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Harnessing The Power of Placebo

Harnessing The Power of Placebo

When my brother was planning his wedding he wanted our father to officiate. Dad was not a minister or a priest, far from it, but he did own a 40 foot sailboat. Maybe, as de facto captain of a marine vessel, he could legally marry people when he was at sea.

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We did a little research and discovered two things. First of all the owner of a boat doesn’t have the same matrimonial powers as the captain of a ship so that idea was a non-starter. Secondly we found out that if both the bride and groom BELIEVED that the officiant was empowered to marry them, the wedding was legal (at least that was the case in New Hampshire 30 years ago).
Of course, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, this is true of almost everything. We humans make stuff up and then believe it and then act like it’s real. In the United States we all agree that time jumps ahead an hour once a year and jumps back an hour about 6 months later. We all agree that cars will drive on the right side of roads rather than the left side of lawns. In fact 95% of what we deal with most of the time is completely invented. Money, language, time, clothing, politics, nations, laws, rules, contracts and relationships are all based on nothing but shared beliefs. I call these things “culturally real.”
There are many things that have a reality outside of culture, of course. Things like gravity and water and air. I call these things “dog real” because my dogs and I agree on their reality. They don’t understand or care who’s in the White House or what’s happening on Wall Street but they do know that water is wet.
It’s very powerful to notice that your relationship to culturally reality can be profoundly changed by changing your beliefs. People have completely altered their lives by changing their beliefs about what is possible. If my brother and his fiancé (now wife) had been able to convince themselves that my father could marry them, they could have been married by him. If you believe that it’s evil to have lots of money you will probably not have lots of money.
Belief is so powerful it can have an impact on dog reality as well. For centuries, doctors have been aware of placebo effect. If someone takes a sugar pill that they believe is medicine, that pretend pill can have a real physiological effect.
Please note that it’s not “just” psychological. It’s not just that the patient expected to feel better so they convinced themselves that they felt better. Their body chemistry changes. In one remarkable study, a group of patients with osteoarthritis in their knee were operated on and given arthroscopic debridement. Another group was put under and their knees were opened up and then sewn shut. Nothing was done to their joints. The folks who received no treatment had EXACTLY THE SAME results and those who had their knees scoped. The fake operation had relieved their pain and given them back as much range of motion as the real operation had. People who take fake asthma medicine have measurably better lung capacity.
You can take the placebo effect out of medicine. Blessings and curses can heal and harm if the recipients believe in their power. Lucky charms and rituals are huge in sports. Micheal Jordan always wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform and Bill Russell reportedly threw up before each game. Jordan has 6 NBA championship rings and Russell has 11.
So try it out. Endow an object or ritual with power. I am declaring that my father’s high school class ring, which magically appeared in my possession after he passed away, has supernatural powers. It makes me extra-confident and brings me extra luck and, if the Earth is invaded by evil aliens, will give me the power to fly and shoot energy beams out of my eyes.
Sounds crazy but, if I believe it hard enough…
Who knows?
(Or course we’ll have to wait for an alien invasion to test the ring’s power.)

 

Summary

 

  • There are two kinds of reality: Cultural reality and Dog Reality
  • Belief can have an impact on both
  • Placebos and lucky charms can be very powerful

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Choose a lucky charm or ritual
  2. Imbue it with power. Really believe that it works for you
  3. See how it affects you!

 

How to Get to the Moon

How to Get to the Moon


I heard a story once about a couple of travelers who, upon coming to a high, seemingly impassable wall, would toss their hats over it first. That way their hats would not fall off while they climbed and, more significantly, they were committed. They had to climb over or else they would never see their hats again.

Turns out that this story was first written by Frank O’Connor in his memoir and was referenced by President Kennedy when he was making a speech dedicating a new Aerospace Health Center in San Antonio in 1963.*
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He said:

“This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties they will be overcome…we will climb this wall…and we shall the explore the wonders on the other side.”

