Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I've moved!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I’m so busy

“Yeah, uh, huh, yeah, I gotta go...”

“Right, yeah...I got a million things to do.

“I know, I’ve gotta run...I’m really busy”

“Yeah....Gotta run, I’ll talk to you later...”

I was listening to a child playing with her mother’s phone.  Though, it could have been me when I was younger playing with my toy phone. That’s what we heard adults do on the phone. So when we pretended, we did the same thing.

It gave me a sense of importance even then.

My parents didn’t do it a lot, but I heard other adults do it. They much be really in demand I would think.

Us Americans, we like to be busy. We don’t like to be mistaken for someone who doesn’t work hard. We frown on those people. So we take on more than we can handle and it is very easy to get overwhelmed.

When I think about the most valuable people in my life, in terms of practical career influence, they were probably the busiest of all, but didn’t let on. Probably because, to them, it wasn’t tedious. They loved what they were doing, so the energy was not sapped out of them. They were super-busy, no doubt, but instead of wigging out about how busy they were, they paced themselves so that interruptions aren’t as dire.

I don’t want to be busy anymore. I don’t even like the word. I like the corresponding feeling even less.

We tend to feel busy when we see things are a chore; when we’re overwhelmed. But what if we changed our mindset, so we saw past the actual tasks or chores to the end results? Sure, there will still be some anxiety; I’ve gotta get this done, I’ll be so glad when this is done; but if we breathe through it, keeping our eyes on the prize, as they say, it will come much more naturally.

Someone once said, pursue your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life. If you are not able to do your passion at work, think about why you are doing it. Make the necessary move to never being busy.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Run Away from Your Day
We take our dog Baileys, to the dog park at least once a week. We do it, not only because she loves, I mean LOVES it; as much as we do it for ourselves. She is much more manageable [and less devious] when she gets exercise, when she has a chance to run, jump out her excitement. She is always excited. She loves life, but she needs an outlet for all of that energy.

I am not unlike Baileys in that situation. After a particularly frustrating day, I went to my job at Curves and just ran on the recovery board. I don’t know if it was the “flight” response or just general angst; Probably a combination of both. I got some curious looks, because despite the instructions to “Change Stations Now,” I stayed put, just who knows where.

“I’m running away from my day, ” I explained. The ladies obliged by going around me. I think they understood.

Let me explain. I am not a runner. I'm sure i don't do it right [and I don't care]. I think I actually failed PE. But the feeling I got from the running was better than any drug could have given me. It got me wanting to do more of it, just as a release for my toxic energy.

After my evening there, I felt amazing. Not to mention, much more agreeable.

I decided to incorporate my “run” [it’s more of a half run half walk, with some stumbling mixed in], with Baileys. We used to do it at the cemetery when no one is looking. Except I became a casualty in her pursuit of a squirrel. I’m sure the motorists had quite an eyeful as I landed on the ground, with a thud, laughing.

I felt equally amazing after our run. The combination of laughter and running was incredibly therapeutic. 

So Baileys and I try to do at least one run/walk a day.  But we’ve moved to the tennis courts.

c. 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rejection or Opportunity?
Many endeavors have quirky beginnings, but I’m willing to bet this stands alone in its surrealness. “Yeah, I met Barb in California. I originally thought she was a whore, but it tuned out she was just renting apartments....Boy was I wrong.”

Indeed, at the time she was just using her apartment as her real estate office, but the steady stream of people would raise some eyebrows.

 Most people would find almost being evicted because the landlord thought she was a prostitute debilitating, not to mention soul crushing. Horrified as she was, she chose to see the good in the situation. It got her a chance to talk to her landlord who was the one who got her started on her career as a multi millionaire.

“If I hadn’t almost been evicted as a prostitute, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet my landlord, ask for his listings, and leave with a new apartment to rent.” That’s one way to put it, I guess.

She says, “The eviction notice and it’s happy ending taught me that opportunity hides in the worst situations, when the timing’s not right, and when everyone agrees that the most prudent move is to lie low. Finding opportunity is a matter of believing it’s there.”

“Handling rejection is 90% of what sales are all about.”

I remember reading a then, unknown, Barbara Corcoran’s book Use What You’ve Got years ago. My mother, who thought I’d find it inspirational, loaned it to me to read. It was very inspiring, but I had nowhere to apply the insights. I gave the book back and I had all but forgotten her until her name started appearing in news and business journals, and of course Shark Tank. This coincided with my own business planning, which is providential because she is not only very inspiring, but has firsthand knowledge from testing it out herself.

To look at the glamorous, confident business mogul, you would think that all she does is win. You would never know that she’s had her share of rejection. She’s a master at turning bad things into good things. When her business partner and boyfriend of 7 years broke up with her to marry the company secretary, no doubt her blood boiled. Adding insult to injury, he said as they were splitting the business, "You know, you will never succeed without me."

