Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Plan B

Earlier this week I shared a what felt like a very apt quote in our current business climate,

"Courtesy of Outside Magazine, please read below on what it's taken Trip Jennings to manifest the job of his dreams- his example is every bit as relevant in our situation as anyone trying something for the first time on their own.

Adventure Icon: Trip Jennings
River Lover

There's no road map that shows you how to make a living as a kayaker and filmmaker, but last December I knew I had done it when I paid my cell-phone bill on time. The idea behind my first film, Bigger Than Rodeo, was to blend environmental activism and cutting-edge whitewater. I drove around the country in a '96 Subaru Impreza and maxed out three credit cards while showing footage of a paddler running a 105-foot waterfall. It took three more films and two more credit cards to figure out a combination of adventure and activism that worked. You don't get an interesting job by filling out an application; you commit to your dream the same way you do a waterfall: pick your line and dive headfirst. I'm glad I did it. In the past two years, my filming expeditions to Papua New Guinea, China, the Congo, Bolivia, Canada, and Brazil have been paid for through a partnership with National Geographic and the International League of Conservation Photographers. In the next six months I'm scheduled to shoot one film about elephant poaching in the Congo and another about kayaking in Laos. I created my dream job. It all started because I spent a year living out of a moldy Subaru and poaching continental breakfasts at cheap motels.

In 2008, Jennings led a team down the rebel-infested lower Congo, the last of the world's great unrun rivers. His films for National Geographic TV use kayaks to access Class V rivers in the service of science.

What struck me about this quote is that Trip Jennings, like many of the most successful people in the world who have shared their stories, had no Plan B.

This doesn't mean that they didn't plan... you don't get to be an environmental advocate, high performance athlete, world traveller, and documentary maker by the age of 27 without a plan. What no Plan B means is that Trip (and many other icons) refused to allow the thought of Plan A not working to enter into their minds.

Plan A has probably seen many revamps, and it's probably seen many doubtful moments and times of serious self doubt... but there was never a Plan B. I have never had a Plan B when it comes to making changing other's lives through fitness a career; and so I can relate. I have had many ups & downs, but lately there are more ups, and the sustainability of the career is not in question, thanks to 12 years of sacrifice, hard work, and never giving up on Plan A.

The fact is (and the most relevant snippet of today's entry) Jennings didn't know when the next documentary will sell enough so that he could can pay off his phone bill on time. No one knows when their output will start to match or exceed their input.

If you knew you'd be successful and make 10 million dollars by working 90 days, almost everybody would have done it by now, depending on what the work involved.
Maybe 75% of those people would keep at it if it took 900 days to make the same sum.
How many people would last 9000 days? That's not even 25 years to make 10 million dollars, but guaranteed we'd have more who would quit before 'making it'.

The point is - the end goal cannot be the only motivation. The journey must be fulfilling enough that the work itself gives you purpose. Whatever other end goals tied to your work (money, being recognized as a person of expertise, publishing a book, etc) must be planned on as extensions of doing what you love.

I've never met an expert who became famous doing what they hated.
Dream big, dream brave, and dream because it's what you want deep down that will allow you to look in the mirror with your principals intact and a smile on your face; and then set up a solid Plan A that you never look back from.

Plan A, more than likely, will need adjustment, repeated attempts, and advice from others.
But Plan B is what you do after you have already given up on your dreams. Anybody chasing that life???

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

find something....

"Dies slowly who avoids passion. Who, for the incertitude of a dream doesn't take a chance"

These were the words said by a runner at the end of a video (first one at the top) from a 100km race in the Sahara desert I was invited to do in 2008. I will never forget the moment on day 3, being in the middle of the desert, running by myself. As I was crying because I was so proud to have made it this far, I realized that if I would of not taking a chance and go for this race I would of never felt this way on that day, ever. It is a feeling I will never forget and a feeling that helps me believe in myself on a daily basis. 

2010 is already 3 months old..... I hope you will take a chance on yourself and go find your passion or try something new!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Are you getting better?

There has been some speculation as to whether using affirmations is helpful in pursuing personal development and setting goals.

In a word, yes.

Affirmations are repeated positive statements designed to bring about a desired result. The repetitious aspect is meant to influence and trigger the subconscious mind into positive action.

