15 Of The Most Effective Time Management Secrets Known To Man

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.” – The Bible

Wow! Can you imagine? What if it were like that today? Such a scenario would definitely put a new spin on the words “time management”. No doubt we could afford to waste a few hundred years to procrastination, indecision, and downright laziness, and still have plenty of time to accomplish great goals, establish and nurture strong relationships, and to even put several generations of children through college.

Unfortunately, medical science has yet to figure out how to extend our natural lifespan much past threescore years and ten, and if you think about it, that’s not much time to accomplish all that we want to do during our short stint on this planet. Motivator Glenn Bland states that “from the moment we draw our first breath, we begin a personal race against time.” He’s right. The clock is ticking.

Regardless of who we are, what we do, or how successful or unsuccessful we feel ourselves to be, each one of us is gifted with the same number of hours each day in which to act. Ultimately, it is our decisions concerning what actions (or inactions) we are going to take during those twenty-four hour blocks of time we call days that determine the levels of success or failure in all areas of our lives.

So what are some of the ways we can effectively make the most of our time? How do we achieve what we want out of life, yet still maintain a balance? Here are fifteen time management secrets that have been used by some of the most successful people in history; from politicians to Hollywood entertainers; from Fortune 500 corporate executives to Olympic athletes; from entrepreneurs to soccer moms. These secrets worked for them, and they’ll work for you too, if you’ll TAKE THE TIME to learn and apply them.

Secret #1: Set Balanced Goals

“Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” – Susan Ertz

Goals represent the ultimate in time management tools. They allow us to be proactive and not reactive, to steer through life, arriving at destinations of our own choosing within timetables we ourselves set. Without goals, all activities we undertake take on equal value. In addition, if we don’t set our own goals, the world will set them for us! Think about it. You divvy up your time between specific decisions to make and actions to take all day long. The question is: Whose goals are these decisions and actions directed towards, yours or someone else’s?

If you haven’t put your goals down in writing and devised a plan of action to achieve each one, set a goal to do so today. Only then you will have taken that important first step towards ultimate time mastery.

Secret #2: Master Your Attitude

“You’re nothing if you aren’t excited by what you are doing.” – Frank Sinatra

Next to goal setting, your general attitude towards life and events in life will have the greatest influence on your personal time management. Attitude can spur us on to action and achievement, or it can paralyze us with procrastination and indecision.

A winning attitude is what keeps us excited about taking action to reach our goals and maximizing our time along the way. A losing attitude, on the other hand, says “What’s the use!” and keeps us sedated on the couch in front of the boob tube.

Secret #3: Compartmentalize Your Thinking

“I’ve got at least five lives to lead. I’ve got so many lives to lead, there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I’ve got so much to do I can’t believe it. But damn, it’s all so much fun!” – Ted Turner

“Mental compartmentalization” is another strategy used by great time managers. Compartmentalizing your thinking is nothing more than learning to “be in the moment”; learning to concentrate fully on the task at hand and to ignore distractions.

Realize that our only point of power is in the present moment, not ten seconds ahead nor ten seconds behind. By learning to compartmentalize your thinking, you will be able to pursue several goals at once with maximum efficiency and minimum distraction.

Secret #4: Overcome Procrastination

“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life” – Charles Darwin

John F. Kennedy said it best when he declared, “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” Because procrastination is one of the greatest enemies of time management, learning to overcome it is truly the ultimate secret to goal achievement. For more on this, scroll down to my blog post on “The Power of Action”.

Secret #5: Be Decisive

“When in doubt, attack!” – Ulysses S. Grant

The spawn of procrastination, indecision is a huge time waster caused by a lack of knowledge, which in turn breeds an attitude that fears failure. When faced with an important decision, consider following the lead of a famous guy who had to make some pretty tough decisions in his day: Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s method for making decisions was as follows:

• Do your research and understand the facts.

• Consider a variety of possible solutions and the consequences, both positive and negative.

• Be certain that your decision supports your intended goals; then

• Decide and implement!

Did Lincoln make poor decisions during his tenure? Sure he did. Did he achieve his ultimate goal? Sure he did. He did so because he refused to waste time (and, during wartime, human lives) due to indecision. Refuse to waste yours too.

Secret #6: Compress Time

“The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – Mark Twain

Compressing time is the art of turning otherwise idle or transition time into productive time. How is this done? By keeping a book or audio program with you at all times, specifically ones that will help you achieve the goals you set for yourself.

For example: Want to learn how to start a business? Purchase or check out a book or audio program on “Starting a Business” and get after it. You can read or listen to it when exercising, waiting in the doctor’s office, when you’re stuck in traffic..you get the picture. Compressing time. Remember, learning from another’s experience (and mistakes) through books offers a proven shortcut to goal achievement.

Secret #7: Plan Tomorrow Today

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…make big plans, aim high in hope and work.” – Daniel H. Burnham

Take ten minutes at the end of your workday and ten more just prior to hitting the pillow at night to review the day’s events and accomplishments, and to plan out tomorrow’s activities.

