Category Archives: Self-Help

My Dry Erase Board Addiction

Well, it happened again. Just last week, I had resisted the urge, but the temptation was too great this week as another good intention led to yet another dry erase board coming into my possession. A faculty member had agreed to host one of the faculty development round tables during a session I was coordinating for work. She asked if there would be any way possible she could have a dry erase board so it could be interactive. Using my own money, I secured one for her. Her session worked out great with her discussion about flipping the classroom being a hit. Plus, afterwards, the dry erase board I was wanting but had convinced myself I didn’t need the week before was now in my possession. After writing about my self-help addiction last year, it seemed like a good idea to tackle yet another addiction this year – my addiction to dry erase boards*.

Throughout my entire house, dry erase boards can be found everywhere. My refrigerator alone is home to many. Every year, a new one is added to my collection and filled with that year’s list of New Year’s Resolutions. Sure, common sense should tell me only one would be needed, but sort of like my habit with never deleting photos off an SD card, certain writings on my dry erase boards become permanent as they serve as reminders of the past to help me move forward towards my future.

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However, I also use them for their intended purpose too. The one acquired just a few days ago will be updated weekly (in theory) with my featured resolution of the week, weekly goals, reminders about upcoming activities/events, weekly meal plan, weekly quotation to contemplate, and a reminder of the Four Agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book of the same name (thank you once again, Patrick, for that recommendation).

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When attempting to become focused for the day, there is another dry erase board to map out my schedule (although the Personalized Progress Log has largely taken over this board’s role). And another is around to create some lines of music to practice on the violin.

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Then there is a little guy I like to use to outline papers I have to write.

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At my office, there are even more. One sits next to my computer and is updated on a daily basis with the tasks to tackle for that day, and there is a huge one on my wall for brainstorming activities.

And then there are more that scattered here and there. I am guessing you get the picture – I love dry erase boards.

Who exactly created the dry erase boards is a little up in the air. According to one account, it was photographer and Korean War veteran, Martin Heit, who by accident marked a photographic negative and found the ink wiped off easily which led to his creating the first one. He later sold the patent to Dri-Mark. Another account puts Albert Stallion into the creator role with his realizing enameled steel could becoming a writing surface. He eventually created his own whiteboard production company, MagiBoards.

In either case, whiteboards started to appear in the 1960s, and the dry-erase markers came onto the scene in 1975. It wasn’t until the 1990s that their popularity grew as they replaced chalkboards as a way to avoid allergies to chalk dust, complications dust may have on computers, and the general messiness that comes with the former standard in classrooms everywhere.

Dry erase markers themselves have a silicone polymer that keeps the colored pigment from actually coming into direct contact with the surface, hence the reason why the writing can be wiped off a non-porous surface so easily. Plus, there is a solvent that leads to the ink drying quickly.

What led to this great love of mine for dry erase boards is not entirely known. It may be caused by my fear of commitments, or it may be the practical nature these boards and markers can serve with this also being tied to my ongoing pursuit of becoming organized and setting goals/resolutions/resolves for myself. There is also my remembering how special they seemed when they started to appear in classrooms during my middle school years and onward.

There is also the fact I still find them somewhat magical in that childlike way of wonder, for unlike my bedroom wall as I found out when I was three and had an orange crayon in my possession, any marks can just simply disappear.

But perhaps it is something more. So much that happens in our lives can seem so permanent. Past relationships can leave scars that can haunt a person for the rest of his/her life. Class assignments add up to leave unchangeable grades on transcripts. Words spoken and actions taken in unwise haste can create barriers that unfortunately can never be torn down. It is almost refreshing that there is something in this world where mistakes can easily disappear and a clean start can happen so easily.

