Do it like it’s your life, not like it’s your job

We have this expression in the U.S., to do something "like it's your job." The slang dictionary has a great entry on it:

To show extreme dexterity at a certain skill, such as "That guy at KFC ate chicken like it was his job."

OK, so the example was a little weak, considering depending on why the guy was at KFC, eating chicken might actually have been his job.

But why are we using our jobs as the marker of effort and ability? Stop. Now.

Don't get me wrong. I work my ass off at my job. Someone else is paying me money to do so. I know if I were paying someone to do something, I'd want them to work their ass off at it.

But I'm pretty fucking awesome outside of my job, too. I work just as hard to be an amazing person and enjoy my life outside of work. There are things that are more important than work, even if you have a really important job, like firefighter or something.

Proposal: Start doing things like they're your life. If you think your life is drab, boring, not important or less than your work, reconsider your priorities and start living better, harder, faster, more. Like your life depends on it, because it does.

Do it like it's your fucking life.

Three rules for setting goals

As I was getting ready to start my week last week, I tweeted that my goal for the week was 30,000 NikeFuel points, which would have been my best week ever.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I did it.

[If you're not sure what the heck I'm talking about, read my thoughts on the Nike FuelBand here.]

This little success was not without some unintended consequences; I guess I didn't plan accordingly for that.

Thursday was a rest day, but take a look at that chart again – I earned somewhere in the 3500 fuel for the day. Men in their 30s who have the FuelBand (and thus probably skew toward the more active) average about 2200 a day. I had a rest day that beat the average by more than 50%.

My workout Friday was awful. I intended to run 4.5 miles and lift heavy. I quit running after 1.5 miles and then lifted about 30% lighter than normal on several fewer lifts than I had planned.

Sunday I just didn't feel like moving at all; the 1800 fuel I picked up came largely as a result of an outing to Chittenango Falls for some important stuff.

I set a goal. It was achievable but a stretch. I reached it, but didn't plan for the fallout of reaching it in the manner I reached it.

Here are three rules I'm going to follow with regard to goals from now on. Let me know if you have other tips!

1. Outline a plan that doesn't require vast amounts of recovery (whatever that recovery is from or for).
2. Be willing to miss your goal to keep more important stuff in play.
3. Have a plan beyond reaching the goal – if you do reach it, what's next? Hopefully not just more of the same, because that's just quantity, not growth.

How do you plan for success?

That's an honest question. I have to admit I'm scared shitless of the idea of success.

A lot of people are afraid of failure. I'm not. I know what it looks like. I know I could fail worse than I've failed in the past, but failing is not all that difficult. It's pretty easy to look around you and figure out what the basic things you need are, and then to figure out how to get them (I understand that's more difficult for some people than for others, but stay with me here).

If I need to eat and a I have a couple of dollars in my pocket, I can find some rice and beans that, when cooked, will last me the next three or four days. If I need a job, I can walk into a coffee shop or restaurant and ask. If I need housing, a vehicle, whatever, I know where to go, and if I need help I think I've built up enough good will around me that, if people were to see my desperation, they'd have my back.

But I don't know what to do with success.

Success is relative, I understand. I live in a nice house in the suburbs with a woman I love and a dog who knows how to turn around a bad day like nobody's business. If I miss a meal, it's because I was too busy to remember to eat, not because I couldn't afford food.

I read some pretty motivational blogs. These are people who have started their own companies, and a lot of them focus on "you can do it, too!" with some regularity.

I've been saving these posts for a few days now, with the intent of writing this post and sharing them here. They don't answer the question for me, but I think they're important.

As good as it gets, from Mitch Joel. It's where I got the video of Henry Rollins talking about how he got where he is. Joel summarizes it, so if you're not in a position to watch it, go read this post. The two biggest takeaways: "Write everything down twice, show up early, shut up and listen" and "When luck comes your way, take advantage of the opportunity."

