15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.


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Always Choose Growth

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Consider two farmers. Farmer John has a thousand acres of land that he inherited. But because he neglected his crops throughout the year, his harvest wasn’t quite enough to cover his expenses, so at the end of the year he sells one acre of his land to farmer Mike. Farmer Mike only has twenty acres of land, but because he produced a bountiful crop, at the end of the year, he used his extra cash to buy another acre from Farmer John.

Which farmer would you say is a better influence on young, impressionable, farmers-in-training? Farmer Mike, right? Go back and read the last paragraph if you forgot which farmer is which.

Even though Farmer John is worth 50 times more, everyone wants to be a farmer, own a business, or play basketball like Farmer Mike. That’s because of the success principle: “where you are is not nearly as important as where you are going.”

We really only have two options. Growth or decline. Stasis is a myth. If you are not moving, you are like water that is not moving. You become stagnant. If you do not use muscles, they atrophy. If you do not use your brain in a regular and stimulating way, it begins to decay.

When we are infants, every experience in life is brand-new. Every muscle movement, every sensory input and every emotion is something that we are learning for the first time. As youngsters, we are placed in an environment where we are assigned reading, math, history. We are learning through our school years. Even when we get a new job, we need to learn new skills, new routines, a new driving route. When we stop learning, we start losing our mental edge. We get bored. We get lazy. That is when we start getting older.

That is why even though Farmer John is worth 50 times more than farmer Mike, we view Mike as the more successful of the two.

Always choose growth. As an adult you have to be intentional about your own growth, since nobody is assigning you learning material anymore. No matter how dismal your current circumstances, if you’re always in the process of growing, you are more successful than someone with much more money that is stagnating.

Stop staring at your feet, start staring at the horizon. <– Tweet that.

What are you doing today, to grow you to a new level a year from now?

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Let the Music Match Your Words

integrity

According to the world’s foremost expert on the subject of leadership – John C Maxwell – integrity is the most important aspect of leadership. Integrity means that your words match your actions, that your character matches your words, that you do what you say you will do.

For you to lead people, they need to trust you. Trust is an incredibly fragile thing. One dishonest action and trust is lost. Two or three perceived dishonesties or questionable acts will cause people to question whether or not they can trust you.

In Hawaii, there was a local musician named Brother Iz (Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, yes I had to look that up). His most famous song was his remake of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” performed on the ukulele. But one of his other songs was a song called Johnny Mahoi. It’s a song about a bright young boy that falls in with the wrong crowd, joins a gang and gets killed in a fight. Tragic story, right? The problem, is that like most songs played on the ukulele, it is a happy, upbeat tune. The words do not match the music. Because of that disconnect, the message of the song is not particularly impactful.

It’s the same way with people. If your words don’t match the music behind it, you are seen as lacking integrity and people will not trust you. When you genuinely care about people they can tell. When you talk negatively about people behind their backs, they can tell. Because the music in your voice doesn’t match the words you are speaking.

If you are a boss and you tell your employees that they need to be at work on time, but you are routinely late, you lose integrity in the eyes of your employees. Some of them will comply, some of them will not. The ones that do not will feel justified in being as late as you.

If you tell your children to be honest, but they witness you lying to somebody, this will almost certainly cause them to rebel.

Once you lose integrity, you lose trust. Once you lose trust, you lose the ability to influence positively.

Some very simple yet profound words to live by: “Say what you believe. Do what you say.” In fact, you should go and tweet that right now.

In addition to integrity, what else would you consider to be a vital aspect of leadership?


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Easter Egg Hunt Failure

eggOne year I had to explain the concept of an Easter egg hunt to a foreign exchange student. But I was a little sparse on details. Actually, I just handed him a basket of plastic eggs and told him “hide these.” He immediately went to the bank and put them in his safety deposit box. Then the hunt began. Twenty minutes and eight crying children later, I found out what he did with the eggs. That was an Easter egg hunt failure.

That story happens to be fictional, but there is a point to it which I will get to in about ten paragraphs.

A modern urban definition of “Easter egg” is something hidden in a movie, story, or painting. An Easter egg in a movie would be a prop placed in the background or foreground that has nothing to do with the plot, but may have some hidden meaning to the audience.

An example of an Easter egg in a comic book could be something like this:
Spider-man in his civilian identity gets onto an airplane and hears the pilot making an announcement: “this is your pilot, Jordan Ferris, along with copilot Hal Carol.”

