First Things

I saw this demonstration when at a training many, many years ago. It is still very vivid in my memory. A great visual reminder. A concept that should be obvious and ingrained, but doesn’t seem to be.

[More on my thoughts about analogies in some later post…]

First things first. If they’re the most important, prioritize them. Schedule them. Make sure they happen. Do not let them be at the mercy of the small, the urgent but unimportant, and certainly not the trivial.

“What if you were to shift to a paradigm of deciding, first of all, what your whole life is about so that you have a philosophical basis on which to make all of the big decisions about what are the big rocks, the middle-sized, the small rocks, and so forth. Put the big rocks in very first, the most important things, then the other ones, accordingly.”



Resources and Links


The Power of the Mind

Two quotes that speak to the power of the mind…

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.
– Henry Ford *

You become what you think about all day long
– Earl Nightingale

Just as a reminder!

P.S. Of course one needs to be wary of quotes and their attributions, especially those found online. Perhaps you’ve seen a tongue-in-cheek quote on the web that goes something like this:

The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you can never know if they are genuine.
– Abraham Lincoln


Resources and Links

“Anti-Commencement” Address?

I love commencement addresses. Well, good commencement addresses (perhaps because the address at my college graduation, as I remember it, did not fall in that category – note to self: see if you can find video of the address to see how it plays now).

Came across Charles Wheelan and his “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You” (WSJ) article (there is also a book – 10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said). The 10 things that no commencement speaker has ever said were, apparently, said by Wheelan to the 2012 graduates of his alma mater, Dartmouth College.

The idea not being that the words are literally never said, but that they contain a bit more truth and grit and a bit less platitude and false optimism.

He’s got down-to-earth advice:

  • relish the connections you’ve made with others
  • there will be some rough times
  • don’t over-prioritize your job (the way he talks about this is terrific), and
  • it’s okay to shoot for solid and not great (and, in fact, that may be a good way to end up at great).

May have to come back to this one, because almost every one of his points is analogous to other important ideas – community, resilience, choice, mindfulness, etc. (For example, I’ve been reading and listening to a fair amount of Seth Godin, who stresses connection.) On second thought, perhaps I should first get the book and see how Wheelan expands on the ideas beyond the article. For now, I leave you with his article and (below) a link to an NPR interview with him about his advice.


Resources and Links

Calvin and Hobbes, again

I preached the Calvin Hobbes doctrine in a previous post, but I want to give an updated shout-out to the boy, his tiger, and author Bill Watterson.

In Dan Kopf‘s Priceonomics article, “What is the Internet’s Favorite Book“, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes takes the top spot. Bill Watterson appears 6 more times in the top 20 and is the highest rated author in this study of Goodreads top-rated books/authors.

Love Calvin and Hobbes? You’re clearly not alone.

Still haven’t checked them out? Do it now!

Ode to the Public Library

I recently spent an hour and a half in a car with someone with whom I had very little in common. And, the longer the ride the more and more that became apparent.

The one thing we could agree on: public libraries are awesome!

Tremendous resources. As community centers. For information. For entertainment. With staff ready to serve.

Support your local library! Or, at least, visit it and make use. They are there. They are incredible!


Resources and Links

Happiness List

The whole article is terrific – Here’s Why You Must Make a Happiness List Right Now by Minda Zetlin – but two things stuck out for me:

  • “It’s your job to make yourself happy” and
  • “Happiness takes practice.”

Relationships are important and you should be able count on those who you love and who love you to help take care of you. AND, if you’ve abdicated responsibility for your own happiness to others you are in trouble.

And, while the search for self-improvement is important, there is no magic formula, no silver bullet. So, we need to continually work at whatever it is… even if we’ve found something that works for us. Very rarely in life are the important things ones that we can just check off a list as done.

Resources and Links


What do I mean by alignment? Let’s dig a little deeper.

For the purposes of the posts on this site that are in the alignment category I mean that all the motivations, desires, wants, needs, hopes, understandings, and interests are pointing (at least roughly) in the same direction.

Two examples to try to illustrate what I’m talking about: contracting to add on to our home (aligning in a relationship) and dieting (a relatively common self-improvement goal).

In a relationship

We wanted to do an addition on our home. An accessory dwelling was the term that was being used – a separate entrance, kitchenette, bedroom, bathroom, and small living space. The first person we talked to was a close family friend. Someone we’d grown up with. Someone that we trusted completely. He had some lovely ideas, but most were beyond our means. But, he knew our limits and tried to work within them.

His usual way of charging for such a job (some design, some building) would be as a percentage of the cost of the project. We discussed trying to come up with an alternative fee structure to propose to him. Something where he would share in the savings if he could come up with something that gave us everything we wanted, and nothing we didn’t, if the final cost was lower than our absolute maximum cost. Align at least one of his motivations (maximize profit for work done) with one of ours (stay under budget, as far under as possible and still get what we wanted).

We never proposed an alternative fee structure. Seemed like too far out of the norm, among other things. It also became clear that he was not the person for the job – no matter how close we were or how much he wanted to help. Another of his motivations was to design something he could be proud of, that he thought of as elegant. Our budget wasn’t going to make that easy (or doable).

In that particular endeavor, we were misaligned. No problem. Except we didn’t want to be misaligned with someone we cared about. So, we got misaligned with someone else – because often, in business arrangements, the alignment is not perfect, or even great. If the salesperson (or contractor, or builder, or stock broker…) is getting a percentage of the final bill or money spent, it is in their interest to make that bill as high as possible. No matter how ethical, wonderful, or caring that person is. Humans are, well, human. There is an inherent misalignment of purpose, of need, of desire.

Oh, and our friend wouldn’t have been aligned himself with this job. He was looking for beauty. For elegance. He was also looking to do right by us. We didn’t have the money to spend on a project of that size to result in a project he could love.

Is there a way to build better alignment in relationships? Professional and personal? Something to think about.


The goal: lose weight. So many different possible diets, diet plans, or “habit changes.” And, a person who is on a diet or following a plan is, by definition, motivated to lose weight. So, why is it so hard? Why do we fail so often to lose the weight we want or need to lose?

Any self-improvement is difficult if we’re not in alignment. We might, generically, want to lose weight, but if it’s not happening yet, we’re probably not in alignment or the plan we’ve chosen doesn’t align to our needs. How could this be?

Maybe I want to lose weight, but…

  • I think it takes self-control and I don’t think of myself as a person with good self-control, or
  • I’m generally concerned with “value” and a part of me thinks that I don’t get full value out of a meal if I don’t finish everything I’m served, or
  • I grew up thinking of eating sugary foods (sweets, baked goods, etc.) as a way to treat myself, especially when I’m not feeling well or when I’ve earned a reward, or
  • I, and others, have a perception of me as the jolly, chubby guy, or
  • perhaps something else.

So, I struggle to lose weight, diet after diet, because the change I’m trying to make is misaligned with at least some of my other thoughts.

To get aligned, I may need to want to lose weight and:

  • pick a program that helps with the self-control or requires I exercise my self-control less often,
  • change my understanding of value – perhaps value isn’t getting everything possible out of every experience but instead is getting the highest quality of what I need,
  • alter what I consider a treat (can I change it to mean giving myself the freedom to engage in some enjoyed physical activity?), and
  • commit to the persona of the healthy, relaxed guy as opposed to the happy/jolly persona.

Maybe not easy. But, how much more difficult to try to meet one goal (weight loss) while being at odds with other goals, motivations, or self-perceptions.