Failing to succeed, by Matt Cheuvront. This is what actually got the wheels turning on this post. Cheuvront started his own business not long after college, and I like his take on doing what you want to do, mostly because it's somewhat muted by reality. A lot of "YOU CAN DO IT!" people have a late-night television infomercial vibe about their writing. He just reminds you, "hey, if you're not happy, you have a way out." In this post, he introduces the idea that failure isn't an end, it's just a miss.

Quit doing your best, by Marc Ensign. "Oh well, I did my best" is not an excuse, writes Ensign. Don't expect a pat on the back for failure. Succeed instead. If Cheuvront got the wheels turning on this post, Ensign certainly took this opportunity to remind me that if I keep wondering what the plan becomes if I succeed at whatever it is I'm doing, I'm probably never going to succeed, and I'm never going to be great. I started, but that's never going to be good enough. Onward!

There's always someone better than you, also by Cheuvront. It's a reminder to never stop growing. Even if you do get to success, even if you do keep improving, someone will always be quicker, better, stronger, or more successful than you. Again, onward!

We are nothing if not present tense: 4 steps from “I’m gonna” to “I am”

"Someday, I'm gonna..."

I just clicked the "submit" button on a creative non-fiction writing contest. I'm pretty sure the piece is fundamentally unpublishable – the voice changes frequently, the pacing is remarkably varied for such a short piece, and, let's face it, the only person who really cares about a personal travel diary is me.

But I clicked the "submit" button, and that's the part that takes me from talking about becoming a writer and actually working on becoming a writer.

Let's get something straight: I used to be a writer. I performed my own poetry and wrote both traditional journalism and opinion columns for a few years. My last writing day job, while definitely geared toward making money for somebody else, allowed a fair bit of creativity – at least until Google became my primary audience.

This here is my blog. I get to choose my topics, my words, and if you don't like it, you just plain old don't have to read it. I long ago crossed that line between trying to win you back if you stopped reading my blog or stopped following me on Twitter and just being me and if you like me and what I have to say, you'll read me.

For the past couple of years, since I stopped being driven by The Almighty Search Ranking, I've been either a former writer or an aspiring writer. I'm not sure which is more dangerous of an attitude to take. "I used to do this," or "someday I'll do this."

We are nothing if not present tense.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield introduces Resistance. It's a force that keeps you away from projects at all levels. It stops you from starting. It stops you from finishing. It stops you from perfecting. And it stops you from telling anybody about your project. Resistance takes many forms, from "I'll do it after I read the paper" to "I'll do it after I play fetch with the dog" to "Aww, Sweetie, that's cute. Come have dinner with me and your father."

Pressfield's Do the Work extends the battle against Resistance. You have a sword, Resistance is a dragon, and at every turn, it's up to you slay the dragon at each turn.

A note about Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and some other stuff: Here's a guy who was an over-the-road trucker living in a shack with a closed-up typewriter who ate dinner outdoors with a cat who refused to take food or shelter from Pressfield, only stood there and watched him before skulking off to wherever he went. Pressfield lived this life until he finally made the decision to sit down and write. And then even after that, because he wrote, and couldn't bring himself to submit his work.

And that's where he brings us in Turning Pro, and it's where I'm bringing myself with the submission.

There's a line. On one side are the people who say "I'm gonna" and "I used to" and "I wanna" and "I wish I could," and on the other side are the people who say "I am."

There are varying levels of success on the "I am" side of the line. At all those levels, there are people in danger of crossing back to the other side of the line. It's a very real danger. I'm committing to pressing the "submit" button a minimum of once a month. That gives me enough time to hone new work, but still makes me work on a tight enough deadline to not allow Resistance to fill up the room.

Call it commitment. It's more important than effort. "I tried" may be more important than "I want to," but "I did" is more important than "I tried."

You should go get this free audiobook. The novel is hysterical. And it comes with a lesson. You have to stick with it a while to get the lesson, but it's amusing enough that you'll get there.

You should also go get this free book. You'll come out of it with a broken coffee mug, but you'll also come out so much stronger.

