It was a little more than 2 years ago that I decided to pursue my MBA. After talking to a friend who was living in Boston to support her husband getting his MBA at Harvard, I knew it was something I wanted to do as well.
So I filled out the application, did the interview, got accepted, and quit my job to open a new chapter in my life.
But not every decision I’ve made goes quite so well. For example, I’ve made the decision to stop eating junk food a few hundred (or thousand?) times in the last few years.
I’ve made the decision to spend at least 1-2 hours a day working on a side business. But most days that hasn’t happened.
I’ve made the decision to network with more top performers. But that hasn’t worked very well for me yet. I have a growing network, but I don’t do it regularly. I don’t schedule time for it every week into my calendar.
So I’ve realized more and more how true it is that just making a decision isn’t enough. We need a certain level of commitment behind that decision.
That’s why so many people fail to stick with their New Year resolutions. They don’t make the decision with enough commitment to stick with it through the hard times. They may think they are, but when push comes to shove, they bow out.
I know because that’s what has happened to me.
For example, let’s take eating junk food. I’ll commit to avoid it, right? But then what happens when my wife wants to stop for fast food and I know we don’t have much at home? I cave and get a nasty burger.
Or what happens when I get frustrated with my kids after a long day? I pound down some cookies or ice cream to make myself feel better.
If I had truly made the decision and commitment to not eat junk food, those thoughts wouldn’t even enter my mind.
The best thing I can relate it to is smoking. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. Tried a cigar once and hated it. Tried a hookah once and hated it. Tried dip once and hated it.
Tobacco is disgusting.
So if someone offered me something, it’s VERY easy for me to say “no thanks.”
Why wasn’t it the same for me and fast food? Because I didn’t have the same level of commitment.
Now, it doesn’t help that my wife and kids will always want junk food in the house. But that’s just an excuse. If I really saw it the same as smoking, I wouldn’t partake.
This doesn’t just go with eating. It goes with exercising, writing, networking, whatever.
The Bible says to let your Yes be Yes and your No be No. We need to be absolute and stand behind the decisions we make. Especially when we know it’s for the best, even though it will be difficult.
It’s been said that a day that ends well is one that started with exercise. I couldn’t agree more.
Exercising regularly is something I’ve struggled with for YEARS. To be fair, I’ve been out of the routine for many more years that I was in the habit of it.
I started running my junior year of high school, but then stopped running as much in college. Then I joined Air Force ROTC and had to go twice a week, but that still wasn’t much.
I exercised regularly for the first year in the Air Force, but that’s it. Since then, it has all gone downhill. Since my diet went downhill as well, it has lead to poor health.
But that’s changing now. I’m eating better and more strategically (implementing intermittent fasting.) I’m exercising in the mornings, and even went at 9pm the other night. Twice in one day!
I want to start pushing myself more. Pushing myself to fail. Pushing myself to pursue bigger things. Pushing myself to become more than I am right now.
That will come from a few things:
Building a network of all stars
Learning new skills
Focusing on the most important things
That’s it. The problem is I have SOOOO many things I want to do right now. It’s tough for me to focus on what matters most.
Do I practice interviewing for a job, or try to find freelance clients?
Do I go work out to exercise my body, or read to exercise my mind?
Do I spend my free mornings meeting people for coffee? Or researching jobs?
All of us struggle with this. There’s an opportunity cost to everything we do, so we just have to keep that in mind as we go through our days.
For example, if I take an hour to go work out, the cost I pay is not doing other things like learning new skills or practicing for a job interview. But if my health is my number one priority, that’s a price I’d gladly pay.
Another example is with what I do in the car. I can listen to an audiobook to hear a great story, learn a language from a podcast, or call someone I haven’t talked to in a while. All of these are good things, but the one I choose to do right now depends on my current goals.
I usually listen to audiobooks, but the sad thing is I don’t take enough action to implement what I learn. Peter Voogd says it’s much better to master a few books in a year than to read 50. I’m finally starting to realize how true and important that is.
Anyways, I feel like this post is going off on a tangent. But here’s the bottom line – I work out in the morning because it works well for me.
