Be a Fighter

This weekend I found some cheesy inspiration to post.

I’m not one of those kind of people to write about how, if you think about it really hard, then you’ll see that life is like a Starburst wrapper, or some other inane comparison for life that (hopefully) at the end has an uplifting and inspirational value to it. If you were asking my advice about something I probably wouldn’t speak about things in those kinds of terms either. To me, they just tend to be too abstract to be of any help or use.

I’m sure its productive and helpful for some people, but it just never seems to do anything for me. That said, I think my commentary for today is, at a minimum, rubbing elbows with the line between cheesy, stupid inspiration and thoughtful reflection.

Not only is this not the most thoughtful blog post you will read today, its not even original. Someone probably gave you this lecture when you were a kid and you fell down. But none the less, things we have known for a long time can sometimes become poignant years or decades later when you need the inspiration the most.

Tonight I watched The Fighter. Yes, I am way behind the movie timeline. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie because I have spent some time training in boxing (not in a serious competitive way, though), but more so for the characters and the view point of the “new me” that the movie has given me. And for the record, getting back to the boxing gym is something I was planning on doing next month and the movie has only reinforced this idea to me.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t think this spoils the story too much, so feel free to read on.

Fighters, much like every day people at their jobs or their relationships, have their style and the particular way that they fight/work/love. Some people are good at their style and some aren’t. Some people’s raw skills or style or knowledge are so good that they don’t have to try as hard as others do. Some people are good at being fluid, others are not. Some people are so good at their style that they don’t have to follow it 100% of the time because they can easily recover and get back on track by “falling back on what works”. Some people are only going to have a shot at winning certain things if they stick to their style or their game plan. As a side note, sometimes people’s particular style of working or loving just plain sucks for them and for everyone else, and they are absolutely an exception to the moral of this post.

Clearly, knowing your style and skills, strengths, and weaknesses are essential. If you’re not an adaptable kind of person then quit trying to be a chameleon. Steven Segal only makes one kind of movie for a reason. He knows that he’ll never sell tickets to a movie where he plays a shy urban street guy with mild-retardation who becomes a national sensation because of his incredible ballet dancing ability. Know what you suck at and deal with it.

As a fighter, your skills may not allow you to box straight up with another guy for any number of reasons. Maybe he’s too quick, he out weighs you, or he’s stronger and punches harder. These are all short comings you’re going to have to work around.

Everyone has heard of the classic strategy of letting the opponent get tired and then going after them with whatever you’ve got left in the tank. People do it in sports, and people have employed various manifestations of the strategy in warfare throughout time. The Romans used several different ones in their battle tactics, and Sherman’s March used the basic idea behind it when he ordered his men to continue marching forward and forage for food after their rations were used up.

Anyhow, no matter when, where, or how you use this strategy, they key point is always the same. You have to understand that things are going to be horrible at some point, but the rewards can be huge.

In the fighting context, tiring out your opponent and going for the win means you’re gonna get your ass kicked for a while. But if you want to win you’re going to have to persevere.

Perseverance. It’s the key to winning whatever battle you are in. A fist fight in an alley? Persevere. Trying to quit drinking or smoking? Persevere. Fighting a disease? Trying to get that promotion at work or land your dream job? Fighting to get that first date? Persevere, persevere, persevere.

What are you gunning for or fighting against that you need to remember to persevere in order to beat it? Tell yourself every day that you know that you’re gonna take some licks, but hard work today will prepare you to be in the ring and take punch after punch until its your turn to throw the punches. If you’ve worked hard, if you’re in your best condition, and if you know that you can outlast whatever obstacle it is that you’re up against, you’ll be ready to win it.

The new slogan for my resolutions and of the Starting From Thirty blog as a whole: Be a Fighter.

And if you don’t like that slogan then just use the word “persevere”.

Come to think of it, I lied a little. I absolutely would go watch a Steven Segal movie where he’s a ballet dancer.

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Being Productive…

I’ve had a mixed productivity record over the last, well, several months if I’m being honest. I’ve had trouble getting up in the mornings, and then I have tended just do aimless personal interest projects like reading message boards or thinking of things to do on this blog.

