What is your life metaphor?

Life is hard and then you die.

Camp chuck!

Which of the above would you like to be a part of?

Both are phrases that two of my good friends use.  Do you want to be a part of  Team Life is Hard and Then You Die or Team Camp Chuck (where everyday is like Summer Camp).

I must admit that I spent a lot of time as a part of the Team Hard up until my mid-twenties.  In college my guiding philosophy toward people was “Don’t expect much of people that way you will never be disappointed.”

A friend named Steve Patton pointed me at  a book called Learned Optimism and in forties I stumbled upon some Anthony Robbins books. 

Now neither book contains the answer to life (that would be the Bible), but both contain valueable lessons in moving towards creating a life that you enjoy.  One thing is how you think about life.

Life is Easy / Life is Good

For a couple of years now, I have flucuated between Life is Easy and Life is Good as metaphors that adorn the inside of my journal and the sheets of paper that I call my focus points and help me remember key goals and key lessons learned.

You may object to both of these metaphors because it might not reflect your experience, but give me a couple of minutes and let me explain.

Life is Easy

Some people object to this metaphor on the grounds that most successful people work very hard to get what they want and that to get good at something you must put in a lot of practice.

The disconnect is that we associate “work” and “practice” as “hard.” 

For me, though, life should be “easy” and by that I mean that we should design our life around choices that are things we enjoy. 

Hate your house?  Pick up and move.

Can’t afford too?  Make a list of what you don’t like and pick five things to improve for the year while spending as little money as possible.  Go to your friends house and (silently!) make a list of things that you like better about your house.

Repeat for your job, family situation, and relationships.

My yard has always been a source of “hardness’ in my life — ivy growing up trees and fences, a lawn I have to mow, trees that need to be trimmed. Yuck!

A year ago I decided to make peace with the yard. 

The ivy can have the fence, but I get to keep the trees.  The trees are friends to trim or cut down if theyare in the wrong place.  Mowing the yard is an escape of two hours a week in the spring to think about life and the yard itself.

I sit on the porch after I mow and run my sprinklers and smile and thank God for my beautiful yard.

Life Is Good

Death, disease, famine, bills, cats.

There are many things that we do not consider “good” in this life from the serious to the amusingly annoying.

I will save my long discussion of death for another day (short version — it makes life precious), but like the “hard” things in life, the “bad” thinks in life can be redeemed.

One of the small “bad” things is when good friend move away from each other.

We may see each other on facebook and wish for a chance to hang out and play cards or wish that our families could grow up near each other.

There are, of course, the truly horrible things in our society — hatred, abuse, and death.

One thing to focus on is what we control?

We have each day of our life to make an impact for good in the world regardless of what was done to us or people we know.

 We can turn to God and ask His help in redeeming the bad and turning it into good.

We have a choice each day to focus on the good parts of our life and celebrate those even if they are few and far between.

In most countries, we can make choices about our future — job, friends, relationships — that will allow us to build a good life.

For me, I see that Life Is Good despite some of the bad around me and I work to do little things in people’s lives to help their lives be a little better as well.

What’s the point?

How do you choose to see life?

If you think that “life is just something to get through” then I suspect (from experience) that your life will be that.

If you think that “life is about impacting people” then I suspect that your life can be about that as well.

Book Review: Eaters of the Dead

This is my first book review in what I expect will be an ongoing feature of my website.

There is no significance to me starting with Eaters of the Dead other than it is the most recent book that I have read.   Should have started with a more significant book than a 34 year old slim jim novel that is as much memoir as it is novel?

Probably, but that is what I’m reading right now so it will have to do.

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

Summary

Eaters of the Dead is a novelization of the Beowulf legend told from the point of view of an unwilling muslim traveler named Ahmad ibn Fadlan.  Fadlan existed and traveled to to the north where he met Vikings but Crichton introduces and forces Fadlan into a hero’s quest that Beowulf and eleven of his companions are undertaking.

The book became the basis for a movie and then was re-released as The 13th Warrior.

Genre: Historic Fiction

New or Old: Old

What I liked about it

I liked that it was a fresh, well done,  new (well, old now) take on an old tale.  