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What Kennedy had done to toss the nation’s hat over a wall was to make a crazy promise in his first year in office to put a man on the Moon before the decade was over. This was less than a month after the first American (Alan Shepard) went to outer space (and less than 7 weeks after the Russians sent the first human). Really NASA had no idea how they were going to get someone to the Moon let alone get them back in one piece in less than 10 years. But President Kennedy said we were going to do it.

So we tried.

And we did.

So the first action step is to say what you’re going to do. Declare it. Write it down. Tell people about your intention. Then keep saying it. The more often you say it the more power it will have. The more confidently you say it the more power you will have.

Saying you’re going to do something does several important things.

The first is that it commits you to action by putting your goals outside of your imagination and into reality.

Secondly it tells people around about your goal and gives them a chance to support you or too adopt that goal yourself.

Also it makes the goal more concrete and less dreamlike simply because you have to organize the goal into a sentence.

This is how Sacred Fools Theater started. It was just a bunch of brain cells randomly firing inside my skull until I told a few people about the idea. Then I told a few other people. Then I invited them to my house on a Sunday afternoon in January nearly two decades ago (January 19th, 1997…I think).

At that meeting the random group of people I invited became a talked and came up with agreements and plans and structures. We wrote things down and hashed things out and invented stuff.

All of a sudden there was a team, a growing team, of people working on a real project. Like magic we were a theater company.

That started because I opened my mouth.

And here’s an interesting thing about that. When I started talking about it the conversation went like this: “I’m thinking about starting a theater.” My friend would squint and look at me and I would get nervous. I’d think they thought it was a dumb idea or that I had no business starting theater. Then I’d mumble, “Would you want to be part of it?” In nearly every case they responded “YES! I was afraid you weren’t going to ask!”

In my experience, making the statement is the scariest part. After something is out of your brain it takes on a life of it’s own.

More recently I quit drinking. The most important step I took to make that commitment a reality was to announce it on Facebook. That got me a huge amount of positive support for my choice. Honestly I was surprised by that. I was expecting people to be bummed out. I was operating under the delusion that people loved to see me imbibing alcohol. I also got great advice that has helped me stay sober (for 10 months so far). It’s also made my private choice a matter of public record. That a bit of pride keeps me from considering a sip.

So if you have something you want to do. Say it. Say it out loud. Say it to people near you. Declare your intention. Say it before you know how you’re going to do it. Throw your hat over the wall.

That’s how you get to the Moon.

Summary

When you decide to do something the first step is to tell someone about your decision.The next step is to tell more people about your decision. Telling people about your intention gives it life and power.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Write down your goal as a sentence.
  2. Call at least 2 people and tell them about your goal.  Tell them you want to sit down and discuss it. Do it now. (I’ll wait.)
  3. Schedule a meeting with you and at least two other people to discuss your goal. These people may share your goal or support you in reaching your goal.

 

* This was November 21. He was killed in Dallas the following day.

Quick Start Workbook

Quick Start Workbook

Making any kind of change, large or small, takes commitment and energy. Often a big change, like starting a business or moving to a new city, requires a concerted effort that will transform your whole life. Changes like this provide opportunities to create new habits and new ways of looking at the world.

These kinds of changes are always possible but they can be more difficult when you are solely responsible for providing all the transformation and your environment is not changing around you unless you make it change.

If you are in this kind of situation it’s good to take some time to take a step back. Maybe use the exercises in the coming sections (next week) to define your values and the direction you want your life to take as you formulate goals and commit yourself to new habits and actions.

At the same time, it’s powerful to take steps immediately and get use to reaching your goals.

That’s what this Jump Start section is about.

 

Starting as soon as possible (that means either immediately or tomorrow morning) you are going to:

 

           Commit to doing 3 things for 14 days.

           Tell somebody else about your commitment.

           Figure out a way to reward yourself when you succeed.

           Keep track of your actions for 14 days.

           Succeed and Reward yourself!

Download the workbook HERE:
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Directed and Unstoppable Wins The Race

Directed and Unstoppable Wins The Race


This year I want to make a large shift.

