Is This Useful?

“Is this useful?” That was a question posed by Joseph Goldstein in one of the meditations offered on 10% Happier.

While he was referring to the thoughts and feelings that constantly tug at our focus and divert us from being present in our own lives, I would extend that question to the multitude of digital distractions at our fingertips.

Dozens of times a day I pick up my phone and fall headlong into a compulsive search for the tiniest hit of digital dopamine while neglecting everything right on front of me. It’s an addiction. Even now as I write the faint glow of my phone is tantalizing me into grabbing it just in case anything monumental has occurred in the last five minutes.

For several years I often wondered what I had done all day. I couldn’t remember, yet I felt so overwhelmed and busy. What was I so busy doing? I was buried in my phone. My time evaporated with each bit I shaved off for social media, games, apps and email. All those slivers add up into hours, days, weeks…

Click by click I was serving time in a self-imposed digital prison. I could have used that time growing or making or living or building or reading or loving or talking or walking or writing. Instead I was fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming the Foursquare Mayor of the Ralph Kramden Statue.

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I can’t stop using my phone. Complete abstention is impossible. But I can modify my behavior and change the relationship. I can set limits and curtail the empty minutes and hours wasted.

Below are just a few things I do to limit my time online and on my phone. Rigorous pruning of my daily digital commitment has yielded powerful results. Sometimes it means tough choices, but I guarantee the time and freedom gained make up for the low-calorie enjoyment lost.

  • Unsubscribe from email lists.
  • Delete unnecessary apps.
  • Turn off all sounds and notifications.
  • Don’t take phone to meetings or the bathroom.
  • Close time wasting browser windows.
  • Drop RSS feeds.
  • At home, leave the phone in another room.

So what is useful in my life? You may notice I write frequently about six daily habits or practices that I have instituted over the last few years. All of these require putting down the phone and reclaiming my day.

Meditation. I take ten to fifteen minutes to sit and do nothing. The sense of calm and well being I feel most days is a direct result of meditation. It stops the negative chattering in my head and reinforces the good things.

Exercise. I lose weight, tension and stress. I gain strength, confidence and calm. With regular exercise, I feel sharper, more focused, and better prepared to handle the challenges of the day. It can be as easy as a short walk or as hard as I want to make it.

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I Fought the Law (And the Law Won)

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Apparently This Means Stop

Cutting hard between two taxis, I accelerated to avoid a collision. As I veered across the blacktop I may have used salty language requesting a panel van driver pick a lane or kindly move aside. I shifted into a higher gear and hammered the pedals, breaking into the bike lane that opens up near Jefferson Market on Sixth Avenue. The signal at 10th Street turned yellow, then red. Ignoring everything I learned in Driver’s Education, I roared through the light. I had places to go and things to do. Move it, people!

The well hidden cop who stepped out from behind an SUV and asked that I kindly stop was not aware of my plans. After I failed his lighthearted quiz as to why I so brazenly broke the rules of the road, he asked for my license and left me there to ponder the error of my ways. While I looked back on my extensive life of bicycle-related crime, countless cyclists blew through the same light and their freedom mocked my predicament. A few minutes later the kind officer came back with my consolation prize, a $190 ticket.

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You’ve Been a Bad Boy!

Here’s the deal. I broke the law. I ran a red light right in front of a cop. I’ve been riding Citibike for almost 4 years. With 1,400 miles and 1,200 rides under my belt I was due for a ticket. I had become a hardcore bike criminal, running red lights at every opportunity, ignoring the flow of traffic when it suited my needs, cutting in front of cars and crossing traffic illegally, even riding on sidewalks.

I rode without regard to most laws in order to get to where I wanted to go as quickly as possible. That’s the beauty of cycling in the city. Get there now! No traffic jams. No sweaty subway platforms. No waiting for cabs. Just jump on and go. Amortized, it costs me 40 or 50 cents per ride. It’s the only way to travel in Manhattan.

But then I got busted. Good for me. I deserved it and I paid my debt to society.

It’s odd that I am such an aggressive cyclist while I am a conservative driver. I rarely go faster than the cars around me. I stop for red lights and follow the signs. Everything I am as a driver is everything I am not as a cyclist.

