54 lessons from 54 years

It was my 54th birthday last month. Inspired by Kevin Kelley’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice, here are my reminders to myself about what works for me, broken into 4 sections:

  • Getting the Day off to a Great Start
  • Staying on Track During the Day
  • Eating and Exercise
  • Relationships and Communication

I hope some of these are of value to you. Let me know what you think!

Getting the Day off to a Great Start

1. Get the sleep you need.

If you are tired, your chances of doing good go down, and saying bad things and making poor food choices go up.

2. Don’t use an alarm to wake up. (Unless you have some early appointment you can’t miss)

That way you’re not jolted out of bed mid-deep-sleep cycle. If you get regular on your bedtime, your body will get regular on your wake-up time. If you need to go to bed earlier to get the sleep you need, do it. If you’ve traveled across time zones, you’ll just have to do the best you can!

3. When you wake up, get up.

If you’re procrastinating about getting up, you either didn’t give yourself enough time to sleep, or you aren’t really excited about what’s going on in your life, so better to get up and start doing something to change that

4. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, kiss them before you get out of bed.

It gets the oxytocin flowing, makes you both smile, and reminds you how lucky you are.

5. Make your bed straight away.

It gives you an easy accomplishment and at least one corner of your life is now neat and tidy. (And now you’re even less likely to go back to bed)

6. Start every day with a moment outside (ideally at sunrise).

Look, listen, smell, feel, and marvel at nature. (I spent a long year strung out trying to sleep in the front room on a busy road where the trucks would shake me awake at 4 am. I’m incredibly lucky to now live in a quiet location surrounded by trees. We need restful sleep and contact with nature to be our best selves.)

7. A cold shower or plunge is the most effective way to wake up

Even after 5 years, I’m still shocked by the cold water. But a cup of coffee is no match for the charge this gives your entire body. I believe it’s a great stimulant for autophagy as well, but I’ll leave that to the scientists to prove.

8. 10–20 minutes of daily yoga helps your body move better.

Functional movement is essential to healthy aging (and you’ll need to move after that cold shower, lol). We need core strength, flexibility, and balance. Aging starts wreaking havoc when we stop moving or fall down.

9. 5–10 minutes of meditation gets your head and heart in the right place

Days typically don’t go so well without the right attitude. And you can get amazing insights on what’s bugging you and what you need to focus on.

10. Take a moment to notice some detail every day.

Smell the roses (literally), look at all the different gardens, listen to the birds and insects. As Ferris Bueller would say, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around you might just miss it

11. Writing down things you’re grateful for reminds you how lucky you are (vs. being upset about what you don’t have and the bad things that happen).

I aim for a least three things. Sometimes it’s just the details like the smell of coffee, or putting on clean clothes. Other days it’s family, friends, having an income, or somewhere to stay.

12. If something is troubling you, journal it.

Write out the worst-case scenario, with all of your worst fears and interpretations of human nature. Then, thank your lizard brain for trying to protect you, and go back and write a draft that gives the benefit of the doubt to you and everyone else. You’ll be amazed at how this can help you re-frame an issue or get it into perspective.

13. Write down the 1–3 things you can do that will make it a good day and do them.

Don’t be unrealistic in your expectations (I’m always over-estimating what I can do in a day). Don’t make the day’s success dependent on others (that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment).

14. Do the hardest thing first. Don’t get distracted with less important things.

The day will pass quickly, and our ability to resist temptation declines as the day progresses, so do the hardest, most important things first while your willpower is still strong and hopefully before other things start competing for your attention.

Staying on Track During the Day

15. Go on a permanent diet from current affairs and daily stock prices.

When the COVID-19 shutdown happened, I only added to my anxiety by ending my news and stock price holiday. It’s almost 100% noise, very little signal. People will tell you if something really important happened anyway.

16. Prioritize spare moments for quality long-form audio and writing.

You’ll learn a ton and have a sense of actual accomplishment. It’s easy to use a couple of minutes here and there to check email or social on your phone. Instead, make Audible or Kindle your go-to at those moments.

17. If you happen to catch yourself surfing online mindlessly, stop. Remind yourself what you wanted to be doing and get back to doing that.

The internet is an amazingly seductive and infinite treasure trove. It’s best to ration your social and email to specific time blocks 1–2 times a day.

18. If you’re frustrated with how the day is going, take 5.

Stand up and stretch, do some squats or pushups, get a glass of water, pet the dogs, and/or go outside for a walk. Give yourself a little mental break to work out how to take the next little step forward on what matters most. Then come back to your workspace and do it.

