Posts Tagged New York City

Read to Succeed

One of my favorite activities of late is taking our puppy, Dixie, for long walks at night around the Upper East Side.  Particularly the cross streets between Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue.

It’s nice to look into the apartments and townhouses (not in a weird, creepy way) and catch a glimpse of these beautiful homes. Homes I someday hope to  live in if I work hard and create enough value for others. Dixie already seems comfortable on Park Ave based on her strut and interactions with fellow dogs.

After doing this for a couple of weeks it became obvious one characteristic in which all these homes share.

They have bookshelves. Filled with lots of books.

Now we may not need bookshelves in 10 years with the Kindle and Nook, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about a simple observation with huge implications. Let’s work with the assumption that residents on Park Avenue have achieved success in at least two areas of life: financial and career. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have great relationships or are happy, but odds are they’re doing well in at least those two.

Brian Tracy is fond of saying if you want to increase your income, then you should increase your knowledge intake. And all it takes is one hour a day. From Brian:

Go Through 50 Books Per Year
If you read one hour per day in your field, that will translate into about one book per week. One book per week translates into about 50 books per year. 50 books per year will translate into about 500 books over the next ten years.

It’s hard to imagine anyone is reading 50 books a year, period. Here is the rest of the article where Brian also discusses joining the Top 1% of Money Earners.

We have been taught since we were little how important it is to read books, but according to an article written by the Associated Press, 1 in 4 adults didn’t read a book in 2007. Of those who did read, women and older people were the most avid. Men were nowhere to be found.

You might be thinking to yourself:

Well I may not read books, but I still read all the time.

I completely believe you because I feel the same way. Every day I read news articles and opinion pieces online, blog posts in my Google Reader, newspapers and lots and lots of magazines. At one point, I had subscriptions to the following: The Economist, Success, Consumer Reports, Men’s Health, Money and Foreign Policy (nerd alert). If I didn’t have some self-control I might have 30 magazine subscriptions now.

All of that reading leaves little time for a good book. And after three years of this routine, what do I have to show for it? To be honest, not much. Recently, I wrote a post on the 80/20 rule. The principle applies here because most of us spend 80% of our time reading content online and from magazines. Throw in Facebook updates, instant messages and tweets, and we spend 20% of the time reading books if we’re lucky.

John Maxwell says in this clip that the greatest influence on his life was the books he read.

I write books because the greatest influence on my life were the books that I read. Books have formed me, who I am today, how I think, what I feel. They have all been formed by what I have read.

Books help us learn more because we’re reading about a certain topic in detail, instead of a six or seven paragraph blog post. Even fiction books offer learning experiences.

What would happen if we flipped the ratio and read books 80% of the time? It won’t guarantee I’ll end up on Fifth Avenue or you’ll become CEO of your company, but it’s a start. I can assure you the smartest people I know read a lot of books. And 50 books in one year is a lot. I have since cut my subscriptions to magazines down and only read The Economist and Success. My goal to read 25 books over the next 12 months at least. I’d love for you to join me and share your thoughts in the comments.

To get you started, Esquire put together a list of the 75 books every man should read. Enjoy.

-JM

Follow me on twitter (@averagegents)

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The Grass Isn’t Always Greener (Part 2)

I often joke with my wife that I’m someday going to pack up, move to Montana and build a log cabin.  Do you ever have the same feeling? A moment when you consider checking out, moving to Mexico and surfing for the rest of your life?

You are not alone.

As great as computers are, and they are great, humans were not meant to spend 8-10 hours a day in front of them.

If you don’t believe me, read this and this. As a person who exercises regularly, I thought I was fine even though I sit all day.  Yeah right, turns out even an hour of exercise a day isn’t enough.

In Part 1, I gave you a small insight into mill work. One of the things I loved about working there is every day you made tangible progress.  Leather came in, leather went out.  The pile of skins on one table decreased, while the skins on another increased. At the end of the day your legs and back hurt, but there is a sense of accomplishment because you see immediate results. I can now work on a project that may not yield results for months, possibly a year.

