Systems

I have always been one to create goals. In my mind, I shoot for the moon. In reality, I come up far short. “This is the year I am going to achieve my fitness goals” or “This year, I will write that book” were annual phrases in my life. My list of all the things I wanted to accomplish in the future kept growing. So many goals created, so little to show for it. Until I unknowingly started creating systems.

It started with work on the assembly line. Do the same work over and over and achieve the same results. The consistency I learned in manufacturing, I began to apply to daily routines. I applied a lean manufacturing concept to my pre-work habits, which tremendously helped me get through those early years working the night shift. The more consistent my routine, the less chance something would go wrong that would keep me from making it to work. I would try to automate my life in every aspect from meal prep to placing my wallet and keys in the exact same place every day. I didn’t know that what I was doing back then would become an integral part of who I am today.

Over the last year, a new system has been instituted into my workout routine. In the past, I would work out when I could at whatever time was available. This of course, led to inconsistent behaviors. With inconsistent behaviors you get inconsistent results. I realized that after a hard day of working on the production line, I was less likely to get in a quality workout, if I even got one in. Often I was too tired or too dehydrated. Back then I was primarily a runner, and after standing all day on my feet, the thought of pounding the pavement was unbearable. In addition, there was the guilty conscience of selfishly spending the last few hours of the day on myself instead of my family.

I was not happy with the results I was achieving. Something had to change. I had to change. So I started working out in the morning. This meant I would have to get up before 5 a.m. to start. So I set my alarm for 4:30. But it was too inconsistent. I would hit the snooze button, make too much noise getting ready, or start too late. I had to bump up the time, though that didn’t keep me from snoozing. So I had to make incremental changes to get it right. I started to get the mix right by setting the alarm at 4, laying out my clothes the night before, and drinking a large glass of water when I woke up. Now my success rate was close to 75%. When I started planning my workouts the night before, my percentages started to improve.

WorkoutSystem

After a month of getting up at 4, I stumbled upon the Jocko Podcast. This affirmed what I was doing. Jocko Willink is a former Navy SEAL commander who preaches that Discipline Equals Freedom. He says to get up every morning at 4:30 and workout. Not only is he is saying to do this, but there is a whole community of people doing this very thing. They are getting up when the rest of the world is still sleeping and they get after it. Now I am a part of that community and actively holding myself accountable by participating. So here is a tip of my hat and a thank you to the 0445Club, the Samarai Gang, and the Troopers. Consequently, my success rate is over 95%, 7 days a week.

My system for fitness is working. And if it works here, it can work in almost any aspect of my life. I can create a system for writing that ensures a consistent daily output. Having a system for personal finances keeps the bills paid on time and more money in the bank. Developing a system for whatever aspect I want to improve in my life gets me much closer to accomplishment, than the throwing of a quarter in the wishing-well of a goal. I haven’t completely tossed out the creation of goals in my life, but they are now only a starting point to the building of a systematic plan for accomplishing the mission.

There must be a beginning to any great matter –But the continuing unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, yields the true glory. –Sir Francis Drake

Palm Sunday

If you are not going to get anything out of the experience of attending church, then why go? So what did I get from this morning’s service? The gospel reading was The Passion of the Christ. These are the events leading up to the crucifixion and ending with the moments shortly after the death of Jesus (Mark 14-15). During the reading, two events resonated with me more than usual.

Peter’s Denial

Peter is the one that denied Christ three times. It is a well known story, so why did it catch my attention more than usual today? In terms of church hierarchy, Peter probably stands at the top among his fellow humans. This is the rock we are talking about, the foundation upon which the church is built. He is the one that denied Christ. After three years of spending almost all of his waking hours in the presence of Jesus, he is the one that began to swear and said, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

When it comes to failure, that has to be pretty high on the list. But did it stop Peter from doing the things he was supposed to do in his life? Could you imagine Peter not recovering from this betrayal? He could have just went away, maybe become a hermit, and wallow in misery for the rest of his days. But he didn’t. He recovered and eventually became that foundation of the church that he was supposed to be.

