Friday, June 1, 2018

Get Your “80/20” in Gear and Have a Blast!

There’s a fascinating concept in economics called “Pareto’s Law,” or the “80/20 Rule.” In a nutshell, a 19th century economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noticed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land, and similarly that 20% of his peapods produced 80% of his peas. Much later, Joe Juran, looking to improve factory production during WWII, realized that 20% of the factories were responsible for 80% of all defective parts, and vice-versa: thus the beginning of the quality movement in US business.

What could the “80/20 Rule” possibly have to do with you? Simply put, most of us spend 80% of our time on things that really don’t matter all that much to us, and only 20% of our time on the things that really matter. Huh . . .

Ask yourself, who do you spend the most time with? The people who uplift you, support you, cherish you? Or those who bore you, annoy you, cause you endless irritation or grief? What do you spend most of your time doing? Complaining, blaming, feeling sorry for yourself? Or praising, appreciating, finding value in what you do? How about activities? Do you spend most of your free time in activities that engage you, inspire you, thrill you? Or do you just go with whatever flow happens to, well, flow at the moment? Facebook, TV, surfing the web . . .

It finally dawned on me, some years ago, that I’d rather work a little longer/harder to earn some extra bucks (given that I really enjoy my work), so I could pay a house-cleaner to clean my home, an activity I truly do not enjoy, much as I appreciate a clean house. And when given the option to get my butt up off the couch to take a dance class, rather than spend another hour watching a TV program I would forget about in the next 10 minutes, dance class won out. Even though there are days I most definitely do not want to get up off that couch. Dance class clearly is in my list of “top things I love.”

What’s your percent? When you sit down and honestly assess with whom and where you spend your time—which is the same thing as saying “with whom and where do you spend your life?”—what’s your 80/20? Deliberately cut out or reduce those things that do not give you joy, so that more and more of your time is spent in the 80% of stuff you really like to do. Take a look at your friends and social life, including your social media life. Deliberately cut out or reduce the time you spend with those who do not rank high in your “things I love” list.

It may sound odd to take such a calculated approach to your life, but time really is all we have. How and with whom we choose to spend it very much defines how happily we romp through this astonishing, challenging, absolutely wonderful journey called “life.” Get your “80/20” in gear, and have a blast!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Make Peace With Your Dream

Often, when we are told to “make peace with” something, it’s in a challenging context, as in “make peace with” your current weight, bank account, relationship, etc. And indeed, the only way to move forward toward whatever your desired goal is to first make peace with wherever you’re at in that journey. So yes, by all means, do that!

But the one “make peace with” we rarely think about is to “make peace with your dreams.” Too often, we dismiss our dreams and desires as too far-fetched, impossible, unreachable, and we stop before we start. Or we start, and then halfway there we figure, “Oh, this is ridiculous; I’ll never make it" so we give up on our dreams.

Don’t do that to yourself! Did you know that what makes for success--at anything and everything--is the dynamite combination of passion and perseverance? It's what researcher Angela Duckworth PhD calls “grit,” sometimes thought of as “great results in time.” No one exemplifies passion plus perseverance better than Jahkee Johnson. Jahkee was born with shortened legs and deformities in his knees and ankles, which caused both legs to be amputated when he was just an infant. But Jahkee had a passion; he wanted to play in his high school’s marching band, and he wanted to play--of all things--the tuba.

Now, most would say “impossible”! A tuba is a big heavy instrument, and how is a boy going to march without legs, much less play the tuba and march at the same time? But Jahkee made peace with his dream. He knew what he wanted, and he was sure he was going to make it happen. Period. With that kind of determination, you can guess the rest of the story. At 15, Jahkee began marching in his high school’s band with the help of padded shoes so he can walk right along with his bandmates, first with a tuba and now a trombone. Sure, it took a few weeks for him to get the hang of the shoes and the marching, but what the heck?! That’s the nature of perseverance.

What’s the dream you’ve given up on? I’m not talking about a whim, or an idle fantasy, as in “I wanna be a millionaire”--who doesn’t? A passion would be “I want to be a millionaire. I have ideas worth the time and effort and creativity it takes to succeed at my dream.” So what’s the dream you have, with passion behind it, that you need to make peace with in order to succeed?

Because once you do that, once you make peace with your dream, you can draw on the energy of the Universe to persist until you make that dream come true. Here’s to your success!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

If Only…

Photo Credit: Ryan Garza-Detroit Free Press
Ever had a case of the “if onlys”? You know, as in; “If only I’d gotten that job,” “If only that guy/gal hadn’t broken up with me,” “If only I hadn’t been passed over for that promotion,” “If only I’d won the lottery!” “If only I had more talent,” and so on.

Unfortunately, once you get started on your “if onlys” you can keep the list going for days. I certainly have. It’s like binge-watching Netflix. How do you cry “Halt”?!

But here’s the thing: the “if onlys” don’t get you anything. I mean zip, nada, nothing. Not even the satisfaction of “Whew, that was exhausting but now I’m totally caught up on ________(insert name of favorite show).” I take it back. They do get you something. They get you to stay stuck in your past and prevent you from seeing, much less acting on, a desirable future.

What do you think would have happened if Chris Norton, who broke his neck playing football for Luther College, at 18 years of age, had accepted the doctors’ verdict of having only a 3% chance of ever feeling or moving below his neck? What would have happened if Chris had dwelt on all the “if onlys” of his plight? To name but a few: if only I hadn’t played in the game that day. If only I'd chosen to go for basketball or swim team or track instead of football! If only I'd fallen differently on the field. If only I'd just broken my arm or leg instead of my neck. If only I'd been bruised instead of paralyzed!

If Chris had indulged in all those “if onlys” and many more, he would never have done what it took to move his arms and legs again, certainly wouldn’t have managed to walk across the stage five years later to receive his college diploma, nor would his next goal have been of walking seven yards down the aisle to marry his sweetheart. He certainly wouldn’t have become the motivational speaker he is today, nor the founder of the SCI CAN Foundation, dedicated to raising money for specialized hospital and rehab center equipment for others with spinal cord injuries. All this by the age of 25!
Turn your back on your “if onlys.” Leave them where they belong, in the past. What is done, is done, and you can’t undo it. What you can do, however, is look to solutions, resolutions and other possibilities, in your present and in your future, just like Chris Norton. We humans are capable of amazing things once we turn our focus and attention to them. So don’t waste your precious creativity, your resources, your mind, on lamenting your “if onlys.” Face whatever challenges you experience boldly, square on, and conquer them!