Simply put, I want to make my living doing what I was born to do.

What i was born to do is to entertain, delight and inspire people.

I keep trying to struggle with this statement but it’s really simple for me.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m not currently doing this. Basically it comes down to a bunch of choices I made over the years that led me to where I am now.

Unpacking and understanding those decisions and the unconscious motivations behind them are a topic for another time. Today is the second day of the new year so its time to look forward and get into action.

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My plan this year is to use the platforms I have built over the past months and use them as a public diary of my journey and to entertain, delight and inspire people as I do.

Very meta.

So when you tune in to a face cast or read my blog I want you to get value for yourself as i experiment with techniques, tricks, tips and technology to get where I’m going.

All of this will done using the framework of the Three Simple Steps.

The three steps are step back, step up and step forward.

  • Step back is about defining goals, purpose and direction.
  • Step up is about responsibility and accountability.
  • Step forward is about taking action and staying in action.

These are not 3 steps that are taken in order once. These are three steps that are done in a continuous dance.

The idea is to be moving forward. Taking actions that lead to accomplishing goals. Of course goals change and there are challenges that keep us from taking action. it’s important, for example, to keep stepping back to make sure we have the big picture in mind and are going in the right direction as we step forward. If you have a commitment to walk a mile everyday or call your mother every week and you’re not doing it you revisit the Step Up step to look at why you’re not doing what you said you would to and how you can set up structures to support the actions you want to take.

Over the years and especially over the past 6 months i have been thinking a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

Here is an simple overview of what I’ve concluded boiled down into useful nuggets.

  1. To get somewhere it’s best to know where you are going.
  2. Action leads to inspiration, not the other way around.
  3. Change your mind and you can change the world.
  4. The only scarce resource is time.
  5. It is very easy to spend all your time being entertained and distracted
  6. Taking care of your body and mind should be your first priority.
  7. You can only do one thing at a time effectively
  8. Guilt and shame are usually not very helpful and, unless they motivate you to take positive action, they should be set aside.
  9. Other people are the key ingredient to your success.

Let me expand on these a tiny bit.

To get somewhere it’s best to know where you’re going

Defining goals is hugely important because once you really understand where you want to go you might change the actions that you want to take.

– Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and bound by time.
– Once you have a goal you can work on a plan to reach that goal and start working on it.
– Once you have a goal you can tell people about that goal so they can help your reach it.
– Once you have a goal you can figure out shortcuts to reach that goal

Action leads to inspiration, not the other way around.

Action changes your mind.

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” – Millard Fuller

Let me prove this to you. Take a second to to inventory of how you feel physically and emotionally right now. Just notice how you feel.

Now close your eyes and take three deep breaths, focusing on your breath as you do it.

Now smile, make sure the smile crinkles your eyes.

Now do a silly dance for 5 seconds. Make sure you wiggle your hips a little.

How do you feel now?

Told ja!

Change your mind and you can change the world

Reality may be immutable at some level but your perception of reality produces your experience of life and defines what you are willing to do. Humans are meaning making machines and we change our experience of reality with our beliefs on a profound level. The effect of the placebo effect is astonishing for example. If you strongly believe that the ocean is full of deadly sharks there is no way you will go swimming in it everyday. If you believe that doing a triathlon is impossible you will not do a triathlon (etc…).

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, either way you’re right.” – Henry Ford

This is not to say that you should live a life of delusional optimism BUT it’s worth noting that the people who change the world, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Christopher Columbus were delusional optimists. Optimists are more likely to take action.

On a more esoteric level it’s worth noting that quantum theory says that reality is actually defined by observation. The particles that make up the world act differently, as either waves or particles, depending on how we look at them. This is profoundly weird and has been confirmed by experiment in 2015.

http://phys.org/news/2015-05-quantum-theory-weirdness.html

I don’t think the final 6 points need to be expanded on or explained or argued for at this time. Basically they boil down to this.

