Lessons from the Dad’s of the best of the Blogosphere.

This article continues my Father’s Day theme. I started off with lessons from my dear, old Dad. This one continues with a few more quotes from some well known others.

The Blogosphere is an interesting place filled with interesting people. A while ago I asked a bunch of Internet celebrities about the lessons that they learned from their dads. Most took the time to respond and I’m very thankful they did.

Check out not only the advice that made a mark on them but the people who supplied it as well. Remember, the criteria for my list was being an Internet rock-star who was also approachable. Success + kindness == some awesome people with interesting stories.

A BIG thanks to everyone who helped me out!

John Jantsch – Duct Tape Marketing

John is THE standard in small business marketing and runs his empire from Duct Tape Marketing He’s also a good guy who just released a great book on referrals – I bought two, one for me and one as a prize for my local business group. The tons of advice he dispenses daily is applicable both in the small business world as well as the corporate one.

Advice from John’s Dad

Whenever some conflict over something that was not done right would come up he would always say: “Fix the problem, not the blame.”

Great advice. That’s how all doers think. John is definitely a “doer.” If you wish your small business could be doing more, check out his site.

Brendon Sinclair – Tailored Web Design

Brendon literally wrote the book on how to run a web development business– something I do to supplement my cubicle income. His book is great no matter your business. Learning from him was worth 10 times what you’d find in a typical MBA and is roughly $100,000 cheaper. Somehow he manages to run a great business, teach others, and do crazy things like triathlons and bike across Australia.

Advice from Brendon’s Dad

Always eat at a full table because you never know how long your luck’s going to last!

This advice screams take advantage of all the opportunities you’re given. Brendon and company definitely do that over at Tailored. One thing you could do is drop by and have a look.

Rick Ingersoll- Frugal Travel Guy

Rick is the primary reason the wife and I will be doing a lot of free flying in the near future. Over at his site he details great ways to earn frequent flyer miles. Not only does he share every tip in the book, he practices what he preaches flying all over the world all of the time.

Advice from Rick’s Dad

Always do the next right thing.

To me this means to go above and beyond with the way you help people. Rick’s doing that and more by sharing his wealth of knowledge and encouraging other people to be better humans by way of providing a great example.

Chris Guillebeau – The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris has the most compelling story on the Internet. He’s roughly my age – 31 – and he’s on a mission to see every country in the world before he’s 35. That’s cool. The way he’s financing it may be even cooler. He’s a consummate entrepreneur claiming to never have had a “real job.” Don’t let him fool you into thinking he never works. The guy launches product after product, writes more than Hemingway, and has a book coming out this fall (complete with plans to do a 50 state book tour to promote it.)

The reason you end up reading and then re-reading Chris is that he’s an incredible achiever and seems impervious to negativity. The only downside to reading him is the hit your work ethic’s ego takes. This guy does a lot!

Advice from Chris’s Dad

My Dad taught me to think for myself and not take no for an answer. These lessons influenced my entire worldview, and whatever success I have now comes from his modeling that to me.

No doubt that Chris is successfully charting his own path.

Yaro Starak – Entrepreneur’s Journey

A lot of people want to make money doing what they love. A lot of people will sell you information on how to learn to do what you love. Yaro’s a guy who has done the former and manages to do the latter in a non-scammy, effective way. If you’re into blogging, you’ve likely gone to his site to learn from the best.  If not, what are you waiting for?

Advice from Yaro’s Dad

Don’t assume the cheapest is the best. Sometimes paying more for something of higher quality is a good idea rather than saving money just for the sake of saving money.

This led me to later realize that time is of more value than money, and although you might save money buying the cheapest option, often the time lost due to poor quality, costs you more.

Hanging on the wall of my cube is a comic that helps keep me centered. Yaro’s quote reminds me of it. It’s of a business man, late to a meeting, walking past a grave yard looking at his watch thinking ‘Time = Money.’ The grave boasts an etching “time > money.”

So what about you? What’s do you think about the advice they shared? Could you apply it?

Have any advice you’d like to share. Let us know in the comments below!

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Lessons from Dad

It’s Father’s Day this week so the focus will be on advice from Dear Old Dad. Today starts off the theme with one-liners from my Dad. And if you know him, you are certainly smiling. Dad certainly knows how to turn a phrase.

