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Monthly Archives: June 2012

When You Don’t Feel Like It…

I have a problem…You see, I’m a writer…and a writer is supposed to, well…WRITE. But I’m not feeling inspired to write at the moment…

That’s not exactly the problem. The problem is that, whether I feel INSPIRED or not, I need to write anyway.

And I haven’t been.

You can’t get away with that in most other professions.

For example, just because I don’t feel like teaching my class doesn’t mean that I don’t show up and do it anyway.

If people didn’t show up for work, society would fall apart. Patients would die while their doctors hit the golf course. Retailers would lock their doors because no one came to work to take care of their customers. The transportation system would grind to a halt as drivers and pilots took the day off.

So why do I stop writing when I don’t feel like it?

Is it because I somehow view my writing as less important? Do I think that what I have to say doesn’t matter?

Or is it because I am just undisciplined…

That’s a statement, not a question.

It also answers the question, “Why do I stop writing when I don’t feel like it?”

I’m undisciplined. My days blow by without a plan. And, as the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

In a recent blog, Michael Hyatt writes about the importance of getting a handle on his schedule. He even includes a link to an excel file that lays out his “ideal week.” I encourage you to read it. You will benefit immensely, believe me.

What tools are you using to become more productive? Have you ever laid out a picture of your “ideal” day, week, or month? Please feel free to share how you are maximizing your time more effectively.

Because I need all the help I can get.

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No Way Out: How I Am Forcing Myself To Be Accountable

The key to accepting responsibility for your life is to accept the fact that your choices, every one of them, are leading you inexorably to either success or failure, however you define those terms.

-Anonymous

I have never been a particularly “self-responsible” person. That’s not to say I do not take responsibility. Most people would say that when I screw up, I will own it. And when I am leading a team and the job doesn’t get done, I take responsibility for getting it done or accepting the consequences of failure.

But when it comes to self-responsibility, I have never been the model to follow. This is evidenced by my repeated failures in the area of personal fitness, my seeming inability to ever satisfactorily close out a project, and my general laziness. Even when I have been in accountability relationships, my accountability partner has usually become tired of trying to keep me motivated. They seem to think that their inability to help me reach the goals to which I am being held accountable means that they have somehow failed…so they give up.

But I have discovered an accountability method that keeps an accountability partner from becoming worn out: I call it “multi-lateral accountability.”

Some people call it “not putting all of your eggs in one basket.” Seth Godin calls it building a “Tribe.” However you want to label it, there really is “strength in numbers.”

Case in point: I have chosen to widely publicize my plan to run my very first 5K race.

For those who don’t know me, I used to weigh over 360 pounds. I developed diabetes, I could not walk up stairs without huffing and puffing, and I had pretty much resigned myself to a shortened life span because of my obesity. I have since lost 90 pounds, my diabetes is under control (without insulin), and I have a renewed sense of purpose. At one time, the very idea that I would EVER be training to run in any kind of race was laughable.

So, where was I?

Oh yes, I have chosen to widely publicize my plan to run my very first 5K race….

The key words in this sentence are “widely publicize.”

I didn’t just tell my wife…I didn’t just tell my closest friends…

I posted it on my blog. I made it my status on Facebook…I am telling anyone who asks…I am telling anyone who DOESN’T ask…I’m basically putting myself so far out on a limb that if I DON’T run this race, I will lose all credibility with just about everyone I know…

And even some people I don’t know…

Because, you see, the coolest thing happened to me the other day…

One of my Facebook friends (Mike) “liked” my post…and one of Mike’s Facebook friends-someone I don’t even know (let’s call him Jerry) saw my post. And Jerry wrote me to ask how I was losing weight.

Wow…

Someone I didn’t know wanted to hear my story…

And I couldn’t wait to tell it to him. You know why? Because I’m just an average guy, like everyone else. I have my struggles, like everyone else. Like so many people in our country, I have struggled with obesity, and I never saw a light at the end of the tunnel…I never saw a future where I could ever be anything more than the “beached whale” that so many of my classmates called me in high school.