It helps me feel good physically.
It helps me feel accomplished by 6am.
It helps me get more fit and lose weight.
It helps me meet new people.
It aligns with one of my most important goals right now to lose weight.
It’s something I can almost ALWAYS do. If I put this off until any other time of the day, there’s a very good chance I’d get interrupted regularly by something. That’s just how life goes with 2 young kids.
What time of the day works best for you? When do you work out?
I realized last night that it’s been over 3 years since I’ve left the military.
A lot has happened since then:
My daughter was born
I got a job at an insurance company
I left said job to pursue my MBA
My son was born
I graduated with my MBA
Now here I am.
I really have no idea what’s in store for me. Will I go into marketing? Become a writer? Get a sales role? Go back to school for a degree in data analytics?
It’s tough to say. But I do know one thing- my MBA isn’t the silver bullet I’d thought it would be.
When I started, I figured it would help me easily transition into a new career. And while it has helped me land job interviews, I’m still struggling during those interviews. The main problem is how I answer questions. I haven’t really been answering the question behind the question asked.
Plus, I’m guessing I’m not coming across as confident. That’s an issue I’ve definitely had before.
So I signed up for Ramit Sethi’s Dream Job course. Just in the 1st week I’ve picked up on a lot of great nuggets, and I’m looking forward to what the rest has in store.
Until then, I’m going to focus my time on other important things. Networking. Freelancing. Exercising. Enjoying time with my family. Building new things.
Two things I’m taking a break from: video games and reading. I love gaming, but I spend too much time on it. And I love to read non-fiction, but READING isn’t DOING. I’ve literally spent hundreds of hours reading over the years that could’ve been better spent applying what I had already learned.
So I’ll listen to audio books in the car, and focus on just a few select ones. I’m not gonna keep getting new ones, but instead focus on really mastering just a few.
I have a great opportunity in front of me right now. This is the time for me to build and do something awesome.
Over the last few months, I’ve skipped dinner several times. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, but it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds, either. The key was to drink a lot of water in the afternoon to help me feel full.
The funny thing is that this little change leads to big results. Every time I do this, I lose weight. I’m not entirely sure if it’s from eating fewer calories or just getting rid of excess water weight. But the point is, I’m lighter the next day.
This is a little change, but it has lead to big results. It takes me a from a place of losing weight inconsistently to a place where I can lose weight every single day.
And that is awesome.
Sometimes it makes sense to batch things together. For example, if I take care of all email once a day, it may only take me 20 minutes. But if I do it in small chunks, or as it comes in, it may take a total of an hour.
The same goes for cooking. You can cook 7 of the same meals in 2 hours, or spread it throughout the week and spend like 4 hours total. It doesn’t make sense.
But not everything is like that. Sometimes you have to make small changes to daily routine. Like – skipping a meal. Or exercise. Or writing.
These aren’t big changes, but you can’t just do them every once in a while. They work a lot better if you’re consistent.
Skip a meal every day. Write a few words every day. Exercise for a few minutes every day.
Life isn’t about maximizing your time, but we should try to be productive and effective. We should do what works well. And that often means making the right small changes.
The books The Compound Effect and The Slight Edge are both focused around this concept. Definitely go check them out if you haven’t read them yet.
I’ve joined a number of different programs in my life.
Online courses on building a side business
Weight loss systems
Books on how to interview better
Tutorials for using software, like Tableau
One thing I’ve struggled with is following the system to a T.
For example, right now I’m using a weight loss system. It is working okay, but guess what? I haven’t been following it 100%. Even though I haven’t really been eating junk food, I’ve been eating more calories than it recommends.
Not only that, but I’m eating the wrong types of foods. It says to eat lean meat and a bunch of veggies – I have a few pieces of pizza.
Again, could be worse- I could be eating a big brownie smothered with ice cream. But I’m not doing what I should be.
…hence, my results are hindered. I’m losing weight, but not as fast as I could be.
The same goes with a course I took on freelancing. I followed it kind of, but not 100%. So where does that get me? I’m not making as much as I could be with it. I have a little success, but not much.
