Month: January 2014

3 Great Reads from 2013

Quick thought tonight… just wanted to share three of the blogs/posts I came across in 2013 that might change your life.

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1) Mr. Money Mustache

No, I’m not into mustaches, and yes, it’s occasionally a bit over-the-top. Still, face-punching aside, he often hits a false assumption square on the head… there are articles in here that can completely change your relationship with money.

Realizing that freedom (from money worries) is truly attainable, and within a decade if you decide that’s what you want, is an empowering feeling.

More than that, though, it’s about questioning the “normal” that you see around you every day. Sure, everyone works 50+ hours a week and buys a SUV and doesn’t have any time for their passions and waits for retirement at 65… but today (in America especially) you actually have very different options. If you dare.

What if you chose to create the life you really want, rather than pursue what you think is “normal”?


700-0457692) Jim Collins “advice for my daughter post” 

Lots of people talk about advice (financial and otherwise) in broad and hand-wavy terms. Sure, spend less than you earn makes sense. Sure, going with low-fee funds seems to make sense… but there are so many little details to wade through; too much to parse, sometimes,

In this one short read Jim lays out nine simple tactics that, if followed, will virtually ensure that you become financially secure and thus able to do whatever it is that you decide is worth dedicating your life to.

It’s specific, and simple, but it’s sound. If I had read this post 10 years ago, I would be fully retired right now. Wow.

lifestyledesign3) Raptitude, most anything in the “essentials” column.

One more blog about pulling away the false reality that has been pulled in front of your eyes… his greatest hits column has a few gems (that last one should be taken with a grain of salt; he’s not being literal about the “vast conspiracy thing”) but to be honest, most of what David shares here is worth the time.

Read it, close your eyes, and tilt your head back… breathe in an out deeply a few times and just savor the little moment of humanity he’s pointing out. Too often we go through our lives and miss all the living… his is a blog about experiencing this amazing world again.

 

Jan ’14 Monthly Experiment Check-in

on-the-wagon

By my math it’s exactly half-way through January — perfect time to check in on this month’s Experiment of writing every day.

Looking back, I’ve written about 10 days out of the 18 that have ticked away. Not great, but since this is a Monthly Experiment and not a “New Year’s Resolution” I don’t see any reason to feel bad. The learning that comes from thoughtful experimentation is as much the point as the experimental habit itself…

So what have I learned so far?

1) Writing is great medicine

I knew this already, actually; but this month has been a great reminder. It’s amazing to me how much difference it makes just to get my thoughts  organized enough to jot down. Publishing them seems to lighten the load somehow, and walk straighter for the rest of the day.

This is the case whether writing about little personal victories or recent personal disasters. Or even just venting about craptastic customer service from a company like LegalZoom.

2) Ideas get log-jammed

Apparently there is a limit to the number of ideas I can keep in my head. (And it’s a frighteningly small number, too). When I started this experiment, I worried a bit about finding enough things to write about… but I find that every time I give an idea life by evicting it from my noodle, new ones pop in.

I’ve had more and better ideas coming to me, now that I’m writing and sharing the old ones. In fact I have a pretty cool concept for a novel now… maybe I’ll take an upcoming month and write up a treatment.

3) “Pay yourself first”

This phrase comes from the world of personal finance; but a similar effect applies here. Life is hectic; and no matter what you do the hours fall away fast. The days where I saved my writing for evening were very hit-or-miss; very often by the time the kids went to bed I was too mentally exhausted to even think about thinking.

By tackling the things that are important to you as early in the day as possible, you’ll set yourself up for greater success. That way, even if the rest of the day goes sideways on you, you’ve already made real progress on something that matters. In my case, I think I need to tweak my morning routine so that by noon I’m already ahead of the game. That’s a challenge given Maddie’s current needs, but it’s the key to getting back on the writing streak I want to create for the rest of the month.

4) Never 2 days off

Sometimes the world does not cooperate, and despite your best efforts a day will go by without being able to tick your Daily Experiment Done box.

It happens.

But I’ve realized that when that does happen, you absolutely positively must tick that box the next day. One day off is a stumble, easily recovered. Two days off is the beginning of anti-new-habit inertia… it gets exponentially harder to stay motivated on day 2, and especially day 3.

So if you miss a day of whatever daily habit you’re trying out, give yourself a bit of slack — but then kick your butt hard to get back on the horse the very next day.

Wrap-up…

It’s been great writing more. To get the most out of this month, I’ll move a couple of things around so I can end with a 10-day winning streak.

After that, I tentatively plan to cut back from daily to 3 blog posts per week — but to make that stick I know I’ll have to commit to a schedule. Not “when the mood strikes”, but specific days of the week that know I will write.

