In The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, he tells the story of his disciplined dad who was a coach. There were no excuses at home. What struck a chord with me, in particular, was the following:
“We weren’t ever allowed to stay home from school sick unless we were actually puking, bleeding, or “showing bone”.
Many times on the treadmill, when my muscles are screaming at me, I have to remember to push it further. Am I “showing bone?” No. Then go. Faster. And tack on an extra 15-30 seconds past what I think I can do per interval jog.
“I don’t feel like it” is one of the worst excuses ever.
When I was younger, I used it all the time: throughout school and early adulthood. Finally, I realized that this was a weakness. I set out to correct it. Due to the nature of life being a series of choices, it took keeping this at the forefront of my mind to consciously keep working on it. Habitually.
Any disciplined person knows, you never feel like it. The doing or starting of the task that you do not want to do will create momentum to finish. Just jump into it. Do it anyway.
Steve Jobs was famous for wearing the classic black mock turtleneck shirts, Levi’s 501 jeans, and grey New Balance sneakers. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, he touches on when Steve tried to create a uniform for Apple. Employees didn’t like it but Steve ended up creating his own personal brand of style as a byproduct:
Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform.
In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”
Vanity Fair has a great profile on President Obama, in the piece the President describes conserving the decisions he has to make:
You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
The New York Times gives a glimpse of the research that the President references above in the article Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?. So what is decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is the newest discovery involving a phenomenon called ego depletion, a term coined by the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister in homage to a Freudian hypothesis. Freud speculated that the self, or ego, depended on mental activities involving the transfer of energy.
In today’s modern world, the amount of choices we are bombarded with is unprecedented. Never in our history have we had to filter so much noise. Need to buy some toothpaste? Great. A quick search on Amazon alone gives you 4,182 results and that was after filtering it down to just the “toothpaste” category!
The article goes on to describe what happens to your decision-making process whenever you become fatigued:
Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice.
It frees your mental energy when you can get your day started and not having to worry about the minutia of every detail. That part of your day is on autopilot.
Life is a series of choices over the span of our existence. If you make poor choices, this creates poor habits, which in turn gives poor results. We must conserve our decision making “energy” so that we can make the right choices. Making the right choices consistently over time builds good habits and will create a lot of “luck”.
We make our own luck.
Personally, I use Trello all the time. It’s a great tool for planning out projects, keeping track of a to-do list, or organizing your thoughts into actionable tasks.
Lately, I’ve been doing some goal setting and deep diving into some areas that I want to see growth in. With setting goals, I’ve decided to also create guideposts.
Guideposts are the physical reminders of goals and the set direction that I want to go in.
Examples? Visual reminders on a cork board. Custom made signs around my living space. Notes to myself.
For instance, if I wanted to consistently eat healthy every day during the week. Keeping in mind “the why” or the value behind the goal, which in this example would be “I want to eat healthy to lengthen my life.” The visual counterpart, or guidepost, would perhaps be a picture of some great food that I made, and then printed under that photo would be “Eat healthy. Lengthen life.”
How’s that for a headline? Rolls right off the tongue. Let’s dive into creating solutions, getting rid of clouded thinking, and making forward progress.
There are times where I find myself being Artfully Frustrated, again. I have to remind myself that others experience this, it’s a sign that I’m still growing, and to push on forward.
That frustration comes from a drive to constantly be improving. As with all things in life, there is a balance. When that drive escalates to perfectionism, then it can be a problem. Dysfunctional perfectionism is at the heart of depression, anxiety, workaholism, procrastination, and suicide.
How do we change for the better? By focusing on what we do have, being thankful, expressing gratitude, and being authentic.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we really are.
When we are focused so hard on expectations, even those that are imposed by our own self, it leads to anxiety.
Instead, we should trade those expectations for appreciations.
The best way to get rid of that worry is to express gratitude. The two can not coexist.
In the book Flourish, author Martin E. P. Seligman suggests keeping a gratitude journal or the Three Blessings Journal. At the end of every day write down three things that went well and why they went well.
When I worked at the Apple Store for a summer in 2010, we were trained to ask customers open-ended probing questions. It gets at the heart of why a customer is shopping and how best to meet their needs. This Forbes article paints a clear picture:
Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs. This simply means to ask a series of closed and open-ended question so you can match the customer with the right product, not the most expensive product. In the Apple Store, a closed-ended question elicits a simple yes or no such as, “Will this be your first Mac?” An open-ended question is more general and gives the sales associate (specialist) more information to guide the conversation. For example, “What will you be using the iPad for?”
Asking why probes further and gives clarity. That’s why we do it in the gratitude journal. I’m thankful for my brother. Why? He is always there to talk with me when life seems overwhelming. Even further…Why? It’s great to have someone to talk to when you feel alone in your experience.
In an interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about science boosting the economy. He goes on to say, most companies and politicians don’t have the tolerance for the long term view.
You don’t motivate a group of kids, saying “Who wants to be a mechanical engineer and help improve flight efficiency by 15% compared to the airplane your father flew?”
But instead, ask “Who wants to be an engineer and help develop airfoils to help fly in the atmosphere of Mars?” With the latter, you get the best students in the class.
Flow is the intersection of what you are good at and what challenges you— where difficulty and competency meet.
When your competency exceeds the difficulty of a task, you are bored. And when the difficulty exceeds your competency, you are anxious. That was my problem: I was bored.
— Jeff Goins, The Art of Work
There are times where the day job requires me to do the mundane. That’s fine. We can’t always have constant excitement. It’s called work for a reason.
For inspiration, this is one of the reasons that I have side projects. To keep pushing my limits. It allows me to play. To find out how to make user interfaces for VR, tinker with implementing the Acelerated Mobile Pages Project on content, create a landing page for Snapchat, write books, and so much more.
These all funnel back into the collective of who I am. When you hire me, you get a wide variety of experiences. All of which have added something to my career over the years.