By planning your tomorrow today and writing that plan down, you’ll be able to wake up in the morning and hit the ground running. As an added benefit, you’ll sleep more soundly at night because your subconscious won’t be working overtime while you sleep to make sure you don’t forget important upcoming activities and events.

Secret #8: Delegate

“Your quality of life is a reflection of the quality of people you associate with.” – Anon

The busiest, most successful people throughout history achieved their greatness only through effective delegation. How many times has it been hammered into our brains, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself!” Unfortunately, harboring such a paradigm is a sure-fire prescription for burnout and goal dissatisfaction.

Just keep this in mind: When the delegation process fails, nine times out of ten it is due to poor communication. And the good news is that such a failure can be prevented by being certain to communicate a particular task clearly to the other person.

How is this accomplished? It’s an easy three step process: 1) Give specific directives and desired outcomes; 2) Set deadlines and rewards for their accomplishment; and 3)Schedule timely follow-ups to track progress.

So start delegating and recapture that precious time.

Secret #9: Leverage Your Time

“I’ve wasted an enormous amount of time, and time is life. Time is all there is.” Gloria Steinem

Gain leverage on your personal time by hiring others to do time-consuming activities such as housework, yard work, auto repairs and maintenance, etc. By doing so, you’ll free up tremendous amounts of time that can instead be applied towards your goals.

But you may ask yourself, “I’m supposed to pay money to someone to do these jobs when I can save money doing them myself?” The answer: Yes! If you have ambitious goals in your life, you can’t afford not to hire out at least some of this type of work.

Have you ever really sat down and figured out how much your time is actually worth? If not, do so now. What would it be worth to you to achieve a goal sooner than expected? It could be worth a fortune. So does it pay to hire out? You bet it does. Don’t look at it as an expense, but as an investment in your future.

Secret #10: Learn To Say “No”

“If someone approaches you and starts to say, ‘What you need to do is…’ run like mad in the opposite direction.” – Sharon Steen

You can exert incredibly tight control over your time by mastering one simple communication skill: Learn how to say “No”.

Why is this so hard? As human beings, we not only fear being on the receiving end of rejection, but we also hate rejecting others. Yet when you refuse to say “No”, your life will be ruled by other people’s agendas and not your own. And life is too short for that.

Saying “No” is not being selfish either, so never let anyone lay a guilt trip on you for doing so. This is a skill that will help you allocate your precious time towards those areas of your life that count the most.

Secret #11: Ask And You Will Receive

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no” – Anon

How much time would you save if you would conquer your fear and just learn how to ask for what you want? Certainly if you want to achieve your goals as fast as possible, you can’t be afraid to “ask”.

As mentioned earlier, the fear of rejection is a powerful force that is capable of derailing your dream train. Again, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I ask for this?” You might get told “no”. So what. Ask again. Or ask a different person.

Keep asking until you get a “Yes”. John Grisham had to ask fifteen publishers before he got his “Yes”. What might have happened if he stopped asking at fourteen? The moral of the story is this…keep asking.

Secret #12: Live Below Your Means

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau

Where do most of us spend the majority of our waking hours? With our family? Enjoying our hobby? Helping a friend in need?

You know the answer. We spend most of our waking hours earning a living. And for many Americans, earning a living gobbles up a large part of their sleeping hours as well. Why is that? No doubt for some, they truly enjoy working eighteen hours a day. But for most of us, we have to spend lots of our time working because we live at or above our means. Either we are living paycheck to paycheck to keep up with our monthly obligations, or else we are living paycheck to paycheck to pay the interest on the debt we’ve accumulated to enable us to keep up with our monthly obligations. Either way, our time has become a slave to money.

Take a good hard look at your finances and your monthly expenditures, then cut, cut, cut! Keep cutting until your income exceeds your expenses by at least 20%. Then cut back on your working hours until your income exceeds your expenses by 10%. For some, this could free up an extra two weeks per year. For others, even more. Plus, you’ll still be making more than you’re spending. Now you’re really living.

Do the math. It works.

Secret #13: Don’t Be A Slave To This

“He who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice.” – John Stuart Mill

Have you ever been spending quality time with your spouse, children, or significant other when your mobile device suddenly goes off?

If you’re like most people, you’ll climb over mountains to answer it, even if it means interrupting your conversation, not realizing that by doing so, you have allowed some unknown third party to control your time and your actions. Not only that, such behavior on your part does nothing but tell that special person of yours that this unknown caller is much more important than him/her. It’s just not right.

Don’t be a slave to your phone. Unless you are expecting a very important call, let voice mail get it, then establish specific times throughout the day to return phone calls.

Along these same lines, don’t become a slave to e-mails, texts, apps, or to the Internet. These are wonderful tools for sure, but they can vaporize valuable time if you’re not careful. Use them wisely. Avoid addictions (you know what I’m talking about). Be very selective as to who gets your e-mail address and make maximum use of your e-mail filters. In other words, don’t allow your “virtual” world to govern your “real” world.