Whereas if I’d followed the system, I’d probably be much better off right now.
Avoiding bright shiny object syndrome is tough. It’s a lot sexier to chase that exciting new thing than pursue the system we signed up for.
It’s tempting to go off track. To think “well, I know a better way to do that.” Sometimes that may be true. But you know what? When someone successful lays out a plan with a successful track record, it’s at least worth giving that plan a shot before moving into something else.
Trying new things is okay. Actually, it should be encouraged. But following the given system should be the #1 priority.
Are you following the systems provided to you? Or do you tend to stray off course like I do?
First off, let’s make one thing straight. I’m not saying I want to be a diamond. Jewelry and flashy stuff isn’t really my jam.
But when it comes between choosing whether or not I get crushed into dust or become as hard as a diamond? I’ll choose the diamond.
Right now is one of the most stressful times of my life. My wife and I have a two year old and 3 month old. I’m trying to wrap up an MBA program, which takes a good bit of time. I don’t know where I’ll be working when I graduate yet, so I’m trying to look for a job.
On top of that, I’m trying to build a side business for extra money, do maintenance around the house, take care of the dog by walking him, lose weight, visit my grandma regularly, and take some time out for myself to read personal development books and play video games.
I’m busy. And I know as my kids get older, I’ll get even busier in some ways by having to take them to things like sports or music practice.
There’s a lot of pressure on me right now, especially financially. I’m getting to the point where I feel like I need to take almost any job I can get. I have student loans to pay back and my wife’s income won’t be enough to sustain our current standard of living.
Under all of this pressure, there are two things I can do:
Crack and crumble into dust
Be hardened into a diamond
This can either be a growing opportunity, or one that makes me fall apart.
Something that helps me become stronger as a person, or something that causes me to throw my hands up in the air and say “screw it.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing the former. I love personal development, the idea of getting better every day. One of my favorite quotes is the one by Jim Rohn that I mentioned in my last post, saying that you have to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.
Plus, there’s a whole book about this! In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes: “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
That’s part of the Stoic philosophy to take the world as it comes. Nothing is bad or good- it just is. And we can use events and time periods, especially those of high stress, to improve our future condition.
Right now, I’m learning important skills.
How to manage under pressure.
How to think about creative ways to build a business.
How to raise my kids well.
How to act with courage even in the face of fear.
How to gain clients.
These are skills I’ll continue to use for the rest of my life.
I’m becoming as hard as a diamond, which will help me carve the right path in life.
I’d never heard this phrase until a few weeks ago. I figured it was something a lot of the guys in my new workout program say, but I was wrong. Apparently a lot of people have said/heard it across the internet.
Shows what I know.
I love this quote though. It’s a perfect example of what happens in life. Life will NEVER be easy.
Financial difficulties. Health problems. Relationship trouble. Loved ones moving or passing away. Career anxiety. Screaming, unhappy children.
And even if you don’t have any of that stuff going on, rest assured that we’re destroying our planet. So you always have that to worry about.
Life is tough. But that doesn’t mean we have to fight it like a weak, sick puppy.
Instead, we can get stronger. Build a stronger body. Meet powerful people in our industry. Learn new skills. Improve, improve, improve.
Jim Rohn once said “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” Even though he was talking about income in that instance, it’s a great principle to apply to the rest of our lives as well.
As we work on ourselves, we become more capable of handling what life throws at us. We become stronger.
The workout program where I heard this phrase is called F3. It stands for Fitness, Fellowship and Faith. It’s a group of thousands of men who work out together, build relationships and pray for each other.
Some of them have been doing it for YEARS. Working out early in the day, several days a week.
You know what? They still struggle! Sure, they can do a lot more pushups or squats than they could when they first started. But because of how the workouts are structured, they still wear themselves out.
Instead of doing 20 pushups (like I do), they do 50.
Instead of running at a 10 min/mile pace, they run a 7 minute pace.
It’s still hard for them. It didn’t get any easier. But they got stronger.
That’s what it’s all about. From getting fit to achieving success in our careers to caring for young children. It will always be tough, but the key is to remember that as we work at it, we are getting stronger every day.