4 steps to reaching the other side of the line

How do you get to the other side of the line?

1. Start
2. Keep going
3. Finish
4. Show people

It sounds simple, but it's really, really not. I want to hear your stories – success, failure, it doesn't matter. If you can do steps 1-3, I can be step 4 for you. Hit me up in comments.

What do you have to offer your heroes?

You can let that video run while you read this; it's primarily audio. To sum up so you don't have to check for the visual cues to figure out what's going on, Usman Riaz is a 21-year-old percussive guitarist. He plays the first song. He learned the art by watching YouTube videos of one of his heroes, percussive guitar master Preston Reed. Reed plays the second song. The third song is both of them playing together (if you know anything about playing music, that'll shock you when you hear it). There's a little chatter, then a 3-minute jam session between the two of them.

That Riaz can stick with Reed and even make it fun for Reed is just fucking awesome.

It's easy for most of us to name some people we might call "heroes" or "inspiration." It's another thing altogether for us to be able to offer them something if we ever have a chance to meet them.

I may not be writing professionally at the moment, but I'm still a writer. But what could I offer Tom Waits, or Chuck Palahniuk, or even someone like Chris Guillebeau? I'm a decent conversationalist. I know my way around town and could certainly hold my drink even with anybody. I doubt I could give them seven solid minutes in co-performance with them. Which means I'm the one who's lacking and need to grow.

That's not a slam on myself there, it's just a recognition that I'm still a work in progress.

What about you? Think about who you count among your heroes, why you do that, and what you're doing to emulate them. What do you have that you could offer them to keep them interested for 10 minutes – alone, or in front of an audience in their chosen field?

Tips for choosing your attitude

First, a reminder that opinions here are mine, not my employer's.

We've all heard the phrase "choose your attitude." Most frequently, it's used in response to people who complain about work. Here are some tips for choosing your attitude, particularly at work.

Let's start with some givens. We all have frustrations at work. The number and intensity of those frustrations varies greatly from individual to individual. You're working because you're in a situation that requires you to earn money (that sounds judgmental, but really it's just a fact – if you didn't need the money, you'd either be working at something that had no frustrations or not working at all).

So, here we are. You're frustrated. Now what? Here are tips for choosing your attitude at work.

Figure out what you can control and control it. This one's really hard to do. There are a lot of things you feel like you have control over, but the fact is that you don't. There are things you definitely control, though, things like the amount of effort you put into your work, the way you interact with co-workers and customers, and whether you can make things easier by, say, showing up 10 minutes early or getting up 20 minutes early and having breakfast.

Corollary 1: Figure out what you can't control and let it go. If you're working for someone else, you can't control a lot of things. (Remember that leaving is always an option; there are other jobs out there, and that is something you control.) Figure out what those things are and go at them with the expectation that you simply cannot do anything about them, so you're not going to worry anymore. If linen deliveries are on Tuesday and you're out of linens at noon on Monday, you're just not going to have any linens until tomorrow. You can't worry about it.

Corollary 2: Figure out what you can change and change it. Maybe this requires the assistance of a supervisor or co-worker. Maybe it simply requires a break from tradition, like storing something in a different place or changing vendors. Maybe it's brighter lighting so you don't feel like you're in a basement all the time.

Think about the positive things at work. If you can't list any, you're doing the wrong job. Seriously. Just go pour coffee somewhere; you get people at their crankiest and turn them into productive creatures for the day. It's pretty rewarding on a small scale, and it gives you the chance to think about what you should actually be doing. Personally, I work at a gym. It takes one person smiling over 20 pounds lost, or one story about 80 pounds gone in a year, or one person walking in the door smiling hopped up on pre-workout to lift heavy stuff asking for a fist pound to make 7 hours and 59 minutes of frustratingly bad day worth it. [And let's face it, I rarely have that much frustration, primarily because I've followed my own advice.]

Adjust your priorities. Work is just work. You're there for two reasons. One, to make someone else happy. Two, to give you time to do the important stuff. Figure out what's important to you, and figure out how to make those things happen.