What is the difference between breaking the rules as a rider or as a driver? There are real consequences as a driver. If I drove like I ride I would have lost my license long ago and priced myself out of affordable auto insurance. That doesn’t even count the possible accidents and risk of severe injury or death. It is as if two different people exist in my regard for the laws on NYC streets. There is Dr. Jekyll the driver, upholder of the law and Mr. Hyde the rider, flaunter of all rules.

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So what does this say about me? Am I an honest person who gets out of control on a bike? Or am I a highly deceitful individual who only conforms to the rules he is afraid to break? Does this behavior extend beyond cars and bikes? Maybe I am just a bad man whose only constraint is fear of consequences. Perhaps I would live a life of crime if I knew I could get away with it. If it weren’t for those meddling rules. But I digress.

After I pocketed the ticket and jumped back on the bike I couldn’t wait to blow through some lights, break some laws and vent some anger on the way uptown. However, I made a decison. Play by the rules. No more tickets. No more two-wheeled crime sprees. Now, I wait for all the lights, stay off the sidewalks and proceed only in the correct direction on one way streets. I’ve become a law abiding rider, noticing two things right away.

One, I am a much more relaxed cyclist. I worried my usual routes would take so much longer when I followed the rules. While adding a negligible amount of time, it gave me the gift of calm. I’ve become less aggressive and enjoy the peaceful pace. No insanity and I get there just the same.

Two, as cyclists we are our own worst enemies. Wonder why cabbies, pedestrians, truck drivers and cars hate us? Perhaps it is because we ride like jerks. We weave in and out, blasting through red lights and stop signs. We go the wrong way on one way streets and ride on the sidewalks if it gets us there faster. Yet, we are the first to bitch if someone cuts us off or doesn’t see us.

Getting a ticket knocked a little sense into me. I don’t own the streets and neither do cars or pedestrians. We share it. If we want the city, the police, other drivers and pedestrians to take us seriously and respect our rights as cyclists we need to change the way we share the road. If not, there’s a $190 ticket out there with your name on it.

 

When Bad Advice is the Best Advice

Sometimes bad advice is the best advice. Wait, what? Yes, terrible advice can be the key to discovering what you really want.

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A few months back I approached someone whose thinking I trust. They’ve been very helpful and supportive in the past, offering sharp, critical advice on several occasions. This time I had some questions regarding a possible opportunity. I made my inquiry and the response I got left me nonplussed and a little indignant. I replied with a polite thank you, but then I started to stew.

The answer was not what I was expecting and it really rubbed me the wrong way. I will be fair and say it was honest and directas well as supportive and offered in kindness, but it didn’t sit right. This friction spurred me to dig deep and take a long look at what I really wanted. My anger and visceral response reaffirmed for me what my core strengths and key accomplishments really are. This burst of confidence game me some clarity and focus.

We all turn to friends, family, colleagues and mentors for advice and insight. It is crucial to the decision making process to have a sounding board. This front line is your personal group of beta testers. A broad variety of opinions will often put things into perspective, giving you some much-needed objectivity. However, you must gut check this feedback before acting on it. If it doesn’t feel right, it could be the wrong direction, even if it comes from a trusted source.

The internal mantra that popped into my head after this experience was a classic line from Season 6 of The Walking Dead (S6E1 First Time Again). Rick Grimes questions the soon to be dead Tucker, “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” Rick hasn’t always made the best decisions, but he has fought every step of the way and survived while others doubted and died.

Mentors and friends have a limited perspective on what you’ve done and who you are. Get lots of feedback when making a big decision, but in the end, only you know the right answer for you.

I didn’t get the response I wanted, but I got the answer I needed.

Thank you for the advice, friend. It was terrible and you definitely had no idea who you were talking to. I respect you and regard you as a great supporter and occasional mentor, but for this one I will take it from here. I may not succeed at what I asked you about, but you gave me a big jolt of confidence. It was exactly the backhanded kick in the ass I needed in that moment. It was the best advice I’ve received in months.

Letting Go of the Past

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A few weeks back I accidentally published this post in rough draft form. Mortified, I trashed it immediately. It had a long way to go before I would have been willing to put it out there. However, a friend caught it and asked why I had deleted it. Too personal. Too confessional. However, his comments resonated. He said it was “thoughtful” and he would be “proud to have come up with that.” Writing it did help me sort out a few things and maybe others can find something that works for them. Marsh Gooch, thanks for the push.