When you want to get something done you have a limited amount of time to do it so its best to be as efficient and effective as possible.

  1. If you let guilt and shame keep you from action you will be less effective.
  2. If you spend your time being entertained or distracted you will be less effective
  3. If you focus on one thing at a time you will be more effective.
  4. If your mind and body are healthy you’ll be more effective.
  5. If you get help you multiply your ability to accomplish something.

My Action Plan

I think that the best way to get where I’m going is to focus on 3 things i want to accomplish over a two week period. These things will be aligned with my over arching goal of making my living as a content creator. There will be other goals and milestones that will be part of that goal over the coming year.

Along with my overarching career goal that I have for this year, I also have a an overarching goal of taking care of my body, mind and community. There will be goals that will be related to those goals as well.

I will also commit to 3 habits that I want either change, start or strengthen.

I am going to I am going to publish a blog post Sunday night every week. In that post I will offer observations and tips and ideas. I will also define my 3 goals that I want to focus on for the fortnight and 3 habits that I want to work on.

Facecasting

  • Monday morning I’ll go over the highlights of the post and offer a valuable thought or tip to help you have a a great week.
  • Tuesday will be the Tuesday Trivia Show.
  • Wednesday will be Wild Card Wednesday. I might go for a walk or do an interview or do a workout or something wild.
  • Thursday will be a check in on the current experiment. How are the actions going?
  • Friday will be the Morning Dance Party.

What’s in it for you?

My hope is that you and many others will join me in defining 3 goals and 3 habits two work on every two weeks and that my sharing will provide insights and inspiration. I hope to start a constructive conversation and an engaged community. I hope that you will join me.

Summary

  • I am setting a big goal for the new year and I invite you to do the same.
  • I will be setting 3 interim goals or milestones and focusing on 3 habits every 2 weeks and reporting on them here and on the facebook page.
  • I will be creating an engaged community around setting and reaching goals and i want you to be part of it.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Set a big goal for 2017
  2. Set 3 small goals for the next 2 weeks and 3 habits you want to strengthen or change.
  3. Share them with friends and in the comment section below.
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

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Today is my birthday!

When I was in college, my dear friend Ibi organized a birthday party for me freshman year. Later she became my girlfriend and sophmore and junior year she organized surprise parties for my birthday.

The summer before senior year we broke up. Senior year my birthday came and nobody noticed.

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I was very sad and I felt very sorry for myself.

I realized that I really valued the acknowledgment of my birthday and I also realized that no one but me was keeping track of that date. It was really my responsibility to take care of myself and if something was important to me, as an adult, I needed to communicate that.

From then on I took responsibility for the day. I used to warn people months ahead of time that my birthday was coming. One of the things I love about Facebook is that it makes it very easy for people to send a quick birthday message and it reminds people. The hundreds of little notes I get really makes my day!

It’s good to take time on your birthday to celebrate yourself and your life. It’s good to do that on the other 364 days of the year. (Actually 365 days this year because it’s a leap year.)

It’s actually good to take responsibility for each day as well the way I take responsibility for my birthday. Make each day special by letting people know that you value them.

  • Give a stranger a smile.
  • Give a friend a hug.
  • Give a loved one a kiss.
  • Send a note to someone far away and tell them that you thought of them.

I’m going to start doing those things every day this year and see how it works.

I’m also going to change up my morning routine a little bit. I’m gonna add 3-4 minutes of disco dancing every day. It’ll get the blood pumping and the smile primed and put a little pep in my step.

 

Summary

  • If you want a day to be special it’s up to you to make it special.
  • You can decide to make every day special.
  • You can make every day special by treating yourself and people around you well.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Smile at a stranger.
  2. Hug a friend
  3. Dance!

 

PS

Speaking of dancing, I wanted to mention that I have started an intergalactic movement. It’s a new non-political party called the Friday Morning Dance Party. Every friday morning at 9:35 ET (6:35 PT) everyone in the party dances to the same song.

Join us for a real live dance dance revolution!

