Gotta Do the Work

From a young age, Thomas Edison was willing to do the work. He grew up poor and got his first job at the age of twelve. He never had the chance to get a formal education.

Through books, experiments, and practical experience at various jobs, Edison gave himself a rigorous education that lasted about ten years, up until the time he became an inventor. What made this successful was his relentless desire to learn through whatever crossed his path, as well as his self-discipline. Mastery by Robert Greene

As he did the work, the opportunities came. And in time, he became one of the most prolific inventors of all time with over a thousand patents credited to his name.

When recently asked the secret of his success, he said he had always been a total abstainer and singularly moderate in everything but work. Pushing to the Front by Orison Swett Marden

When I think about all the things I really want in this world, I must remember that they are not so lofty as to be unattainable. Most of it requires only one thing to make it possible. I must do the work. It is not by luck that those hard-earned victories will fall into your lap. You gotta do the work!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas Edison

Two Keys to Confidence

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of hanging sheetrock in my kitchen. We are currently less than one week from having our kitchen cabinets installed. My wife and I can’t wait to have a fully functional kitchen again, rather than the torn down empty space where our kitchen used to be.

The pleasure of hanging sheetrock. I did this once before. Over ten years ago, I did our master bathroom in a house we owned in Florida. I didn’t do a good job. My seams were not smooth. The holes I made for the outlets were not very clean. There was no pleasure in this job.

A few months ago, we paid to have our sheetrock installed in our living room and hallway. That job cost over a thousand dollars. The walls looked amazing. I even got to help hang a few panels. The hour I spent helping changed my life, or at least it changed my life in regards to hanging sheetrock. I saw the right way to do the job. Exactly the opposite of the way I did it the last time. That plus a couple of YouTube videos (which I didn’t watch the first time), and I was able to do a quality job for less than $100. In the future, I have two basements and a stairway to sheetrock. I am pretty confident that I am only going to get better each time I do it. Saving money and learning a new skill, indeed this is a pleasure.

Confidence comes from discipline and training. –Robert Kiyosaki

I didn’t have much confidence in doing the job ten years ago. Like any new experience, confidence doesn’t come easy. But with repetition and a strong desire to improve, confidence increases. Discipline and training. Is there any other substitute that puts perfection in the work? It is not motivation. It is not on a whim or from a passing fancy that expertise can be built. Discipline and training. Those are the two keys that will take you to the next level and fill you with the confidence you need to be successful.

Why Staying Busy Isn’t Good Enough

Like many in the world, I’m locked down. Can’t go to work. Can’t hang out with friends and family.

And over the last couple of weeks, I have been working longer hours than usual. I get up, work out, and start working on projects around the house or at my parent’s house. I’m getting things done and really trying to stay busy. But there are draw backs, and I’ve noticed something else over the last couple of weeks.

When I punch the clock, I have more discipline. I know I have a limited amount of free time and so I try to squeeze in as much as I can. But now I am not punching a clock. As a result, my intensity has fallen off. I am not squeezing as hard. The creative work I try to do and the self-development that I try to pursue has fallen off. I have been busy. Things are getting done, but the things I feel that I am called to pursue in life have taken a back seat. I am moving but not forward in the way that I should.

Beware of the braveness of a busy life. -Socrates

Discipline is easy when it is forced upon you. As a soldier, I had no choice but to be disciplined. If I wanted to succeed, I had to have it. Same way when it comes to my professional life. To progress and become better, I have to have discipline whether I am on or off of the clock.

But now there is no clock, and I find my discipline is starting to waver. The sense of urgency is starting to diminish. I am reminded of the times in my past when everything was dark, a time when there was no drive and definitely no discipline. It is in recalling those times that I have to get back to the basics. I have to force the structure and routine back into my daily schedule. I have to punch my own internal clock and regain a sense of urgency.

Just moving in and of itself is not going to work. I have move with a purpose. I have to move with intention towards the direction I want to go. Even in these times when the world seems to be standing still, I can still move forward.

Building to Win

I have a friend who plans to run his first marathon in the summer. He has only been running for about a year. Back then, he was a smoker and knew he needed to start doing something to get into shape. So he started running. He committed his time to this endeavor. As a result, his mileage has gone up, his weight has gone down, and as far as I know, he stopped smoking. If he completes this marathon, it will be an amazing accomplishment.

Let’s recap his journey:

 

  • Made a decision to start running.
  • Made changes to way of life to accommodate for time.
  • Got friends and family involved. He even runs with his mother on a regular basis.
  • Made changes to what he puts into his body.
  • Became comfortable running longer and longer distances.
  • Entered first race and completed it.
  • Signed up for marathon and began training.

