Broke is temporary; poor is a a state of mind

February 9th, 2008

The headline is a phrase many are familiar with, but I felt compelled to repeat it when commenting on Trent’s post at The Simple Dollar. Take a moment to read it here and you’ll understand why.

I have been broke many, many times in my life. I can honestly say I have never been poor. In times of extreme financial crisis (and believe me, I’ve been there), even then (!) I always knew that my circumstances would improve and my setback was temporary.

When it comes to life, we don’t have the luxury of wallowing around in our own self pity while blaming others or outside circumstances for our lot. Each one of us has to remember that “this is MY life, dammit, and I’m NOT going to let X, Y, or Z ruin it!”

Nothing and nobody has a right to control your destiny and your happiness. Nothing and nobody except you, of course…

Trent makes some good points — go check out his post.

New Stuff

February 9th, 2008

It’s been a few days since the last post. There’s a reason for this emptiness in our collective lives, and I’d like to explain:

I started Motivated Performance as a purely selfish exercise. Yes, I wanted to see how many subscribers and readers I could attract, and yes, I wanted to learn more about “monetizing” a blog. But my main purpose was to simply get thoughts down “on paper”.

By writing about subjects that interest me, I learn more about the subjects that interest me. This is an exercise that serves me first and others second. (Selfish, I know…)

But the “serve others” part isn’t working out in a way I’m happy with. There are lots of sites that focus on personal development and improvement and some a very good. I try to keep tabs on both the good and the bad to learn about the subject (my main interest) while also learning about delivering the message (my secondary objective).

Unfortunately, folks that write for a living have to make a living. (That is the point, right?) To do so, these otherwise good writers use the latest techniques and “methods” to drive readership and subscription numbers. I do not write for a living (I’d be broke), but I have noticed a trend amongst those that do: the “list”.

A numbered or bulleted list is allegedly the sure-fire way to deliver the message (and thus attract readers). This may or may not be true, but it’s been deemed “effective” in the blogosphere. As a result, posts that might otherwise contain great ideas delivered in a great manner are turned into “lists” in the hopes of ending up on the front page of some social networking site. Yuk.

It’s particularly troubling to see this kind of behavior in a niche that’s allegedly focused on individuality and creative self improvement. As a group, the writers and readers that are interested in improving their lives are not supposed to behave like a bunch of lemmings.

I’m not interested in conforming to these “latest” ideas and/or methods, and I’m not interested in producing work that looks like everyone else’s work. I’m also not going to work to “stay focused” on a specific topic (personal development) when the subject matter seems to be suffering a degree of commoditization. Wow…I hope that’s a word.

As such, a lot will stay the same here, but some stuff is going to change. First, a redesign is in order. I threw this site together in days with the help of a web designer/developer. I think he did a good job (given the time constraints and that he had to work with a neophyte like me), but an update is in order. It’s coming.

Second, the purpose of the initial exercise has been accomplished. In the first 30 days of this site’s existence, I did what I set out to do. We’ll continue posting on personal development and self improvement, but we’re also going to post on just about anything we want.

Much of this will revolve around current events. Individually, we really can’t produce much change in the world (with rare exceptions). But collectively, if we’re on top of “what’s happening”, and if we take the time to educate ourselves, we can change a lot. Power shifts from the governed (where it belongs) to the government when we get lazy. Let’s not be lazy.

So! Get ready for a change. Actually, get ready for a couple of changes. It’s going to be fun!

First Black Superbowl Ref

January 31st, 2008

Who cares?

Does that sound callous and coarse? Politically incorrect? If it does, you’re reading the wrong guy’s stuff.

I am no fan of affirmative action or anything that distinguishes us based on race or gender. I’m not a fan of “first black” or “first female” anything.

Some may claim that we’re recognizing accomplishment. I say “bull”. What we’re doing is pretending that somehow a black person (or a female) doesn’t have the ability to achieve what a white male (for example) can.

By separating and acknowledging achievement by race and/or gender, we’re perpetuating the idea that race or gender are obstacles on the road to success. We’re breathing life into the notion that a “black person can’t” or “a woman never will”.

