Comfort: The Biggest Killer of Productivity

Rodin's Thinker

Being comfortable is the biggest killer of productivity.

When you have something to prove, or are hungry to better yourself, you work for it. You bust your ass. Once you attain a certain level of success, whether it’s in your job, your housing situation, your car, your weight, fitness level, whatever, it becomes a lot harder to keep your eye on the prize. Your goals change. It’s easier to coast a bit and just do enough to maintain your  comfort level. Maybe you slip (which I’ve done with my fitness and weight in particular), maybe you don’t. But it’s sure as hell a lot harder to remember to work for what you want once you sort of reach your goals.

This applies to my writing, fitness, weight, work, just about everything. I’ve recently had good reason to look at where I’m at and realize that I have been coasting for a long time. I haven’t been writing enough, for one thing. But I’m back in the swing of things now and am making progress on pretty much all fronts.

What about you? Do you need a wake-up call? Get out there and do something to better your life.

P.S. I got off my ass and did 1.5 miles on the treadmill this afternoon. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Seize the Day!

Gianna Posing Outside

Having a kid constantly reminds you that time is slipping away. Nothing stays the same. You don’t, your family doesn’t, your friends don’t, your pets don’t. The world doesn’t.

Seize the moment and enjoy where you’re at, who you’re with.

Right now, Gianna is changing every day. She’s talking quite a bit, and I find myself being a little sad to see it (simultaneously, I’m happy, of course). But it’s easy to get a little melancholy about seeing her lose cute behavior and become more like the rest of us. She just started saying an emphatic, “Uh huh!” instead of just nodding or making this weird, cute little “yes” sound that she’s been making for a long time. It’s imposible to describe adequately, but it’s sort of a nasal click that she vocalizes. I’ve never heard anyone else make a sound like this–it’s just hers.

Or it was.

It’s gone now in favor of regular language.

So seize the day. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

Find Your Passion. Work Hard. Be Relentless.

Gianna in the Bowling Alley

Find something you’re passionate about, work hard, and pursue it relentlessly.

Today, my little sister graduates from nursing school. The wide world sits at her feet, ready to be worked on, fixed up, and helped.

It took her a few years to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, but once she did, she set her mind to it. She’s worked hard,

Me, Ashley and Gianna at the Polson Airport in 2011
Me, Ashley and Gianna at the Polson Airport in 2011

mastering everything necessary to not only learn the basics of nursing, but to excel. She got all As and 4 Bs, and her classmates voted her the “most likely to be a leader.” She’s persistent, fearless, smart, takes charge when necessary, etc. When something needs to get done, she does it. She is young enough that her memory is still excellent, and she seems to remember just about everything she has learned about how the human body works (she’s now my “go-to-guy” when it comes to health issues). She has attracted the attention of her professors and bosses, and has been commended for doing so well.

My hat is off to you, Ashley Barba.

Keep pursuing your passions and you will do well throughout the rest of your life.

And you, readers? The same thing goes for you.  Figure out what you’re passionate about and pursue it. Don’t just sort of half-assed think about it or talk about it. DO IT. Be relentless in pursuit of what you love.

If everyone found their passion and pursued it relentlessly, the world would be a hell of a better place.

So follow my sister’s lead, get out there, and do what you love. Work hard. Don’t take no for an answer.

I’ll Do It . . . Someday.

Justin in Oregon 2003

Boy, have I been lazy this winter.

Really, I’ve been lazy for way longer than that, but at least I kept going to yoga and running off and on for about the last year, which managed to keep off some of my excess fat. But this winter, I stopped working out at all, stopped running, and “took some time off” from yoga.

I don’t like being fat. Nobody does. But I sure do love indulging myself–I’m a glutton.

My Dad and I in Oregon 2004
Here I am with my dad in my fat days. Compare that to the pictures of me in Hawaii. I was fat.

I’ve been drinking pots of coffee with half and half instead of skim milk lattes, which has helped me binge on the stuff, swilling down WAY too much of it. I’ve also been eating far too much unhealthy food (and even when I eat healthy stuff, I’ve been a glutton). I’ve had to switch from wearing medium shirts to large ones, and my 34 inch waist pants don’t really fit very well. I know to many people, probably most, this won’t sound like much. I’m not 250 or 300 pounds and I’m not in serious danger of dropping dead from a heart attack.

