If you are reading this right now, then hopefully I have your undivided attention. This post will only take one minute to read. If in that time, you have a stray thought, a phone notification, or any other type of interruption, I will have failed in my mission of holding your attention. I still might have a chance to regain it, but only if my words are compelling enough to bring you back.
Imagine the amount of money spent in advertising. Billboards, commercials, and promoted social media content all have one purpose in mind. They know the value of your attention, and they will spend as much as they can to get it. Will you be able to focus on one thing if your attention is constantly divided by everyone and everything?
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. –Lin Yutang
The non-essentials are clutter. They take up space in your home, at work, and in your mind. If you run too many programs on your computer, your system will slow down and be less productive. Not only is this true for computers, it is true for our lives. To be more stable and more efficient, you need to stop the processes that are slowing you down. Once you move the non-essentials to the recycle bin, you will be able to put your attention on the things that matter.
You would be clever to stop a quarrel before it goes too far. You would be wise to never get in that quarrel in the first place.
A clever person can see that he is out of shape and then takes the necessary steps to get back into shape. It is not easy, but it goes a long ways in preventing future health problems. A wise person knows that it is much easier to stay fit than it is to become fit. Oh, that I was wise when I was younger.
I have had my share of problems. I have spent a good deal of my adult years trying to solve the problems I created for myself as a youth. I have tried to be clever in my solutions. With most problems, the key was to minimize the damage and solve it as painlessly as possible. It doesn’t always work, but it is better than allowing the problem to escalate.
I have saved myself a lot of money by getting out of debt as quickly as possible. But some of that debt, i.e. student loans, I held onto for way too long. Along the way, third parties have given me clever solutions to relieve that burden. But no matter how clever the scheme, there was always a catch. It would sound like a wise choice for me, but it was really clever for them to be the holders of that debt. What I don’t remember is anybody giving me the truly wise advice of not getting into that debt in the first place. How much more money would I have had if I knew the costs of that loan before I got it? It is too late for me to change the past on that one, but I can shape the future for my son when he is old enough.
A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it. –Albert Einstein
I always saw Einstein’s quote as too simple. Of course, it is better to avoid problems. Why would one of the smartest people to walk on this planet say something so simple? Shouldn’t wisdom be complex? Shouldn’t we overthink things a little more?
The missions with the greatest success rates are the simple ones. They are easy to understand and execute. Bog them down with too much complex variables, and they will fail. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Keep it simple and reduce the amount of potential problems. Einstein understood this, because he was a master of solving problems. You could be a master at solving problems too, or you could find a way to avoid as many as possible. Choose wisely.
Hitler. Talking over a few beers to his friends. They listened. It wasn’t too long afterward that he was raving his beliefs in front of a whole nation. They weren’t listening to anybody else, but they were listening to him. They burned the books that disagreed with his ideology. They killed the people that spoke against him. They exterminated those that were perceived as being different. One man. One thought. One nation plunging the whole world into war.
Beware of the person of one book. –Thomas Aquinas
If you were only to read one book, what would it be? Okay, that is not a fair question for where I want to go with this. Why would anyone only read one book? And don’t say the Bible, which is really a collection from multiple authors. Actually a better question would be: Why would you only get insight from one author, or from one influencer, whether it be from a book or [heaven help me] a celebrity, like one of those social media types?
If your pursuit is to find more wisdom in your life, you are not going to get it from only one source. You need to find it from books, mentors, and any other place wisdom can be found. Multiple sources. You are going to have to take it in, try it out, qualify it, and if it’s any good, then apply it to your life.
