It’s Always May This Time of Year

Regardless of what month the calendar says it is, there are times when we are all living in May.

When you have a project, plan, idea, or action that has not yet come to fruition, you are living in a “this MAY happen” state. I MAY get a raise if I work hard. I MAY go on vacation to the Bahamas if I save up. I MAY move to Hawaii one day. I MAY… you get the idea.

Until something actually happens, it’s always May.

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Living An Experimental Life

I’m fond of saying something I swiped from one of my favorite thought leaders, Seth Godin: “Fail big or fail often”. I tell my team members I don’t care which one they choose, but if they are not failing then they are not pushing themselves hard enough to find their limits. They are only staying in their comfort zone and not risking anything personally or professionally to really find out who they are. Of course, I give them a safe space to fail and provide air cover when needed.

It is an important distinction, failing by reaching out of your comfort zone to find your limits, but today I want to tweak that a little. Obviously, failing, by definition, has negative connotations. I am not trying to contribute to a philosophy of failure for the sake of failure (but using the word “fail” to illustrate what success looks like does make a dramatic talking point).

Instead, what I want you to consider is embracing a life of experimenting. When we experiment, we are not playing a pass/fail game. We are trying something new, reviewing the results, and either re-assessing and trying again, or adopting, tweaking, and moving forward.

When I realized this, I realized how much I have already embraced this idea and how much of my life revolves around experiments. I think experiments are important because they help define who we are. They help us learn what we are capable of and drive us to improve. I invite you to consider what you can experiment with in your life.

Here are many (but certainly not all) of the life experiments I have tried. Some of these I continue to practice. Some I have discarded. Some I am still tweaking and practicing. I encourage you to try some of these or create your own:

 

  • Being vegan. I did not start animal-free and I failed at maintaining a vegan diet many times before I got it (mostly) right.
  • Waterless showering. I tried using dry shampoo and some weird astronaut soap for a week. I made it three days…
  • Fasting one day a week.
  • Eating food with absolutely no added spices for three months.
  • Turning my whole wardrobe into a two color palette (black and gray) that I could simply mix and match without giving thought to what I was going to wear each day.
  • Only shopping at local merchants, no big box stores. This was a very worthwhile one. Highly recommend.

A full year of sleep experiments, including:

  • Going to bed one minute later and waking up one minute earlier every day until it affected me mentally and physically (turns out I only need about 4 hours sleep to function normally).
  • Sleeping on the floor with no pillows.
  • Following a Circadian rhythm (sleeping about 4 hours during the day and about 4 hours at night).
  • Taking a three-week vacation and logging how much sleep I naturally provided myself when I removed all time cues. I started a stopwatch when I went to bed and stopped it when I woke up to track how many hours I slept and I removed all clocks and watches from the house, plus moved my bed into the walk-in closet so I could not use the sun as a visual time cue. Incidentally, when I am left to my schedule and free to go to bed and wake up when I please, I average about 5 hours of sleep per night (and go to bed somewhere around 3:00am) and wake up completely rested (around 8:00am).

 

…and much, much more. I continue to experiment with my body, with time management, even with my blog (I recently turned off commenting and date-stamping posts and started focusing on publishing to my public profile, for example). I love experiments and living an experimental life.

 

So today’s lesson is easy: learn about yourself or the world by trying new things, considering the results, and trying again or trying something entirely different. The idea is to learn. I hope you come up with some  great experiments of your own. Feel free to share about your experiences or ask questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr.

Have fun experimenting!

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Today’s Lesson: Let’s Talk About It

How much time are you wasting trying to be perfect instead of trying to produce results?

 

This post is geared more toward fellow blogger (or blogger-curious) friends. If writing on-line is not your thing, you might want to skip this one (but there is a great lesson at the end!). We will get back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow…

I am dropping the comments section from my blog and (this part is more for other bloggers) no longer using meta keywords to draw traffic.

There are a few things I have done, or stopped doing, to make my blog more efficient and less burdensome on me. Since I have taken on posting a daily life lesson, I have begun to start thinking about blogging differently. I stopped adding dates to the blog title to keep it more “timeless” and less “timely“.

Now I am turning off comments. Have I lost my mind? Debatable, but not relevant to the blog. I am dropping comments for a few reasons. The main reason is simple… most of my readers do not comment on the posts. They comment or reply to my social media updates linking to the blog. Some people email me directly and my contact information will remain available in the “More/ About Me” section. One reader even called me at three in the morning one night and we chatted about a post until I had to get ready for work.

The other reason is I have found that most comments are made by people who, honestly, either did not read the actual article or did not understand the main content of it. Better to have those people talking to me on Facebook instead of cluttering the blog itself with comments. Finally, my blog is almost entirely editorial. I am not providing, in most cases, fact-checked peer-reviewed articles to debate. It is just me sharing lessons I learn each day or ranting about an injustice I perceive in the world. I love having open communication and hearing from readers but it does not have to be on the post page itself. That is what Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are for.