Nowadays, the only pain I feel after work is in my wrists due to a growing case of carpal tunnel from typing responses to hundreds of emails, most of them meaningless.  Ever work 8 hours a day and feel like you accomplished nothing? Welcome to the 21st century, where assembly lines have been replaced with Microsoft Office. Instead of axles, metal and widgets, we have Excel, PowerPoint and Word.

The other thing I loved about the mill was the lack of stimulation. You were actually able to…think. Sure the act of putting skins on a table is pretty boring, but your brain was allowed to wander.  There isn’t a lot of time to think and contemplate in corporate America.  Not when you’re blasted with emails, instant messages, phone calls and social media updates. This is the great challenge of our generation. Those that can focus and avoid distractions will succeed.

Now I’m not naïve enough to think if I started working at the mill full-time again, I wouldn’t be daydreaming about my computer chair from Staples in six weeks.  The grass isn’t always greener when it comes to blue-collar vs. white-collar. A mix of both would be ideal, but I haven’t figured out how to have the best of both yet.

You and I have a choice to make. We can stay a cog in the corporate America wheel for the next 20-30 years and be average, or we can make small tweaks to our daily life that could make us happier and more productive. And if you’re reading this site, you are probably interested in both.

Here are some of my suggestions I came up with, feel free to add more in the comments section.

1.  Get off your Butt

You have to exercise, ideally 5-6 times a week.  As I said earlier, even an hour a day isn’t enough, but something is better than nothing.  I don’t care what it is, walking, running, biking, lifting weights, Wii Fit…just do something.

2.  Motion Creates Emotion

Just like Ben Affleck said in Boiler Room (one of the best monologues of all time), “Get off your ass. Move around. Motion creates emotion.” Sure you can reply to that email in 30 seconds, or give someone a call about that TPS report, but why not take a walk across the office to speak with them in person? Be conscious of these opportunities. It’s a good way to keep the pulse of your team, stay engaged and build relationships. I try to work in 90 minute intervals, followed by a short walk to the water cooler. I talk about this in my 80/20 post.

3.  Break the Email Cycle

Has a communication tool been more abused than Microsoft Outlook? The carbon copy feature has led to many nervous breakdowns and padded rooms. I’m willing to bet 60% of your email is crap and doesn’t warrant a response. I dare you to prove me wrong.  If it’s important the person will call, I promise.

4.  Technology Break

Take a day off from your computer, smart phone, cell phone, television, dvd player, ipod, ipad, iphone and anything else Steve Jobs has created once a week. You might have the shakes at first, but the results are pretty powerful.  My track record is abysmal, but I never regret it when I succeed.

5.  Get an Outdoor Hobby

My company offers an amazingly ridiculous perk in that we have a full gym in our office. It’s awesome that I can work out on my lunch. The problem is I don’t go outside for 8-10 hours a day.  Not cool. Besides if you’re going electronics free you may as well spend it outdoors.  Even urban dwellers don’t have an excuse. One of my favorite activities in NYC is walking around at night. NYC resident are also a quick train or car ride from decent hiking and beach opportunities.

6.  Career Fulfillment

I hesitate to add this because we live in such a feel good society where so many talk about finding their passion.  Especially considering our grandparents did whatever they had to do to provide for their families, even if it meant doing a job they hated. I know guys who used to work at one mill during the day, and work at a second that night.

However if you’re going to sit at a desk for extended periods of time, you may as well do something you like.  The time will go faster and make sitting for long periods more tolerable. I am personally interested in more of a sales role where I can interact with clients much more than I do today.

7.  Elevate Your Desk so you can Stand

Do not do this, weirdo.

Most of us are in the early stages of our careers, or have at least another decade ahead of us. If we are not happy with our situations, then it’s up to us to fix it. Hopefully these two posts offer an incentive to do so.  The grass might just be greener after all.

Thanks for reading.

-JM

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