Saturday, May 09, 2009

Direction

"I don't know where we're going, but sure are going fast!"

Ever feel that way? Maybe you need to stop and make a map... from the DLM Blog:

Dumb Little Man - tips for life

Link to Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life

How to Start Enjoying Life Again

Posted: 06 May 2009 02:32 PM PDT

No matter how perfect everything can feel and how awesome life can seem at times, things rarely stay that way. Let's face it, now and then we all experience the low points, and for some people, those low points can last a lot longer than anything else. You can tell just by looking at statistics which show that tens of thousands of people commit suicide each year around the world; for some people these low points just become unbearable.

I think there are some key aspects which can help people start to really enjoy life again, and make the most of the opportunities on this planet. In this post I want to look at what I think those aspects are and how you can incorporate them into your life.

Become Aware of your Mortality
I know that point heading doesn't sound very positive, but let me pan things out a bit. It's no secret that one day we are all going to die. Some of you may think we will be reincarnated, some may think we will go to heaven and some of you think we are spiritual beings in human form, and that's fine. However, all of us know that our current form won't last forever.

I've always been aware that I'm going to die someday, but I don't think I have ever really appreciated life. It wasn't until I became very sick last year and spent a week in hospital that the things which matter to me really became apparent, my health being one of them.

This is it. Make the most of the opportunity you have; life is completely what you make of it and is nothing more than an external reflection of your internal thoughts. If you start looking for the good in the world instead of focusing on the bad, I promise you will find it.

Make Notes of the Things that Matter to You
I used to be the kind of person that would read a blog post which asked you to do something, and kindly skip over the 'taking action' section. More recently, I actually took the time to write out a list of things I'm grateful for; some of the obvious items came up:
  • My family and friends

  • My health

  • Being able to eat properly every day

  • Having a roof over my head

  • Having people that care for me
And while these items are obvious, we take them for granted but miss them so much for example when they deteriorate (health) or disappear (wealth). Simply doing this will allow you to see all the great things in your life instead of all the negative aspects in your current situation which may be getting you down.

Realize Every Problem Can Be Accepted or Dealt With
I came across an interesting concept recently by one of my favorite teachers who said "problems are only memories" and that saying actually became the basis for an article I wrote. To make things a little more understandable, my saying is this: there is no problem that you have which can't either be dealt with or accepted. Every single problem will fit under one of those two options.

"But I don't want to accept the things I cannot change" is a response I received from a lot of people when first mentioning this idea. "OK, so you are going to get angry, cry and stress yourself out about something that...you can't do anything about?" - It just doesn't make any sense. If you can change something you don't like then by all means work towards doing that, but otherwise accept what is and focus on other things that matter to you.

Set Yourself a Long Term Goal You Can Be Passionate About

I've worked hard with my online properties in the last few years and was lucky enough to be able to quit my job at the beginning of this year to work for myself full-time. I've noticed that now I'm at this stage I literally jump out of bed in the mornings excited to work on the projects that I have a real passion for. I've come to realise that it doesn't take quitting your job in order to be excited about waking up in the mornings; you just need something you can focus on that you are passionate about.

Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you want to learn a new language or even learn to play an instrument. Pick a long-term goal that you can give some time regularly, something that really matters to you. The most important aspect to making this work in your favor is by opening your life up to being able to work on the things you enjoy. After-all, this is a goal you WANT to achieve and it is something you really CARE about.

What could be a better way to spend your time?


Written on 5/6/2009 by Glen Allsop. Glen writes on the subject of Personal Development at PluginID. His site's main aim is to help people Plug into their Identity, be who they want to be and live the life they want to live.Photo Credit: Wolfgang Staudt

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Losing your job... what next?


Great advice from Harvey:

Harvey Mackay's Column This Week

Don't lose your head if you get the ax

When you have lost your job, you need to do four things: Get help. Get good advice. Get stabilized. Get busy.

Don't try to tough it out on your own. As soon as the ax falls, negotiate your departure. Circumstances vary, and finding another job may take longer than you anticipated. Protect your interests as well as you can.

Whatever is being offered, make sure it's fair. You can, and should ask for more severance, reimbursement for unused vacation time and sick leave, outplacement services, office space, office supplies, secretarial help and even tuition.

Are they getting tough? You get tough. Hire a lawyer if necessary. In case you consider this advice anti-management, remember that no management bigwigs let themselves get fired without hiring the best legal advice available.

Government assistance for the unemployed? Why not? You've been paying for it all these years—just in case something like this ever happened.

Now is the time to talk to friends, relatives, old schoolmates, customers, vendors, business associates and professional advisers. They may not be quite as interested in hearing about your troubles as you would like them to be; they may be expecting their own bad news too. But put the word out that you are on the job hunt and would appreciate any help.