Secret #14: Take A Nap

“For every purpose of business or pleasure, mental or physical, we ought to break our days and our marches into two…Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination.” – Winston Churchill

Why is it that it is so socially unacceptable in our society to take naps during the day? Good question, because this is one proven strategy that has been used by highly successful people throughout the ages to effectively leverage their time, expand their workdays, and to maintain peak performance.

When an American executive told Winston Churchill about the typical American eight to five work schedule, Churchill replied, “My dear man, you don’t mean it! That is the most perfect prescription for a short life that I’ve ever heard”. Churchill rarely missed his afternoon nap. He felt productivity increased when the day was broken up into two parts by the afternoon nap. And judging by his own productivity, he was on to something!

Remember when you were in school and you put your head down on your desk for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time? Believe it or not, the technique still works. Some of you may be mumbling, “What if I don’t have a desk to put my head on?” or “If my boss finds me napping, she’ll fire me.”

Fine. Just hop into your car at lunch break, put the seat back, and catch fifteen minutes of sleep. Just try it. It will energize the remainder of your day, allowing you to accomplish more before you finally hit that pillow at night.

Secret #15: Get Fit and Stay Fit

“You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you can’t even climb into the saddle.” – Anon

Physical fitness is a vital time management tool, since lack of it leads to lethargy, a lack of ambition, and perpetuates the bad attitude that led to a lack of fitness in the first place. How can you run hard after your goals in the most time efficient manner if you’re gasping for air after the first few steps.

Forget about fancy diets. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar behemoth in this country, built around the premises of “quick-fixes” and lack of personal accountability.
To lose weight, get fit, and remain that way, you need to first “exorcise” the demons in your head that consistently cause you to mount that all-out frontal assault on the refrigerator, while at the same time keeping you fastened to your recliner watching sitcoms.

What is bothering you? Something is, and you’re using food and your recliner to try to forget about it. Find out what it is and send it packing. Once you’ve done this, you’re 90% of the way there.

Next, you need to start exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, and counting your calories along the way. Period! As for the latter recommendation, ask your doctor what your daily caloric intake should be in order for you to reach your ideal body weight. Then formulate a balanced diet plan based upon that number and follow it. Don’t expect to reach your ideal weight within a week. After all, how many months or years of spooning, forking, and inactivity did it take for you to sculpt your current physical masterpiece? It’s that simple.

Well, that’s it – Fifteen of the most effective time management secrets known to man. No doubt there are dozens of other ways to free up more time in your life. And since “time is indeed life”, be sure to take the time to read up on this subject (see Secret #6) and become an expert at it. Just remember: We are all given twenty-four hours in a day with which to work.

How you choose to spend yours will ultimately determine your destiny.

To My Son

My son is getting married tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday he approached me on the beach in Port Aransas asking me to hold his hand while dared to approach the ocean’s edge for the first time in his life. And hold his hand I did as he stepped out of his comfort zone and grew up a little bit more. And as he kept on growing, I kept on loving him, kept on protecting him, and kept on treasuring the memories that were made. Life is indeed a vapor. How quickly it passes.

One hidden prayer I always held for my son was that he would  find that perfect woman with whom he could share life’s adventures; a woman to love, to treasure,  to care for, and to grow old with. Just like the one I had found. And you know what? My prayer was answered.

That said, son, it’s time for a talk. THE Talk. My dad had it with me decades ago. I’m having it with you now.

It’s a talk about marriage. About how wonderful and rewarding it can be. And about how challenging it can be. Too many marriages end in failure. And the real tragedy is that in most cases the emotional bankruptcy could have been avoided.

Learn from those men and women who have managed to stay the course together for thirty years… forty years… fifty years… and beyond. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? I guarantee you their marriages went through the fires of hell on more than one occasion. But they persevered and emerged  stronger and more in love than before. How did they do it? It’s your job to find out. No, it’s your duty to find out.

That said, here are a few rules of marriage from me – a veteran of 30 years:

Rule #1: Read the book, “Why You Act The Way You Do”, by Tim LaHaye. Have your wife read it too. Then you’ll understand why you both act the way you do (go figure). Believe me, this is one of the best preemptive strikes you can make against future marital strife.

Rule #2: Love her unconditionally. Sure, you may not like what she does from time to time (you’re not going to please her all the time either). But that’s okay. Learn what makes her happy. Learn what makes her angry. Work on making her happy. And unconditional love is the first step towards doing that.

Rule #3: No matter how mad you get, no matter how frustrated you become, no matter how much you may think you’ve been wronged, NEVER, and I repeat, NEVER, raise your hand against your wife. Enough said.

Rule #4: Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can’t stress it enough. Open lines of communication keep the oxygen flowing to your marriage. Neglect them, and your marriage suffocates and dies.