It's no surprise that on a daily basis we often unconsciously repeat negative statements to ourselves about different situations in our lives. In doing so we often bring about the undesirable circumstance itself.

We might say to ourselves "I can't do this", "I'm not good enough for that" or "this will never work".

Needless to say, our proclamations become self-fulfilling prophesies.

The reverse can also be true.

If we were to turn the negative statements we frequently utter into positive ones, we would bring about more favorable outcomes.

Take Muhammad Alil as an example. Who hasn't heard his famous declaration?

"I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was." Muhammad Ali

Is there any question in anyone's mind that Ali's repetition of that phrase helped him achieve the status of being "the greatest"?

Another interesting illustration for the effectiveness of affirmations comes from the auto suggestion work of Emile Coue, the French psychologist and pharmacist who introduced the now famous phrase:

"Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better". As a tool for self-improvement, he recommended that we begin each day by stating it firmly and convincingly. Coué felt that, as stated in his "Law of Concentrated Attention", whenever attention is concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tends to realize itself. In working with his patients he utilized this law to help them build their self-image.

Since then affirmations have also been used in cognitive therapy and found to work quite well. Needless to say there's no magic to it and there are limitations. Certainly you wouldn't make an affirmation that is unrealistic or makes no sense. Ultimately they're meant to serve as another helpful tool in furthering your personal development.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Test of Your Own Self Worth

We hear a lot these days about being overworked, overstressed, over-stimulated, and under-appreciated or under-paid.

These sort of comments, because of how general they are in nature, must be quantified before they can be strategized and "solved"

What does it mean to be 'over-worked'?
Does it mean you worked more than 40 hours?
Does it mean working 25 hours while going to school part time and raising 2 kids?
Does it mean working remotely, being accessible 24/7 without necessarily subscribing to a traditional structure?

The maximal capacity one can be asked to produce in a given work day is subjective, and has a lot to do with one's goals. If your goals are to minimize your effort, your 'overworked' definition will be at 40 hours and 15 minutes... conversely, your future opportunities (potential) won't look much different than exactly what you're getting right now unless you find a way to reinvent your productivity and workload within your scheduled time.

What does "over-stressed" mean?
Studying for an exam?
Taking money out of your house to be able to finance payroll this week for your business?
Managing a marriage, a family, a career, and other personal goals while maintaining personal relationships?

Your stress again ties to your values and the relationship you have with how hard you're willing to work with how much you want the outcome tied to those efforts (in every sphere of your life).
It also deals with your stress management techniques... do you exercise, meditate, or do yoga, or do you spark a cigarette?

Over-stimulated is something that parents and employers are more likely to complain about, because they notice the impact of banner ads, spam mail, video games, and instant messenger and how these can derail employee or their children's productivity (taking them away from studying or important projects)

Under-appreciated is an important one to address.
If people feel under-valued in the work they do, it's important they ask...
- am I doing what I am passionate about?
- did I give 100% to the task my manager asked me to do or that I took initiative to do, even if it's not what I love?
- am I working in a culture that appreciates people (even if not 100% of the time but that that is their intent and people get recognized at least consistently)?
- did I produce more for the world than I consumed today (work, carbon footprint, impact on people through your attitude, etc)?
- if you can answer yes to all of these questions, people who don't show value to you right away won't matter because a) you will feel validated yourself, and b) you will be patient enough to hear the appreciation for your fine work, and finally c) you will be empowered and competent enough to find a new employer if your current boss just plain can't see how valuable you are.

If you take care of all of the above... trust me, the pay will take care of itself.

The truest test is now what you get paid or what your job title says... it's how you feel about your own performance if you can learn to judge it from a more objective, more hard-truth oriented perspective. That is, how do you feel about your performance? Don't ask how your mom would feel about your performance.

Friday, March 19, 2010


An eagle lays an egg but somehow the egg finds its way into a chicken coup. A chicken incubates the egg with all her others and when it hatches, she rears the eaglet as if it were one of her own chicks. It learns to peck the dust for food, to flap its wings and to strut around the farmyard. One day, an eagle flies by overhead. The little eagle looks up and sees this, and says to himself, ‘I wish I were an eagle – how majestic, how free, and how beautiful to be like that and have such a life.’ The eagle lived like a chicken and died like a chicken, because that’s what he thought he was.

