Either Way, You Win


Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you’re going to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

I recently told a business associate that I tend to read a book a week.

To say that they were impressed is a bit of an understatement.  Shocked is more like it.  How on earth can anyone find time to read a book a week?

Well to be perfectly honest it’s not exactly a book a week.  More like 50 pages a day.  That works out to between 250 and 350 pages every seven days.  We aren’t talking about War & Peace here.  Or Adam Smith’s 900 page opus, The Wealth of Nations. I’ve found that the average hard cover non-fiction book on just about any topic runs between 200 and 400 pages.  50 pages a day therefore is about a book a week.

I have learned that in order to be successful in life and business you need to be a life long learner. The world is changing so rapidly that we need to be constantly learning new things to keep up.  My chosen field of work, the financial services industry, is no exception.  But when you strip it all down just about every business is a people business.  And I can’t seem to get away from spirituality either.

I read everything I can get my hands on that even remotely applies to these areas.  My bookshelf is lined with the latest and classic works of, Business Management, Personal Finance, Sales Theory, Marketing, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality, and Theology.

Where do I find the time?  It’s not that hard to read 50 pages in a day.  Unless the typeset is super small it takes me a about an hour.  Turn off the TV for an hour and you’re there – it’s that easy.

An hour a day is all it takes to read a book a week and be a life long learner.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was in the Life Insurance business, in the 1960s.  He was a top associate by the time he was 23 years old and in 1965 he founded Life Management Services and all but invented the Life Coaching industry.  Millions of people have read his books and attended his seminars on navigating life’s most challenging situations.  Most people know him for his famous inspirational quote:

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Nothing has a bigger impact on your life than what you learn from books and people.  That’s why I really like that quote from Gandhi as well.  If I continue learning at the pace of a book a week, and I live forever, I will eventually know everything there is to know.

That’s my plan.

But the first half of the Gandhi quote is important as well.  It’s important to live for today, don’t put things off, enjoy each moment as it comes and be content in whatever your circumstance.  Tomorrow might not come so live for today but if you do wake up in the morning, keep learning and make every day better than the last.  You can’t go wrong.

Live today or die tomorrow – either way you win!

How do you live for today and learn for tomorrow?  Tell me in the comments below.

Time Management


Sooner or later the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It’s all very depressing. – V.S. Pritchett

time management

Time Management is a myth!

Time is a constant, it happens no matter what and you never get a say in how it does things. You can’t manage time, so stop trying.

You can and you must manage priorities.

Time is the great equalizer. Every night when the clock strikes midnight each and everyone one of us is given anew the same amount of time as everyone else. How you prioritize it is up to you but we all get the same number of hours in a day.

“I don’t have enough time” is a bull-@#$% answer. What you really mean to say is “I don’t want to make any sacrifices to make this happen. It’s not a priority.”

There are a million time management tools on the market today. From simple to-do lists to elaborate Day Timers and smart phone apps. But when you take a close look at them they all come down to one thing, they all show us what our priorities are.

Calendars and to-do lists are amazing things. When you schedule a task, make it a priority in ink, something remarkable happens. You seem to “find the time”. The fact is the time was always there, all you needed to do was tell it what to do, what your priority was.

The British writer and literary critic Victor Pritchett, quoted above, lived for 97 years. In that time he wrote over fifty books and hundreds of short stories and critiques. He never stopped working. At times he may have felt like doing other things, but he understood that unless he made things a priority, his work wouldn’t get done.

Last week I wrote about failure and being willing to learn from mistakes. It all comes from the same place. When we run out of time we think we’ve failed, that people with boundless energy and continued success are somehow better than us and have it easier managing their time than we do. But nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t manage time. Time just is. You can only manage your priorities.

Show me a successful person and I’ll show you a person who knows how to manage their priorities.

So what are you doing today to better manage your priorities?