Each bullet point was a decision. Each decision turned into an accomplishment that validated his initial decision to get into shape. Completing them boosted his self-esteem. If you asked him a year ago about his confidence running a marathon, he probably would have laughed at you and thought you were insane just for asking.  But he built his confidence up mile by mile, day by day. He built it up every time he laced up his shoes to train, regardless of the weather conditions. Now, he firmly believes completing a marathon is possible.

Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. –Thomas Carlyle

A marathon is a big deal. It is a big commitment. You don’t wake up one day and out of the blue decide to run a marathon without training. You start small and build up to it. The journey to running 26.2 miles at one time began with one step first taken long before race day.

Great achievements are possible. Make the decision. Do the work every day, even on the days you don’t feel like it. Get small victories and then scale up to larger challenges. In time this body of work you have created will be the preparation you needed to win the dream you started with so long ago.

Are you still ____?

“Are you still working out?”

I loathe this question. It is one that I told myself I never wanted to be asked again. Why? Because your level of fitness is one of the things people, whether they want to admit it or not, notice first. And for someone who is borderline obsessed with strength and endurance, the last thing I dread is for an uncle I haven’t seen in a few years pointing at my midsection.

I work hard to achieve my fitness goals. I willingly share those goals with the idea that those closest to me will hold me accountable. It is my way of staying on the path. It is my way of forcing a little extra discipline in my life in case I get a little too comfortable which happens from time to time. I have faith that I can get where I want to go, but the key to getting there is discipline.

Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential. –Liane Cardes

I believe my potential is wrapped in strength and intelligence, but I don’t naturally have them. If I want to build both of these, then I need continuous effort. Discipline. It truly equals the freedom I am seeking.

There is another question I have come to hate hearing. It is a pointed barb that upon hearing strikes to the quick. Once it is there, it is embedded deep and my mind will not let it go.

“Are you still writing?”

I took a two week break from my blog. I didn’t schedule one. It just happened. I allowed other things in my life to take precedence. I veered off the path and started to become fat as a writer. Writing is similar to physical fitness. Once you stop, you begin to digress and become out of shape. The only way to keep from stopping is through continuous effort. Through discipline.

When I began my fitness journey, I had to ask myself some tough questions about whether or not it was worth it. What are the benefits of good health? Are you happy with your present condition? How much more could I do if I was fit? They may seem like they are all selfish questions and to some degree they are, but my fitness impacts my family’s well-being. It impacts my relationships with friends and co-workers. It improves my professional performance.

Last night after being asked if I was still writing, I once again had to ask myself some tough questions. Do I believe I have a message worth hearing? Could I have a positive impact on the lives of my readers? If I believe this is what I was put on this earth to do, then why am I not doing it?

The answer is yes to all of them, and I believe it is possible. This is the direction I have chosen to travel in my life. But if I want to be a strong writer and endure as one, I need to apply continuous effort. I need discipline. Faith alone can only get me so far. However when I couple that faith with discipline, I can truly maximize my potential.

I am a firm believer that physical fitness has taught me the virtues of discipline more effectively than any other method including my time in the Army. I also believe that if I can master discipline in terms of my body, I possess the necessary tools to master it mentally as well. My body is starting to bear the fruit of my labor. I have no doubt that my mind, if practiced in the same fashion, will also bear fruit.

Don’t make excuses for why you can’t get it done. Focus on all the reasons why you must make it happen. –Ralph Marston

The above quote was from the same man that said, “Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” I think they go well together. I have to believe in the journey I’m on. I have to believe I can get to my destination. My eyes have to stay on the prize. Excuses won’t get me where I need to go, but a resolute focus on the objective and a continuous effort will.

A Stewardship of Discipline

Temperance 12/24/2019

Your mind is a sanctuary. Without discipline, how can you rule your mind?

Your body is a temple. Without discipline, the home to your spirit and soul would be in disarray.

If you cannot rule your mind or your body, how can you expect to be a good ruler of anything else? Stewardship begins with controlling the things that are in your control. Start with the body and mind. Be a good steward in these two regards, and who knows how far your rule will one day extend.

If a man does not discipline himself, he cannot bring order to his home. -Confucius

It Starts With Numero Uno

Temperance: 11/5/2019

In Lee Iacocca’s autobiography, Henry Ford III is described as a despot in control of Ford Motor Company. It was his kingdom, and he did as he pleased.

It reminds me of a previous supervisor. She ruled her kingdom with an iron scepter, yet she was completely disengaged from the actual business. She held her people to a high standard, yet she was exempt from holding herself to one. When major initiatives were being launched, she was conveniently on extended vacations far away from the action. She was a poor leader, who garnered no respect from her subordinates, peers, or senior managers.