Want an example of this stuff in action? It's Wednesday morning at about 5:45am. I go into work at 7. I have management responsibilities, so I'm open to getting calls, texts and emails whenever the gym's open. There's a water main break in the neighborhood, so we don't have things like showers and water fountains. It doesn't matter whether I'm sitting at my desk at home or sitting at a desk at the club – there's nothing I can do about the water main. So I'm writing this instead of rushing in. I'm in touch with a staffer who has concerns, but there's nothing I can do from the gym that I can't do from home. So I'm home, getting ready to take the dog for a walk and have breakfast before I go in, and I'll gladly have my smart phone on me throughout the morning to help keep things under control.

I get to do the things that are important to me (write, eat breakfast, spend time with Rufus). I don't try to control the things I can't control (the water main break), but I do control the things I can control (interacting with staff to keep them calm and on task). It's actually really easy to do (*sips coffee*).

What are your tips? How do you choose your attitude at work?

The value of slowing down

Bear with me here. It's going to start off looking like an exercise post at the beginning. It takes a little while, but I wind up making what I think is a valid real-life point eventually.

I slowed down my workouts this week.

My typical workout looks something like this. Set my Nike+ iPod to 5K. Run as fast as I can manage over the distance. Finish in about 14 minutes. Feel like crap. Sit for a minute (well, three, really) and have some water and try to catch my breath. Set the chest press on 135, the lat pull-down on 140, the seated row at 125 and the shoulder press at 90. Do 3x5 quickly on each (that's three sets of five repetitions). Walk the track a couple of times. Climb up the stairs and sit long enough to let my heart rate down and to let the flow of testosterone normalize.

The next morning, I'm fine. Possibly a little stronger, but I don't hurt.

Reference, for those of you who don't know me personally. I'm somewhat fit (14 minute 5K on an indoor track is competitive, even). I have about 15 pounds of fat to lose (I'm 20& body fat at 160 pounds – 15 pounds of fat down would get me to about 14% body fat, which on a guy maybe let's you start to see the top two portions of the ab muscle). (Also, I work in a gym, so I've become a bit of a fitness geek, I know all about Dbol pills and that the rectus abdominus is a single muscle; a 6- or 8-pack is really just definition of one muscle.)

My workout today was excruciating. I ran something like 3.8 miles in 28 minutes. A 5K, which I do in half that time, is about 3.1 miles. I slowed my pace WAY down and went for time. I did the same four machines, but I did 3x8. Very slowly. Like 6 seconds out, 6 seconds back. My last set on the chest press I was having a hard time cranking out 50 pounds (you'll remember I do 135 normally). 70 on the lat pull-downs, 60 on the rows and 35 on the shoulder press.

I'm currently having a hard time lifting a glass of iced coffee.

This makes me a bit curious about the value of slowing down. Now, don't get me wrong. Pain and soreness are not always the measure of a good workout. But I can tell that this is muscle confusion, not injury.

One thing going slowly does do is make us pay attention to detail. It also requires us to be more efficient. Neither of those is a bad thing.

In fact, there's a whole industry of innovation going on for making us more efficient. Go ahead. Turn on your smart phone. Go to whatever your app store is – it doesn't matter if it's a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android device. I'll bet there's a whole category of apps called "productivity."

These are things like to-do lists. Task monitors. Things that disconnect you from the Internet or social media so you can do some actual work. Apps that make multiple social media accounts easy to use together. Things that help you do stuff faster, so that even if you're doing those things more slowly, they're getting done in the same amount of time.

Want another way to do things a little more slowly?

Take a look at your to-do list. Rate stuff on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being very important and 5 being not at all important. Cross off everything with a 5. Move everything with a 4 to the bottom so that you can get to them when you get to them. Go do all your number ones right now.

And...go!

What’s YOUR secret?

In order for any of this to make sense, you need to click on that photo of Mackenzie above and spend eight minutes watching her Facebook video. I am so not going to give you a spoiler here.