Check out my facebook feed for details.

 

Do It Now

Do It Now

Dad Diving
This picture is from the early 60s. I think that’s my dad. I think he’s about to do a belly flop.

Here is a lesson I learned many years ago from Dave Pasquesi, a brilliant Chicago-based actor and improviser. Our group was doing a long-form improvisation (a Harold for you in the know) in rehearsal and Dave was watching. It was tough because he was squirming and sighing with frustration during some of the scenes until finally he just exploded.

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“Just f***ing kill the f***king guy already!”

(I don’t remember the details but I think we were hemming and hawing about hanging someone in an old west scene.)

“You knew you were going to kill him so just kill him already and find out what happens next,” Dave said.

He was absolutely right. We didn’t go through with the killing because we had no idea what was going to happen after that.

But that’s the best place to be when you’re doing improv. That’s when the real creativity happens.

The point is a very good one for improv, writing and for life. If you know something is going to happen in an improv scene you should go ahead and have it happen so you can discover what you don’t know. The same is true with writing. If you’re writing something and you have a great ending, try making that the beginning and see what happens AFTER that. Terrible storytelling talks a long time to get where you knew it was going. Great storytelling surprises you at the end.

Most of the time it surprised the writer as well.

I have a good friend from Seattle who never really committed to anything long term because he always knew he was going to someday move to LA and “sell-out.” He was going to write screenplays and television. About 22 years ago he did it. After 8 months in Los Angeles he realized Hollywood wasn’t interested in what he was interested in so he went back to Seattle and, unburdened by this someday dream, he became one of the most important people in the vibrant theater scene there.

With no regrets.

I have done a bunch of things immediately and I’ve put off a bunch of stuff. In college someone said to me that if you wait until you’re ready to start a theater you’ll never start one because you’ll never be ready. I took that to heart and started and theater right after I graduated when I had no idea what I was doing (30 years later it’s still going strong). Everything I put off I regret putting off.

What happens when you do it now is that you get it out of your head and into reality. Your vision may come true or it may die but either way it makes your life richer and it leaves room for other visions to grow.

Like the story of my friend from Seattle illustrates, sometimes the someday dreams you don’t take out can get in the way of you living your life. Sometimes the someday dreams can’t breathe real air and when they hit reality they die.

Sometimes that’s sad but often it’s a very good thing.

So if you have a someday dream, do it today so you can make room for the thing that comes next.


This may be very obvious to you but as someone who resisted organization and to do lists for years I found it a revelation.

Summary

  • If you have something that you intend to do, it’s better to do it now.
  • Doing it now will make it live or die that much quicker.
  • Doing it now will give you room to create new dreams.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Choose something you want to do someday.
  2. Figure out the first step you need to take to do that thing.
  3. Do it…now!

 

Write It Down, Get It Done

Write It Down, Get It Done

pencil-918449_1920Here’s something that everyone has in common, whether they are a US Senator, an NFL quarterback or a dishwasher.

You can only do one thing at a time.*

This can be very frustrating because reality can do an infinite number of things at once and our minds can think dozens of things at once on multiple levels.

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On top of that there are all those people that are not you. There are billions of them and they can do billions of things while you can only do one. Of course each one of them can only do one thing at a time but there are so many of them it’s not fair.*

So it can be very discouraging and overwhelming if you compare how much you can get done (one thing at a time) to what you can think about doing, especially when you’re thinking about all the things that everyone else is doing while you’re thinking about what you should be doing.

But here’s the good news.

Language is linear.

We can think about dozens of things at once on multiple levels (I mean thinking about something and thinking about the fact that you’re thinking about it and subconsciously thinking about something else) but we can’t talk or write that way.

That’s one of the main reasons why it really helps to get your to do list out of your head and onto paper.

If you want to do it write it down.

This will get it out of your head and into reality, at least on paper. This allows you to see how many things you want to do, remember them and put them in order. This is much more effective than just thinking about stuff. Because language is analogous to individual action (as opposed to being analogous to reality, group action or thinking) it’s super helpful to write down the things you want to do.

