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Monthly Archives: March 2012

“The Hunger Games”

On the off-chance that you are living under a rock, this blog is a public service announcement:

The latest hot new movie, “The Hunger Games,” released this weekend.

Now, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I envy you.

For the rest of you, I hope that you will enjoy this cinematic diversion…

I know that this sounds condescending. It is not meant to…

Because I must admit that I, too, want to go see “The Hunger Games.”

I know that my son, Matthew, is rejoicing at this admission…

But wanting to go see it and actually doing so are two decidedly different things.

Will my son go see it?

Maybe…

Will I go see it? I don’t know…

Why might I NOT go see a movie that genuinely interests me?

Because it’s a diversion…

That’s not bad in and of itself…

But what is a diversion for most people usually becomes a distraction for me.

Diversions are temporary and fleeting.

Distractions are long-lasting.

Diversions are short-term adventures that allow us to escape the mundane…

Distractions are long-term disruptions that dominate my thoughts and keep me from accomplishing my goals.

At the risk of drawing derision from those more equipped to assess my attention-span, I have often wondered if I am not ADD. I have an extremely difficult time focusing on important tasks for a long period of time. But when something like “The Hunger Games” comes out, I am suddenly obsessed with searching the internet for the latest film trailers, news, and pop culture chatter about the phenomenon.

Is it because I like to be “in the know” about what people are talking about?

Probably…

It is definitely in my nature to want to be a part of what the rest of the crowd is doing…

Of course, that makes me a follower…

And following is okay…sometimes.

But I have found much success in life when I have had the opportunity to be a leader rather than a follower.

And the larger successes in my life have been from leading rather than following.

So following this line of thought to its natural conclusion…

I should be a leader for the “I’m not going to see “The Hunger Games” crowd.

Except that, from what I hear, this might be a very small crowd.

A crowd of one…

But if it IS just a crowd of one, then I shouldn’t have anyone around to distract me…right?

Besides, I already know how “The Hunger Games” trilogy ends…I read the last pages of the third book at the book store. So there’s no need to see the movie anyway…

Oops, gotta go…there’s a new trailer at imdb.com…

For “The Avengers.”

SIGH…

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Another Lost Idea…

I seem to have some of my best blogging ideas at 5:30 am…

When I am half-asleep…

Standing in the shower…

Without my iPad…

Of course, if I took my iPad with me into the shower, I would have a very interesting blog to write…I couldn’t use my iPad to write it (ever again), but it would be interesting.

Well, this stream of thought isn’t getting me anywhere, so let’s keep rowing…where was I?

Oh yes, blogging ideas at 5:30 am in the shower.

I had a couple of great ones this morning. I said to myself, “Jon, you need to write this one…people will love it!”

The blog I am currently writing is NOT the one I was thinking about this morning.

And the reason is because I cannot remember what I was thinking about at 5:30 am while I was standing in the shower.

SIGH…

I could take waterproof markers and a dry erase board with me into the shower every morning…

Or maybe I just need to jump out of the shower when inspiration strikes me and scribble the idea on the steamed up mirror…

I guess if I was jumping out of the shower, I COULD just have a pen and paper handy to write down whatever I am thinking about.

But then, it would get all smeary…I would drip all over the paper AND the floor…it would just be a big mess…

This reminds me of an episode of “Seinfeld” where Jerry wakes up laughing and sleepily writes down some joke he thought of in his dreams. The next morning when he tries to remember what the joke was, he can’t remember it and he can’t read what he wrote down in the middle of the night. Throughout the entire episode, he keeps shoving this pad of paper in front of people and asking, “Can you tell what this says?”

Of course, sometimes, people read my blog and wonder what I was trying to say, so maybe there’s a good analogy…

I have a point…I really do.

And it is this: Why does some of our best thinking occur when we are in a situation where we are not equipped to capture the thoughts?

And more to the point, what are you doing in your life to capture good thoughts and use them to further your life goals?

I hope you can give me some good ideas…

Because I really don’t want to buy a waterproof case for my iPad.

 

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DISTRACTED!

I just read a guest blog at one of my favorite blog sites, Goinswriter.com. The article, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, details one of their secrets to excellent writing.

The secret is this: “Sit in a chair for two hours every day.”

Millburn and Nicodemus state that, “Eventually, the words will come.”

I have been sitting in the same chair for the last three hours, trying to write. The words have not been coming to me.

Of course, their premise relies on the idea that we are free from all distractions. And I quote: “Make sure you don’t have any distractions in that chair — no internet, no television, no radio, no phone. If you’re truly passionate about writing, you’ll do it.”

Of course, I am sitting at a Starbucks, where the radio is playing loudly. I have my cell phone at my side, and I am using my computer, which, of course, is wirelessly connected to the internet.

And since the words are not coming, I am using my time productively…playing Facebook Scrabble.

On the plus side, this Starbucks does not have a television…

Maybe I’m not “truly passionate about writing.”