19. If you need energy, call a high-energy friend to say hi.

The conversation will brighten the day and recharge you better than any cup of coffee, or hit of sugar. Work out who those positive people are and keep a list handy for when your energy flags.

20. Do your best to do things well

Find contentment with honest dedication and process, not the outcome (you can only control your inputs, not the outcome)

21. Aim high, but be ready to adapt to whatever happens.

It’s great to dream big and have high hopes for every day but expect that things can and will go wrong. So be ready to course-correct as necessary.

22. You really only learn by doing

You can intellectually get something, but the only way to internalize it is by doing it.

Eating and Exercise

23. If you’ve got a headache, have a glass of water.

If it goes away, you were probably dehydrated. If your skin is dry or your urine is anything more than pale yellow, you’re definitely dehydrated. If your urine is red (and you haven’t been eating beetroot, lol) go see your doctor!

24. If you think you’re hungry, have a glass of water.

Most times if you forget about it, the hunger will go away again.

25. Wash your hands before preparing and eating anything.

Thank you COVID-19 for reminding us about good hygiene lessons our parents tried to teach us!

26. It’s almost always better to share food with others than eat alone.

We are social beings. Most times a conversation over food will brighten your day.

27. Taste it before you serve it, and fix it if it’s not right.

If it tastes right to you, it’s probably going to taste right for most other people. You can’t fix it once it’s on the table. The right balance of salt, sweet, fat, and acid is the key to delicious for almost any food that’s not a bakery item. The more you practice tasting and adjusting with one or more of these the better you’ll get.

28. If it’s not great and you’re not starving, don’t keep eating it.

You’ve only got room for the good stuff, so don’t waste that room filling up on mediocre.

29. Eat slow, savor, and stop when you’re full.

Otherwise, you’ll just be uncomfortable for the next couple of hours. If you feel compelled to finish everything on the plate, try just leaving a last bite on the plate each time to break the compulsion. If you catch yourself eating too quickly, and faster than others at the table, slow down and savor the remaining bites. If you’ve finished, and you still think you’re hungry go floss and brush your teeth (you’re less likely to want to snack once you’ve invested those couple of minutes)

30. You don’t need to save all the leftovers from a party or meal.

Give them to someone hungry, or throw them out if you can’t.

31. If it’s not in the house, you’re less likely to eat it.

This is remarkably effective. And really difficult if you’ve got kids or you don’t get rid of the party leftovers.

32. Coffee and dark chocolate are delicious, but too much too late in the day and they’ll just mess with your sleep.

Some folks are definitely more sensitive than others. Learn how your body responds. For me around noon is the cut-off. I usually fall sound asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. If I have any trouble it’s either coffee, dark chocolate, or stress.

33. Good beer, wine, and spirits are delicious, but alcohol always borrows some happiness from tomorrow

Even if it only impacts sleep quality. More alcohol equals more food and feeling worse about yourself the next day. It’s almost sacrilegious for an Aussie to say this, but you don’t need to finish the bottle, you can actually just pour it out.

34. Yes/no rules take less effort to stick to.

It’s much easier to not drink 2 days in a row than to stop at two drinks. Or don’t drink coffee after 2 pm, or don’t eat at children’s birthday parties, than to decide at the moment if you should or shouldn’t because willpower is not reliable and runs out as the day progresses

35. Self-discipline creates self-respect

It might not be the most fun choice, but you’ll always feel better later. Cold showers and exercise, or getting something finished for work are a case-in-point.

36. You finish running 100 miles by making one step at a time.

If you can take another step without endangering your long-term health, you just keep going. Big accomplishments are the sum of lots of small efforts.

37. Exercising in nature is always better than indoors.

An hour a day in nature is much better for you mentally and emotionally and goes by a lot faster than an hour on the treadmill or stationary bike.

38. If it’s later in the day and you don’t feel like exercising, just try starting.

You’ll probably end up getting it done, and you’ll almost certainly feel better

39. Try taking a different trail or street on your next run or ride or drive.

Another benefit of COVID-19 was exploring all the streets in my neighborhood that I’d never been down. Variety and surprises just make life more interesting.

Relationships and Communication

40. Strangers welcome conversations. People like to be asked.

You’ll be surprised how often that turns out better than you expected. People are distracted or scared. If you want to connect with others, make the first move. Don’t ever expect anyone to return the favor (most people are doing their best just to get by). Be delighted when they do.