The characters grow and all of that important book stuff, but more importantly I enjoyed the cameraderie between the characters.  A small group of man facing undaunting odds and “succeeding” is always a fountain of energy for me personally and most men in general.

Another aspect I like was the medical diagnosis of wounds.  Depending on the type of wound they might give you onion soup, for instance.  Then they would smell your wounds around your belly after giving the soup time to move through your system.  If they smelled onion from the wound then they would know that you would die and so forth.  Quite an ingenious method, I thought.

My favorite line is a quote in the book attributed as an old Viking saying — A dead man does noone any good.

This is a good reminder that life is precious and so is each day.

What I do today will effect both my life and the lives around me for good, bad, or just plain uselessness.  Everyone can be a life changing person even if your own life is the only one you change.

Read this book if

If you like wooden historical fiction or just liked the movie but never read the book.  A friend who I discussed this with noted that “it’s a little different take” than the movie and that is true.  There is less glamour and more snot in the book than in the movie.

Don’t read this book if

If the notion or any type of sexual comments offends you, then don’t read the book.

The book has some sexual refrences in commenting on the habits of the Vikings although for the most part this is a reference to the activity without any graphic details.

Also, don’t read this book if you can’t handle a slow start or at least just skip to where he meets the Vikings.  The first twenty pages are background and while they are helpful in getting the character on his way, you can live without reading them.

Overall

 This was a book I liked.  If I saw it sitting on your bookshelf, I’d pick it up and leaf through and find my favorite parts.

I review adventure and mainstream novels as well as non-fiction books related to goals / life lessons / productivity. If you’re interested in having a specific book  reviewed, please contact me at kmoreview@gmail.com.

Playing Catch Up

I’m currently moving ahead with a very aggressive list of all the things I want to do — write, new job, spend time with family, get yard in better shape, get me in better shape, etc.

The problem comes up when something slips behind a bit and all of a sudden you are trying to play catch up on an already full schedule.

There are a few ways to attack something like this:

1) Don’t sleep for a few days and try to get caught up.

The problem, of course, is that you need to be awake to function and keep up with your overly aggressive schedule.

2) Pretend you didn’t miss those things and just reset them for next week (or whenever they would next come up).

The problem here is that you tend to miss the same ones over and over again.

3) Fix the problem by building in at least one slack day or some slack time for things that got missed.

The problem here is that I then begin to rely on this slack time and don’t do what I need to do on a regular basis.

4) Stop trying to do so much.

That would be the smart thing but that has never really been an acceptable approach.

5) Add MORE things to your to do list that you really want to do but make doing them contingent on getting caught up.

Well, of course, I’m doing #5.  Behind on novel #2? Not a problem — start novel #3 but you only get to work on novel #3 when novel #2 has been worked on.

It’s an approach and I’ll let you know how it works out in a week or so.

Perfect Execution … a day in the life

I mentioned that I’m currently using the phrase, “Perfect Execution,” to motivate and remind myself what I need to do.

It doesn’t mean that everything WILL be perfect or that I will fall apart if they aren’t perfect.  It is an attempt to encompass two ideas:

1) If I focus throughout the day and Get Back on Track after I get distracted, I will make progress on my to do list.

2) If I have a good to do list to focus on for any given day, I will make progress on my major goals.

Make a list

Regardless of how you make a list, you should make a list most every day.  In my case, I make two lists — one work related and one that is for breaks / lunch / before work / after work.

Today’s work list looked a lot like this:

a) read through and document at least five support cases in my new discipline.

b) check in with the contacts on all of my open calls.

c) spend an hour going through the introduction to my new discipline.

d) go through all of my email and either respond and file, file and add to do list, or read and file it.  Basically, clear out the inbox and get things onto the to do list (yes this is the remnents of my foray into GTD).

Non work list:

1) Breaks — pushups and pullups

2) Lunch — work on my novel

3) After work —

    Spend time with Logan if he wants to.

   Read Bible and pick a random facebook friend to pray for (Ms Horst as it turns out).

   Tweet

   Write an article here

   Take the trash cans out

   Take care of the cat litter

   Trim one tree in the yard

    Work on some gaming stuff that needs to be done by Monday

Sanity Check Your List

The sanity part of the check list is not whether or not you can finish the list by the end of the day. 