Here are some of mine. Some explanations necessary.

Dad on Timing

Get to the ball first.

From my earliest days in pee wee soccer dad would be yelling this on the sidelines. As I grew up he would take this phrase as an abstraction from his years of playing the game in college and apply it to the real world. If something was up fro grabs, sieze the opportunity. Get there first. Don’t procrastinate.

Wake up and piss, the world’s on fire.

This one comes from Dad’s days in Nam. Sure those with genteel ears might prefer something less profane but it kind of loses the urgency and some of it’s bite once cleaned up. Aside from his days in surgery I don’t know that the old man has ever woken up after I did. And I get up early these days.

Don’t go out on a school night.

Part one of Dad’s advice when he was leaving me on the steps of my freshman dorm. He wanted to impart that there was a time for work and a time for play and both were better spent if kept separate. The older I get, the more I appreciate the value of this advice.

Nothing good ever happens after midnight.

Once a justification for my highschool curfew it took on greater meaning in college where shenanigans just ran rampant. At the time it sounded like something you’d expect from a father leaving his son at school several hundred miles away. However, the older I get, the more and more true I find this rule.

Dad on Achieving

Potential is the worst word in the English language.

The whole story behind this one really deserves it’s own post. It’s priceless. The lesson is that we are all judged by what we do and what we become. Coulda, woulda – these words had no meaning in Dad’s lexicon. They should have no meaning in yours.

You’ve got the world by the balls.

Dad grew up in a different era. His wonder years were a story of deprivation. He worked every day to provide opportunity for his family. He never wanted thanks nor praise for this but he did want to impart the lesson that opportunity was what he could provide – we had to be the ones to seize it. He could never do that for us.

You can be anything you want to be. Just decide.

From the earliest age Dad would support our everydream. No matter our aim he would tell us that yes, we could become that. Be a president? No problem. Run a company? Certainly. But rather than blithly indluge our fantasies, Dad would gently follow up with the actions we would need to take to achieve our aims.

I see so many people these days providing false support to people saying ‘yes you can ‘ in the first sentence and then following up with a ‘but first you will have to X, Y and Z’ designed to knock down the dreams. For example if I said ‘I want to play in the NFL’ Dad would say ‘well then let’s go practice’ where others might say ‘but first you need to grow 6 inches and 50 lbs.’

Get the job done.

As a civil engineer in New York City Dad is well versed in the works of one Robert Moses and that’s where this quote comes from. No matter the project I was doing, no matter the obstacle, this is what I would here. It’s still what I hear when I start procrastinating. Except now I’m the one saying it.

Dad on Money

It’s only money.

For a man who worked all the time he certainly had a blase attitude towards money. This is not to say that he didn’t understand the value of things. He certainly did (and does). But when the eye-popping costs of Boy Scout Summer Camps or family vacations came up, he never flinched. Dad never understood why people would value money over the experiences that money could buy.

Make sure your career makes you happy.

Like many young men I ended up following my father’s path in college to engineering. He kept on repeating that phrase to me. It wasn’t until I entered the workforce that I understood exactly what he meant.

Want more money, just go make more.

Dad is certainly no stranger to hard work. And we’ve covered his view of money as a tool, not a master. While he has never been rich, he did rise out of poverty and through the efforts of his own hand neither he nor his family have ever wanted. However there was an opportunity cost that had to be met. Dad worked long and hard and efficiently. He picked up jobs that he did in his home office, working them long after we would be asleep. That was the tab that he paid for use of that tool. His was never a question of ‘what will I do’ it was more the statement ‘this is what I will do.’ Some men see only obstacles, others find only solutions. Dad finds solutions.

A bunch of readers in this community are fathers. Regardless of the kind of relationship we had, each of us had one. What are some of the best advice one-liners your dad gave you? Share below!

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Free Body Diagram

“Look to your left. Look to your right. These people will not be here when you graduate.” That’s what the dean of engineering told us in the summer of 1996 at Virginia Tech. It wasn’t original. That spiel has been delivered to freshman engineering classes by deans since my dad’s day. And I can only assume they’re still giving that speech. I hope so. It’s one of those things that you take with you.