This is easily one of the two biggest changes I need to make in my life. (The other is paying off debts and being more financially sound in my living.) In my view, there’s two components of this problem for me. First, motivation and second, energy.

I have to have the motivation to do great things and do them at full pace and in a quality manner. The bigger problem for me is the energy piece. I can’t seem to find the energy to get up in the morning lately. Unfortunately, I think this is just a matter of deciding to get up and get after it. On a side note, I have zero difficulty staying awake until 2 am if I want to.

As a result of these “discoveries”, I find articles on the motivation and productivity tips of successful individuals to be interesting.

Inc.com is a wealth of information for this kind of this. This article on 10 leaders and the ways they stay productive provides some interesting insights. Although each person will find some more interesting than the others, the most compelling to me were:

– Writing every day – bloggers can sympathize with this. Two thoughts here. 1 – I should do this both in terms of the blog and in terms of my desire to write a book someday. The book writing will ultimately mean compiling lots of writing that has already been done, rather than sitting down and beginning to write it from the start. 2- This tips doesn’t really mean that writing every day will make you more productive. It means that diligently performing the tasks that you want to excel at every day will yield positive results, whether that be guitar playing or dancing or whatever.

– The various exercise/train for an Iron Man etc – The real deal here is, as I wrote in an email to a friend leaning to “push yourself”. I read something recently talking about the phrase “just do it”, and why Nike hit a brilliant nerve by trademarking that as their slogan. I think its a great slogan, but I think they missed the ball by leaving out a key word. A better phrase (for me at least) would probably be “just do it right now”. I need to push myself and know what my limits are. Its the only way I am going to discover how fast I can run, how well I can do at computer programming, how high I will rise the corporate ranks at my job, etc. Push. And when you get tired, push harder.

More tips on productivity can be found here: Same site, different article.

Lastly, and again from Inc.com, is a list of tips on motivating yourself. I am finding every single one of these to be good, and I am going to be paying close attention to this list in the next few months.

No tips that I have found yet on upping my morning energy. If someone happens to read this and knows a source, please post it in the comments.

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Other People’s Resolutions

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week plus about my New Year’s Resolutions, as have many people. No surprise that a number of articles about achieving your goals and resolutions have cropped up in the last few days. Some of them have provided excellent suggestions for things to improve on in the next year, or life in general really.

My favorite list so far is from Evan, who happened to stumble onto my blog and follow me – for which I am thankful. Evan’s list is lengthy, but most importantly it contains very specific goals. Among the highlights of Evan’s Better Man Project Bucket List are:

– 10K in the bank (I wish I could be at that level right now…I won’t get to put that on my list until this time next year)
– Read 52 books (Going for one a week?)
– Being diligent about certain things – like stretching
– Get paid to write freelance

and others. Many are personal goals that won’t apply to the rest of us, like “be able to dunk”, but I think there’s a lot of value in having goals that are easily obtainable by simply spending an afternoon to accomplish going skydiving, or what have you. They are enjoyable steps along the way to be a more well-rounded, fascinating, and active – get stuff done – kind of guy. I’m going to need to add a few of these into my list.

This article from Takepart.com provides 30 ideas for things to do this month to give back, make your community better, or make yourself better. Great suggestions like “volunteer locally on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of service” are excellent ideas, though I wish that several of the suggestions weren’t either political (tell your lawmaker to protect the Arctic Wildlife Refuge” or simple “thank your mentor today”. The political ones can too easily be ignored by people who don’t follow a particular ideology, and the simple ones aren’t things that create lasting behaviors or self improvement, only temporary feelings of satisfaction. However, suggestions like “donate a suit to dress for success” are outstanding. I think I’ll do that with one of my suits that I never wear.

20 New Year’s Resolutions for 20 Somethings has some really good advice for behaviors to change this year. Some of them read like a middle aged person who walks around muttering “damned kids!” all day long, but others, like “Cut one person out of your life who you truly do not like and add one person who you truly do. Note: not on Facebook, on Earth.”, are things that we can do to more deeply evaluate our lifestyles, relationships, and general life direction.