Have you failed in the things you knew you were supposed to do? You had every intention of doing the right thing, and then you blew it. The past is gone. You can’t change it, but you can learn your lesson. You can get back up again and make it right the next time. That is character, and that is how you become what you are supposed to be.

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. -Charles Kettering

The Crowd’s Denial

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live in Jesus’ time. Can you imagine witnessing some of those miracles or even being the one healed? I often think what kind of person I would have been back then. Would I have dropped everything and followed Jesus? It is easy in this day and age to say I would. But what is the truth? One of his disciples betrayed him for a relatively small sum of money. Even Peter denied knowing him when not too long before he said, “Even though they all fall away, I will not…If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so I think again, could I have been faithful?

The crowd knew who Christ was. They knew of the prophesies and seen, or at least heard of, the miracles. Even more, the priests, those most knowledgeable of the prophecies, wanted him dead. Two thousand years later, I say to myself, that these people were so blind to the truth. Yet, what makes me so different that I would have not been blind?

How often are we confronted with the truth in our lives and we turn away? Is it because the truth is uncomfortable and questions why we live the way we live? We have the chance to gradually make each day better than the one before, but so often we choose to remain static. The static lifestyle is eventually going to break down. It is going to lead to a slow decay that can affect every aspect of our lives if we allow it. We should be driving toward the truth, even if it is uncomfortable.

My prayer: I am going to seek the truth as it relates to my body, soul, and mind. I am going to strive to make improvements everyday. No man knows what tomorrow brings (Memento Mori), but I have today, and I will make the most of it. I am going to fail. Failure happens, getting back up is optional. I pray that I always have the desire to get back up. My destiny is on the line. To realize the potential of it, I have to get back up and go again.

Friday morning 3/23/2018

Friday morning 3/23/2018-

• Woke up at 3:40 a.m.

• Met client at gym at 4:30. This is not currently a paid service.

• Drove to work and meditated in parking lot from 6:10 to 6:30.

• Saw a need and helped out. Tweeted about this without realizing that a connection might be made and it could be perceived as arrogant. This created some unnecessary anxiety, as it wasn’t my intention. Now it is something I need to sort out in my mind.

The tweet was: Difference a year makes. Now if I see a need I don’t hesitate to help. Before I was selfish, reluctant, or procrastinated until it was too late. This is the path I was searching for.

What was the “before” I mentioned? There has been times in my life where I just wasn’t able to help. I wasn’t in the right place mentally, spiritually, or physically. I wanted to, but I did nothing. What are our wants if they are not backed up by action? Faith without works is dead (see James 2:14-26). Sometimes I procrastinated on it. I told myself I would just not today. The day never came. For some reason, not helping always plagued my conscience. I told my wife a few months ago that it was one of my greatest regrets in life. I also told her I wanted to live my life in such a way that I no longer have those types of regrets. It is similar to meeting a client at 4:30 in the morning. My drive is to be able to help others. This is a full 180 change from my younger version. That version was motivated by self-interest.

I believe my anxiety stemmed from how others would perceive me. I didn’t want to toot my horn and say, “Look at me and what I have done.” If my intention was to say that I am growing up, getting better, and trying to do the right things, then who cares what others think (if they even thought it, which is the more likely scenario). Here is my insecurity: worrying about what others think of me. This is good. I have identified another weakness that I can work on.

I am reminded again of “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and it is still fresh on my mind. Here’s Steven:

I learned this from Robert McKee. A hack, he says, is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for.

I have tried this in the past. I have tried to tailor my writing to my audience. I found myself not writing what was in my heart, but rather what I thought they wanted to hear. I was being a hack. I was not being authentic. I could feel it in my writing. I didn’t like it, but I thought it was the way. It was not the path I wanted to be on, and it certainly is not the path I am on now. I see my path before me. I know the direction it goes and where it leads. I will not turn to the right nor to the left. While there is still breath in me, I will stick to the path.