Rule #5: Share a common goal with your wife and work together towards that goal. This will help forge a bond between the two of you that will withstand the slings and arrows of life. At the same time, respect your wife’s individual desires and aspirations. And if you really want to win, help her achieve those too.

Rule #6: Realize that change is inevitable. Twenty years from now, you will be a different person than you are now. So will your wife. Embrace the change. Stay flexible. And experience your love growing deeper with each passing year.

So those are a few of my rules for a successful marriage. Advice from a father. Advice from someone who loves you very much.  These marriage tips are not all-inclusive by any means, but at least they’ll point you in the right direction as you start on your new journey.

And what an incredible journey it will be.

Gettysburg and the Importance of History

It was her worst nightmare. And it came true.

Thirty years ago, my new wife and I stood in an open field in the Virginia countryside, mesmerized by the scenery around us, which included cannons, picket fences, and monuments dedicated to those who fought in the first major engagement of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run.

Actually, I was the only one who was awed by the historical significance of the ground I was standing on. My wife? She was pouting. There wasn’t a shopping mall in sight.

I wasn’t long before we spotted a man decked in Confederate gray, complete with all of his reenactor accoutrements,  walking the field across from us. I smiled when I saw him. My wife frowned. “Don’t even think about it,” she warned me.

And I didn’t. For three decades. But at three decades + 1 month, that all changed. That’s when word reached me that a number of descendents of Union soldiers who served in the 154th New York Volunteer Regiment, better known as The Hardtack Regiment, were forming a reenacting company  to participate in the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Why the sudden interest, you ask? Because my great-great granddaddy was in that regiment and fought at Gettysburg. He survived the war and actually returned to Gettysburg on the 50th Anniversary of the battle.

Now the 150th Anniversary was upon us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wasn’t about to miss it. Not only that, I wasn’t about to let my two grown sons miss it either (to tell you the truth, my two boys, both small town native Texans, were reluctant at first to don the Union blue, but since they had Union ancestry in their blood, they acquiesced).

When I broke the news to my wife,  I’m sure her initial thoughts went something like, “What will the neighbors think?” or “My god, he’s really doing it” or “I’ll be damned if my two boys are gonna fight for the North”.  Eventually, though, she resigned herself to the inevitable and began to probe me with questions.

The conversation went something like this:

Her: “So, where are you going to get your costume from?”

Me: “For starters, it’s not called a costume; it’s called a uniform. And I have a friend who can loan me one.”

Her: “Fair enough. Are you going to have to wear it when you practice?”

Me: “Actually, it’s called drilling and yes, I will be in full uniform when we drill.”

Her: “I bet those wool costumes are gonna be hot as hell…”

Retreat…

Just in case you missed the coverage on Fox, CNN, and other major news channels, the 150th Anniversary Gettysburg Reenactment  was quite the spectacle, with nearly 15,000 reenactors participating and over 80,000 spectators filtering through the camp and grandstands  during the four day event.  It was indeed hotter than the Dickens in those wool uniforms, but we survived unscathed (unlike the tens of thousands of Americans who perished during those 3 fateful days 150 years ago). I know my boys haven’t stopped talking about it. And as you can see, neither have I.

But there is a point to all of this. Actually, there are three of them I want to make. Here they are:

Point #1: History Is Important

Even if you’re not a history aficionado (aka my wife), history is important. Even more so than you realize. You see, history teaches us lessons, lessons about success and failure, lessons about good and evil, lessons about faith and folly. We learn from history. At least we should.

As a society, it’s obvious we tend to fail in this respect.  And we have to keep  learning the same, painful lessons over and over again. Afghanistan is a prime example. It’s a land that’s never been conquered or “controlled” for very long. Study ancient history. Study British history. Study Russian history. And now, study American history. We must have skipped over that chapter in the book.

Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up. Anon

And up. And up…

Point #2: Family History Is Important

If you really dig into your family’s history (a piece of cake with the online resources available these days), you’ll find it damn interesting. This history can be a source of pride, or, in some cases, be somewhat embarrassing. Regardless, you can learn from it. Lots.

If you have older living relatives, take the time to get their stories. Don’t let them pass on with these tales still inside of them. That in itself is a travesty. My wife’s grandmother was well into her nineties when she died. Born in 1912, she lived the history I grew up reading about. Prohibition. The Roaring Twenties. Bonnie and Clyde. The Second World War. The list goes on. Can you imagine the first-hand accounts she could have relayed to us regarding this period in history? But no one (including me) took the time to sit down with her and flesh them out. Now she is gone and so are her stories.  What a loss.

Don’t let that happen in your family. Take the initiative and get those oral or written histories from your older family members. Shoot, do it over the phone if you have to. With the smart phone apps and software available at your fingertips, getting a quality recording of that oral history will be easier than teaching a dog to eat!