41. Be brave and start a conversation

Say something nice and/or ask a question. You’ll probably brighten your day and theirs.

42. If that text, message, or email is getting too long, it’s time to talk.

If there’s room for misinterpretation and it matters, go see them, get on a video call or just call them. It’ll save time in the long run.

43. You reap what you sow. Giving is better than receiving. Showing you care makes such a difference.

Good turns are rewards in themselves. Make breakfast or a cup of tea. Give someone a hug or asking how they are doing. Sending an article or a podcast to someone you think it would be relevant for. Introducing people with shared interests. Using Facebook to remember birthdays (and even old friends). Using LinkedIn to recognize promotions (and old colleagues and connections).

44. Attention is the most precious thing you can give

Spend it wisely on the people and things that matter to you (vs. giving it away to marketers and the endless distractions of the internet). If you can find 10 minutes to really listen to someone and give them your undivided attention, that is a lot better than an hour of partial attention.

45. If you have the faintest inkling you did something wrong, you probably did

So you better do what you can to make amends!

46. Usually, you are the only person that can and will fix the situation

So you better start fixing it!

47. The sooner you act on fixing things, the sooner you’ll start feeling better.

Come up with a plan and then act on it. Every tiny step forward will make you feel better. Sitting around feeling bad won’t help anyone.

48. Learn to love yourself for your sake and everyone else’s

Self-loathing has a nasty way of impacting the way you judge others. If you learn how to be nice to yourself, it’ll help you to be much nicer to everyone else.

49. If you’re getting annoyed, work out what’s triggering you.

You’re probably being triggered/reacting to something you don’t like about yourself. Find kindness by reminding yourself that another person is being like you on another day

50. 99 times out of 100 the other person is trying to do the right thing

No matter how much it doesn’t make sense to you, it probably does to them, so find out what they were thinking before you pass judgment

51. Mirroring and empathy work better than problem-solving

Most of the time we just want to be heard first. No matter how much you want to help others avoid mistakes, or tell them our brilliant way to fix whatever challenges they’re facing, they’re only going to listen to advice when they tell us they’re ready to hear it.

52. Your kids are meant to be who they are, not who you wanted to be.

They’re not your second chance to be who you wanted to be, so stop expecting that from them. Help them to find and be their best selves.

53. Use prompts and your environment to mitigate mistakes when you’re tired or cranky

It sucks that judgment errors (whether those are using the wrong words or losing your temper or eating or surfing mindlessly) can add up to outweigh all the good work you’ve done earlier in the day and that those mistakes are most likely when you have the least willpower to manage them. Set up your environment to help you succeed (e.g. making sure there aren’t undesirable snacks in the kitchen), and prepare yourself mentally for the desired behavior (when x triggers me, I will do y). Don’t plan hard mental activity for the afternoons if that’s when you get tired, instead reserve that time for calls, admin activities, cleaning the house, and exercise.

54. Reflect on the day and prep for tomorrow

Take a few moments to reflect on the best things that happened. Note a couple of things you could have done better. Sketch out a plan for tomorrow. Layout your clothes for the next morning. Go to bed in time to be ready for another great day.

TSA Pre – The best gift of the holiday season

tsa_preIf you’re a frequent traveller, airport security is a constant pain if for no other reason than the uncertain duration.   Even with premier access lines for frequent fliers, at airports like SFO, EWR and ORD the premier access lines can take 15+ minutes.  For most of last year, I used to head up to the premier line at International to avoid the monster premier access security lines at United Domestic (and the United Club is better there too).

Life before TSA Pre

Along comes TSA Pre.  Suddenly the barcode on your boarding pass grants access to a lane with no one in it.  You leave everything on except bulky winter jackets (no need to take off shoes, belts and sweaters),  laptop and liquids stay in the bag, and no full-body scanner.  It’s just so civilized.   And so quick.

Life after TSA Pre

Flying out of SFO on New Year’s Day my morning looked grim with another monster queue, when all of a sudden I spy the TSA Pre lane, my hopes are raised, and the lady scans my boarding pass and waves me through.  And I’m through in barely a minute, without having to go through the whole uncomfortable undress and unpack business.  Leaving Chicago on Thursday, same fabulous experience. It really does feel like Christmas.  I guess I’ll be annoyed at any airports that don’t have it now…

Very easy to sign up.  Just Google TSA Pre + [Name of your airline] to find the sign up page.  For United, all I had to do was tick a box saying I wanted in and press submit.

