Posted in Self-Improvement, Writing

Success for the Future

20160806_084854
One of my hobbies – Orchids! 5th time blooming since I brought it home!

Good morning all,

It’s been a while since I posted anything.  I have been focusing on a lot of new things which have taken most of my time.  This entry is the beginning of developing additional focus on my writing.  I’m excited to share with you what’s been keeping me from a regular blogging routine.

In 2015 I decided not to make any “New Years Resolutions” again, EVER!  I thought, it’s too much of a commitment to say on one day that I’ll do or be something for an entire year!  Right away, I knew I’d be setting myself up for failure.  In my day job, I’m always thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  So, after a bit of journaling, I decided that I could commit to anything for thirty days!

In 2015 I chose to start one good thing and stop one bad thing every month.  Each month would have a single focus area for positive improvements, and efforts to eliminate something not so good.  Whatever worked for me I would choose to continue just as a part of my new way of life.  During 2015, I stopped chewing my fingernails, I started a fitness program, I went for a whole month without coffee (only water for all fluid intake), another month I eliminated all “fat pills” (cookies, cake, ice cream, basically anything with sugar–or all the good stuff :-))  Needless to say, I was so pleased with the success of my self-improvement approach to 2015, I decided to take it up a notch for 2016.

In November of last year, I spent a good deal of time journaling about “who am I?”  What is it I have always believed about myself that I wanted to be true…not just a wish, not a something I’ll get around to…but no kidding, I wanted there to be observable evidence of truth to the things I believed about myself.  Who is the person I say that I am?  I always wanted to play an instrument, speak another language, be better at personal relationships, stay in shape/be healthy, write a book, etc.  So I came up with a new way to organize my life so that I could set myself up for success.

I created a notebook with eight tabs.  The first tab is the Activity/Progress Tracker which is nothing more than a blank month calendar template.  At the bottom is a legend with alpha characters that match the first letter of the word for each of the following 7 tabs.  Seven tabs, seven days in a week.  So, here are my tabs:

  1. Activity/Progress Tracker20160806_084828
  2. Guitar Practice
  3. Spanish Lessons
  4. Fitness
  5. Writing Studies
  6. Reading
  7. Personal Relationships
  8. Hobbies

Each of the tabs 2-8 are filled with blank notebook pages for me to write short journal entries about progress I’m making in each of those areas.  Every day, I track my progress on my activity tracker like this:

  • H – Gardening 1hr
  • G – 5 min Timed Chord Changes
  • F – 4 miles walk/run intervals

Just like last year, I decided that I’d give it a month and if it seemed like too much work or I could not consistently keep it up to date, I’d try another way.  However, after my first month, I was amazed at how little time it consumed to keep up with my progress and for the first time was able to track real progress.  My objective was to make sure that in any given week, I would have at least three of each letter in my tracker.  If I can’t find time three times a week to focus on Spanish, I’m not going to achieve a conversational fluency by the end of the year (okay, maybe that’s ambitious–but that’s the kind of goal setting that works for me).

The nice thing about this project is that my binder is my affirmation.  I don’t need anyone to pat me on the back.  Also, if I ever start to doubt myself in any of these areas, I just look at the tracker or the log entries behind each of the tabs to see that I have dedicated serious time and energy to the things I believe are important for me to achieve.  So far, it has worked very well.  I have seven completed months of tracking/logging.  I can now play a Spanish love song on the acoustic guitar.  I have a lot of Spanish practice under my belt and have basic (read, write, speak, listen/comprehend) skills.  I am only 14 pounds heavier than I was when I completed technical school in the Air Force at the age of 18–30 yrs ago.  I am improving my personal relationships.  I joined the Nebraska Writer’s Workshop (a three hour weekly commitment) Jan 2015 and am an active weekly member–I wrote my first novel!  I have read 12 and a half books since January–all while holding a full-time job and enjoying the most awesome gardening season ever.

The results speak for themselves and I now have a way to hold myself accountable to the things I say are important to me.  I hope that everyone who reads this is able to glean an idea or two that will help them with their goals.  One of my Writing goals is to blog more regularly.  I haven’t decided upon a rhythm yet, but I’ll share what my plans are soon.

Cheers!

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Posted in Children, Creativity, Relationships, Technology

Is media (cell phones, tablets, laptops, gaming) robbing you and your family of valuable time?

Surfing the Web
A Sketch I Drew of My Daughter.

If you’re a parent, perhaps you’ve struggled over the same issue.  Media and its domination over our attention during non-work time in our lives seems to grow daily.  You go out to a restaurant and find groups of twenty somethings all sitting around a table, physically present, but their minds are engaged in the firmware held in their hands, mentally distant!

Our son is fascinated with Minecraft, and our daughters enjoy keeping up with the latest music videos, Dr. Who, and other electronically facilitated entertainment.  I am enamored with social media (in all its forms), but my wife appreciates a living, breathing, conversant subject to interact with.  She, and many others complain about what our society (this generation) is coming to; worries about the quality of relationships, and ability to exercise human kindness and respect in this instant gratification “push button” world.

During my recent convalescence from ankle surgery, I had a lot of time to observe our family dynamics and watch the rhythms of our lives with some mental objectivity and decided to make a pie chart of the activities of each person in our household.  I came up with several categories of activities and set a value to each one to determine how big of a piece of the pie each one made up.

In spite of the fact that our family sits together to consume most meals, and we don’t have kids watching movies in moving vehicles, the “family” piece of pie still falls short when compared with academics, media, peers & play, life skills (chores), sleep/hygiene.  Family time means different things to different people.  Reading aloud, playing table games, taking a walk, camping, fishing, bike riding…these are all great family activities that don’t require a screen, keyboard or mouse!

