15 Minutes

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

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Why We Don’t Set Goals


Having this app track my jogging route with a moving red line makes me want to fight Nazis.

The first chapter of my first book is all about goals. How to set goals, how to keep your goals updated and relevant and in front of you all the time. A whole slew of reasons on why it makes sense to have goals. They keep you enthusiastic, they keep you focused. If you think and dwell on your goal you are drawn towards it.

I think everyone understands the concept that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. I’m sure most people have heard of the case studies comparing classmates that set goals absolutely obliterating the accomplishments of those that didn’t set goals. Yet there are still very few people that actually set precise, specific goals for their lives. If they do have a goal then it is a vague, indistinct goal.

I’m guilty of this. Even very recently, despite the fact that I wrote a chapter on this very subject.

I finally healed from various injuries enough to start running a few months ago, and I’ve been semi-regular at it since then. But I never set an actual precise, specific goal. Just kind of getting out the door to “get in shape.” Which is of course better than sitting at home with a bowl of ice cream, but with the vague, indistinct goal of “get in shape” it’s easy to lose focus, lose enthusiasm, and skip the occasional day. Or week.

I was advised (thank you, Cinda) to set some kind of running goal, like to enter an upcoming 5K race. But I never did. I dragged my feet (which probably accounts for my slow jogging speed) and just sort of slogged through my workouts. I didn’t set a goal because:

  • I didn’t feel that I knew enough about fitness to set a running goal. Which is dumb because I have access to a personal trainer and I could have asked.
  • I was lazy. Which is also dumb because I was expending the energy to go outside and run but not willing to exert the mental effort to figure out a goal.

So, ignorance and laziness were my two reasons.

Last night however, as I was leaving my front door and turning on my running app trying to get a good GPS signal… My phone app threw down a challenge! It invited me to accept the Echo 50K Challenge.

The Challenge: “Track 50 kilometers with Runkeeper over the course of a month. They can be runs or walks, they just need to be GPS tracked!”
The Reward: “Get $20 off any Magellan Echo watch and three free months of Runkeeper Elite for completing!”monk

Now, I have no interest in a watch of any kind (because it hampers my kung-fu skills), but I thought that it was a cool idea to force people to move 50 kilometers to qualify for a discount on anything, so I hit “accept challenge.”

And just like that, my little free app tricked me into having a goal. A precise, specific goal. 50 KM in 1 month. And after consulting with a Canadian, I learned that kilometers are way shorter than miles!

So, to readdress those two lame excuses from before.

Ignorance is no excuse for not setting a goal. Make up some arbitrary number and make that your goal. If it’s too easy, you’ll know to set the bar higher next month. If it’s a statistical impossibility that you didn’t realize is utterly impossible, you’ll still be much better off striving towards perfection than ambling aimlessly.

Laziness is no excuse for not setting a goal. If anything, having a goal will empower and energize you. It gives you something to always strive towards. It’s what makes video games so addicting, because you are constantly trying to reach the next level or unlock the next badge. Not having the goal actually just adds to your burden.

A funny thing happened as I began running. The Runkeeper App sounds off every 5 minutes with your distance and pace. I usually keep my phone in my pocket with the volume turned way down, but at the 10 minute mark I managed to hear it say “distance 0.0 miles.” I fished my phone out of my pocket and sure enough, even though it showed I had a good GPS signal, for whatever reason it wasn’t counting the distance I had just run.

I had set a goal just ten minutes prior, and already adversity was conspiring against me! Which made me think of another reason that people don’t set goals: Fear. Fear of not attaining your goal, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish. Sometimes just the fear of standing out. How many times have you talked about some dream, goal or vision for your life to a group of “friends” and had them just belittle you for it? Remember, having goals is a rare thing, and being rare necessitates being different. Being different means facing opposition. And sometimes obstacles will be placed in your path to test your resolve.

Ignorance and laziness are dumb reasons that I had. Fear is not a dumb reason. Fear is a very real, potentially damaging force in our psyches. Fortunately it can be cured by a simple step: Action (which is coincidentally the second chapter in my first book, it’s almost as if my book has life lessons that are applicable to my daily life).

I’ll write next week on the subject of overcoming fear (look at me setting more goals), but in the meantime I want to encourage you to set a goal. Set a goal this week for something that you’ve never done before. And if you’re afraid to start, tune in next week for a blog post on overcoming fear.