She turned her hurt into power and got the best revenge. She eventually sold the company for $66 million.

"I knew when he said that, I would rather die than let you see me not succeed," says Corcoran. "Thank God for the gift of the insult." She is now considered a real estate mogul and is a popular TV personality, but she didn’t know it would turn out that way.

“I consider your rejection a lucky charm, because everything that ever happened in my life came on the heels of failure,” is what she told the producers of Shark Tank when they initially rejected her. 

Wow! What if we all thought that way? What if we all redefined rejection as opportunity? Most of us spend a large part of our lives, eschewing rejection. By reconsidering it, we take away its negative power.

"You have to be great at handling rejection, and then more rejection, and then still more rejection." 

It’s easy [and common] to get excited about something and very soon, realize you are in over your head. Barbara found this out when she was invited to speak at a group of 800 homebuyers at a seminar. Excited for the publicity and the opportunity, she jumped at the chance. Excepting her waitress experience, she had never spoken to large groups. Her opening joke fell flat as she forgot the punch line and it was a downward spiral from there. She went back to her seat in agony, leaving the moderator with his mouth open. She decided then and there to reinvent herself. This would not define her.

She could have wallowed in her defeat. Most people would have. She decided she needed a crash course in public speaking. But not in a conventional way. The next day, she pitched a course on real estate to NYU. She said she was an “excellent speaker.” They bit and she ended up teaching there for 5 years. She soon became that “excellent speaker.”

Failure and rejection were the doors to ultimate success for Barbara Corcoran. How many times were the same doors were presented to others [including myself] who walked by because they didn’t want to be hurt?

c. 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

“All is Well”

“All defensiveness and emotional tumult is a fear response because of your need for acceptance and ruthless control of the territory of your safe fantasy world.” 

Matt is a guy I worked with who couldn’t take anything that resembled criticism. His M.O. was to criticize the way I was doing things and prove his rightness. Actually he may not even realize it. Which is probably the most annoying thing.

We all know people we can’t talk to because everything is a battle. Any comment is met with ruthless defense, when you weren’t even on the attack.

These people are maddening to say the least. This is beyond simply standing up for yourself.  These people are extreme. It’s almost as if they are anticipating an attack and are reciting some script they have been working on for a long time. The thing is, they probably have. They are most likely coming from a situation where they were judged or criticized excessively.

It’s a primal response straight from our reptilian brains. We are reptiles when we’re being defensive. It is motivated by fear and not reason. We are not thinking when we are in this state, which is why rehearsed lines are more prominent, as are fiery arrows of blame.

“Yeah, but you...”

“Well, why did you...”

So how do we deal with this? Hard as it may be, don’t fall into the trap of defensiveness. Rise above. “Don’t go lizard, go turtle,” Martha Beck suggests. Focus on something positive about the situation or think of something to engage your thinking brain. She suggests thinking of a bright color, or solving an analytical problem.

The reptilian brain operates out of scarcity. Something is lacking; something is wrong. They zero in on the wrong things. Not only is the good not on their radar, they have no hope. These people need assurance that everything will be ok. Not so much in words, but in actions. It can be tough when they are on their manic whirlwind of dis-ease.

That is why it is so important that, we, their counterparts in this case, are operating from an attitude of “enough” or even abundance. Another way to go about that is, instead of looking for things that are wrong, look for things that are right. It will accomplish the same thing, but it will completely change your mindset. This will help arm you from their defensive jabs.

“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté. Maria Popova

c. 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Slow Cooker for the Soul, by guest blogger Don E. Smith Jr.

Don & Laura Smith
c. Don E. Smith, Jr

Brooke Musterman is a part-time philosopher and she shares these thoughts in her "Reptilian Rantings" web site. This wonderful blog is dedicated to chronicling stress and how people react to it in the work place. But what about the "out of the workplace?"

Life became a bit trying for me this year as I found myself unemployed.

Employment news and unemployment are a bear unto themselves.

Besides the obvious, "What do we do about income?" "Y'know bills can't be paid with empty promises?" "What do I do?"

I am going to lay it out there - unemployment, mostly, is a mind game. I mean that kind of annoying "The person I liked smiled at me - is it love? Wait! They're frowning in my direction! Does that mean they hate me?"

What was I to do? The answer came in an unusual way - a crock pot. 

One weekend soon after my unemployment, my friend Peggy said randomly, "It's never been used. Interested?" "What the heck?" I responded.

Another thing happened, upon hearing about my issue, a friend bought me a bag of groceries. In the bag were apples and apple juice. Also, while reading a coupon circular, my wife found a crock pot recipe for apple sauce.  

