Top 5 Posts from 2017

I started this blog last year and wrote quite a bit, but more importantly I learned a lot. There is nothing more joyful to me than learning something new that will apply value and enrichment to living a more fulfilled life. There are endless subject areas to learn about, and I love them all. From productivity and business to habits and self-improvement—someone who stops learning stops growing; and I make effort to be an ongoing learner.

Listed below are my personal top-five favorite posts from 2017 because of the valuable learnings I gained while studying and writing them. I do this blog for myself, my own learning, my own gaining of wisdom. For those of you that do follow along with me and read my posts, I am grateful, thank you. May we continue learning and growing in 2018. Happy New Year.

Give Thinking it’s Space
Effective decision-making comes with self-awareness and making time to reflect and think.

Win Goals with Heart
Win with curiosity, self-awareness, and heart.

Slow it Down
Have patience, and recognize that many small actions add up to larger successes.

What is the Most Valuable Land?
You only live once. Make it count.

Get Things Done
Have a clear system to be productive.

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Top 5 Posts from 2017

It Already Exists

It’s been done before.—This is the classic argument our negative mind makes when trying to pursue something. Marie Forleo and Elizabeth Gilbert talk about this resistance. The perspective to remember is that [it] hasn’t yet been done by you.

Gilbert points out “Even Shakespeare repeated stories but told them a different way, and we’re still talking about it. You’re allowed to add to the pile of art. When art comes from the heart, it comes out differently than those who just borrow for the sake of that. Create because it brings you joy.”

Remember this the next time you’re told that the field you’re pursuing is oversaturated. There is room for one more designer, developer, consultant—whatever it is you’re trying to pursue. You’re adding value by creating. Just because a field is crowded does not mean everyone has been doing it at their best. Perhaps it’s about time you show the world how to do it right by bringing you to it.

What are you bringing to the table?


Check Out What I’m Studying:


 

It Already Exists

What If You Stop Learning?

For the past few weeks, I stopped blogging, stopped reading, stopped listening to podcasts, stopped learning. I wasn’t taking a vacation or break. I just stopped. I’m not too sure why I was in this funk, but in reflecting back, I can observe something very important. When I stopped learning, I stopped growing.

I got stuck in the monotony of every day routines…same repetitive day job work, the usual routine afterward, sleep, and repeat. This was a pretty awful space to be in. It was boring, a bit un-motivating, and irritating. My effort was standard but not above it.

Why is this an important observation?

This stopping of learning also stopped the growing, the creativity. It stopped the going-the-extra-mile work ethic. It stopped the curiosity. Imagine what this does to your organization? If everyone stopped learning, you would eventually go out of business because the innovative thinking to stay above competition would be lost.

Perhaps this is an extreme way of thinking. —Or perhaps you’re stuck in simply meeting standards day-by-day.  Perhaps you never experienced the seemingly magic that comes from learning new things. The boost of creative energy, passion, and desire to get things done and done efficiently and right knowing it makes an impact.

Everyone grows when learning continues. Life becomes stale, in addition to your organization, when consistent learning of new things is not incorporated regularly and often. “Learning” is not some student-at-a-school thing or a attend-a-professional-development-workshop thing. It can simply be taking 20 minutes a day to read a book, listen to a podcast, talk to someone better than you in your field, or watch a video talk online. It’s not much, but losing those 20 minutes can make quite the negative impact.

Have you stopped?

 

 

What If You Stop Learning?

Grieving a Coffeeshop

A coffeeshop I have been going to for years closed its doors today. This coffeeshop felt like a second home, and I’m sad to see it go for the employees and the community. As for myself, I did work here, had meetings here, and studied-studied-studied here throughout my five years of grad school with the best cold-blended coffee around to keep me fueled.

This coffeeshop is a chain, and there are other ones in the area; but it isn’t the same. There are a few things that made this place stand out. It wasn’t necessarily the coffee that kept me coming back, though I loved it; and I think these observations are worth noting for any business venture:

Location:

This coffeeshop was in a prime downtown area, that for me at least, was conveniently in my area of concentration when I was in town. It was in my walking path, so it didn’t require a great effort to visit.

Customer Service:

The baristas here learned about their customers and seemed to genuinely care about how their days were going. They were conversational, and I too learned about them as well. In a short period of time, they all knew my regular coffee order before I even said it. One barista, who was a math major cheered me on during the nights I studied statistics endlessly with tutoring and often inquired about my progress. That little bit of encouragement helped me in that dreaded class of mine, and that was the kind of service all the employees had—this make-your-days-better type of service. Coffee fuels people, but a smile and friendly interaction does more.

It really is common sense to have good customer service for your business, but it is quite amazing how many businesses miss this mark. This plays a great role in customer retention regardless the quality of your product.

Atmosphere:

The welcoming and friendly employees helped set the atmosphere for the coffeeshop. They spread this positiveness to customers that I felt stayed in the environment of the shop itself making it calm, comfortable, and respectful. The place brought in students studying, families taking a break with their kids, people waiting for the college football game to start, meetups practicing their international language study, businesses discussing problems to be solved…It’s been an interesting place to see this very diverse and open environment, and I loved this vibe.

The tables alone invite this sharing atmosphere. With various sized tables, there was a place for any group count. Some tables looked to be round and extended kitchen tables, almost symbolizing this coming-together type of feel. Tall lamps instead of ceiling lighting, local artwork on the walls—the decor was more home-like. Lastly, they had electrical outlets everywhere…the most I’ve ever seen at a coffeeshop. It’s as though they encouraged customers to stay, get comfortable, and get your work done without the worry of losing battery life on your laptop or other devices. A clear need for customers and another basic feature most coffeeshops don’t tend to.

