Habits

When you have a habit established, moving forward yields a certain kind of inertia.

You have run for 4 days, so you do what your supposed to on day 5.

You eat right so you don’t “waste” your run.  You run 4 miles because you don’t want to waste yesterday’s 6 miler.

You up the intensity at the office so you can be free to do another workout.  The heightened intensity means that the to do list gets shorter.

Every good, sustainable habit is likely to cause order in other areas.  I don’t suggest that we force every area of our life into some sort of lockstep.  That’s not particularly productive, it hits diminishing returns, and always watching the clock means that you don’t produce your best work, you’re not in flow as much as you might be.

Still, forcing one habit on yourself, something important (running, writing, coding, whatever), means that other areas fall into place.  There’s one set of actions that’s something like a lynchpin.

For me, there’s also action that cancers all I try and do.  If I play a video game, say Civilization or  World of Warcraft or if I jump on Facebook chat, there will be a smothering burden on me that won’t be lifted till a clean break is made.

For me, the important habits are:

  • Running. Not the elliptical, not “cardio”, not lifting weights.  Pure, real running. Attacking previous good times, seeing how far I can go.  The preferred workout is about a 9:40 pace with 1 mile as fast as I can go at the end (right now just under 8, but that’s with holding onto the treadmill for dear life).
  • Follow up: I ping people whenever I think I can add value.  I use a CRM to do almost everything, and stay familiar with people.  I don’t spend enough time doing this, and I have to push hard to do it.  But, when I work to help people, add value, and connect, good things happen.
  • Reading: Right now, I’m working off of a few of reading lists: Ryan Holliday’s is excellent, Brad Feld’s is good, and Derek Sivers’s  is pretty good.  The most interesting stuff is hard and not the low end business books that I’ve been reading forever.  (If you know of a list, email genuinechris@gmail.com and I’ll work off of it).  I try to read at least 2 books a week, and it comes and goes.  Some of the bigger biographies I wind up skimming the long passages of exposition.

Of the habits, running is again new, and Reading has probably made the biggest difference in my life.  I’m still given over to lashing out at bloviating idiots, etc. etc. but as a whole reading has changed the course of my life more than I’d imagine it would.  Not just in knowing history, but in acting decisively, thinking clearly, understanding what great people did (hint, it’s not answering fools on quora)

If I’m regularly doing those three things, everything else takes  care of itself.

Proposed Routine

calvin-routine

So with Ruby having inspired me, I need a routine.  A solid way to do things.  And it starts with what I intend to do regularly – what do I need to do more of.

Rescue Time has been a godsend to me.  I’ve been able to improve what I do, get better and go for it.  I’ve learned that I spend something like 6 hours a week – 45 minutes a day – concerneed with news and sports.

That’s 6 hours that I could be playing with Jack and Ruby.  That’s 6 hours that I could be hanging with Heather, or doing whatever else.   That’s six hours that I could use to invest in my life – reading above my level or whatever.  6 hours x 52 =  312 hours a year.  13 days a year.

910 days over a 70 year period.  2.5 years.

That’s a lot of time wondering how well Kobe Bryant did.  That’s gotta change.

Now, we can’t be perfectly efficient in every way – there’s going to be a diminishing return at some point.  I’m not going to lifehack my way into more, but if I can reduce 2.5 years of nonsense by 80%, I think I’ve done myself a service.

But, it’s apparent that I need to write more and better.  That fuels the rest of my business.  My friend Scott used to say Writing is the Road to all wealth.

Agreed.  And it’s not just physical wealth, it’s clarity of mind and purpose.  Reading other people’s writing leads to wealth.  So does writing for yourself.  This – when I execute it – will lead to wealth.

So, this has to be a routine.  These are minimums:

  • 3  hours  (min) of “alone zone” writing every day.  This doesn’t translate to six hours one day, a feeling of satisfaction and nothing for weeks on end.  This is a daily requirement.
  • 1.5 hours of misc content creation every day. (Tuts, etc).
  • 1.5 hours of selling every day.  (Let’s define selling, but it’s actively instigating and solving problems).
  • 1 hour of reading (books,not blogs, hard stuff that makes me better)
  • 1.5 (ish) hours of exercise + commute to and fro
  • 1 hour (ish) prayer/meditation/worship/study
  • 30 minutes of research. (finding leads, following up with clients, responding).

What gets cut/curtailed by this?

  • Recreational surfing.  Somehow I replaced “skimming news” with “catching up on my childhood,” due to subscriptions.marvel.com
  • Chat on skype.
  • Facebook
  • Tweetdeck/twitter

What are the benefits:

  • Less screen time
  • better fitness
  • more energy
  • more time with my kids
  • happier wife.

How – specifically – does this happen?

First, I have to commit to a schedule and not worry about how I feel.  The first 3-4 minutes of waking up *always* stink.  I have to get over how I feel abou things.