Choose to Pass, Not to Indulge

 

If you are mission-oriented toward pleasure, you will never be satisfied. You will always want more, because what you got the last time will only temporarily placate your desires. Put away the immediate gratification and hold out for the greater reward that comes with waiting. The intoxication from the wine will wear off. The scent of that perfume will fade. There is a far better use of your wealth than on mere trifles.

Here’s what the Greek and Roman philosophers had to say about this:

The man who overcomes his desires is braver than he who overcomes his enemies. –Aristotle

But no man would ever repent of having refused any sensual pleasure. Pleasure then is neither good nor useful. –Marcus Aurelius

If you are ruled by you mind, you are a king, if by your body, a slave. –Cato

No one is free who is not master of himself. –Epictetus

To be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile. –Plato

It is the sign of a great mind to prefer things in measure to things in excess. -Seneca

No Promotion, No Problem

 

You didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for, and it hurts. You are currently doing the job, but you have neither the title nor the security the title provides. You have been working hard for this. You feel like you deserve it, but you didn’t get it. Now you have to get over it. And just maybe, it doesn’t really even matter. So you need to move on. You cannot wallow or feel sorry for yourself. Not getting that job may have been the best thing for you.

Do not ask for what you will wish you had not got. –Seneca

You could have ridden this job into retirement. You could have coasted into old age doing something that was easy and comfortable. You could have relaxed and settled. You might lose your edge, but that’s okay, because there would have been nothing left to fight for. But wasn’t this job only a holdover until you could do the things you wanted? Wasn’t this supposed to be a temporary solution now to get the food on the table? You don’t want to grow old and at the twilight of your life say, “This is what I have done. I gave all my years to the company.” What were you to that company anyway? A vital part or just a number? Would you have left an unfillable void or would the next number come in to replace you? The twenty or forty years at the factory wasn’t easy. It took a toll on your body. It took a toll on your family. It wasn’t the easiest path to take, but it was the one with the least resistance. It was the easy way to grow old. The dreams you had in your youth were just dreams. As an adult, you left those childish dreams aside. Instead of realizing your dreams, you punched a timeclock.

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance. –Steven Pressfield

Last week I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. This book reached down into my core. It opened my eyes. For the first time, I had the name of the enemy that has been plaguing me my whole life. The sad thing is that I never knew I was in a war against an enemy, one that is relentless and will attack whether or not you are fighting back. How do you fight an unknown enemy?

If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt. -From Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”

So who or what is this enemy? Its name is Resistance. What is resistance? It is that voice telling you to delay doing the things you know and believe you should do. It is telling you to take another drink, to eat another cupcake, and to start that diet tomorrow instead of today. It is the one telling you later, not now. Resistance is the soft warmth of your bed beckoning you to hit that snooze button. It is the voice telling you that you will never be good enough so don’t even bother trying. Resistance says that your hopes and dreams can be put on hold until the time is right. We all have an adversary named Resistance.

 The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew each day. –Steven Pressfield.

Every day. The enemy, Resistance, is there waiting to attack. Sun Tzu said that one of the best ways to attack is to look for a weakness in your opponent. Resistance knows your weaknesses. It attacks when you are the most vulnerable to giving in. If you don’t do battle against the enemy every day, then all those aspirations you have in life will amount to nothing. Your dreams will be just that, dreams.

Questions to ask yourself:

• Was there something I wanted to create but didn’t?

• Did I delay building my business, because something else came up?

• Did I say to myself just one more show on Netflix and then I will get started?

• Did I not pursue my dreams because life got in the way?

I have used that last line plenty in the past. So much I wanted to do, but life got in the way. Life will always get in the way if you let it. Who is in control? Are you in control of your life or are you being controlled by outside factors? Life didn’t get in the way. Resistance got in the way.

Meditation –On Happiness

Meditating is a new practice for me. It is one that I hope I can stick with. Why am I doing it? Am I trying to achieve nirvana? It isn’t my intention, but I am receptive to the possibility. This whole focus on my breathing and trying to find my center, what’s the purpose? Is it to lower my blood pressure or feel better about myself? I am sure those are some nice secondary benefits, but what is the real reason?