What happened to my once impervious exoskeleton of cynicism and sarcasm mixed with a pinch of scorn? Is losing my ironic distance and signature snark a result of age and maturity, greater self-confidence or having life hand my ass to me a few times? The answer is all of the above, but nothing like an ass whooping to effect change. My big takeaway from the last decade is life sucks when you’re going through the worst, but the lessons learned are invaluable.

Moving forward is the only answer. For too long I held onto the past, wading in yesterday’s waters and wallowing in regrets and resentments. That reluctance to let go hindered any advancement. However, letting go of the past is imperative. I’ve got four kids all at different stages of need and development. I’ve got a wonderful fiancée. Plus, I need to figure out how to keep making money for the next 20 years and have that last for 20 more after that. Big challenges require a forward focus, not a dithering and frightened stare at the past.

I had a vision recently of me holding on desperately to a past I couldn’t recapture no matter how hard I tried. Same guy, same suit, same job, hoping to sustain what he had always known and always done, never suspecting that his winning strategy had been failing him for years. I had developed the wrong approach to handling life’s challenges. My only solution was to do the same thing again and again and again, only with more force and more determination. And the results never improved.

For a big chunk of my career I created far too much baggage. I needed an office, a suit, a staff, and a day packed with meetings to do whatever it was that I did. When I was booted from one high level job I didn’t have the self awareness to let go and move on to the next phase of my life. I thought all I needed was a hand on the rungs of the next ladder. Why couldn’t I climb right back up from where I had fallen? Life would pick up and go on as it always had. Wrong!

When I got tossed to the pavement once again I started to hear the lessons life was trying to teach me. Still, I didn’t quite catch everything and attempted to battle my way backwards to what used to be. The next big job never materialized and I found myself still wondering what the hell went wrong.

After years of moving forward in a single direction my road had moved sideways long before I knew I needed to turn. The resulting pain came from offroading through a bumpy, boulder-strewn section of life while expecting the way to be smooth and paved. Funny how decades of a single winning strategy can blind you to the critical lifesaving necessity of a new direction and new tactics.

I need to flail and fail a little longer before I began to get the first simple signs of a new freedom and a way forward. Of course, I was so caught up in the past I nearly missed them. Then one day I bombed a CitiBike down 7th Avenue with my computer, phone and everything I needed in my messenger bag. In that adrenalized moment as I jockeyed between cabs and delivery trucks I knew things had changed. I didn’t need an office. I didn’t need a suit. I didn’t have to waste my time in endless meetings. I could work wherever I found wifi and an outlet. And maybe coffee.

That was the day I realized my old life was dead and gone.

Change and acceptance are hard. It means adjusting to a new way of doing things and reevaluating expectations for my life and my career. Letting go takes practice and perseverance. There is no magic answer. I have worked hard on creating daily habits that expedite the process, looking forward rather than backward. Exercise. Meditation. Gratitude. Reading. Writing. Setting goals. All of these contribute to a renewed sense of purpose and accomplishment.

This sometimes painful process has opened up a host of new possibilities and opportunities. Instead of one straight freeway ahead of me I see a lot of different paths with unseen twists and turns. There is no autopilot, but the view is much more scenic and the ride more interesting. I move forward every day a little nicer, a little kinder and full of gratitude for the road ahead.

 

 

 

Today Won’t Be the Day That Changes Everything

Today could be the day that changes everything.

That was how I felt almost every single day while I was unemployed a few years back. The next big opportunity was only one phone call, one email or one text message away. I was on high alert and had my phone and computer ready to respond. Yet I rarely did anything that could effect that change. I sat and waited, expecting someone else to come along and hire me. Shouldn’t the world stumble upon my LinkedIn page or my prodigious social media output and recognize my genius?

The result of this skewed perception was about what you’d expect. Crickets. A big pile of nothing. Nobody called. Nobody emailed. Nobody texted….

…unless I reached out first and made something happen. Yes, the only results I got stemmed from actions I took. All that waiting, all that well-orchestrated high alert status was only busyness masked as movement creating nothing but stress and anxiety. There are no white knights, no heroes, no saviors. I must be the hero in my own movie. Only I can change the ending.