And then something changed…

And now, someone I have never met has asked me to share with him how I’m doing it.

You know what else is cool?

As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop, waiting to meet “Sam,” another guy that I don’t know. Sam learned about me from another mutual friend, and he is driving up from Lafayette so that we can meet and talk about what I’m doing to get fit.

As I was exercising this morning, I was thinking about all of the people who have been encouraging me, offering me exercise and diet tips, praying for me, and cheering me on (One friend from church even said that she was going to come to the race on August 11th to support me). And I realized that I had never experienced this kind of accountability before. This isn’t a private conversation anymore. This is a developing community of accountability partners who are cheering me on and encouraging me in the fight.

And I want to say thanks.

I also want you to be on the lookout for other people like Jerry and Sam. If you think that they would be encouraged to know how someone else is fighting the same battle, please share this story with them. I want to be able to encourage as many people as I can.

And it never hurts to have a few more accountability partners too. 🙂

 

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Putting Your Dreams in Black and White

Accomplishing a task once though impossible is a phenomenal experience…the natural inclination is to share it with your friends and family-to have them celebrate with you as you revel in your accomplishment.

I did this today…

Big mistake…

Yesterday, I ran a mile for the first time in my life. As a long-term couch potato (can I get a side of fries with that?), this is something that I never imagined doing. When I was a kid, I couldn’t climb the rope, jump the rope, or swing from the rope (although I was always asked to ANCHOR the rope in tug-of-war). P.E. was the worst part of school. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed over 280 on my way to a morbidly obese 360 pounds…running a mile was something I never thought I would do.

So naturally, I wanted to share it with friends…

Did I mention that this was a big mistake?

I meet with a mastermind group every Friday morning…we’re a group of guys (Mark, Bryan, Larry, and me) who read professional/personal development books and discuss them. We also encourage and motivate one another, and we hold each other accountable. I couldn’t wait to tell the guys about my victory.

All of the other guys are in pretty good shape, so running a mile made me feel even more like one of the guys. They congratulated me, joked with me about how sore I was, and gave me tips for what to expect and how to improve my running time. I felt really good.

Then Mark said, “Hey, you know what we should do? We should run together in the Rotary Ramble in August!” The Rotary Ramble is a 5K (3.1 mile) race, held in our town every year during the Town and Country Festival days.

I smiled as if to say, “yeah, right!” But before I could say anything else, Larry said, “That’s a good idea! It’s in August sometime…what’s that date again?” All three guys started fishing through their calendars to find the date.

I immediately protested, “wait a minute, that’s only a couple of months away…I can’t get up to three miles in two months!”

“Yeah, you can!” they all assured me as they started making plans. I was being sucked inexorably into their vortex, and I didn’t see any way out. I feebly tried to protest, but then Mark stuck his hand out, fist down, like players do right before they start some kind of crazy team chant. Bryan and Larry stuck their hands in, and then all three looked at me expectantly…

Get the picture?

Peer pressure exists; even for old guys like me…I slowly reached out my hand and put it on the top of the pile, knowing that I was about to make a two month commitment to training for a race. Less than 24 hours prior, I didn’t believe I could run a mile, and now, I was agreeing to run a 3.1 mile race. What was I thinking?

I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking that a world of possibilities had been opened to me when I ran that mile. When I did something I thought impossible, I realized that everything else I once thought impossible was now possible.

We did one of those crazy “one, two, three break!” chants, and I committed to God, myself, and three other human beings that this effort to get fit was finally, once and for all, a reality, and not just another fad, as it had been for so many years.

And since I committed it to my friends in private, I figure that I should commit it to my readers in public. So here it is…

Barring injury or any unforeseeable circumstance, I am running the Rotary Ramble on August 11th in Demotte, Indiana.

There, I said it…now I have to prepare to do it.