Go on, give yourself the gift that will keep on giving.

Safe travels, all!

Finding the time to Crush It!

photo courtesy of IanL

If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to the audio version of Gray Vaynerchuk’s Crush It!, do yourself a favor.  As Gary admits, during one of his many ad libs, he dictated the book to a ghost writer anyway, so this is actually the format it was meant to be heard in.  Scrap that, you need the video-cast, to get the full “gary vee” experience (like his awesome Wine Library TV video blog).

For those not familiar, Gary is another of the social media celebrities, who helped grow his family’s wine business from $4M to $60M in 5 years, who has a ridiculous number of followers on twitter and fans on facebook. He brought passion and a raw approachability to demystifying the enjoyment of wine, which the industry sorely needed.

If you need to get pumped up about whatever it is you are passionate about doing, the audio version of this book  could get just about anybody excited.  The passion and excitement in his voice is palpable and infectious. And for most of us, finding time to listen in the car or working out is a lot easier than finding time to read.

Now this takes us to the crux of the problem – finding the time.

Unlike Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week, Gary is not suggesting creating a “muse” that will earn big dollars for you with minimum time investment, so you can life the life of your dreams now.  He’s actually suggesting a LOT of hard work.  Your priorities are family, health and then your passion.  Kiss the wife and kids good night and get to work 9pm-2am.  Every night. Repeat.  Don’t worry about the stats, if you’re the best in your narrowly-defined field (finding a niche small enough that you can be best in the world at it is key), and passionate about it, the rabid fans will come and stay, and, over time, you’ll be able to monetize your passion, and give up your day job.  We’re not talking crazy wealth here, just $50-100K which is good enough for a decent life, and at least your spending your waking hours doing something you give a damn about.

The book has a decent amount of tactical advice on how to do all of this, from getting a URL to setting up a blog site, to creating great content.  Where all the work comes is in engaging with the audience.  This is of course where most of us fall down.  We get obsessed with the content and forget about building the community.  They won’t appear all by themselves, you have to make them want to come, again and again.  If you want to understand the degree of this dedication, he still answers every tweet or email, despite the staggering volume he receives..  I tried this and its true.  Less than 24 hours after tweeting props about the audiobook, he @ replied back with a thank you.  Amazing.

After hearing the book, I was naturally pumped to try this out.  And that’s when it dawns on you.  You have got to want this more than anything else to make it happen.  You need the chutzpah and the hustle to self-promote.  Endlessly. I can handle a few late nights in a row, but then I run out of gas.  And I love spending time with my family.  And I have an awesome day job.  So now, I want to combine Seth’s Linchpin with Gary’s Crush It! and make this happen on my day job.  Because that’s near and present.  And that way it doesn’t have to be 9pm-2am every night.

How I ran an Ultra on 3 days/week with bad knees

Me, happily finishing the 2009 Quad Dipsea

Health and wellness are key components of a rich life.  You only have to lose them for a day to realize how precious they are.

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, I successfully finished the Quad Dipsea (roughly 29 miles and 9300 vertical feet of climbing) in 5 1/2 hours placing me at 29th out of a field of 250.  The feeling of joy and sense of accomplishment as I crested the final hill and knew I was going to finish almost brought tears to my eyes and will be with me for a long time.  An unlike a road marathon, I was walking well the next day, and headed out for a little trot on Monday to stretch out the legs.

This is the first ultra I’ve run since Way Too Cool 50k in 2003 and I wanted to share a few tips on how I pulled this off with a 12 week training program including only 3 cardio training sessions per week.  For those of us who want to take on a significant athletic challenge but have families and careers, I thought it’d be helpful to know you can do it.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been nursing temperamental knees, ankles, plantar fascitis, achilles tendons and hamstrings, yet somehow managed to avoid surgery or stopping running altogether, so several of the tips pertain to preventative maintenance which becomes more important as our bodies age and tighten.

1. Periodize Your Training

The human body gets stronger through a process of increased intensity followed by rest.  This is why they don’t climb Everest in one shot, but go up and down between the base camps getting used to progressively higher altitudes.  What this means for a training program is don’t build from your base to the max in a continuous line, but add a little, maintain, and then back off, before building again.