Point #3: Your History Is Important

Don’t wait for someone to record your stories (or forget to do so). You take the initiative and do it yourself.  Want to be remembered when you’re gone? Keep a journal that can be passed down through the generations. A tombstone ain’t gonna do it. Your tiny plot of earth may sport the biggest granite in the graveyard, but you’ll soon be forgotten. Don’t believe me? When is the last time you visited your great-grandparent’s graves? Do you even know where they are buried? I thought so.

Your time here on earth is important. It deserves to be recorded.  Your first-hand accounts of events in your life, not just about what happened but how you felt about them, are the stuff best-sellers are made of. And two hundred years from now, your descendents will read them with keen interest and actually know who the hell you were.

Epilogue

Much to our surprise,  the wife flew out to Gettysburg to join in the festivities. No, she didn’t wear period-correct clothing or talk in some nineteenth century dialect, but she did get some great pictures and even snuck behind enemy lines to capture some gripping footage of her boys in action. And do you know what? I think she rather enjoyed herself.

Just don’t tell her that.

Posture

“It is best to act with confidence, no matter how little right you have to it.” – Lillian Hellman

Did you know that having posture is critical to your success? I’m not talking about physical posture. I’m talking about “mental” posture. The latter is a measure of how confidently you present yourself to others. Not cockiness, but confidence.

When you’re confident, you have posture. You come across as competent; as someone who is going somewhere in life. In short, you come across as a leader, not a follower. And by the way, in case you haven’t guessed it by now, good physical posture comes naturally to the individual with his/her head in the game.

Granted, it can be challenging to have posture when your past achievements fail to support it. But the past is the past. In the words of Tony Robbins, “The past does not equal the future…a single moment of success can wipe away years of failure.” So it’s time to claim that single moment of success (or more if you’d like). And posture will help you do it.

How do you get posture? Three ways.

1. Expect to Succeed

“Positive expectation attracts success with almost mathematical precision.” That great quote came from a guy named Robert Anthony. If you’re a Boomer, you’ve probably heard of him. If not, he was a self-help guru who sold millions of books back in the day.

Expect to win and chances are, you will. Expect to lose and chances are, you will. So why not expect to win?

At high school and college baseball games, it always drove me nuts when I’d hear a parent or spectator yelling at the pitcher who was behind in the count, “Don’t lose him!” or “Don’t walk him!”

No shit, Einstein. Do you really think that pitcher wants to lose the batter? Why not say,      “Strike him out!” instead. Plant the seed. And as the parent of a college pitcher, I know that those positive seeds sprout into positive results more often than not.

2. Believe You’ll Succeed

Beliefs are the perspectives through which individuals view life. And these beliefs may be true or they may not be true. But one thing is certain: If they’re ours, our subconscious views them as true and acts on them accordingly. That includes those beliefs we have about ourselves. If you believe you are destined for greatness, your subconscious will steer your ship in that direction.

Unfortunately, most of the beliefs we have about ourselves are formed and influenced by the way we believe others see us, based on the feedback they provide us, either positive or negative. And that’s absurd! Our beliefs should be determined by the way we see ourselves, not how others see us. Why? Because we can control our beliefs, but we can’t control what others think or say about us.

“I am the greatest. I said that before I knew I was. Don’t tell me I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest.” – Muhammad Ali.

Okay, so I’ll admit, that’s a bit cocky. But he did back up his claims with results. And do you really think Ali allowed others to shape the beliefs he had about himself through their own comments and feedback? Hardly. They probably just got their asses kicked!

By the way, did you catch that nugget Ali threw at you? He said, “I said that before I knew I was.” Aye, there’s the key. Fake it ’til you make it.

3. See Yourself Succeed

This is huge. Remember that we think in pictures, not words. Therefore, our thoughts allow us to “see” the outcome and rehearse the steps needed to achieve that outcome way ahead of time. It’s called mental rehearsal and it’s a tool used by all super-successful people I know to overcome doubt and allow them to exude extreme posture. Politicians do it. Keynote speakers do it. Business leaders do it. Professional athletes do it (and I’ll bet you Ali did it too!).

In the words of Michael Jordan, by far the greatest player who ever played the game of basketball (some of the younger generation, including my two sons, may disagree with me on this point but, alas, this is my blog and they’re wrong), “I visualized where I wanted to be, what kind of player I wanted to become. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.” Cool stuff.

In summary, positive expectation creates posture. So do supporting beliefs and mental rehearsal. They do this by generating confidence within us. And confidence inspires us to act and inspires others to support those actions. And when we act and others act on our behalf, we achieve our dreams and goals. And we achieve success, however we may define that success.

It’s not magic.

It’s posture.

The Question

Well, it’s yet another New Year’s celebration come and gone. Don’t know about you, but that’s over 50 of them for me. My hearing may have been dulled a bit over the years from one too many rock concerts, but I can still hear that clock ticking loud and clear. Time is short, so The Question becomes all the more important to me. But then again, it should be important to each and every one of us.

What’s The Question:

“Where do I (you) want to be five years from now?