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Eyes of Wonder

I was going to start posting previews of my upcoming book, but something unusual happened today that I feel warrants some reflection. I went swimming today for about fifteen minutes. The pool was crowded because the day was hot. Walked home, did some work on my computer, then put on my contact lenses. It had been about an hour since I left the chlorine bath that is a communal pool, and my lenses stung slightly as I put them in, but that’s happened to everyone who has ever worn contact lenses.

I left, got my coffee, found a table near the water at a nearby mall where I do most of my reading and writing, and proceeded to read and write. It was probably about two hours later that I noticed my eyes getting foggy. That is another of those common occurrences that my fellow contact wearing people are familiar with. Sometimes you just get some crud in your eyes and the lenses get blurry. Usually you can blink it out or rinse it out with tears. I kept working for about an hour and the weird haze over my eyes was a little bit too persistent.

I returned home, went to the bathroom immediately to remove my lenses. When I did, my eyes started burning. I tried dropping some lens solution unto both eyes, which burned more. I flushed my eyes with water which also burned my eyes. And worse, when I managed to stop tearing and keep my eyes open long enough to focus, I saw that my vision was still clouded over by that haze.

Ok. The problem is not with my contact lenses, there’s something wrong with my eyes. My best guess? Some kind of chemical reaction with crowded pool water and all-in-one lens solution and possibly the lady who lit up a cigarette next to me at the mall all add up to a layer of film over the corneas that obscures my vision. It actually feels similar to when I had to get my eyes dilated for an optometrist exam.

I figured this would eventually go away, so I went about my daily business. Fed my dog, fed myself, sent some emails. Vision still screwed up. Now I’m wondering at this point if I’ve somehow permanently scarred the surface of my eyes.

While feeding my fish I noticed something. Two lights reflecting off the surface of the fish tank are surrounded by two perfect, circular rainbows that create a figure 8 hovering in front of the tank. My guess is from some kind of oily film on my eyes; you’ve seen how oil floating in a puddle of water refracts light right?

By now it’s dark outside, I’m not sure if my eyes will ever heal, and bright lights have rainbow auras. I don’t know how most people would have reacted to that combination of factors, but the obvious thing for me to do: I went for a walk.

It was like walking through the land of Oz.

There was still the persistent fog. But every street light was like a giant double-layer, rainbow-colored dandelion. The brighter the light the more distinct the bands of color. Depending on the type of light, different colors of the spectrum were more prevalent. The streetlamps closest to my house were bright white lights that radiated wide blue cores then dimmed out to thin red bands. Down the street the lights have a more orange tint, so the spheres were predominantly orange with barely visible blue cores.

I noticed that lights needed to be bright enough for me to see the aura. A car drove past me and stepped on it’s brakes. The red tail lights brightened enough to pass that threshold and I actually recoiled backwards from the sudden sphere of red that appeared.

At a distant intersection, three cars waited. All of their headlights were close enough and bright enough to combine into a single giant rainbow sphere. When the giant glowing red ball disappeared and the giant glowing green ball appeared below it, the cars drove towards me. As they got closer, they separated into three separate, dimmer, rainbow orbs; each with a slight variation in hue and intensity.

The half moon changed in intensity depending on how bright it was through the cloud cover. Most of the time it had a pale blue aura, but occasionally would shine bright, creating a huge double rainbow that dwarfed any other man-made lights.

It was a dreamlike experience, exploring my neighborhood. The fog over my eyes combined with dazzling colors that no one else could see. Walking through my own secret fireworks display.

I can’t help but think that there is some kind of lesson to be learned here.

  • Something about always looking for wonder in the world around you.
  • Always seeing things in a new light.
  • Being willing to look at the world or your own neighborhood as if it were brand new.
  • Or most importantly seeking joy in the face of adversity.

I know I have a reputation for being positive, but even I have to admit that maybe I’m annoyingly positive when my first instinct when faced with the possibility of having permanently damaged my eyesight is “I think I’ll go see what the world looks like now.”

Anyway, it is now five hours later and my eyes still haven’t returned to normal. In the morning I may be visiting a doctor. I know I don’t sound worried, but as far as I can tell, the worst case scenario is I have fuzzy vision for the rest of my life. It is a little inconvenient, but I can still see well enough to read and type. And every night sky will be filled with rainbows.