Whatever it may be, dry erase boards have definitely found a way into my life and heart. The good news is my instant gratification monkey kept telling me I needed to buy another in honor of the blog post alone and that urge was resisted, so that may just be a step in the right direction. Then again, while looking into the history of dry erase boards, I did come across this Lifehacker article about how I could cover an entire wall with a giant whiteboard for under $15. Whether that does eventually happen is up in the air, but if it does, needless to say, there will be a smile on my face as that task is written on one or several of my many dry erase boards scattered all over in my world.

*Addiction is, of course, a serious thing, and I don’t want to make light of truly serious addictions, so no offense is meant by this post.

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June’s Theme: Morning (and Evening) Routines Revisited

Pretty much the majority, if not all, sources on productivity will at some time or another praise morning routines as being crucial to a productive day. So many books, podcasts, articles, blog posts, and videos have gone on about how that time before the working day begins can change one’s life depending on how the minutes are used. Hal Elrod alone has made a huge career with The Miracle Morning. Given my addiction to self-help sources, I have read about morning routines over and over. One of my favorites pieces done on them would be this recent video by Thomas Frank, who is the man behind of one of my favorite YouTube channels/websites, College Info Geek:

Despite my love for mornings, my routine definitely does stray, so it seemed like a good idea after ending the month of May with a birthday, to bring the morning routine back into focus to help accomplish my goals for not only the rest of the year but also my life. Mornings alone didn’t seem like enough for a monthly theme given this was a New Year’s Resolution last year, so an evening routine was thrown into the mix too (in part inspired by Frank’s point about them and in other part because it made sense).

I sat down on the evening of May 31, tried to listen to Thomas Frank’s advice to start small, and set my desired schedule for a morning. The four essential pieces I set to begin the day were jogging (or a cardio workout of some sort), a weight workout, yoga, and meditation (breakfast and the other morning prep work were just a given).

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My Morning Yoga Routine (along with my personal mission statement and some of my general resolves for life)

Then for the evening, they were updating my Personalized Progress Log, going over my schedule and goals for the next day, and getting my work clothes ready for the morning. Additional parts thrown into the different routines as the month progressed (that were also some of the first to be cut out too) were writing, reading, playing the guitar, and drawing.

Looking back on the month of June, I cannot quite say it was a success; however, it wasn’t quite a failure either. Rather, it was more the start of some good habits although some days were indeed missed with only one or sometimes unfortunately none of the essentials happening. Also, now likely making excuses, the month of June wasn’t exactly filled with my most typical days. Two different weeks had me going into work at 6:45 AM to open the office thanks to a colleague being on vacation. Although I told myself I could wake up earlier to accomplish everything, I didn’t listen well to that advice. Then another week had me in Topeka for a couple of days for work, and the one other week entailed my taking my mother to visit one of her high school classmates in Colorado with our then taking the long way home to check out some national parks (the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is amazing!) I had yet to visit and see some other nifty places in the state that continues to steal my heart.

Even with the failures, there were some great takeaways though. When I accomplished at least my set of four morning routine essentials, I felt great. Plus, ironing my clothes the night before will now for sure become a habit thanks to its eliminating my previous habit of triple-checking and sometimes quadruple-checking to make sure my iron was unplugged before I left for work (and sometimes even driving back to my house after I had left to be sure about that). Then the stretching from the yoga routine always felt wonderful, and updating my Personalized Progress Log each night led to great reflection about the day as well as helped me accomplish another one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

The regular jogging, although never very long, was also a good addition to my life too with my still imagining those daily steps are being done with my imaginary mentor created back in April. There were also some fantastic sunrises spotted during those early morning outings. Although most places where we stayed during the Colorado adventure were not necessarily outdoor-jogging friendly, I did have a great run in Buena Vista and another after we left Pagosa Springs that led me to the bridge view of Treasure Falls.