I would like to do more, actually, but I have so many things I want to do with my limited free time that I will probably have to strike a balance with writing.

Macbook adapter surgery: success!

cord

A couple of weeks ago I bought a replacement adapter for the household computers. The old one gave up the ghost; internal problem of some sort. So I popped on down to the Apple store.

$79 for a replacement; ouch.

But, I do really like being able to charge the computers while on the couch, and I was already there… so I gritted my teeth and ponied up.

Two days later, the dog decided that new cords are delicious. And just like that, it’s time to say goodbye to the dog. (Well, not really; but the thought did cross my mind.)

So. Given that I already decided that I need an adapter in the family room, what to do?

The default response would be to swear a few times, plunk down another $80, and figure out how to make the dog leave it alone (I’m thinking pepper spray).

But there is a more badass solution. Repair it!

A quick Googling turned up instructions for replacing the cord. 5 minutes on Amazon and we find the exact OEM part, for a whopping total of $7.39 including shipping.

adapter-open

Well dang… for 1/10 the cost, I just couldn’t justify doing it the lazy way… no, to retain the rights to my man-card I had to at least attempt electronic surgery. I buy the cord from Amazon and it’s on.

A few days later, a padded envelope arrives from China. Direct. From Friggin China.

I follow the gist of the instructions I had Googled, and within literally 15 minutes I have the adapter back together with the new cord in place. Plug it in… green LED… Score!

$80? Screw that… $8 and good as new. I guess the dog can stay.

 

Two things:

1) How insanely cool is the world we live in? When you can find a detailed walkthrough on almost any repair or build project in minutes, and when you can order a single, specific, OEM part delivered to your door FROM FRIGGIN CHINA for a whopping $7.39 including shipping. It’s truly an amazing time to be alive.

2) Fixing (or building) things is way more satisfying than buying. It makes the master of your environment, in complete command of the things that might otherwise own you. Once you start, it’s kind of addictive… I’ve got a couple of future projects percolating in the old Thinkolator already.

Got an adapter needing a new cord? Give me a buzz… this was a fun repair. I’d do it again.

2013 Experiment: Primal/Paleo(ish) Eating

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Quick thought tonight… just wanted to share an example of the kind of monthly experiments I’m talking about.

Last year around July, I felt the need to try a “reboot” of sorts. I buzzed my hair, started running, made some changes to my spending patterns, tried to cut way down on my evening beverages, and started eating more or less “Paleo / Primal”. All at once. Just like that.

What Didn’t Work

Changing lots of things at once… unless you are hitting bottom, this is a recipe for disaster — which, frankly, is why most New Years Resolutions fall apart around January 10th.

The “fresh new start” was invigorating, but when one of my new habits started wobbling, the rest were put in peril as well.

What Did Work

The hair, actually, helped me stick to a couple of my new experimental habits.

Every time I started to feel stressed out and tempted to go back to the cloud I was previously under, I would rub my head, take a deep breath, and look up and smile. Just having that one very real and tactile reminder of my fresh start was enough to lift my mood… and it did indeed help me stay the course on some of these spontaneous initiatives.

There is power in habits and triggers… set yourself up for success with any new challenge by setting up a trigger that reminds you of what you are hoping to achieve with your new direction… or if not that, set up a trigger that reminds you to take a deep breath and smile a few times a day.

You will be amazed at how much of a difference a deep breath can make!

Paleo / Primal

This will become at least post of it’s own, but I want to share just how effective this has been for me. Even though I only stick 75% to the strict letter of these regimens, I’ve dropped significant weight and feel better all over.

If you struggle with weight, energy, or are hungry all of the time — and if you are currently on the “OMG MUST AVOID FAT” train — I beseech you to give it a try. Just take a month and cut as much sugar (including bread) out of your diet as you can, and see how it feels.

Give it a month — you won’t regret it.

Preview: Monthly Experiments

experimentI documented this briefly on my old blog, but I want to bring the conversation here…

I’m a huge fan of Monthly Experiments.

Try on a habit for one month, like you are taking a new outfit for a thorough test-wear… try it on, live with it for long enough to understand how it fits (or doesn’t) into what you want your life to be.

At the end of the month, decide whether to keep the new habit, tweak it, or let it go. With just a little experiment every month you can create an entirely new life by the end of the year. Groovy.

I can’t recall exactly where I picked up this idea; but I’m all about borrowing what resonates and learning from greatness. I do recall it was from a blogger talking about his “12 for 2012” around January 2012, and the fine folks at Zen Habits do a good job of it as well. Since then I’ve tried it out sporadically (more on that later)… this time it’s on.