Now I’m not talking about where we want to be living (although Santa Barbara does sound ideal to me), but, rather, where we’d like to be both personally and professionally five years hence. Five years sounds like a long time, but in reality it’s not. Think back to 2008 and what your life looked like then. Is it much different today? For many of us, the answer is “no”.

So much can be accomplished in five years if we put our minds to it. But we’ve got to know where we want to go, what we want to do, and who we want to become. We’ve also got to be able to see the results in our mind ahead of time; to “see” ourselves in 2018 living the lives we want to be living.

True, we may not know how the heck to get there at this point in time, but it’ll come. Thoreau told us, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”

Deep stuff, but exhilarating deep stuff! Build it (our dreams), and they (the “how to”) will come.

Thoreau said “the direction” of our dreams. That’s where goal setting comes in. Goals allow us to be proactive and not reactive, to steer through life, arriving at destinations of our own choosing within timetables of our own choice (in this case, five years). Without goals, all activities take on equal value. If we don’t set them ourselves, the world will set them for us. Think about it. You divvy up your time between specific decisions and actions to make and take all day long. The question is: Whose goals are these decisions and actions directed towards? Yours, or someone else’s??

Take the time now to create your own set of goals for each area of your life, encompassing your family and relationships, your career and financial life, your health and fitness, your hobbies and favorite recreational activities. Why so many? Because you need to keep your life in balance. And setting compatible goals for each of these areas of your life will help you do just that.

Once you’ve got them set, now it’s time to devise a plan of action to achieve them. You may not know exactly what this plan will be. But once you set your eyes and mind on a goal, the plan will come to you. If you want to speed up the process, find someone who has accomplished what you want to accomplish and find out exactly how they did it. In other words, read his/her book!

Okay, you’ve already established your deadline – five years, right? Great, all that’s left then is to work your plan. Does it mean you’ll reach all of your goals by 2018? Maybe. Maybe not. You know there will be distractions along the way. Bumps in the road. It’s fine to glance at the distractions. But keep your gaze locked on your dreams.

Even if you don’t reach all of your goals within the allotted time, don’t fret. You’ll be that much closer to them. Press on. Extend your deadline and continue the pursuit. Bonaparte told his marshals, “If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna”. Keep at it. Frontal assault. You’ll get there. A bit bloodied and bruised, perhaps. But you’ll get there.

By the way, get excited about all of this! Success can happen fast! Even after years of “failure”, the floodgates can open in an instant. Before finding fame and fortune in Hollywood, Sly Stallone said that he had been rejected by every casting agent in New York City. On his 29th birthday, Stallone had $106 left to his name, his wife was pregnant and it seemed the landlord was about to evict them. Desperate, Stallone wrote the first draft of ROCKY in three and a half days (not five years), and launched himself into Hollywood superstardom.

Feeling strong now?

Ask yourself The Question each and every day. Brazos Steele does. Like him, keep it first and foremost in your mind. If you do, you won’t have to wonder where you’ll be five years from now.

You’ll be where YOU want to be.

Dealing With Critics

“Stick to driving a truck, because you’ll never make it as a singer.” – Bandleader Eddie Bond to Elvis Presley

Yea, right.

It always amazes me how some people are so quick to voice their opinions about others and what others are doing. Some call them critics. I call them crabs (more on that later).

I’ve got breaking news for you. You’re not going to please everyone, no matter how hard you try. So don’t waste time worrying about what others think or say about you. Don’t ever seek approval or validation from others. Madonna said it best, “Pity the man who’s happiness is dependent upon the approval of someone else.” And by the way, I don’t care what you think, I still think she’s a babe…

Back on subject. When criticism comes your way, feel free to evaluate it with an objective mind and if it seems legitimate, use it to your advantage. But unfortunately, such “constructive” criticism is rare. It’s the destructive stuff that spews from the mouths of most critics.  It makes them feel good. It boosts their own piss-poor self-esteems when they criticize others. Unfortunately, a healthy self-esteem is the exception rather than the rule in this day and age.  And most critics follow the rule.  So don’t take it personally.

Crabs in a bucket. That’s what they are. Are you familiar with the analogy (in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never tried this myself, but it sounds quite entertaining)? Apparently whenever you place a bunch of crabs into a bucket together, they’ll do their best to maintain status quo. In other words, when one crab tries to climb out, the others pull him back down. If crabs could talk, they’d be saying, “How dare he try to leave us!” or “Who does she think she is?”

Critics talk the same way. After all, if you succeed and they don’t, what does that say about them? So Job Number One for them is to make sure you don’t succeed at what you are doing. And what better way to do that than to plant doubt in your mind.

Whenever criticism comes your way, examine the source. What qualifies that person to criticize you in the first place? More often than not, it’s like an overweight Southern Baptist preacher delivering a blistering sermon on self-control…not much credibility. Ask yourself what that person has experienced or accomplished in life to earn a Masters in Critical Analysis. In most cases, it’s a bogus degree.