When Monday rolled around my patient "missus" was at work and I was left alone. Sure I could watch TV, read or surf YouTube, but worries of the future set in!

Then an idea hit, "Crock pot!" I forced myself out of the chair, grabbed the recipe Laura found and I grabbed the apples and began peeling and cutting! In about 45 minutes, the crock pot was beginning to heat up with a cup of apple juice, lemon juice, some Stevia and vanilla.

It helps to understand that before I was unemployed, my wife did all the cooking or we would go out to eat or fast food. The idea that I could cook was alien to me! But by doing this simple act, something kicked in.

For the next five hours, while the apples "slowly cooked" (hence the name SLOW COOKER), I found myself attacking each room of our apartment. The bed got made, the dishes got washed, the laundry was done and I made dinner (grilled hot dogs - I could do that at least).

By the end of the day, I did not have that feeling of "Boy, am I useless!" What I found was a feeling of accomplishment. My wife came home and found she did not have to clean or cook.

That was the day I learned "Cooking was a distraction!" And any distraction that will keep "the gates of despair" from opening and emptying out on you is a good thing!
Within weeks, I was teaching myself crock
The crock pot that changed it all
c. 2015 Don Smith

pot recipes like chicken, beef and, of course, lots and lots and lots of apple sauce! I began posting the photos on Facebook and began experimenting with regular dishes. Just this past Christmas I got a garlic press, cutting boards and cook books.

Now I did not become the next Emeril or Julia Child, but what could've been a bleak and discouraging mindset, became overshadowed with confidence and a new creativity. Confidence and creativity are skills and tools needed as I find a new job.

I was sharing all this with my friend Peggy and she said, "Do you know why you have this new sense of confidence and creativity?" I said, "Not really."

"Because as you learned how to feed your body," she said. "You really learned how to feed your soul!" 

I thought about this, and I realized Peggy was right. It turns out that Peggy is also a part-time philosopher.

Like Brooke. 

c. 2015

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interview with Zen Habits's Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta was a very different person in 2005. He was 70 pounds heavier, a chain smoker, huffing and puffing to a job he hated. He was in serious debt and he had no time for his wife and three kids. Even when he did, he preferred to just veg out, because he was so spent. He was miserable and he knew it. He also knew that to get out of his misery he would have to make some changes, let go of some deeply ingrained habits that he had developed as security blankets. This was perhaps the scariest thing.

I am an avid reader of Zen Habits. I always get something great out of his posts. His posts talk about manageable, simple things that I can actually do to great effect. He is finishing his latest book about changing habits, Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change. Let me tell you, there is no one more suited. He is the poster boy for changing habits. He has done it!

Always unconventional, he is crowdfunding his book. His book will not be sold in stores or on Amazon. It will only be available via Kickstarter.

This week I had the awesome opportunity to interview Leo.

Everyone wants to make changes. Few can stick with those changes. In your book, you share some of your tips on how to make change last, through a process called mindfulness.

First off, can you explain what exactly “mindfulness” is?

Leo: In the book, I compare mindfulness with a spotlight: usually we go through our lives not really aware, not seeing the present moment, not noticing our thoughts. Mindfulness is simply shining a spotlight on all of that, so that we’re aware of what’s happening. It takes practice to remember to do that, but when you do remember, you can see the resistance in your mind to change, you can see your rationalizatons and urges, you can feel when you’re resentful or frustrated. If you can’t see any of that, you can’t change it. Mindfulness also helps me to appreciate more about each moment, and to enjoy the moment more fully.

Leo, everyone can relate to where you started. There are many of us who are in debt, hate our jobs, could lose a few pounds, start an exercise program. We all WANT to make change. We know we SHOULD make a change, but just can’t. I know for me, I can have the best of intentions, but I either forget, because the habits are so ingrained, or give up because it’s too difficult.

But you actually did it! You overcame all of the really “impossible” obstacles, quitting smoking, drinking, overcoming debt, etc.

Many people get overwhelmed because they know they need to make a lot of changes, but you didn’t make all of these changes at once. You say you started by making just one change. You started by quitting smoking and gave it all you had. Once you slayed that dragon, you moved on to the next. Tell us about that. How did you decide which one to take on first? How did you deal with the tough parts, the cravings, the fidgeting, the bad moods?

Leo: Well, I did try to change a bunch of habits all at once, but that wasn’t working for me. I kept failing. So I decided to just try one, and pour all my energy and focus into that. I chose quitting smoking because I thought it was the worst thing I was doing and I really wanted to change it. I don’t recommend that as a first habit change, though — choose something easier. But yes, I did have to deal with cravings, bad moods, and very strong resistance. What helped was mindfully watching the urges arise, and then not acting on them. I also learned to cope with stress in other ways (other than smoking), by breathing, meditating, taking a walk, doing some pushups. I also learned to call on other people when I was having a hard time, and to distract myself from the urges when necessary, to delay action on the urges until they went away. Finally: I learned not to believe all the negative self-talk that I found myself doing.