How it Works

To make this really change your reality requires a bit more than the monthly equivalent of a new year’s resolution.

These are experiments.

First, you need to have an idea of what you hope to accomplish… just trying to see what it feels like? Wonder whether you can do it for a whole month? Wonder if just doing this for a month will have some external effect Zen Archery style?

All of these are valid… just know what you want to experience, so that by the end of the month you can learn and grow.

These experiments don’t have to be “every day”, but you do need to be specific about what you are setting out for yourself. Note: avoid vague things like “3 times per week” — if that’s the idea, pick a schedule: I will exercise on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (for instance). It’s far too easy to let things slip to “tomorrow” when you are not specific on the front end.

Commit in public, if at all possible. State exactly what you plan to do, and how people can check up on you… and then hold yourself responsible for reporting on the results, whatever happens.

IF you bail partway through the month, that does not equate to failure — but reflect on why you dropped that month’s experiment.

Was is just not for you? Truly? Then do you know yourself a bit better now? Great now what’s next?

Was it just too hard? Why? Almost anything is possible if it is important enough… so have you learned something about your real priorities?

Live True

And finally, this is not supposed to be about trying to make yourself into something you think you’re supposed to be.

This is about learning how to become your true self, even if you don’t know exactly what that is right now. If after a month something does not ring true, then feel happy about setting it aside and saying “I am not a runner.” It’s also about learning to interpret the inner voices properly… if something keeps popping into your head, there is a reason for that — you will be more content when you find that reason.

My 12 for 2014

I have the beginnings of a list worked out… I only have to lay down the tracks one month ahead of the train, so this list will grow based on my first few experiments. Some may also move months as life dictates. In any case, here’s what I have so far:

Jan – Write every day (for public consumption)
Feb – Dedicate 3 hours/week to connecting with friends
Mar – Draw Every Day (and post online)
Apr – Short daily meditation
May – No TV or “random web reading” of any kind

Incomplete, I know… actually I have dozens I want to try out, and the hard part will be waiting until (for example) April to try out daily meditation… Still, I know it’s best to start with one and build momentum month on month.

So to be specific, I have 4 places at the moment for my daily writing to emerge. This is great for me, actually, as it lets me experiment with different styles throughout the week.

Here’s my current writing plan:

  • Personal growth experiments, inspirational ideas I come across, experiments in work-life balance, and projects I undertake (including thinking about a lifestyle business) will live here.
  • Everything I learn about startups as I try to help build Coursefork (my friend Brian‘s company) will be shared at SteveReaser.com. 
  • My work writing will appear on the (soon to be renamed) Coursefork blog; these will be me in a jacket and tie, but still very much me.
  • Personal bits and pieces that don’t fit into one of those broad themes will continue to land on screaser.blogspot.com, as I need to get them out of my head.

Final Thought

The reason this is so exciting to me is that it is, at it’s core, about creating the life that you want. Monthly Experiments are a great way to move, one step at a time, from the life that landed on you to a life you will be ecstatic leading.

Life has a way of being amazing when you focus on what you love.

New Years: Pure Hope

11654306293_f179d6b03e_cQuick thought…

Tomorrow this blog will start for real; but I’m sitting here watching the countdown to the ball drop in NYC and I can’t help but share a feeling that hits one of the main themes behind “It’s Always Morning” as it exists in my head.

Hope.

There are hundreds of thousands of people, right this very moment, in Times Square. Most have been there all day, at great personal inconvenience and perhaps cost. Others watch from home, and forego sleep to mark the moment…

Why? Why do we even take note of the sunsetting of one year and the birth of another?

Hope.

That’s the thing. We are oddly wired as a species to look for the light at the end of the tunnel… there are always reasons we could look back at the year before and get depressed.

But… at least tonight… all of the millions of people around the world that are watching the countdown to new years are looking *forward* and not *backward*. Tonight, we believe.

We believe that the future will be better, that we will be truer to ourselves, that we can be the person that we want to be and make the change we want to see in the world.

And you know what? We can.

The world is an amazing place when we focus on what we love, what we care about.

Let’s create the lives we want for ourselves. Let’s create the world we want to live in.

(Image credit: John Piekos – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpiekos/11654306293/)

Goodbye 2013. Seriously.

8262414788_7599a91fea_cHave been blogging very very sporadically over at screaser.blogspot.com for a while; the plan is to shift that over here, with an invigorated and invigorating focus.

2013, frankly, sucked. 2014 will be awesome, and I’ll be sharing it here as I create it.

 

(Image credit: Bingee – http://www.flickr.com/photos/10292253@N06/8262414788/)