SIGH…

It seems like no matter where I go, there are distractions.

And I use them as an excuse not to write.

I have trouble writing at home, because my children, as wonderful as they are, prevent me from focusing.

I have trouble writing at the office, because I feel the pressure to accomplish work-related tasks.

I know these feel like excuses…and maybe they are. But it seems like there are distractions everywhere I go.

What are the distractors in your life? What is it that gets in the way of your accomplishments? And what are you doing to eliminate those distractors?

I would really like to know.

Because I need help.

And who better to help than you?

 

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Vegging Out…

I’m vegging out…

Is that a word? Vegging? My spell checker says it’s not…

But you all know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

I’m sittin’ around, not doin’ anything important…zonin’ out.

And I feel guilty.

I shouldn’t. But I do.

We all need to zone out once in a while…we need to shut off our brains and just float aimlessly along the river of mindlessness.

I need to find a different place to do it though.

Because right now, I’m in my favorite writing place, at my favorite Starbucks, in my favorite chair, with my favorite cup of coffee…

And like Pavlov’s dog, I seem to be trained to react a certain way when I am in this spot.

I get out the iPad and I start to write.

I guess that’s a good thing…this place seems to help me break through the clutter in my mind and focus my thoughts.

But what about when I need to mentally unplug?

Do I need to find a new location to go to where I can just zone out?

Am I so OCD that I need to have one place to think and one place NOT to think?

Well, at least I’m in the right place to think about that right now…

Think about where I can go to not think…

Wow, there’s a heavy concept.

I’m thinking too much…my head is starting to hurt.

I better find that non-thinking place soon….

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Focus, Motivation, Self-discipline, Writing

 

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Downward Ho!

I broke through a plateau last week…

Finally.

Many of you know exactly what I mean when I say that, and you are privately congratulating me…or wishing that it was you who could say that.

If you aren’t sure what that means, then you are fortunate. It probably means that you have not fought a lifelong battle with your weight.

A plateau occurs when you have been losing weight for awhile, and then…

You don’t.

You get stuck. You hit a plateau. And no matter what you do, you cannot seem to get your weight loss moving in a downward trajectory.

Hitting a plateau is frustrating. After sitting at a plateau for a while, it becomes extremely discouraging.

It is at this point that many people resort to drastic measures…

Or give up.

I have done both.

Weight loss has been a lifelong battle for me. I went on my first diet when I was 12, and I have tried dozens of different diet plans since then. My weight has yo-yoed between 280 and 360 since high school, and I have hit many plateaus along the way.

The first time I hit a serious plateau, I decided to stop eating completely and increase my exercise program. I fasted for several days, working out strenuously every morning.

I ended up in the hospital with an erratic heartbeat.

I was flat on my back in a hospital bed for five days, with nothing to do but watch TV…and eat.

When I left the hospital, I had gained ten pounds.

Not exactly the way I wanted to get off my plateau.

Other plateaus in weight loss have been left behind by abandoning the diet. I have done that.

And each time I did that, I would gain more weight than I lost when I originally started the diet.

So breaking through this current plateau was extremely gratifying for me.

I did not do anything stupid.

And I did not give up.

I simply made a couple of specific changes to my eating plan.

I cut my calorie intake by 500 calories per day.

I started to consistently weigh and measure my food.

And I planned out my meals in advance.

I also began using a phenomenal iPad app called MyFitnessPal.

They have a website too.

MyFitnessPal contains a library of just about every name brand food and restaurant item you can possibly imagine, including all nutritional information on each item.

MyFitnessPal allows you to record exercise information, and then computes calories burned (along with your food intake) to give you a full picture of your dietary consumption for the day and week. It also stores meals and recipes so that you can easily recall them if you have a similar meal at another time.

MyFitnessPal has removed all excuses I have ever used for failing to write down my food. The only excuse for not keeping track now is sheer laziness…and I’ve been guilty of that before.

But not anymore.

At least not with my food.

Because I have finally broken through a plateau.

I didn’t have to do anything crazy to get through it.

And I am NOT giving up…not this time.

Not ever again.

 

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The Consequences of “Saving Time”

You are probably a writer…

You may not realize it, but you are…

73% of the people in American society are writers…That’s the percentage of people in the US who use their cell phones to send text messages.

If you text, you are a writer.

Scared yet? If you haven’t considered the fact that you are a writer, then you should be.

Words are powerful. Words are transformative…Words are life-affirming.

Words are also destructive.

Even when they aren’t supposed to be.

The danger with text, much like the danger of blogging, is that you cannot see the expression of the writer or hear the tone of their voice.

Now in this blog, I get the opportunity to frame the content of what I am saying. I can edit and revise before posting. I can anticipate how you might react to a comment before I hit “send.”

Most people don’t do that when sending a text.

Most people don’t even take the time to make sure they spelled everything correctly, but I won’t go there…at least not in this blog.