Harsh / realistic / objective statements and challenges are things you get used to while studying engineering. Your freshman year they try to dissuade you from the profession and that’s when most drop out. The second year they teach you and the third year they try to kill you (thermodynamics, fields, aeronautics, etc). Forth years (and for some of us fifth years or more) are for application of knowledge and blowing things up in the lab. And there’s always time for beer. But I digress.

Free Body Diagrams

One of the most important things I learned my second year of engineering was a concept called Free Body Diagrams. And while my day-to-day activities are a far cry from the evil of Dr Kraig’s Statics class I’ve kept this approach to help me stay sane in an insane world. Leaning to think in this manner has helped me surmount a series of challenges so I thought it best to describe it.

A Free Body Diagram is a picture with a bunch of arrows on it.

Lists and more Lists

There’s also a list of considerations, assumptions, and constants that we may or may not use in this equation. We keep nice and tidy in a list on the side of the page. It helps because we can be a dense bunch. When trying to work some part of a problem we may forget why we chose to interpret something in a certain way. When you get stuck in a solution checking your assumptions usually helps. You may need better assumptions. Or less of them with better data.

Gravity is 9.8 m/s^2. Or we assume that the tires are perfectly round. etc.

The Object

The object is usually generalized as a box. That’s because us left brain engineering types pretty much suck at making pretty pictures. We invented protractors because we can’t draw curves without them. But, hey, sometimes generalizing your issues makes it easier to solve them. Say you’re trying to figure out if a car will roll when headed into a bank. Sure you could spend a lot of time drawing the car but why do that when a box with 4 wheels is really all you need? In fact, every problem we solve gets boiled down to it’s pure essence first.

The Forces

For every force we can imagine acting on that body, an arrow pointing to the place it is applied to on the object is drawn. We note the location of that force and the distance from the center of the object when we think it has meaning. We ascribe a value to each force so we know the relative strengths in comparison to the others in the field. After double checking all of the magnitudes against our assumptions, we disregard the insignificant forces and focus on the real key players.

Then you group like terms to get a good idea of what’s really going on.

By this point we have a box – which is supposed to be a Porsche – or something like it – and there are a bunch of arrows pointing at it with distances from the center. That’s too confusing. So we punt. We engineers like right angles so we resolve everything into an X Axis force and a Y axis force. Got a force going a crazy tangent? We’re going to break it into 2 forces; one X and one Y. Changing new problems into smaller ones that we’re equipped for dealing with makes solving problems easier.

Now all you have to do is cancel out the opposing forces, after accounting for distance from center, and you’re on your way to solving the problem because you have a clear idea of all the angles.

Even better, now that you have a well-ordered problem you can run simulations on what would happen if you changed the existing forces magnitudes or even introduces a new force! (Geeky hurrah here.)

Sure, some problems are thornier than others. But in the end every tractable problem, that is every problem that has a solution, tends to get solved in a similar fashion by following the bolded steps. It doesn’t matter if its a rolling Porsche, a kid on a swing, or trying to achieve your dream. Abstract, identify, sum, and solve. Or Survive, endure, resist, and escape.

This message was brought to you by 5 years of undergraduate engineering education, 150+ credit hours, and Beast Lite.

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7 Useless and Counterproductive Things I do Everyday

Behavioral Economics is the study of emotions on economic decisions. It arose because, despite what many of us would believe, we humans don’t always act in our best efforts. In fact, it seems like our greatest shared pastime is indulging in acts which will destroy us, damage us, or at the least – waste our precious resources.

Here are 10 things I do every day that I shouldn’t – and my efforts to change them.

1. Sit in front of the TV too long in the morning.

On workdays, I have a habit of waking up, brewing coffee, making breakfast and sitting in front of the TV while eating breakfast. And then I sit there some more. And then some more. Eventually all hope of arriving at work early escapes.

Mitigation

I am definitely not a morning person. Acknowledging this, it’s best that I don’t try to attempt too much. I’ve skipped too many o’dark early workouts to think differently of my sleepy willpower. I’ll start small. Eating at a table, not on the couch is a good start. Limiting my morning intake to TiVo’ed programs should provide a good time box. After that show is over, I should be moving on.

