Saturday, October 24, 2009

No shoes

Something wonderful happened to me recently. It seemed too good to be true. And so I started thinking "when will the other shoe drop?"

So many of us spend far too much time wondering about when and how life will take a turn for the worse. This isn't healthy. And it's counterproductive.

Worrying about the future degrades your ability to live in the present. And not living well in the present degrades your future opportunities. So from a purely rational standpoint, it is far more productive to live your best now than to worry about the future. Let me be clear: I am not advocating an irresponsible worry-free life. This is not about "let us eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die." That is simply irrational escapism. It is no more intelligent than covering your eyes while driving so as to avoid an accident. What I am saying is that living life excellently will open up many doors to you and that you can only live excellently if you focus on what you are doing now. Distracting yourself with thoughts about future possibilities pulls you away from the very excellence that will ameliorate your future.

But worrying about the future does far more damage than simply to reduce your future value. Your present experiences are not just the keys to open doors you will chance upon in the future. Your present experiences become part of your soul. More accurately, your perceptions and interpretations of those experiences become part of your soul. When you are worrying about the possibility that there may be a chance that someday something bad might happen to you, you cast a shadow on everything you experience. You make it much more difficult to see beauty. And as life rolls on, your soul becomes gray and listless.

There is an alternative. You just refuse to focus on this. You take what comes your way and deal with it. When beauty crosses your path, you enjoy it. When you have occasion for laughter you grab it and shake loose every little peal. When love comes your way, you wrap yourself in it and luxuriate. And, when hard times come your way you deal with them too. But when you deal with them, you will be armed with a strong, vibrant soul.

And so, I have adopted a policy. The no-shoe policy. I will do my best to not think about or worry about any dropping shoes. I will live my life as best I can. Enjoy what the world graciously provides, try and accept whatever real limitations inhere in me or in nature. I will try and be smart and do what I can to create a better future but I will live in the world as it stands now and not in some imaginary world that might never come to be.

I invite you to adopt the no-shoe policy as well.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bald is beautiful

Well maybe not. But if you're going bald anyway, I highly recommend shaving your head. It's more honest, it feels great and I think generally, people dig it.

I had decided about a year ago that I might want to shave my head. Which I guess means I hadn't decided a damn thing. But I at least considered considering it. So over the course of a year I slowly had my hair cut shorter and shorter. I started with the #3 clippers and worked my way finally down to zero. No, zero doesn't mean no hair. You'd think it would, but, apparently, there is a quadruple zero. And even that doesn't mean you're bald.

Anyway, about a month ago I took the plunge and shaved my head. It's the way to go. The first few times I used a regular razor. But then someone told me about an awesome device made by HeadBlade. If you're going to shave your head, you must check out HeadBlade. The device they make does a much better job than the Gillette Fusion which is an expensive premium blade.

And, as a marketer, I love their brand. It feels like their stuff is made and marketed by guys for guys. It's a very cool brand.

If you're interested, click here and check out the products. I have the HeadBlade Sport and I also use their ClearHead product after I shave. If you buy using this link, you get 20% off your order and I get a 10% credit. Please use the following referral code when you place your order: 35609

And no, I'm not shilling for these guys. I love the stuff, I use it myself, the products are great and the company seems cool.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kudos to the folks at NB Web Express

I'm a big fan of New Balance footwear and, particularly, the good folks at NB Web Express. I really enjoy shopping there. They always provide great advice, they know what will fit me based on my foot type and previous purchases.

In September 2008 they sent me a coupon code for $50. I had just spent a lot of money with them and they wanted to reward me. I was very appreciative. It felt really nice to be recognized as a good customer and treated accordingly. I kept their email with the coupon code in my inbox. I figured with a year to redeem (super generous BTW) I would have plenty of time.

But a year-long redemption period is no match for my procrastination skills. And a few days ago I realized that the coupon had expired.

I sent them an email asking if they would extend the coupon. Sure enough, they sent me an email graciously offering to do so. And, upon my request, they sent me a note with my recent purchase and some suggestions on other shoes that might work for me.

I just love these guys. And that is why when I need sneakers or hiking shoes, I go straight to NB Web Express. I don't even bother looking elsewhere. They are loyal to me. And I am loyal to them.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Just because it's shiny

It's hard to stay on track.

First of all, you have to have a track. That's not so easy. You've got to figure out what animates you, makes your heart sing. Basically, you've got to find your soul. Having found it, you need to figure out how to create a life around it. How to spend your time. With whom to associate. How to earn a living...

BTW, I'm not saying you ought to pick a track and stick with it forever. You should always re-assess what you're all about. As Emerson famously said "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..." Your track needn't have been foolish from inception but as times change (and as you change), it may become foolish and obsolete. So no, don't pick a path and stubbornly follow it forever. But you should always be on some path. Know who and what you are and have a plan for being that. [Similar to Gretchen Rubin's "Be Gretchen" rule.]

And then you have to stay on track. And staying on track is really hard. Much like holding reservations after you've taken them.