I’ve been struggling with my weight for years now.
Actually, I’ve struggled with my weight on and off several times throughout my life. It started in middle school, when I spent most of my time either playing video games or sitting on my butt at school.
At the end of high school, I lost the extra weight. I got pretty fit actually, by running every single morning around my neighborhood and cutting out junk food. Then I joined the track team and a weight lifting class.
In college I didn’t gain much weight back, but I was squishier than I would’ve liked. I always weighed less than 180 pounds, but I didn’t have muscle definition.
Ever since about a year after I graduated, it has been downhill. I graduated 8 years ago and weighed 60 pounds heavier than I ever did in college. I would tend to weight the same thing for a long time, then some event would have me eating unhealthy for an extended period of time, and I’d put on weight.
For example, I went to a 3 week training for work. We had food available all day and a generous per diem for dinner, which meant eating well every night. I gained 15 pounds on that trip.
A year and a half later, I spent a few weeks doing my Air Force Reserve duty. They have a very tasty fast food restaurant by that base I don’t have close to home, so I indulged myself. Another 13 pounds added on!
Sure, I’d lose some of the weight occasionally. Usually it was a low-carb diet or fat fast. But the crazy thing was as soon as I started eating carbs again, the weight would come back. Actually, I would tend to binge when I got stressed and saw the weight coming back, making it all worse!
I joined a local weight loss clinic. They provide a very detailed diet, but following it takes a lot of work. It’s eating a ton of food, even if you don’t feel hungry. The food was boring, because I couldn’t eat most sauces or salt.
Plus, cooking up that much food every day is a pain! I suppose the successful people pre-cook their meals, but I struggled with carving out the time to do that.
So I ended up joining a different program. I researched this one a lot before joining, because it involves drinking a few shakes throughout the day, then eating a healthy meal and snacks. To be honest, the structure is similar to the Slimfast diet. The difference is in the quality of the shakes.
In the program I joined, the shakes are made from organic, healthy ingredients. I can’t say the same for other shakes out there that I’ve seen.
This program also focuses heavily on cleansing the body of toxins. Because our bodies build up toxins over time from the foods we eat and air we breathe, it’s important to take action on eliminating those toxins regularly.
I joined the program 17 days ago. During that time I’ve messed up countless times. I haven’t eaten unhealthy foods, but I did eat way more calories than I’m supposed to.
Who can blame me? I went on vacation to the beach for 4 days. I also went to a childhood friend’s wedding.
Yet I’ve still lost 15 pounds. Some of that is water weight, but a LOT of it is fat.
How do I know? For one thing, my clothes feel a lot looser.
But I’ve also been surprised at the fact that my weight didn’t balloon up on the days I ate more. That’s proof that I’d lost FAT, not just water.
When I would go on a low carb diet and come back on carbs, I would put a lot of water weight back on quickly. That’s because cutting out carbs reduces water retention, so a lot of the initial weight lost is just water.
This program is different. I’ve lost fat, pure and simple. I haven’t been my current weight (225) in 8 months, so I’m excited! I’m going to keep following this system because it’s rocking it, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next 17 days.
How are you taking care of your body? Are you giving it the nourishment it needs and staying at a healthy weight? Or are you like me, struggling for years to lose that extra weight as you combat things like binge eating?
Sometimes it’s software. Right now I’m teaching myself how to use Tableau.
Sometimes it’s more academic- hence why I’m in my MBA program right now.
Sometimes it’s a principle that has helped people. My current Audible book is The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.
Constant learning is something I love. It helps me feel like I’m growing as a person. And the more I grow, the more I become.
The problem is that I don’t have the greatest track record of putting what I learn into action.
For example, I first read The Four Hour Work Week over 5 years ago. Even though I’ve tried to incorporate some of its principles into my life, I can’t say that I do it regularly.
Another example is nutrition and fitness books. Over the years I’ve learned (and forgotten) more than most people ever learn. So am I in the best shape of my life? No way- even though I’m losing weight right now, I am still very overweight.
