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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Using Time Wisely

Too Much Time on Your Hands? Or Maybe Too Little?

Recently, an old friend of mine had a comment to make about this esteemed blog:

"You must have a lot of time on your hands to talk about everything that's right and wrong in this world.  The 'Four Pillars of Manhood?'  Don't get the wrong idea, I'm not going off on your blog, I'm just saying . . . ."

I'll let those words speak for themselves, and withhold judgment.  Of course, this old friend got the title wrong, but "I'm just saying."

However, that comment really did make me think -- do I really have too much time on my hands?  In response, the other side of brain woke up and said, "Doubtful.  Not with the responsibilities I have at work.  Not with the time I put in training for yet another marathon.  Not with the time I spend visiting friends, meeting new people, etc.  Too much time on my hands?  That's nothing more than an old Styx tune!"

You know what, the issue isn't really how much, or how little time we have.  It's how we use that time.  Do we run the clock out, or do we milk it.  Do we try to beat the clock, or do we let it just pass us by?

Many of us have careers that just don't fit into a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 schedule.  Sometimes we have to get to the office early, sometimes we have to stay late.  Sometimes we have to go in on weekends, sometimes we have to work from home.  If we're focused enough on the job at hand, it shouldn't matter how much time is put into it, but it should matter that we get the job done, and that it's done right.  If anything, I've found that putting in some extra time, just to make sure it's right, is a pretty satisfying experience.  Maybe not like winning the whole ball game, but you definitely put "mas puntos" on the board!

That being said, you can't make a job, or a career, your whole life.  We're equipped to function normally if we're awake only 16 out of 24 hours every day.  We usually have friends and loved ones who miss us when we say we're "too busy," and appreciate us all the more when they're given top billing on our schedule.  And if they really matter, you'll make the time for them, even if you have XYZ to do, and it must be done today!

And of course, if we're too busy to make time for some form of exercise, whether it's hitting the weights, burning up the roads, mixed martial arts or even tai chi, we regret it.  Big time.  Even if you have to work 12 hours a day, if you can't find time to blow off that steam, level off that stress, or just close the door and chillax for a while, you're harming yourself tremendously.

Take me, for example.  My job gives me huge responsibilities that require large amounts of time, but I still make time to run.  If I'm lucky, I give myself three mornings a week for speed work or tempo runs, and then a long run on the weekend.  And not to toot my own horn (don't lie Dave, yes it is), but I enjoyed the fruits of that labor this morning when I ran a 1:44:33 half marathon in 20 degrees.  Of course, I needed to take even more time to get up early this morning to make the 8am starting time, but it was more than worth it.  As many of us runners know, (a) early morning races leave you the rest of the day to use productively; and (b) the "runner's high" that we all get after running that far is our secret weapon in life.  That's why so many runners are basically happy people, and a lot less likely to get agitated or annoyed at life's little annoyances.  Don't get me wrong, we still know they're annoying, we're not the Dalai Lama for cryin' out tears, but we know that getting upset over them would (say it with me, peeps) waste time, and energy, when we could simply keep our chill intact and simply handle life.

And this esteemed blog?  Truth be told, peeps, this most enjoyable hobby of mine takes no more than one hour a week.  And that's including the video.  It doesn't take hours or days to be aware of what's up in the world, or what's up in someone's mind.  It just takes a brief interval to transfer it all from brain to keyboard, and a nanosecond to publish it.

So, people, as another exciting work week begins, let's try to use our time, as much or as little of it as we have, productively.

And don't forget, another gift-giving holiday approaches -- I'll comment on the significant of that day, or possible lack thereof, later.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Message for MLK Day

In Honor of A Fearless Man

Hey All:

In honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., here's a repost from a few years ago.  Given the occasion we celebrate tomorrow, as well as the fact that a friend of mine has a son who is being bullied, I thought it appropriate to do a little "recycling."

Today we honor the birthday and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King was one of those rare men who rise above human nature and its many weaknesses to bring about real change.

He came of age at a time when racism was as American as apple pie.  Most chose to accept it, because "that's the way it is."  Some of my detractors may find this mantra somewhat familiar, as it is monotonous, but obscenely easy to adopt.  Jim Crow laws, separate-but-(un)equal facilities, and policies designed to keep one race isolated and abject were omnipresent.

The only other alternative besides "just accepting it" would have been starting rebellions and riots.  Dr. King, however, was not that kind of man.  As a man of the cloth, he understood that peaceful resistance was the most effective means by which to stop racist laws and counteract racist culture.