But you know what?

In America, we have a seriously skewed idea of what “fat” is. We call it being “big,” or pretend that as we age, it’s normal to get fat and out of shape. I think this is more of a facet of modern American society–we eat high calorie food, drive everywhere, watch tv all the time, etc. I don’t need to go into detail, do I? We all know what’s wrong with the picture of American Health these days.

And sugarcoating it with soft, non-offensive language doesn’t help anything. It only serves to massage weak egos and fool us into pretending that we’re fine. Everything will be fine. Please pass me another cheeseburger or another bowl of ice cream. I’ll walk a little more tomorrow. We wait for “someday.” That mythical “someday.” Someday I’ll start eating right. I’ll exercise. And I’ll like it. Someday. Maybe. meanwhile, we’re getting older, our bodies are breaking down, and we tend to get fatter.

Justin in Oregon 2003
Here I am in Oregon 2003. I was pretty fat then.

I say “we” since it applies to me like crazy. I spent my 20s weighing about 220 pounds. I ate fast food multiple times/day. We used to leave the paint store in the mornings then stop in at Burger King for a Double Whopper with cheese, King-sized fries, and a huge Coke. I used to drink at least a 6 pack of Coke every day (and usually way more than that due to free refills at every damn restaurant). We’d have lunch about 3 hours later at some other awful fast food place (or sit downs. If we could swing the time, we’d drop into a sit down and eat, eat, eat). We ate like kings, so it’s now surprise that I looked like Robert Baratheon.

Then on Easter 2005, after gorging myself on tasty food, I was lying on the couch at my grandma’s house watching Foodtv. I felt

terrible (of course I had eaten WAY too much). We were watching a marathon of this show where they gave these fat people a trainer, a dietitian, and a plan for a few months (they followed them from beginning to end). They whipped these people into shape, even this extremely obnoxious guy who lost 40 pounds in 3 months. Seeing this idiot do it spurred me to decide to get in shape.

At the same time, my wife was training for her first marathon, so she was running all the time, which helped motivate me too (she is very fit). So. I ended up eating right and exercising, and I lost 2 pounds/week. I went from 225 to 172. I wasn’t ripped, but I had

September 2005 at a 5k in Maui
Here I am weighing 172 in Maui 2005 just before running my first 5K race.

abs with no fat on them for pretty much the first time in my life. In fact, I was on the skinny side–I was running too much and not eating enough protein.

Then I started lifting weights and doing yoga and got up to about 190, which I stayed at until about 2 years ago, when I started

going to a trainer with my brother. With him, we managed to condense a week’s

worth of weight lifting into 2 hours/week, but once we got too busy with work and had to stop, I rested on my laurels. I gradually lost my strength and my aerobic conditioning. I still went to yoga until last autumn, which helped keep me up somewhat, even though I had crept up above 200 pounds again. Then, like I already said, my winter of hedonism shoved me up to 221. After one week of eating well and exercising, I’m down to 216 right now (I think I tend to hold on to a few pounds of excess water when I’m being unhealthy).

So what’s my point?

Justin in Portugal
Here I am in Portugal. I was fit then (I knew how to maintain it).

Well, I have a few today, I guess. Get off your ass and do something. Move around. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’ll always have time to get healthy later on. You certainly might, but hey, get to it. Don’t do like I have been. Don’t ignore yourself. Look for balance in what

you do, and try to make a positive change. I don’t want to see you drop dead from being unhealthy.

In my case, I think I may have flipped the switch back to “go.” I think. It’s hard to say, but I feel motivated about it right now. I DO NOT want to look and feel like I have been. I don’t want to be an unhealthy example for Gianna. I want to be there for her when I’m old. I want to look good. I want to feel good. I want to be able to run half-marathons again.

I’ve also noticed recently that my once excellent memory is really fading. I have been having a really hard time remembering if I’ve done things I meant to do or not. I think it’s related to my bad diet and lack of exercise (I sure as hell hope it is, anyway). I’m 36-years-old, so I think it’s a bit early to start shutting down.