There, did you see it? If you didn’t, it’s only because you’re not an enormous geek like myself. The Easter egg there is a little play on names for comic book fans. “Hal Jordan” is the air-force-test-pilot-secret-identity of Green Lantern. “Carol Ferris” is his boss/love interest. Take their names, scramble them to avoid a lawsuit, hide them in plain sight to excite the geeks like me, and presto: Easter egg. Also some would interpret that as a slam from Marvel comics against DC saying that Green Lantern is only fit to be Spider-man’s chauffeur.

A more historical example, since I do have a BA in art, is the painting “Ambassadors” by Holbein.

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger (1533)

See that weird shape at the bottom of the painting? Click on the image to see a larger version, then look at it from an angle, so that you’re looking at it from the top right edge of your computer’s screen. I’ll wait while you try that… (Insert Jeopardy theme song here).

If you look at it just right, you should see a human skull. A near-perfect human skull, so you know it had to be deliberately painted. Also the painting was commissioned to be placed to the left of the doorway, so that as you exit the room, the last thing you would see is a glimpse of a skull following you. This may be the first official use of subliminal imagery by an artist in history.

So what is the point of these Easter egg examples and that story from paragraph one? I have been placing Easter eggs in my blog now for several months. Mine have been in the form of funny/goofy messages hidden in the images on each blog that you can read by hovering the cursor over it. Nothing hilarious mind you, just me showing I can be clever if I want to. Nobody ever bothered to comment on one of my sub-captions, but it didn’t occur to me that it was because nobody ever found one.

Until last week, when I hid a “golden egg” in my post. One with a contest and a prize. Even if nobody wanted the prize (a free eCopy of my first book) I’m sure that somebody in the world would want to answer the three questions correctly, just to show how smart they are. That’s when I figured out, nobody is participating in my Easter egg hunt.

I think one reason is that I was hiding the eggs in my safety deposit box. I am old school when it comes to technology. I realized, looking at my blog on an iPhone, nobody can see the Easter eggs on a mobile device because they cannot float a cursor over the image because they have no cursor. I am also guessing, that people that subscribe to RSS feeds may have a similar problem. I can’t say for sure, because I have no idea how to subscribe to an RSS feed myself.

So, cancel the search, I’ll just hand you an egg.

This is NOT Dilbert. This is a character inspired by Dilbert. Identify 3 ways that Herbert is not Dilbert and I will send you a free eBook of my first book.

Here in this photograph, is a picture of Herbert who appeared in my past blog “Actions Trump Intentions“. Herbert is inspired by the Scott Adams character Dilbert. For the first five people who can identify three differences between Herbert and Dilbert I will send you a free eCopy of my first book, It Takes 15 Minutes to Change Your Life. Just send an email to feedthegoodwolf@live.com with your answer.

 


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… This is a test of the emergency dictation system

microphone2

(to test my microphone and voice recognition software this entire post will be composed of me dictating my entire last post. Not including this portion here in the parentheses.)

(Actually before I get into it I would like to point out how impressive it is that the dictation software actually recognize the difference of me wanting to have it spell out the word parentheses as opposed to just including a parentheses.)