But putting it in black and white brings clarity and a resolve that I wouldn’t have if I just left it out there as a “nice idea.”

Now it’s your turn…what “nice ideas” have you been thinking about that you have been afraid to commit to? You don’t have to commit to it now. Just share it with the rest of us. Put it in writing, so that it’s more than just an idea, floating around in your head. If you are afraid to share it publicly, then you can send me a private message or just write yourself a letter and read it through a couple of times. You CAN do it.

After all, if I can run a mile, I can do just about anything…

And so can you…

 

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Kicking “The Bucket List”

In the film, “The Bucket List,” Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are terminal cancer patients who create a list of things that they want to do before they die. It’s a familiar premise, and one that I often hear people reference when they talk, sometimes wistfully, about their aspirations.

To me, the expression “bucket list” is too negative… “Kicking the Bucket” makes it sound like it was a life not worth living, and it’s finally (and thankfully) over. This should not be…our dreams, goals, and aspirations should not be relegated to something as mundane as a “bucket list.” So I have instead decided to create my “dream list.”

I’m going to share some of my dream list with you, exposing my soul a little bit…but before I do that, I need to ask: Have YOU created a dream list? Do you have a list of dreams that you want to accomplish? And if you have that list, is it just a mental list? Or have you actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and written them down? I would like to challenge you with this thought: if you have never physically written down a list of dreams that you would like to accomplish in your life, then you don’t have a dream list…or a bucket list…or any other kind of list for that matter. All you have are some nebulous ideas floating randomly through your skull with no place for them to land and move toward reality.

In his best-selling book “Platform,” Michael Hyatt says, “Wonderful things happen when you commit something to writing. I don’t fully understand how it works but I have experienced it firsthand again and again.”  Hyatt goes on to explain step-by-step how to make your dreams become a reality. I am personally engaging in these steps as I develop my list, and seeing my dreams written out in front of me has given me a level of confidence in my ability to accomplish them that I did not expect.

Some people have hundreds of dreams that they put on their list. That feels intimidating to me, so I decided to list just 25. Before I knew it, I already had 23, and I didn’t even have to work that hard to come up with them. After all, they have been floating through my mind for years…I just haven’t taken the time to write them down.

For some, 25 might still seem like a lot, so I would like to encourage you to identify just ten dreams that you would like to accomplish. If you come up with more, that’s fantastic, but just try to list ten for now. I am going to list ten of mine, just as a starting point to help stir the pot. These ten are not necessarily my top ten, but they are all definitely things that I dream of accomplishing in my life:

  1. Lose 135 pounds (I have already lost 90; 2/3 of the way there!).
  2. Go skydiving.
  3. Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef.
  4. Have 10,000 subscribers to my blog.
  5. Take all of my sons on a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.
  6. Scream “We’re Debt Free” live on the Dave Ramsey Show.
  7. Speak at the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast.
  8. Take my wife to Ireland and Wales to explore her heritage.
  9. Complete a 5K race.
  10. Walk to the top of the Great Wall of China (I was there once, but I was too overweight to make it to the top, so I need to go back!).

I am already working on some of these…for example; I ran a full mile today without breaking stride for the first time in my life. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but for someone who used to weigh 360 pounds and couldn’t walk up a short flight of stairs without gasping for air, this was a huge moment. I actually shed tears of joy when I crossed the one mile mark. I never really believed that I would ever be able to run a mile. When I did, something inside me was released. All of the self-doubt that I have been harboring since I was a kid went away when I realized that I could actually do something I once thought impossible.

So what about you? What are your dreams? What are the things you dream of doing but think that they are impossible? I have just two pieces of advice for you:

  1. Write them down! List the things you want to do, read them, savor them, and imagine yourself doing them.
  2. Get Michael Hyatt’s book, “Platform.” It’s an Amazon.com best seller, and you can pick it up from any number of online retailers for well below cover price. And then read chapters 8 and 9 (heck, read the whole book!) and follow the simple steps to realizing your dreams.