Critics try to push you around with their words. Never let anyone push you around. Remember this whenever you embark on some new venture. I like what Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy, said. He said that as long as what you are doing is legal, you have just as much right as the other guy to do it, regardless of what anybody says or thinks. Right on!

“No one can intimidate me without my permission.”  That came from Eleanor Roosevelt. And speaking of the White House, what about Dubya? Granted, we won’t be seeing the younger Bush’s mug gracing the face of our dimes or quarters any time soon (can you imagine?), but he did and still does possess one positive quality you can’t deny – he knows how to handle criticism. Considering how much hate he faced while in office (how many of your critics want you dead??) and no doubt still faces in retirement, one has to wonder just how he can still function as a human being? The only plausible answer: He just doesn’t give a shit. Critics be damned.

I can’t end this blog with Dubya as your role model, though, so here’s another quote. It’s a quote I love more than beer. It came from Albert Einstein, a dude who knew a thing or two.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent resistance from mediocre minds. There is a direct correlation between the power of an idea and the amount of resistance it will encounter.”

Think the man had his critics? You know he did.

So be like Brazos Steele and pursue your passion. And don’t ever, and I mean ever, let anyone steal your dream. Thank goodness The King didn’t listen to his critics.

By the way, who the hell is Eddie Bond?

The Simple Life

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”Henry David Thoreau

I love that quote. I wish I would have discovered that truth sooner in life, but I didn’t. That’s okay, though. Better late than never. My dad would agree.

You see, he was a high-powered corporate executive. Driven by dreams and by goals and by deadlines, he ascended the corporate ladder rung by slippery rung, dodging the flotsam tossed at him from above and more than once reaching down to lend a helping hand to climbers below. Money, power, status. He had it all. Life was good. At least that’s what I thought.

My dad’s life was complicated.  He was the first to admit it. His professional and personal responsibilities were enormous. So was the pile of “stuff” he had managed to accumulate over the years. Every once in a while, some of that stuff would break down and require expensive repairs. Other stuff would simply lay dormant and gather dust. It took lots of time and energy and money just to manage his inventory and to keep entropy in check.

Maybe that’s why just a few rungs from the top, he suddenly jumped off the ladder. Chose to live the simple life. At the time, I never really understood why. He had it all, with more to come. But I was involved with my own complicated existence and too busy accumulating my own inventory of goodies to ask him why he abandoned ship.

In retrospect, it was the right move. That’s because he crossed the great river fourteen years after he made his life-changing decision. Ironically, that happened to be just about the time he would have retired from the rat race had he stayed with it. Man, that would have sucked! But thank goodness it didn’t happen that way. Instead, he had the chance to finish out his life happier and more content than I had ever seen him.

Life doesn’t have to get complicated. If it already is, it doesn’t have to stay that way. And, no, we don’t necessarily have to quit our jobs or professions, or ditch our favorite hobbies in order to simplify it. Regardless of how busy our schedules are or how many responsibilities we may shoulder, there are steps we can take to ease the pressure of a complicated life. Here are two of my favorites.

First, we should stop comparing ourselves to others. Someone once said that all unhappiness is caused by comparison.  Wise words. Comparing ourselves to others can drive us into debt, cause us to lose sleep, and ignite the fires of misery.

Why are we so quick to compare? If you notice, we always tend to compare “up” to those whose lives and lifestyles we covet,  not “down” to those less fortunate than us. To add to the torment, we succumb so easily to achievement anxiety and to feelings of being “left behind” by our peers, lamenting the fact that we should be further along in life than we actually are (whatever the hell that means).

It’s all nonsense.

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

That was Thoreau again. He’s telling us to run our own race, not that of another. We’re not in competition with the Joneses. From the outside, their lives may look great. But behind closed doors, their lives may actually stink. We don’t know and besides, it’s none of our business anyway. Don’t waste time and energy on false assumptions. Step to your own music.

Another novel way we can make life simpler is to change our definition of success. Regardless of what society tells us, success cannot be measured in terms of fame, power, money, or possessions. If you’ve got ‘em, that’s great. Use them for the greater good. But don’t be duped into thinking you are a success because of them. And don’t think you have to further complicate your life in a struggle to get more.

Let’s face it. Only one thing determines our level of success in this life, and that is the level of happiness we experience as we go through it. The happier we are, the more success we can claim. Nothing complicated. Nothing profound. Nothing to do with those material trimmings mentioned above. Don’t believe me? You will the moment you find yourself drawing your last breath on this earth.

The cool part of all this is that happiness is available to all of us this instant. All it takes is a single thought. A happy thought. Go ahead and think one right now. See what I mean?

Happiness is not a “thing” or an event. It’s a state of mind. Mold and shape those happy thoughts into a consistent pattern of thinking over time and guess what? You will control your world. Work on it. It’s so worth it.