Coloring Easter Eggs
You can see that I've gotten fat (if you don't see me in real life, that is. If you do, you know I've gotten fat again).

So. make that “someday” today. Get off your ass and go for a walk. Eat less. Eat better. Just do it for yourself. You owe your future self some health.

Prioritize!

In lieu of telling you all the funny yet disgusting true story I had intended to share, I realized that this morning I need to channel my creative energies into my fiction instead of the blog. Also instead of MisCon stuff. I ‘ve been spending a serious amount of time on MisCon lately, and not enough writing.

Also, screw you, Facebook! Like so many of you out there, I spend too damn much time on Facebook, keeping up with everyone and everything.

Prioritize.

It’s okay to love a lot of things. Sometimes, though, you just need to set aside the fun stuff and get down to business (which in this case is writing fiction).

So goodbye everyone, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow (after having put some new words down on screen).

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Rodin's Thinker

This week has been full of conflict for someone close to me. In our discussion of how best to deal with the situation, this simple reminder keeps coming up:

Put yourself in their shoes.

When you’re having conflict with someone, it’s easy to forget to try and look at it from their perspective, especially if you’re emotions are running high and you’re all riled up.

Why is this person disagreeing with you? Consider their motivation, goals, emotional state, etc. What have they been dealing with in their own life? What do they want from you? Do they have ulterior motives? Are they emotionally unstable? Is it an ego issue?

This isn’t to say that you should just forgive someone you’re in conflict with, but you may be able to better deal with the situation if you can try to understand your “opponent.”

So the next time you find yourself worrying about something like this, stop, step away, and focus on the situation. Put yourself in their shoes. And don’t forget to examine yourself!

 

What Are You Afraid Of?

Rodin's Thinker

What are you afraid of?

Are you scared to speak up? Are you afraid of failure? Afraid of attention? Are you scared of dogs? Of hurting other people?

Examine yourself. Think about your fears. How does fear specifically affect your life?

Fear holds us all back, but we are given the opportunity to face our fears pretty much every day. It’s so much easier to do the safe thing (and live in fear, let your fear beat you, keep you from being happy, from building confidence), but you know what? Every time I face my fears, I feel better about myself. It builds my confidence and make me more likely to do scary stuff.

So what am I afraid of? I guess I’m afraid of looking stupid. I don’t like silence very much (that’s one reason I talk so much)–I’m not sure whether or not I’m afraid of silence, but I definitely feel compelled to fill it. I’m afraid of not being successful–ah fear of failure. That’s it, for sure. It’s probably a big one for me, although I never really consciously think about it. I just do things and keep going. But I’d guess that a good part of my motivation comes from the desire to be successful.

I used to be afraid of speaking in front of people, or of giving my opinions on some things (being as I’m one of the most outspoken, opinionated people around, well, I guess things change, don’t they?). I never wanted to speak up in class. I didn’t want to get shot down, was afraid of having everyone’s attention on me. I had an 8th grade teacher who forced me to talk louder in class (he did so by calling me out in front of everyone, making fun of me for speaking so softly, and pushed me to speak up). I think that was when I realized that I was afraid to speak up, so I started doing it more, just to challenge myself.

In writing this post, I realized that I need to examine my fear in more detail and really think about how it affects my life.

What about you? Do you need to build up your confidence? Are you afraid of what other people will think of you? Assert yourself.

Do something that scares you today.

They Grow Up Too Fast! Part 2

Gianna Crawling Toward Gretel

So yesterday I was taking about how kids grow up too fast (They Grow Up Too Fast!). Not long after I posted that, Gianna started saying Mama and Dada on command. For months, she has been able to say Mama and Dada, but rarely would she actually say them (and almost never when we’d ask her to).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdbsnFreiCA[/youtube]

This morning she keeps doing it on command. And she managed to flip her bedroom light switch up and down a bunch of times. She couldn’t do that yesterday either.

It happens way too fast.

So what do I take away from this? Get to it. Live your life. Do what you can while you can. Tell your people that you love them. Make the world a better place. Write that story, paint that picture, do something you loveGianna in the Backyard.

Darth Vader Was Right: “Search Your Feelings.”

