On this week’s show (Episode 98) we were discussing the importance of learning to say no to things and to people and the concept of “busy” being a decision and why seeking a “work-life balance” might be telling you something about your choice in career (as posed by Debbie Millman in the book and on the podcast). A lot of this was spawned from a book I am currently reading called “Tribe of Mentors” by Timothy Ferriss. I am a big fan of Tim Ferriss dating back to the “4-Hour Workweek” and pre-order the majority of his stuff when it appears. He is insightful, logical, and clear, but mostly it is because he seeks help and guidance from others and reports them back.
As part of his method, he has developed 11 questions that he asks his podcast guests and those he interviews for his book, and I was intrigued by them. I started wondering how I would personally answer them.
So I am going to:
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
The book I have purchased the most is “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I loved it the first time I read it and keep giving away my copies so I have to keep buying my own again. I must have read the book 20 times and even have listened to the audiobook (and saw the movie but we will not discuss it here). By far the best by Bryson, it tells the story of his decision to walk the Appalachian Trail and everything that entails, but also includes a detailed history of the trail itself, the region, and the issues facing it. Great book.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
This is hard because the majority of my purchases are under $100 but if I had to choose one I would say it is the Moleskin Notebooks. I have one everywhere I go. They sit on my desk at work, on my desk at home, on my coffee table, and in my car. I even had one with me when I attempted the Infinitus last May. Thoughts and ideas pop into my head all the time and I am still just enough old school to like writing them down. The problem comes when I try to recall them at home and I wrote it at work. When I pool the books together I often find the same thing written in numerous places.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
I have had a lot of failures in my life, but I am not sure I’d call any of them a favorite. The danger in this question is the first thing that pops into my head are relationships. I have been married three times, which gives the impression that I am a “marriage hopper”, an impression I take considerable offense to. With each “failure” I have learned something, which is not to say I have learned what I WANT, but rather I have learned what I DON’T want. My first I was young (19) and really wasn’t ready for marriage. It was more of a connection to home when I was in the Navy, and when I went to shore duty it became very clear that we had grown distant. The second was a huge mistake, basically taking a friendship to a place it should never have been taken to. The third lasted 23 years. I am still learning what the take away from that one is, but I am figuring it out. I am not sure if it will lead to later success. Maybe the “success” is that I need to wait for the right person. Some say it is seeking perfection, which is fruitless, but like my favorite say goes; I don’t know how much time I have left. I might as well be happy.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
My favorite saying of all time is “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”. A simple saying in the mirror of all cars right? It means to me that the things in your past may feel like they are right there on top of you, but in reality, they are far behind you and you need to let them go and move forward. Some are harder to let go of than others; hurt, anger, betrayal (see the previous answer for that one) and stick with your psyche for a long time. But you cannot be happy, be at peace, until those past transgressions, those against you AND caused by you, are truly put behind you and released.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
My first instinct was to say “my bike” but that is cheating because I had help obtaining that item, so I have to think of something I personally have invested in. This was a hard question for me because when I hear the term “invest” I immediately go to money, and this doesn’t have to be about money. So I think of time, effort, etc. I’d have to say that the time invested in myself since 2010 has been the most worthwhile. Yes, it put a strain on an already strained relationship and caused as much heartache and heartbreak as it has caused good, but the end result is that I am healthier, wiser, and opened up a new door for me (blog, podcast, coaching) that I have never envisioned for myself.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
OK. Deep confession time. I played in bands from a young age and I still miss it. I am not comfortable in public situation and more apt to be in the corner by myself than to be mingling (unless I am brought into the conversation by someone), but when I was playing in a band I was very at ease. I miss that feeling. So my strange habit is that when I listen to music I still envision myself on stage playing that song. I have done this my whole life, and it always seemed weird to me, but what I have found later in life is that it calms me, especially if feeling anxious or depressed or angry. So I am going to keep doing it.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Easy one. The newfound running, cycling, swimming, hiking habits have improved my life, my mental state, and my demeanor. I am still heavy, and I still struggle with some mental issues, but I am 100% better than I was 5 years ago.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
The easy answer is to forget about the money focus and find something you love to do. Seth Godin said it best that instead of planning for a vacation, seek a life that you do not need to escape from. Stay single, do everything you want to do while you can before settling down. You have your whole life ahead of you. People you love or say they love you will be there in the end if they really do. Find your own place in the world. Not your parent’s place, or your grandparent’s place. It drives me crazy when I hear someone say they joined the <<insert military branch here>> because their father and grandfather did. That’s nonsense. I believe the military is a great place to “grow up” and learn responsibility and perseverance, but you can learn that elsewhere too. Do what YOU want to do. Live YOUR life, not theirs
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
So many to count, but if I had to choose just one it’s when someone says “well, at least you have a job”. I cannot tell you how much I hate that saying. It made sense when jobs were scarce, and I was out of work most of 2011, but to settle for something you don’t like, or just because the “benefits” are good is soul-sucking. Believe me, I know. I am knee deep in it right now. As I said in the previous portion, find something you love when you’re young and before you have life responsibilities.
In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
I am not sure I am really good at saying “no” when I need to say it. At work, you are hand tied because you cannot just say no to things. I have been saddled with jobs that others should be doing because I happen to be faster and more accurate, so it adds to my daily workload. I should say no to it but I cannot. I still worry too much about hurting feelings, even at the risk of my own mental state and being. I like things comfortable and I am done apologizing for wanting that. So this is my goal. Learn to say no to things that do not make you happy and the things that do not move you toward your goal. Saying no cuts out the static in your life.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
I don’t have a lot of friends, so talking to people is not an option most of the time. Even those that I count as my friends are not always available, and even when they are they are not there all the time. Not through any fault of theirs. They have their lives to deal with also. I tend to retreat into myself. I listen to music. I binge on stupid TV shows or movies. I go for a run or a bike. Basically, anything to get my mind off the issue is what I do.