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Treasure Falls, Colorado – A great place to prove I was definitely not in shape for jogging at a higher elevation

Without a doubt, it’s going to take much longer than a month for my morning and evening routines to become a constant in my life, but some good steps were taken in June by bringing both into focus. With July’s theme involving at least fifteen minutes of reading for pleasure and at least fifteen minutes of writing for pleasure being part of each day, I have a feeling those routines starting and ending each day are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Tips for Setting Up Morning and Evening Routines

  • Start small and slowly add to them if you so desire.
  • Know the reason why you want to make each part of the routine a habit and have a good reason. This will increase motivation.
  • Track each day (a checklist works well. I put each of the tasks in my Personalized Progress Log which is in an Excel document, so I am able to keep track of them there. Also, marking off each day you stay with your routines on a paper calendar would work too).
  • Give yourself plenty of time in the morning and evening to accomplish your routines. If your schedule is thrown off, try for at least one of the tasks you have as an essential.
  • Make things easy for you by having the morning and evening routines complement each other. There is power in synergy.
  • If you should miss a day, simply start again after reflecting upon why you missed them.
  • Reflect upon how the routines have changed your life for the better. Doing so will help with your motivation to keep them going.

 

Post Script
Starting at the beginning of June, I also gave up drinking alcohol. More on that later though.

Nonsermitis – The Not-So-Silent But Still Overlooked Disease Sweeping the World

A disease is spreading throughout the world, but yet no major headlines are calling attention to it. It infects people, causing the death of relationships of all sorts. Those who have interacted with a disease-infected individual are left dumbfounded, sometimes depressed, and often speechless. This disease is none other than nonsermitis, and unfortunately, no one is safe.

More than likely, you too have encountered someone with nonsermitis, but you just didn’t realize it. More than likely, that is because a good friend and I coined the term last fall after she had the unfortunate situation of being trapped for hours with an infected individual and I had a date with someone inflicted with the same illness.

The pain in her eyes was great as she told me about her situation. For hours, she was trapped at a fair booth with the disease-infected individual. It was a slower evening at the fair, which led, in theory, to plenty of time for conversation. She would ask this other person questions, and he would answer. Then the conversation would stop. It wasn’t as though he was not wanting her to talk to him, and he was just giving her the cold shoulder. That wasn’t it at all, for he would stand there awkwardly, almost seemingly waiting for the next question but somehow incapable of having that next question come from his mouth.

Meanwhile, my situation was somewhat similar with my going on a first and only date with an individual who recited a monologue with the occasional question prompt from myself thrown into the mix. After the first twenty minutes or so, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped the prompts, and sure enough, there was awkward silence until my date would either return to a previously discussed topic or start a new soliloquy. At the end of the evening, I left knowing my date’s full history about pretty much everything while my date never learned about what I even did for a living, where I was from, what I would like to do in my spare time, and possibly what my name was; however, that didn’t stop me from receiving afterward text saying, “That was such a good time! We should definitely do this again.” We didn’t.

Some may simply refer to these people as “self-involved,” “self-centered,” “self-absorbed,” “egocentric,” “narcissistic,” or another word along those lines. However, my friend and I agreed there was something more to it. There have been too many people with whom I have had extremely fascinating and engaging conversations to then encounter once again and unfortunately find their ability to do so gone. Therefore, it has to be a disease. How else can one explain it?

Nonsermitis, though, comes in a variety of forms. Two of these are portrayed in the following Wait-But-Why-inspired-style illustrations.

Full Blown Nonsermitis Sufferer

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The Very Thinly Masked Nonsermitis Sufferer

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Some may be thinking that perhaps nonsermitis is not as serious as I may be making it out to be, but without a doubt, a wide range of problems can be caused by this disease.

The obvious one would be, of course, the effects they have on others during conversations. The following Fractured Fairy Tale provides a somewhat exaggerated but still pretty accurate portrayal:

Okay, so a person suffering from nonsermitis may not put an entire kingdom to sleep, but you can get the point of this problem. The person will never be seen by others as a great conversationalist despite his/her ability to talk often.