Rodin's Thinker

Darth Vader said, “Search your feelings.”

Plato said, “Know Thyself.”

I say, Examine yourself.

No, not for ticks or lumps or bumps or carcinoma.

I keep coming back to the idea that one of the pillars of improving yourself is self examination.

Stop and take a look at your motivation. Why do you do the things you do? Why do you get mad? Sad? Happy? Why do you hide? What are you afraid of? Why do you feel sorry for yourself? Why do you feel inadequate? Why do you need approval from other people?

Try to get beyond your emotional reactions and be honest with yourself.

It’ll probably take a lifetime, but the pursuit of knowing yourself is probably the place to begin.

I think the meaning of life is simple: We’re here to make the world a better place.

To do that, you need to be the best “you” you can be.

Examining yourself is the first step.

I know that even though I try really hard to remember to do this all the time, I fail. I fail pretty regularly, actually. That’s just part of the deal–as the days go by and you fall into the everyday movement of your life, you’re bound to lose sight of your goals. You forget the bad things you do, the negative stuff, and you just exist. You go to work, you do the dishes, you watch tv, all that daily life stuff.

So remember to take time out of your day to examine yourself. Reflect. Figure out what’s going on with you. Don’t let yourself get in the way of yourself forever.

Passion, Enthusiasm, Motivation: Get Your Mojo Back!

Taco the English Bulldog Head Shot

Passion can be elusive.

It comes and it goes. It’s wrapped up in motivation and creation, feeling good about something, enthusiasm, happiness. It often turns into obsession. When we’re in the middle of something and everything is going right, feeding our passions is one of the best things there is.

And when passion leaves us?

The world becomes grey and humdrum, boring. Maybe sad, maybe melancholy. Losing your passion is just about the worst thing around. Life loses meaning and you just want to sit around watching the Price is Right.

In my brother Josh’s case, it was nothing quite so dramatic, but it illustrates my point: this winter, he got back into taking care of his 135 gallon saltwater aquarium. He tends to become obsessed about some new thing every winter while we’re not painting much, whether it’s firearms, Toyota 4Runners, cuckoo clocks, cooking, wood carving, you name it.

When he is passionate about something, Josh does amazing things, as you can see from some of his carvings:

[slideshow id=10]

Saltwater aquariums were his thing for about 3 years–he read everything possible about saltwater chemistry, corals, fish, lighting, you name it. He built his 6-foot-long tank into mostly self-sustaining ecosystem with fancy lights and high-tech gadgets, and plumbed it into his house’s water supply. When we went to Hawaii in 2006, he could name everything he saw. His knowledge was impressive. A few years ago, the tank was overrun by green and red algae, his corals mostly died, and he lost interest in maintaining it.

[singlepic id=175 w=500 h=390 float=center]

The mandarin fish, pictured above, can be a tricky one to keep. You need a healthy tank–this one lived for years before the tank died. It was fun to watch, with its weird red eyes and swirly blue and green pattern. My brother sure spent hours and hours staring at the creatures that lived in his saltwater tanks (for some weird reason, I don’t have any good pictures of the crabs, snails, corals, or most of the other amazing stuff he had). I do have a couple decent shots of his favorite fish, the cowfish (pictured below).

[singlepic id=176 w=500 h=390 float=center]

What’s interesting here isn’t so much that he had a really cool tank filled with amazing corals and hard-to-keep fish. It’s how fast a turn for the worse in something you love can kill your enthusiasm.

So the spring the tank went to hell, he picked up a couple new coral fragments in Spokane, Washington. Well, little did he know, but the frags came with tiny bits of invasive algae that pretty quickly spread all over the tank.

The bubbly purple stuff in the following picture is Cyanobacteria, a tank killer that’s tough to get rid of. The green hairy stuff is undesirable algae.

[singlepic id=173 w=500 h=390 float=center]

He tried everything he could find to kill the stuff, from frequent water changes, changing out his light bulbs, you name it. He fought it for a long time, but green hair algae just crept in and took over. Then one day, his favorite, the cowfish, died. That crushed him–the cowfish used to swim up to the top of the tank and eat right out of his hand, if you can believe that. It was practically like a dog in the way it would cruise by the glass and look at you.

