Tuesday, 15 May 2012

INTEGRITY, and what we REALLY spend our time on.

As I sit leaning against the couch on the floor of the mancave, the day after finding 2 big ol' carpenter ants in my house; I ponder how it is that the mind works.  Because in it, there is an endless parade of ants marching over the parts of my body outside of my peripheral vision, each one beginning its trek just after I cancel the search for the previous one.  I'd go write this in the bathtub if that was safe.

Ah, the mind.  It's an amazing thing, isn't it?  Lately I've been thinking about life.  Particularly life as a trajectory.  Did you know that, if you were piloting a plane from LA to New York, and you changed your flight path by 1%, you would end up in Albany or Delaware?  I bet you'd be pretty choked at the pilot if you had to rent a car and make the 3 hour drive from Albany to your intended destination.

Here's the funny thing.  When it comes to our own lives, most of our flight paths are off by a lot more than 1%. Heck, lets be totally honest - a lot of us don't even really know where we're headed.  When we run out of fuel and plummet from the sky, I guess we'll be there...

I have a tendency to sleepwalk through life.  I make a zillion choices each day, but most of them click right by without me even noticing them.  Hit the snooze alarm.  Have a second cup of coffee.  Pick my clothes.  Buckle up when I sit down in my truck.  Check my e-mail when I sit down at my desk.  And so on.  I can perform a whole day on autopilot.  Which at first sounds impressive, but I think the real question is, can I perform a day WITHOUT autopilot?

John C. Maxwell, who makes his money flogging leadership principles, has been heard to say that if you want to change your life, you have to change something in your daily routine.  Like the airplane pilot adjusting his course, so that he's always on the shortest path to his destination.

So, for the last week and a half, I've been keeping track of what I spend my time on - journalling it hour by hour.  The purpose was actually to see how much time I waste on a given day and try to improve on it. However, another, possibly even more interesting result has come from the data.  When you know what you do every day, you get a really good snapshot of where your priorities are. It doesn't really matter where you FEEL like your priorities are.  What you DO tells the real story.

Suddenly Maxwell's comment made a lot more sense. If I consider something to be a priority, but I don't find it on my list because I haven't done it in a week, perhaps it's not really as much of a priority as I pretend it is.  Which leads me to a decision point - do I change my priorities, or do I change my actions?

At the end of last summer, I completed a sprint triathlon in Banff.  At the end, there was a big long straightaway that you had to run down - a full block of the main street of Banff.  By the time I was done swimming, biking, and almost the whole run, you can BET I didn't take my eyes of that finish line!  Do you think I took one step in a direction other than straight toward that arch?  No way.  I had a clear purpose, and I knew the steps it took to get there (about 50 more at that point).

So.  Step 1 is, do you know your finish line?  Or are you waiting for your plane to run out of fuel?  Figure out your why, and everything else will have more purpose.

Step 2 is, take a look at your ACTIONS.  Do they line up with your priorities?  I spend more time on e-mails and little 'cholesterol' issues at work than I do on the topics in my job description.  I spend more time watching TV than I do developing my faith.  I spend about as much time on social media as I do on exercise.    

So, if you can measure it, you can manage it, right?  Step 3 is, take a long hard look at your 2 lists (actions and priorities).  Time to take the 2 disparate lists and make them look a little more like each other.

Turns out, time management isn't really about you wasting your time by not doing anything.  I bet you're all as busy as I am.  What it's really about is that we have a tendency to spend our time on really stupid things that don't GET us anywhere.

And in the words of Bill Nye the Science Guy, "The thing about time is, once you measure it, it's gone."  It's a limited resource, and you never get it back.  So why would you live your life in any way OTHER than toward the things you value?

And if you get there - if your priority and your action list start to match, then you have that elusive and invaluable trait. The one I desire the most: Integrity.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Enough about me...

Hi Readers.

At first I thought I'd blog every day.  Then I thought every week would be fine.  But you know, if you want the play by play of my thought life, follow me on twitter (@ow_a_hand).  If you do, you'll see why I don't post here very frequently.  As far as profound, timeless thoughts go, the talent pool is decidedly shallow.

A blog is supposed to be "value based".  It's the definition of 'pull marketing'.  I'm not selling anything.  I'm putting stuff out there for you to take if you like.  Like some sort of church potluck of ideas (hopefully my blog's not the jello with shredded carrots.  Blech).  But regardless, I only want to put stuff on here that I think people will find interesting.

I've been reading this sales blog who is encouraging his readers that writing is the best way to get value out and establish yourself as an expert to customers.  I've also listened to countless leadership experts say that, if you truly want to lead people, you'd do better being interestED, rather than trying to be interestING.  If you want people to like you, talk about them, not yourself.  I read marketing blogs who say, if you want to be effective at marketing, you have to know everything about WHO you are trying to reach.  Who is your target market?

So, who's my 'market'?  If this was truly an exercise in retaining valuable info I'd learned, I would keep a journal, not a blog.  So why am I writing this to you?  WHO EVEN ARE YOU PEOPLE?

First question: what am I trying to accomplish?  I don't think I'm trying to sell carpet to you. **pause for collective sigh of relief** Am I trying to find a job? To market my skills?  No, I love my job and I'm not an entrepreneur.  So who am I writing this for?  Well, let me try to describe you.  I hope you're flattered.

YOU are someone who likes to chew on ideas.  You like it when someone respectfully challenges things you've always taken for granted.  You might know me, you might not, but you like having intelligent conversations.  You're always looking for someone who can eloquently summarize something you've felt for a long time.  You like to broaden your horizons and fortify your principles.  You like to do things well, and you seek wisdom (meaning living life skillfully).  You may be a professional, you may spend all day with your kids and yearn for adult conversations, but you are convinced that you haven't stopped growing yet.  You believe we can find the best way if we can get as many ideas into the forum as possible.  You're constructive.

So why am I writing to you?  Well, maybe, just maybe, writing this blog will draw like-minded people out of the woodwork, and we can enrich each other's lives.  This blog already helps me learn by crystallizing thoughts that float around in my head, but I'd be even luckier if this blog helped me learn because it attracted smart people who can teach me NEW things by interacting with me and the ideas I play around with.  So, I'm not looking for a job, but I know, Know KNOW that attracting constructive, smart, thoughtful people around myself will create amazing opportunities for me AND you.

So, I hope I'm describing you.  And if I'm not, then perhaps I'm challenging something you've taken for granted.  All readers are welcome here, of course (just no trolls).  But the goal is not to be a diversion from your life.  The goal is to take ideas and turn them into concrete opportunities.  To make relationships and then make things happen in the REAL world.  The world that happens when you turn your computer off (yes - there's an off switch).

Consider this your invitation, people, to come out of the woodwork.  Let's start a conversation that turns into action.  Do something to turn ideas into reality and improve your life.

Lets hear your comments.  Who are you?  Why do you read this?  Who's YOUR target audience?  Why do you read blogs/play social media/etc?  What are you trying to get out of this?


2 Epilogue comments:  1.  Though this post is about YOU, you may notice how much it's about me and who I write for.  Sorry 'bout that.  2. There is another type of reader out there - the most loyal kind.  They're called my family.  They read it because they love me.  Regardless of whether they think I'm an idiot or not.  Hi guys.  Feel free to print this out and magnet it to the fridge.