Was there a time when race was a factor in a person’s ability to succeed ? Absolutely. Are there still racial barriers in our society? You bet. The same applies to gender as well. We still have a lot of work to do in our society.

But we’re not helping matters any by recognizing every “black” or “female” accomplishment. In fact, we’re making the problem worse. By pretending that “the first black ref” is extraordinary, we’re actually sending a message to black kids that “this guy is the exception. Do not try this at home.”

Some will claim that we’re holding up these individual black or female success stories as an example of what someone can do. “It’s an inspiration!”

Great. Then inspire by recognizing the man or the woman. Recognize the individual. But stop adding adjectives.

You can read the story here. The ref’s name is Mike Carey. Is he exceptional? You bet he is. He’s damn good at his job. And that has nothing to do with being black.

Learn from a child (redux)

January 30th, 2008

Okay, I’ve been asked about my son that was mentioned in yesterday’s post. I’ll try not to sound like a proud parent, and I’ll be brief:

From the age of seven, my son knew he wanted to attend one of the military academies. First, it was the Air Force Academy, then West Point, then the Naval Academy. (West Point was very, very brief.)

He planned on being a fighter pilot, then a Special Forces team member, then a Navy Seal. When I asked him why he decided against being a pilot, he told me “if I can’t fly fighters, I’ll be a glorified taxi driver. Not interested.” He has since decided that he’ll train as a Seal AND attend flight school.

So what can we learn from this youngster/now-young-man?

From the start, he knew he had to set goals. Okay, so he’s a kid with goals. Big deal.

But then, and on his own, he began to break down his Big Goal into “sub-goals”. The sub-goals he broke down into small, manageable, and measurable steps. Then, to double check his plan of attack, he devoured every bit of information that he could that identified what the “perfect” Academy candidate looked like. Then he became that candidate.

He was always a good student, but he decided to really apply himself in mathematics and the sciences. When he didn’t take AP English, I questioned him about it. His response? “Doesn’t matter, Dad. I’m better off focusing on AP Sciences and AP Calculus.”

He was always active and played various sports. But being prepared for Buds training (the prerequisite of the Navy Seal program) means being very, very physically fit. He started running, and ultimately he was named Captain of his Cross Country team in his Junior and Senior years and Captain of his Track team in his senior year. He’s not a big fan of ab work or push ups, but he works out every morning trying to improve the number of sit ups he can do in two minutes and the total number of push ups he can max out.

To mix it up a little, he took up Fencing. He’s Captain of that team too. He’s a State ranked fencer (Top Ten) with hopes of being Number One this year. To prepare for fencing, he started doing exercises and footwork drills over the summer between 6th and 7th grades. Fencers don’t touch a weapon until they reach High School in his program, and they rarely compete until their junior year. Starting as early as he did was not very exciting. But! He was a Varsity fencer in his freshman year due to his early preparation before Middle School.

Everything he did was done with a purpose and a goal in mind. He decided to join Sea Cadets (a kind of junior, Junior ROTC program). He attended Boot Camp after his freshman year. Out of 140 cadets (many much older than him), he was named Honor Cadet of the program. The following summer he was named Honor Cadet of each training session he attended.

Is he a natural? Far from it. This kid will do whatever it takes to succeed. He works harder than anyone else in the family to accomplish the things that he does. And he never loses sight of the ultimate goal.

Break the big things down into little steps. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Be honest with yourself and be accountable. Have fun. Enjoy your success. These are the things I see my son do on a daily basis, and I am inspired by him and I learn from him every day.

He is one amazing young man. And yes, that’s a biased opinion.

Learn from a child

January 29th, 2008

My wife and I are not only life partners — we’re business partners too. The nature of our various business pursuits allows us to work from just about anywhere. This is usually a good thing (though my wife is quick to point out that we don’t take many “real” vacations). “Real” vacations aside, we do have the flexibility to be able to go anywhere almost anytime.

For the last few years, we’ve decided we don’t like winters in the Northeast. So we do what a lot of rational animals do — we head south. The last two years, we’ve had to address the issue of school for our daughter. She was in preschool last year and she’s in pre-K this year.