Another factor is nonsermitis prevents learning from taking place on behalf of the sufferer. A point my mother has told me often is everyone, regardless of the person’s background, age, sex, or any other demographic component, has something you can learn; however, you have to take the time to listen. That last word is hard for a nonsermitis sufferer, for the illness blocks the desire to use this facility.

The person becoming a bore is not the worst problem though. In fact, I think one could possibly put the blame of the demise of many relationships on nonsermitis based upon this great, short video from DNews:

As the video mentioned, one of the factors that can easily signal a doomed relationship is when a partner does not acknowledge the emotional bid of the other person. Taking the other person for granted or brushing off asking or asking but not truly listening can all lead to the relationship’s eventual death with the space being filled with a coldness that eventually can snuff out even the brightest of flames.

This is not only about romantic relationships either, for friendships too are put at risk when nonsermitis seeps in and causes a person to be blind to those flickers of wanting to share a story about something that has happened recently. While in the grand scheme, that story may seem about something insignificant, in reality, it can actually be a desire for a meaningful connection, a connection that needs to go both ways rather than one. It only takes the dashing of a few of these emotional bids to start the coldness from icing over the relationship.

So the question remains is if there is a cure. That I don’t really know. I asked one of my best friends who is a physician about one, but that led more into a whole conversation about my friend and my inventing a name for a disease that is yet to be recognized by the medical community. Needless to say, he didn’t think a round of antibiotics could knock it out.

Another problem comes into play that conversations themselves are even in trouble as Turkle pointed out in Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. She noted our society today has led to many people being unable to carry on conversations of any depth or length thanks to the distractions of electronic devices and the such. Even children are not learning the basics because they can’t even steal their parents’ attention away from the screens of cell phones to have a conversation.

Honestly, I didn’t believe Turkle after I read her book and thought it was greatly exaggerated, but then I started seeing examples time and again. Classrooms would be silent with students looking down at their phones rather than at each other. Couples would sit next to each other at restaurants and coffee shops and their phones would serve as their company rather than their potential soul mate sitting across the table. Then one of my colleagues told me all about how he went over the basics of a conversation with his students, and they all seemed enthralled/eager to learn what to many of us would seem like common sense but was something new to them. Turkle’s findings were being verified all over the place.

Don’t get me wrong, for I am no Luddite, and I have no proof there is a correlation between nonsermitis and the digital screen, but it they don’t seem to be helping. Just think about the basics of a most Facebook posts – they are about sharing something that happened in one’s life, and most of these are one-sided. Sure there are likes and comments; however, they rarely lead to a deep conversation on that medium at least, but I digress.

Back, though, to the topic at hand – the possible cure for nonsermitis. The first thing would be to diagnosis oneself. Many people I know with nonsermitis do not realize they suffer from the disease. That, after all, is also one of its tricky side effects. Therefore, after conversations with others, reflect about the experience. How much did you share about your life? How much did you learn about the other person? If upon reflection you realize you are struggling to remember your learning much about or from the person at all, you may be suffering from nonsermitis.

While there is no official medical treatment yet, I think probably one of the best ways to battle a case of nonsermitis was tackled by Dale Carnegie back in 1937. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, he points out time and again the importance of taking a genuine interest in others with his included it as the first rule to get others to like you. He even stated and then repeated in italics Aflred Adler’s quotation: “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.” By taking this advice to heart, one can, in theory, overcome nonsermitis.

Therefore, remember when starting a conversation with another to be genuinely interested in the other. Doing so may be the only way to keep nonsermitis at bay and keep this disease from destroying all of society as we know it.

Overcoming My Self-Help Addiction AKA My Top 10 Self-Help Sources

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Just a small portion of the self-help library at my house (random note, the document tray behind the books has a draft of my novel that is going through the second draft phase)

The first step of dealing with an addiction is admitting one has an addiction, right? If that is the case, I am going to declare right now I have an addiction to reading self-help books, watching self-help videos, and listening to self-help podcasts. When this started is unclear, but my suspicions take me back to my freshman year in high school when a friend gave me a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People as a Break-a-Leg gift for my first role in a high school play.