Get the book!
Personally, I am trying to finish a few writing projects that I am struggling to find time for. After a full day of work, I just want to nap and veg out. I have been setting two hours a day that all I can do is go to my office and write. It’s just that so many other things seem to vie for my attention then. Its all too easy to postpone my writing time for something “quick” [and necessary] like unloading the dishwasher, checking email/voicemail, etc. Before I know it my two allotted hours have passed...again.

Leo: Yes, exactly! We think of the productive work as this big block of time, a huge task we need to get done, but the email or dishwasher are quick tasks that seem much easier. So we do the easy and put off the huge chunk of work until later. What if instead, we just saw the writing as an easy task — something you can do in a couple minutes. “Just start writing” should be the task you think of … and then, once you start, maybe you’ll want to continue!

You talk about relaxed productivity. I love that. I know few things get done when we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off, but if we breathe through it. It all gets done. I work at Starbucks and when it’s really busy, I know I can get it all done if I just move a little slower, breathe through the steps. Unfortunately people usually want me to move faster. They don’t realize that if I rush around they’ll have to wait until I fix my mistakes. There are several jobs like mine, where if people don’t see you running around, they think you aren’t taking it seriously or are being lazy. They don’t realize that the less you are in panic mode, the more productive you will be.

It’s the same with habits. If you are taking on too much at once, you are not setting yourself up for success. You will quickly become overwhelmed. How did relaxed productivity help you with your habit changes?

Leo: That sense of urgency, which is created in our own minds, becomes a mental habit that we have a hard time getting out of. When you rush through one task, you are suddenly looking for the next one, and then the next, and it’s neverending. What I’ve found useful is to slow down, focus on one task, give it some space, loosen up my tightened mind. When I finish that one task, I try to give some space before starting the next task (when I remember).

Has this helped with my habit changes? Well, it’s important to give the habit its own space as well … if we just see the new habit (let’s say doing a workout) as something to rush through before you do your next task, it won’t have any focus, and you won’t enjoy it. Instead, treat this new habit as an event, something worth giving your attention and time to, something to be relished.

These are Buddhist concepts, but it is possible to practice mindfulness and Zen without being Buddhist, right? There are things that parallel with Christianity, for instance. Things like impermanence and leaving attachments sound very much like Christian concepts as well.

Leo: Yes, the ideas of impermanence and non-attachment are fairly widespread, and you don’t have to be a part of any religion, really, to try them out. It’s obvious that our time here on earth is fleeting and limited, and so life itself is impermanent. Nothing lasts, everything changes. It’s how we deal with that impermanence that determines our happiness. And so non-attachment is simply a way of dealing with impermanence — if everything changes, don’t be attached to one state. And with practice, it works really well.

I love how you always talk about being grateful for the moment. You don’t necessarily mean, Yay, I’m encountering hardships, but being grateful for the experience and the corresponding lessons. Can you talk about some obstacles you faced when you were conquering habits, and how you dealt with them?

Leo: I’ve faced so many obstacles! From not wanting to do the habit today, to feeling guilty if I missed, to not trusting myself to stick to a habit, to opposition from other people in my life to my changes. Actually, my entire book is about how to deal with these obstacles … but in brief:

Have there been instances where people in your life have responded negatively or uncomfortably to your changes?

Leo: Oh, definitely. I’ve had family members who were resentful when I tried to eat healthier, or people who mocked my quitting smoking, believe it or not. Probably the most negative reactions we’ve gotten is from becoming vegan, and unschooling our kids. We’ve learned that other people will be resistant to change, and we have to learn how to handle that in stride. We try to deal kindly and gently with other people like that, and to slowly educate them or at least get them to understand a little. Slowly, though, I’ve surrounded myself with people who are more supportive.

Are there any habits you wanted to but haven’t changed?

Leo: Sure, lots … I’ve been inconsistent with meditation, and I’ve quit language learning about 5 times. That’s OK — we’re all learning! I try not to be too hard on myself, but learn from my mistakes.

You are selling your new book on an unconventional platform. Can you tell us how we can get it?

Leo: I thought it would be fun to cut out the middle man, and sell directly to my readers. So you can only buy the book on Kickstarter: the Zen Habits book. This will help fund the printing of the book, and you can also get it in digital format (Kindle, PDF, iPad, web) and even be a part of webinars and a coaching program if you choose the higher reward levels.

Thank you so much, Leo!

 You can always read Leo’s stuff at