[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2nd Easiest Way to Change Your Life - Mini Habits Book Review

His life changed with the "golden pushup". And I think the insights the author of Mini Habits shared may be the second easiest way to change your life I’ve ever discovered. (Being saved by grace is pretty hard to top.)

How many times have you tried to start doing something you know you should, but ended up quitting? When did you save yourself the time and just give up before starting? Do you still want to exercise regularly? Read more? Pray more? Work on that book/painting/construction project?
Been there. Didn't do it either. Didn't get the t-shirt.
A few months back I posted about the morning routine that changed my life. It's still working. And you might think I'm Mr. Discipline now. But I still struggle to write regularly. That part of my morning routine isn't going so well. My blog posting is fairly regular (let’s not talk about the second half of September). But I also have a book in the works. I'm not even close to doing that regularly. 
Like most people, I’m trying to carve out enough time and energy to do this right. I’d like at least 30 min, preferably 45 min, to sit and write. But when the time comes to write I’ve either not left enough time for this or don’t have the energy. But Mini Habits says if you want to build a good habit, start small--stupid small. 

The author wanted to get in shape, but even thinking about the 30 min workout he needed to do exhausted him. So one day, one “golden” day, he decided he could at least do 1 pushup. That went so well, that we committed to do 1 pushup ever day. That's it. But the ease of doing it allowed him to establish a real habit. One day he almost forgot and rolled over in bed to do his pushup right there.

Once the habit was in place he increased the workout. He has applied this Mini Habit approach to many other areas of his life, from writing to eating to reading. And it all changed with what he calls “the golden pushup”. 
It’s a short book, written with lots of humor and energy and so very worth reading. It might change your life. In fact, I started a mini habit the day after I finished it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2 Ways the Biography of Walt Disney Impacted Me (book review)

Walt Disney shaped the imagination of the twentieth century. He was the first to actually tell a story with animation (rather than merely do slapstick jokes). He was the first to use sound with animation. He was the first to produce color animation. He was the first to do a full-length animated movie. His was the first movie studio to create shows for TV. He created animatronic robots to put on live shows. And Disneyland immersed us in an entirely new experience that’s still blowing our minds today.

Even more significant than technology were the themes of his stories. They inspired the dreams of millions across the world. Maybe even your own values were influenced with themes like: Believe in your dreams and they’ll come true. Be true to yourself. Don’t lose your childlike qualities. Sometimes, for the good of others, you have to make sacrifices (think Old Yeller).

I knew most of that. I was one of the kids raised with Disney cartoons and movies, from the classic animated movies to the black and white Zorro TV show. But I didn’t know much about him personally. What I learned challenged me—in more ways than one.

First, the image of the warm, gentle uncle who told great stories was only partly true. It was true that he loved stories and told them constantly. And he did dote on his children and grandchildren. But as a boss, he was unanimously described as a hard, autocratic taskmaster. He regularly (often daily) shouted at his employees—including foul language. He even had a practice during his later years of random firing and rehiring, to keep them from being complacent, he said.

Second, this was all driven by a passion—his obsession even—to create masterpieces. He literally wanted every project to change the industry forever. Money was no concern to him. If he had to go over budget by $2 million and 2 years, he did. (That happened making Snow White, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) 

Third, he hurt a lot of people because he couldn’t release control. Projects bottlenecked, waiting for him to approve details. People were fired for getting too influential (he saw them as a threat). And after a while some of his best people left to do great work at other studios. Looney Tunes and Mister Magoo were both created by ex-Disney animators who couldn’t stand working for Walt Disney any longer. 

The book was well written—I enjoyed reading it as a story. (Click the image above to link to the book on Amazon.) But the story of his life impacted me, deeply even, in two ways.

One, I have decided to spend my life trying to create masterpieces. His passion for greatness inspired and convicted me. There are a couple of personal creative projects I was planning to make good enough and then move on. It wasn’t a conscious choice as much as an unwillingness to pay the price great work requires. But when everyone around Walt Disney, including his brother, told him that he didn’t need to make every project a masterpiece, he went for it anyway. So, after thinking and praying a lot about it, I’m committing, right here and right now, to aim to create masterpieces. Oh, I’ll make mistakes and probably, like Disney, will turn out some flops. But I will at least aim for the best every time.

Two, I saw the cost of trying to reach greatness alone. You might get there, if you strive hard enough long enough. But you might end up like Disney: famous, but lonely. He died of lung cancer, after 50 years of chain-smoking. And aside from his wife and kids, he had no real friends. None.

Greatness is more than masterful art (or science or teaching or sales). So I’m also committed to creating masterpieces in collaboration with deep friends.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Riding Home From Soccer Games - A False Teachable Moment

My children—all four of them—are playing soccer this fall. I have become a soccer-dad, driving a minivan and bringing the team snack in a cooler. During a parents meeting, they shared how many studies have asked collegiate and professional athletes, “What are your worst memories of childhood sports?” And study after study the same answer came back: The ride home after the game. 

Their parents wanted to help by discussing the game, pointing out ways their little athlete could do better next time. But the now grown-up athletes reported dreading those rides. Rather than feel helped, they said they felt badgered and defeated. 

And then he surprised me with his wisdom and simplicity. After the game, this coach said, parents should ask three--and only three--questions:

Did you have fun?
Did you work hard?
Are you hungry?

If they want to talk to you about the game, that's great. Let them share and listen well (which includes saying simple things to affirm you heard what they said). But don’t teach or even correct them. Just listen.

I would encourage one exception. It would be great to share specific things they did well and say you were proud of them. But don’t you dare poison that encouragement with a follow up comment like how they should do more things like that, or next time also do this other thing. Just make them aware of the pleasure seeing them play gives you.

If you really want to help your child improve their skills, then I suggest two options. First, become their coach. Most sports leagues are desperate for parents to help coach. Second, you could schedule a session with your child to work on skills. But separate that time from the game experience. And finish even those teaching sessions with clear communication about your love for your child.

As my children grow, and as my sense of responsibility to raise them well grows, I find myself searching for teachable moments—opportunities to pour wisdom into them. There’s so much I want them to understand—so much they need to know. But I’ve come to see that the ride home after the game is not a teachable moment.

When you force a teachable moment, it turns into a discouraging moment. Few things are more crushing to the heart of a child than feeling like they have disappointed their parents.