In the first few sessions, I found my mind wandering. I was constantly trying to remind myself to focus on my breath. The “path” is one of the concepts I am concentrating on these days and applying it to all aspects my life. To find my path, to know it, and to stay on it. If meditation is like this path, the breathing is helping me to stay on it. It is guiding me back on course. In the bigger picture, I am always trying to correct my course. I am trying to stay on my path. It is the reason why I am meditating. I need to find my center. I need to discover who I really am and where I want to go. The meditation is going to help me get there.


I breathe and I think. I am not happy. I am not where I want to be in life. There are things I want, and I don’t have them. I am trying to get to the place I want to be, but do I have to be unhappy on this journey? Do I have to go on with an iron resolve and a stoic countenance? The stoicism I heard of as a child was related to unhappiness and a stern face. But that is not stoicism, is it? I am not being stoic by being unhappy. I’m being an ass to both myself and those around me.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. –Dalai Lama

I am choosing to be unhappy. I am choosing to not be content with the things I have. I am choosing the wrong path. I can choose to be happy. I can be grateful for the things I have and the people in my life. Every morning I have been writing three things I am grateful for. Do I believe it? Am I really grateful, or am I just going through the motions? Why is it that the morning after a rough day, say a day full of pride, I don’t express my gratitude on paper? If I was to fill my soul with happiness, then the gratitude should come gushing out onto the paper. I need to choose to be happy. I need to change my attitude and get on the path.


I had a flashback to my youth. I was walking in line back to the locker room after a tough junior high school football game. I was tired and hurting, but I wanted to maintain my composure. When I passed by a few cheerleaders, one asked me why I always looked so serious. In my mind, I thought I was training to be a warrior and had to look the part. I should have learned my lesson. I should have learned it when so many people over the years have asked a similar question. Why am I so serious? Why do my brows furrow on my face? Why don’t I smile more? I like to tell myself, and others, that I am happy on the inside, and I just forget to show it on the outside. But I think that is just a façade. I am fighting a war within myself. When virtue reigns over my vices, I find myself happy. The opposite is true as well. When I give into my vices (laziness, gluttony, all the other things keeping my from realizing my full potential) I find myself unhappy and my face will surely show it.

What is the happy life? It is peace of mind, and lasting tranquility. This will be yours if you possess greatness of soul; it will be yours if you possess the steadfastness that resolutely clings to a good judgment just reached. How does a man reach this condition? By gaining a complete view of truth, by maintaining, in all that he does, order, measure, fitness, and a will that is inoffensive and kindly, that is intent upon reason and never departs therefrom, that commands at the same time love and admiration. In short, to give you the principle in brief compass, the wise man’s soul ought to be such as would be proper for a god. –Seneca, Letter 92: On the Happy Life

Meditation: On Pride

I know I need to meditate more. Yesterday was day one. Ten minutes in the morning before leaving for the gym to meet a client. 10 minutes again sitting in the car before walking into work. Later that evening, I lost my focus and subsequently lost my temper. Now I am on the second day, and it needs to be better than the first.

I set the timer for 15 minutes. It is dark outside as I sit in my car in the parking lot. 15 minutes to meditate and then 5 minutes to walk into work. I close my eyes and sit. I try to center myself, but something is missing. Oh yes, my breath. In. Out. Why did I get angry last night? I should have known better. I should not have fell into the trap. In. Out. Pride. It was my pride. My pride was injured. It wanted to retaliate. My pride is me. Not some separate embodiment acting of its volition. My pride. My ego. I own it. No one else is to blame. Blaming others is the easy path. The wrong path.

My thoughts begin to drift. I think about work, about the things I need to do today. Something is not right. My breath. Focus on my breath. In. Out. Back to pride. Back to anger. How do I eliminate it? How do I become stronger? This pride, my pride, is a weakness. When it is in control, I am more prone to anger. Anger is bad. It leads me down the wrong path. It leads to stupid and rash decisions. It leads to thoughtlessness. Chaos.

