Friday, June 28, 2013

The way to succeed...

The way to succeed is to double your error rate. - Thomas J. Watson

Friday, December 28, 2012

Skipping New Year's Resolution in 2013?

Contemplating New Years' resolutions and plans during that down time between Christmas and New Year's Day has been one of my favorite activities. Peter Bregman tries to make an argument that we should consider not doing this. His arguments are that it can drive unethical behavior in organizations - employees focus on meeting their numbers goal at the expense of the customers. For individuals, Peter instead suggests that people should focus on the behavior they want, the path they want to take, and not on the numbers. For example, focus on establishing heating healthy habits instead of loosing a specific number of pounds. If you do that, you will have a good chance of meeting and maintaining a good healthy weight. Yea, that has a lot of appeal to me. But isn't that really just changing the type of goals you set - away from arbitrary numbers and towards desired behavior changes? I still like contemplating new goals for the new year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Service is the rent we pay

“Service is the rent we pay for living on this earth. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”

Those words were spoken by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Make clarity your first goal

From a newsletter by David Allen:

"If you aren't yet at the point of clarity, then make that your first goal. It's a big waste of time to go through life being unclear about what you want. Most people wallow way too long in the state of "I don't know what to do." They wait for some external force to provide them with clarity, never realizing that clarity is self-created. The universe is waiting on you, not the other way around, and it's going to keep waiting until you finally make up your mind. Waiting for clarity is like being a sculptor staring at a piece of marble, waiting for the statue within to cast off the unneeded pieces. Do not wait for clarity to spontaneously materialize—grab a chisel and get busy!"

-Steve Pavlina

Monday, March 21, 2011

What to focus on when life gets choppy

I recently read about a person who was having trouble with the daily turmoil of his life. He said that eventually he found guidance from a daily devotion, which “was about a guy who was a sailor. One of his buddies came along, they were in choppy waters, and the guy was throwing up. He was told, stop looking at the waves, find a point on the horizon. And he did this and it worked."

Note: This turns out to be from a story told by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. While I strongly disagree with many of his actions, nevertheless I can see some wisdom in this comment from him.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is America

Thanks to me good friend Elisa for bringing this to my notice, it made my day.
This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President." - Mark Shields, PBS

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks - Lessons from Camping in November

In the spirit of Thanksgiving...

I always thought that at least once in everyone's life, you should go camping in a tent on a cold November weekend, where the temperature at night is about 35F, preferably with a steady rain.   I can remember doing that when I was an adult leader for our local Boy Scout troop. 

Why do I think everyone should do this at least once?  You view things a little differently afterwards.  The first time I did it, I remember getting up in the evening a few days later at home, walking into a heated bathroom with indoor pluming, and realizing "Wow, this is really nice!"  You start appreciating, I mean really appreciating some of the things you took for granted before.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Amusing Rules for a Better Diet

Eating a perfectly balanced and exceptionally healthy diet can be hard, but some friends and I came up with this list of simple but amusing rules that, if followed, will dramatically improve your diet.

  1. Don't eat anything you've seen advertised on TV
  2. Forge the outside isles of supermarkets, don't venture into the middle of the store.
  3. If it has an ingredients list, put it back
  4. If it has a cartoon or a prize it is not food, it's entertainment. Put it back.
  5. Avoid eating anything that leaves an orange stain on your fingers, it's not food.
  6. Eat lotsa different colorful plants.
  7. When choosing food colors, minimize the amount of brown food (exceptions to this include nuts and extra dark organic chocolate).
Other rules?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Manopause - A Definition

Manopause - The male counterpart to menopause:

A mental condition typically found in men in their mid to late 50's brought on by the realization that old age is just around the corner. Symptoms include: frequent reminiscing about the “good ol’ days”, cranky judgmental attitude and a closed minded approach to anything new. Usually punctuated by the chronic need to play a lot golf and vote republican. (copied from

Fortunately I'm not affected - yet. Feel free to do an intervention if any symptoms start to appear though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Moving and the Spirit of the 100 Thing Challenge

So we’re moving to Austin Texas. A new job with AMD is taking me there, along with my family. I feel very fortunate to have the job, especially since they are paying for my relocation. We’re now in the middle of going through everything in our home of 27 years, deciding what to take with us on the move, what to give away, and what to throw out. We’re constantly amazed at what we decided to save over the years and view this as an amazing opportunity to significantly declutter and simplify our lives.

I’ve always been fascinated by the “100 Thing Challenge”  promote by Dave Bruno – reducing your personal possessions to 100 items. It occurred to me that this would be a great opportunity to actually give that a try since I'm going through all my possessions and deciding what to keep and take with me anyway. What a great way to make a break with the past and start a new approach to living.

