oops, I did it again

It has recently been gnawing at my brain like a slow, but increasingly painful memory. I have not written anything down in months. Not that I haven’t thought about…oh my how I have thought about it. But it seems that every time I get just a little bit excited about something, a switch flips in my head and I suddenly and inexplicably have zero interest in it. And I am talking about things that I love. Not chores, work, or social commitments, but things that I enjoy doing. I was just having a conversation with my wife about this very thing tonight.

So I have been slightly disappointed with myself for several weeks now as the realization has set in that I have been sitting on this website waiting for magic to happen without a single shred of effort from me. Not one key stroke, not a sentence, not even “research.” And all of this time, I have had access to a computer and smart phone, the internet, and free time (although that last one has admittedly been inconsistent at best). But there is a silver lining to all of this wallowing. Not the one I would have chosen, but a kernel of wisdom none the less…Your’ success is directly proportional to the amount of effort you invest!

Now, I realize that this is not news to most, if not all of you beautiful people. Heck, it’s not even news to me. But I was humbled when I realized that I had spent the better part of the last two months hardly cracking open this laptop. I mean, I didn’t even really open it to play around on the internet or anything. I kind of just avoided it all together like it was a tax form or something. And that isn’t even really the amazing part to me. I am most shocked by the fact that I really enjoy writing. I can write about nothing in particular and still feel like it was not time waisted. But then the problem never really was the writing was it? No. The problem was, and is, personal expectation.

You see, no one is perfect. We all know this. But what myself, and others like me tend to do, is use that fact as a wall instead of a staircase. What I mean is, I set very high standards for myself. I always have, and I probably always will. And so instead of acknowledging that I am not a subject matter expert, and taking that as an opportunity to learn and grow in my craft, I decide that if I can not put out a perfect product I just won’t put out a product. I don’t do this for “wrong” reasons per se. I really don’t want to waste anyone’s time with a sub-par blog or story of any kind. But as proof of my commitment to change, I am going to start by only proofreading this as I go. I know it won’t read right to some…or all of you. But it is here. It exists. And it is only the first step of many up the staircase.

What hurdles do you build for yourself? Are you like me, and struggle with the thought that something is not worth doing if you can’t be perfect, or do you have a different demon that kills your passion? I would love to hear from anyone reading this, if you have the time and desire to share that is. I hope whatever hurdle you are facing today, that you can take step back, and look for your staircase.

3 simple tips to help you achieve your goals

Setting goals is one of the easiest things to do, assuming of course that you don’t struggle with setting goals. But what happens after you set a goal is infinitely more important, and often much harder to do. Today, I want to share with you 3 simple tips to help you go from goal setter, to goal achiever. So come along with me as I dive in to this topic that so easily infuriates many of us.

If you’re anything like me, you can fill a notebook with all the goals you have set for yourself that have never been accomplished. The good news is, it’s not too late to start setting, and achieving manageable goals daily. For me, setting goals is a bit of a taboo topic. See, I know that there are things I want to accomplish on a daily, monthly, or even lifelong basis, but I have always struggled with articulating those goals into a coherent, identifiable message. If this sounds like you, keep reading to learn how you too can increase the frequency of success when it comes to achieving goals.

  • Imagine the most precise, desirable result, then write it down.

When I think about setting goals, my mind almost immediately travels to the “yeah but” universe. This is because I almost never write down what my desired result is, so I get lost in all the possibilities. This is dangerous for a couple of reason, chief among them being the fact that you will be a ship without a rudder. When we write down the goal, it accomplishes a couple of things at once; 1, it forces us to think through the “yeah buts” and arrive at the place we desire most, and 2, it allows us the opportunity to be as precise as we want from the beginning. Take for example a weight loss goal. Which one do you think has a better chance for success assuming all other variables are the same; the person who says to their buddy “yeah, I plan on losing a few pounds before bathing suit season.” Or the person who writes down “My goal is to lose 10-12 lbs. before May 15th. I will achieve this goal by increasing my exercise from weekly to daily and cutting back on my intake of sugary or carb heavy foods.”? I know where I would put my money.

This may seem like an obvious example, and that’s because it is. But I used this because it clearly illustrates the silliness of expecting a “wish” or “plan” to take shape if we just talk about it. Now admittedly, some people are better than others at articulating exactly what it is they want, but that does not mean that one can not learn how to be better. That may even be your first goal that you precisely articulate on paper.