For those of you that do not blog, after you type each post, you can enter in certain words to help readers find that particular post if they search on Google or other sites. So, for today’s post I might add meta keywords like, “comments, social media, blog, michael salamey” to help raise my ranking in search engines for this post.

However, it turns out that meta key words have almost zero impact on search rankings now and can sometimes put you in Google’s potential “spam” category if you flood your keywords to try to appeal to their rankings regardless of your actual content.

I sometimes spend five minutes trying to tie the right keywords for each post. I would rather spend the five minutes creating better content. If I have compelling content that people share often, I will not need the help of keyword shortcuts. Google and Facebook are far more interested in a blog that gets distribution than one that has a lot of hidden words behind each post!

All of that brings us to today’s lesson: don’t carry unnecessary burdens. Remove the obstacles that make your passion a chore. Remember, it does not have to be perfect anyway. I blog for fun and to help others, but even if I was doing it to drive income, the time spent on the parts with the least amount of value will provide greater return if I let them go than if I keep carrying their weight.

…And, besides blogging, how many other areas of our lives can we look into for the same lesson?

 

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Today’s Lesson: High Efficiency Tactics

“Work smarter, not harder” is great for work but what about the other areas of your life? How can you Live Smarter, Not Harder? Here are a few tips…

 

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make my life more efficient. I am practicing being minimalist. I use Netflix instead of DVD’s. I ritualize my morning routine to make it as quick as possible (for example, my wallet and keys go in the same spot every night so I do not have to spend time looking for them in the morning). I have my laptop, tablet, and phone in sync so I can blog anywhere when I have free time. I only use combined shampoo and conditioner to save time in the shower. I even prep my work clothes for the week on Sunday night so I don’t have to think about what I will wear during the week.

Here is another trick I have learned: having red wash cloths, dish mats, and hand towels makes kitchen-life easier. It hides pasta and ketchup stains and adds a splash of color to the counters. I have 7 wash cloths that I rotate through the week. That way, I don’t have to think about how many days I have used one or worry about it mildewing. I just replace it each day and put the old one in the wash.

I care about all this efficiency because the less amount of time I let details take up, the more time I have to spend on important things, like writing, work, or enjoying time with loved ones.

Today’s lesson is: remove clutter to free time.

Automate what you can. Say no to tasks, food, things, and people who will not help you become better (which means you might have a smaller circle of friends but that is okay because your main priority is you) and focus your time instead on the important things.

 

P.S. If you do not know what the “important things” are for you, feel free to borrow my four priorities: Philosophy, Physical Health, Family, Freedom… in that order.

 

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Today’s Lesson: My Last Date

Notice anything different?

I decided to stop attaching the date to my blog titles. This is a big deal to me because I have a few rules about my daily posts. For example, they are always lessons I have learned myself through my experience, rather than just something I heard and am sharing, and I add the date after each title for easy tracking and to show it is happening daily.

Rules are great… until they are not, which is today’s lesson.

When a rule no longer serves its intended purpose or becomes ineffective, there is no need to keep enforcing it out of fear of change or tradition (because that’s what we’ve always done).

For example, I am surprised by how many companies make employees hide tattoos and piercings. I do not choose to express myself through body ink or modification but I am aware I live in a society where many people do. I have also never thought twice about buying something from someone who looks different from me. I don’t care if my barista dresses like a clown and has pony tails down to his knees. I care if he makes damn good espresso. In a way, companies clinging to old “because that’s the way it’s always been” mentalities reinforce stereotypes and encourage discrimination.

I doubt any business owner had that in mind when she started her own company. She probably thought of doing something innovative, challenging norms, and taking over the world! Somewhere that gets lost and someone has to step in and pioneer us forward again. However, in our own lives, we do not have to wait for the rulebook makers to catch up. We can spark the change ourselves.

With adding dates to my posts, I realized two things. The first is there is a search widget on my home page that allows anyone to sort my posts by date. The second is we live in a society of immediate gratification. Most people do not look past the first page of Google search results or expect a restaurant meal to take more than a few minutes to be prepared and delivered.

We have a bias when we compare articles or products. If we see something is a few years older than something else, we suspect the older thing is not as good as what is current.

So removing the dates will help my posts stay relevant.

 

Maybe I’ll get a tatoo, too. (Don’t get your hopes up, Nicole…)

 

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Today’s Lesson: A Missed Kiss [141024]

I let her leave without kissing her goodbye so I could focus on catching up with work.

Nicole went to a yoga retreat and I let her slip out the door while I was on a conference call. When I arrived home, the place suddenly felt a lot emptier and lonelier and I realized I missed the opportunity to have a memory of that kiss.

My work is very important to me but I sometimes forget if the work goes away and I still have Nicole, life will still be good. However, if Nicole goes away and all I have is work, life will probably suck.

I feel like I re-learn this lesson (with all of my loved ones) a few times a year, so admittedly, I am still progressing on this one. The lesson, though, is to know the difference between what is an essential value in your life and what is just important.

Sometimes, your meeting can wait for a kiss.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: The $24 Trap [141023]

Between the wax warmer, rinse cup, electric toothbrush, shaver, groomer, trimmer, and soap dispenser there was nowhere to set my tablet in the bathroom so I could keep listening to podcasts while getting ready for bed.