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Over the decades, that book has been joined by a many, many more. In fact, one of my exes once said, “You read more self-help books than anyone else I have ever met or ever known.” My ex later suggested I needed a therapist. More than likely, the push for that was unrelated to my reading, watching, and listening addiction, but then again, I don’t know that for sure.

In fact, more than likely, these New Year’s Resolutions I have been pursuing for the last three years are somehow tied to my self-help reading, watching, and listening addiction.

As a step towards breaking this addiction, I figured it would be a good idea to list 10 of my favorite things (in no particular order) I have learned over the years from books, podcasts, and articles that have helped guide my path and will be taking me to Phase III.

  1. “[T]he last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” From Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning 

    Man’s Search for Meaning is often on those top ten list of books that can change a person’s life. It is easy to understand why. There are so many amazing points Frankl makes, and the images he paints in the first half can stay with a person for a lifetime. The second half on logotherapy even provides a person with the three ways one can discover meaning ( (1) By creating a work or doing a deed; (2) By experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering). One of the many excellent points, though, is simply it is our power and only our power to choose our attitude towards a situation. Everything else can be taken away from a person, but this alone never can unless we let someone do so. So many times, I remind myself of this, and it is amazing how that can shape everything else in my life.

 

  1. “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” – a quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. 

    When Lynzie gave me this book so many years ago, she handed me a gold mine of information to learn. One of the key parts of Carnegie’s advice is to take an interest in others. Rather than talk solely about oneself, ask questions and get the other person talking. However, that alone is not enough; one should always take a genuine interest in the other person. After all, just as my mother and Emerson pointed out, every person one ever encounters, regardless of who that person is and how you meet that person, could change a person’s life. It simply takes listening for that to happen.227995_505010513350_7956_n

    So many things I have learned have not come from these self-help books but rather through conversations. And some of those people have been very unlikely conversation partners. For an example, a random conversation that happened while I waited for a Melbourne tram still haunts my memory today. This disheveled lady approached me as I stood there and simply asked, “Are you going to change the world, or are you going to be like everyone else?” My immediate response was an empty one. When the tram arrived, I rushed to the front section while she went for the back. Rethinking my answer, I went back to talk to her and ask her some questions. When she started calling me “Helen” with her then acting we were old friends, I began to question her sanity, but still her question that day and our encounter left me with much to learn.

 

  1. “We are all in search of feeling more connected to reality—to other people, the times we live in, the natural world, our character, and our own uniqueness. Our culture increasingly tends to separate us from these realities in various ways. We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, Masters of the small reality we create. In doing this work, we are in fact creating ourselves.” From Robert Greene’s Mastery 

    Greene speaks the truth (at least he does in my eyes). There really is something about creating anything at all that can make a person feel alive. Watching as my characters came alive in my novel was fascinating and invigorating. That same little high even comes from putting together some IKEA furniture. This is probably why so many people love to cook (despite the what people may think and the whole New Recipe Sunday thing, I am not one of them). There is a product at the end of the end they can enjoy. Needless to say, the key thing really is about taking an active approach to life rather than a passive one. Rather than watching TV or Netflix for hours on end, one can feel so much better afterwards by having something he/she created to show for that time spent. Or at least that is the case for me. Plus, this ties back to one of the ways one can experience meaning according to Frankl.