Have you read anything that you think has a great list of Resolutions or advice on achieving your goals? If you have, share it in the comments.

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The Most Important Investment

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I realized I’m in crappy financial shape for the future. I began to re-learn about and re-consider the kinds of financial investments I need to be making for my future.

But what about other investments?

Yesterday as I drove home from work, I turned on the radio, heard the Goo Goo Dolls and thought out loud that there should be a law prohibiting Goo Goo Dolls music during rush hour. We’ve been working all day. We’ve suffered enough already.

My immediate next thought was to use my drive time to communicate with friends and family. I’ve got 30 or 45 unoccupied minutes there that I am wasting by listening to songs I have heard a hundred times, Goo Goo Dolls or not. It would be more productive for me to make a phone call to someone I don’t get to talk to much, and spend 30 minutes learning about their life.

For starters, it will allow me to reinforce the social and, more importantly, listening skills that I am aiming to improve. But it will also help me reinforce the relationships that I already have but may just be neglecting. (Side note: “relationship” in this post doesn’t mean romantic relationships, although some if not all of the below thoughts apply to those relationships as well.)

Taking a Relationship Inventory

I have neglected a lot of relationships over the years. I have always tended to prefer having a few very close friends and hundreds of acquaintances. The problem is that I have never defined to myself how close those acquaintances could or should be to me. As a result, I didn’t invest anything in those relationships because I already had the close relationships I required in my life. Even worse, I sometimes wondered why people weren’t trying to be closer to me.

I haven’t ever had anyone tell me they thought I was being cold or closed off to them, but perhaps they just wouldn’t tell me that to my face anyhow. However, I have often had people say that I seem intimidating to talk to. I still don’t know why, but this leads me to two major conclusions.

      • First, if people are intimidated by talking to me, then it falls on me to be the person who opens up the dialogue. And, yes, this may involve stepping outside your comfort zone a bit.
      • Second, it is entirely possible, even likely, that people have been willing to be close but I have not been prioritizing that and therefore didn’t notice their interest in having a relationship.

Is it possible that the person who seems interesting, the person reading a book I have read or want to read, the person I have reason to believe has a lot in common with me, the cute girl who keeps glancing my direction, or the coworker who I continue to see at every event I go to, are all avoiding talking to me because they don’t want to get to know me? Sure, but it is highly unlikely. Instead, the most plausible explanation is that they would be open to talking to me, but I seem intimidating or am giving off signals that I don’t want to know them. I’m more likely to get a good response if I start the conversation. I can’t be afraid of being brushed off, even though it is going to occasionally happen. I need to be better about reaching out and strengthening existing or creating new ones (hence the photo of The Creation above).

The Takeaway

So, armed with all of this knowledge and these revelations, a new means to an end for the week is to have a phone conversation with someone that I haven’t talked to in a while during my drive home. That should be easy to fulfill. I have an address book packed with names of people I rarely reach out to.

I’ve classified this as a “means to an end” rather than as a “goal” for the week because it is the first step out of many in accomplishing the real goal, which is to invest more in all my existing relationships and in creating new ones.

Think about this question long, hard, and honestly and leave your answer in the comments if you’re inclined. What relationships should you be investing in this year?

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Resolutions – Part 3

This is the final post dedicated solely to laying out my existing resolutions list. Not that the list should by any means be considered finished. In fact, in the last few days I have taken on some new tasks that will force me to make some adjustments to the list. But, this post contains the last few items from the list I actually developed over the Christmas break.

So, continuing on from Part 1 and Part 2 as previously posted.

9. Work on song writing at least twice a week/Practice guitar at least 5 hours a week – this one hasn’t happened in any form yet, but it will begin working its way into my routine starting this week. I have a lot of ideas and I want to seriously begin pursuing these soon.