I am grateful this is the worst problem I have had so far today, but it sent me on a 2 hour Amazon.com shopping spree in hopes of finding just the right over-the-toilet-tank-shelf for extra storage. I put three potential shelves in my shopping cart and narrowed it down to one for the low, low price of $24 (and free Prime shipping!).

Then I realized I was making a bad decision. I choose to live a minimalist lifestyle and I was about to buy a product to allow more clutter into my life! I wish I had realized it about 2 hours sooner, but either way, I know it now.

I rearranged the bathroom counter and sink area, and cleared more room in the mirror cabinet. Everything fits fine. It turns out I was just looking for any excuse to spend $24. What could I have done with the $24 instead? Here are 10 ideas:

  • Save it. Squirrel it away for a rainy day.
  • Save it, but towards something, like a new car!
  • Buy something more important–a shelf literally just sits there!
  • Put it toward a nice dinner with Nicole.
  • Nothing. This is always a fine option. I can choose not to choose.
  • Hold onto it and wait for a better idea to come up.
  • Buy a gift card for someone.
  • Give it to a homeless person.
  • Enjoy a bottle of wine with friends. I will probably remember that in 10 years but probably won’t remember buying a bathroom shelf.
  • Fuel my car, or get a car wash, or go to a movie, or buy a concert ticket, or…

     

It is okay to spend money on things we enjoy, that make our lives better. It is very important, though, to spend our money wisely, on things that bring more joy than was borrowed from us to make it.

What would a minimalist do with another shelf, anyway?

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Today’s Lesson: What Are You Waiting For? [141021]

“I’m not waiting for the right moment,” I said, rubbing my eyes.

I do not know who I was talking to. I don’t remember the conversation. I just woke up with those words on my lips, defending myself to an empty room.

Whatever the dream was about, the lesson is clear: don’t wait for the right moment. Past moments are gone. I can not change them. Future moments are uncertain. I might have a brain aneurysm and die before I finish this sentence. (Looks like I didn’t; got lucky, I guess…)

Given that the last moment is gone and the next one is uncertain, this means now is the right moment. So, if you were waiting for the right moment to do something… here it is.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Never Enough Time [141014]

“If you can not imagine how you would make an hour of time each day for meditation, then you are going way too fast.” –Peter Diamandis

 

The founder of X-prize, a very busy guy, said that on The Tim Ferris podcast and I have been thinking about it since I heard it.

You could replace the word “meditation” with “exercise”, “writing”, “family”, or anything else. The point, I think, is that if we believe we are so busy we can not prioritize things that are very important to our well-being, then we are doing it wrong.

I struggle with this because, of course, I would love to devote an hour a day to meditation, an hour to yoga, an hour to studying and practicing martial arts, an hour to reading fiction, an hour to reading about leadership, an hour to listening to music, an hour to socializing, an hour to writing, an hour more of sleep, etc… I think you see where I am heading.

I do not have a firm solution here, but I think the lesson is… our time is limited and we have to decide what things are most important and valuable to spend it on (instead of waste it on). If an hour of yoga is more important to you than an hour at the bar, then it might mean you do not sacrifice your mental and physical health for drinks with your friends (and maybe you have the wrong friends). Or, if time with hanging out with friends is more important than being up to date on your favorite show, then maybe you give up that show and enjoy hearing them tell you about it over drinks.

Time is like money, in that you have a finite amount of it and have to decide what is most important to spend it on. You can earn a little more by being healthful, mindful, and a little lucky. Unfortunately, though, you can’t save it and you can’t take it with you when you go.

 

Either way, we can probably be better at choosing how we spend our time while we are here.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Sleep And Lose Weight! [141011]

“I’m just tired of these lingering 15 pounds,” I said, “But by the time I get home, I am exhausted and there is still a ton of work to do.”

Nicole thought about it and said, “Get more sleep.”

“What? To lose weight?” I asked. She is pretty clever. She pointed out three things I had not given thought.

 

  1. Most people are sleep-deprived (including me). I sleep 5 or 6 hours each night, but sleep is not the same as rest. I wake up probably a dozen times throughout the night which means I am not completing the sleep cycles my body demands. Stupid, inefficient body.
  2. When we are not getting enough rest, our bodies want more fuel. If your body is not able to do its job while you sleep (repairing, healing, and rebooting), then it will look for the resources to do its work elsewhere, which means it will ask for more food to provide more energy so it can do what it would normally do while you sleep.
  3. If you are sleeping, then you are not eating. I actually added this one, but it is obvious, right? If I get 8 hours of sleep instead of 6, then there are 2 fewer hours where I am likely to snack, munch, drink, or otherwise stuff my face. 

 

Personally, I think this is the best diet plan I have ever heard! I probably will not follow through as recommended (sometimes my brain just refuses to shut down) but I will commit to going to bed earlier and trying not to spend so much time during a day sitting instead of moving around.

Nonetheless, more rest is probably a good prescription for all of us. Let’s take the Sleep Diet challenge!

 

 


 

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