The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of the past centuries. –René Descartes
Now, Descartes put it well when he said this. A good book can stand the test of time. They are written by incredible thinkers driven by the pursuit of wisdom. Unlike today, it wasn’t easy publish books back then .And to keep them in circulation long enough to survive to our lifetimes, they had to be really good. Some of the books today will be gone and forgotten before the end of the decade. And the bad thing about some of the books today is…
The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones. –Joseph Joubert
The old books aren’t popular. They aren’t as easy to read and some of them are really long-winded. But they are worth it. Reading from them will give the reader a different perspective of how life should be lived. It will give the reader a greater appreciation for the things that matter. The old books will change your way of thinking. To really stand out in today’s world, consider consuming more than what is just popular now. Go find one of those old books that has withstood the test of time and give it try. You may find your way of thinking to become different than what everyone else is thinking.
If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. –Haruki Murakami
It is judgment day, and it is your turn. Your Creator will ask you how you spent your time on earth. How will you respond?
Some will say they took this precious gift of life and lived it to the best of their abilities. They didn’t squander their time on frivolous pursuits. They lived a virtuous life, full of wisdom, discipline, righteousness, and courage. They were not without faith, hope, and love. They lived as their God intended.
There are some that unlike the good stewards, who took their gifts and multiplied them exponentially, buried their gifts in the ground and never did anything with them. They killed their time, because they were bored. They wasted it thinking it was their time and they could pass it anyway they please. They may have not done any harm to others, but they weren’t really doing any good either.
And then there are the ones in between. They weren’t totally worthless, but they could have done so much better. Most of us probably fit in this category. Undoubtedly, this is where I am. I want to be the good steward, but alas, I have a long way to go. Gains don’t come easy. I have to fight to be a little more virtuous each day. There are times when I squander the hours away, and my regrets only come too late as the time has already gone by. The only thing I can do is try to be a little better tomorrow, to make up some ground. For the ones like me, the ones in between, its about baby steps. It is about progress toward the top, while trying to keep from sliding all the way to the bottom. One step at a time. One day at a time.
Look around and identify what will move the needle forward. Your phone. Is it a tool to boost your productivity and quality of life? Or is it a convenient means to pass the time and get the day over with? The world has created all kinds of gadgets to keep you from achieving your goals. It has become, as it has always been, the devil’s playground to the idle souls. You have to raise yourself up beyond the distractions and live in a way your Creator intended.
Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time. -Voltaire
Ever try to chop wood with a dull blade? You can get it done, but it is not easy. I have been chopping a lot of wood lately, and it has got me thinking about this tool.
The purpose of a good tool is to get a job done and to do it efficiently. A dull axe is like using a 3G phone today. You can eventually get where you want to go, but it is going to take you a while. And the whole time you are waiting for it to load up, you are going to know that things could be a lot better. In a world of sharp axes, your 3G phone is dull.
We are similar to that axe. We can be sharp, or we can be dull. When you are sharp, you get things quick. You are efficient and productive. But when you are dull, you are slow and inefficient.
To take a dull axe and make it sharp takes time. The latest method I tried using began with a metal file. I filed the edge of the axe down until I could no longer see any chips along the blade. When I was satisfied with the edge, I began to use a smooth stone. By the time I was done, my sharpened axe was an efficient chopping machine. My cuts were deeper, and my work went by quicker.
Like the axe, to become sharp in life takes time. You have to slowly and methodically remove the imperfections. In the beginning, like the metal file, you are shaving away the big chunks through your own education. You will get sharper as you go, but you will still be rough. But once your foundational work is done, you can get that whet stone out and start honing yourself to a fine edge. The whet stone is trial and error. This can’t be taught in books. You live and you learn.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe. –Abraham Lincoln
Ever since I started wearing a Fitbit a couple of years ago, I have really been interested in the quality and duration of my sleep. The first thing I do every morning is assess the previous night’s sleep. How do I feel? Do I think the quality was good? After this quick check-in with my body, I open the Fitbit app on my phone and compare how I feel to what my watch tells me.
Most of the time, my assessment and what my watch tells me are similar. Sometimes, however, they don’t match. When they are out of sync, I have to monitor the psychological games going on in my head and not let it have a negative influence on my day. Why do I feel good, I am showing very little deep sleep? I feel okay, but oh no, I’m showing I didn’t sleep much at all.