Another way of looking at it is to see that the limitations of language can be very helpful. The bad new is that you’ll never see a poem as lovely as a tree. The good news is that writing tasks down will help you get them done.

This may be very obvious to you but as someone who resisted organization and to do lists for years I found it a revelation.

Summary

  • You can only do one thing at a time.
  • Language is linear so it’s analogous to individual action. You can only SAY one thing at a time.
  • Writing down your tasks will get them out of your non-linear head and help you get things done.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Take 30 minutes and write down everything you want to do.
  2. Pick 1 task from your list.
  3. Get it done.

 


*There are two things that might make it seem like you can do more than one thing at time.

  • Multitasking: This is not really doing two or more things at once. This is just doing one thing that accomplishes two or more goals.
  • Getting other people to do stuff using nifty new inventions like language, money, civilization and twitter is another way to get things done. This is not doing more than one thing at a time, however. This is getting other people to use the one thing they get to do at this time in service to your goals.

**Imagine that the world is split into two teams and you’re on one and the rest of the world is on the other. We’ll call your team “The Ewes.” We’ll order jerseys. Go Ewes! We’ll call the other team the Knots (because they’re not you). The teams are not even (it’s 7 billion against 1) but a lot of people make the comparison between the Ewes and the Knots and find the Ewes sadly wanting. In fact, while your were reading this the Knots had like 100,000 babies, built a few houses, finished 157 novels, fell in love a million times, ran a few marathons and lost a ton of weight (several tons actually). You better get busy!

Mathematical Proof That You Are Incredible

Mathematical Proof That You Are Incredible

There are billions of people alive on this planet right now and, unless you’re a search engine spider or a cat who can read, you’re one of them.

Have you ever considered how unlikely that is?

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Of course it probably seems inevitable to you that you exist. Aside from George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and a few other fictional characters, no one has ever experienced a world that they were not in.

When I look at my son I see a growing human being that I am incredibly proud of who I would give my life for without hesitation. He exists because my wife and I fooled around and one of my sperm fertilized one of her eggs. 8 months later (he came early) he was born.

Something similar happened to me several decades ago. My mother and father fooled around in February and in October** I was born.

Something similar probably happened to you and to everyone you know as well.*

Genetically, we are all unique and recently scientists confirmed that each sperm and egg are unique as well. So what is the likelihood that that particular sperm fertilized that particular egg?

It turns out we don’t have to take into account the likelihood of fooling around on Tuesday night versus Thursday morning. We can just multiply the number of possible eggs produced by a human woman (two million) by the number of sperm produced by a human male (500 billion) to get one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) possible combinations of all the sperm and and all the eggs that your parents produced.

So you are not one in a million. You are one in a quintillion.

Not unique enough for you? There’s more – a lot more.

It now seems inevitable to me that my wife and I would meet and fall in love and get married and have a baby.

But the chain of events that led to us meeting is mind bobbling. Two years before we met we lived 3,000 miles away from each other and we knew no one in common. Even before we get to one in a quintillion we are talking about extremely unlikely. Let’s be super conservative and, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the chance of any one person meeting and having a baby with a particular other is at least a million to one. Obviously some are more likely (the couple who are both from the tiny, isolated village in Canada) and some are less (the guy from Zimbabwe and the girl from China who met at a rave in France) so it’s an average.

If this is the case then you are not one in quintillion.

You are one in septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

By comparison, the chance that you exist at all is one million times less likely than the chance that you will be hit by lightning three times in the next 12 months.

And here’s the truly mind blowing thing.

Every generation of ancestors is just as unlikely.

So thats one in septillion for your Mom and one in septillion for your Dad and so on and so on and so on (as the ancient shampoo commercial said).

If you add it all up (actually multiply it all up) it’s just about impossible that you exist. It is so unbelievably unlikely that it’s not hard to call it a miracle.

So if you ever think that you’re not that special or not unique please check your math.