After giving it some thought, I began to question what I would really gain from strictly following this challenge. Instead, I decided it would be better to focus on the spirit of the challenge and significantly reduce my clutter in order to become less focused on, and bound by, a large collection of possessions. I decided to adopt a "filter" that would help me decide what to keep and what to get rid of as I went through things.

The first pass filter I chose is fairly simple: If something doesn't make me a better person or help me achieve my goals, then get rid of it. You can't be too strict about this, so objects headed on the way out from the first filter get a 2nd chance: if they make my life easier, or bring joy into my life on a regular basis (preferably at least weekly), then they could stay.

I've been making some occasional exceptions to these rules, but I find that they do a great job of helping me make decisions to get rid of all sorts of old stuff that would otherwise be difficult to decide on. After you build up some momentum, these acts actually end up becoming rather cathartic and liberating. I'm beginning to think that it's healthy for people to undergo such purges on a regular basis now. I've been way overdue for one.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: "Here is the ultimate paradox of the Great Health Care Showdown: Congress will divide along partisan lines to pass a Republican version of health care reform, and Republicans will vote against it." - E.J. Dionne

Sometimes you just have to laugh at American politics.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Life Transformation - Personal Growth

Continuing with the theme of establishing a set of new habits and goals during this new year period, the next topic up is personal growth.
  • Seek out people who bring out the best in you, challenge you, and help you grow. Just as children are extremely influenced by the friends they make, so are you.
  • Do something scary on a daily basis. Among other things, this implies overcoming any shyness and discomfort at talking to people you don’t know.
  • Simple rules for success from Jane Goodall: “… really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up…”
  • Learn something new every day. Just as you exercise you body, you also need to exercise your brain. This becomes more important the older you get. Studies have shown that the most important brain exercise is to learn something completely new, not just incremental improvements in a topic you are already very familiar with.
  • The more close relationships you have, the fuller you life and the better your health. Invest in friends, family, and relationships, new and old. Take time to really cherish them.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two Wolves

Your attitude is your choice. Chosing optimism is an empowering political act.
A good friend of mine sent me an email with the following story.


One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Life Transformation – Spiritual Health

Continuing with the theme of establishing a set of new habits and goals during this new year period, the next topic up is spiritual health. Just as we need to avoid toxic junk food for the body, we should avoid toxic junk influences for our spirit.

  • Avoid as much as possible exposure to commercial influences, including exposure to commercial TV and radio.
  • Avoid exposure to things that promote anger, fear, resentment, envy, disrespect, and pessimism.
  • Avoid exposure to things that promote objectionable values: violence as entertainment, glorification of conspicuous consumption, treating people as sex objects, etc…
  • Avoid exposure to people promoting such toxic behaviors, and seek out energizing optimistic people.
  • Become enthusiastically involved in positive causes that are bigger than yourself.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Life Transformation - Attitudes

Continuing with the theme of establishing a set of new habits and goals during this new year period, the next topic up is attitudes. Keeping in mind the old phrase “my habits define my life”, these are the habits of attitude that I want to help define my life.
  • They key positive attitudes I will keep and promote at all times are gratitude and compassion. Before getting out of bed each morning I will establish a mindset based on these to attitudes.
  • Negative attitudes I will eliminate from my life: anger, fear, envy. Decisions made when under the influence of these emotions tend to be very poor decisions.
  • I will not complain about anything this year. I will either accept things as they are, or do something to change them. Sitting around complaining is an unacceptable reaction.
  • I will not be impatient (a big personal problem for me). Being impatient is essentially complaining that the world is not moving fast enough to satisfy you, which is a silly and useless waste of your mental energy.
  • I will always treat everyone with respect. This can prevent all sorts of problems.
  • Being optimistic is a decision you make. It is one that empowers and energizes you and makes all sorts of positive change possible. I have decided to be optimistic.

Life Transformation - Progress Report

I did manage to get my email inbox down to zero on Jan 1st, and have kept it that way every evening since. I filed some items for future reference, and put those emails that still needed action in a “to do” folder, then archived the rest in a special folder in case I need to reference them in the future. So far, so good.

I also got rid of the vast majority of my pile of magazines. I cut out and saved some articles for future reference, then threw the rest out. It turns out that I had many more magazines squirreled away than I realized at first, and my goal of getting down to just three magazines being saved at any one time will be more difficult than I thought.