It’s said that knowledge is power. But we all know that the real power is applied knowledge.
If I know eating gluten will cause leaky gut but I continue to stuff my face with bread, my knowledge isn’t helping me at all. In fact, it’s making things worse because I will kick myself later.
If I know I have the choice between a fun activity and working on a passive income stream but I choose the fun activity time after time, I’ll be mad at myself . I will know I cheated my future self, and even my family.
So yes- learning new things is great. But it’s not enough. I need to improve my ability to take action on my goals. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes at a time.
One way I’m going to do that is use the 5 second rule by Mel Robbins. The basic premise is that if I have a thought of something I need to do, I immediately start counting down from 5 and then take action.
5. 4. 3. 2. 1.
Then I go.
The reason this is powerful is it doesn’t give me time to “feel” a certain way about the action. I’m not giving myself time for fear or anxiety to build up. I can’t talk myself out of it. I just do it.
Sometimes this may mean working on a blog post (like right now.)
Other times it will be working out or making a phone call or applying to a job. Whatever it is I feel like is the most important thing for me to do at that moment.
This is powerful for another reason though. It helps me build habits. And as I build a new habit, it becomes so strong that I won’t be able to skip it as time goes on.
For example, take writing. I’m not in the habit of sitting down to write everyday. The struggle with getting words on a blank canvas isn’t something I constantly face – even though I want it to be.
But the best way for me to overcome that is to make a habit. Sitting down to write everyday – even if it’s just 50 words. If I do this every day – especially at the same time – I will slowly build a new habit. Before I know it, I’ll have thousands and thousands of words published.
The same goes for working out. I don’t do it regularly. I’ll think about it, but then figure “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t feel like it right now.”
But what I’m learning right now is to use the 5 second rule to overcome that. Even if I only work out for 4 minutes, that’s a lot better than nothing! It builds a habit, it builds a stronger body, it builds momentum and it builds a bias towards action.
This is largely what the book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise is all about. Taking regular, tiny actions towards a goal will build a habit that becomes so strong it’s hard to not do it.
Stephen started by setting a goal of doing just 1 pushup a day. Sometimes that’s all he did, because he suddenly realized it was 11pm and he hadn’t done it. But usually he did a lot more.
There’s a lot of great information out there on habits, and I’m going to write more about them in the future as I get better about them.
Healthy eating, calling old friends, reaching out to influencers, applying for jobs, etc. These are all things I want to do better. Each one of these things can be life-changing if I let them.
But the key is applying the knowledge I’ve learned. Even if it takes some kind of little trick like the 5 second rule, the most important thing is to progress. As I progress and build momentum, I’ll become unstoppable.
All I have to do is improve myself 1% everyday. That’s what James Altucher recommends, and considering how successful the guy is I figure it’s good enough for me.
Procrastination is something the human race has struggled with for a long, long time.
Just see what Aristotle? Had to say about it: “Excellence, vice and procrastination are not an isolated act, they are formed by the constant repeat of actions.”
Obviously if he was advising people how to avoid procrastination, it’s not something new to us.
But the interesting thing is that there are several types of procrastination:
Putting off things we know we should do for something more fun (like watching Game of Thrones.)
Doing less important, easier tasks to avoid doing what we know we should really be doing.
The first is the one most of us think about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put off doing something for work or school to watch TV or play video games.
You can’t blame me of course. In general it’s much more fun to just veg out and do an enjoyable activity than start on that paper for school. Turning off your brain is always a tempting endeavor, hence why Americans watch TV every day.
But to be honest, I think the bigger problem in our culture is the second type of procrastination. The kind where we stay “busy,” but aren’t really doing anything.
As Tim Ferris points out in his book The Four Hour Workweek, all you really need to do to be seen as a “productive employee” is to keep moving. He says we should “Focus on busying productive instead of busy.”
I’m also reminded me of this clip from Office Space where the protagonist claims that he really only does about 15 minutes of work every day.
While that’s a stretch (I hope) for most of us, there is some truth to it. We often stay so busy doing minuscule tasks that we don’t get the most important done. And before we know it, the entire day is gone and we don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything!