… I am experiencing technical difficulties.
Nothing serious, I’ve been scratch that I’ve just been trying to attach a headset microphone to my computer. I spent a good six hours yesterday with a stupid headset mic trying to make it record my voice.
Quick back story: a publisher recommended setting up a workstation so that you could” speak your book” Tatian. I’ve never used a dictation program before, but I figured it would be great for me, since I do most of my writing longhand in a composition book. Not always, but a lot. For example, I am typing this strictly on my computer, since I happen to be sitting here, battling the evil forces of broken technology and have an important update which I am getting to. The downside is that when I type directly on my computer my thoughts tend to derail easily and all go off on a tangent and have to make an abrupt directional change skin jar the reader. Like the talking dog in the Pixar movie”” that would every once in a while stop in the middle of doing something and yell quote squirrel!”
(Scroll back to see what I was talking about before I” squirreled)
… Then I transcribe what I wrote to my computer later. Dictation seems like a great way to speed up the second part of that process. It would also help me to work on my pronunciation and diction, because after listening to my radio interview I realized I could stand to clean up my speaking skills.
Which began the battle of the microphone. I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it when it works, and he needed the rest of the time. Windows 7 is friendly enough to tech laggards like myself. But sometimes so idiot proof that it will not allow you to explore additional options. The troubleshooter kept telling me the device is working normally then would shut itself off.” How could you possibly know that without actually trying to record something you pompous adding machine? You are not working!” Tatian
drivers were updated. Reboot. Microphone not microphone not muted, change default audio recording device, make sure the levels are okay, try Windows forums to see if anyone else is having the same problem. So, the microphone itself must be broken. I took it to a friend of mine, plugged it into his laptop and in under 30 seconds handed it back to me and said it’s working here
her.
Still refuses to work on my computer.
So I tossed it.
I have an old WebCam that’s been sitting in a drawer for a few years which has a microphone built into it. I plugged it in and it worked in under 30 seconds, with modern technology is supposed to. Even managed to record myself saying” voice check, testing 12, testing 12, A, B, C…” H and and play it back!
All of this prose is just a quick update to explain that my next post will be dictated to my computer. I really meant this to be about a three or four sentence post, but I just kind of. Period. Squirreled.

(Okay, I’m typing again now. It took me a couple of minutes to dictate that post and obviously it would require a bit of editing and formatting before it would be publishable. I left it in it’s 100% raw form so that you could see what my computer thinks of my voice. I did practice a little bit before this attempt here, so I would know how to include punctuation and whatnot. My overall judgement is that despite the flaws and quirks, this would actually be slightly faster than my normal process of writing->typing->publish. Also, supposedly the software gets better over time as it learns your particular voice, diction, vocabulary and idiosyncratic expressions so that’s something to look forward to. Technology, I no longer hate you as much as I did yesterday…)


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Please Stand By…

microphone

…I am experiencing technical difficulties.

Nothing serious, I’ve just been trying to attach a headset microphone to my computer. I spent a good six hours yesterday with a stupid headset mic trying to make it record my voice.

Quick back story: A publisher recommended setting up a workstation so that you could “speak your book.” I’ve never used a dictation program before, but I figured it would be great for me, since I do most of my writing long hand in a composition book. Not always, but a lot. For example, I am typing this directly on my computer, since I happen to be sitting here, battling the evil forces of broken technology and have an important update which I am getting to. The downside is, that when I type directly on my computer my thoughts tend to derail easily and I’ll go off on a tangent and have to make an abrupt direction change which can jar the reader. Like the talking dog in the Pixar movie “Up” that would every once in a while stop in the middle of doing something and yell “Squirrel!”

(scroll back to see what I was talking about before I “squirreled”)

…then I transcribe what I wrote to my computer later. Dictation seems like a great way to speed up the second part of that process. It would also help me to work on my pronunciation and diction, because after listening to my radio interview I realized I could stand to clean up my speaking skills.

Which began the Battle of the Microphone. I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it when it works, and hate it the rest of the time. Windows 7 is friendly enough to tech-laggards like myself. But sometimes it’s so idiot proof that it will not allow you to explore additional options. The troubleshooter kept telling me the device is working normally then would shut itself off. “How could you possibly know that without actually trying to record something you pompous adding machine? You are not working!”

Drivers were updated. Reboot. Microphone not muted, change default audio recording device, make sure the levels are okay, try Windows forums to see if anyone else is having the same problem. Obviously, not a software problem. So, the microphone itself must be broken. I took it to a friend of mine, who plugged it in to his laptop and in under 30 seconds handed it back to me and said it’s working.

Grrrr.

Still refuses to work on my computer.

So I tossed it.

I have an old webcam that’s been sitting in a drawer for a few years which has a microphone built into it. I plugged it in and it worked in under 30 seconds, like modern technology is supposed to. Even managed to record myself saying “Voice check, testing one-two, testing one-two, alpha, bravo, charlie…” and play it back!

All of this prose is just a quick update to explain that my next post will be dictated to my computer. I really meant this to be about a three or four sentence post, but I just kind of… squirreled.


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Actions Trump Intentions

“You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.” ~Scott Adams

All of us influence someone in our lives. Our friends, our families, strangers that cross our paths. According to one study, even the most introverted person, will influence as many as 10,000 people in his lifetime. So if I were to ask if you were a good influence or a bad influence, how would you answer? 99% of people would answer: good.