I’m also reminded of my own experiences as a leader. I never received poor ratings, but I know my performance could have been much better. I didn’t have the discipline or the desire to know the business as well as I could. I only got by, which was far from optimal.

Remembering my own shortcomings is a good way for me to not lose my focus today. I need discipline in my life to succeed. As Jocko Willink says, “Discipline equals freedom.” When I once thought I was free, I was in fact a slave to my own fruitless whims and desires. I couldn’t trust myself to make the right decisions and I doubt anybody else could trust me as well.

Your kingdom may be a Fortune 500 company or the family unit in your home. Regardless of the size of the kingdom you would rule, you have to maintain your personal discipline. You cannot become lax and check out anytime a major deadline comes up. You have to continue to train in order to be ready at all times. It starts with numero uno. That is you, and it is me.

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. –Publius Syrus

Why I Am Running: Mental Warfare

I’ve started running again. Not dabbling as I have done before. Seriously running. I am still trying to figure out why. I can’t go very long. I am not very fast. But for some reason, I feel compelled to run.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

This morning, I woke up at 3:45. By 4:15, I was out the door. My goal: to run 4 laps in the neighborhood. Each lap is 1.3 miles. If finish it, I will have racked up over 5 before the rooster has even started crowing.

Every morning, I go out with a goal in mind. In order to achieve that goal, I have to follow the plan. It starts when the alarm goes off. 

 Get dressed.
 Drink water.
 Lace up the boots.
 Get out the door.

One misstep throws off the timing. One moment of indecision and the plan could go by the wayside.

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. –Abraham Maslow

Getting out the door is the first step, but it is not the hardest one. The real test comes during the run.

It is early. It is quiet and cold. I am all alone with the exception of a few early morning commuters. There is nobody here to push me. Nobody to tell me to keep going. At any moment I could stop, and none would be the wiser. Along my route, the opportunity is always present to take the next turn for home. There is a hundred reasons why it would be okay to stop, a hundred reasons to call it quits.

There is a war raging within me on every run. A battle between running and walking, going and stopping, persisting and quitting. My body doesn’t want anything to do with it. My mind says buck up and learn to do the hard things.

The war rages between my body and my mind. The same war that began at 3:45 when my mind told my body to get up. It is a war that has been going on my entire life. Will I do what the body wants to do, or will I obey my mind?

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

I have a picture in my mind. It is a version of myself that is faster and has the ability to conquer long distances, all while injury-free. Without this belief, I would never run. But I do believe, and so, I run. I am willing to find out if that which is in mind can become reality. Can my mind truly conquer my body? And if it can…

What else could it conquer?

Imagine a king. What the king wills shall be done. Within reason, a good king could go anywhere, could do anything. A king is like the mind. A good mind, within reason, could go anywhere, could will the body to do anything. Would you be king or would you be ruled by the body?

We all have it within us to go out and be the conquerors of our own bodies. To do so is simple. It is not easy, but it is simple. You do the work. Every day. You don’t give in to the desires of the flesh. You choose differently. You take the courageous step to be different. And if your mind wills it, the body will obey.

By the way, 5.2 miles this morning before the first of the cock-a-doodle-doos.

Hard Life or Easy Life

It’s a new year of school (Alec is starting the 1st grade) and with it comes a new set of challenges. Last year in Kindergarten, Alec’s performance issues were talking, playing, and doing cartwheels at the wrong time. Coming into the second week of school, talking when he should not, has turned into his first challenge. Yesterday, he had four warnings for talking which led to not completing one of his tasks.

Growing up, I don’t remember being much of a talker. As I got older, not talking turned out to be a social negative. When others were building valuable social skills, I was locked away in my own thoughts. Now I am constantly waging a battle to become more approachable, with a positive demeanor, as opposed to my normal serious countenance. Often, I have to remind myself to be more engaging, to talk more.

I asked Alec why he was talking so much. He said, “I am trying to make friends.” Now that puts me in a conundrum. Not doing what you are supposed to in school should warrant some form of punishment. Building strong social skills that can enhance your personal and professional life as an adult, however, may be a more valuable lesson than any traditional education can provide. What Alec needs is balance. He needs to be able to do both and to do each at the appropriate time.

Sometimes it is not enough to do our best, we must do what is required. –Winston Churchill

The Punishment.

