Life Style

Everyone struggles to find work-life balance.

That struggle has made me a firm believer in managing by results over location and I am helping our organization transition to a workplace where the “place” is not part of the “work”.

A team-mate told me his plan is to move to another state in a few years and he is hoping we have an opportunity for him in Georgia. He quickly added, “But, by the way you are leading the company, we might all be working from wherever we want by then. You might already be living there when I get there!”

I was happy to hear his confidence in me, but it also got me thinking… when we are no longer location-centric because of work, what might life look like?

For me, I imagine designing my life in the style that works best for me and Nicole. Maybe we use technology, like Airbnb (for timeshare living), Uber (to get around), and Skype (for team availability) to stay connected and on-the-move at the same time. Maybe we have temporary set-ups in the places we most want to live, planning each year ahead.

It would take some planning but we could always live in our favorite places while working the same job. Nicole and I could spend Summer in Grand Rapids–June, July, and August. Fall in Portland–September. Winter in Tampa–November and December, Orlando–January and February, and Miami–March. Spring in Savannah–April and May. The next year it could be Chicago, Austin, Key West, San Diego, Detroit, and Seattle. Then Hawaii, Costa Rica, Paris, Ireland, and Montreal.

The only reason to limit the possibilities of Work, Life, and Balance is for fear of the alternative: limitless possibilities. 

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Why Happiness Never Lasts

Today’s Lesson: Know what you are measuring against.

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Yesterday, I posted about the Physics of Relationships and explained how relationships seek balance. Therefore, Happiness will not last (and neither will Unhappiness).

Happiness moves on a sliding scale, though. What we were happy about and grateful for yesterday we take for granted today. When we are deciding if we are happy, we rarely look at what we are measuring against. I think most of the time, we are measuring our happiness against the most recent moment of unhappiness and that can trick us into setting an ever-higher, never achievable bar for satisfaction.

There can be no happiness without unhappiness (remember, the universe seeks balance) but often we see happiness in the moment. For example, if we see our partner left the cap off the toothpaste, we might feel angry (“Why can’t he just remember to put the stupid cap on the stupid toothpaste when he is done with it?!?”).

Perhaps we feel angry about the toothpaste cap because we are measuring it against the happiness we felt with that person in the recent past. What if, as our measure, we pitted the toothpaste cap against one of our most unhappy moments–the time you lost a loved one, for example, or when your wallet was stolen, causing all sorts of problems, or when you broke your leg, or when you experienced trauma as a child?

Is the toothpaste cap really a big deal, then? Would it even have nudged your current level of happiness if your most unhappy memory was on your mind? Probably, you would not give it a thought. You might just place the cap on the tube and continue brushing your teeth.

Happiness is arbitrary, which means you can choose your happiness (or you can let random, meandering, immature thoughts or other people choose for you).

The next time you feel unhappy, pause and ask what you are measuring your unhappiness against. Find the balance and you will, more often than not, find your Happy.

 

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Your 3 BIG Goals for the Rest of the Year!

Today’s Lesson: Goals do not have to be lofty to be effective.

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I gave myself three HUGE goals to accomplish for the last half of this year. I think these three goals will transform my life and help me continue growing as a fully functional self-actualized human being. They are some of the hardest goals I have set and, honestly, I have been avoiding two of them for more than a year. Here they are:

1. Climb a tree.

2. Read fiction.

3. Rent a Stand-Up Paddleboard.

 

I know, right? They don’t sound like much but that is okay. We have a lofty-goal addiction in society now. We are supposed to set outrageous, audacious, practically unattainable goals and go after them with tireless passion and endless energy. Except, of course, that does not work, not for most of us. Most of us are tired, stressed, and dealing with the outcomes of years of bad choices. “Changing the world” is not on our bucket list. What many people miss is if you focus on yourself, you will affect the world. YOU are part of “the world”. Let’s scale it back and start focusing on goals that sound small but have huge impacts. For example, why did I choose my three huge (but small-sounding) goals? Here is the breakdown, as I see it:

1. Climb a tree (even if only 10-feet off the ground).

I hate exercise. Lifting something up and putting it back down 20 times feels dumb and boring to me. However, I love activity and I have been learning a lot about “load balancing”. This is essentially the idea that we are designed to experience different loads on our bodies (think of an active child sitting on the floor, then running across a field, then picking up rocks to explore what is underneath them, then climbing a tree, etc…).