My 12 week training plan for the 2009 Quad Dipsea

For a 12 week training period this would mean breaking it up into 3 x 4 week periods each containing 2 Medium, 1 Hard, and 1 Easy week.  You can see my training plan on the left, and read an explanation of the key components in following sections.  The great benefit of this is you can typically take it really easy in the Easy week following a Hard week if you push it too hard and some body part gets aggravated (quite likely on an accelerated training program like this).   Also, its much easier on the mind to break down the challenge of the 12 weeks as 3 manageable chunks each of 4 weeks.

2. Long Runs are Top Priority

Time Commit: Build from 2.5 to 5 hours per week.

There are a number of reasons for prioritizing long runs:

  • If you can finish a long run at 2/3 – 3/4 of your ultra (I built up to 21 miles  for a 29 mile ultra), you can finish your ultra.  Long runs give you confidence.
  • Once you start going over 2 1/2 hours, you use up all the carbohydrate (glycogen) stores in your body and the body starts to turn fat into energy.  This is typically associated with “hitting the wall” in a marathon (the point in time at which  your body turns to fat as a fuel source). You’ll need to train yourself to keep running when you reach this point to successfully run an ultra.
  • You can practice using different nutrition and pieces of equipment to find what works.  What are you going to eat and drink, when to provide rehydration and energy without causing nausea or cramping?  How are you going to carry all this stuff ?    Do you need to lubricate certain areas to prevent chafing?  What socks and shoes won’t cause blisters?

I highly recommend training on terrain as similar as possible to the ultra, at race pace (more on this later).  Find some beautiful trails close to home that you can enjoy running on.  After long runs, take a 10-15 minute ice bath (I’ve had good success with just cold water), very unpleasant on entry, but brilliant for recovery.

This is the most intensive time sink on the weekends, so start as early as possible to minimize the impact on family time, negotiate in advance with any significant others for the time, and find some interesting podcasts to listen too (I’ve enjoyed learning French with Coffee Break French, listening to Free by Chris Anderson and Triibes by Seth Godin (both free downloads), TED talks, iinovate, and the Economist).

3. Interval Workouts with Stairs & Hills are 2nd Priority

Time Commit: Build from 1.5 hours per week.

If you’re doing an ultra with a lot of climbing, stair climbing sessions are a necessary evil.  My “favorite” 1 hour workout combined 20 minutes of stair climbing with approx 25 minutes of walking at 4mph on a 15% slope, finishing with a couple of miles at a fast clip.  Fast walking uphill when tired is an extremely useful skill in ultras as is getting used to the transition from walking to running when you crest a hill.  If you substitute elliptical or bike for the run at the end, you have a low impact workout.

4. Mid-week Run and other Cardio are 3rd Priority

Time Commit: Build from 1 – 2 hours per week.

Don’t add miles for the sake of it.  But a second run is good conditioning for the legs (at the end of the day the best training for running is running).  If cardiovascular endurance is your main challenge and the musculature is strong, add more runs.  If  you’re worried about injuries, use elliptical or bike to add endurance.   The bike is great at the gym because it’s so easy to read while you’re on it (use a HR monitor until you know what level to ride at), and out on the roads for building quad strength climbing hills.

5. Use Trail Races to Test Race Pace and Nutrition and Build Endurance

Time Commit: 3-5.5 hours once per month

There’s nothing quite like an organized run to get the competitive juices flowing.  I’m a big fan of the runs put on by Pacific Trails.  They’ve found the most fabulous scenic and hilly trails in the Bay Area, they have about 25 events per year, each one offering distances from 10k to 50k they’re great hosts and very well organized with clearly marked trails and well-stocked aid stations.  And they know the ultra community so well, so you can learn anything you need to.

One of the key things to do in races is to learn how hard you can go without blowing up.  Its good to get on the wrong side of the line a few times for the conditioning effect and reminder of how humbling that can be.

The other key component is getting your nutrition right because its under stress that things start coming undone – especially dehydration, cramps and nausea.  I nearly blew the Quad via nausea by taking watermelon with salt at the first Stinson Beach turnaround because they had no potatoes.  So use the trail races – about 1/month to work out what works (and, more importantly, what doesn’t).