This even happened to me today. I’d planned on writing this article a bit earlier, but I got sidetracked by setting up my new phone. I”m making the switch from Verizon to Google Fi, and the new phone came in today. What I thought might take 5-10 minutes probably took an hour by the time I’d
Installed my favorite apps
Imported my contacts from my iPhone
Transferred the number
Installed multiple updates
Obviously I would tinker with other things while apps and updates were downloading, but still. I really didn’t do the most important activities during that time. Instead I should’ve waited until I had a natural lull later tonight and done it then.
We’re always capable of finding things to distract ourselves from the most important task. We stay so busy that we let the big things slip through the cracks just so we can hold up the minor ones.
Obviously that time spent on Facebook is (probably) spent in tiny increments- 5 minutes here, 8 minutes there. But as you can see, it does add up to be a major chunk of our day. And when we regularly spend that much of our time just checking Facebook…. We’re in trouble.
The good news is that there are certain things we can do to keep ourselves on course. Here are a few to try:
Keep Your Phone 50 Feet Away
When my phone isn’t at my side, I’m ridiculously more productive. I don’t have to worry about text messages, phone calls, or emails bugging me.
I’m also not tempted to just grab my phone on a whim and check Facebook for the 31st time today.
Obviously this sounds weird, but it’s difficult to understand until you try it. Just knowing that you have a little more peace and quiet will help you focus much better.
Plus, keep in mind what a phone call, email or text message actually is. It’s someone else demanding your time when it’s convenient for them. If you have something else you’re working on that’s more important- they’ll just have to wait.
Set Weekly Time Goals
This is something I learned from an interview from Rory Vaden’s book Take the Stairs. The guy he’s talking to basically recommends that you set goals for how long you’ll do certain things each week, then keep track of daily progress.
For example, maybe you set a goal to exercise for 2 hours a week and read for 5 hours a week. Each night you record how much you did each of these activities. Then when you get to the end of the week, you can easily see if you met your goal.
This works well because you’ll see the daily progress you’re making. If you have a few days go by without taking any action, you know that the last few days of the week need to be focused on that activity.
Work in Short Bursts
It’s easy to think that by sitting down for a few hours at a time, we’re being very productive. That’s not always the case, though. When you do that, you may get sidetracked and before you know it, an hour or so has gone by.
I just had this happen to me yesterday. I sat down for (what I thought) would be just a few minutes to sign up for a conference.
Well before I could, I first had to register to join the website. This took longer than I expected- like 30 minutes.
Then I had to wait for my profile to be approved, which took about another hour.
Once I did register, I realized I needed to find a hotel. So then I started researching hotels and figuring out the logistics of the trip.
…but I didn’t plan on doing that stuff. Even though it had to be done, I should have put it off to do more important things. But I didn’t because I was down a rabbit hole with nothing to pull me out.
I (and many others) work best by setting an alarm to go off after a certain period of time, like 25 minutes. Then I take a 5 minute break before going back at it. This is called the Pomodoro technique.
Here’s why it works:
Your focus is improved because you know you only have to do it for 25 minutes.
Even if you do get sidetracked, the longest it can last is 24 minutes! (Because come on- if you get sidetracked in less than a minute, there are other issues going on.)
The short break rejuvenates you and prepares you for another work session.
It may sound silly but it works- trust me!
Most of us are people pleasers and like to say yes to everything. Unfortunately, that just fills out calendar with more stuff than we can handle.
Instead, start saying no more often. Maybe that means your child only does one extra curricular activity each season, rather than 2-3. Perhaps you say no to joining the local running club your friend asks you to join. It could be you turn down the opportunity to volunteer somewhere.
Just make sure you aren’t saying no for no reason. Realize that by keeping your calendar more open and reducing your busy-ness, you’re giving yourself more time to do what matters most.
There are a lot of other tactics out there to help you become more productive. But being the most productive person in the world doesn’t mean you do the most things. Instead it means focusing on the most important first, and then letting the rest fall into place.
In other words- don’t be busy just to be busy. Be busy working on things that have a positive, lasting impact.