From a practical standpoint it is very clear that no one has ever lived who is exactly like you and no one will ever again. You are. literally, unprecedented. What you have to offer, your blend of talents, experience and point of view, has never been seen in the universe and never will again.

Please don’t hesitate to share.

(I mean your talents and your point of view but if you are moved to share this post please feel free as well!)

Thanks!

Summary

  • You are unique. You are more likely to be hit by lightning 3 times this year than to be born.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Write down at least three things that are unique about you.
  2. Write down at least three things that only you can do.
  3. Pick your favorite thing on this last list and do it today.
Scheduling Challenges

Scheduling Challenges

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I missed two appointments this past weekend and last Friday I would have missed a doctor appointment if my doctor hadn’t taken the day off.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

There are basically two parts of keeping track of an appointment. The first is writing it down and the second is reading it.

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Simple.

If you have a good scheduling habit.

I don’t have one of those.

(Yet.)

When I a young man I had an very good memory and very simple responsibilities so I didn’t develop a good scheduling habit. Basically I went to work and then went to the theater where I either had rehearsal, a meeting or beers with friends. When I grew older it became clear that I needed a way to keep track of my growing list of obligations and commitments.

I thought that the problem was finding a system that I could consistently use. I longed for the iPhone for decades before it was invented. Before that I tried notebooks and dayplanners and calenders and loose leaf systems and journals and even hired a personal assistant for a few months. Nothing worked. I thought it was because I didn’t have the right device.

The truth is that I did not develop a good scheduling habit.

(Yet.)

Now I have the right device, a magical appliance that goes whereever I go. A phone and a computer and a sound system all in one that I always have with me. I have multiple scheduling options. At work I have Outlook and at home we use Google Calendar. Both update to the magical device in my pocket.

So what’s the problem now?

I have still not developed a good scheduling habit.

(Yet.)

I want to acknowledge that I have made progress. I actually have a nascent scheduling habit. I am now aware that my life is more complicated and my memory is not what it was when I was 20 so I need to write everything down. It’s much better than it was BUT, obviously, there is room for improvement (see missed appointments above).

What’s missing is the habit of writing everything down and then always looking at both calendars.

Especially on weekends. Weekends and holidays are problematic because I don’t automatically open my computer and check my email and calendar. I have this strong belief that my weekends are full of free time even though every weekend for the past 45 years has been full to bursting. I’m apparently a slow learner.

As I said, there are two steps to scheduling:

  1. Writing it down at the time that the appointment or commitment is made
  2. Reading it and being aware of it when the appointment or commitment is scheduled.

So I going forward I need to make sure I put everything in my schedule and check that schedule every day.

Reading: The reading of my schedule I can do that at the end of my journaling which I plan to do every morning, even on weekends. I do my journaling in my computer which has access to everything. My schedule will also be available on my phone. It seems to me that I should figure out how to integrate my work schedule (on Outlook) and my personal/family calendar (on Google). I am not the only one using either system so I can’t delete either one but I’m sure there’s an effective way for them to talk to each other.

Writing: I need to always make sure I take the time to enter my appointments into my calendar. What stops me is:

  1. Embarrassment at taking time away from whomever I am talking to to write down the appointment.
  2. A mistaken belief that I will remember and/or enter it later.

I just have to change my behavior.

If anyone has suggestions, ideas or foolproof hacks that they use, please enter them in the comments below.

Thanks!

Summary

  • Scheduling is challenging for me because I haven’t cultivated a scheduling habit.
  • Step 1 of scheduling: Writing appointments and commitments down.
  • Step 2 of scheduling: Reading your schedule so you know what you have to do.
  • Weekends and holidays are challenging if you don’t look at your calendar on those days.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Do you have a good scheduling habit?
  2. If not, consider what you need to do to create one today and take steps to put it in place.
  3. If you have a good system, share it with others readers (and with ME!!) in the comments below.

PS
Checking my schedule(s) now….Back to school night? What the heck is that?

