Posts Tagged success

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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Are You Training Yourself to Fail?

I read this really good article by Peter Bregman last week called Are You Training Yourself to Fail? on the Harvard Business Review blog. It hit home with me and probably will with you too.

In it Peter talks about how it’s rare to find the person who is naturally pre-disposed to being highly effective. Most of us start our day with a long and ambitious to do list of the important tasks we hope to accomplish. Unfortunately we get busy with email, phone calls and errands so very little gets done. We then get discouraged and do things to make us feel better for the moment like browse the internet – often about articles on being more effective.

We do the same thing over and over relying on sheer will power, which yields the same result each day.

From Peter:

Here’s the thing: the odds are against us getting our most important priorities accomplished. Our instincts most often drive us toward instant gratification. And the world around us conspires to lure us off task. Given total freedom, most of us would spend far too much time browsing websites and eating sweets. And being totally responsive to our environments would just have us running around like crazy catering to other people’s agendas.

For me, the allure of accomplishing lots of little details would often override my focus on the big things I value. Each morning I would try to change my natural tendency by exerting self-control. I would talk to myself about how, starting this morning, I would be more focused, psych myself up to have a productive day, and commit to myself that I wouldn’t do any errands until the important work was done.

It almost never worked. Certainly not reliably.

By doing this, we are teaching ourselves to fail. Failure is fine as long as we learn, but what happens if we keep doing the same things, hoping for different results but not changing our behavior?

Then we are training ourselves to fail repeatedly.

Because the more we continue to make the same mistakes, the more we ingrain the ineffective behaviors into our lives. Our failures become our rituals, our rituals become our habits, and our habits become our identity. We no longer experience an unproductive day; we become unproductive people.

The only way to break the trend, according to Peter, is to develop new rituals.  To do this we need trial and error. Each night take a look at what worked and repeat it the next day.  Look at what didn’t work and stop it.

What I found is that rather than trying to develop super-human discipline and focus, I needed to rely on a process to make it more likely that I would be focused and productive and less likely that I would be scattered and ineffective.

Rituals like these: Spending five minutes in the morning to place my most important work onto my calendar, stopping every hour to ask myself whether I’m sticking to my plan, and spending five minutes in the evening to learn from my successes and failures. Answering my emails in chunks at predetermined times during the day instead of whenever they come in. And never letting anything stay on my to do list for more than three days (after which I either do it immediately, schedule it in my calendar, or delete it).

It doesn’t take long for these rituals to become habits and for the habits to become your identity. And then, you become a productive person.

Once you develop these rituals, don’t let up. Anyone can be productive for a day, week or month. However, if you get in a groove and stop these rituals you’ll be right back to where you were when you started. Productivity is similar to losing weight. It takes awhile to become productive, but you becoming unproductive again is very quick.

Check out the full article here.  Peter also created a quiz to test how well you manage complexity.  My score was pretty bad.  How about you?  Take the quiz here and let me know how you did in the comments.

-JM

Follow us on Twitter: @averagegents 

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How Bad Do You Want It?

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

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The Evening News

It’s 6pm, shouldn’t you be watching the evening news?  I mean, nothing like a heavy dose of murder, rape, drug raids, unemployment, and recession talk to finish your day. It’s hard to imagine a more depressing 60 minutes on television.  Yet millions of us subject ourselves to this nonsense.

I listened to a great interview with Rabbi Schmuley “America’s Rabbi” on last month’s Success CD recently. Here is one of the takeaways:

“We’re surrounded in a culture that is just obsessed with death. Watch the evening news any given night, whether it’s NBC, CBS, ABC. Every one of those broadcasts starts with the end of the world.  ‘The Mississippi River is overflowing everyone is going to drown. Tornadoes, oil leaks, hurricanes, we’re all Gonna die! The economy is collapsing, no one owns a home anymore. I mean God Almighty, I’m sick and tired of these prophets of doom.

These aren’t the right values. The right values are these are challenges, but we believe in life and we’re a culture of life and we’re going to overcome them.”

It is critical to stay informed and abreast of  the serious challenges our country is facing, but it’s time to focus on the positive and find solutions. Instead of watching the local evening news, pickup a magazine or book and learn something constructive. Read the newspaper where you can skip those murder articles.  Stay informed, but save the hyperbole for someone else.

-JM

-JM

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Body for Life – Week 2 Update

Week 2 provided a couple challenges from the get go.  My wife flew down to Alabama unexpectedly as her Grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse.  That left the puppy and I on our own for all of Week 2.

The second challenge came Monday morning.  I was invited to a work dinner Wednesday night as a co-worker was in town from LA.  I initially wanted to say no because I knew I’d be setting myself up for a BFL failure.  Avoiding restaurants is ridiculous though, so I happily accepted.

Let’s start with the obvious; I lost four pounds this week, which brings my total weight loss to 10 pounds in just two weeks.  I was extremely happy and surprised by this and am just six pounds away from my goal of 215.

I want to make a point here, as Body for Life isn’t just about weight loss.  For me, 215 is the goal because I want to shed off all the excess fat and use that as a building block for muscle growth.  It’s conceivable that I start putting on weight as I build muscle.  But I digress…

Eating Notes

Monday I temporarily lost my mind and had 3 chocolate chip cookies with milk.  I had a three-hour meeting at work, which threw off my eating schedule, but other than the cookies I did OK.

Tuesday I really had an urge for a beer, but resisted.  Instead I picked up a smoothie from Energy Kitchen on my way home.

Wednesday was the work outing.  We went to a place called Cookshop, which was awesome and I may write about it later.  Here are the pros and cons for my first dinner out on the BFL program.