In Army Basic Training, a young soldier quickly learns the consequences of not doing what he is supposed to do. Usually this is in the form of physical exertion. My platoon in Basic underwent a lot of physical exertion. In the beginning, we did our best. It was never good enough, and we paid for it in our sweat and tears. Towards the end, we learned that doing what was required far outweighed our best intentions. In doing what was required, our extracurricular physical exertion was considerably reduced.

50 Push-ups, 50 Sit-ups, 5 total minutes Wall Sit

We broke Alec’s punishment down into a simple circuit of the three above exercises. 5 repetitions each of push-ups and sit-ups followed by a wall sit for as long as he could hold it. Except the last 10 seconds of the wall sit, this workout was not too difficult for Alec. The goal of this punishment was not to break him down. It wasn’t to psychologically scare him out of talking again. The purpose was to remind him that there are consequences for our actions. As long as he doesn’t get into trouble, I encourage him to talk. More importantly, we must do what is required. In this case, completing all tasks.

Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life. –Jerzy Gregorek, author of The Happy Body and legendary Olympic weightlifter.

The Lesson.

We are always making choices. The fruits of our present choices are always borne out in the future. Looking back again on my younger years, I made many easy choices. Every time I chose credit instead of cash, cheap and easy foods instead of high quality “fuel,” or laziness over action, I paid a very expensive price at later date. All the easy choices made my life much harder. Some of these choices I am still paying for today.

When Alec chose to talk instead of completing his tasks, he was making the easy choices. A hard choice would have been wait for the right time to talk. As a result of his easy choice, he paid for it through exercise. This may sound harsh to some, but it is a relatively small price for the value of the lesson. If he can learn to do the hard things now, he can possibly have a much easier life in the future. Many parents want the best for their children. In many cases, this results in the parents enabling their children in a futile attempt at making their lives easier. But gifts are often under-appreciated and easily squandered compared to possessions earned. I want Alec to have an easy life, but I can’t give it to him. He has to earn it by making the hard choices now.

You Snooze, You Lose

This morning I had a thought. It occurred as soon as my alarm sounded. I hit the snooze button on my phone (Why is snooze the big yellow button in the middle of my iPhone screen, instead of OFF?). My thought was to continue laying there. Maybe today I don’t get up. The desire to stay comfortable a little longer was very strong. If the rest of the world is sleeping, why shouldn’t I?

How many days have I lost? All those times I did not get up when my alarm went off, if I even set an alarm. I can’t begin to count the days and hours lost due to sleeping in.  I have squandered so much time. I will never get that time back again. It is that thought that caused me to change my sleeping habits. It is that thought that caused me to set that alarm for so early in the morning. It may be okay for the rest of the world to sleep in. That is their choice. I don’t want to be like the rest of the world.

How long, O sluggard, will you lie there? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest –then poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like a brigand. Proverbs 6:9-11

There are those that despise their alarm clock. It goes off way to soon and signals the start of another day of going through the motions. I have been there. I have woken up and the first thing on my mind is “survive the day.” But until I saw the above tweet, I have never looked at my alarm as an opportunity clock. Here is the signal to start again working toward a better life. Here is the opportunity to get better physically, mentally, and spiritually. Here is the opportunity to get ahead of the rest of the world. For while they are sleeping, I have the chance to improve. Ultimately, it is progress that I am looking for. I may never separate myself from the rest of the world, but I can improve upon the person I was in the past.

Getting up that early used to be really hard. When I was younger, I heard the really successful people in life did it. I tried it. I failed. About 9 months ago, I started attempting the early wake up again. I didn’t like working out after work, so I decided to make the move to the mornings before work. I probably averaged 2 days a week of actually getting up and going. Around November of last year, I heard The Jocko Podcast for the first time. I was intrigued. Here was a guy (former Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink) who said if you want to get up at 4:30 in the morning, then get up. There was no slow acclimation. There was no beating around the bush. Just do it. So I started doing it, not 2 out of 7 days, but every day including the weekends. During that time I read his book, Discipline Equals Freedom. The content was more of the same: You can achieve your goals with hard work and discipline. It is that mentality that gets me up in the morning. How can I achieve the things I want in life if I am always sleeping in? I can’t. If you want to achieve a different result, then you have to do things differently. I had to wake up.

Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink, “Begin”

If this post inspires you to change, then do it. Along the way, you may find accountability helps. If you can find a group of like-minded individuals, you will be amazed how much more consistent your progress will be. There are several twitter groups (#0445Club and #SamaraiGang) that I associate with. They are both very positive groups that inspire me to achieve greater heights. Since last November, I have lost about 35 pounds, have read about 26 books, and written more than I have in the previous three years. I am far from where I want to be, but I have a lot more discipline. In turn, I have so much more freedom.