Climbing a tree, for me, is a reminder that, even in my forties, I can still be a kid and I can (and should) use my body’s muscles for what they were intended. Climbing a tree is a healthy activity, a fun way to trick myself into exercising, and, frankly, a reminder of what it feels like to climb at tree! Maybe next year, I will try to gather some friends for a game of freeze tag.

2. Read fiction (at least one book, any book I want).

I took this idea from James Altucher. He points out that reading fiction is crucial for leaders and writers. Fiction, especially futuristic science fiction, helps our brains practice envisioning what is possible. It keeps our creative juices going.

Many leaders (myself included) mostly read non-fiction self-help(ish) books written by successful entrepreneurs or other thought leaders. If you are a writer (like maybe someone who posts a blog each day) the problem is you are not reading and learning from great writing. Entrepreneurs are excellent at running businesses or managing teams but most of them are only proficient at writing. It is not their craft, after all. Reading great works of fiction helps you understand what great writing and speaking looks like.

Reading fiction is a crucial skill, whether it is the great literary artists of the past or the great contemporary comic book writers of today! Maybe I will do a little of both, instead of only dedicating my reading time to non-fiction.

3. Rent a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) and, you know, actually stand up on it. 

Aside from offering a great core workout (which I could definitely benefit from), Stand-Up Paddleboards (or SUP’s) are all about Balance. I am a firm supporter of the famous phrase, “Mens sana in corpore sano” (“Sound mind in a sound body“) or, as the great literary poets of Funkadelic put it, “Free your mind and your ass will follow”. In other words, if you want balance in your life, start by finding balance in your body. This is what so many yoga enthusiasts have figured out and why they are so annoyingly calm when everyone else is stressed out.

There are other benefits to me practicing on a SUP, too. It is an activity Nicole and I can do together–a bonding moment. Plus, we live in Tampa. How cool will it be to stand up on the ocean and maybe paddle to a nearby island? I mean, seriously, that is going to be a memory and experience to talk about many years from now!

 

Those are my three “HUGE” goals for the rest of the year. Achievable? Absolutely. Challenging? A little. Worthwhile? I bet I will learn more from meeting my three goals than most people will learn from outrageous (and useless) goals like, “make a million dollars“, “travel the world“, or “be the best ever… (athlete, writer, fighter, singer, brand, etc.)“.

Once I master reading a book, climbing a tree, and paddling on the water, then maybe we can talk about achieving world peace.

 

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5 Fast Food Meals for Vegans

Today’s Lesson: There is always an option.

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Sometimes I have to travel for work or I am in an unfamiliar city with friends or just in a hurry and do not have time to make or buy a great, healthy, delicious vegan meal. I never suffer for food, though, even on the go. Here are 5 fast food restaurants that have saved me in a pinch (many times), and exactly what I order from each to find vegan goodness when fast food is the only option.

1. Subway.

Six-inch Veggie on Italian, not toasted, no cheese. All the veggies and peppers. Instead of dressing, I ask for Salt, Pepper, and Oregano. I grab a bag of Fritos chips and a drink, too. It’s filling and I promise that sub is as tasty as anything else on the menu but twice as healthy. Remember, not all their breads are vegan. 

2. Chipotle/ Qdoba/ Moe’s Southwest Grille.

I am counting these as one restaurant because they all offer basically the same thing: burritos. Chipotle is a step above, though, because their Sofritas are amazing. Non-vegans would never know they were eating “fake” meat. Moe’s also offers tofu, which makes them legitimately vegan friendly in my book. Qdoba has no meat replacement option but they offer tortilla soup that is vegan, making them one of the only fast food soup providers I can think of.

At Chipotle, I order the Sofritas bowl with brown rice and black beans. I add hot salsa, pico, corn, guacamole (it’s extra), and lettuce. I add an additional side of guacamole and chips and I use the chips to turn the bowl into super nachos! Sometimes I change it up and have Sofritas tacos (corn tortillas).

Qdoba has two options for me. I might order a veggie burrito on whole wheat, with white rice (the white rice has cilantro-lime flavoring so this is one meal where I will choose white rice over brown) and black beans (add hot salsa, pico, lettuce, and guacamole). If I am really hungry, I will add a side of tortilla soup with tortilla strips on top. Or, I will go for the Mexican Vegetarian Gumbo with brown rice (it will be smothered in other stuff so the white rice offers no benefit here), hot salsa, pico, corn, guacamole, tortilla strips, and lettuce. This is a super filling meal.

At Moe’s, I order a “Joey Bag of Donuts” (which means “build-your-own”) burrito with a flour tortilla (I prefer whole wheat but theirs tears too easily), black beans, tofu, hot salsa, pico, black olives, fresh jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and guacamole. Sometimes I order a side of guacamole as well. Their burrito comes with chips and will fill me up for hours.