Now before anyone gets the wrong impression, please understand that we know these school years are “optional”, and if we wanted, we could take our daughter anywhere without having to worry about school attendance. But even at 3, 4, and 5 years old, our daughter wants to go to school. She’s the one that decided she wanted to go to a “new” school when we traveled (not the other way around). Our daughter is very special, and yes, that’s a biased opinion.

Anyway, yesterday was her first day at her new school. She’s normally very excited about her first day, and she really looks forward to meeting new teachers and new friends. This time, though, she seemed a little apprehensive. When I asked her about it, she thought for a bit and said “Daddy, at first you’re always nervous, but then before you know it, the new kids are your new friends”.

Did I mention that she’s five?

Here’s a child that’s faced with new faces and a new environment. Like any of us, she’s done this kind of thing before, but she’s still getting a little nervous. She could have resisted, or kicked and screamed, or cried — all things we’ve seen nervous kids do in similar situations. But instead, she played out the scenario in her head, she visualized how she saw it happening, and she saw herself experiencing nervousness and anxiety before ultimately experiencing good things — new friends.

When I went to pick her up in the afternoon, she was on the playground running and playing with a large group kids. She was having a blast! During the car ride home, she told me all about her “great!” day and her new friends. The first day was a huge success, and she’s really looking forward to tomorrow.

So what can we learn? We know that everyone faces situations that make them nervous or anxious. We all have to face things we might not be looking forward to (even when we thought we wanted to do them). The key to having a successful, happy experience (as opposed to a disaster) is to go in knowing the challenges but having a plan to address them. We go in with a healthy, positive attitude, and we use our imagination and visualization skills to experience the positive results beforehand. We do successful “dry runs” before the actual event.

Great athletes do this all of the time. Great salespeople do it. Great speakers do it. Kids can do it too…and we can learn from them.

Someday I’ll tell you all about my son who will be attending the United States Naval Academy next year.  I learn from him almost every day, and he’s a wonderful young man.

Yes, that’s a biased opinion.

Different Circumstances; Different Approach

January 28th, 2008

In my business (one of them), there are many industry “standards” that don’t make a whole lot of sense. One of those is the “rush”.

A client will call in, or fax, or email an order, and somewhere on the order will be the word RUSH. Better yet, we often see SUPER RUSH. What does this mean?

RUSH can mean a bunch of different things. It can mean “I need it in ten days” (in which case it’s not a rush), or it can mean “I need it today” (most certainly a SUPER RUSH). Without more information, it’s impossible for us to know.

Most of my competitors address the RUSH quandary by simply picking their own delivery date. “I guess he needs it in a couple of days…” That makes a lot of sense, right? (No wonder we run circles around our competitors).

We call the client and ask for a specific drop-dead date. Sometimes a rush really isn’t. By calling, we’ve clarified the time-frame and we’ve saved everyone a lot of headaches. We’ve also had a chance to be professional in the eyes of our clients.

In these kinds of circumstances, it is absolutely imperative that you get as much detailed information as possible.

When it comes to your goals, the opposite is true (almost). Yes, you want to make your goals specific. Yes, you want to have a deadline. Yes, you want to be accountable along the way. I’m not suggesting that you “wing it” entirely.

But I am suggesting that you allow room for a little “faith”. What’s this mean?

It means that you pick a goal, you pick a deadline, and you let the rest work itself out. If you choose your goals wisely, and if you allow all of your senses to get actively involved (“I can see my success, I can feel it, I can smell it, I can taste it”), if you can visualize your world once you’ve succeeded in reaching your goal, your brain will take care of the details.

If you’ve read The Secret (good book), or if you’ve read any of the many books that discuss the Law of Attraction, you know that there is this idea of “the universe” and “vibrations” at work. The Universe responds to the vibrations (the feelings) you’re putting out, and it delivers that which is most dominant in your mind. The Universe works in the background, and it works in profound ways.

Whether or not you understand or believe in these ideas, I know you’ve experienced something good that “just happened”. You can’t explain it; you didn’t put any effort into it. It “just happened”.