 

  1. It seems the Rational Decision-Maker in the procrastinator’s brain is coexisting with a pet—the Instant Gratification Monkey.” From Tim Urban, Wait But Why’s “Why Procrastinators Procrastinate”7630c-darkplaygroundpeople

    Procrastination and I are old friends. In fact, our relationship goes back farther than when Carnegie’s book came into my life. After reading tons of articles and self-help books, I still battle it. While I still procrastinate, Urban’s creation of the Instant Gratification Monkey changed everything by giving me a visual. Even right now, the Instant Gratification Monkey is telling me to write this post rather than work on my huge project due on Sunday. Plus, visualizing the little guy gets me one step closer to domesticating him (in theory). Then when a large project is due and I am doing something else (like writing a blog post about an addiction to self-help books when I should be working on a project for one of my grad classes), I know full well I am skipping around in the Dark Playground as the monkey and I wait for the Panic Monster to get us back to work (I think the Panic Monster is visiting tomorrow rather than today, so it’s all good).

 

  1. Dissatisfied single people should actually consider themselves in a neutral, fairly hopeful position, compared to what their situation could be. A single person who would like to find a great relationship is one step away from it, with their to-do list reading, “1) Find a great relationship.” People in unhappy relationships, on the other hand, are threeleaps away, with a to-do list of “1) Go through a soul-crushing break-up. 2) Emotionally recover. 3) Find a great relationship.” Not as bad when you look at it that way, right?” from Tim Urban, Wait But Why’s “How to Find a Life Partner”non-vday-2

    Easily, one of my favorite blogs would be WaitButWhy.com. It has changed my perspective on so many things. In fact, the majority of this list could come from there with my referencing the posts on friendships, Elon Musk, Horizontal History, and why Gen Y Yuppies are unhappy. However, if I had to choose the two that changed my life the most, it would be “Why Procrastinators Procrastinate” (and its Part II) and “How to Pick a Life Partner” (and its Part II). It’s spot on, and it reinforces the reason why to avoid getting in a relationship that doesn’t have a positive future.The excellent drawings captured right from the beginning my last serious relationship (with the ex who thought I needed therapy). While we may have started off well, the majority of the relationship had us on that bottom step with our fighting often. It wasn’t pretty, and truth be told, I am scared to death of ever getting into a situation like that again. However, the blog reinforced the fact my single status has me one step away from something great rather than several extremely hard steps between my life partner and where I am. My ex was also in the same place for a while after our break until a step up led to finding a soul mate. Needless to say, I am very happy about that, for they can have the great relationship we never could have had. And now I find myself when I go on a date looking for the three key ingredients the blog lists: an epic friendship, a feeling of home, and a determination to be good at marriage. If my date doesn’t pass the Traffic Test, another date isn’t going to happen, and I am going to continue hanging out on the middle of the staircase until I find that person who does.

 

  1. “There is a coffee shop around the corner where all of life can change in an instant. A mere moment can change the entire course of history, or maybe just the history for an individual or few. People have a hard time believing that something as simple as a coffee shop can hold such power, but that’s because they don’t sit and observe its magic.” from “Reaching for the Stars” at HighExistence 
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    The Metro tonight as I worked on this post
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    A fantastic picture at the Metro of Adorable Paige taken by my new accountability partner for blogging (expect more posts), very dear friend who is changing the world in many great ways, and amazing mother of Paige – Kari.


    And a good place to hang out on that middle step would be a coffee shop. Like many on this list, the place and time when I first encountered these passages/works is cemented in memory. “Reaching for the Stars” came to me via an audio recording I had downloaded thanks to a great deal on four audio books from the Daily Knowledge Podcast (RIP) to keep me company on a spring break road trip to New Orleans. My RAV4 traveled down the moonlit Indian Nation Turnpike. Thoughts of a date in Oklahoma City with someone who did not pass the Traffic Test pranced around in my head when one article from HighExistence ended and this one began. Immediately, my attention was grabbed, and I listened to it several more times that late evening before my eventual stop in Paris to get some sleep before continuing the journey.