In summary, I don’t know the reason why this shop closed. However, in reflecting, I think they did a lot of things right. For being a long-time customer and seeing other long-time customers alongside me, I can observe that the things they did get right was having a convenient location, putting great and personable care into their customer service, and creating a comfortable and creative atmosphere. The awesome coffee just happened to be a good by-product of this experience.

Who knows, maybe they’ll get an “extra shot” and try again some time in the future. I will certainly miss the character of this small coffeeshop, its employees, and its community; but I’ll remember the growth gained from my experiences there. It’s a business that made an impact through experiences, not necessarily products.

Grieving a Coffeeshop

Give Thinking Its Space

In an interview I watched a while back, Bill Gates talked about what he learned from Warren Buffett in regards to time management. When Gates was still learning the ropes of leading, he took pride in scheduling every single minute of his calendar. It was packed, and he carried his busy-ness like a badge of honor. Buffett, on the other hand, gave Gates a hard time about this because he was slow to learn the problems with this style. To prove their polar opposite habits, they opened up Buffett’s paper calendar during the interview. For that particular week, Buffett had only one appointment, and there were days and days left in the month with absolutely nothing scheduled in it, and it wasn’t vacation.

Buffet shared that when a CEO packs every minute of their calendar, they leave no room for the very thing they need to be doing: thinking. How is a leader suppose to strategize and solve problems successfully if they don’t give themselves space to think, to reflect, to plan? People wanting your time comes in endless supply, but you are in control of your time. Buffett emphasizes that while he has lots of money, he still cannot buy himself more time.

The next time your day is booked with meetings, calls, and emails, ask yourself if they were really worth attending to? Did you even talk to your team today to see how their work is doing, what problems need to be solved in the trenches? Were you able to discover differences between important and urgent tasks?

Or, perhaps, would it have been of better value to utilize that time strategizing, planning, and leading with 100% focus and commitment? There are no excuses, just choices.


Check Out What I’m Studying


 

Give Thinking Its Space

Less is More

I’ve been hooked on reading an autobiography of my favorite soccer player Michelle Akers called The Game and the Glory. I can’t put it down. I wrote more about it in a previous post that you can read here. I can resonate so much with her willpower and determination, and this keep-going attitude. Nothing stops her, not even the Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) she was battling.

There is one story that really stuck out to me indirectly as I struggle with it all the time—and that’s the need to pace yourself, to care for yourself and rest. In the book, Akers describes how her trainer had a very specific program to follow in order to help prep her for the World Cup tournament. This training was specific and took into consideration the effect that CFIDS had on her body. Week after week, Akers’ performance numbers were going down. Thinking that Akers was perhaps slacking, the trainer was puzzled and frustrated and confronted her about it.

As it turns out Akers was training the 2 hours per session as instructed, but slacking was far from the truth. The trainer didn’t know that after training with him, Akers was putting in another 2 hours of practice. There was a thinking that if she put in double the time, she would output faster results. It didn’t work that way. Her extra training beyond scope actually hurt her body double time, and it took longer to recover from that extra strain.

This story sticks out because I do this all the time. I’ll cram in a 48 hour day into the 24 hour template and then pay the consequences of tiredness for days after. Or I’ll push through anyway and weeks later it all catches up to me. Push more, work harder, work faster…it doesn’t always output the results you intend. Often times, I deeply burn out. For whatever reason, I keep relearning this lesson again and again and again—and again. It’s a habit that is so hard to kick.

As Shauna Niequist writes in her awesome book, Present Over Perfect:

“I want less of everything. Less stuff. Less rushing. Less proving and pushing. Less hustle. Less consumption. […] I’ll come back around this block a thousand times in my lifetime, probably. I hope I’m getting better at it.”

And I want to get better at this too.


Check Out What I’m Studying


 

Less is More

Follow the Discomfort

A friend of mine recommended that I check out the TEDxUCLA talk called “Go with your Gut Feeling” from Magnus Walker. I have never heard of this name, but after listening to his talk I’ll never forget it.

From the outside appearance, you may perceive Magnus Walker as someone wandering through life not likely to get anywhere. In learning his story, it’s a reminder that appearances are not what they seem. Magnus Walker is this free-spirited person, but he is also widely successful. He has built a clothing company, a film location business, and taps into various areas of Porsche cars—restoration, racing, driving, and collecting. He is sought out by companies for collaborations and partnerships. When you hear him talk, he’s so humble about it. He didn’t even know why he was selected to give a TED talk to begin with.

At the end of his talk, his message is simple. Having gone through all the experiences he has been through, he recommends to simply follow your gut feeling. When it feels a bit awkward, that’s a sure sign you’re going in the right direction. Secondly, you need to stay motivated and dedicated.

He describes how he never asked for anyone’s opinion but rather followed his gut and did what he wanted to do. He followed his passion. It’s not much more complicated than that. It’s a phrase we hear often: “follow your passion“, but so few people do this. I can’t count anymore the number of people who offer their opinions about how I should live my life after grad school—where to work, where to live, what to do here and there. All of this is based on what they think success is.

What is so refreshing here is that when Magnus Walker says to follow your gut and passion, he means it because he’s living it. And it’s working out well for him. My observation of people telling me how to live my own life while they continuously complain about their own shows the resistance people having in following their own passion. Perhaps by steering people into following “their path”, they are protecting themselves from facing the truth that they never chose to live their true passion themselves. Perhaps they didn’t have the courage to follow it and ignored their gut feeling instead of listening to it.

It’s not easy to follow your gut, to live your passion, to really be authentic. This is why everyone doesn’t do it. But every now and then you hear an awesome story, like that of Magnus Walker’s; and the refresh button gets hit. Yes, do what you love to do. You only live once.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost


Check Out What I’m Studying


 

Follow the Discomfort