Focus

Staying focused isn’t easy.  Making something worthwhile is truly hard.  Willing something to exist from nothing goes against nature.  A body at rest stays at rest and we fight that trend.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to battle the status quo.  It’s hard to do something different, to bring forth something with meaning.

People tether you by making you explain yourself, and sometimes, out loud, your ideas sound silly.  We are to believe that if they sound silly, then perhaps the problem is ours.  Reactions like “that must be hard,” are controls: they are subconcious mild discouragements, designed to have you on the path that is comfortable towards another person.

You’ll doubt yourself, and others will doubt you.  You’ll have distractions and things will conspire to take you off course and suck away your energy.

Inertia is seductive.  It’s almost always easier to justify the problem than it is to solve it.  You can live overweight for another day, or get through the holidays with a bad marriage, or go through another year in a crumby job.  It’s always more pleasant, and the risk of doing that battle is that you are not going to have a certain outcome.

Realize in advance that it’s going to be really, really hard, and the commitment gets easier.  Because you know you’re committing to something that’s harder than what you’re doing, and you understand the undertaking.   You won’t underestimate it, and you’ll emerge with victory as a possibility.

Ruby

Have taught me how to love. Have helped me to be less selfish. Have made me proud.

Ruby is 2 yesterday. With excitement I said to her, “Happy Birthday Ruby,” and she grinned and mirrored me and said, “Happy Birthday, Daddy.”

She’s cute. Ruby, you’re 2. You’re talking more prodigiously than your brother, asking achingly sweet questions like, “Where are we going, daddy,” or “What was that funny noise.” You’re more content than Jack was to be left alone. Less active, just taking things in.

You still like your mom best, but you have plenty of time for me. This morning you sat in my lap and ate cheerios and commanded me to “play peek-a-boo.”

You ask for what you want and are showing cleverness both linguistically and in other ways. You smile at everyone.

You can recite the alphabet, you sing nursery rhymes and kid songs (rain Rain, go away little RUBY wants to PLAY).

You like looking at and doing what Jack does. He’s a close second in your life. When Jack stays with my parents your first question when you wake up is “where did jackie go?” Jack has been the best big brother to you, whenever you cry (not much) he brings you a stuffed dog, and is very empathetic. How he treats you makes me very proud. It’s no wonder you like him. I hope that that lasts.

You both have made me a better person. Less Asperger’s, more kind. I love you so much for that.

Happy Birthday, Ruby

2010 Is the Year of No Excuses

2008 was the year I learned grace and forgiveness. I started to realize that I wasn’t king of the world. 2008 was when I learned to love my sweet little boy Jack and to embrace being a dad. I stopped picking fights everywhere. My effort wasn’t done then, but I stopped trying to conceal things (from the IRS, to the business flops I’d had), and I started becoming who I am. I learned that I’m not always right, and it’s easier to not fight every battle.

2009 was the year that I learned to be of service. Again: I’m not done with that lesson, but it was a theme. Help others. Do more for people. Focus less on Chris and more on being a servant to people here. Do good stuff. Stop being so self-centered. And what happened was at the end of the year, I had more money, less debt, I lied less, I liked myself better than I had at any other time. 2009 was a good year. I walked to the edge of self destruction, the bring of the destruction of my family, and I learned this: it’s not about me. It’s about what I can do to help my little kids, it’s about what I can do to help others.

2010? The year of no excuses. There were ill fated, aborted and half finished efforts last year. I was late on over half my projects. I overcommitted and then I blamed others. I oversold my clients on what’s possible and on my capacity. I had good intent each time. I’m an evangelist of the web, I love it. But I had to "Fake it till I made it." Debt dictated a lot of what I did (but that’s an excuse). I had to grind and push and learn the business. I didn’t do it then like I’m doing it now.

This year is about serving people with unflinching standards.

This is about creating a plan for days/weeks/hours and time spent. And living that plan.

This is about not making a promise at all if I can’t keep it.

This is about making sure that I’m known for being on time, reliable and sturdy. No excuses. Ever.

This is about taking responsibility for things that aren’t mine and knocking them out. No excuses. Not. From. Me.

This is the year of no excuses.

Nothing’s perfect, but I can make damn sure that the buck stops with me and that nothing falls through the cracks on my watch.

What is 2010 the year for for you?

Is Grace In Your DNA?

Grace is eternal and important. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (book 2) begins this way (Gregory Hays Translation, emphasis mine).