The bottom line is this: We don’t need to lead complicated, material-driven lives in order to be happy and successful. Thoreau knew this. Brazos Steele knows this too.  Once we stop comparing ourselves to others and understand what success truly means, our life experience will become fuller, richer, and more meaningful than we could have ever thought possible.

It’s as simple as that.

The Power of Action

Action.

It’s a powerful word. It’s a word that oozes energy. It’s a word that empowers passions, dreams, and goals. It reeks of sweat and effort.  And it’s timely employment is an essential component for success.

We all know we need to take some type of action right now. What exactly we need to take that action for is our own personal  business. But the need is there. The desire is often there as well. But that doesn’t mean we’ll do it.

So what stops us?

Don’t blame laziness or lack of motivation. It’s much deeper than that. It’s fear. If you don’t believe me, think about why you’d rather keep your ass plastered to the couch rather than take action towards that goal you’ve always wanted to achieve, unless of course your goal is to see how long you can keep your ass plastered to the couch before significant muscle atrophy sets in (by the way, did you catch that part about thinking? More about that in a moment…).

Is it a deep-rooted fear of failure? Or the ever more subtle fear of success? Perhaps its fear of wasting time chasing after something you don’t think you’ll achieve anyways? After all, if you knew you couldn’t fail, you’d be all over it, right? And surely the dull pleasure you experience by wallowing in your comfort zone all day long can in no way can compete with the intense pleasure you’d experience feeding on the fruits of an accomplished goal, am I correct?

Actually, what stops us is simple. It’s our thoughts. You see, all action begins with thought. Maybe it’s a single thought, or maybe it’s a string of thoughts. But it all starts in our head. All inaction starts that way too. Fear as well. Think the right things, you take action. Think the wrong things, and you stall. It’s as basic as that.

Now is the time to get control of your thoughts. If you don’t know how, there are tons of books, programs, and self-help gurus out there to help you do it.

Unfortunately, we’re all running out of time. There’s none to waste. It doesn’t matter how young you are or how old you are. The clock is ticking. There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree. You can  climb it, or you sit on an acorn and wait. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather climb.

Be an action-figure like Brazos Steele, not a passive milk toast cruising through life in first gear. Life is fleeting. It’s time to shift into overdrive. Time to take action.

Now.

(You see, it IS a powerful word!)

 

Perseverance and Winston Churchill

Want a lesson in perseverance? Churchill is your man. Winston, that is. If you think you’ve got struggles in your quest for “success”, just check out this timeline:

  • Born 1874
  • 1915 (41 yrs old) – Made the scapegoat for the failed Gallipoli campaign of World War One.
  • 1929 (55 yrs old) – Loses a fortune on Wall Street. Also loses his government cabinet position.
  • 1932-1939 (58-65 yrs old) – Persecuted by enemies (“Winston Churchill is an agitator who should be shot or hanged” – Lord Maugham); isolated by friends; mocked by former political colleagues; experiences heavy, almost suicidal depression; wife has affair.
  • 1938 (64 yrs old) – Faces bankruptcy; considers leaving politics to go into business; political career spared by a loan.
  • 1939 (65yrs old) – Toils to meet debt payments; writes books to help pay those debts.
  • 1940 (66 yrs old) – Becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain.
  • 1940-1945 – Saves Western Civilization as we know it.
  • 1945 – Defeated in re-election bid.

Oh, did I mention that he was also severely dyslexic and failed English three times in school? Yet he went on to earn a living as a writer and even won a Pulitzer Prize in literature.

So the next time you’re feeling frustrated or depressed over some perceived failure or your inability to accomplish a desired goal within a specific period of time, think of Sir Winston. I certainly do.

The way I see it, there are two options: 1) Give up and quit, or 2) Make adjustments and move forward. Actually, I take that back. If you have a sense of destiny, there’s really only one option available to you. And it’s not the first one.

Churchill had a clear vision of his destiny (“We are all worms, but I am a glow worm”); you and I need to have that same clarity as well. That way, when we hit those inevitable bumps and potholes along life’s road, we won’t get knocked out of alignment. Knowing who you are and who you are to become, you can set your goals, formulate your plans of action to achieve them, and adjust as needed along the way.

But get ready. It’ll hit you where and when you least expect it. That criticism that inevitably comes with success. Many of those around you, including some of your “friends”, don’t want to see you succeed and leave them behind. The stuff they’ll say to you and behind your back can be mind-numbing!

But don’t let it stick to you. When faced with intense criticism from a colleague, Churchill once replied, “If I valued the honourable Gentleman’s opinion, I might get angry.”

Touché…

Will it hurt? Sure it will. It may even depress you for a time. Churchill struggled with his own self-described “black dog” (depression), yet he kept it on a short leash. He knew he had no time to waste. None. You don’t either. You’ve got a grand destiny awaiting you, remember? So embrace that destiny, set those goals, prepare to confront the challenges, and persevere.

Perseverance. The cornerstone of the Code of Steel. Churchill had it. Brazos Steele has it. You’ve got it too.

You can count on it!