What will I do this weekend? What will I read? Write? This is not the time to let the mind wander. Concentrate on the breath. Breathe in. Take in the oxygen, the life. Exhale the breath. Expel the pride. Like the Om, expel the pride. When the anger comes, the walls crumble. My defenses are weakened. A city unprotected. My walls are my strength. My protection.

In. Out. Courage. It takes courage to be strong. It takes courage to overlook a perceived offense. It takes courage to not retaliate. Courage, not pride. With courage is strength. Pride is weakness. Anger is weakness.

In. Out. The timer goes off. My mind is now focused on courage. My prayer is to have the strength to be courageous. The strength to put away pride and anger. One last breath in and then exhale. It is time to walk to work.

A city breached and left defenseless are those who do not control their temper. –Proverbs 25:28

Getting Results with Help

What have I learned from being on an assembly line? I have learned to be efficient. If not then I will struggle. Because if you are going to do a process over and over, 35-40 times in an hour, you want it to be as easy as possible. How do you become efficient? How do you minimize the struggle? You learn. You identify what techniques work, how to hold things, and which way to walk. Can you eliminate steps? Is there something that is difficult that can be simplified? Can you be an expert?

BruceLee1What should you do if you can’t figure it out, after all potential solutions have resulted in failure? The best thing you can do is watch and learn from someone else. There will always be someone who can do it better. I recently learned a technique from a 20 year vet that blew my mind, because I never thought of doing the process his way. He left me with some powerful words, “Why struggle if you don’t have to.” There has also been times when I have seen brand new associates do what seems natural to them and achieve success after only a few minutes when others have struggled for years to do the same process. What success can you achieve by looking at problems from different viewpoints and emulating others that are successful?

Growing up I didn’t know the power of having a mentor. It never occurred to me that true growth could be ascertained in this fashion. My development was often achieved through trial and mostly error. This approach wastes one of your most valuable resources: time. Take the wrong path, and you can spend years, even decades, trying to get back on track. The value of having a mentor guide you in the right direction is enormous. I wish I took advantage of this when I was younger. It is definitely something I will share with my son as he gets older.

So what am I doing with the things I have learned? Am I holding this knowledge for myself or am I sharing it with others? Leonard Nimoy said, “The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have.” How am I sharing? What am I doing to make a positive impact on the lives of others? Over the years, I have been sharing what I have learned in unplanned short conversations with colleagues. This in turn has led to a new venture where mentoring, through fitness and lifestyle choices, is the primary focus. This project is in its infancy and happened almost by accident. When my partner and I were brainstorming this concept with several other colleagues, we found that we had no shortages of volunteers who wanted to take part in our program. We let them know they would essentially be guinea pigs in our experiment, but they did not care. They wanted to change their lives for the better, and they wanted us to help them get on the path. Well, here’s to new endeavors. My hope is that our participants achieve the results they desire. My hope is that I can grow along the way.

My son, and any who chooses to listen:

The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the heart of fools is not steadfast. –Proverbs 15:7

Be Careful What You Pretend To Be

There is one guy who dresses way too good for the work he does. He dresses like a boss, but the quality of his work is substandard to that of an average employee. He tries to look the part and to talk the part, but sadly his looks do not match his actions.

There is another guy who has taken this to a whole new level. Skinny growing up, he wanted to change his appearance. The drive was so intense, and his internal substance was so under-developed, that he began doing steroids. 20 years later, he is still doing them. His vanity has extended into other parts of his life. He has the over-sized house, the way too expensive boat, and of course the brand new, jacked-up truck that completes the image he is hoping to achieve. He is looking for validation but is missing something on the inside.

“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.” –Kurt Vonnegut

Are these two on to something? Can we just pretend and then become what we pretend to be? Or is it something more. Could be that Vonnegut was referring to something deeper, something with more substance.