~Anthony de Mello

A belief is something you consider to be true. You cannot decide to believe one thing this week and another, opposing thing, next week. You might think you can, but it really doesn’t work like that. I read recently that baby circus elephants are tied to a strong metal post with a heavy chain because they will try to escape and expend a lot of energy on pulling at their tether. After some time, they accept that they will not be able to escape and so stop pulling. The adult elephants are tethered to a wooden stake with a light rope: they could easily escape, but they believe they are unable to do so, and so the light tethering works as a kind of symbol of their bondage. It is clear that whether your beliefs are true or not is irrelevant. What matters is what you regard to be true. It seems to me that this is a good definition of ‘belief.’

The tragedy of much adult life is that our vision is so limited. Like the elephant, we can walk away from our tether any time, but we often don’t because we are shackled by our false and limiting beliefs. People believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Some beliefs are trivial and others are very important, but two things are certain:

1. Our underlying beliefs operate at a deep, subconscious level, and
2. These underlying beliefs affect what we experience in life, including our level of success or failure in any endeavor.

Where do these beliefs come from? We learn our worldview from our parents, and if our parents think that life is a struggle and that money and success don’t come easily, then this will be our ‘defaults mode,’ too. We spend many years being ‘drip fed’ these beliefs and they get embedded deep in our subconscious. It’s fine to say ‘just change your beliefs,’ but it’s not always so easy. We have picked up many limiting beliefs from parents, teachers, friends, and society in general. Some of these beliefs are holding us back, so doesn’t it make sense that we should want to shed them?

Shedding these beliefs may cause some pain, but growth is often accompanied by pain, and I am confident that they pain of growth is a small price for the loss of a lifetime of limitation.

Our life is what our thoughts make it. Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil.

~Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Break. The. Cycle.

Swim Upstream is short & sweet today.
You have some homework.

Think hard about 1 behaviour you keep repeating (even if not often) that you'd like to change. It could be procrastination, eating when bored, fidgeting; or it could be something serious like how you treat people (even abuse).

Your homework is to:

1) Identify most important behaviour for you to change
2) Think about when you first remember acting this way... was there a significant event that triggered this behavior? Was there a person you learned this from, or something you were trying to avoid (discipline from parents or teachers, bad grades, acceptance or avoiding exclusion from others, etc)?
3) What can you put in place of this habit and why would you? For example, I will replace urgent action on tasks as they arise instead of procrastination because it decreases my stress levels and avoids work piling up and having to work through the weekend
4) Create a tangible plan for the next 4 - 12 weeks on improving/ changing/ replacing said habit. For instance - in the above example, keeping a detailed to do list that you review daily and track completeness.

It might be small or it might be big folks, but we all have something we can do better; and we all probably do something beneath our current awareness that does not help us achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. Making small conscious efforts to better yourself weeks at a time add to being a better person year after year; which adds to a legacy of you being remembered as someone worth knowing, worth emulating, possibly being remembered as great.

Good luck and start small. If steps 1 - 4 work on the small stuff, doing it over and over again adds momentum and faith that you can change the bigger things about yourself that you'd like to improve.

Friday, March 12, 2010

10 Life Lessons from Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein has long been considered a genius by the masses. He was a theoretical physicist, philosopher, author, and is perhaps the most influential scientists to ever live. Einstein has made great contributions to the scientific world, including the theory of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the prediction of the deflection of light by gravity, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose–Einstein condensation, to name a few of his scientific contributions.

Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” He’s published more than 300 scientific works and over 150 non-scientific works. Einstein is considered the father of modern physics and is probably the most successful scientist there ever was.

1. Follow Your Curiosity

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
What piques your curiosity? I am curious as to what causes one person to succeed while another person fails; this is why I’ve spent years studying success. What are you most curious about? The pursuit of your curiosity is the secret to your success.

2. Perseverance is Priceless

“It's not that I'm so smart; it's just that I stay with problems longer.”
Through perseverance the turtle reached the ark. Are you willing to persevere until you get to your intended destination? They say the entire value of the postage stamp consist in its ability to stick to something until it gets there. Be like the postage stamp; finish the race that you’ve started!

