Playmate of the Year

Who are your playmates? Who are your buds? Who do you hang with?

It’s an absolutely essential question to consider. Because here’s a (potentially scary) truth: we are the average of the five folks we hang out with most. Average in terms of where we live, how we live, what we do, what we make.  And average in terms of what standard we hold ourselves to; average in terms of what we aspire to do, be and have.

I was away in Miami last week at a Tony Robbins event. There wasn’t a lot of downtime to write. I might as well have been in Detroit – a Tony program can go 16 hours a day, for days at a time.

But, no matter. Ann and I are big Robbins’ fans. We’ve been to a bunch of his events. And this past week, we graduated from his Mastery University, a program that has made – and will continue to make – a profound impact on our lives.

Here’s what’s special about a program like Tony’s: you get to be with folks from all over the world who have incredible vision; who thirst for more, aspire for more, dream for more; who want to live with passion and purpose; who want to serve and to lead; who want to make a profound difference in the lives of others; who want to change the world; and who truly believe that the best is yet to come.

And although they come from all walks of life, they all have one thing in common: a burning desire to create masterpieces of their lives; to make their lives extraordinary.

Even though Ann and I hold ourselves to incredibly high standards as professionals, as distance runners, as mountaineers, we always find that, when we spend time with our fellow seekers, we are called even higher; that there is always room to step our game up even further; that there is always more that we can do to live and play full out. And we come away excited and hopeful and filled with possibility.

All too often in our weary world, we struggle to get by.  It is our peeps, our buds, those we hang with, who lift us up, who pull (or push) us forward. And if you’re not careful, you can become enmeshed in the weariness of the world, pulled down by worry and anxiety, by pessimism and fear – and despair.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to find a group of like-minded folks who hunger for more, who want to set a new standard, who believe that anything is possible, who want incredible things for their lives, and for yours.

They’re out there.

Don’t settle. Don’t muddle. You deserve to fly.

It Can’t Be Done

It’s not enough to be busy. The question is, what are we busy about?

— Henry David Thoreau

I speak on Intentional Leadership, Purposeful Living, Success Principals and Goal Achievement.

The questions I get most often are about time management.

When polled, nearly 100% of my audiences say they feel as if their lives are “too busy.” Over 80% say that they drop into bed at the end of the day exhausted and depleted, without getting done anywhere near what they had hoped to accomplish in the day.

“How do you manage time?” they ask.

The answer: It can’t be done.

Time cannot be managed. Time just is.

The only thing that we can manage is ourselves.

But for the sake of discussion, I’ll share some thoughts this week on “time” management. Here are 7 “Secrets:”

  • Get Up An Hour Earlier. If you look at all of the time-management recommendations across the decades, you’ll find this suggestion mentioned often. For years I disregarded it; it seemed too painful. But what I have discovered is that, of all the time management principals, this is the most powerful one of all. I adopted it when I was a single dad and was tired of the frantic rush to get the kids up, the lunches made and then make the mad dash out the door feeling breathless and exhausted before I had even digested the breakfast that I was still juggling on my lap. At first, I had to ease into the early hour backing up the alarm 15 minutes at a time over 4 or 5 months. But it became my most important hour of the day. All mine. No distractions. No demands. No noise. It allowed me to ease into the day more peacefully, more patiently, more mindfully. And now, long after the kids have gone off, I use the time to journal and meditate and read and write. It is my most productive time. I guard it jealously and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  • Turn Off The Tube. When I ask some of my coaching clients about their days, I discover that the TV goes on when they get home, and stays on until 11:00 pm when they drop into bed. You can pick up 4 or 5 hours every day of wonderfully productive time if you banish the television. That could be as much as 30 hours a week. That’s like a part-time job. Think of what you could accomplish with an extra 30 hours a week! You could take a course, launch a business, or write a book! You can get your news, weather and sports on your smart phone. There is nothing that the Kardashians will really add to the quality of your creative life, your marriage or your business. Get rid of the tube. (Between these first two “secrets,” you could “recover” 35 or 40 hours of time every week! That’s like having a whole other life!)
  • Avoid The In-Box. I was astounded by a recent statistic that suggested that more than 80% of folks sleep with their cell phones. That’s whacked. Don’t do that. Beyond that seemingly self-evident principal, don’t check your email when you first get up in the morning. Your In-Box is nothing more than a convenient repository of other people’s agendas for your day. Even if you just peek, those demands and expectations of others will seep into your sub-conscious and throw you off your stride. Your thoughts and plans for the day deserve your first attention.
  • Have A Plan. You cannot hit a target you cannot see. If you don’t have a plan for your day, someone else certainly will. If you don’t have a plan for your day, your day will be stolen from you and you can never get it back. Even if your day is a vacation day, you will lose it if you have not planned its boundaries carefully. Set aside some time in that first hour of your day, or better yet at the end of the day before, and map out your day. Decide on what is most important. Choose three things that matter most to you, the three things that, if you failed to accomplish those, you would feel as if your day had not been well spent. Do those three things first.
  • Commit and Schedule. Something floating in your head in an idea. Something written down is real. Once you have decided on your plan, once you have decided on those most important things, actually write them into the schedule for your day. There is something powerful about the written word. When you’ve scheduled it, it feels like an obligation. Even though I have had a work-out schedule for years that seldom varies, I always put it on my calendar. It rarely gets displaced because its locked in. I’ve committed.
  • Work In Block Time. Our lives are challenged by so many competing demands. And multi-tasking is a myth. It diminishes our productivity. Consider instead carving out chunks of time devoted to particular aspects of your day. Rather than checking email constantly on the fly, set aside a half hour in the morning and another at the end of the day to review and respond to emails. Set aside a half hour for your social media. Block out time twice a day to return your calls. And then schedule uninterrupted periods in your day, off the grid and away from your phone, when you can concentrate on your most important work. You will be amazed at how much more creative, efficient and productive you will become if you create these boundaries for yourself.
  • Say No. Most of us are great at making To Do Lists. And then, because we’re stretched so thin, we never get To Do most of what’s on our list. Try making a Stop Doing List. There are lots of things we do that are not productive or efficient or joyful or worthwhile. Stop doing them. Busy is not badge of honor. Busy is a bad habit. You don’t have to say yes to every PTO request, every bake sale, every invitation to a board membership, every volunteer request, every civic organization, every request for your precious time. Figure out what you value most in life, what gives you the most joy. Concentrate there. Apply the Paretto Principal, the 80/20 Rule, ruthlessly. Get rid of the 20% of things that give you 80% of your headaches. Concentrate on the 20% of activities that give you 80% of your satisfaction. The person who has said yes the most by the time they’re dead doesn’t get a prize. Learn to say no.