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own–not of the same blood or birth, but of the same mind and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at any relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

This is about grace, and the predictable folly of people. Heather and I were commenting on finding some threads here and in the Bible. Phrasings that are the same throughout all types of wisdom literature, from the ancient world to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The human condition is eternal. Folks will be meddling. Deal with it. In advance. Some will be arrogant. Deal with that, too. Because that’s how we all are. Meddling, ungrateful arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. In varying degrees and in varying times, but that’s the condition of humanity. We have met the enemy…

So why is it then that we are quick to speak about slights that happen to us? Why is it that we’re surprised by petty behavior, why do we get aghast when people reveal themselves to be imperfect? Why can’t we just show Grace? Why is this a surprise to anyone, and why do we insist–like Yossarianthat the slights are happening to us? People are petty and mean, and they just don’t know any better. And when we lose hold of who we are, of our humanity, we’re just the same. Easily given over to rage. Easily baited into doing things that we’re ashamed of. A stupid bull.

Why is it that we get predictably angry when someone’s actions indicate that they see us in a different way than we see ourselves? Why do we let people’s predictable barbs to our ego make us respond with threats, anger and the Don’t you know who I am BS?

Grace is important when we think humans might be dishonest. We’ve all been dishonest, told lies for expedience sake at a minimum. When other people tell them, why do we try to play "gotcha games" and try to get them to lie prostate on their feet. The unraveling of Tiger Woods shows us that what people present isn’t the same as who they are.

When people are caught in a lie, we see such wildly implausible stories covering that up. Think of the machinations that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush went through to cover up deceits of different types.

Our companions are going to be ungrateful. The expectation of gratitude is nuts: we do a favor so we can get our "reward" in the form of debt slavery or in the form of gratitude. We remind people of the service we rendered that maybe wasn’t that great as a way of being valuable. We don’t just silently serve. When we notice that people are ungrateful, let’s look at ourselves: why do we expect gratitude anyway. Forgive that sin, and realize that it’s your own mistake and your own fault when that comes up.

In organizations its the same way: people are going to screw up, they are going to be disloyal and pursue their own priorities. Others still perceive themselves as not being well recognized. People get removed from leadership or get taken out with no real understanding that we’re imperfect machines that will occasionally lash out.

All of this stuff, all of the lack of forgiveness that we exhibit is caused by what we see as affronts our sense of importance. We think we are more important than we are–when we’re a mere speck. We think that what we do matters. We can use wrath as a tool to make ourselves more important than others…or we can live in harmony and know in advance people are going to be jerks and just forgive them in advance.

Happiness, Bliss, Duty & Fulfillment

Been thinking a lot today, as the song goes.   A paradox:  most of my unhappiness comes from the unbridled and selfish pursuit of pure happiness. Or the pursuit of bliss/pleasure/adulation/gratification.  Most of the times that I feel self loathing, I feel that way because I am gonna get embarrassed from saying or doing something vaguely (or maybe not so vaguely) smarmy and shady.

Seeking bliss alone makes you a target.  If you, as a reptile, just look for the next opportunity to catch a beery buzz or socially climb by insinuating that such-and-such did this and that…it might give you a fleeting satisfaction.   And it might manifest itself in a million different ways, but at the end of the day, it’s only a moment.  “He sought the most pleasure for himself,” is not a legacy that is we want on our tombstones.   Seeking bliss means that we become addicted to it, and then we spend time chasing bliss, the next high, the next big thing, the next bit of praise from the cool kids.

The chase for approbation also withers our souls.  When we become adulation addicted, and when we become dependent on what other people think of us as a measure of worth, then the bliss we seek is subject to approval.  We’re looking over our shoulders to make sure that others approve of our grotesque pursuit of happiness.  We try to reconcile the paradox of being pure bliss seekers with needing to have praise for others, not knowing that they are impossible to balance.  We wind up lying to cover the pursuit of our bliss.  When we lie, we wind up lying to hide the lies and our lives become caught in a paradox.

I’m seeing my generation now–my peer–crash shoals of seeking bliss.  Judging acquaintances on “how happy the other person makes me,” and activities through the “what am I gonna get” prism means everything situational: if it’s expedient to break a promise (or a vow) to achieve bliss, that’s simply what we do.

The thing is, the longer I live, the more I realize that seeking instant gratification isn’t going to do it for me.  It’s not going to make me happy–not going to make me have more utils of pleasure.  We think we’re victims and entitled to more when someone has the appearance of more pleasure.   We don’t get that we’ve screwed up, we don’t get the idea that we’ve all messed each other over, and we all deserve a worse fate than we’re getting.  We some how spend a lifetime seeking our pleasure and when we don’t catch that phantom, we feel like we’re victims.  The siren still calls us all the time: there’s more more more more just over here.