A Seriously Serious Inquiry


I made my radio debut this morning on 99.1 FM in Honolulu. Unfortunately it was airing while I was on the road, driving my best friend and a buddy of his to the airport to fly back home to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and since I can’t pick up that station in the neighborhood I was in, we missed almost the entire thing. We just managed to catch the last minute of the last segment, at which point I said, “Ew. Do I sound like that?”

Sigh. Still, very much a positive experience for the week.

When I published my first book I did nothing in the way of promotion and publicity and marketing. Because I knew nothing about any of those subjects. I started researching them after I published. The first expert on building a name brand and platform that I listened to was Michael Hyatt. He recommended that you start building your platform two years before you publish your book. And here I was already published and haven’t started yet.

So after that is when I created a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and this blog page. Also, right about that same time is when I responded to an ad to participate in a Reality TV show. If you read my “About Matt” page I describe myself as an “occasional actor.” All my previous acting experience was with an experimental theatre group called Theatricus (currently on production-hiatus). Our productions were all improvisational, environmental drama. Improvisational, so we had no scripts. And also environmental, so our venue was typically without a stage where we would take ownership of the location and incorporate the audience into the performance. Which perfectly equipped me for reality TV.

As it turns out, the owner of the company where I auditioned at was using the show as a means to recruit door-to-door salesmen for his company. And his partner on the show was a famous local comedian (not going to use his name because I didn’t ask permission first, I will call him Mr. A for now). The premise of the show would be to follow the development of this new company in Hawaii, and there would be a contest among the salesmen, where the first one to sell 100 Widgets would win $50,000, etc…

So I went through the training spiel, filmed some footage for web commercials, went out knocking on doors for training, all in preparation for this 6 week contest. After four months the contest hadn’t started yet, although the first few episodes of the show had already aired. For me, no big deal. I wasn’t there to earn a paycheck selling door-to-door, I was there to be on TV and hopefully gain some name recognition. But all the other people who signed on would quit, get replaced, quit, get replaced. Why? Because selling door-to-door sucks. I didn’t mind it, because I spent most of my time talking story with people. One day I spent over an hour talking to a gentleman named Mike who was a trained dog psychiatrist with three giant Saint Bernards and I never once pitched him what I was selling. But I did gain some valuable insight into why my dog acts the way he does, so it was a good day.

Over the course of time, the video cameras were around a lot less in the office. And management started leaning on me for not getting more sales. So I stopped showing up. No cameras, no contest, no reason for me to be here. And they wouldn’t miss me since I had five sales in five months. I’m sure I could have had ten in a single afternoon, I just never talked to a single friend or family member in a city that I grew up in. A few weeks later, I saw a post on Mr. A’s Facebook page that he was no longer affiliated with the company.

I did get to know Mr. A a bit when he made appearances in the office. Like most of the Hawaii celebrities I’ve met, he was a very down-to-earth, local boy. One day he told me, “Hey, Matt! I like your tweets.” Everyone in the company was encouraged to create a twitter account, so we were all following each other. One of the things about Mr. A, was that most of his tweets were not just comedy, they were about encouraging people to dream big and pursue your dreams and goals, which I of course am all about. Then three weeks after I read about him leaving the company, I got a message from him on Twitter. Paraphrasing our exchange here:

  • Wassup, Matt! (that’s a typical greeting here). Crazy busy month, just trying to forget the last year. Let’s keep in touch.
  • Hey, I meant to ask. Did you get the book I left you in the office a few months ago?
  • No I haven’t been back there for awhile.
  • Send me your address, I’ll send you a copy of my book.

(the next day. Wow! Local mail is fast!)

  • Got it, Matt! I have two books I want to publish! You want to promote it on my radio show?

I think my eyes actually made a “boing!” noise.

So, while in the studio I found out a little more about what was going on with the show. Mr. A was the one who came up with the original concept for the show. The company owner that was bankrolling the project took over and kept Mr. A bound in an incredibly tight contract. He kidnapped Mr. A’s local fame for credibility and turned his show concept into a weekly commercial for his company.

That’s okay though. Strength through adversity. So, after all that: This morning I got to be on the Mr. L and Mr. A radio show, and my book will be the first book reviewed on their brand new L&A book club. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help out Mr. A get his two books published before the Christmas season starts. And who knows, since it was Mr. A, and not this other company owner that originally pitched the show to A&E, the reality show is still on the table for him and I might be able to wiggle my way into the show and make an appearance on national television.

But seriously, does my voice sound like that?