PSS

I started this blog to provide a forum for my ideas AND to document my own transformation and to create public accountability for changes I want to make in my life. Some posts will be full of philosophy and others will have practice tools. Others will be about my own struggles and successes and the steps I am taking to minimize the former and maximize the latter.
 
This is one of those.

Stuck? A Simple Tip to Get Going Again

Stuck? A Simple Tip to Get Going Again

snail in front of house
Photo by Shelley Wenk

You’re going along, making progress toward your goals, getting things done, enjoying life and then suddenly everything stops. Your momentum is gone, you’re cranky and tired and it seems like you’re back where you started.

Have you ever had this experience? I’m was the middle of it a few days ago.

steps-to-take-today
Click Here to jump to the Actionable/Practical Stuff at the Bottom

First take a STEP BACK and assess. What have you accomplished? What have you learned? Is your goal still appropriate?

If you determine that you’re still aimed in the right direction but you’re not satisfied with your velocity try STEPPING UP. Assess what you’re doing and assess what you’re not doing and be honest with yourself. You might want to ask yourself the 7 hard questions I covered in another post (and will expand on in future).

But if things were going well before and now you’ve faltered I may have a very simple solution for you.

Look at what you were doing when things were going well.

Look at what you’re doing now.

What’s different?

I took a look and it was immediately clear that after I came back from vacation in August I stopped setting my priorities in the morning. After I got an ear infection a couple weeks ago I stopped writing my nightly gratitude list and poem and I stopped using my task tracking tool.

All these habits were young and hadn’t carved a groove in my brain yet so they were easily disrupted. (Let me be honest with myself and you: I stopped doing them. Nothing forced me.) None of these habits are essential to survival so when I stopped doing them the world kept on spinning.

But it started spinning more slowly and with less purpose. The gratitude list and poem were like an extra boost of fuel. The priority list and the task tracking (I’ve been using Omnifocus) keep the engine running smoothly. Dropping these habits slowed my momentum until I felt like I was not moving. I felt overwhelmed and wondered whether I was doing the right thing.

The interesting thing is that things that worked in the past will probably work now. Sometimes we stop doing good things for no good reason. Maybe our gym closes or we sprain our ankle so we stop exercising. Maybe our notebook gets filled up or we lose it so we stop journaling. Maybe our library card expires so we stop reading.  Maybe we go to a wedding or a funeral and we start smoking or drinking or eating cake again. We intend to pick up this habit again or put that one down but we never get around to it.

Sometime we stop doing good things for reasons that seem good at the time. We stopped going bowling because it hurt our wrists. We stopped taking morning walks because our dog died. We stopped going to classes because we graduated.

The problem is that those habits may have been essential to our success in ways that we were not aware of.

Little habits can make a big difference. Meditating for 10-20 minutes a day several times a week can have a profound impact on you relationships and your mental health. Taking a walk at lunch time to that healthy salad place could add several years to your life and make you more effective at work. A regular bowling night with the guys or poker night with the girls or movie night with the family could provide a support system that is essential to your happiness and success.

The big secret of this post is that the little things matter. If you find yourself longing for the good old days, look at a time when things were working well for you and write down the things that YOU were doing on a regular basis. Don’t focus on the environment because all that is beyond your control. Look at your actions. If you stopped doing any of those things you should seriously consider starting up again. And don’t let a change in the environment stop you. If you gave up exercise because your tennis partner moved away or your knees are shot, start a new fitness habit. Maybe try swimming.

I’m starting those habits back up and I’ve started a new morning routine that I’ll tell you about in other post. It’s already made a huge difference.

I really hope you find this helpful. Let me know if it does in the comments box below.

Summary

  • If you’ve lost momentum, take a look at your habits.
  • Are there habits or daily practices that you’ve stopped?
  • Perhaps small behaviors were making a big difference.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Think about a time when things were going very well.
  2. Identify what you were doing on regular basis then that you’re not doing now.
  3. Consider bringing some of those old habits back to life.