6. Use Yoga to Build Core and Flexibility

Time Commit: 2.5-3 hours per week

Yoga has been the big find for me this year.  It provides great core strengthening, balance and flexibility improvements.  I’m particularly inflexible and yoga has offset the compression of running to keep my iliotibial (IT) band stretched enough to not bother my kneee. Twice a week of Vinyasa or other flow-based practice seems to do the trick.  And learning how to be grateful and at peace with yourself while practicing a little flow is good for your happiness as well 🙂

7. Roll, Stretch, Strengthen, Ice, Repeat

Time Commit: 30 mins in front of the tv, 3 times per week

I’ve got to believe most people have a long list of items to watch on their Tivo/DVR.  So its just something productive to do when you’d otherwise be completely immobile on the couch.  Using a foam roller will really help to break down scar tissue forming on your legs. Roll until you find a sore spot, hold for 20 seconds, roll to the next spot.  Then stretch out problem areas – nice long gentle stretches of up to 2 minutes duration without bouncing (believe it or not, stretching improves through relaxing, not forcing the muscles).  If you’ve got a few strengthening exercises (squats, 1-legged squats, leg raises, crab walks, etc) from your physical therapist or chiropractor now is the time to do them.   A few sit-ups, planks, crunches, and  back extensions are good if you’re not doing any yoga.  Then strap an ice pack on to the tender areas (in my case, knees) for 10-15 minutes.  You should ideally roll and stretch before exercising. 

8. On Race Day, Back off  the Pace, Have More Fun and Finish Quicker

Time Commit: 5.5-9 hours, Memories: Priceless

This is the most critical piece of advice I can give.  From bitter experience, if you go out too hard, you’ll most likely blow up.  Back off, enjoy the beautiful scenery and if you feel good later, pick up the pace.  If I go out too hard, (typically characterized by getting anaerobic on the first couple of hills) I typically get severe cramping after 2.5 hours, no matter how many salt tablets and/or water I take or stretches I do.  If I back off 5-10%, the cramps don’t happen.  In the Quad I ran the Double in 2:37 vs. my personal best of 2:27.  Those 10 minutes made all the difference in the world.  I had to consciously keep reminding myself to slow down on that first leg – coming into Stinson Beach the first time I just felt fantastic.

I hope this experience will provide some guidance and inspiration for others.  You really can make this happen off a pretty small base (say 3 days of cardio a week with an 8 mile long run) even with less than perfect knees.

Exercising A Whole New Mind: Meaning

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photo courtesy of Fabio Marim

Meaning is the last of Dan Pink’s six senses for the Conceptual Age.  Pink has to walk a tightrope here between spirituality and organized religion.  For many of us, as we age and have kids, the “why are we here?” question looms larger.  And surprise, surprise, if employees feel like their work is meaningful it becomes more rewarding and they become more productive.

I was surprised to see Labyrinths covered.  My mum, proving again how prescient she can be,  got into them about 5 years ago, and I had no idea what the appeal was.  She even launched a directory to Australian labyrinths. Don’t confuse them with mazes.  Mazes offer one right direction and many wrong ones and the goal is to get out.  Labyrinths are all about the journey: you walk in a spiral and reflect.

This important topic includes some really good exercises:

  • Say Thanks: being grateful increases contentment and happiness.  David Freudberg has covered this on HumanKind.  Don’t just save it up for Thanksgiving.  I’ve tried to think of one thing to be grateful for once-a-day for the last 3 months and it is definitely rewarding to do this.  I like the idea of a birthday list – for every year write down one new thing to be grateful for.
  • Dedicate Your Work: this is a beautiful and simple idea.  If you’re doing something that matters (say a presentation),  make a quiet, genuine dedication to someone that matters to you.
  • 20-10 Test: Jim Collins suggests you ask yourself two questions: If you had $20 million in the bank, OR only 10 years to live, would you be doing what you’re doing now.  I like the time-frame he uses because the die tomorrow would suggest much more radical action that might not be warranted – 10 years is actually plenty of time to do some interesting things, but no so long as to waste another year.
  • Picture Yourself At Ninety: What will your life be like?  What will you have done?  Who will your friends be?  Stephen Covey talked about Leaving a Legacy and thinking about how would you be remembered.  Like the 20:10 test this can help provide focus and motivation on what you should be doing now.
  • Use AND to fix the BUTs: “I’d like to read more, but I can’t find the time” is solved with the addition of “So, I need to get books on tape so I can listen on the go and in the gym”.  Think of all the things you want to be doing, but have a potted excuse for not doing.  Then think of something concrete you can do to make them happen.
  • Take a Sabbath: Check out of email and news for a day per week.  A good way to recharge.  Love him or hate him, Tim Ferriss’ media holiday is actually pretty relaxing – no news for a week.  (Just got completely distracted because the second Google suggestion after Tim Ferriss is Tim Ferriss scam!  This led me too Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist.  I’m going to have to subscribe (and now Inc. has her listed one of top 19 blogs to read) – authentic writing and confirmed many niggles in my head about Mr Ferriss –  a few nuggets of truth amplified in a story and sold as hope.) I had a really great chat, with a buddy on a run, about how the interesting news is the indicators of trends and analysis of trends, not random events like the Balloon Boy or yet another bombing in a country ending in -stan.  On that topic, it’s interesting how The Daily Show is actually a better source of news and news analysis than any of the mainstream news shows.  This sidebar really needs a full post.
  • Check Your Time:  This is revealing and motivating. Keep track of everything you do.  I’ve done this in 1/2 hour blocks for about a month now.  You discover how much time you’re wasting and if you know you have to record that 1/2 hour’s activities at the end of it, it tends to get you back on track.  In case it’s not obvious, you’ll want to turn this off on non-working days, unless you’re trying to make best use of your leisure time or understand how you are using it.