Now…


In order to live, we must feel. Only if we experience pain can we experience joy, along with the smaller pleasures and sorrows that lie in between. And most of life, even most of life in the present is concerned not with “big” events or emotions, but with ordinary ones. – Stephen Rechtschaffen. (Time Shifting; Creating More Time to Enjoy Your Life)

Time Shifting

My wife has a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought about by some childhood trauma that was left untreated for nearly a decade. We’ve been together for nearly 20 years now and I’ve seen her through most of the healing process. She was mis-diagnosed a few years before we met as bi-polar but at that point she was just trying to survive, the real healing didn’t start until after we were married. I am happy to report that after a lot of trial and error (and hard work and heart ache) we finally got the diagnosis and treatment plan right. With the proper balance of medications and therapy she’s doing much better now.

This past week I stumbled across this book from Dr. Stephen Rechtschaffen. I say I stumbled across it because when it first came across my radar it was presented to me as a book on time management. So starting the New Year and getting organized for some new projects I figured what better time to read about time management. The fact is this isn’t a book about time management at all I’d better describe it as a book about the spirituality of time.

You cannot “manage” time, it just is. Everyone get’s the same number of minutes each day, you can choose how you use those minutes but to say you are somehow in control of time itself, which is what management means, is simply impossible. What Rechtschaffen is really saying in this book is that we need to shift our understanding of time and begin it experience it in a deeper, more permanent and spiritual sense. One of the ways we do that is by allowing our emotions to run their natural course.

Sufferers of PTSD, and other anxiety related illnesses are unable to live in present time. They are either stuck in the past, reliving a traumatic event over and over again, or they are focused on a perceived stress at some point in the future. When my wife began to unpack her emotions we quickly discovered this to be the case, early on I would often reminder her to stop living in the future and concentrate on what was going on now. While can you prepare for things that haven’t happened yet you can only do so much and dwelling on it only serves to diminish your enjoyment of life now. Constantly thinking about something that hasn’t happened yet robs you of the present moment and in a very real way shortens your life.

It’s not just PTSD sufferers who experience this. I believe that to a certain degree our entire society is too focused on past or future events and not enough focused on the present and I think a lot of it stems from our unwillingness to truly experience our emotions, especially the negative ones. “Get over it” is the mantra of our day. We fear pain so much that we rush past any negative thought or feeling and spend much of our time stressing about how to avoid future pain without ever taking the time to understand it. It is only through experience that we can begin to understand and only through understanding that we can grow and learn the most effective ways to avoid or mitigate pain in the future. And the funny thing is; the actual experience is never as bad as the anticipation.

Jesus has some interesting things to say about worry and living in the present moment too.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:25:34]

You see, the point is, in order to fully experience life we must stop dwelling on the past or worrying about tomorrow. I love the way Jesus focuses on the present and brings everything into perspective. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Of course not! “do not worry about tomorrow… Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Just live now.

The Second Half pt 3 (Ants on Fire)


I picked up a book on time management last week called “Time Shifting; Creating More Time to Enjoy Your Life” by Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen.  As I’ve been reading it I’ve realize that it’s actually less a book about time management strategies and more about spirituality of time.  As I was reading I found this analogy in it that resonated with me.

It seems there once was a man who went to spend a few days at his cottage in the woods.  It was very cold so he decided to build a fire but some of the wood wasn’t quite dry.  Once the fire got going he threw on a wet log.  As it hissed and steamed away he noticed hundreds of ants emerge from a cavity deep within and begin running back and forth on the top the log.  Some of the ants were able to jump off and escape the fire but most of them were too disoriented and by the time they were able to figure out what was happening the escape route was cut off by the flames.   The remaining ants eventually perished as the fire slowly dried and consumed the log.

log

As I read this analogy I was struck by how much like those ants I can be sometimes.  When life gets uncomfortable and I am forced out of my slumber by some force outside of my control my immediate response is to run back and forth along a familiar path, clinging to what I already know, repeating a well worn pattern of behavior while everything around me is destroyed.  The time to make a change, to jump off the log, is early in the process, if I wait too long the escape route will be cut off and I’ll be trapped.  But I’m often so caught up in the immediate discomfort of the moment that I am unable to see beyond it to figure out what’s really happening.  Like the ants all I can comprehend is the discomfort caused by the heat, by the time I see the flames it’s already too late.

As I move into 2014 and the second half of my life it is my hope and prayer that I will become more in-tune with the world around me so that I can live outside of the container I have built and not be so tied to my old patterns that I miss opportunities to get off a burning log and really live.

Peace be with you…