It is a very simple question:

  Does this list support my long term goals

So let’s review:

   My work list will help me learn my skillset (I’ve been in this job for about a month and it generally takes six months to come up to full speed) by looking at actual cases and combining that with general knowledge.

   My home list helps me stay connected to people (in this case Logan who I haven’t seen much of for a couple of days), connected to God through my quiet time, write, work on platform and online presence, and keep the house from falling apart.  Oh and the exercise part to get in “summer shape” a bit (although I need to put something in about not eating my weight in unhealthy foods).

Perfect Execution

Now, I would be lying to you if I said that I did those things straight through without interruption.  It’s just simply not possible (at least for me).  Here are a few things that got in the way today:

Kradan needed some extra help with dinner so I grilled and did dishes.

My favorite political websites mugged me and made me read ten or twelve articles.

I decided that I needed to call my Dad and chat about a few things (not bad, but not on the list).

Half an episode of NCIS interrupted as well.

Another of my games that I didn’t need to visit today got visited anyways.

However, the point of Perfect Execution is to not give up on your day or your goals for the day just because you deviate.  The point is to go back to the list and get on with the next thing as quickly as possible.

Today I’ve been able to do that.  Could I have done more?  Yes and I *may* do a bit more when I get done with this article, but even if I haven’t, I know that I’ve given it the best I could EVERYTIME I THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

At the end of the day, I can be happy with what I’ve done.

When I take checkpoint days (about once every two weeks) and look at where I am compared to my goals, I will hopefully see that the yard is looking better (okay not RIGHT now), that I’m more connected in life, that I’m getting it at work, and that I’m getting closer to my publishing goals.

Whatever your method, your daily activities should support your long term and lifetime goals and at the end of the day, week, month, etc, they should leave you celebrating, not sighing.

Motivational Phrases

If you were to wander through my basement office and my journal, you would see small phrases posted or noted ….

Life is Good

Celberate (sic) for no reason

Perfect Execution

Each of these phrases is a key reminder to me of the attitudes that I need to embrace to keep my overly introspective self moving forward toward my goals with a smile on my face.

Those of you who spend time with me know that I talk to myself (hum to myself, whistle to myself, etc) and that’s just what you hear me muttering under my breath.

It is but a drop compared to the ocean of self talk that goes through my brain 7 x 24 telling myself what I need to do next and what to focus on next. 

While there are many other phrases that I use and have used through the years to keep myself up and going ( “Write something, stupid!” being another one), the three above are the three that are most constantly on my mind these days.

Life is Good

Many of you who know me realize that circumstantially I should be one of the happiest people alive.  I have a great job, get to work from home, like my house, have a hot wife, have two great kids and a few bucks in the bank.

Still it is very easy for me to focus on the things that are wrong ( I’m behind on my manuscript, I’m drowning in new information at my new job, I need to paint/side the house) instead of looking at the bright side.

Reminding myself that Life Is Good (I used to use Life Is Easy as well) reminds me that in the country that I live and with the base of experiences that I’ve built up that Life is there for the taking.  Not just crossing things off  my to do list but actually getting out there and spending time with people and enjoying what God has blessed me with.

Celberate For No Reason

I enjoy Anthony Robbin’s books and one of his key phrases is “Celebrate for no reason” when you are down and moody.  He says to jump up and down and yell insane things like “Hallelujah! I’m not living in volcano!”

His point is that even silly, loud, physical actions can change our state.

When I first wrote this on a large post it note and stuck it on the wall, I spelled celebrate wrong and Kradan laughed at me but now it’s a joke — Celberate For No Reason.

While I occassionally do as Tony says, this one reminds me to take a slow, honest look back at the past few hours and days and celebrate the true joys of the simple things in life and the great and small gifts that I have gotten.

Perfect Execution

Have you ever started out on a diet and exercise plan only to blow it with a donut or something.  Then you just give up and throw in the towel.  I had a donut so how about four burritos for lunch and a sundae in the afternoon.

Perfect Execution for me means going right back to the “to do” list or what I was working on and working on it some more.

What makes you move?

What are the POSITIVE phrases that you can write on the wall or tell yourself over and over as you go through her days?

They can get you refocused and back on track.