Hopefully this review of the six senses was helpful.  Mr. Pink includes a brief afterword to inspire readers to engage their right brain now in the “age of art and heart”. What exercises will you try?  Could you make your life and work a little richer?

The Knowledge Management Holy Grail

photo courtesy of Eddi 07

photo courtesy of Eddi 07

For the 15+ years I’ve been working in knowledge worker roles, knowledge management has been much spoken about, but never seen.

I’m currently working with a virtual team of nearly 10 consultants.  The firm has had 0ver 80 clients since its founding in 2001, so there is a treasure trove of experience in the firm.  Unfortunately, its in people’s heads, on their laptops, and to a lesser degree on the shared network drive.  Sound familiar?  It’s the classic enterprise knowledge management problem.  You want to tap into the experience of your peers, but there is no easy way to do it.

For example, if I need to run a requirements session, and I know my colleagues have done many, I currently have to phone each one and rely on their memory and availability to send me what they have, or I can browse through the network client folders one-by-one randomly opening documents.  Inefficient and time-consuming.    A Google appliance would help, but the success of that approach depends on the discipline to save relevant files to the network drive.

We need a system which reduces the barriers to storage and search – organization with minimum overhead.  It seems the new abundances of storage, computing power and bandwidth would be amenable to cracking this decades old problem.  Perhaps a version of Google that can search nominated folders and Outlook files on everyone’s laptop that’s working on the same project? How cool would it be if you could just do a Google quality search of the team members’ laptops, maybe with an interrupt alert that seeks their approval of which folders and what results to share? Even cooler if a wiki or other centralized collection of notes and links was auto-created and updated on desired topics again with people’s approval of the search and results.  Any takers? (We could certainly use the help!)

Bye bye pledge drive

Stitcher.com: Tivo for Radio

Stitcher.com: Tivo for Radio

I love NPR. When we first moved to the US it was a wonderful discovery – Car Talk one week, Fresh Air the next.  Countless driveway moments.

I don’t love pledge drive.  Twice a year, for what seems like forever, your local NPR station tries to raise money, which they desperately need.  We subscribe, but that doesn’t stop the pledge drive interruptions.

Enter stitcher.com.  This wonderful free app (available for iPhone and Blackberry) is like a DVR for radio, but even better.  Listen to a wide variety of sources, in any order you want to, anywhere: driving, working out, cooking dinner… Discover great new podcasts and news sources.

Highly recommended and ridiculously easy to use.  It comes pre-loaded with a set of favorites and six categories.  Like the awesome Pandora interface you can give thumbs up or down to a track, start/stop and skip to the next one.  Like google mail you can favorite a track by selecting the star and its automatically added to your favorites station.  You can re-order the favorites. It display how many refreshed favorites tracks you haven’t listened to. The ads are non-intrusive banners and most programs have no audio ads. Sorry if this post sounds like a commercial (I have no association with the company, just love both the idea and its execution).

What would I like to see: better search functionality so you can find a specific show (I was thrilled with both the amount of NPR and Australian programming available), perhaps some indication of duration of each track, maybe linking to the tracks website and tagging so you can follow up on something interesting you hear about or play something again. And of course, the iPhone needs to be able to let apps like this run in the background.

Just like Tivo changed TV forever and for better, stitcher has changed radio for me.  Let me know what you think. Bye, bye pledge drive.