feel motivated, but I can schedule time to put myself into the environment where I am usually at my creative best.  For me, that’s usually at Starbucks in mid-afternoon.  I grab an iced coffee, sit down and before I know it, I’ve drafted out 3 or 4 new articles, designed some new websites and written hundreds of lines of code – all while discovering new music on Pandora.

I always thought that my creativity was completely random.  Sometimes I would get creative at 2am when I’m trying to sleep, and other times, I would get creative at 9am when I’m trying to get into my work for the day.  What I was eventually able to figure out was that I wasn’t giving myself the right environment for creativity, so it was just manifesting itself at random.

The number one objection by creative people is that when we try to schedule creativity, we’re limiting it by only using it when we’ve scheduled it.  I haven’t found that to be the case – in fact, quite the opposite.  I’ve found that since I’ve started scheduling creativity time, and following through with that schedule, that the time that I’ve set aside is extremely focused and results in a ton of productivity.  It’s kind of like the difference between a flashlight and a laser: a flashlight may shed light on a lot of things, but a laser can cut metal.