Thursday, November 25, 2004

Something To Look Out For

Positive thinking is probably the most misunderstood element that success gurus speak of. The average person often smirks and winks at those of us who believe in such "nonsense". I don't think of being positive as skipping along through life without a care; that's unrealistic.

Obviously, how you react is important, but what you choose to react to is equally important. An exercise that I use involves positive thinking in one of its highest forms.

Receiving inspiration from unintentional sources has the ability to transform the mundane into the wonderful. What are some of these unintentional sources? These could be anything. Overheard snippets of conversation at the supermarket, the words on the back of a cereal box, bicycle assembly instructions, song lyrics (a big source for me), and many others.

In their raw form these things may pass by in a state of accidental apathy, but upon reflection a hidden inspiration may begin to emerge. Aimless reflection often yields few results. Framing your thoughts with what is relevant to your definition of success is what will produce the best results.

At first, practicing this can be frustrating, and even a bit confusing. "What should I reflect on?", "What could make it relevant?", and "Am I doing this right?" are all common questions at first. Stick with it and it will get easier, and who knows, you may find something truly inspirational in the otherwise mundane.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Teamwork And Teeth

I wanted to post this as soon as the idea hit me. Here are a few analogies between teamwork and teeth. I apologize in advance if any of these seem too vague, cerebral, or less than well thought out. Take it for what it's worth :)

1. A mouth contains different types of teeth.

2. All work in conjuction with one another.

3. Each still has to perform a specific task.

4. Watch out for toothaches caused by overwork of one or two teeth.

5. Watch for cavities due to improper care. That is, "holes" in the team.

6. Need to perform regular maintenance and checkups.

7. The pain of short-term discipline (hard work, roll up the sleeves = brushing/flossing, regular dental visits) is better than long-term regret (being lazy now = dentures later).

8. Toothaches due to some other cause than overwork, must be taken care of right away. In other words; remove, re-assign, or reprimand complainers on the team.

Those were the only ones I could think of off the top of my head. Let me know if I forgot anything obvious.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Poverty Triangle

Poverty, in the sense of poorness, comes in many forms. Some are quite specific to geography, occupation, spirituality, or even recreation, to name a few. On the other hand, some forms of poverty are more general. Identifying your current state of 'wealth' or 'poverty' in these areas is a vital step to success.

What are these three areas that make up this poverty triangle? I've heard it said that people are either time poor, people poor, or money poor. I think that statement has merit, so I will look at these three.

Time Poor - Everybody is allotted the exact same amount of time every day. People only differ in what they do with that time. Where I tend to go wrong in this area is in over-estimating how much time is left to complete something, and under-estimating how long it will take. It's a common mistake. How would you rate yourself?

As far as time goes, the thing I try to do right is being on time. I've developed a habit of being on time, or even early when possible. Of course, being early can mean waiting longer for someone else. I combat this down-time by having something I can work on; catching up on reading, writing down ideas, or making a few phone calls. If you are lacking in this area, start developing the habit of promptness.

People Poor - Family and friends are supposed to be a priority, sadly for some people this is not so. The pursuit of the almighty dollar stays at the forefront, while personal relationships suffer. It's okay to strive for more income to provide the things you and your family want. Yes, that may require long hours and hard work, but it's important to maintain balance. Are there relationships in your life that need some improving? Or, are things going great?

Here are a few thought on improving a people poor situation. Schedule time to spend in your most important relationships. When you are spending time with family and friends, enjoy it. This doesn't mean you have to participate in planned activities or vacations, instead try laughing together, talking together, or just being in the presence of one another.

Money Poor - This can be a tough one. The credit card companies make it tempting and easy to go into debt. Advertising whets our appetite for keeping up with our neighbors. We can feel deprived if we don't get the things we think we deserve. It seems to be a vicious cycle. Taking an honest look at your situation will let you know where you are.

People who are money poor are often quick to begrudge those who are wealthy. Nevermind that most people who are wealthy have earned it fair and square. This poor attitude contributes greatly to money poorness. Changing attitudes about money can be hard. I'm a normal guy, with a normal job, and a normal paycheck, I don't make much more, or less than the people I work with. However if one of my co-workers makes a comment about the financially well-off being greedy, dishonest, or lucky; I do my best to politely express my opinion. It doesn't always work, but I don't think it's okay to just let it slide either.

Those are a few of my thoughts on time, people, and money. I wish you every success in each of these three areas. What do you think?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Quick Thought - Shortcomings

Let us be quick to accept the responsibilities of our shortcomings, and always willing to help others overcome theirs.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Northern Lights - A Connection To The Past?

Tonight I was able to see the Northern Lights. Not only did I see them, but they were the most vivid display I have ever seen. The Aurora seemed to cover almost half the sky; quite impressive.

I drove the family out of town to escape the lights of the city. We found a hill with a breath-taking view. Even though it was a bit cool, I decided to brave the elements and actually get out of the car. It was worth it. As I stood there alone (the family chose the comfort of the car), surveying the landscape capped with the awesome display of light, a thought occurred to me.

Being of partially Nordic descent, I began to wonder how my Viking (I don't really know if they were Vikings or not, but I like to think they were) ancestors felt. Did they feel the same sense of awe and wonder? Were they fearful? Did they understand the association of the Sun with a nighttime event? Most of all, I wondered, as I stood on the hill would I have been a brave Viking warrior? I could feel a boldness rising, I stood in defiance to the breeze, in defiance to the wind.....

Then a TAP! TAP! TAP! scared the daylights out of me and I was back in the comfort of the car. I asked my family if they had heard that tapping noise. My little one replied "Daddy, that was me tapping on the window, because you were standing in my way". And then I wondered if a Viking ever had the same thing happen to them.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Basic Ideas About Success Pt. 2 - Seek Advice Properly

Most people feel advice is worth what it costs - nothing. This is probably true in most cases. Do you want to know the ultimate secret about seeking advice? It's very simple, but often overlooked: Ask the right person for the right advice.

Let's say you are having some small problem with your spouse. Would it make sense to complain to a divorced friend and then ask their advice? Or, would it make more sense to seek the advice of a couple who has been happily married for 30 years? Obviously the latter makes a lot more sense, yet people tend to be carefree in asking for and giving advice.

Here is some advice that may actually be worth something. Starting now try to ask yourself before seeking advice, "what makes this person qualified to help". Also, to be fair, when someone asks you for advice that you are less than qualified to give, let them know and try to steer them in the right direction.

The one caveat here is that if you are asking someone who is qualified, then you have to be willing to follow their advice. I find it is easier to be carefree in seeking advice, but it has always been more productive when I seek it properly.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Why I try NOT to make a difference.

I'm sure it's just a matter of semantics, but I do believe the phrase "make a difference" is psychologically ambiguous. The problem is that "making a difference" can be positive as well as negative.

On the negative side: I don't mean to sound harsh, but if you think about it, a criminal makes a difference in the life of a victim, a dictatorship makes a difference in the choices its citizens make, and a corporate down-sizing makes a difference in an employee's income.

Semantics? Maybe, but the words and phrases we use on a regular basis all impact our attitude in some way. So, "make a difference" is a phrase I try to avoid, and replace it with the more specific "make an improvement".

When I do catch and correct myself, my thinking changes almost instantly. I start thinking about how I can improve the situation at hand, as opposed to just changing it.