So focus on the positive. You have something to offer. By helping you, all of the people whose assistance you solicit are helping themselves as well. They're helping put you back in a position where you can do them some good. They're piling up points for the time they may need the same kind of help.

You need to know where you stand and where you're going. You need to take an inventory—financial, professional and emotional. It's time to revise your budget. There are advisers who will tell you to cut down on everything. Not me. You can't cut down on your medical needs. Keep lines of communication and transportation open—you need to be accessible and available for prospective employers.

Borrow if you have to, perhaps from yourself. If you have equity in your home, interest rates are low, and now is a favorable time to consider a home equity loan or refinancing. What about Mom and Dad? Can they help you start your own business or go back to school?

I believe in education as a kind of capital improvement in the structure of society. It's a good investment. Don't be hesitant to borrow, particularly to replenish your professional inventory. In fact, self-improvement is the one area in which you should really increase your spending, not decrease it.

Take courses. Upgrade your skills. You cannot ever afford to rest on the skills you learned in high school or college or your last job. The workplace is filling up with people who graduated long after you did and who have acquired newer, more efficient skills, who are young, eager and hungry to show those skills to employers. Keep on going to school. Enhance what you already know and pick up new material on topics like computers, language, public speaking and writing.

Nothing impresses me more as a potential employer than someone who is out of work but still actively going to school. In fact, what excuse is there for not being in a school of some kind when you're not employed? It's the true test of your determination to get into the workplace to present an up-to-the-minute, trainable, quality package to a potential employer.

If you were fired, it's a great way to prove to yourself and others that you're capable of bouncing back after a setback. It's a real confidence builder. It's the best single thing you can do for yourself.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker will have 12-14 job changes in the course of a lifetime and will undergo five career changes.

Get a routine. Like yourself again. Spend some extra time with the kids. Read. Have a little fun. Get some exercise. Get busy. None of us have time to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.

There are worse things than not working. Like not getting ready to go back to work.

Mackay's Moral: Getting fired should get you fired up!

Miss a column? The last three weeks of Harvey's columns are always archived online.

More information and learning tools can be found online at harveymackay.com.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Video Time: Rocketman

What is your neighbor building in his garage? I live in Indiana, about 200 miles from where this took place:

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stop the Stupid Stuff

I have friends that do not believe in God, only in evolution.

No matter what your belief structure is, we all screw up every once in awhile. The key is to learn from those mistakes. You can call it evolving, or growing, maturing, or whatever, but some folks seem to continue doing the really stupid stuff over and over again. As someone once said, practice doesn't make perfect, if what you are practicing is wrong.

The DLM Blog featured this helpful guide to breaking the bad and moving forward towards good:

Dumb Little Man - tips for life

Link to Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life

The Only Way You Should Ever Repeat Your Mistakes

Posted: 01 May 2009 06:00 AM PDT

Do you ever make mistakes? Stupid question – of course you do; we all do. And I’d bet good money that sometimes you’ve made a mistake over, and over, and over again.

Making a mistake once is fine - just part of the learning process. But if you fail to learn from it, you’ll just end up wasting valuable energy, time and quite possibly money on exactly the same mistakes in future. And that’s going to seriously bug you.

Here’s an example. Maybe you once made the mistake of hitting snooze on your alarm clock, falling back to sleep, and eventually waking up seriously late – having to skip breakfast, skip showering, and rush like a madman to work. If you do that once, it’s no biggie; if you repeat the same mistake every week – or worse, every morning – you’re going to have some serious problems.

Or how about a less dramatic, but just as insidious example. You’re determined to get fit, so you start on a great exercise regime that you’ve heard delivers dramatic results and is based on the army’s practices. Only, you’re so exhausted after your first attempt, you can’t face doing it again. So you go back to your usual couch-potato lifestyle, until your next over-enthusiastic and short-lived attempt at an exercise program...

So how can you break the pattern, and make sure that you don’t keep repeating your mistakes? Well, one way is to repeat them in a slightly different way – in writing. Sounds crazy? Read on to find out how to do it and why it works.

Write Down What Went Wrong
Okay, so you’ve made a mistake. Your presentation at work was a complete mess. Your diet failed after two days. You and your partner had an enormous fight over nothing. You lost your wallet and had to go through the hassle of canceling all your cards. You got an F on your term paper.