My Fitbit is a good tool. By taking a good look at my sleep quality, I can try to determine the causes for a bad night of sleep. So what exactly do I need to do to sleep better? To go to sleep and truly get the rest I need and desire, I must do the following:
Get up early. If I sleep too long, there is a greater chance I will not be ready to go to sleep the next night.
Exercise. I have to wear myself out physically during the day. I’ve noticed this with my little boy too. If he goes through the day with little exercise (i.e. a long day of travelling), then he will be super-hyper in the evening and not want to go to bed.
Cut off food intake a couple of hours before turning in. I am not sure if there is any science to this, but I know how my body reacts. The nights I eat dinner late usually results in poor sleep scores the next morning.
Limit fluid intake. This is for obvious reasons. If I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I often struggle to get back to sleep.
Have a clean conscience. Ever go to bed with something bothering you from the day before? It is hell trying to get it off your mind and get to sleep. This could be an argument, a task I failed to complete, or anything that is just bothering me. If I can’t tie it off, it will stay open in my mind all night.
Stretch it out. If I don’t I going to wake up in the middle of the night aching. I’m going to be stiffer than usual in the morning. The cure is preventative maintenance the night before. I don’t always spend a lot of time on this, but I do make sure I get my hamstrings and psoas.
Fatigue my eyes by reading before turning out the light for the night. Reading (not social media) is the key, but nothing that is so interesting that I keep reading all night. I’ve recently turned to biographies for this nightly ritual.
Throughout the day, I write down all the things I need to get done. This is especially important before bed (journaling) to ensure my mind is empty and has nothing to think about while lying in bed.
If I follow the above protocol, the chances are good I will wake up refreshed the next morning and be ready to attack the new day. These are my best practices, but I am always looking for new ways to enhance my sleep. What are your best practices?
In the end, winning is sleeping better. –Jodie Foster
We become what we think about all day long. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
What do you think about? Do you ever pay attention to the song that gets stuck in your head? What about the video clip that seems to be burned into your mind’s eye hours after you watched it? Did you ever imagine the things you exposed your mind to on a regular basis could have a long-lasting effect on you?
Take any aspect of our current political environment. Regardless of chosen sides, every aspect can be perceived as negative. Consume enough political news throughout the day and soon you will be seeing the negative around every corner.
Now look at the videos, music, and social media you consume. Is what you are consuming in line with where you want to be in the future? Does it match your current set of values? If not, what are the chances of your values going to the same level as the media you consume?
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become. –Buddha
Your mind is one of your most valuable resources. To get where you want to go in life, you have to ensure your mind is functioning at an optimal level. Fortunately, our minds are programmable. We can believe what we want to believe. We can consume what we want to consume. We can protect our minds from the media that is preventing us from achieving our goals.
In his book,Speaking to Win, Brian Tracey makes a great point about our minds and thinking:
The highest-paid and most valuable work in America is thinking. This is because, of all things that people do, thinking has the greatest possible consequences. The better you think, the better decisions you make. The better decisions you make, the better actions you will take. The better actions you take, the better results you will get, and the better will be the quality of your life and work. Everything begins with thinking.
With this in mind, here is asimplelist to help reprogram your mind:
1.Define your values or what you want to value. This can be a goal, it can be what you want to stand for, or it can be who you want to be.
2.Program your mind by consuming the things that will help get you closer to your destination.
3.Discern what media is pulling you away from the path.
4.With discipline, turn away or turn off, the unproductive media. You have to learn to say no to the things that pull you away. They are vying for your attention and your time.
5.Do the work. Here is your call to action. Your mind, by this time, should be in the right place. But without working toward your goals and values, you will have only unused knowledge. What is the point of that? Take what you have learned, act on it, and see how far you can go.
Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.–Willie Nelson
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. -Richard Steele
Here is a step to becoming a more complete person. Start small if you have to. Even 5-10 minutes of strengthening your brain muscle a day can make a difference.