You’ll be glad you did…and your life will never be the same.

 

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Finding Your Magic Number

Numbers are magical…

Come on, admit it! Even if you don’t like math, you know that there are certain numbers that are magical.

For some people, that number is 50…as in “50% off all merchandise.” The eyes glaze over and the mouth starts to salivate at the possibilities…

Magic.

If you are a baseball fan, Joe DiMaggio’s 56 is a magic number. For bowlers, 300 is magic. If you like to golf, your magic number is whatever par is for that course.

For me, 300 was always a magic number, but not because I bowled. In high school, it was the weight that some people mercilessly teased me of being…and the weight I swore that I would never reach. It was the weight I rocketed past on my way to an all-time high of 360 pounds…and it was the number that I desperately wanted to drop below.

When I finally did get below 300 pounds last year, I didn’t have the sense of euphoria that I thought I would. There was a sense of satisfaction, but I was still not content with my body. I was still overweight and I could not enjoy my accomplishment. A friend asked me if I had ever been content with myself. Sadly, I had not. I have always been overweight, I have always been embarrassed about my weight, and I have always been driven to lose that weight…

Until…

Recently I experienced something new…I found a new magic number. And it caught me off guard. I stepped on the scale, and for the first time since I was about 13 years old, I weighed less than 270 pounds…

And something inside me clicked…I felt different…I felt satisfied…

I felt content.

For some reason, in that moment, I was no longer embarrassed at what I weighed. I could shout it from the rooftops (or at least in my blog):

I weigh 268 pounds!!!

I don’t know why 270 has become that magic number. I didn’t feel this way when I dropped below 300, or 290 or 280. And I don’t even think I will feel the same way when I eventually get below 260, or 250, or (hopefully) 240.

Because for the first time in my life, I am content with who I am physically and where my weight is right now. The number 270 defines for me a milepost, a barrier that I do not want to cross again.  But, more than that, it defines a moment in time when I was able to look in the mirror and actually like myself for who I am, not for who I hope to be.

And for me, that moment was pure magic.

So what are some magic numbers in your life? Is it that 92% you received for a term paper in English class? Did you get a hole in ONE in golf last week? Or maybe you just passed five years cancer-free. Whatever it might be, find your magic number, identify it, and celebrate! And share it here as an encouragement to  others.

Because numbers are truly magical.

 

 

 

 

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Procrastination Killed the Chickens

We all know that “curiosity killed the cat,” and “an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.” I even know that “Video killed the radio star.” But I learned a valuable and expensive lesson this morning when I found that “Procrastination killed the Chickens.”

My wife Kate has raised chickens for several years. She took a brief hiatus from it when our son was getting married, but she decided this past winter that she wanted to get some chicks and raise them again. I LOVE the fresh chicken eggs, so I was all for it. She ordered them (they actually come in a small box in the mail-25 chicks in a box about 8 by 10 inches), and she told me that they would be here around the end of April. She also told me that there were a few repairs that needed to be done to the coop and asked me to take care of them when I could-preferably before the chicks arrived.

The chicks arrived on April 25th, and, while I had made some of the repairs to the coop, I had not gotten them all done, most notably, a gap in the nest box door that was caused by the warping of the wood I used to build the original coop five years ago…

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

This morning, I awoke to find my six-year old daughter in tears. She told me that “all the chickies DIED…” My heart sank…I asked my wife what happened (stupid question). She said that when she went out to feed them, they were all dead. Something “got in somewhere.” In my gut, I knew where that “somewhere” was, and it was pretty much confirmed when I went out to investigate the slaughter. There were dead chickens everywhere, but, in the nest box where I had failed to fix the offending gap, was a scene of carnivorous carnage that turned my stomach. I had my answer…

I was responsible for this.