    The power of a coffee shop is mighty to say the least. It is a place where people’s paths can cross and change their future in so many ways (as long as they are not entranced by their phone – click this link to one of my favorite YouTube videos about this very thing). In fact, the dear friend I was on the road trip to see I met at a coffee shop my first time in New Orleans when I became the Boy Who Ran and he became the Boy Who Waited (another story for another time. I will just say it launched an epic life-changing friendship with a guy, who happens to have even been in an Academy Award-winning film, ). Over the course of my life, that power has happened again and again, and really when it comes down to it, that power of a coffee shop is all about putting oneself out there. Rather than hanging out at home, going through a drive thru, or hiding behind a phone or headphones, one needs not to be an island and be out there in the world. Smile and see what happens when a simple connection turns out to be part of the fates’ design.

    That power can extend to community happenings like Third Thursday in Hutch, theatre productions, concerts, art galleries, public transport, and the such. However, I am not sure if it is ever so strong as it is in a coffee shop. This may be one of the reasons why I think the Midwest needs more 24-hour nifty coffee shops. Perhaps that would help Wichita, Kansas, get off the list of being one of the two worst places for dating in the United States that Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg talks about in his great book, Modern Romance. Keep in mind – it would only be a start, for it does take that courage to put away the safety crutch called a smartphone and strike up that conversation, which a person must do in the first 5 seconds he/she gets the impulse according to a great TED-X Talk by Mel Robbins.

 

  1. “Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier. But our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed.” From Shawn Achor’s “The Happy Secret to Better Work” at ted.com 

    Achor’s TED Talk was one of the first I ever watched, and to this day, it remains one of my favorite. Both his passion and his subject are fantastic and attention-grabbing. The points he makes are also key components to positive psychology and have changed my life and the life of others in so many ways. His TED Talk is a staple in my honors success seminar/college orientation class, and his equally great book, The Happiness Advantage, has been both the book for the Honors Book Club and the HCC Common Book Club. One of my friends and I also greet each other every time we see one another with one item of beauty and one thing for which we are grateful. This is just the iceberg too.So many points of his that are backed in research can lead a person to changing the focus of attention and life. The quotation captured here is one that I have tried to integrate into my life. Rather than go for the “I will be happy when . . .,” it is “I am happy now as I think of all of the great things in my world (like the fantastic local coffee shop a five-minute walk from my house where I am currently typing these words). So often we focus on the destination when it should be about the great things taking place with each step. Then when something wonderful does happen (winning an award, getting through an extremely hard task, accomplishing a New Year’s Resolution, finishing a draft of novel, crossing off an item on a To Do List (I am with Richard Branson about these by the way), etc.), human nature seems to shift to what’s next rather than being happy along the process rather than thinking it is only at the end when that occurs. Even at the hardest times, there are great things to appreciate, and it is important not to lose sight of them.

 

  1. #6. The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You
    #5. The Hippies Were Wrong
    #4. What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People
    #3. You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
    #2. What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do
    #1. Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement
    from David Wong’s “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person” at Cracked 

    First, this list of 6 items is posted right past my work computer on the dry erase board behind my standing desk made from a couple IKEA tables. Second, if cursing offends you, it is best to skip this blog. A lot of foul language is used, but the points made are spot on, and I can easily see why this continues to be a favorite among many. Plus, Wong’s simply changing the year to keep this up to date makes me smile, and each of these points carries a lot of weight. One of many good points is about killing excuses or otherwise they will kill you. Time and again, I hear excuses being used for some reason or another. I have caught myself doing the same, but the moment I do, I remember this great article and either accept reality or start to change my reality to do what I need to get done rather than simply be all talk and no action. And now it is to the point that excuses simply make me cringe, and I am not so good about staying quiet when someone tosses one at me as more people are finding out, but that is probably part of some other transformation taking place right now too (yep, that was a segue to the next selection).