Outward appearances without the internal substance will only leave us only as pretenders. It is our character and our actions that define us. And although it is easy to see the vanity in others and even criticize it, can I be this critical of myself? I need to keep my own vanity in check and be the harshest judge of my actions. Humility should always be at the forefront.

My son:

One acts rich but has nothing; another acts poor but has great wealth. -Proverbs 13:7

Build the Wall

 

 

I was watching the cartoon “Justin Time” with Alec one morning, and the topic was about The Great Wall of China (S1:E9). In the episode Justin asked his friend Olive why there was a wall. Olive’s response was, “to keep the people on the other side on the other side.” In the U.S., the debate continues over whether or not to build a wall. For some, it is important to keep the other people on the other side. Others believe we should let them all in.

What is the purpose of a wall, whether it is around your house, your school, or your nation? When my wife and I built the fence around our backyard, we wanted to accomplish two things. First, it kept our dogs and young toddler confined to the backyard and prevented them from getting out and possibly wandering the streets. It was for their protection and for our peace of mind. What was the other purpose? The fence was built to keep the people on the other side of the fence on the other side. If they wanted to get inside the fence, they had to be admitted through the front door. Obviously, their identity and intent was established before they were allowed entry. The fence serves its purposes, and as a result we have a certain measure of security.

 

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The Great Wall of China served its purpose as well, which was to prevent an invasion of the northern enemies. The Chinese kept the people on the other side out. If someone wanted to get on the Chinese side of the wall, their identity and purpose would have to be established first. There are some Americans who want this kind of wall too. The ones in favor of it say it is prevent potential terror threats from entering our borders. They want to establish the identity and intent of would-be entrants. Not much different than the Chinese with the Great Wall, not much with you and your fence. People on both sides of this debate have some very strong feelings concerning a wall in the U.S. I have my feelings, but what this post is really about is building a wall around your mind.

Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t have open minds. My goal is to emulate Henry David Thoreau’s idea to “be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.” I want to have an open mind and encourage it in others, but I think you also need to build a wall around your mind. If you are not carefully vetting what is going in, then how can you monitor what is taking up a permanent residence within your brain?

How about music for an example? Say you hear a really good tune on the radio. The music sounds great and the vocals are really on point. Never mind the actual lyrics, you like what you hear, and you hear it over and over again. But what are those words? Is the message positive or is it something else? There are some really great sounding songs out these days with a message that is not positive. The messages coming over the radio in some songs are ones of drugs, violence, and the degradation of women. There are artists that will glamorize these topics, make them cool. Now you might be thinking, “This is a childish example. Those songs don’t really harm anybody. They are just songs.” And you might be correct that this evil message cannot invade your mind, but what if you are wrong? Or what about your child, with his young impressionable mind? Does it have an effect on him as he listens to it in the car while you are singing along?


About a week ago, my son had trouble sleeping and was scared. My wife was concerned and asked what was wrong. He said every time he closed his eyes he kept picturing a clown eating kids. Turns out that one of the kids in his Kindergarten class was taken to the movie “It” by his parents. The kid came to school the next day and told all his classmates. Chances are my son also seen the trailer on TV. The impression left on his mind was very real, enough to keep him awake at night.

Is this message appropriate for a 5 year old? The lasting effects of this one instance may not be great, but what about constant exposure to that and similar messages? We can rationalize it and say it is not that bad, but how many times can we do it before the “not so bad” imaginary violence becomes real? If we can justify listening to songs that degrade other people, how long does it take before we justify this belief in our minds?

Building a wall that vets all potential entrants into the nation may be a difficult debate going on right now. The choice to build a fence around your backyard to keep your kids safe and keep undesirable people out is a less difficult decision. Fortifying your mind against evil influences and properly vetting what your mind is exposed to should be a no-brainer. Protect your mind, build the wall.

It is possible that my view on a wall around your mind is incorrect. I would love to hear your comments.

“If anyone can refute me- show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective- I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” –Marcus Aurelius