My magical thinking was a distracting narcotic, a balm to ease the pain of uncertainty and unemployment. Today could be the day. But it never was. It was only a diversion from the massive, looming problem that was going to drag me under unless I got off my procrastinating ass and did something.

It took me months to understand the need to keep moving, keep acting, cut the nonsense, focus and make things happen.

Here is the secret it took me so long to learn. Nobody gives a damn about me. Yes, I have many people who love me, but it is up to me to save myself and create the life I want. I get to choose whether I want to be the villain or the hero.

Inaction is an action. Inaction is the fast lane to victimhood and unhappiness. If you want to wait forever for life to happen give inaction a shot.

Action begets action. Action may result in failure. but inaction guarantees it.  I can create my future, but I must act now. And act again tomorrow. And the next day. And so on.

This is the decision I must make every day.  Move forward, get pushed back and begin again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Today won’t be the day that changes everything…unless I make the changes.

This is Why We Hate Each Other

man-couple-people-womanThe following is based on a true incident. This could be your life. It might be mine, but if you have kids it’s happened to you.

A paralyzing silence permeates the house. It’s silent treatment time for the grownups. The weekend has been looong and tensions are running high. A couple of hours ago the teen and the tween refused to go to bed. The toddler and the baby were howling in solidarity.

Mom and dad had words. Anger can be a drug and perhaps we both overindulged. Our simmering cold war escalated quickly. The kids who could walk sprinted upstairs and the baby knew silence was the winning strategy. Go team!

Nothing like a little drama on Sunday night to cap off two days of juggling playdates, swim practice, spills, errands, dirty diapers and finding the goddamn TV remote for the 17th time. The adults can’t wait to get back to the comparatively relaxing pace of the 9-5. We’ve both retreated to our corners, but the bitterness remains.

Relationships are hard. Kids make them harder and long weekends can be brutal. All either of us want is a little quiet without whining, squabbling, crying or any other soul sucking time consuming interruptions. You’re never off the clock. It’s the little things that kill marriages and relationships. Everyone needs to be themselves and stop being parents. Life becomes a pitched battle over minutes of free time and nobody gets what they want. Compromise is the only way to avoid a neverending argument.

It is easy so see the other person as the enemy in this situation. Their very existence which once was the whole reason you fell in love and wanted to live with them has now become an assault. Their face, their voice, their habits are all an attack. It is friendly fire masking malice and evil intent.

A few extra minutes at the gym or spent watching tv or getting home late while the other is struggling with the kids is grounds for rage and hostility. Everything seems a capital crime committed brazenly with a giant middle finger in added defiance.

And the truth is, it’s not. We want our time. We want our lives. We want a few seconds to read, maybe shower, maybe just go to the bathroom in silence. And we don’t get it. Someone wants something or another one demands something else. Every opportunity for a moment of peace is shattered and stolen by tiny grasping hands and demanding young voices.

So we turn on one another. It must be their fault because they got extra time sleeping or snuck off for the entire morning or dared to be themselves for one goddamn minute.

But that’s why we like them, why we love them, because they like to sleep in or go to the gym or read a lot or listen to music or eat like a king. We love them because they are funny, wonderful, creative, sexy, adults who have goddamn children and just need a fucking minute alone.

Don’t Look Where You Don’t Want to Go

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That’s Gonna Hurt

By Anthony DeLorenzo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/delorenzo/2675869443/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a smart mountain biking adage, “Don’t look where you don’t want to go.” Mountain biking requires intense concentration, quick thinking and immediate reactions. Bombing down a hill strewn with rocks, roots, trees and dropoffs can mean instant stitches, broken bones or worse.

The trick is to pick a clean line, focusing solely on that. The rider must look ahead to see what’s next while simultaneously threading the trail right in front of the bike. Do not stare at the tree you hope to avoid. Do not glance at the cliff. Keep your eyes off the giant mud puddle. Target only the trail where you want your bike to go.

I’ve had enough stitches, bruises, scrapes, cuts, broken bones and near misses (not counting thousands of dollars of bike repairs) to know that looking where I don’t want to go often results in going exactly there. Ooof! Looked at the tree, hate some bark. Gazed at the mud bog, chioked down a pound of dirt soup.