 

  1. Daniel and I give a specific example of this that a lot of men (and women) do. A guy really likes a girl, and thinks if he’s really nice to her and goes out of his way to do things for her she’ll eventually see how great he is and want to be with him. So he creates an expectation attached to the effort and energy he gives his friendship with a girl, and when she doesn’t respond by liking him, sleeping with him or dating him, he feels disappointed or even angry with her. It’s what we at The Art of Charm call a “covert contract” and it does no one any good.” From “Daniel Munro – How to Stop People Pleasing” (Episode 358) of The Art of Charm’s podcast with AJ and Jordan Harbinger 

    I’ve listened to quite a few podcasts from The Art of Charm, and many of them are excellent with guest after guest offering some great thought-provoking advice. However, when Daniel Munro and Jordan Harbinger started talking about “covert contract” from Glover’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, I paused on my weight bench, stared at the ceiling in what used to be my home office but now personal gym, and blurted out loud, “I do that.” And yep, they are exactly right; it doesn’t do anyone any good. This can be one of the trappings of a nice guy of going far and beyond to try to help out another. I have come to the point to realize it is really pretty idiotic to do this, and if I should take that idiotic step, I should never be disappointed or even a little bit angry when I ultimately get thrown off to the side, which pretty much has happened every time.This, though, gets to my ongoing goal of being a good guy rather than a nice guy. I recently had a two-month relationship. I idiotically fell once again into the role of a nice guy, and my dear friend Kim called me out on it as I explained to her the pathetic break-up conversation. She was spot on too, and that two-month relationship and the brief romantic fling right before were what I needed on so many different levels to finally get my act together when it comes to romance. I vowed then and there in that hallway where Kim and I stood it was time to let the covert-contract-using and second-guessing nice guy die and a more confident good guy emerge from the ashes. It is taking some work to do the rewiring, but it’s happening.

 

  1. “This book is Phase 1, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to read and put off taking action until your life gets ‘less busy.’ The truth is that there is never a better time to start then right now. I can promise you that ‘eventually’ never happens, and that ‘someday’ never comes.” from Steve Kamb, Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story. 

    And this now comes to the latest self-help book that just accompanied me along some of my life journey. Kamb’s use of gamification theory helped change things up from the other books I have read. The concepts of leveling up really can serve as a good visual. During my morning jogs, I imagine getting points added to my score as I keep one step moving in front of the other (while my recent eating a lot of peanut butter with honey and milk chocolate chips take away many of those points). One of many things I really liked about Kamb was his calling out all of those people like me who are addicted to reading these self-help books, watching videos, and listening to podcasts but never actually applying the ideas. The other day a conversation wrapping up a recent Art of Manliness podcast by host Brett McKay and Ramit Sethi talked about how a person can completely change his/her life in 72 hours. What one must do is what Kamb says in the first 28 pages:  learn ideas in Phase I and then quickly try out things by applying those ideas during Phase II so one can eventually reach the goals and destination in Phase III. So often, I have been stuck in Phase I. Although I knew this before, somehow Kamb’s example using South Park’s Underpants Gnomes really got to me finally to take action by putting all of these ideas into motion and start living life in Phase II so I can get to my Phase III.

 

The list could easily continue with my going on about the importance of morning rituals, choosing friends wisely, mini-habits, creator/victim language, Alan Watt’s thoughts on Choice, and so on, but it really shouldn’t. Will this now help me step away from my addiction of self-help books, videos, and podcasts? We will see.

More than likely the self-help books, videos, articles, and podcasts are still going to be around, but the plan is to further diversify my reading, watching, and listening by throwing in more fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and non-fiction works about anything and everything. The key is all of these things I will encounter will not be directly about improving myself. However, just as Emerson pointed out, everyone, and everything for that matter, has something that we can learn. One just has to pay attention. After all, The Great Gatsby played a massive role in my life after my return to the States from Australia. Plus, Elon Musk’s excellent biography that I listened to in December shifted my world as well.

Now paying attention to Kamb and all of these other great writers who have impacted my life and never have known it, it is time for me to take some action, finally find my footing with 2016/life, and make the most out of this amazing journey ahead of me.

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And now heading into Phase II with Phase III on the horizon