The Virtue of Prudence
There is an unlimited wealth in having wisdom that goes beyond money, possessions, and social status. We can all grow in wisdom if we choose to pursue it. King Solomon regarded as one of the wisest to have lived said: Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain of it is better than gain from silver, and its profit better than gold. –Proverbs 3:13-14
Can you hear the call of wisdom? It is there, we only have to listen.
My son opens the new box of Legos. He is excited and can’t wait to complete finished product as shown on the box. Multiple bags of bricks come out of the box and then the instructions. The instructions. A book that can shoot upwards of a hundred pages depending on the difficulty of the project.
Maybe someday Alec will become a “master builder,” but right now he is still learning. When he was four, he put a few together but mostly watched us put it together for him. At five, a little better. Now at six, his build quality has improved and the instructions are not as overwhelming as before.
In those early days of building, the instructions were daunting. He knew he was supposed to follow them, but that was much easier said than done. The concept was there, but he lacked the execution.
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. –Benjamin Franklin
The techniques I use for training associates in manufacturing were the same techniques I used in the Army and in retail. As a trainee, here is what you can expect:
You can read the instructions. In almost every organization, there is a manual. It will give you the basics (tools, conditions, etc.) of the procedure you wish to perform. It may not make sense, but at least it is something.
You can watch someone and try to emulate them. Watching an expert perform a task brings the instruction manual to life. You can get a sense of the rhythm, witness the skill, and pick up on any tips that the manual doesn’t cover.
You can read the instructions, watch a trainer, and then perform the procedure yourself under the trainer’s watchful eye. The trainers can guide and correct you. They can show you how to minimize wasteful movements and boost your productivity. Under their tutelage, you can in time become an expert yourself.
This method for training goes beyond the workplace. Imagine using these concepts in grooming our children for adulthood.
You can tell a child what to do and hope they get it. This is like giving them the instruction manual. If your child can listen well, there might be a chance.
The child can watch you. In fact, whether you know it or not, the child is already watching you. You are the example. They will follow your example. If you sit around and complain all the time, guess what your children will do? The same thing. For good or for bad, you are the one they will emulate.
The best parenting advice I know: You tell them, you show them, and then you let them go through the experience while you watch them. It is active parenting. Your words match your actions. Their actions in turn are molded by their leader.
You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. –Oliver Goldsmith
The next time you open up a self-development book, keep this training method in mind. It is good that you are reading it, but there is only so much you can get out of it. Depending on your retention level, the words will only take you so far. It would be better is to find someone, an expert, to emulate. Even better, find someone who can guide you as you go through the process yourself.
As you develop, remember it is through action that improvement is possible. In time, you are going to want to share that knowledge with others. Telling someone what you know will only be so effective. Living what you know and then guiding others in that knowledge is where the real mastery is achieved.
When you exercise, who are you exercising for? When you go to the gym, are you there to get in shape or to impress others?
This was the discussion I had last week with several colleagues.What is the motivation behind some of the antics seen in the gym? Too often, we see some ridiculous feat and wonder if it isreallynecessary. Is this act in line with the person’s fitness goals or is it to show off to people who are most likely not even watching?
When you’re 20 you care what everybody thinks, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.–Winston Churchill
As I wonder about these oddities, I have to question my own actions. How many times have I been out running and stood a little taller or ran a little faster because I thought someone might be watching? I should be running for myself and for my own fitness. Why do I care what others may think? I am not running for them.
Let philosophy scrape off your own faults, rather than be a way to rail against the faults of others.–Seneca
What is my motivation for studying philosophy? When I study the virtuous life, who am I studying for? Of course, I want to share with others all the fabulous lessons I am learning. But at the end of the day, I study the virtues so that I may become more virtuous.
As I increase in my learning, the temptation is to judge others who are marching to a different tune. What difference does it make to me? They are accountable to themselves, and I to myself. I should willingly help them if they wish, but I should not judge them. The study of philosophy is for me to grow and improve as a human. It is not for me to flex my intellectual muscles in front of all those who come near me.Chances are, they are not even watching.