I'm secretly a writer. You wouldn't know it from reading this blog, because the posts aren't regular.

I'm also secretly a musician. You wouldn't know it, because I pick up my guitar once a week and sit down at the piano about the same.

I'm also secretly an athlete. You wouldn't know it, because I spend a couple of evenings a week playing softball and the rest of the week saying, "Meh, I'll get back to the gym next week. Beer me."

I don't have any big real-life secrets that would fundamentally change your perception of who I am. I'm not disappointed in that. It makes my life easier. Mackenzie, as you now know (because you watched the video, right?), doesn't have any of those any more.

If Mackenzie can be that brave, I can certainly promise myself (and you, but myself more importantly) two blog posts a week, two workouts a week, and three days of playing music a week, even if it's only for five minutes at a time, right?

OK, done.

Now it's your turn. What have you been hiding? Why?

Work/life balance: How I’m achieving it

One of the things I've struggled with most throughout my adult life is work/life balance. Typically I either work too hard or live too hard.

Right now, I hold two management positions and one entry level position at a gym. I co-chair a civic group, and I sit on the steering committee of another. I try to spend as much quality time as possible with JB and Rufus, the black lab we rescued in January.

I also try to be a good son, brother and friend – not to mention a sports fan, writer and avid reader.

And then there's my health to consider.

How the hell do I keep it together?

Well, some things aren't where I'd like them to be, and some things are. I set a weight loss goal at the beginning of the year, and it's gone to hell. I'm evolving it to a body composition goal – not a very aggressive one (I'd like to be down in the 15% body fat range; I'm currently at 22%), but one that makes me healthier feeling and healthier looking (the latter of which wouldn't be so important if I didn't work in a gym, but I do).

Saying no. I'm currently a community manager, member services and day care manager at the gym, and next week I start coaching a new group fitness program. I'm doing my multiple organizations. When someone asks if I want to create a new website or something along those lines, I say no. Typically, my phrase is, "I'm not currently taking on new projects."

Productivity software. I use Microsoft Office on my phone, Google Documents, Google Calendar, Dropbox, Facebook, Hootsuite. I'm using a smart phone and a netbook and an iPad. I share everything in the cloud, and people share with me. I have whatever I need wherever I am.

Doing stuff for me. I get up early. The first thing I do is pour a cup of coffee and take the dog for a walk. I get my coffee, some movement, some fresh air, and I get the great feeling that comes with having a creature look at me and be like, "OMG it's Josh! It's Josh! It's Josh!" as I'm dragging myself around.

After that, I sit down and write on the dog blog for 10-15 minutes. It's enough to get the creative juices flowing, to make sure that I'm writing daily, and to make sure I'm not starting my day out with work. I also make sure there's a walk after dinner. More fresh air, more movement. It's time for me (even if it's also time for JB and the pup).

Limiting communication. Even with my staff, I have communication rules. Email me whenever you want. I will respond when I can. Only call me if it's an emergency; only text between the time I get to the club and 8pm, and even then, don't expect a response right away. Also, while I'm working, the best way to reach me is to call the gym. I don't sleep with the phone in my bedroom. If I go to bed early, I can be reached when I wake up. Sorry.

And that's it. Yes, I still have some work to do to get the balance where I'd like it. But I'm doing so much better now than I was in December.

Lessons from Rufus and Ellis: The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down

I was tired this morning. When you wake up, bury your head under the covers and just lay there for another couple of hours tired.

But Rufus was having none of it. With JB in the shower, he sensed I was awake, and he walked over to my side of the bed, nudged my hand, did a couple of circles, wagged his tail, brought me a bone, then a stuffed chimp, and it was pretty evident that what he was saying was, "Hey, Josh, it's daylight. You're a morning person. You love the world. Get up and see what Saturday has to offer."

And so it's 9am, and we've walked, and we've breakfasted, and we're going to go do some cleaning up and then have a day. You know, 'cause we're riding on a big blue world.