In the interests of saving time, we have taken to short-handing everything…lol, brb, afaik, and btw have become convenient ways to transmit messages in short spurts, but, unfortunately, there are unintended consequences that arise when we conform to this mindset.

We now try to make all messages as short as possible, even messages that might require a bit more time to convey correctly. And, in trying to save time, we actually create more problems that require more time to straighten out than if we had just taken the time to talk on the phone or in person.

This happens a lot with e-mails too. And I am as guilty as anyone of misinterpreting the intentions of the writer.

Recently, I received a lengthy e-mail from a friend. He was lamenting some personal struggles, and it was quite detailed. There were questions of a spiritual nature, and I did not want to answer off the cuff, so I took a couple of days to think on the e-mail and respond.

My response was equally detailed, as I gave them the best words I could find. I thought over them carefully, edited and revised my words a couple of times, and even asked my wife for input. Finally, I hit send.

The next day, I got a brief reply. It essentially said, “Thanks for your words. I’m probably over-reacting.”

That was all…

Now I am wrestling with whether I may have offended them…

I have wandered from my original point, which can be summed up in the following diagram:

You are a writer. ——–> Writers use words. ——–> Words can transform or destroy.

Therefore:

You can transform or destroy.

The next time you need to fire off a “quick message” to someone, don’t think about just what you are going to say…

Think about what the recipient is going to read…

And what they are going to hear when they read your message.

It might save you more time in the long run.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Society, Writing

 

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No Longer the Class Clown…

In high school, I was rarely taken seriously by my teachers…

Come to think of it, many people don’t take me seriously NOW…

At least when I first say something.

I’m known to be a bit of a comedian. In high school, I was a class clown.

And I didn’t really mind…because I liked to laugh and have fun…

I still do.

There was one teacher on whom I had to work really hard for her to take me seriously.

Her name was Alice Lauterbur. We not-so-kindly referred to her as “Mad Alice” and she was my Composition and Grammar teacher.

Unfortunately, Miss Lauterbur was the butt of jokes and pranks by many students throughout her teaching career. By the time she was my teacher, she was probably in her late 60’s, and she had been teaching English since before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (I had classmates whose PARENTS had taken Mad Alice for English when they were in high school).

Miss Lauterbur required all of her “Comp and Grammar” students to write a term paper about a famous person. She called it “Aspirations Under Glass” (which makes NO sense…I mean, I get the “Aspirations” part…but “Under Glass?” What the heck is THAT?!?!?)

Anyway, there were a few specific guidelines for this term paper. First of all, we had to have 3-5 different reference sources. Then we had to document each reference quote on a 3×5 card and keep all of them in some specific order in a little brown accordion portfolio holder thingy (I think that was the technical name for it). And finally, we could not write about anyone that any of her previous students had ever written on…

I’m not kidding. Miss Lauterbur gave us a 3-page list of names of people that we could not write on…living, dead, or anywhere in between…if a student had written about someone 40 years prior, we were not allowed to write about the same person.

This led to a lot of grumbling among my friends…

But not me.

I knew exactly who I wanted to write about.

This was 1981. I was a huge baseball fan…and one of the hottest rookies in recent memory had just broken into the major leagues in a big way.

His name was Fernando Valenzuela. He was a left-handed pitcher for the Dodgers. He was from a poor upbringing in Mexico, he couldn’t speak English, and he was the hottest thing going in baseball.

Miss Lauterbur told me I could not write about him. She said that my writing skills were too good to be wasted on (insert disdainful tone here) “a baseball player”.

I begged…I pleaded…I nagged…I promised Miss Lauterbur that I would write a great paper that she would be proud of. Eventually, she relented…I think it was because she didn’t think I would take the project seriously if she forced me to write about someone else.

She was right.

I didn’t take much seriously in high school…

But I took that paper seriously.

I wish I still had that paper to look back on…

But I don’t.

I didn’t lose it…Miss Lauterbur didn’t give it back to me.

Or, to be more accurate, she didn’t let me keep it after she handed it back. I got to look at it. I got to read her comments, written in spidery red ink. But she didn’t let me keep it.

She asked me if SHE could keep it so that she could make copies of it to show generations of future students how to write a really excellent term paper.

I was shocked…

I don’t know how many “generations of future students” were left in her teaching career…

But I was pleased to let her keep it.

I received more than an A+ on that paper.

I received confidence…confidence that I could be taken seriously if I gave my best effort to something.

You see, being the class clown can be a great way to hide from expectations-not only from others but also from yourself. And that’s what I had been doing for years…expecting very little of myself and achieving exactly that…very little.

I saw Miss Lauterbur recently. She is in her 90’s now. She volunteers at a local hospital as a front desk attendant. And she remembered me…30 years after she was my teacher.

It was fun to chat with her for a few moments.

But it was also great to be reminded of a time when I learned that I could make an impact with words.

I don’t know how many people read that term paper…

But I hope that someone else found the writing to be inspiring.

Because I know that I did…

 

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