2. Listen to radio on the morning commute

What’s wrong with rocking out on the way into the office? Well, not much, really. Except for the fact that my commute is really my only set-aside alone time. I’m in a car by necessity – no bus or train where I live. I usually

Mitigation

I just started a “no radio in the car” experiment. My goal is to just sit and enjoy the silence. No phone calls, no news. Just silence to hear myself think.

While there was an initial period of withdrawal, I’m feeling considerably less-stressed through out the entire day.

3. Check email too often through out the day.

Email is my greatest procrastination tool. It has all the feel of something productive … but comes with none of the benefits.

Mitigation

This one’s simple; take a sticky note, write a goal, pursue that goal, then relax by checking email.

4. Consume data and information that I’ll never use.

Books, Google reader, web surfing, travel programs etc. I am an information junkie. I use information as entertainment. It’s the sweetest of all procrastination because it has the look and feel and taste of productivity. But all of that studying. All of that preparation. Why not spend a little bit more time “doing” than preparing?

Mitigation

Remember, I’m not talking about rocket science here. More like, why not write a blog post instead of reading 100 articles on how to write the perfect article?

I think the cure for this is to “Grip it and Rip it.” Or, just do more. I’ll never stamp out my curiosity about the world around me, but I can do a better job focusing my efforts.

5. Make lists of things to do.

I have more sheets of paper with things to do them littered around my desk, computer, and living areas than anything else. Again, this has all the hallmarks of great procrastination; it looks like work, smells like work, takes up time … but again achieves no real benefits.

Mitigation

Choose one thing, do it, then repeat.

6. Start projects without defining an end state.

One of my best traits is the willingness to take on projects.

One of my worst traits is the willingness to take on projects.

Mitigation

Forgive me for stealing a page out of the 7 Habits book, but I should ‘Begin with the end in mind.’ An investment, of any kind, be it cash, time, effort, etc should have a goal line, a time limit, and an exit strategy. Without it, I give myself a license to tread water.

7. Write rough drafts.

I have published some 1000 articles on the web. I have about another 1000 sitting in draft form in various places. They’re half-formed, pseudo outlines of things I should write. And they are cluttering up the place.

Mitigation

Just publish, baby. Seriously, it’s not like I’m penning the Great Works here. Those rough drafts are just another incarnation of checklists and are similarly insidious. Am I really so worried I’ll never have a great idea again? If it was such a great idea it would scream out ‘write me!’ And then the words would flow and the article would be posted.

Conclusion

None of these changes are huge alone. But together they could really amount to something. I bet they will.

This exercise was a stream-of-consciousness post done as an experiment to avoid the above. It didn’t turn out too badly and only hurt just a little. What are some of your giant time-wastes? What are all those minutes shaved off for this or wasted away on that? What would you be after a year of that time and energy better applied?

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Solitude and Serenity

Hi all. If you’re in the States, I hope you all had a great Memorial Day. If not, I hope you get a chance for a relaxing 3 day weekend soon, too.

This will be a short post. I got myself sick over last weekend. Maybe some bad BBQ at the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race / tailgate I was at on Sunday. I’ll never know what it was. I do know that I missed my planned post on Monday and todays will also be a little light sinced I’ve been knocked on my butt and been spending most of my in a demi-nap in front of the TV watching history lectures.

But all of that time hasn’t been wasted. I’ve found serenity in my solitude and I’ve thought a bit on this. Fortuitously for me, Serenity is this month’s RAOKA theme (click that link to learn more) and other bloggers have been writing about solitude lately so I have some great hooks.

Serenity

Lori over at Jane Be Nimble has been nice enough to define serenity so I won’t repeat that here. For myself, my definition is a peaceful calm. Whenever I hear the term, I envision the lakes I have canoed with my father, brother and friends in the lakes region of northern Minnaesota in the Canadian Boundary Wilderness area. However you define the word, whatever image your mind’s eye would associate with the term, we can all agree this is a good, admirable thing to be. Perhaps something even we should seek to understand and posess.

Solitude

Solitude has a much different connotation to most people than does serenity. But it shouldn’t. Solitude is not lonliness. Being alone does not necessarily mean you are lonely. Sometimes you need solitude. In fact, I think, we may be missing out on our Daily RDA (required daily allowance) of solitude as it is.