3. Focus on the Present

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
My father always says you cannot ride two horses at the same time. I like to say, you can do anything, but not everything. Learn to be present where you are; give your all to whatever you’re currently doing.Focused energy is power, and it’s the difference between success and failure.

4. The Imagination is Powerful

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Are you using your imagination daily? Einstein said the imagination is more important than knowledge! Your imagination pre-plays your future. Einstein went on to say, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” Are you exercising your “imagination muscles” daily, don’t let something as powerful as your imagination lie dormant.

5. Make Mistakes

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
Never be afraid of making a mistake. A mistake is not a failure. Mistakes can make you better, smarter and faster, if you utilize them properly. Discover the power of making mistakes. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, if you want to succeed, triple the amount of mistakes that you make.

6. Live in the Moment

“I never think of the future - it comes soon enough.”
The only way to properly address your future is to be as present as possible “in the present.”You cannot “presently” change yesterday or tomorrow, so it’s of supreme importance that you dedicate all of your efforts to “right now.” It’s the only time that matters, it’s the only time there is.

7. Create Value

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value."
Don’t waste your time trying to be successful, spend your time creating value. If you’re valuable, then you will attract success.Discover the talents and gifts that you possess, learn how to offer those talents and gifts in a way that most benefits others.Labor to be valuable and success will chase you down.

8. Don’t Expect Different Results

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
You can’t keep doing the same thing everyday and expect different results. In other words, you can’t keep doing the same workout routine and expect to look differently. In order for your life to change, you must change, to the degree that you change your actions and your thinking is to the degree that your life will change.

9. Knowledge Comes From Experience
“Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”
Knowledge comes from experience. You can discuss a task, but discussion will only give you a philosophical understanding of it; you must experience the task first hand to “know it.” What’s the lesson? Get experience! Don’t spend your time hiding behind speculative information, go out there and do it, and you will have gained priceless knowledge.

10. Learn the Rules and Then Play Better

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
To put it all in simple terms, there are two things that you must do. The first thing you must do is to learn the rules of the game that you’re playing. It doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s vital. Secondly, you must commit to play the game better than anyone else. If you can do these two things, success will be yours!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Target Fixation

In WWII fighter pilots were faced with a phenomenon where they would want to fly into targets during strafing runs; not on purpose, but because they were so focused on where their gun fire was hitting that they could not focus on any other hazard. This was eventually coined as “target fixation”, or the process by which the brain is focused so intently on an observed object that other objects or hazards diminish.

When we look at the structure of our goals and desires in every aspect in life, it is common that we experience target fixation and become so consumed with the end goal that we lose our ability to see not only danger, but future opportunity as well. In doing so, we diminish the value of our work and lessen the experience of accomplishment.

The negative effects of target fixation are obvious; we set our sights on a goal and become oblivious to the dangers that surround our pursuit. Eventually these dangers sneak up on us and we never reach our intended target for no other reason than negligence. In these circumstances we know what hit us after the fact and can make the necessary adjustments the next time we choose to attempt our goal. This is the process of learning through failure, and the start of the long trial and error experiment in goal attainment.

Ultimately our goal should not be to learn from failure, but to learn in success. You can be target fixated and succeed, but your success is limited to one single event focused on one single item. In success there is much to learn outside of the intended target because with success comes new opportunity. When we are engaged in target fixation we lose the ability to see what opportunities are presented through our progress and hit the finish line with nothing to take away from the process except for accomplishment. This is not a negative position to be in, but it is not an ideal situation to be in either. Essentially success should be the creation of future advancement because of what we observed through our process towards our outcome. This is what will lead to innovation and enhancement of our original ideas and allow our awareness to create rather than limit.

The end goal of achievement is to allow us to experience achievement again through refining and enhancing our ability to succeed. When we are able to see a 360 degree view of our surroundings we allow ourselves to build upon the foundation of hard work that we have established and create smart work in the future. By creating awareness of our surroundings within a process we have the ability to not neglect, but absorb both positive and negative feedback with which we can in turn enhance our learning capabilities.

We always want to have the end goal in our sights when it comes to achievement, but not at the expense of missing key learning moments because of our failure to expand our vision beyond target fixation. The more we are able to see today, the more knowledge we will be able to apply tomorrow.