I have begun to use the Rapid Planning Method developed by Tony Robbins. RPM is “a simple system of thinking that creates extraordinary results and an amazing level of personal fulfillment.” Robbins believes that “A life of fulfillment is one in which we put urgency in its place and remember that the ultimate target is to spend our lives doing the things we believe are most important to us.” I like the system because it focuses on outcomes, on the results that align most with the ultimate vision I have for my life.

But regardless of the method you use, the take-home message is this: Time can’t be managed. And the sands do run out.

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This is an encore of a post first published in March 2012. Email me for more time management tips!

 

You Know You Want It

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”                   

–Psalm 37:4

“Do you think it’s possible to be too young to follow your dreams?” she asked.

She was sitting in the third row; she looked to be about 16. She wanted to go to New York to pursue her passion for music.

I had been telling my audience how so many folks grow weary, and feel as if they are too old to fulfill their dreams.

My response: Our dreams are the whisper of Spirit, the call of the Divine. We are never too old – or too young – to pursue them.

People get nervous sometimes when I urge them to follow their hearts. It somehow feels selfish, self-centered, self-indulgent, wrong to steep in what genuinely makes them happy, to soak in what truly brings them joy. For some reason, it seems better to suffer, to plod, to muddle. More egalitarian; more noble.

Here’s what’s true: Our passions, the things that excite us, the music that sings in our hearts, the words that long to be written, the art that waits for the canvas, the ideas that spring from our minds: these are not idle fancies. They are the truest longings of our hearts, the deepest expressions of who we are, of who we can become, just waiting to explode into the world.

In his book Desire, John Eldredge writes, “There is a secret set within each of our hearts. It is the desire for life as it was meant to be.”  Many good people, Eldredge says, have been told that the path to a holy life requires us to kill our hearts’ desires, and call it sanctification.

But the truth is this: Our desires, our yearnings, the things we dream of doing, the longings of our heart: they are the call of an abundant Universe, the call of the Creator Spirit dwelling within us.

So get quiet. Get really quiet. And listen to the Still Small Voice of your heart.

Trust the call; trust the vision; trust the dream.

This is who you were always meant to be.

There are gifts that need to be shared that only you can share; there are lives that need to be touched that only you can touch.

I don’t care how old – or young – you are. The world is waiting for you.

Get busy.

 

There Will Always Be Tigers

“I’m going to stop working in five years,” Peter said. “After I’ve finished paying for my son’s law school tuition.” (This after Peter told me that the average lifespan of a trial lawyer is 57. Peter, a trial lawyer, is 55.)

“I’m going to start the fitness program as soon as my son starts kindergarten.”

“I’m going to go back for my degree when my youngest is out of college.”

“We’re going to take the trip to France right after I finish the next project.”

“I can’t take time off this year; we’re down a staff member.”

“If the house didn’t need painting this year, we’d get away to the Cape.”

“If I could just find a new job and a fresh place to live, I could get out of this crappy relationship.” (This more than six months after we first had this conversation.)

“Before I do the product launch, I need to take the copywriting course and learn SEO.”

“I’m going to finish the book (really I am), but right now I just don’t have the time.”

As a coach, I hear every story there is about why it is that now is not the right time, the auspicious time, the convenient time to do what we feel called to do, drawn to do, really want to do; to do what makes our hearts sing, our spirits soar.

Perhaps out of fear (of success or failure), or convention (what will people think?) or inertia or resistance, we create (artificial) barriers to the lives we really want to live; we imagine forces that must be fought and overcome before we do what really makes us happy. We imagine tigers that must be slain.

I love that old Buddhist story of the monk who is being chased through the jungle by tigers. He comes to the edge of a cliff as the tigers close in behind him.  A hundred feet below, six more tigers claw at the base. The monk jumps from the cliff and on his way down grabs for a vine to stop himself. As he hangs by the vine, he sees a mouse gnawing at it. And just in that moment, he spies a fresh ripe strawberry growing out from the cliff face. The monk plucks the strawberry, tastes it and revels in its sweetness. ”My how good this is,” he says.

Here is the truth: Now is all we have. Now is the only moment in which we can create the lives we want to live.

As I write in Journeys, “dreams delayed are dreams denied.”

When we defer the call of our souls, we get angry and sad and bitter and resentful.

And the reality is, a step in the direction of our dreams usually doesn’t require a whole lot of time or a ton of resources or monumental change. We don’t need to throw the baby (or the husband) out with the bathwater. The step forward can be a tiny one. 

And then another.

Do what you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Do it now.

There is no time to waste.

There will always be tigers.