When I first learned about Dr. King in elementary school, I immediately identified with him. Back then, I learned that the "the system" was not there to take my interests into account.  At the time, I was bullied, the school knew about it, and it did absolutely nothing to stop it.  Dr. King's life story dealt with not only one person, but an entire group of people, being harassed, deprived, and disadvantaged, and a government that either turned a blind eye to what was occurring, or sometimes even encouraged it!  For me, it was far less an issue of race than it was an issue of respect -- or the complete lack thereof.

Dr. King can truly be said to be the greatest anti-bullying advocate there ever was, before people even understood that there was such a thing as "anti-bullying!"  He also combated what we now know to be bullying in ways that most men would not conceive of implementing.  He proved that it was not necessary to stoop to a bully's level to beat him.  He also proved that when complaining to a government does not get the desired result, then actions that bring about that government's attention, and that take away some of that government's assumed power, actually can bring about that result!

Got a bully in your personal life?  Or better yet, someone who has the backing and implicit encouragement of the authorities? It may feel easier for you to just "let it go," because that person has "always been that way." I'll be discussing in a later post, it's not because that person is "insecure," it's most likely because they've simply never faced consequences for their behavior.  Once they hear those consequences, loud and clear, they will (hopefully) get the message that screwing with other people all the time is not a divine right bestowed upon them.

It may also feel easy for you to start blazing your guns at them, so to speak.  As we learned from Dr. King, this is a mistake, because that's exactly what the bully wants you to do. They're trying to make you use your anger from a position of weakness, which means you will, repeat will, make mistakes.  Anger can only be used from a position of strength, which the bully will often have over you. Don't let them play with your emotions like a sucker!  Dr. King saved his passion for his speeches, not for cursing out some sheriff with a fire hose!

My suggestion?  Use the power of "NO."  Are they trying to expose your weaknesses and foibles?  Say "NO" to the entire conversation.  The fact that they want you to admit that you've forgotten something or neglected something is not their attempt to win a case or a prize -- it's their way of testing how weak you are. If it's something that you know is irrelevant and inconsequential, just answer honestly. If it's something that they want to use to make you look stupid, just change the subject.  In fact, start talking about something that you enjoy that makes them look stupid! Dr. King may have never debated someone like Jesse Helms, but if he had, he'd probably run rings around him this way!

Is this person an expert on finance, who wants to show you up for your lack of knowledge in that field? Check his or her weakness, and open it up!  Chances are, you may know how long David Lee Roth was in Van Halen, and which songs were better, and he or she won't know anything from anybody about that subject.  Why should he or she be the only expert in the room?  Do they like pointing out that you didn't read The Great Gatsby in high school?  Screw their snooty stuck-up prep-school attitude!  Ask them if they ever read Bless The Beasts And Children or The Outsiders!  Or better yet, ask them if they ever wrote a story as towering and as magnificent as the book they read!  Just make sure you only ask questions that you already know the answers to -- one false move and they'll smell blood!  And don't be confrontational and angry about it either -- that only incites these people even more!

Are they maybe yelling at you over something that everyone else knows is B.S.?  Maybe because they don't like the shirt you're wearing, when everyone else in the known universe thinks it's just fine the way it is?  Or perhaps they don't like the way your eyes get wide when you laugh at something?  Maybe they think you're ugly?  Or chances are, they just hate you and can't stand the sight of you because you're you?

MLK didn't eliminate hate, but he did severely weaken the power hate has over society.  So if someone hates you and you can't avoid interacting with them, just weaken their power.  Start with the Four Pillars I posted some time earlier.  Just so you won't have to go back and check, they are:


You can recite it as a mantra, you can hum it to yourself when nobody's around, it doesn't matter.  Just as long as you have these Pillars in your head when these people are screwing with you, it's a lot easier not to let them win. You'll almost render yourself bulletproof!

(yeah, good call -- now how do I respond when these dogs start barking about how much they hate me?)

Turn their hate against them.  Do they hate the way you lift one eyebrow like "The Rock" from WWE (now known as Dwayne Johnson)?  Never stop doing it.  Don't make it obvious like you're instigating something, but don't eliminate it from your repertoire just because they want to be mineholes! (no, that's not the real word I'm going for, but this is a clean blog)

Does it bother them when you advocate some political philosophy that they can't accept?  Bring it up.  Again and again and again.  Cite to reliable authorities to support your position, too.  That way you can dare them to say that they're smarter than your sources, WHICH THEY NEVER WILL BE.

And so, in closing, please honor the memory of MLK.  Not just by showing respect and tolerance towards members of all races, but also by how you respond to threats and adversity.

What's old is new again, what can I say.  For clarification, this post was written in a time when my lifestyle was somewhat different than it is now, accordingly the tone is different than my more recent posts.