Sure, you can wreck even when things are perfect, but I have found that focusing on the trail and charting my direction without distraction results in fewer mishaps and even the occasional state of flow. To sound trite, you become one with the bike. Obstacles melt away, the trail passes beneath the bike and every twist and turn comes with grace and ease. It’s what makes mountain biking magical. The thrill of conquering a brutal trail with minimal bodily and equipment damage is exhilarating.

So what does this have to do with day to day living? I don’t get on a mountain bike much anymore, but the lessons learned on the trail pay dividends. The key concept to success on a nasty trail or on a tyoical day is Don’t Look Where You Don’t Want To Go. This is all about focus, concentration and targeting my goals.

If I get caught up in distractions, spending my time regretting the past or caught up in pregaming the future, I lose the immediacy of this moment. Once I disconnect I will hit a tree, skid on a root or slide right off the trail. There are enough challenges heading my way at any moment, why look the wrong way?

If I think I will lose my job, my mind obsesses about the horrors of unemployment. If I feel a relationship is souring, I will focus on how it’s souring rather than how I can repair it. The list goes on. The results of obsessing on a past I can’t change and a future I can’t predict are never positive. So many things become a self-fulfilling prophecy when I look where I don’t want to go. Get your eyes back on the trail.

I reached a point a few years back where I was mired in busyness, distracted by anything and everything. My productivity and overall state of mind suffered. All I did was look where I didn’t want to go and wound up going there.

How could I get back on track? How could I regain focus and concentrate on what mattered? After slogging through a few years of going nowhere fast I decided to show up for my own life.

Step by step, I instituted a set of daily practices to reconnect with myself and chart a smarter way forward. Each of these added to my mental, physical and emotional well-being.

EXERCISE was the first step. For years I had been a distance runner and cyclist, but had almost stopped working out. I made a decision to make fitness a key goal again. As I ran and eode my bike more I began to feel energized and and more confident.

MEDITATION was the second. Forget everything you assume about meditation. Think about taking two steps back, sitting still and focusing on your breath. Instead of filling my every moment with the incessant distractions of modern life I gave myself 15 minutes a day to do nothing but be present. A sense of calm and serenity

WRITING every day came next. Thinking about writing is not writing. The only to  way to write is pen in hand, ass in chair, words on page. The benefits of writing are numerous and I detailed them here.

Daily GRATITUDE offered me the chance to be thankful for everything and everyone in my life. Instead of obsessing on what’s wrong and how it must be everyone else’s fault, I write down what is great and magical in the people, places and rhings right around me.

These daily practices shifted my focus from all the obstacles and distractions in my life back to the trail right in front of me. Of course, what works for me won’t work for everyone, but I’ve seen the powerful impact of positive actions. Today, I choose to look where I want to go and I find myself getting there most of the time.

How To Become a Victim at Work – 10 Easy Steps

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You have the power to decide where you want to go and how you want to do it. We’ve all heard it a million times; you make your own success. You also design your own failure. Yep, your attitude and actions can bring you great rewards or a dismal crash and burn.

If you want to stumble into the lowest depths of depression, wallow in failure and blame everyone else for everything that has happened in your life, you too can become a victim. Here are ten easy steps to giving up your independence and losing it all. Try it, it’s fun for the whole family.

Always ask for permission. Wait for permission, even on the smallest things. Rather than taking charge, let everyone else decide which way you should go. Giving up your free will and ability to act is easy. You will never have to think for yourself or take a risk again. Plus, if you always get permission you never get blamed for screwing up.

Blame everyone else. Perfect. It’s not your fault at all. It is everyone else’s fault. You’re getting screwed and it is just not fair. Wahhhh! You’re getting the hang of it. How could it be your fault? You’re perfect and deserve so much more than everyone else because they all screwed you. Get out there and start pointing fingers.

Make excuses. This is a good one. Why be on time or over deliver when there is a perfectly good excuse for why you failed? An excuse is even better than keeping your word. Everyone will understand and give you another chance to come up with another excuse. A great excuse is always better than just delivering on your projects.

4 Act really busy and overwhelmed. This is a great way to become irrelevant. Make sure you are always on email, your phone, stuck at your desk, rushing from meeting to meeting. If you’re busy you will never have to take action or make decisions. Your busyness has already made all the decisions for you. You just have to show up and let it happen to you.