Then you would think for a while and realize that 99% of people in the world are not positive influences. In fact, I run into negative people all the time that irritate me and they are definitely a bad influence. Yet everyone thinks that they are good.

Universally most people think of themselves as good. Even bank robbers think that they are pretty good people compared to murderers. And murderers can justify their need to kill and take solace in the fact that at least they didn’t torture their victims first. So not one of us, right down to Charles Manson, thinks that we might be a bad influence on someone.

But very often we are.

In fact, it usually takes something dramatic to bring to light our own shortcomings; to allow us to see what we are doing from outside of that box that we normally live in. Alcoholics call it a moment of clarity.

One successful corporate husband, running along with his wife on a management fast track, one day overheard his daughters as they were “playing executive” in the den. The elder daughter carrying his briefcase said to the younger, “I’m going to be working late tonight. This is company business and company is more important than family.”

That was a wake up call. To outside appearances his family was doing well, living in an affluent neighborhood, climbing the corporate ladder, daughters in private school. But the influence that he was having on his daughters–through his absence–was that his daughters thought they were not as important a part of his life as his boss, his title, his paycheck. All things that a young child could care less about.

People only judge themselves by their intentions. Every one else, they can only judge by their actions. So his daughter saw all the best days of the best years of his life going to a faceless “company.” How could she not think that company is more important than family?

Which is more important, your child or a television? Have you ever yelled at your child to be quiet because you couldn’t hear the television? Just wanted to throw that out there to show that I’m not picking on the corporate guys only.

If we want to influence people positively, we need to do it through actions. And we need to make sure that we are conveying the right message through our actions.

You cannot influence someone for the better through good intentions only.

There is a happy ending to that story about corporate couple X. They left the rat race and started their own business. Even though the hours were equally grueling, this was a family business. Since the husband and wife were now on one track rather than two individual tracks, their efforts became synergistic and before long, she was able to carve enough time out of their schedule that she could home-school their daughters (and have a third one along the way). They were willing to take drastic actions to prove that family is more important than “the company.”

To all you working class folks who want to demonstrate the same thing through your actions, turn off the television in the middle of a program when your child starts telling you a story.

Who has been influential in your life? Do they know it?


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The Tao of Writing Do

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I compare writing to exercise a lot. Like exercise it’s something that’s easier to do if you do it continuously, it can become a habit through repetition and the more you do it the better you get at it. I wanted to explore the topic of doing different types of exercise; including writing exercises.

Like my kung-fu teacher, Bruce Lee used to say, (full disclosure: I have never met Bruce Lee, he died when I was 2 years old, but I’ve read some of his books) it is better to practice precision exercises first, before endurance exercises. As you tire, you begin to get sloppy. If you practice precision exercises while you are fatigued, you repeat moves sloppily and develop bad habits.

While writing my first book, I never considered this lesson. For example, is there a best practice when it comes to your personal writing style? I’ve heard some authors say that they do their best writing first thing in the morning before 8:00 am, while some people are still hitting their snooze button for the fifteenth time at 8:00 am. Does it take you a few minutes of warm-ups while writing before you actually start coming up with something printable? When I was still writing fiction, I used to scribble some sketches before I would start writing.

Is writing a precision exercise or is it an endurance exercise? To be honest I’m not really sure. I went for a short jog moments ago, Bruce Lee popped into my mind as I got home, so I jumped directly onto my laptop and started typing. Then, I’m planning to stop after this paragraph, set it aside until tomorrow morning, and see what kind of sense this blog post makes.

I know this seems strange to you, because as you’re reading this, I’ve already gone through this whole process, but to help you see things from my point of view, imagine a montage sequence starting right now involving me going to the store, eating fish and vegetables for dinner while reading a book by John C. Maxwell, taking a shower, then going to bed. And now I am coming back to my computer the next morning and typing my thoughts on what I just wrote, right…. now!

After a good night’s sleep and a cup of chai tea, I’ve looked over what I wrote yesterday. I see that I have no typos and each sentence appears to be cogent and articulate. Although this entire blog post seems to be lacking a central theme or point. Maybe the point is that writing is not necessarily a precision exercise, but an endurance exercise. Don’t worry about the optimal time, the optimal method, or the optimal practice–just do it.

Or maybe there is no point when dealing with the Tao of The Art of Writing. It doesn’t have to have purpose it just has to be.