After apologizing to my wife and comforting my distraught daughter, I returned to the coop and cleaned up the mess. I have spent the last several hours repairing the chicken coop…and all the while, all I could think was this:

“You procrastinated again! Why do you keep DOING this?!?!?”

Isn’t that the way it is when we procrastinate? When we don’t want to do something, we put it off until later…and then later…and then later again, until finally, either we drag ourselves through the effort to accomplish something that could have been done so much sooner, or, worse, we end up paying the consequences for our inaction.

I have probably paid hundreds, if not thousands, of extra dollars throughout my life because of my procrastination. The sad thing is that my inaction didn’t just cost ME (in terms of extra time, money, and effort), but it also cost my wife. Five weeks of hard work was wasted. It cost my daughter emotionally. It cost my son, who took care of the chickens every day while we were on vacation.

Are you a procrastinator? Are there things on your to-do list that you keep pushing back “until tomorrow?” If there is, I want you to take a moment and think about the possible consequences of delaying action on each one of them. Then, choose one of them, take the next step, and get that item done. You’ll be glad you did.

And, unlike me, you probably won’t have to clean up any bloody, headless chicken corpses.

Have a nice day! 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Procrastination, Self-discipline

 

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The Dark Side of Summer Vacation

It’s a shame to admit this, but if I were asked to write a cheesy essay called, “What I did on my summer vacation,” I would have to include the following sentence:

“I spent much of my summer vacation eagerly looking forward to going back to work.”

This is heresy to most people, and when my wife reads this, she may hit the roof. So I need to quickly clarify that the only time during my summer vacation that did not include thoughts of returning to work was the wonderful week I spent with my beautiful wife in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as we celebrated our 25th anniversary…I love you, Katie-Baby!

However, the rest of my vacation has been filled with thoughts of returning to “the grind.”

I have spent the morning reflecting on why I am eager to be done with my vacation. The irony is not lost on me that most students are just starting their vacation, and mine is drawing to a close. In fact, as I think about it, can I really call this a SUMMER vacation? I had a month off between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of summer school. But summer school starts on June 4th, and summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21st. I guess I had a spring vacation…although everyone calls it a summer vacation.

Oh well, who cares? The point is this: I want to go back to work…

And I have figured out why.

I have developed a fairly stable daily, weekly, and monthly routine. It includes all aspects of my life:  physical, relational, professional, spiritual, and recreational. I have been working hard lead a more balanced life, and, although not perfect, I have managed to achieve some success. I am improving in ALL of these life areas as I live within my routine, and for the first time in my life, I am learning how to be content with who I am.

In the four weeks that I have been on vacation, my routine has been turned completely upside down. I have never been good at embracing change, and the sudden change in my routine in the midst of these life successes has derailed me. You see, with the exception of the week we spent in Tennessee, I have just been knocking around the house. I have had a great deal of time to write, but it has been hard to work on my writing with the kids around. As an example, I’m struggling mightily to concentrate right now, as my beautiful 8-year old daughter (who I would jump in front of a speeding train to protect) is banging away on the piano. She is legitimately practicing, not just horsing around. And yet, I cannot easily focus. I now realize that I need the solitude of my work office in order to work on non-work related activities.

Following my food “action plan” was difficult while I was in Tennessee. I don’t “diet.” I “dieted” for years with little to no success. The way that I have lost 90+ pounds has been by implementing an action plan that includes planning my meals ahead of time, writing down what I eat, weighing and measuring my portion sizes, and a regular exercise routine. Truthfully, I have not been disciplined about doing this since my vacation started, and now I am trying to get back into the habit. It will be easier to stay in the groove when I am going back into the office on a regular basis.

Of course, I recognize that all of these valid explanations for my struggles are not really valid at all…they are excuses to be undisciplined. And if there is one thing I have never been short on, it is excuses for not getting things done. The good news is that I am blessed with another day to start over and get it right…and I only need to get it right FOR TODAY. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Focus, Motivation, Self-discipline

 

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