So this week, in order to “set the example” I chose to do less time in social media and more time reading books that have been on my list.  I finished reading the following books:

* Crowdsourcing by Daren Brabham, where I learned his definition of crowdsourcing as “an online, distributed model that leverages the collective intelligence of online communities for specific purposes set forth by a crowdsourcing organization, corporation, government, or volunteer.”  Not to be confused with crowd funding and other crowd models of resource aggregation.  Its a quick read I highly recommend if you are interested in future methods of ways to handle global issues & problem solving.

* A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House, an author who does an incredible job of character development by painting a beautiful world with words.  I associate a talent of his literary skill with the movie motion picture effect of “slow motion.”  His introduction to specific moments make your mind play out the words on your mind’s screen just as if the video had been playing in slow motion!  I’m simply going to have to add the rest of his works to my reading list.

The observations I made about my own media/online habits helped me decide to start a reading journal.  This allows me to record the book title and author, as well as key takeaways, recommended books, and other ideas found in the pages of these authors.  It will also hold me accountable to choosing quality over quantity.  When I log onto my social media accounts, I find it easy to get sucked into a time warp where there’s lots of individual bursts of entertainment, insights, newsy bits…but, the book I really want to read won’t read itself.  The value of 100 tweets read doesn’t stack up to a work of studious effort of a passionate author about a particular topic or discovery.  So, while I still engage online, I also consider the value of my time and adjust appropriately to improve the quality of what I’m acquiring in my grey matter.

Last week I told my children (then tweeted), “We are all architects! #Architects of our wakeful time. How you use it determines what gets built! What art though building?”  So, I put this question to myself every day now.  It really helps me weigh the value of my options and make the best choice to achieve my goals.  Due to different choices I am making, I was also able to draw the picture illustration in this post!

Tomorrow, as a family, we will have a discussion about “family time” and how to ensure that appropriate time is invested in the face-to-face, non-electronically facilitated engagement & entertainment….a steady diet of learning about each other, supporting each other, preparing for our tomorrows by dreaming out loud today.

Thanks for reading and I do hope you contribute your comments and thoughts on this post.  Is media (cell phones, tablets, laptops, gaming) robbing you and your family of valuable time?

Posted in Education, Relationships, Writing

Who Can Afford a Mid-Life Crisis?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...
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As an entrepreneurial minded person, I have always enjoyed observing different environments and assessing what could be done to make things better, more efficient, more pleasurable and rewarding.  So much of my adult life has been a path of least resistance trek…settling some might say.  I have decided to finally fulfill my motto for this year, “Passion with Purpose!”  But man, what a time in life to be engaging in such tumultuous choices!  Nevertheless, if you want different results, you have to make different choices….so, next month I finally begin to finish what I started YEARS ago!  That’s right, when I should be having a mid-life crisis–I’m sharpening pencils, buying new lined notebooks, making sure my laptop and printer are ready to support me in the role of student!  I’m going to finish my bachelors degree in Business Analysis and Management through an accelerated program at Bellevue University!

We have twin daughters who will be needing braces soon, will start driving and going to college; a house that we’re pulling off the market to rent out until the housing outlook improves; and aging in-laws with health issues.  Our elected officials seem bent on allowing the economy to tank while arguing the correctness of standing proudly on party principle.  I don’t even bother to turn on the news anymore.  Election campaigns are spinning up and nobody has anything nice to say about anyone else.  My party is more correct than your party–this party holds the monopoly on perfection–please, we do not allow our children to behave that way!  Is responsibility and stewardship forgotten after being appointed to Congress or the Senate?  That may seem a rather harsh or unfair question, but from the “common folks” perspective, seriously, how are we supposed to believe that common sense is being applied?

I do not for one minute think that only Republicans are capable of appropriate size and responsible stewardship of the government, nor do I believe that Democrats are the only people who care about social programs or topics that fall into the pro-choice bucket.   The Tea Party (a loosely leaderless group) is also not the only sect of people who would like to distance themselves from the Republicans and Democrats.  Its hard not to feel lost and disenfranchised by these cliques that truly no longer represent me or my views/ideals.

I’m reading a book titled “Not Quite Adults”  by Richard Settersten, Ph.D., and Barbara E. Ray.  My wife has already read it and recommended it to me.  Its an eye-opening look at the harsh reality of why our youth of today and the country are in the situation you see when you look around.  How many children have moved back in with mom and dad because they can’t afford to buy into the American Dream?  How many retired couples are having to return to work because their nest eggs have dwindled to nothing since the recession of 2008?  In order to get ahead, many go into debt to achieve the higher level degrees required to earn the income necessary to support all their obligations and subsidize their children’s successful launch into adulthood.

Where does it end?  Where did we go wrong?  But more importantly, how do we stop the insanity and get on a path to health?  The other book I’m reading right now is “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain” by Ryan Blair with Don Yaeger.  A very interesting story about a young kid from a troubled childhood who found himself in juvenile detention centers, but with the help of a few good mentors, managed to turn his life around and rise to the top.  His book challenges you to be persistently looking for ways to turn unfortunate circumstances into opportunities for success.

As for me, I’m starting to consciously plan for a new direction in life–one with more options…starting with going back to school!  I’m also starting to think that there’s got to be a better way for preparing for retirement/future than Wall Street.  Something is majorly wrong when bad news on the other side of the world can cause your stock value in an American company to plummet!  Is it just me?  Am I alone in feeling discombobulated?