3. Panera

I like Panera because they offer Pepsi products, and Coke sucks, so sometimes I will go to Panera only for a good caffeinated sugar drink.

If I do eat, though, this is what I usually order: You Pick Two with Black Bean Soup and a Mediterranean Sandwich, no cheese or pesto on the sandwich, with chips… and a Pepsi.

 

4. Pizza Hut
It is possible to order a vegan pizza at Pizza Hut but it’s too complicated and they do not have vegan cheese anyway, so I just order Spaghetti Marinara and add mushrooms. Just set the garlic bread aside and enjoy your Pepsi (because although Pizza Hut sucks at vegan pizza, they at least have good taste in soda).

5. Taco Bell
In case of emergency, you can make a run for the border (before you make a run for the bathroom) with dinner at the Bell. I order a Bean Burrito “fresco style” (that means minus cheese, plus pico de gallo-they know that), a 7-Layer burrito minus cheese and sour cream, and Cinnamon Sticks.

It is tough to balance being vegan with having a convenient social life. You don’t want to be the pariah of your office or friends, forcing everyone to cater to your needs (or simply to avoid you). Fast food is not necessarily great food but knowing you can always find good (or at least good-ish) vegan food when you need can help.

 

 

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Don’t You Have Too Much On Your Plate?

Do you have too much on your plate?

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I am setting a new benchmark for myself to make sure I am not overwhelmed with things that are not vital to living the good life. Try this with me: sit and do nothing for five minutes. No checking your phone, no internet, no video games or TV, no reading, no anything. Can you just sit and be still and be okay with that for five minutes?

If we can not sit for even five minutes without feeling pressure to be productive or manage tasks or get up and do something, then I say we are overwhelmed. We have too much going on and we must, must, must begin doing less.

Doing less is being productive, too.

Doing nothing is a great goal, in moderation. It helps us re-center, find balance, and refresh our mind and spirit for when it is time to produce or move forward again. We will produce better after doing nothing, even for just five or ten minutes each day, because we are rested and ready to embrace and harness the frenetic energy of our daily life.

Another great benchmark might be this: Do I have time to stop each day, pick up a few groceries for the night, and then go home and make dinner? If you are as busy as I am, then you started laughing before you got to the end of the question, but that is the point. If the idea of having that much time and space in our lives to take care of our Selves seems crazy, then we are doing it wrong.

 

Today’s Lesson: For at least 5 minutes each day, do nothing. Just sit and breathe, without thinking about what you will do when the 5 minutes are up, or what you are going to make for dinner, or what you want to say to so-and-so. Just sit and breathe. Then, watch how much easier it is to navigate the world after you catch your breath!

 

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Today’s Lesson: Life Balance [140915]

 

I am a workaholic. I am often chastised for checking email on vacation, responding to messages at all hours, or taking calls during mealtimes.

 

There are plenty of reasons for this… for example, the last time I took a vacation and tuned out work, I was promptly punished by having to work three times as hard to catch up over the next few weeks. My team’s performance suffered as well. I probably have an element of competition and an old school mentality of “the way to get ahead is to work harder than anyone else”, too. This, of course, was great advice when I entered the workforce (before the internet was born) but it is not a good policy now, in an always-connected economy. Trying to out-work your competition today means never not working and is a quick way to a heart attack, alienating family and friends, or worse.

 

I try to find balance between reaching the goals I am paid to reach and reaching my personal goals (which are sometimes the same), as well as maintaining a social circle, relationship, family commitments, and trying to stay reasonably healthy.

 

The way to moving forward is no longer “work hard, get good grades, and save every penny”–all three will lead you to stress and an early grave. Today, the person who achieves the most balance wins. You can not out-work anyone in a 24/7 economy. College has become prohibitively expensive for many people and the return on investment has declined since the dawn of the internet and cheap access to knowledge became prominent. Being frugal in a volatile economy and watching your hard-earned savings deplete and de-value is one of the most depressing things I have witnessed over the last two decades.

 

Sage advice today might sound more like, “Live well, be nice, try new stuff, and spend money on experiences you will remember instead of on toys you will forget.”

 

Yesterday, I wrote about the law of opposing forces and it is interesting, isn’t it, to observe how the world works to balance itself on the macro-scale, too?