Wait for a savior. One of the best strategies on the job is to wait for someone to pity you and or save you. Of course this will magically happen. Take no action because the world is waiting to lend you a hand. Just look at all the people who didn’t take any action and were magically plucked from their easy chairs and thrust into great things.

Be on your phone in meetings. People love this and totally understand when you aren’t listening to them. It’s cool. You’re soooo busy so you shouldn’t have to listen to other people’s thoughts or ideas. It’s not rude if you have work to do. Seriously, everyone understands.

7 Never fight back. Think of yourself as the red carpet for every asshole in the world. Just lie down and let them walk all over you. People completely respect this. Just be a wimp and avoid conflict. If you give up people will remember that you helped them and let you win next time, just like in sports.

Take no for an answer. Don’t stick to your convictions. If someone objects just roll over and play dead. Better yet, give up your opinions and agree aggressively with others even if you completely disagree. Not only will everyone respect you, you will gain self-respect.

Stop taking care of yourself. Just get soft and lazy. Relax. Nobody is going to try and take your place because it isn’t a competitive world. There really is no reason to take care of yourself and be on the top of your game. Exercise hurts and takes up precious TV and snack time. You’ve earned that extra quarter pounder, so just dig in.

10 Give Up. Yep, you’re almost there. The last step; give up. Stop trying and let life happen to you. Just sit back and the world will pass you by. You can’t fix it so why bother trying. Just be a baby and sniff about how unfair it all is.

You made it. So get going and become a victim. Remember, inaction is an action and passivity has its benefits. The bottom is coming fast so enjoy it. Wallow. Enjoy. It’s a great place to be and nothing is your fault.

Killing Busyness – Doing Less To Accomplish More

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Focus has been a key goal and resolution for me in 2015. For years I danced on the deadly edge of complete digital distraction. It became increasingly clear I needed to take a few steps back. My meme driven life was destroying my concentration and preventing me from getting things done.

A couple of years back i wrote about the absolute joy I took in information overload. I dove into the internet every day and would barely come up for air. Likening the experience to “swallowing the ocean” I extolled the virtues of infinite choice and endless possibility. There was just too much great stuff to ignore. My insatiable curiosity combined with some serious FOMO had me staring at screens from the moment I woke up until just before I closed my eyes at night.

But then something happened.

With 30 tabs open, music playing on my laptop while I watched video on my phone, simultaneously looking through notes on my iPad, I realized maybe I had a problem. No focus. No focus whatsoever. Distraction was king and my waking life was ruled by beeps, buzzes and alerts leading me from one app to another, from website to video, from game to text to Twitter to Instagram to Facebook. My focus was fractured, my productivity likely suffering and my enjoyment of the real things in life had diminished.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with newsletters, blogs, apps, social, games and never ending clickbait. My goal wasn’t to go cold turkey, but to spend more time doing and less time consuming. Multitasking to one task at a time. I simply wanted (and needed) to draw the line somewhere. I needed to go on a information diet. But how?

First of all, I hit unsubscribe on dozens of daily and weekly email newsletters. I expunged as many apps from my phone as I could bear. I cut my RSS feeds in half. I stopped saving countless articles to read later. I’ve limited myself to only five tabs open at a time. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Then, I made a point of putting down my phone, often leaving it in another room at home. I stopped taking it with me to meetings at work. If I have it I will always look at it. It beckons and teases me and I am no stronger than the kids in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. Better for me to leave it in my bag or out of reach than tempt fate.

So what happened next?

Suddenly I had time, not oceans of time, but time. That all-consuming busyness I had used as a shield for years began to dissipate. I paid attention. I listened. Where I once filled every second of available time with checking emails, opening Facebook or ripping through my Instagram feed, I began to have wonderful moments of silence and clarity. How nice to think about nothing for a change.

And here is just a short list of other things that started happening.
– Rich, undistracted conversations
– Deeper focus at work and home
– My daily to-do list gets crushed early
– More time to read real books
– Written over 100,000 words in four and a half months
– Exercising four to five days a week

The funny thing is I don’t think I’ve missed much of anything important online. While I thought I would regret letting go of those email newsletters, apps and all the other distractions, I’ve never looked back. I’ve still got plenty of great stuff to sift through every day, plus I have much better focus and the gift of time. By doing less I actually accomplish mush more. And I keep three things in mind whenever I’m online. Unfollow, unsubscribe, delete.