Solitude and Creativity

Leo of Zen habits recently wrote an excellent piece on the one, chief, common habit of creative people.

Creativity flourishes in solitude. With quiet, you can hear your thoughts, you can reach deep within yourself, you can focus.

He goes on to list other quotes and other habits of highly creative types so there is little for me to add except to ask you to review the great things you have done in your life. While they likely involved the help and support of other people, I’d bet none of that success would have been possible without you having to sequester yourself from time to time to address your own concerns, center your own mind, and achieve the many mini-victories that are needed for success.

Solitude and Focus

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Are you the same person when you are alone as you are in the group? Do you remain focused and true to yourself? Healthy Lifestyle Design reminded me of this quote today but there is a truly great write up on the subject (and more) over on Being Your Own Man post at The Art of Manliness. By all accounts this is good advice for women, as well.

Solitude and Appreciation

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Spending time away from the people, habits, and routines that we usually spend our time with illustrates those whom we love. As well as those we could do without.

Solitude and Serenity

History is littered with men of achievement who took time away to refocus themselves to their tasks. There are the religious icons of Jesus, Mohammed, and Confucious. There are the statesmen like Washington and there are geniuses of the past like Einstein and Edison. If by practicing a bit of solitude now and then can enable creativity, grant us focus, generate appreciation and spark achievement is it a stretch to think it might just lead to serenity as well?

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An Open Letter to My Quitting Self

Last weekend I passed my first Kung Fu test. This means that my introductory period is over and I have been invited to apply to the mastery program. Showing basic martial competency as well as a token knowledge of history and a good understanding of decorum was required before I could advance. All that is left if this application to state my intent and a meeting with the Sifu – the headmaster of the school.

The hardest part of this process hasn’t been the test, it’s this application.

You see, this school is looking for students who are in it for the long haul. They want students that will be there and be dedicated over a long period of time. Not only does this make practical business sense, it makes for a good teaching and learning environment. As such, the lengthy questionnaire I’ve been filling out has some challenging questions. One is particularly interesting and that’s where I get the title of this post.

Here it is in abbreviated format:

If you should ever lose motivation, how will you work with us to re-motivate yourself and reinforce your commitment to fulfilling your goals?

What a !@#$ing question!

I give my response in an Open Letter to My Quitting Self here.

Dear Quitting Self,

I hope you know what you’re doing. You’ve never quit anything before. Why is this time different? Have your underlying assumptions changed? Have you found a different goal that’s worthy to pursue? I certainly hope so.

You’re a goal-driven person so be sure you have your next adventure clearly defined ahead of time before you make this change. If you have no challenge, you’ll get bored. And we know that boredom is the exact opposite of fun so we don’t want that.

It’s okay to move your attentions, effort and time to a new goal. It is not okay to squander any of these resources. They come in limited supply – especially time. Just be sure you’re moving your resources like you’d trade a stock – to better deploy them in the expectation of a higher return.

Be sure you have a game plan and an exit strategy. Never walk into any entranceway you can’t figure at least two other ways back out of.

Make certain your excited about this change. You should be happier and feel lighter on your feet. If your gut is against you, that’s a sign you should investigate further.

Good luck!

Sincerely, Currently Goal Seeking Self.

What About You?

What are you currently wrapped up in? What would you write to a future quitting self?

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Flipping the Calendar Pages

This morning Chris G asked his Facebook cohort “What is the most important thing you’ll do this week.” I was at a loss. What is the most important thing I’m doing this week? Is anything I am doing really that important? Shouldn’t there be? Is the fact that I cannot answer this question in a split second indicative of a larger underlying problem?

No. I don’t think so. But it serves as a great reminder if I am working on something worthwhile.

‘Everything happens for a reason’ / Is no reason not to ask myself / If I’m living it right?
John Mayer, “Why, Georgia Why?”

I have a calendar in my cube. Actually, I have several. One is a simple grid listing scheduled vacations, paydays, and holidays (helps me schedule my Out of Office time). The second is a 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Calendar where I put an ‘x’ through everyday that I stick to my workout and training goals. It also serves as inspiration and fuel for my cubicle day dreams. The last one is another simple grid calendar that I use to check off the days I have a post scheduled to come out on this blog so I don’t keep you hanging.