I have to get up by or before 6am 5 days a week.  I can’t miss.

I have to get to the gym by or before 7:30am.  I can’t miss.  Have to do 30-ish minutes of wisdom seeking reading.

I have to get writing by 9 every day.  (I can’t miss).

I have to get selling by 11:30 (I can’t miss).

I have to lay out my life in such a way that this stuff is possible.

Put Upon

We live our lives with the expectation of bliss and joy all the time.  Some prerequisite to activity is the activity being fun, pleasant or joyful.  If what we’re doing, working on gets hard, we give up and lose focus.

This is sold to us by Madison Avenue.  We are led to believe that we are to tolerate nothing short of perfect joy and convenience.  And when we get less than that, our attention spans wander to something else.   We become incensed when someone trips us up with what is, at most, a minor inconvenience.

We Are Entitled.

We go to  Starbucks, and when it’s our turn, someone gets one of 11 details a little off on one of 30 trips through.  We then act as if it’s the end of our world. “Excuse me.  I’m not usually like this but, can you PLEASE get this RIGHT for once?  What will you do for me to make up for this screw up?”

When BlueHost went down–for less than 12 hours–people were apoplectic — ranting about their $6.95/month hosting service.  As if some army of people should be waiting on us for $85 bucks a year.

Our narrative is that we are these noble, heroic creatures that are constantly put upon by someone: our spouse, the clerk at Wal-Mart, or the driver in traffic who cut us off.

We’re always put upon by something, and it’s because we expect bliss.  We use pseudo slights as an excuse for anything: to snap at our kids, to be mean to our spouse, or whatever else.

What Does Entitlement Solve?

What if  we really knew world wasn’t responsible for arranging itself for our convenience?  What if the world wasn’t going to arrange itself just to please you?

What if we took away that the expectation of driving was going to be a glittering path to our destination, but accounted for reality, for humanity?

What if we knew that we could set our course but there would be obstacles?  Instead of being taken by surprise, we’d be well prepared and ready for the next thing.

What if we knew that our flailing tantrums would never get a resolution?  What if we spent that energy in an OODA loop, looking for solutions?

What if we considered our place in it as small, and worked not to be more recognized, but for the betterment of the world?

Kindness, Cruelty and Charisma

Hello, Jack and Ruby,

I’ve made loads of mistakes in my life.  I’ve always–always–gotten more than I deserved given the circumstances. I’ve been mean, cruel, depreciating and I got to have you and to marry your mom.  I’ve  A blessing, to be sure, and I’m humbled by the  largesse that God has fit to bestow upon me.  I’m grateful for the life I’ve had and for every moment I’ve been alive.  I did nothing to deserve this!  Nothing!

Of the mistakes I’ve made, the pattern that rings out is undervaluing kindness in others. There was sweet classmate named Jason.  He was someone that I enjoyed talking to, playing chess with, bantering with.  He was smart, guileless, and kind-hearted.   None of his jokes were barbed.   He didn’t grow up with much in the way of means, yet… he was kind all of his life.  I was a friend to him privately, when it didn’t cost me much.  I was kind to him when–and only when–it wasn’t going to bear some social cost.

In public, I’d join with anyone making cracks at his expense.  Yes, he was occasionally socially awkward (aren’t kind, sweet people generally)?  But he accepted me as I was…and was a generous friend to me and to many others  He required nothing of me and he was content for the times I was kind to him.  I discarded him, didnt’ treat him as a peer, but as an entertainment source.  We’d talk when I needed an ego fix.  And then when I was done with him, off I’d go.

When you’re young, you think that the whole world is watching you.  And that every interaction matters, and will either + you up the social ladder or – you down it.  The ladder doesn’t matter.

It wasn’t just him.  I was always aware of a hierarchy in my family: who’s richer, better, smarter, neater than whom.  If someone was not cool, I had granted myself license to treat them indifferently or with cruelty.  I wasn’t raised this way but there were certainly bright lines of who’s in and who’s out of our tribe.   I was cruel to a nice kid, and it was because I thought I should be. Because the praises of the other mean people were somehow meaningful.

Now, as you probably know, Jason is dead.  He died of some unfortunate circumstances, and I lost touch shortly after High School.  He was happy to see me and came up and said hi, but I was with another friend and I didn’t acknowledge him.  I felt a little pang at the moment.  I looked for him afterwards but he wasn’t around, and that was my last interaction with him, till I heard maybe 2 years later that he’d been involved in his own death.  What if I’d mirrored his kindness?  It’s not as if I’d achieved some social standing in the insane caste system of high school.   (Life is fragile, and we never know what kindness can do).