Yes, this year, MLK Day will be superimposed upon the Presidential Inauguration.  However, since the 2012 Election was one of the most divisive ones in history, it's fair to say that not everyone wants to associate the re-election of the President with MLK's legacy, while many others do.  We can only hope that his second term will be inspired by Dr. King's legacy in some way.

But more importantly, it is better that the rest of us be inspired by his legacy as well.  Let's not let hate blur our thoughts and pervert our judgment.  Let's not be swept away by groupthink, buzzwords, and sound bites.  Let's think first and react afterwards.  

And above all, let's give, and receive, RESPECT.

Good night all -- try to use that day off productively tomorrow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Deep Six 'Em!

Aw Dammit -- Now What?!?!?

Many of us find ourselves in uncomfortable situations, sometimes not our fault, sometimes of our own making.  The normal tendency for many of us is to flip out like George Costanza because he didn't get things his way.

However, the better approach might be this:

(1)  After the initial annoyance, frustration, and indignation has occurred, contain that stuff.  You don't have an adversary to explode onto, and nobody will be impressed.  Keep it together.
(2)  If you think somebody can help you out, go directly to, or call, that person.  And don't get pissy if it takes them longer than two seconds, as they do not work for you.
(3)  If nobody else can help you out, use your judgment.  Check your surroundings, get your bearings, and just think.  Outside the box, if necessary.  Without creature comforts, if necessary.  Point being, just find something.

Last, and not least, don't allow people to second-guess whatever you did or didn't do.

Annoying Comment:  Whyyyyy did you do this?   Whyyyyyy didn't you do that?

Smooth Response:  Ummmm, yeahhhh, not really the answer we're looking for.  The correct answer was "Oh man, that was a real drag.  Good thing you were cool-headed and found a way to get out of that one -- I wish I'd done that!"  Let's try that one again.

Annoying Comment:  IIIIIIIIIIIIII would've done this, and IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII would've done that!

Smooth Response:  I congratulate you on your intellectual fortitude-- should we both be in that kind of sticky situation, I will defer entirely to you, and your clearly superior intellect!

Better Response:  Coughing while saying "bull----."

Annoying Comment:  You should never have done that!

Smooth Response:  Really?  Damn, I was all set to do it again tomorrow!

Point being, keeping your head is key when the unexpected happens.  Granted, as I know, and my running friends know, that runners high after a long one usually prevents the adult tantrums we might otherwise throw.  But if you find yourself going up the creek without a paddle without having first cleansed yourself, just slowwwww everything down.  Breathe deep, move slower, and think clearly.

Peeps, I've been remiss with these posts, and I apologize for my lethargy, but I'm back on track.  Have another exciting week!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Time To Make Tha Donuts!

Good Evening, All!

Yes, the New Year is under way.  Starting tomorrow, January 2, is the STAMPEEEEEDE many of us experience at work.  No more easy, quiet days, now we're back in business again.

This is where many of us start treating today like any Sunday night -- batten down the hatches, and go to sleep dreading what awaits us tomorrow.

In the words of Alex Trebek, "ohhh, I'm saw-ry, that is INcorrect."

If you want to prepare yourself, that's decent.  For those of us who are dedicated, loyal, and solution oriented, may I recommend:

(1)  Get there early.  I'm talking 6:30-7am, if your business normally opens at 9.  Concentrate, analyze, and be proud of the fact that you're getting a few things done ahead of time before everything gets crazy.
(2)  Don't think about how many days you have until Friday.  Yes, this is a shortened week, but if you handle tomorrow like Monday, you'll be going full steam ahead.
(3)  Remove all holiday decorations, joke pictures, and any and all distracting elements from your office, and encourage your co-workers to do likewise.  It's back to work time, and all the holiday goofiness and tomfoolery has now been rendered obsolete.

Why dread it?  It's your job.  It's how you earn a living.  It's what puts you miles ahead of people who are still left in the lurch due to this ridiculous economy.  Don't just do the bare minimum and watch the clock.  Make something HAPPEN.

If there are things within your control that you can do to improve it, now is probably an excellent time to get cracking.  If there are things that are not within your control that you feel need improvement, talk to someone that you trust about it, without griping and whining, and see if someone who can control it is receptive to suggestions.  There should be no reason to feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled, because the fact that you have that job means that someone thinks you're important, and expects important things from you.  Confirm their expectations.

So your friendly neighborhood blogger is hitting the sack early tonight because he's doing what he suggested above -- Happy New Year once again, and may you all have a happy and successful 2013, with emphasis on the successful!

PS -- for those of us geared towards endurance athletics, the Donuts suggestion was not meant to be taken literally!  :)

PPS -- ain't saying no to hot chocolate, though -- it's cold outside!