The thing is–when we serve for the right reasons (not, say, to seek approval, but to honestly be of service), when we get past ourselves and do something because we care we feel something that we can’t get when we chase it.  When we chase “charity” because we’re hoping it makes us happy, it never does.  But when we chase it because it’s the right thing to do, and because we’re over ourselves, then something wonderful and inspiring can happen.  When we empty ourselves of the worldly desires of seeking the pleasure du jour…we can then see what’s truly possible to achieve.

How do you think we do that?

It’s Not How Good You Are When You Start, It’s How Fast You Get Better

I’ve been in business for myself almost two years now as a primary source of income.

And, I’m going to say this: I was terrible till a few months ago.  And I still have a ways to go.  I was–and remain– a better salesperson than practitioner.  I was never getting things done, always behind with every single client.  I was living on the grace and kindness of my clients, and the fact that the web is opaque to others.  In some ways I still am–more on that in a bit.

I didn’t start out knowing everything.  I started out slow, doing a bad job and behind the 8 ball.  I started out dropping balls everywhere, letting my clients down.  I started out making mistake after mistake, being overcommitted, and piling myself so deep in time debt it was a wonder I ever got out.  I started out broke and hungry, and needing to hustle to keep the lights on.  No steady or recurring revenue was coming in, my (well talked about) struggle with the IRS had me flat broke.

I started out working out of a pantry, literally. I didn’t know anything except kinda sorta how to use fantastico, I had creditors chasing me with varying degrees of success and intensity.  I was well intended, but broke, and broke people break other people and their businesses.  I was bad at first, but I was good at taking in business, and I kept the worst of the demons at bay.

Each mistake I made I improved.  I’d tell you that I wrote it down (I wish), but I wanted to get better, so the skill that comes with putting some fraction of your 10,000 hours in came to me as well as simple experience.  But, even six months into it, I was living off of luck.  A check here, a 401k withdrawal there was how I was getting by.

But every time I failed, I improved.  Every customer got slightly better service.

One day, I started getting referrals from customers.

One day I was able to do the work fairly fast.

I failed a lot, but I improved.  And some time about a year in, I stopped hating the work.

And I got better.  I didn’t say, “hey, I suck at this” or “hey, my destiny is to suck at customer service.”  I did suck at customer service.  I did suck at it, but that doesn’t matter.  I wanted it to be better, I was papering over my warts with new sales, refunding when needed, and moving forward.

My last refund was in business from July 2009.   I’m cognizant that I might have more, and I’ve lived on the grace of some of my clients.  I’m cognizant that I’ve had a run of nice people.  But, the last refund was for work I took in an ill defined way 6 months ago.  It was for work that I largely did but was left open.

Anyway, I’ve got some “permanent noncustomers” now, and some bodies in my wake, but I’ve also developed an increasing reel of good successes.  I’ve made good things happen for an increasing number of people.

My secret is not how good I am.  My secret isn’t my talent.  It’s the fact that I can keep getting knocked down over and over and come back.  I am that bozo doll.  I am going to be right back up, no matter what bullshit hits me.  I’m going to be after it, and I’m going to get a little bit better each day.  You can keep whacking me, but eventually you’re gonna get worn out and go home.  I’m going to sit there with that insipid smile on my face, ready for the next punch.

That’s my secret.   I can take lumps.  I’m Rocky Balboa, and you might be more talented, you might hit harder, and hell, you might even be a steroid using Soviet Cyborg, but I’m coming back, and there ain’t nothing that you can do to stop me.   It’s not how good you are, it’s how fast you get better.

If tomorrow, your effort was just 1% more effective, you’d become twice as good in about 2 and a half months.  1 * 1.01^68 = 2.

How can you become more efficient?

How can you deliver better service?

How can you prevent mistakes that happen?

How can you fix problems, on purpose?

How can you do this stuff now?

A lot of people are stymied by that question–how can I get better–because it presumes that they aren’t good.  I know that I’m OK, but my business needs to improve SO much so quickly.  I don’t want to punt that question off anymore.  I want to get that question asked every single time.  I want to do things correctly and get better.

I know that I’m going to be much better this time next year.  And I know that in two years I’ll be better still.  I can’t get better fast enough.  That’s the attitude.  Because if I’m better at getting better than anyone else, I’ll eventually catch damn near everyone.  F=MA if you focus on the “A” you’ll eventually get there no matter what the M started out as.