You see, shiny objects are going to appear as you move through life attempting to manifest your soul in all that you do. Those shiny objects can be large and very shiny such as beautiful women or men that look so delicious but are all wrong for you, financial opportunities or jobs that can be lucrative but which will take you further from your soul... Or, they can be small and just sparkle a little bit when you're at a moment of weakness. A brief opportunity to say something hurtful to someone you'd really like to hurt, a chance to not tell someone something they ought to hear but which will be difficult to say, even parking in a handicapped spot for just 2 minutes.

But you've got to ignore the shiny objects. They aren't good for you. They will destroy your life. Because your life is entirely about your soul. The rest of it is all about enabling the soul. And the problem is that the soul is not subject to apprehension by the senses while all of the other stuff looks so vivid, smells so delicious, tastes...oh man how it tastes! But those things are not real the way your soul is.

So find a way. Muster the courage to ignore the shiny object in an effort to burnish your soul.

Stick with your ends

Everybody I know that works at a large company decries the bureaucracy that inhibits progress. And yet it continues. The system has a life of its own. It wants. It needs. It is jealous. And it protects its own interests by torturing and killing anyone who threatens its continuity.

Let's remember how it all started. Someone had an idea. A way to help people and earn money for it. At some point he needed help. So he got some of his buddies to join him. They worked together. They had some success. The rented office space. They got a few phones and some chairs. They printed business cards. They had some more success. They hired a few more people. At some point, someone asked for their policy on bringing dogs to work. Someone else wanted to know whether they had a company holiday on Arbor Day. So they realized they needed policies. They created an HR department and hired Lucinda the HR lady. They hired a law firm to review their HR policies. They indeed decided to hold a company holiday on Arbor Day and they instituted the annual company 'visit the local forest and bang drums' event.

And so it went. One day, the founders woke up and realized they had a culture. They had an organization. It had rules. There were forms to fill out. In quadruplicate. Their efficiency consultant told them quadruplicate was 327% more effective than triplicate. Oh, they had an efficiency consultant.

And when they beheld what they had wrought, they realized it sucked. People were doing things not because they were the right things to do. Not because they would advance the company, generate the greatest benefit for its customers or community. Employees - oh yeah, now they were called employees - did things because that's just the way it was done around there. The system was in control. Not reason. Not passion. Not the human soul and its constant yearning to improve itself and its environment. No, the system was hegemon.

But wait, we're just a couple of buddies with a great idea. We wanted to help people and make some money doing what we love. We are thinkers. We are entrepreneurial. We're against everything that the "system" stands for!

No. You are the system.

We build these systems because they provide a benefit. It actually isn't smart not to know the right way to do something. Society would not advance if we didn't figure things out and keep improving. And yeah, we do need Lucinda the HR lady.

But these are all means. They are tools for translating our passion into success on a bigger scale. If we just want to make 10 widgets per year by hand and sell them at local craft fairs, we don't need a system. But if we want to expand, we do. The danger lies in letting the means become ends to themselves. And this is the natural way for things to develop. We must fight this. The means cannot be allowed to exert their own sense of destiny to become ends. As long as the benefits they deliver outweigh their costs, they should be allowed to survive. But we must be constantly vigilant to insure we always keep their natural lust for power in check.

Otherwise we will wake up and realize that we serve the system rather than ensuring that the system serves us.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where are you hiding yourself?

There are so many interesting people out there. People who don't seem like other people. Who are just themselves. I'm not talking about wacky nutjobs who look like Jesus or wear hats made of tinfoil to prevent the aliens from recording their thoughts. I'm talking about "mainstream" people who are just themselves. Who bring a twist to whatever they do that comes from within and reflects what and who they are.

And then there are so many others - most people - who seem so desperate to prove that they are not themselves. These people want to be the average of everyone else. They won't use the word "average" to describe their aspirations. They'll tell you they want to be the best. They want to win. But they behave in ways guaranteed to snuff out anything interesting or novel.

These conformists are human. They have a soul, an essence. Try as they might to cram it down deep beneath their skin, I know it is there.

Let it out people. Please. You're not helping anybody - including yourself - by filing down every interesting facet of your personality. You're just making the world dull and less capable of producing the diverse ideas that we all need to thrive.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are you an 80 year old virgin?

If you've had some success in your life, you've probably built a good reputation in one or more areas and acquired for yourself some measure of influence. Influence is the ability to get other people to do things that they would not do in the absence of your actions.

This is good right?

Well, it can be. But too often I see people with influence using it to maintain the status quo. This is really nothing other than an effort to maintain the world in which their influence was grown so that it might continue to survive in the only petri dish it has ever known. This is hoarding influence rather than using it to effect positive change in the world.

But why hoard it? Why try to hold on to influence? Like any other asset, it only has value if it is used.

What are you saving yourself for? At some point you will have squandered your opportunities for improving the world. If you've already got influence, use it. It isn't going to get any better than it is right now.

In the end, you are going to be a dried up old hag. There's no avoiding that. The only question is whether you will look back with fondness on your struggles and successes as you tried to make your mark on the world or with regret at your having waited for just the right time.

Now is the right time. Don't let it pass you by. We need you!