As an example, let’s take a look at this week:

Calendar 1 – The Event Calendar.

WooHoo! I like this calendar because it shows me that 1) I get a third paycheck this month (due to my budgeting system this will be wholy invested) and 2) Memorial Day is this week. In Charlotte taht means Speed Street invaded downtown as do all of the activities. I have a mountain hike Friday night, a 1 mile swim race scheduled for early Saturday morning, and the race on Sunday night. Throw in next Monday off to recover and celebrate Memorial Day and I’m a happy guy!

Calendar 2 – The Fitness Calendar.

The week is still in it’s infancy so there’s not a lot of marks on it yet. Yesterday (Sunday) has a mark for completing my fitness goals because I kayaked for 2 hours. It is missing a mark for my diet because I had a beer afterwards and didn’t stick to my 5 meals a day plan. Today is pretty early but I look on track for both the diet and a work out with kung fu class tonight.

Calendar 3 – The Writing Calendar.

Once this post goes live I have to finish up articles for this Wednesday and Friday. I can see that my backlog of reserve posts has gotten low so I need to build up the reserve there. I have two guest posts currently submitted to other blog authors and a third that I need to write up asap!

My Most Important Thing To Do This Week

So, looking at my calendar, it’s obvious to me what my most important thing to do this week is [ *Other than being a good husband 😉 ]. It’s what Josh and Dan would call ‘The Only Goal that Matters.‘ And that’s sticking to my original goals.

Sometimes making the right choices are not big, flashy things. Sometimes it’s just staying the course.

What is the most important thing you’ll do this week?

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What is Worth Doing? Smurfs and Schwarzenegger.

What is worth doing? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Topics like motivation and the re-examining my goals (and declaring a new one!) have me contemplating what I want to do and why I want to do it.

We have thousands of choices to make everyday. While the little ones may seem unimportant and nearly irrelevant, they aren’t. Because they come in limited supply. Sooner or later (hopefully much, much later) we’ll all be dead and gone. Some of our choices will outlive us. Some won’t. But they all matter. So how do you chose? How do you decide what’s worth doing?

Big Surprise: I Don’t Know the Answer

Yeah, I know. Shocking. I don’t know the answer. Sure, I could mail it in and say something similar to “the answer is unique as the number of people that have existed in the world.” That sounds pretty weak to me. Surely, out of the set of all actions we could do there exists a small subset of actions we should do. Given that we will not live forever, what deserves our attention?

But Maybe Arnold Does

Everyone knows Arnold from his roles on Hollywood. Pumping Iron. Terminator. Twins. Comedians may say Governor. Regardless of what you think of his politics, the man is incredibly accomplished. And as it turns out, his written work is brilliant. As Jacques Chirac said when Schwarzenegger took office in California; (and I paraphrase as I can’t find the Economist I remember this from) “When a former Austrian boy assumes the head of the world’s 4th largest economy, that’s not nothing.”

Arnold is the owner of one of my favorite quotes of all time. I discovered it while I was reading his book in college. I liked it so much that I printed it out and put it on my wall. The quote motivated me not only through classes like Aerospace and Thermodynamics but even on to coveted internships and competing in a natural bodybuilding show.

Here it is in it’s entirety.

Bodybuilding is more than a sport, it’s also a way of life. It is an entire philosophy of how to live, a value system that gives specific answers to questions that concern so many of us these days – questions of what is worth doing and what value to give excellence and achievement. It is a way of pursuing self-worth and personal validation, of finding satisfaction in your ability to set goals for yourself and working to reach them.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding : The Bible of Bodybuilding, Fully Updated and Revised

So What?

OK, maybe bodybuilding isn’t your thing. Let’s try that quote with something that is in your wheelhouse. Something that you can identify with. Something that really calls out your particular ethos. Maybe it’s fatherhood or marathon running. Maybe it’s open source web development or teaching inner city kids. Whatever that something is for you, capture it in a word and keep it in your head.

Got it? Good!

For the sake of personal amusement, I am going to write Smurf. Although I would just as happily write (bodybuilding | martial arts | writing | competing | etc) here, that’s not important. What is important is where I write Smurf, you replace it with your something.

