Does music motivate you? It’s an important part of my life. Recently we’ve been assembling playlists for different occasions on Spotify. My daughter loves her neon dance music list. My son is digging his “Action Cole,” list of high energy rock and roll. I like to think we’re a music family and I know the soundtrack of our lives influences our mood in a positive way.
I like mindmaps and mind mapping tools [Mindmeister is a good one]. It's a natural fit for those like me with a lifehacker bent. This mindmap is of particular note, though, as it's a real user tool (perhaps as a desktop background) for managing your time effectively.
are the reasons
that the Pittsburgh Steelers are Super Bowl Champions.
“…The standard is the standard. We don’t choose to point fingers. We
stay humble in times of excellence, and achievements individually are part of a team. By the same token we don’t point the fingers as members of the team. The issue has been, is and hopefully will continue to be winning in this game indefinitely for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s where the focus is. We care less how others may judge portions of our football team or portions of our football game and are more concerned about the final outcome, which is having one more point than our opponent…”
Our family trip back east was a great one. We were fortunate to make some great memories. A common thread was the importance of focus and concentration.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Michael J. Bowers, former Attorney General of Georgia, and a twenty year mentor and friend to my brother, David. Mr. Bowers will tell you that the three most important factors for success are focus, focus and focus. It's one of his favorite mantras to new associates at their firm, Balch and Bingham LLP.
Another great example came from my nephew, Alec. He gave me a great tour of The Lovett School. Aside from getting choked up from Alec's beaming pride in his campus, I found the emphasis on maintaining focus by "Staying on task," remarkable. How fortunate to be learning this kind of focus in elementary school as a primary ideal.
My presentation, "Tips on Being an Effective Human" has a popular slide
entitled, Harness the Sun – like burning Ants with a magnifying glass.
The idea is concentrating your efforts like the rays of a sun through a
magnifying glass. Not so pleasant I guess, if you're an ant fan, but
you get the idea, right?
Long time good friend Joe Garcia sent me quite a character reminder today. He forwarded a copy of headmaster Jack Pidgeon’s commencement address to our class at The Kiski
School. I read it right away – I hadn’t heard it for more than twenty years. The message resonated as vividly as the authoritative New England intonation and cadence I could hear delivering it.
Wonderfully written, it’s chock full of Mr. Pidgeon’s own warm memories that brought me momentarily back to boyhood. In the speech he says, "The longer I live the more I believe that the essential factor which places some men above others is their superior capacity for self-discipline." Jack also reminds us to, "never, never, never, never, never quit." He goes on to remind us of how we are all capable:
"You don’t have to have been born with talent or brains or special abilities or a capacity for leadership. You don’t even have to have been born tough. The happiest fact of life is that the one ingredient we need the most is ours for the taking. All you have to do to acquire it is this: beginning today, stop doing something you shouldn’t do and start doing each day something you know you should do."
Thanks Joe. It was especially generous to send this out. Reading "On Self-Discipline" was a heartwarming connection to the roots of my commitment to a life of character and principles.
My mother’s husband, a.k.a. my step-father, Bill Merwitzer, is an example of someone who consistently acts out of character and principles. I just completed a book that Bill had mailed to me awhile back. In fact, he was so intent on having me read the book that he sent another copy when the first one failed to arrive by mail. I’m grateful, as it turned out to have an impact that will last.
I just completed the book, the Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert. You should read it as well. It’s a compelling biography of Eustace Conwway – a man worth reading about who tries to teach us to "find your own middle ground to live your
life, and be careful of the impact that it has, to both nature and the
people around you."
Eustace is a character example of intensity and grace and perfection of focus which resonates clearly from this short example:
I had a recent conversation where a friend noticed I had some saved fortunes
from fortune cookies in my binder. I had never considered the idea as all that original or even as a means to being effective…but I enjoy them and they are affirming, so here you go…
"Stop looking and you will find what you seek."
"A free soul never grows old."
"Behind an able man, there are always other able men."
"You are always welcome in any gathering."
An important component of being effective is connecting to yourself. Know that your mind is fried and that you need to walk away from the computer for awhile and get some perspective. I’m not sure who said it, but I love the expression, "When your mind is tired, work your body. When your body is tired, work your mind." You do, however, need to listen to the signals your body sends you. Unplugging doesn’t mean getting more coffee.
Proposal Expert and awesome blogger Laura Ricci says, "Burnout is a biologic reality, not a psychological weakness." Read her post about burnout for the prevention and cure.
Jim Rohn, known as one of America’s foremost business philosophers, has addressed over 6,000 audiences and 4
million people worldwide. He tells us that for every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards. That’s one
of life’s great arrangements. In fact, it’s an extension of the
Biblical law that says that if you sow well, you will reap well.
Everything of value requires care, attention, and discipline. Our thoughts require discipline. We must consistently determine our inner boundaries and our codes of conduct, or our thoughts will be confused. And if our thoughts are confused, we will become hopelessly lost in the maze of life. Confused thoughts produce confused results.
Remember the law: "For every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards." Learn the discipline of writing a card or a letter to a friend. Learn the discipline of paying your bills on time, arriving to appointments on time, or using your time more effectively. Learn the discipline of paying attention, or paying your taxes or paying yourself. Learn the discipline of having regular meetings with your associates, or your spouse, or your child, or your parent. Learn the discipline of learning all you can learn, of teaching all you can teach, of reading all you can read.
For each discipline, multiple rewards. For each book, new knowledge. For each success, new ambition. For each challenge, new understanding. For each failure, new determination. Life is like that. Even the bad experiences of life provide their own special contribution. But a word of caution here for those who neglect the need for care and attention to life’s disciplines: everything has its price. Everything affects everything else. Neglect discipline, and there will be a price to pay. All things of value can be taken for granted with the passing of time.
That’s what we call the Law of Familiarity. Without the discipline of paying constant, daily attention, we take things for granted. Be serious. Life’s not a practice session.
Sonny Rollins turned 75 not long before his performance this week at the UC Davis Mondavi Center. As is typically the case, my wife Liz purchased tickets to see Sonny and his band some six months prior to the concert. Funny how when the day rolls around, even after looking forward to it for months, we were distracted by parenting, chores, and the absence of energy for a cultural outing. We got angry with each other in the car not long after leaving our home. Our argument lasted and nearly ruined the evening.
Our lack of harmony met the odd confrontation of walking into the hallowed church of the arts where we were about to see one of the finest, most talented musicians to grace our good planet. The inspiration unfolded as a mirror to my foolishness. What focus and power this man represents after more than fifty years of honing and practicing his craft. I share this description from John Ellis (also a wonderful saxophone player that Sonny Rollins influenced):
“The term “organic” is used a lot in music. I think Sonny best defines
what that means–he’s an organic improviser. Listening to him is like
watching the sun rise or the trees grow. It never sounds forced, and
each idea develops from the next one. On top of that he has so much
humor and spirit–you can feel his eyes twinkle–or maybe it’s behind
his eyes, a sparkle, as if he’s amused by each phrase he discovers. And
it certainly sounds like every phrase is a discovery. He also has the
funkiest feel for time, but it’s really flexible. And his articulation,
like a drum. And his sound is beautiful, incredibly warm and direct–it
reaches out and envelops you.”
Seeing Sonny play the saxophone would cause most fans to be
introspective, but you have to be in harmony with yourself and your environment to allow the influence to wash
over you. The experience “sharpened my saw” in emotional and spiritual ways. It also to reminded me to focus on what is truly important.