 

As the economy declines, stress rises, and the world environmentally shifts, equal and opposite forces also rise to meet the challenge and restore balance. We see more and more people embracing the art of “life-hacking” to enjoy more (money, freedom, time) with less (stress, tradition, obsolete rules). We see a rise in people choosing a vegan lifestyle and trading their chairs for a pair of five-toe running shoes. We see more and more farmers adopting organic, cruelty-free practices and people recycling and reducing emissions. People are abandoning college and lifetime careers in exchange for vagabonding, learning through experience, and leveraging free online learning with practical, hands-on knowledge.

 

All of these things seemed crazy or on the fringe just 20 years ago. People looked at me like I had 3 eyes when I “came out” as vegan 15 years back. Now, I can eat nearly anywhere and almost everyone knows what the word means. I remember discarding everything in the same trash bin when I was a kid and throwing McDonald’s bags out of car windows when we were done eating because… well, why not? And who cared where food came from as long as it was delicious? That “global warming thing” seemed like a debatable idea only ten years ago and cars that run on electricity were still a crazy thing for rich people to most of us. Now all of these things are mainstream, or at least in the realm of “normal”.

 

This is a mouthful of disposition to say the lesson I learned today is the world seeks balance. Whether on the scale of society (we react to global warming with environmental conscientiousness) or on an individual scale (I react to gaining weight by exercising), Isaac Newton’s third law of motion holds true. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”–this is what I call the law of opposing forces. The key, of course, is to shift back toward balance before imbalance gains enough inertia to get out of control (exercise is good when you are overweight and out of balance, but if you are too overweight, then too much exercise at once could give you a heart attack). Incidentally, that is Newton’s first law of motion… “an object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.”

 

 

Newton figured out the secrets of motion and probably had no intention or idea that his theories could apply philosophically to our lives, as well. However, I think the father of Philosophy… Aristotle… had it right long before Sir Isaac Newton. Aristotle gave this advice more than 2 thousand years ago and it is just as true today for a healthy, happy life. He said, simply: “All things in moderation.”

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: Forgive Us Our Trespasses [140817]

There is a lot of bad advice in the world (and, yes, some of it is probably from me), but one bit of nonsense I hear over and over is, “live with no regrets”.

Regrets are important. I have a lot of them and there are definitely decisions and actions I have taken in life that I am ashamed of and totally wish I could do over to get them right, but here’s the thing… life moves forward every second. We have one chance, and one chance only, to get any moment right (whatever “right” would mean in that moment if we had any time to think about it). Regrets teach us to learn from our mistakes so we do not make the same ones over and over.

“Live without regrets” is like saying, “Never get a bruise”–it is a cowardly statement that amounts to “never make a mistake so you will never have to learn from one”, or worse, “never acknowledge your mistakes or the wake of destruction behind you as you plow through other people’s lives”. No one learns balance without falling.

Live with regrets. Just make sure you don’t only live with regrets.

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140601

Balance comes from opposing forces.

Today in yoga class, we did tree pose. I’m a novice and I have struggled with this pose for a while. It basically requires you to balance on one foot while holding your hands over your head, as the other foot rests on your thigh.

Previously, I could hold the pose for about 10 seconds before I lost balance and had to place my lifted foot down to keep from falling over.

Today, the instructor said a simple thing that transformed everything for me and allowed me to remain standing, balanced, indefinitely. She said, “Engage the muscles of BOTH legs. The thigh of the leg you are standing on should be working against the foot that is resting there.”

By pushing both my thigh and my foot against each other, I found stability in the center.

Of course, this parlays into other areas of life. Sometimes I am out of balance because I am pushing too hard in one direction and forgetting to apply the natural opposing force. I am overweight, for example, because I eat too much but don’t exercise enough. If I exercise too much and forget to take care of my body’s nutrition then I am also in trouble. Same if I work so much I can’t make time for exercise and eating right. Out of balance. Everything suffers.

Find balance by applying the right force in another direction and I bet you will be a lot more satisfied in both directions.

Balance comes from opposing forces.

 

 

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Do You Want More Time In Your Day? Try this!

 

We are consumed by what fills the space around us, and we are trained that every space needs to be filled. We buy junk (or if you prefer, mass-produced art, decorative furniture, and trinkets) and hold onto things for sentimental reasons, even if they no longer provide practical use.

Albert Einstein saw Time and Space as inseparable. He referred to them as a singular concept: Space-time (popularized in Star Trek as the “Space-time continuum“). It is easy to see Space and Time are the same thing (or so interwoven as to be indistinguishable) when you consider what happens when you take any action in space, such as walking across a room. When you walk across a room, time passes. When you lift your finger, it takes a moment to do so. It takes time even to blink. When you move through Space, you move through Time.