[Smurf] is also a way of life. It is an entire philosophy of how to live, a value system that gives specific answers to questions that concern so many of us these days – questions of what is worth doing and what value to give excellence and achievement. It is a way of pursuing self-worth and personal validation, of finding satisfaction in your ability to set goals for yourself and working to reach them.

My Questions for You

A Philosophy on How to Live

Does your smurf fold easily into your world view of how to live your life? Are there any contradictions? How about friction?

Can You Discern Value?

Do you feel like you achieve something while you do that? What do you have to show at the end of the day for your efforts?

Is Excellence Achievable?

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Does it Satisfy You?

We’re not talking Snickers here. We’re talking about fulfillment.

The Great Abstraction

Let’s repeat the exercise. This time let’s replace it with the things you currently spend most of your time doing. Be honest with yourself. Likely answers include (taken from a sample of my coworkers found in my immediate area: [Your Career | Your Hobby | Playing Video Games | Watching TV | Gossiping | Volunteering | Cleaning up after Family | Reading about other people’s lives | etc]

Chances are there are some things that warm your heart in that list and make you feed alive. Chances also are there are a few things that you are spending your time on that you absolutely hate.

Now let’s go through the exercise twice more:

First With the Bane of Your Existence

For many people this is work. “Search your feelings, Luke.” Be honest.

[Bane-of-existence thing] is also a way of life. It is an entire philosophy of how to live, a value system that gives specific answers to questions that concern so many of us these days – questions of what is worth doing and what value to give excellence and achievement. It is a way of pursuing self-worth and personal validation, of finding satisfaction in your ability to set goals for yourself and working to reach them.

Chances are that sentence did not make any sense whatsoever. We’ll address that in a second. Let’s move on to the next activity for now.

Again, This Time With Feeling!

Now, with whatever you spend your time on that makes you proud:

[Proud thing] is also a way of life. It is an entire philosophy of how to live, a value system that gives specific answers to questions that concern so many of us these days – questions of what is worth doing and what value to give excellence and achievement. It is a way of pursuing self-worth and personal validation, of finding satisfaction in your ability to set goals for yourself and working to reach them.

I bet that made you feel a lot better. Both satisfactorily and grammatically.

What Can We Make Out of All of This?

Spend more time doing the one that makes sense. The one that makes you proud. Spend less time doing the ones that don’t. You smurf?

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How to turn Sweat into Gold

Ask a coach why a kid should join a sport and he might say ‘It builds character.’ While true, that’s a pretty lame and generic answer. I say generic because I believe the reason people say it because they heard someone else say it once and it sounded good so they decided to use it. Us humans are funny like that.

How to turn Sweat into Gold.

Allow me to give my perspective on why kids, adults, and everyone in general should join a sport or otherwise commit to completing some kind of physical goal. I call my thesis How to turn Sweat into Gold.

Teaches you how to set goals….

“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”
-Arnold Schwarzenegger

It takes a certain amount of courage to compete in any arena, in any venue, for any event. So many people chose not to compete, not even solely against themselves with nothing for an audience beyond their own expectations and conscience. But those who do learn to set goals as well as the discipline required to achieve them. This sets a model for success that translates to every aspect of life; physically, financially, and personally.

… And accomplish them.

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Bruce Lee

I could write an article series on the objective lessons that competing has taught me. But I don’t have to because Jane has already done so brilliantly.

Teaches patience and perseverance

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”
Lance Armstrong

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
-Muhammed Ali

But both the human mind and spirit are incredible resilient pieces of equipment. They are adaptable and malleable so far as we choose to make them be. And it’s that lesson, the fact that you have to choose to make yourself succeed, that sports can teach us.

Humbles us

“Obviously talent gets you to a certain point, but it’s what you do with it, how you handle.”
Brett Favre

Each of us have things that come easy to us. And each of us have things that we are simply awful at. One thing that athletics teaches you is that not only do many other people share your perceived faults, there are an unsettling number of people that share your strengths, too. And when you compete against people who are as good as you are in the one thing you know you’re good at humility sets in. But so does character. If you have the strength of character to prevail past those with superior talent or circumstance, there’s little you cannot do.