I valued charisma over kindness.  Being glib, hip, clever.  I still do to a degree, when I forget myself.  I’d guess we all do, and we have to look at intent: is someone’s intention to be kind, to be a blessing, or do they intend to just be clever?  What is clever?  What problems does clever solve?   My life is marked with people, men and women that were fundamentally kind.  I discarded so many because I perceived them as dorky.  Hell, I bet kindness makes you seem dorky.  It can be projected as weakness, or dullness.

It’s neither.  Cruelty is inexcusable, and it’s real lack of integrity to treat people one way privately and another way in public.  If you’re living this way you’re trying to hide something.  In fact, you’re probably acting with cruelty if you’d be uncomfortable if anyone found out what you were doing.

Learn from my mistakes, and be as kind as you can be.  And if someone wants to ostracize another, pity them.  They don’t know what they do, and they’ll either regret it later, or they’ll lead an impoverished life.  I’m doing what I can, and I hope that I can set a good example all your life.

Love,

Dad

WordPress Sucks, Thesis Blows & Headway Doesn’t Matter

Important revelation: WordPress sucks.  It’s horrible.  It takes forever to use, it’s not user friendly, it’s not intuitive, it breaks, and it is too complex.  WP has systemic problems.  The UX people that make it must hate their users, putting a big dumb dashboard…with 71 options in their faces every time they log into the “back end.”    It’s cobbled with options that don’t matter, menus that are rarely used, and to do anything substantial to it, you need to mess with .htaccess or the back end.

These are all fair and valid complaints from the perspective of a person brought kicking and screaming into the Internet age, because something as simple as uploading a page takes several steps: go to WP, go to /wp-admin, hit “add page.”  Type content, if you’re embedding a video you need either a special plugin or you need to hit “edit HTML” (which is intimidating).   You might need to upload (not drag and drop) a picture.

Windows Live Writer took care of some of these issues, but it still butchers the markup to the point of errors in spacing and markup.   There is no “just works” tool out there.  Mars Edit–the best WP software on the planet–is a breath of fresh air, but even it isn’t perfect or game changing.  It wins because it helps you focus on writing.

But look: there are brilliant business people that will never use WordPress because working on a WP site feels like work.  It’s unfamiliar.  It doesn’t feel like Word, Outlook or even a Mac.  It is clumsier than an Ipod, and it takes too much effort to interact with the WP ecosystem, since it’s unlike anything else and not particularly good.

The best tools for WP aren’t revolutionary because the UX is only adequate. Thesis is marvelous for me.  It’s a beautiful framework that allows a few lines of code to boss around an entire website.  A few lines of CSS and you’ve got whatever you want.  But…you still have to code.  That means that thesis is hard.  I shared some basic HTML with a smart business associate, and I learned that she was intimidated just because it was HTML.

This means that WP has only scratched the surface of its marketshare.

This is a truly fixable problem.  A tool that works like LiveWriter but didn’t inherit Redmond’s stupidness can change the world.  If it can use XMLRPC and boss WP around without running afoul of the vaunted GPL, then we have something that changes the world.  We have to make things “apple simple” and when we do, we win.

Intensity

intentse

Most of us are listless at times.  That is normal, and to be expected.  What’s not normal is the bastardization of our Protestant ethic that makes us seem to work, seem to think, and seem to try.  People brag about how much they work. As if somehow time spent equates to value added.  We mark our time at our desks writing blog posts, answering email, and just sort of float on the surface.

We’re in some sort of holding pattern waiting for something to happen.  We’re present physically.  We know the real magic happens not with “presence” but with intensity.  Focus.  White hot burn.  Go to the gym.  Spend an hour or more on some elliptical machine. Not hard, probably does a little good.  Perfectly safe.

What if you spent the same time pushing yourself to your absolute limits?  What if you reached your pain threshold, and were not sure if you could do it or not?  That every fiber in your body had to focus on this one goal…would you get more out of that? What if you spent less time with more heat?

What if you pushed to your limit in your work?  Those are the difference makers, people that are indifferent to what the crowd does or thinks, but people that create the world and mold it regardless of resistance.  People that ignore the persistent tether of the mediocre and don’t brag about 70 hour weeks, but brag about how much of their mind, soul and spirit they engaged to solve a problem.

We don’t ignite our souls because of ego.  If we try our best and fail, it hurts a lot worse than if we half-ass and fail.  So we don’t bleed for what we want.  If it’s not us, but just some work that we’re indifferent to, then we can accept failure and our ego is unscathed because we weren’t engaged.

It seems safe, but the risk is greater because we never reach our dreams and our life is a morass of “woulda, shoulda & coulda.”

We must embrace the intensity that’s available to us, because only through intensity do we achieve what we are after.  We must seek out intensity and find a way to find–and push  through–the pain and doubt threshold each day.

Occasionally, time is the only currency that solves a problem.  More often it’s thought, energy, determination and passion that solves problems.  Just doing it.

That brings a question: are you putting time in, or are you putting your soul in?

What are you risking by merely putting time into what you’re doing?  What will happen to your life?