The cowfish’s death, combined with the invasive algae, just sort of killed my brother’s passion for aquariums, and he just let the big tank sit there for 3 years. The corals died and so did  a few other fish, but it kept humming away, a hairy green mess. I wish I could find a picture to show you before and after, but some of my old pictures have been corrupted.

This winter he decided to clean up the tank and get it looking good again. He got back into the swing of things, cooked and scrubbed his rock, cleaned out the tank, replaced the lights, etc. About $1,000 later, he stumbled across a broken o-ring that had caused his protein skimmer (the main cleaning mechanism in saltwater aquariums) to stop cleaning the tank properly. It had all gone to hell because of a $0.20 o-ring!

[singlepic id=185 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Now he has corals again, and a few black and white clownfish (one of them survived the bad years). Coraline algae is starting to build up (this is the good stuff, something you want in your reef tank). His water quality is perfect and the tank is on its way to looking great again.

He is really excited about aquaria now.

So the question is, what does it take to get back into the swing of things? How do you rekindle your passion? Where the hell do motivation/passion/enthusiasm come from?

That’s a great question, isn’t it? I wish I knew, really. I may not know why we feel passionate about something, but I do have a few ideas about how to go about regaining it.

Here’s the process I do:

Step 1: Examine yourself. Why did you lose passion? Did you do something wrong? Was it guilt or laziness? Were you sick? Self indulgent? (I’m listing all my problems here!). Did someone else make you feel bad about yourself? Did you screw up something? Take a good hard look at your feelings and figure out where they came from. Once you do that, you’ll be able to try and cut away the bullshit.

Step 2: Do something! Like my brother, you just need to start with a baby step. You need to force yourself to get off your ass and do something. Get up off the couch, turn off the tv, and do something. It could be anything. Maybe you’re trying to find the motivation to work out (like I am). So force yourself to get back into it. The first step is to do it. Set a realistic goal, and do it. You don’t have to run 10 miles right out of the gate. You just need to walk around the block. Get up and get moving. If you love working on cars, go open the hood. Grab a rag. Clean the air filter. Check the oil. Just get started.

Step 3: Keep doing stuff. That baby step needs to be followed by more baby steps. Those baby steps will turn into speed walking then running. Once you get going, you build momentum. Keep it up. Do it every day, just a little. Do what you can handle.

Step 4: Hope like crazy that your success will get you fired up again. You can’t control your feelings, but you can try to nudge them. Once you get up and running, you will probably feel good about doing something, accomplishing something. This can be the seed that grows into happiness and passion. Once you’re reminded that you’re good at something, it’s a hell of a lot easier to keep going.

Gianna's Tongue
It's not so easy to be enthusiastic like kids are, is it?

Step 5: Be positive/retrain yourself. Once you get on a roll, you MUST remind yourself that you’re on a new path. You’re not going to just sit and watch tv. You’re going to work out first. You’re going to carve something first. You’re going to write that story first. Or even just 100 words. You need to re-train yourself not to be lazy, not to beat yourself up for being a loser. Remind yourself of your victories, all those baby steps you’ve been taking.

Recap: Take a look at yourself. Why did you lose passion/motivation? Did you hit a setback like my brother did? When his tank went to hell and his cowfish died, he was so disappointed that he just lost interest. He tried for months to fix it, but the tank just got worse and he felt like he couldn’t get it. He lost interest.

And what did it take for him to get back into it? Well, he finally decided to try and start it up again, figured out what the problem was (the faulty o-ring), then regained confidence about his ability to keep a touchy reef aquarium. Every day that his tank improves, he becomes more motivated to transform it into something awesome.

This is  a picture Josh took of himself yesterday from inside his aquarium (he has a waterproof case for his camera).

[singlepic id=172 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Now that I’m finally done writing what I meant to be a short little filler post, I am going to take Clyde for a run. I have been indulging my laziness all winter, gaining fat, losing fitness, and drinking far too much coffee with half-and-half and sugar (like a pot a day, at least). I know this run is probably going to really suck, but at the same time, I know I’ll feel better once I get home. Then hopefully I’ll get in some writing.