Removes the debilitating fear of failure

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan

Sometimes you try and you succeed. Sometimes you try and you fail. Most of the time, most of us try, fail, and then succeed at our chosen challenge after a series of renewed attempts. Physical goals, no matter if it’s losing a few lbs, taking up kung fu or swimming a few miles are especially difficult to master on the first try.

Sweat Equity

When I bought my house it was a dump. It needed everything. Walls, plumbing, electrical, siding, gutters, heating, air conditioning, appliances… ok, you get the point. So many people had passed on it despite teh incredible neighborhood because it needed so much work. Well, I needed a house and without a trust fund to pay for it I was able to invest “sweat equity” into the property to bring it up to a standard good enough for me to refinance and roll my remaining student loans into it. Today the house is nearly unrecognizable from the form it took when I bought it. It’s slowly becoming one of the nicer properties on the block all because of the lessons I learned from athletics on setting goals, learning from failure, being patient, and persevering. Lessons that were paid for again in sweat.

What has athletics taught you that you were able to apply elsewhere? How has a physical goal changed your life in ways you didn’t ever expect?

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How to Know Your Goals Suck….And What to Do About it

I’m a big fan of accountability. Especially public accountability. Some of the things I am most proud of accomplishing were achieved simply because I told so many people what I was doing that I felt huge pressure to deliver lest I lost face. But that sort of thing only works on good goals. And by good goals I mean goals that don’t suck. And by goals that suck, I mean goals that never will and never can get done.

What’s A Good Goal Look Like?

Defined End States

In soccer, a goal is a goal when the ball goes in the net. In football it’s a touchdown if you get the ball in the paint. Sports being life depicted in a microcosm have well-defined, easily identifiable ways to know if you win or are on track for winning. Good goals are the same. You need to have an end point.

Check your current list of goals. Does it have an end point? No? Then it sucks. “My goal is to be the best martial artist, ever.” “My goal is to be the best Dad I can be.” Really? Thanks for sharing @#$er! How do you plan on measuring that? How will you know when you’re done?

Value

In today’s world there is a never-ending list of crap we must do. Everything isn’t a goal. Some things we do have absolutely no value. Why we humans do that sort of thing is beyond me. We don’t make sense. I think Seth would refer here to our Lizard Brains.

Do you goals have value? What will happen if you achieve them? What will happen if you don’t? What is worth doing is a different conversation entirely. Just make sure those goals have value or else you’re just wasting your time.

Time Boxed

Just like the milk in your refrigerator, goals should have an expiration date. No one wants to hear again and again and again about your goal to write the Great American Novel. Back to sports, everything has a time limit. 15 minute quarters, 3 minute rounds, 9 innings. Time waits for no goal.

Do you goals have a time period?

How to Fix Sucky Goals

No End State?

Make an end point for your goal. Stand up and paint an end zone on your goal. Tie a finish line across it. Define what success is. Be specific. Phrases like “I want to lose weight” suck. There’s too much ambiguity in that statement.

No Value?

Examine why in the world you’re doing this. Life is short and time is a preciously limited in quantity. You can do something better with your time.

No Time Box?

Put an expiration date on that baby! Give yourself a well-defined chunk of time to get it done it. Now let’s see if that goal doesn’t stand a much better chance of getting done now! Try starting with 3 days and expand as necessary.

What if that Doesn’t Work?

To paraphrase George Carlin here; “It’s time to drop some of your needs!”

If you can’t fix your goals by simple modification, they probably aren’t really goals to begin with. There more like the senseless ramblings of an empty suit. So drop kick them to the curb and move on with your day. This time with goals that don’t suck.

Real World Examples of Sucky Goals

As I have mentioned earlier, I am a big fan of public accountability. I even have a space on the side of this blog dedicated to goals I have achieved and ones that are currently in progress. The problem is that those goals have been there for months and they can’t possibly move? Why? They have no end state, they have no time box, and they have very little value. Fail, fail, and fail.

The funny thing is that I am working and producing more today than I have ever in my life. I am constantly busy. Doing what, right? If the things I am doing have value they should be able to be well defined and broken into discreet chunks. I should be able to then martial my resources as I have them to best achieve them. Hmmm… methinks I need some good, new goals.

What goals are you working on? Do they suck? How are you doing on them? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

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