Write What You No

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Photo credits: mermaid99 on Flickr.com

On the back of your list of life goals, write what you No.

One side has the great stuff you’re going to do with your life, and the other has what you will stop doing.

See, this is all about focus, and focus is about saying no.  Think about that for a second.  It’s true, isn’t it?

And if you look on your life and the things you want to do and you ask yourself “Self, why haven’t I done any of these yet?”, the answer will come back, at least in part, “I don’t have time”.  BullllllshI don’t believe in “I don’t have time”.  IDHT means IDC, I don’t care.  You have plenty of time, and unless it’s all being taken up by far more pressing matters than you or I ever deal with on a daily basis, the time is there and it’s your job to take it.  You don’t find it; you manhandle it.

So where do you get all this time from?  That’s where the list of No comes in.  Choose things you will stop doing.  Cut out the fat from your life.  If you don’t, your dreams will fade like the muscle tone of a middle-aged cubicle tenant.

When Seth Godin– who runs the number one business blog in the world, has written more bestsellers than I have fingers, and responds to every e-mail he gets– is asked how he does it all, he says he doesn’t watch TV and he doesn’t go to meetings, so that’s already four to five hours more than most people have.

That’s some serious No right there!  It gives me the warm fuzzies to see someone so boldly cast from his life the trappings of the non-producer lifestyle.

I think you need to say No, and say it hard.  Don’t be– to borrow a term from Noah Kagan– a wantrepreneur.  You know– one of those two-beer bards waxing poetic about lost opportunities.  He is the sad, sad result of a lifetime of Yes.  Yes to every distraction, yes to every addiction, yes to every fashion.

Therefore, No.  Write down your rules.  We’ll start with Seth’s rules.

No TV.  No meetings.

You’re about to bust out complaining about how you have to go to meetings aren’t you?  If so, you’re missing the point.  Let’s go on. Read More

[Profiles] Jim Collins: The Man with 3 Stopwatches… and 4 Bestsellers

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Years ago, Jim Collins, a business professor and consultant, sat down and drew up a schedule for how he’d like to spend his workdays in the future.

Creative: 50%

Teaching: 30%

Other: 20%

Half his time would go to endeavors like research, writing books, and authoring papers; a third to teaching-related activities; and the final chunk to all the other things he needs to do.

In order to make sure he was meeting his goals, he made the incredibly obvious and incredibly bold move of timing everything. For the rest of his life.

He literally took three stopwatches, labeled them, and put them in his pocket.

He still uses them.

Jim Collins is a serial bestselling author, and I’d place money that he will continue to lay golden egg after aurous, shining egg. Part of the reason for this is because he has made it his main goal in his business life to create an influential and lasting body of creative work, then scheduled his time– all of his time– accordingly.

Meta-scheduling

Jim Collins, photo by Kevin Moloney, NYT

In 2009, the New York Times profiled Collins, and they asked him about his time management experiment. He only had to point to the upper-right corner of his whiteboard on the far side of his conference room. Scribbled in marker was the lifetime tally:

Creative: 53%

Teaching: 28%

Other: 19%

Read More

You Should Have Regrets (Suggestions Included)

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There are some very special people in this world that take a certain pride in saying they live with no regrets.

No regrets?  Really?  None?

Did you never make a mistake in your life?

Or you did, but you don’t regret it.  Why not?  Is it because you lack the spine to condemn yourself for making a mistake, or for some other reason?  Ahhh, I know: it is because you learned from it.  But now wouldn’t it have been better simply to have done the correct thing from the beginning?  I believe it’s called “Not making a mistake”.  As I view it, not making a mistake is always better than making a mistake.  The whole point of this learning you glorify is to prevent you from making mistakes.

But you persist, because you are (like I said) special and living in a culture that glorifies mistakes like they are an end in and of themselves.  So now you perceive a romantic value in your past shortcomings.  It’s not regrettable, it’s beautiful, you say.  Yes, you are the hero of your own story, a story in which the protagonist is modern and complex and flawed.  And you have no desire to change it.

No!  Education is a lot less thrilling to someone who knows what is true.

* * *

I live with regrets.  I regret, first and foremost, every wrong I have done to others, treating them as if they were less valuable or of less worth than myself (perhaps not every, but I try).  Second, I regret the myriad of times I’ve failed to take and fulfill good opportunities by my own laziness, fear, or lack of clarity in what I’m doing.  I think we are tempted to look at these past failings as inevitable. Whoops!  I didn’t know better– couldn’t’a helped it!

But let’s be honest.  Look at the challenges you’ll face and the opportunities spread before you.  Are you doing your best to take them head on?  I know that daily, I certainly let distractions and laziness get in the way of what’s really important to me, and I know that I have a chance to do something about these things.  Sometimes I don’t take that opportunity, and I have nothing and no one to blame but myself.

So why’s the past any different?

* * *

In a news article that’s been making the social media rounds lately, one nurse who worked in palliative care records what she’s tallied up as the top five most common regrets of the dying.  At first glance, they seem pretty typical, and you can probably skim to the bottom of the page without an inconvenient amount of soul-searching.  Let’s see, “courage to live true to myself”, yup, yup, “most common regret of all”, OK, “most people hadn’t honored even half their dreams and had to die knowing it was due to the choices they made or didn’t make”– wait, what!?

You’re on your death bed and you didn’t do half the things you wanted?  That’s downright depressing.  I’m assuming we’re not talking about “I want to sail around the world on my private yacht… made of gold” sort of dreams.  Nope, I think we’re talking about people who wanted to grow gardens, earn degrees, learn to ski, write letters to their friends, and, in other down-to-earth ways, push themselves beyond the drudgery of a perfectly crystalline schedule.

And they didn’t do half of those things!

This is why I am OK living with regrets, and indeed, the only reason you should have them– so that you do better next time.  Indeed, if you don’t let your regrets change you for the better, what can you boast over the blissfully unreflective who death steals like a thief in the night, only to find there’s depressingly little to plunder?  Realize you’ve made mistakes, and realize you can do something about it.  Live the life you want.  Start tonight.  You haven’t always done the best, but you can do better.

Regret now so you don’t regret later.

[How-to] Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

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A few days ago, I returned from a three-week vacation to Tanzania, where, among other things, I accomplished a life goal of mine: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I'd like to share some of these experiences here for those who are interested in doing a similar trek-- or just want to hear a bit about scaling the tallest mountain in Africa.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is not for everyone.

Specifically, the signs at the entrance to the park say it’s not for those with heart or lung problems, but I think it’s mostly not for those who don’t really, really want to climb it.

Best alarm clock of all time.

As the tallest mountain in Africa, and the tallest free-standing mountain from base to summit, Kili makes a lot of mountaineering lists.  Unlike many of the mountains on those lists, Kili is not a technical climb– you don’t need to know crevasse rescue techniques, or ice climbing or glissade or ice axe self-arrest– frankly, all you need to know how to do is to walk.

The main issue is that you need to walk a lot at a very high elevation.

And I don’t know if you know what it’s like to be up so high, but it’s not quite like it is down here.

Altitude

Have you ever been on the ocean for a few days?  You know how everything gets damp and salty and there’s water and salt everywhere and it contaminates everything and there’s nothing you can do about it?  (It’s the same with sand in deserts)  That’s what the elevation is like on Kilimanjaro.  Instead of there being salt and it’s everywhere, there’s oxygen and it’s nowhere.

Especially your lungs. Read More