That’s often a result of your mind working in the background to untangle some problem or address some challenge. Learn from this kind of experience; let your mind do its thing.

When setting goals, it’s often best to set a really big one and let the rest work itself out. A common example of this is when Kennedy proclaimed that the US was going to the moon by the end of the decade. We didn’t have the technology, we didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we knew we were going to. We accepted this on faith. We took the leap.

Sometimes you need to drill down to the finest, most minute details in life. But sometimes, especially when it comes to the big picture, you’ve got to just let it happen.

Goal Realized

January 26th, 2008

Heather Davis lost 110 pounds in 12 months.

She didn’t start an elaborate training program.  She didn’t get nuts about her diet.  She simply decided to change the way she approached food and exercise — a little bit at a time.

Heather didn’t get bogged down in the details.  She knew what made sense, and she worked in little steps.  The little steps really added up!

If weight loss is one of your goals, CNN is doing a series on eight people who were successful in losing weight — a lot of weight.  One guy lost 300 pounds!

Check it out here.  And take Heather’s advice: “don’t let anyone tell you ‘you can’t’…you can.”

Lists, How-to’s, Guides, and Links

January 24th, 2008

I keep tabs on a handful of blogs I feel are well written and informative. I also monitor blogs that allegedly tell us all how to blog. Then there are the blogs that tell us how to make money blogging…

It’s a little too much sometimes.

Maybe…maybe someday we’ll do a list or a how-to. According to the “experts”, the quickest way to make it on one of the social networking sites is to pop out a list. Once over that hurdle, readership skyrockets and bank balances balloon.

That would be pretty exciting.

Links to bigger, better-read blogs are effective for cranking up readership too. Our commenting on a bigger blog’s post…

Maybe tomorrow.

Stick This?

January 18th, 2008

In the world of motivation and productivity, I suppose nothing should surprise me. Money has been spent, lost, or wasted by people trying to find a magic bullet for their lives, and money has been made by those claiming to have the bullet for sale.

stickk.jpg

But now there’s a new twist: Stickk. Developed by some Yale folks (smart people), Stickk encourages you to “put a contract out on yourself”. In a nutshell, you make a bet with yourself and you select a referee. If you achieve your goal (monitored by said referee in weekly steps), then you’re not losing money. If you fail, the money goes to a friend, relative, homeless person, or other worthwhile charity that you select. The money can even go to an “anti-charity”; if you hate guns, for example, your hard-earned cash can go to the NRA if you fail to reach your goal.

Interesting, huh? I’d certainly say so.

But if you need this kind of motivation to reach your goals, you’re probably not doing a good job of figuring out what’s important to you and what matters. The Stickk approach can be fun, I’m sure. But it should not be a necessity.

Resolution Meltdown

January 17th, 2008

It’s that time of year again…time for those New Year’s resolutions to be tossed out the window! You failed, baby!

failure.jpg

Oh, the disappointment. The frustration.

Week Three of the New Year is when gym attendance levels drop back to normal, diet commercials on television are replaced by commercials proclaiming “diets don’t work”, and that snazzy new organizer is lost in a pile on your desk. What happened?

First, realize that you’re not alone. There’s a reason the gyms get quieter, diet commercials go away, and so on — this is a very common time period for “failure”. Some “experts” say that for a habit to have any chance of becoming permanent, one must engage in said habit for 21 days. Others claim that 30 days is the magic number. Regardless of which number you choose, you’re getting close to prime fail time.

Personally, I think 30 days is the time you should invest in any change in your life. But! I also think that 21 days is the center of the “trap”. This is the time period where failure is most likely, and as such, it’s the time that we really need to put our heads down and stay the course.

Before you give up, and before you get depressed and down on yourself, remember to take another (fresh) look at your resolutions. Is each one really important to you? Can you see, hear, taste and smell what it feels like when you reach your goal? Are you visualizing success? Do you still get excited by suceeding?

Some of those resolutions might have been decided in haste. Reevaluate, double check the plan of attack, and enjoy the feelings today that success will bring tomorrow. Stick with the resolutions that make sense and toss the others guilt-free.