Once you’ve sorted out the immediate aftermath of your mistake, sit down somewhere quiet with a pen and paper. (I like to do this sort of writing away from the distractions of a computer screen.) Set down what went wrong. Keep it really simple, and don’t think about excuses or reasons at this stage.
  • I fluffed my presentation, or...
  • I got an F, or...
  • I had an argument with my best friend
Figure Out The Causes
Now you’ve got to the core of the mistake, start thinking about why it happened. There’s a cause for everything, and often a series of causes. For example, if you got an F on your term paper, the causes might be one or more of:
  • I didn’t start studying early enough
  • I didn’t devote enough time to studying
  • I studied the wrong topics
  • I didn’t practice my exam technique
  • I panicked and froze during the exam
  • I didn’t sleep well the night before the exam
If you fluffed a big presentation at work, perhaps the causes are:
Don’t get judgmental, just set down on paper what led to the mistake. This isn’t a chance for you to kick yourself and call yourself an idiot: there’s nothing stupid about making mistakes. (Think of a kid learning to walk, or to talk; they make thousands of mistakes and they just keep on going!)

Decide What You'll Do Differently
Now you’ve looked at the causes of your mistake, all you need to do is to figure out how to zap those causes out of the equation for next time. Write down “Next time, I’m going to...”

Here are some ideas from the examples above.

Next time I have an exam, I’m going to...
  • Start studying five weeks beforehand
  • Check with my professor about the topics that I need to cover
  • Practice writing answers to exam questions from last year
Next time I have to give a presentation, I’m going to...
  • Prepare it well in advance
  • Practice ahead of time, asking a colleague for feedback
  • Try different ways of calming my nerves (e.g. breathing techniques)
Why Writing It Down Works
So why do you need to put all of this in writing? The first and most straightforward reason is because writing helps you to remember things. If you just think about the changes you want to make, what’re the chances that you’ll have forgotten all about it by the time your next exam, report, fitness attempt, or diet comes around? You wouldn’t try to keep your diary for the year in your head – so don’t keep other important information there too. Write it down, and you can always refer back to it to jog your memory.

Secondly, writing can seriously help your thought process. This does depend a bit on how your brain’s wired – some of us find it easier to think things through by talking about them, or by doing something with our hands. But most people do get a boost from writing: the process of putting thoughts into words helps you to get greater clarity about them.

And thirdly, the act of writing something down makes you feel more accountable – you’re more likely to do it. Many studies have shown that people who write down their goals are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. And avoiding wasting precious time, energy and money on repeating your mistakes is definitely a worthy goal to have.

What mistakes have you made in the past – big or small? Are there any mistakes which you constantly repeat? Have you ever tried writing about your mistakes, analysing the causes and what you could do differently in future?

Written on 3/17/2009 by Ali Hale.Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line (ali@aliventures.com) or check out her website at Aliventures.Photo Credit: msmail

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Video Time: Sid & Nan

Step back in time when Television was limited to three networks and live tv was truely live:


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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Yesterday I took the lawnmower to the backyard and turned it loose. Well, I had to push it, so it wasn't too crazy, but I learned with just this mulching mower, I can clean up our yard and make it look pretty sweet.

But what about the inside? DLM posted this recently:

Dumb Little Man - tips for life

Link to Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life

The Super Easy Approach to Decluttering your Home

Posted: 02 May 2009 06:40 AM PDT

Here I am getting ready to relax on a Saturday and watch the Cubs' game. To my dismay, my plan was foiled early. My wife woke up that morning inspired and determined to declutter. I can't complain, she rarely gets the initiative to do things like this. I painfully listened to this master plan and eventually gave in.

All-in-all this was a great exercise. Although I was very skeptical, I came to terms with the fact that I simply wasn't going to use any of this stuff ever again. I mean, my waist is a size 34" so my old jean shorts with a 30" waist were probably not going to be any more useful than the old GW BASIC manuals I found.

Now that we're cleaned out, the trick will be to stay uncluttered. So let's look at both sides: what to get rid of and how to keep clutter from piling up in the first place.

First, let's unclutter. I am not indicating that you have to get rid of this stuff, this is just a sample of what I did. Maybe it will give you an idea or two.
  • It's worth nothing
    The first thing to hit the donation pile was my Atari 2600, Nintendo, and Super Nintendo. Along with all the games I had, it was probably 30 lbs of useless scrap. Before you say it was worth something, know that I routinely beat the heck out of these machines when I'd lose games (it was a long time ago, I'm not violent!). They were all pretty banged up and they have been sitting in the same spot for 10 years collecting dust!

  • Old School
    My 1993-2003 wardrobe - I have no idea why I kept it this long. However, I am pretty sure that I am not going to toss on a Miami Vice/Don Johnson outfit anytime soon. If you haven't worn the clothes in the last year, it may be safe to get rid of them. The funniest part about this is that I had these old clothes jammed into the same closet with the clothes I wear today. All this did was make getting dressed each morning a battle to pull something from the closet. Now that the old stuff is gone, all I have hanging up are things I really do wear.