Unfortunately, we never seem to have enough time (space). We say, “There isn’t enough time in a day” to get everything done. I think the pressure of Time in our lives comes from the pressure of our space being too full.

My living room used to have nearly every niche, nook, and cranny filled. There was furniture, trinkets, pictures, decorations, shoes, a pile of mail on the table (that kept growing), a television, XBox, controllers, video games, stereo system, speakers, TV stand, a cabinet full of DVD’s, CD’s, and games, etc… a lot of “stuff”. All that stuff taking up all that space demanded time and attention–just dusting was an ordeal because there were so many little trinkets and decorations and piles everywhere that I would put off dusting and cleaning (or just dust the open areas around things). Just like molecules become more excited when you force them closer together, my life became busier (and I became more irritated) as more things took up my space (time).

I began a journey to simplify, de-clutter, and edit my life the way I edit my writing. I looked at all the stuff that took up my time and realized I was wasting a lot of my life. I thought of the sculptor Alexandros, who started with a slab of marble and removed every bit that was not the Venus de Milo until all that was left was his vision. I still work to edit my life and remove what is not needed or useful to my day until what is left is what is important.

Steadily, I chip away things that are not contributing to my being the person I want to be.

With my living room, I sorted through movies and tossed out the ones I don’t watch regularly or can rent online (no need to keep a physical copy of anything I can store and back up digitally). I stopped wasting my time playing video games so I could spend more of it experiencing my loved ones. I traded my TV and TV stand for a projector and the wall, and got rid of cable television. I have a couch and a table now; I don’t need much more furniture than that.

There are no pictures on my walls (I never look at them and visitors don’t know the people in them anyway). I traded my stereo system for one nice high-end bluetooth speaker that sits under the projector. As I convert my CD’s to MP3’s, I get rid of the discs. There is one candle and 2 coasters on my table; nothing more is needed. And there is a lot of empty space, of breathing room. I love it, and so do my cats, who use the empty space to romp around (ever notice how children are overjoyed by large, empty spaces? They understand that freedom and space gives us room to run, to play and create).

It feels good when I open the door and walk into a large, uncluttered area. There is not a bunch of stuff demanding my time. It is so easy to dust and keep things clean (saving time). I can clean my entire apartment, top to bottom, in less than an hour. I unsubscribed to every mailing and call list I could find and pay my bills online so I never have to stare at a huge pile of junk paper that will take more space (and time) in a landfill. I only have to check my mail once per week instead of every day. All the things that took up space for the sake of taking it up are no longer demanding my time.

It has been an adjustment and I continue to work to create space but I’ve been doing this a few years now and I have not regretted giving up any of it. It’s great!

Even this blog has become easier to keep up since I started looking at how I could create more space with it. I recently stopped using photographs in my posts. I spent more time finding just the right picture to fit the post than I sometimes did writing it. I pared down the links and removed a full sidebar. When you visit my blog, I want you to feel unhurried, to experience a moment of space-time and stay long enough to enjoy thought-provoking material you can share with others.

I wish employers took the same approach to work–focusing on creating space instead of always filling it. I hope one day I can bring the principle of Creating Space to the workplace and that it will eventually come from the top-down instead of from the bottom-up. I try to apply it as much as I can. For example, when I delegate a new assignment, I try to find something I can take away–this frees my team to focus on what is really important, instead of on things like reporting on what is really important. It encourages creative thinking and flexibility. I have yet to find an organization that says they do not cherish creative thinking and flexibility, yet, I have yet to find an organization that embraces such things as core principles (I have to give a special shout-out to my former ROWE colleagues here for pioneering the first step in the right direction, though–ROWE definitely creates space).

My rule of thumb is (whether looking at furniture or looking at my career) if I have not worn it, touched it, or looked at it in six months, then it must not be that important. I can always buy a new one if throwing it out was a mistake, or go back to reporting on an old metric if it turns out it was needed, but I see no reason to let my apartment or life become a storage facility for mementos. In fact, I am able to live in a much smaller and cheaper space because I don’t come with a lot of baggage (and the money I save contributes to time for me to spend doing things I enjoy in the space of my life!).

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to have more hours in a day. Instead, I challenge you to stop thinking about how to create more time and instead look around your life (everywhere–your house, hobbies, work, car, etc.) and think about how you can create more space.

There is an easy way to create more time in your life and, to me, it is so simple it is profound:

 

Create more   s   p   a   c   e  .

 

Try it. See what happens and let me know about it in the comments if you have some success or if you need help getting started.

 

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