One problem that occurred to me comes from the old phase "my habits define my life". While the previous postings on developing better habits for organizing, diet, and staying healthy are good, I don't want them to define my life. Next up to post about is the set of habits that address attitudes, purpose, and spiritual related issues.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life Transformation - Organizing Habits

Continuing with the theme of establishing a set of new habits and goals during this new year period, the next topic up is organizing habits. One thing I really have trouble with is setting priorities when it comes to consuming information. I suppose many people with a healthy curiosity about a wide variety of topics have this problem. However, when there is essentially an unlimited amount of free information available on the World Wide Web, the tendency to attempt to consume everything of interest has to be resisted. Otherwise, as in my case, your email inbox will continue to grow without bounds with all the things “you plan to get to as soon as you have more time”. Same with the ever growing stack of magazines on the desk.

The overall habit must be to become more selective in what you try to drink from the fire hose of information coming at us each day. We can’t possibly take it all in, or even any reasonable fraction of it, so there needs to be prioritization about what is important to further your top one or two goals, what is really worth the time spent on it, and be willing to ignore the rest.

So my goals in this area for the coming year are (this is where things get more radical):

  • On Jan 1st, I will zero out my email inbox (actually archive the roughly 1900 emails currently in there, ugh!) and start out fresh. I will completely clear out my inbox again each night before going to bed.
  • The first time I open an email, I will remove it from my inbox. If I can deal with in 2 minutes or less I will handle it right then. Otherwise I will put it in a “To Do” folder, file it in a folder where I save useful information on that topic, or delete it. I will not leave it in the inbox with the intention of coming back to it later.
  • Many web browsers let you open multiple windows, with multiple tabs per window. This is great for opening articles that you intend to read “later when you have more time”, but it also invites a great deal of abuse. On Jan 1st I will close all the windows and tabs on my web browsers, and do so again each night before going to bed.
  • I will have at most 3 magazines on my pile of “magazines to read as soon as I have time”. If a new magazine comes in the mail, I will get the pile of magazines back down to 3 before going to bed.
  • Decluttering: Vertical places (desk tops, table tops, floors…) are not meant to be places to store things. To discourage clutter and accumulation of useless stuff, and encourage focusing on those things I prioritize, I will clear off key vertical spaces each night before going to bed.
  • To encourage more productive days, I will get up at 5am on a regular basis. The exception is when doing so would result in a severe lack of sleep because I had to stay up late the previous night.

That sounds just radical enough to be exciting.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Life Transformations - Health

Continuing with the theme of establishing a set of new habits and goals during this new year period, the next topic up is general health. I’ve done well this past year on hitting some of the big themes: regular doctor checkups, not smoking, wearing my seat belt in a car, etc. My diet was covered in another post, so here’s what I have left to work on this coming year:

  • Average at least 7 hours of sleep per day
  • Take a daily vitamin supplement and fish oil capsule
  • Exercise at least 4 times a week
  • Jog a total of at least 500 miles during the year
  • Minimize caffeine intake. Drink no more than one small cup of coffee per day.
  • Maintain a positive and grateful attitude (to be covered more in another post)

I once took a test on improving my life expectancy, and to my surprise the single biggest factor I could improve on is driving less. In principle that should be one of my health goals too, but I just don’t know how to set a specific actionable goal on that given my current uncertainty over future unemployment plans. It's something to keep in mind though.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Life Transformations - Diet

The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on your life and to think about establishing new habits or goals. Many experts will tell you that the best success at establishing new habits comes from focusing on one new habit at a time. However, there is a certain thrill that produces a greater sense of motivation for starting a larger life transformation all at once, which implies changing many habits at the same time. I find myself having trouble resisting the temptation to do this, or at least to contemplate it in some detail. So I’m going to write a sequence of appends about initiating a larger set of transforming habits. The idea is to start these on Jan 1st, 2010. We’ll see how successful such an approach really is.

To start the list, I’ll pick a topic that’s rather straight forward though not necessarily easy – eating. The strategy for eating food should be based primarily on maintaining the best possible health. That’s actually a somewhat radical notion for most people. Granted that there are exceptions where sharing food becomes part of special celebrations or social activities, but this should not in any way be a driving force in your diet habits. Food choices can also be an important part of an effort to live in a responsible and sustainable way, which interestingly often results in making the same choices that would be made if health issues drove your selections.

So here are some new choices that will help transform my diet:

- Eat three healthy meals per day – no between meal snacking.
- Fast one evening per week (i.e. No eating after 3pm).

I will eliminate the following from my diet:

- Cookies, donuts, muffins
- Soda (including diet)
- Candy
- Fried Foods, including French fries
- Bread (except as part of meals)
- All junk food (you know it when you see it)
- Eat lower in the food chain, and eliminate beef
- Anything I’ve seen advertised (with exceptions for obviously healthy food, but such food is rarely advertised)

That’s a good start. If I can pull off most of this, it will be a major improvement in the quality of my diet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Live as if this may be your last day

Thought for the day:

"Live as if this may be your last day, and people will judge you based on it."

- Author unknown