15 Minutes

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


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15 Minutes of Non-Stop Free-Writing

I’m sure everyone that has ever taken a writing course has done this exercise before. Just write for X amount of time and do not stop. Free-writing–or stream of consciousness writing–is designed to get you to start writing, stop thinking through all your filters and just flow.

Like I tell a lot of people: “You can’t think your way out of a writing block; you must write your way out of a thinking block.” ~John Rogers

So, here goes:

Free writing – I’m blank – a blank slate. I have no ideas at the moment, so I am going through the mechanical motions of writing – my mind is tuning with my hand. This is the same process I used when writing my first book – the thoughts direct the hand, I am focusing on the end product – I am generating words – this is my goal – to write. Not to write well, not to inspire, not to become the best in the world. To write, to practice, to prepare, eventually inspiration will come, eventually I will sift through enough dirt and soil to find gold and diamonds – this though, this is just exercise. This is my cardio routine, this is me going through the motions – of successfully filling this page with words I will not publish – this is me revving my creative engine at full tilt – pushing towards the red zone – making a lot of noise and smoke and fire and generating sound and fury and excitement. This is all part of the process. Every day is not scoring a homerun or winning a Pulitzer prize – every day is not Superbowls and marathons. But every day is important. Every day is an opportunity to work on basics. Every day is an opportunity to exercise, to practice, to stretch your legs, stretch your mind, go through the routines that will eventually refine you into a winner. Shake off the cobwebs and put yourself through the motions, overcome inertia, defeat lethargy and defeatism. Don’t try to be great, just be willing to prepare each day for greatness.

So, that was a fun little diversion. I think faster than I write, so I manage to come up with cogent sentences, although the dash becomes my universal punctuation mark while free-writing.

How do you get yourself out of a productivity slump?

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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.


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Hurry Up and Wait

hourglassThis may come as a shock, but I am not an expert on everything I write about. When you write a book, there comes along with it the perception of expertise, of mastery, of wisdom. But the fact is I (and most authors) are human; and as humans we are imperfect.

I write about being productive with time, but there are times when I am lazy. I write about taking action immediately, but there are times when I procrastinate. In fact, I used to be an expert at procrastination. Now there is something I could write a book about, but (you know what, insert your own punchline here…).

Today, I thought I’d write on a subject that I am an expert in, and that is: Patience.

Patience has always been one of my strengths; probably because of my quasi-Zen philosophical upbringing and the fact that I don’t have children yet. But I never thought of patience as being something of any particular value until later in life.

1. Patience keeps us focused on the present. We are only impatient because we want something to happen that hasn’t happened yet. The promotion, the traffic light, the bag of popcorn in the microwave. Just realize, that what you are waiting for is going to happen, and very rarely can we do anything to speed up the process. Being anxious or worrying about it will not affect the future, but it will hurt us in the present.

Since worrying about your promotion will not help you, just focus on performing your work right now with excellence and enthusiasm. Let the promotion take care of itself. Since swearing at the red light will not help you get to your destination any faster, why not enjoy the song currently playing on the radio? Since standing next to the microwave staring at it will not make the popcorn pop faster… Actually, that’s a bad example since microwave popcorn requires your attention so you can stop it before it burns. Don’t sweat over your burrito though.

Don’t try to pull the future to you faster.

2. Patience helps provide emotional stability. When we are impatient, we have shorter tempers, we are stressed, we fret. When we are patient, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about things, just that we have the fortitude to wait. (“Patience is passion tamed.” Lyman Abbott).

Patience eliminates a great deal of stress, which in turn allows the patient person to maintain calm and balance even under stressful circumstances. Just recognize that time will eventually overcome a current problem or hardship. Now, I am not advocating inactivity or passivity. Just realize that all we can do, is all we can do; and once we do all we can do, the rest requires patience.

3. Patience helps to nurture growth. John Maxwell, expert on leadership and personal growth writes that “Leaders develop daily, not in a day.” The mentality of growth by lottery, or sudden inspiration, or through instantaneous quantum leap transformation is a myth not a reality.

To grow mentally, physically or spiritually, requires consistent and persistent activity compounded over time. Impatient people want the results now and maybe they will promise to do the work later. But unfortunately life does not work that way. Patient people recognize the need to put the work in now and reap the results later. This allows them to focus on the immediate work; the process rather than the results.

Those are my thoughts on patience.

“But I never got around to it!” That was the punchline for that sentence. Scroll back up if you don’t remember what I was talking about. Sorry, I couldn’t wait…


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Get Ripped Mentally

This just happens to be on my mind because I’ve been away for a few days and need to get back into my workout habit. Training yourself mentally is not that different from physical training. A lot of the same principles apply to personal development that you would include in your exercise regimen.

1. Vary your workout

How to Win Friends and Influence People is an awesome book that will help you in just about every aspect of life. I recommend that everyone read it in the 4th grade then reread it once a year. But there are hundreds of other books that are available to help you no matter what your vocation or calling. You should be reading from a broad range of books, just like you should work out different muscle groups. Limiting your mental development to one book is like limiting your workout to just the bench press.

Not only should you read, but you should listen to audio recordings of seminars and lectures of successful teachers. Think of that as the cardio portion of your workout.

2. Get a trainer

There is a world of difference between working out on your own and having a personal trainer. Just as there is a huge difference between learning from a book and having a tutor.

You should seek out a mentor to help and guide you. A mentor is like a coach. They can see things from a perspective that you cannot and help you correct mistakes. A mentor can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. A mentor can help you to develop a regimen to maximize your effectiveness and push you or encourage you when you need it.

3. Track your progress

A lot of personal development tools and seminars are targeted specifically for professional sales. One thing about salesmen, is that they tend to measure their success only by their sales, which is why so many of them quit before making a breakthrough.

The problem with only counting sales, is that closing the sale happens at the end of the process. What about progress and improvements along the rest of the steps of a sales call. Tracking allows you to look back and see how effective you were on invite, approach, rapport, rebuttals, etc..

If you’re not in sales, then figure out some other way to track your progress. Many personal development tools come in the form of kits that include DVD’s, CD’s and workbooks.

4. Rest

I think most people understand the concept of working out a muscle. You exercise, you push the muscle to the point of fatigue, then the muscle rests and becomes stronger. Your brain also needs time to replenish. A mind given a chance to rest is sharper, while all work and no play makes Jack into a psycho killer.

These are my tips on personal growth and development from the point of view of a personal exercise trainer. Disclaimer: I am not a personal exercise trainer.

Any personal trainers or fitness gurus have anything they want to add or correct?