10. Take up Chess as a serious hobby and spend a month studying it diligently – I have always enjoyed playing chess, but have never been exceptionally good at it. This is mostly because I don’t spend time studying it. With the wealth of resources available, like web apps in Google chrome or other websites, playing a few games each day and studying it more in depth shouldn’t take much effort at all, and the mental benefits are enormous. There’s a reason this is the classic thinker’s game.

11. Take a class of some sort every month – I’m well into this resolution already. I’ve registered for several cooking classes, a continuing education class in computer programming (just because I want to), and I have some other ideas for the coming months. The trick here is to not over extend yourself on these “goals” because that can prevent you from making any meaningful progress on any of them.

12. Organize your life and stay that way – this is a HUGE one. I have a lot of ways in which I am organized, and ten times as many in which I am a mess. Keeping track of a to-do list is a good way for me to up my productivity. So, I’ve instituted a few ways for me to be more diligent on this front. One of them is a white board. This past weekend was very productive, as the picture below shows:

That’s a lot of “checked off” items! and it would have been more had most of those not been very time consuming activities.

Lot’s of room for growth coming up in the next few weeks. I wonder how much progress I can make on this list for the remainder of this month. I’ll have a wrap up sometime around the end of this week as we will be two weeks into the new year.

How is your list coming along so far this year?

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New Year’s Resolution List – Part 2

In addition to the list of things I set out as New Year’s Resolutions in Part 1 two days ago, I am continuing my drawn out listing of my resolutions with Part 2. Part 3 and maybe more will follow soon. The link above is where you can read Part 1, explanations of those resolutions, and a little bit of discussion about what constitutes success on these resolutions.

I’ve actually been reading several things lately about resolutions, as we all have, and I’ll be sharing those things soon along with what I have learned from them. That inevitably means that later on I will be tweaking some of these resolutions as well as what “success” means in reference to them.

Enough chatter – Part 2 is as follows (and is numbered in continuation from previous posts)

5. Read in a book every night – I don’t read enough, and I have a billion books just taking up space where I live. I could use that space for other things, and be a lot more intelligent if I would just read all those books.

6. Finish 2 books a month – More reading goals? Well, yes. I have TWO problems with my reading. First, I don’t do it often enough (hence Resolution number 5), and I don’t do it quickly enough (hence Resolution number 6). I tend to read slowly out of consciousness. I get worried I’ll miss details or not understand. And in self-fulfilling irony, I read slowly and get bored and begin to think about other things. Before I know it, pages have gone by and I remember nothing. So, this resolution is intended to get me reading more quickly, finishing books, and hopefully retaining information better.

7. Make serious progress on small business ideas – I have dozens of these and I come up with new ones multiple times a week. This year, I’m going to get one of them moving along in a serious way. Hopefully it will help me complete Resolution 3 – developing a side income stream of any size.

8. Start a new or continue participating in a previous social activity at least one day a week – I think this is the one I am most excited about (behind paying off my debts and then beginning to save.) I have already discovered several ways to fulfill this Resolution. Among them are – enrolling in cooking classes (where I might meet people and I will learn a skill in the process), and joining various groups of things that are interesting to me.

There’s several more resolutions on my list. I’ll put them in Part 2 soon – probably this weekend – and then we will be off to the races on getting these things all done. In fact, I’ve already put some of them into action, and others will be coming up soon or are a major work in progress. I think spreading out the actionable moments on these resolutions will help me achieve them all. My success rate would be very low if I just said to myself “tomorrow I will wake up and begin performing these 10 things the way I want them to be done.” I don’t imagine that would work real well.

Thanks for reading. As always, leave comments or suggestions on anything you see or think is noteworthy. I’m looking forward to putting up the rest of the list as well as a run down of some of the articles and interesting things I’ve been reading lately.

-SF30

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New Years Resolution List – Part 1

It’s time to lay down the law. Draw the line in the sand. Figure out some other cliche sayings.

As I wrote before, I’ve never done the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. However, this is the perfect year to do it. A few months ago I created this blog for the purpose of improving myself. Basically, I decided to do New Year’s Resolutions in the fall.

Continue reading

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