  • Get really really good at failing and do it often.

I know this sounds like a bad idea but hear me out. One of the main reasons that anyone fails to achieve a personal goal, besides the aforementioned reason, is that they run into a speed bump or two. If you are not prepared for contingencies, they will almost certainly discourage you, sometimes badly enough to give up. That’s why it is so important for you to be your own worst critic and fail…on purpose. More accurately, fail on paper, before your plan is ever set in motion. Take some time to poke holes in your own plan. If you have trouble thinking outside the box, consider asking a close friend or spouse to help you think through it. The more possibilities that you can account for at this stage, the better your chances for success will be at later stages. And don’t be nice…necessarily. Take this opportunity to get out all the negative thoughts you carry around about yourself. Writing down the ways you can fail may even help you recognize some areas that you can work on for personal growth.

After this step, you should begin to see a plan emerging for how you will accomplish the stated goal. Keep in mind that all your previously mentioned “failures” will help you buffer yourself during this planning stage. Since you have already considered the ways that it might not work, you can more clearly imagine the ways that it can work.

  • Embrace the suck!

This tip is a phrase that I heard, at least weekly, when I served in the military. It served me well then, and it can do the same for you. The thing is, if you have come this far and are ready to put your plan in to action, then you are willing to accept the additional burden of embracing the suck. Don’t get discourage by the implication of the phrase. Instead focus one the opportunity you have to begin writing a new chapter for your life, one that involves you being a more productive you. Because if you have struggled thus far in accomplishing your goals, you are going to have to change some things to change the result.

When you begin, you are going to have a surge of energy and motivation. This is normal and serves an important purpose. But too often, once this initial surge is gone, we give up or lose focus. And for good reason. Who wants to keep doing something that they are not as interested in anymore when there are so many other things begging us for time and attention? The answer…you do! This is why you accomplished steps 1 and 2. Now that you have begun to implement your plan, and things are not going so well, you can look back at your sheet(s) of paper that has your hand-written plan on it. This will allow you to reconnect with the you that wrote down the goal in the first place. The you that thought through every conceivable hiccup and detour, and developed a plan of action to triumph over it.

Do not underestimate yourself. And do not ever compare yourself to others. The starting line to life is a moving target. There are no two people on this planet that are lining up precisely side by side in the game of life. Stay focused on your goals, and only look at someone else goal if you feel that you can help them along. It’s like I tell my kids, who tend to compare things with one another (e.g. looking at the others’ bowl of ice cream to compare amounts) The only reason you should be comparing, is to make sure the other has enough. Be grateful for where you are in life. You are not alive and well by accident. Celebrate your victories, but keep in mind no one else is obligated in any way to celebrate you, so don’t expect it.

My hope is that this article has provided you with a few simple tips that will help you achieve more in 2019. I would love to keep the conversation going. If you have any thoughts or questions regarding the content in this article, or any other questions for that matter, feel free to comment or email me.

Two truths and a…truth.

A taste of our trip to Colorado

    Anyone who tells you that succeeding in life is easy is either selling something or has set the bar for success so incredibly low that anyone with a pulse has better than a punchers chance at achieving it. While it’s true that success looks drastically different for everyone, there are some general guidelines that we use as a society to gauge it. Not all these ground rules will or should apply to you individually, and so it is important that you set your own standards for success. Below, I would like to expand on 3 truths I believe are crucial if you are going to be successful in your journey through life.

1. Perception is not reality

Too often in life, we use comparison as a unit of measure when it clearly shouldn’t be. The assumption is that if we see someone with relatively similar education and skills living a more successful life than we are, we are doing something wrong or have failed. This could not be further from the truth. For one, there is no way of knowing every detail of that persons personal life, or the sacrifices they have made unbeknownst to you to get to the place or position they are in. Secondly, how much of their perceived success is the embellishment of social media bias (that is to say, only showing people the pictures of their trip to pick your destination, but leaving out the crippling debt that they are now in). It’s the modern day equivalent of cleaning your house to spotless perfection before having guests over, knowing good and well you don’t live like that. Then, as soon as your guests leave, the closet door guarding all of the contents you crammed in it bursts open spilling in to the room. Knowing the truth that everyone has their own struggles that may not always be obvious to the observer will help you to keep your own situation in perspective.