  • Ex-Girlfriends
    Maybe I am a romantic but for some reason I held onto a huge box full of photos and memorabilia from my ex-girlfriends. Pictures, cards, old high school prom trinkets, etc. Listen, memories are great but when you get married or even if you are a single and in your twenties, consider dumping some of this stuff. I personally found no reason to keep any of it. It's not as if I grab a bottle of Jack and reminisce about the 'old days'. If I ever need to, I am sure my parents have plenty of pictures for me.

  • Old Data
    While I did have a ton of old cassette tapes and term papers, the data I am talking about here is user's manuals. Believe it or not, I still had MS-DOS manuals. Keep in mind, this was before digital anything so a DOS manual was easily 7 inches thick, in a binder, and a boring read. I even found a manual for GW Basic and the 18 install floppies for WordPerfect 3.1.

  • Old PCs
    If I had old manuals for DOS, you had to believe I had old PCs, keyboards, monitors, etc. Even though my iPod has more memory than those PCs, I donated them. If that wasn't bad enough, I still had the boxes these PCs came in.

  • Hogan
    Yes, at one point in my life I was a workout nut. Until last weekend, I kept a collection of close to 300 lbs of free weights, a full bench, bars, etc. Do you know how much room that took up? The spider webs alone weighed 15 lbs. These went to Play it Again Sports so I could at least collect some cash when they sell.

  • Broken stuff
    I had all sorts of things from broken coffee makers, to TVs, to lawn mowers. I saved all of these things because I believed that one day, I'd use the parts for something. Come on, let's get real. I am not Mr. Fix-it and I am not about to write an Instructable.

  • Old Bills
    Do you know that I had water bills from 1995? That's just foolish. I shredded a ton of old paperwork - everything from bills to loan applications. Before you go nuts, you should read up on what you need to retain.
So there are a few things to look out for. If you don't want to toss it in the garbage, and you can hit up the usual suspects if you want to sell some of this stuff (ebay, craiglist).

Next I'll explain how we did it and how we intend to prevent a mass decluttering in the future. It may seem basic and I thought so too. However, if it's so simple, why are we surrounded by junk?
  • Skimming Rooms
    Don't skim. When you walk into a room with the intention of decluttering, seriously look in every drawer and closet - empty them all out and consider every item. Heck, look under the bed too! If you see something that has no sentimental value and hasn't been used in a year, get rid of it.

  • Shredding
    We shred close to everything that comes in the mail. However, this becomes a chore when you receive 58 credit card offers each week, insurance quotes, etc. At the end of any given week, set aside time to shred. On occasion, I have actually thrown all of this garbage in the fireplace and burned it. I don't care what you do, just don't let it build up to the point of having to invest 3 hours on a Saturday shredding.

  • Slow down
    We didn't declutter the house in 2 hours, this was a full days work. Take your time and concentrate on one room at a time. Get rid of old magazines, blankets, winter coats, and anything that you honestly don't think will have any value in a year.

  • When the time changes
    They (not sure who they is) say that you should change your smoke detector batteries every time the time changes to/from Daylight savings. That is our new declutter indicator as well. Twice a year, we're going room-to-room and getting rid of stuff.

  • Purchases and Freebies
    When you are pacing through Target, resist the urge to buy that picture frame that's 40% off. If you have a real need for it, fine, but accumulating 'stuff' just because you got a deal is going to lead to clutter. We are going to try to get rid of 1 item for every new item we purchase. This will admittedly be tough.

  • Magazines When you get new phone books or magazines, recycle the old ones. This is so simple but I somehow ended up with a stack of old Business Week, Maxim, and Sports Illustrated magazines. Most were found in the drawers of the nightstand and in bathroom cabinets.

  • Gifts
    We all get birthday or holiday gifts that we don't want. Don't just toss them in a closet somewhere. Either re-gift them or toss them on Freecycle.

  • Train your Kids
    This has worked wonderfully. Each time my kids ask for a new toy, I simply ask them which old toy they want to donate to charity. When we get home from the store, we pick up the old toy and put it in the car so we can drop it off at a Salvation Army drop box. Not only are they learning to donate, they are not contributing to the clutter problem.

  • Touch it once
    This is almost a time trick but it really applies to clutter as well. When you grab a screwdriver for example, use it and put it back in its correct spot when you are done. I was in the habit of tossing it on the kitchen counter and ultimately it ended up in the junk drawer along with a ton of other miscellaneous items.
If you've found a tactic working for you, let me know in the comments. This is a tough battle and it's very easy to accumulate garbage because you're sentimental or 'think you'll need it later'. If you aren't going to use something in the next year, do you really need it?

Originally written in 2007 by me, Jay White, the founder of Dumb Little Man and an all around average guy. Each Saturday I grab an old article, update it, and share it all over again. This article was republished on 5/02/09.Photo Credit: Aine D

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