Pros

  • I only drank wine and resisted the urge to drink beer.  Again, BFL is fine with an occasional glass of red wine at meals.
  • I ordered fish (yellowfin tuna)
  • I ate asparagus, which was probably the best I’ve ever eaten.

Cons

  • I drank 3 glasses of wine
  • Ate a lot of bread and some small, but unhealthy appetizers.
  • I had two cookies for dessert

That meal is a classic example of how far I’ve come.  It wasn’t perfect, but three months ago there wouldn’t have been anything positive from a health standpoint.

With my wife not around, Thursday night was tough.  I generally have 30 minutes from the time I get home from my day job till I leave to bar tend.  Now I had to feed and walk the dog instead of just changing and eating quick, so I grabbed a sandwich on the way there (roast beef on wheat with American cheese and light mayo).

Friday was pretty good.  I did have a beer and went to a healthy place that opened up near our apartment and got the Black Bean Veggie burger with soy chicken nuggets.

On my free day I went to town.  Started with breakfast at McDonald’s and gradually moved on to bologna and cheese, candy, pizza, beers, chips, etc.  Boy did I feel terrible Saturday night.  I forgot how awful heartburn is.

Sunday was nice as I went out to Brooklyn for a home cooked meal.  My friend made eggplant and pasta – delicious.  While I wasn’t completely healthy on Sunday, I was decent overall.

I still have a medium Dunkachino every day, since I don’t like coffee.  I may cut this if I start to plateau, but for now I don’t see it hurting too much.

Workout Notes

My workouts were awesome last week.  Really raised the bar from Week 1.  For example, here are my intensity levels for a cardio run on Tuesday, May 10th:

5 – 6.2 mph

6 – 6.7 mph

7 – 7.2 mph

8 – 7.6 mph

9 – 8.0 mph

10 – 8.2 mph

In that session, I ran 2.41 miles and burned 435 calories in 20 minutes.

Friday I did the elliptical, which I’m normally not a huge fan of.  However, due to the intensity regimen, I had a really tough workout.  I think I’ll start to incorporate  it every two weeks to give my knees a rest.

Saturday I again filled in for my wife and ran a 10K (6.2 miles).  I haven’t run 6 miles in 7 months, but I was up for the challenge.  I ran it in 51:43 (8:20/pace) and felt every bit of it after.  This set up a tough, tough workout on Sunday as lower body was on the schedule.  Let’s just say my rear end was in pain until Tuesday.

In summary, I really learned a lot this week.  Flexibility is the key to succeed in Body for Life, but I’m pretty sure that’s the key to success in life.  I used to aim for perfection and go out of my way to avoid failure.  But by doing something, I’m already making progress.  Even if I only get 5 out of 6 meals right, that’s way better than what I was doing a month ago.

I can’t say it enough, the beauty of this program is that there’s always another meal in a few hours.  I used to fall off the horse on Wednesday and just say “I’ll get back on track next week.”  Why wait that long?  Why not do it now?  This attitude change alone is worth doing this 12-week program.

The next two weeks are going to be tough.  As I write this, I have a 6:20am flight tomorrow to Huntsville, AL to join my wife for her brother’s wedding.  There is a fast food on every corner, including the amazing Chik-fil-A.  The temptation to deviate from this program will be immense.  But I’m going to do the best I can and take it one meal at a time.

The following weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and my family is getting together in the Catskills where eating and drinking are at the forefront.  If I can get through the next two weeks and maintain my current weight, I’ll be happy.

Time for a little shut eye.  Thanks for following along.

-JM

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Thank You Cards

If you don’t have a stack of these in your desk, you are seriously dropping the ball.  Thank You cards are an effective way to express gratitude and leave a positive impression with friends, family and colleagues.

Most people understand you should send a thank you card after a job interview, although surprisingly some don’t.   One buddy used to adamantly argue that a thank you email was enough.  He was also unemployed for more than a year (not that I’m blaming it on not sending thank you cards).  However, if two identical candidates applied for a job, interviewed well and one sent a thank you card while the other didn’t – who would you hire?

Why Sending An Email Isn’t Enough

It’s lazy for starters.  Besides, a lot of people get between 100-150 emails a day.  Who needs one more?  Especially if it’s sandwiched between annoying emails from a colleague in Asia or a last-minute request from your boss.  The note can get lost in the email shuffle, which lessens the impact.

Real Life Example

Last week, as part of a continuing education initiative program at my company, I attended two one-hour sessions on accounting and budgeting.  Four people presented in total ranging from VP’s to Directors.  A woman from HR organized the work shop.

All five got thank you cards last Friday.  Yesterday, I passed the Director of Finance who said this:

“Hey, thanks for the card.  That was really nice and completely unexpected.”

That’s because I doubt anyone else sent one.  Now If I ever mess up an accrual estimate or need a favor, this guy is 10x more likely to help me out.  As for the presenters that don’t know me, they will certainly have a favorable impression should we cross paths again.

Finally, send thank you cards right away.  While it’s still better than not sending one at all, a bigger impact is made if you’re first.

Do the unexpected.  Stand out from the crowd.  Sometimes it only takes five minutes.

-JM

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7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People is on my to read list.  I read an overview of Stephen Covey’s book on QuickMBA.com, which is a pretty good site.  Here’s a great takeaway from the article:

“The point is that we see things not as they are, but as we are conditioned to see them.  Once we understand the importance of our past conditioning, we can experience a paradigm shift in the way we see things.  To make large changes in our lives, we must work on the basic paradigms through which we see the world.”

Read the rest of the article here:  http://tinyurl.com/8oqr9z

Have a great Friday.

-JM

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