What I Learned From Failure

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Failure has become mythologized over the last few years. Tech founders and business titans have spun failure into a dramatic twist in their stories of ultimate success. It makes for great copy, but failure generally isn’t glamorous. It is painful, destructive and takes a lot of resilience and perseverance to recover from. However, it is a necessary and unavoidable part of any career.

So I’ve failed pretty hard a few times along the way. Sometimes it was circumstances or overreaching, but most of the time it was tactical or strategic errors on my part. For every great upward step or killer project I’ve delivered there have been plenty of mistakes. Some are easy to set right, others have posed big challenges to overcome.

So what did I learn? Here are ten things that might keep you one step ahead of failure.

1 Show and tell. You need to speak for your work because in any company and particularly a bigger company it often won’t speak for itself. This isn’t about bragging, but about showcasing what you and your team do in smart effective ways. PowerPoints, Keynotes, handouts. Explain it in a clearly so you make sure people see and hear your process and results. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Keep it short and simple, but make sure everyone knows you are doing great things.

2 Make alliances quickly and constantly. You can’t just sit in your office and hope that people are thinking and saying great things about you. Get out there and talk to people. Create relationships. Go to lunch. Go to drinks. Go to events. This is high school all over again and you need to make as many friends and alliances as you can. You don’t have to like everyone, but you need to keep your enemy count low. You will be busy with your job, but you need to spend almost as much time building and nurturing relationships.

3 LIsten and be present. You can’t sit in meetings and look at your phone. This is deadly. People want to be heard and you want to be seen listening to them. Seeming aloof, disinterested and apathetic are poison for your career. Leave your phone in your office. Smile when you enter a meeting. Listen with bright eyes. Nod. Acknowledge great ideas and offer positive feedback. Don’t feel like you always need to chime in. People want to hear themselves, not necessarily hear others. Share when you need to, not when you want to.

4 Avoid busyness. We all have a lot to do and not enough time to do it. However, don’t fall into the trap of being too busy to listen, too busy to work on a project, too rushed. Nobody cares that you are too busy. “I am so busy” sounds like a lame excuse and it is. Get rid of the busy work that makes you busy. Unsubscribe from email lists. Avoid personal emails and the lure of the internet at work. Do your job and do the busy stuff later. At home. Or on a break.

5 Fight back. Go with the flow and respect the politics when you can. However, if someone throws you under the bus, get up and don’t let them do it. Push back and push back hard. This is tough, but if you let someone make you look bad or incompetent long enough others will start to believe it. Find out how to control the message. Use your power. Sometimes you have to be an asshole,

6 Focus. Really focus on your primary goals. Make sure your boss is aligned with your goals and has had input. Then work like hell to get them done. Hire with speed. Fire with speed. Accomplish quickly and effectively. Don’t worry about anything else. Laser-like focus on your key objectives is absolutely critical. In a smaller business or startup this is even more crucial.

7 Get buy in. Make certain you get buy in from all key stakeholders. If you don’t it will hurt you later. You may not want to decide everything by committee, but it is better than getting shot or stabbed in the back later. A little compromise now could save you from getting your biggest projects tanked. Unless you have a lot of political power you need to get everyone on board. It sucks, but it’s politics.

8 Be the master of your time. Be on time for meetings and look like you are in charge of your time because you are. Don’t let the calendar control you. You are in control of your calendar. Don’t act too busy. Don’t act overwhelmed. Don’t act rushed. Make it look easy and make sure people know you are in control. Block off time for you to get work done. Every day. You need it and it will pay off when you are in back to back meetings, knowing that you’ve got time to get everything done.

9 Go to the gym. Find a way to get some exercise every day. The less stress you carry into work means a lot less you will carry out. You need to make time to take care of yourself whether it’s a walk, a run, meditation, yoga or hitting the gym. The time you put in will pay off in increased confidence, better focus and a healthier you. Schedule it. Don’t hope that it will happen or it won’t.

10 Go home. Leave work at work. There will be times you have to work late and times you will bring work home, but let that be the exception, not the rule. That means putting down the phone and staying off work email. Avoid burnout. You’re in this for the long haul and you need to relax, sleep and enjoy your friends and family. If you don’t control your job it will control you. And that can be the first step on the perilous road to failure.