2. Manage expectations

Save for a few prodigy’s around the world, no one picks up a skill or hobby and is instantly a top tier professional. There is a process inherent in the learning of a new skill that directly effects the end result. In the Army we called this the crawl-walk-run method, and it was highly effective. It was effective because it allowed the new recruits to build on the knowledge they learned at the start of training and gradually increase in skill and proficiency. Understanding your own limitations is vital to your overall success. If you pick up golf as hobby, and expect to be tour ready by the end of summer, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Golf doesn’t work that way, and neither will anything else. Be honest with yourself about your skill level and aptitude for learning, and you will be able to set more realistic and achievable goals.

3. Forget the failure

There are few things more frustrating than attempting something that you have been practicing for some time, only to have it end in failure. I enjoy watching speed runs on YouTube. The idea is that someone takes a video game, or specific stage of a particular game, and attempts to complete it in record time. Some of the records held are incomprehensible to me. The fact they the people attempting these records have memorized and choreographed every single input on the controller, for an entire game, is beyond belief. I have even seen some where they complete entire games blindfolded. But for every single video that is posted, there are hundreds upon thousands of failed attempts that will never be seen in most cases. When they fail, they don’t shut the game off and decide to learn needle point. No. They regroup, hit reset, and start over. The drive they have to be the best (fastest) is greater than their desire to quit in frustration. Being able to concisely assess your failure, learn what you can from it, and move on is a valuable skill to have. Understanding that failure is a part of any success story is one of the greatest truths you can hold on to.

In closing, don’t be discouraged if the success you seek seems out of reach. There is no secret to being successful. It is the continued effort in the face of adversity that will set you apart. Knowing this, you can move forward, confident that your mistakes will only serve as tools in your journey to grow and learn. What truths have you discovered in your own journey? I would love to hear some of them, and maybe they will help someone else reading this to recenter their focus, and redouble their efforts.

Where does the time go!

I spent the majority of this chilly evening mulling over theme templates and titles. I think I found one I like, but it had an unintended consequence. This new format makes it plain as day when I post and when I (ahem) don’t post. Needless to say, it has been over two months since I last jotted down my thoughts, which is unacceptable. I set out to write as close to weekly as possible if not more frequently than that. Of course the holidays have just come and gone, and while everyone settles in to their new years with what is hopefully optimism, here I am.

The funny thing to me is that I have had several thoughts, or chains of thoughts run through my head that I would have liked to have expanded on in greater detail. This has led me to conclude that my desire to write will be a daily struggle until I adjust my habits. “If you want to write, just write.” I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard that exact phrase, and I’m not sure I want to. It is true, you can not be a writer if you do not write, but that phrase is lacking so much substance. What about good writing habits? What about setting aside time and/or location to give yourself the freedom to write?

Nothing can duplicate the value of writing until you are “numb in the thumb,” (I think I just made that up, but maybe not) but there is more to it then that. I suppose most people who say that to an aspiring writer say it with the best intentions, but if the good habits do not accompany the initial surge of motivation, it will be a much shorter journey than anticipated. You say just write, I say just form habits.

When I served in the Army, one of the first things I was taught was marksmanship. This is, of course, because one of the most fundamental and necessary soldiering skills is the ability to effectively fire your weapon. But before a single round was fired…before a single target was acquired…we took apart the weapon. We learned how the parts fit together, how to load the magazine, how to clean it (boy did we clean!), and how to protect it from the elements. We then learned proper aiming and target acquisition. Mind you, all of this was being done without bullet being fired. The long and the short of it is, we developed habits.

When we finally went to a shooting range, we know our weapons inside and out. Those of us who paid very close attention could usually find our weapon (without looking at serial numbers) in a stack of 10 or more. All the techniques and habits for effective shooting were developed long before we ever loaded a bullet in to a magazine, but when we did the shooting came more naturally. Of course each soldier shot to his or her own proficiency, some people are just more talented shooters.

The point I am trying to make is that once the habits were in place, the act of shooting just felt like a natural extension to everything we had learned up to that point. Writing can be a gateway to any type of world you can think up, but it will be much easier to get to that world with good habits. Don’t stay lazy. Don’t put it off. Find the time to develop a strong back-bone in the discipline of writing…and then just write.