Category Archives: Motivation

How To Fight The Quality Of Life Deamons and Win

While others are wasting time making new year’s resolutions to lose weight and fail, you can set a better new year’s resolution: to improve the quality of your life.

Say No To Others

People will always be offering you new projects (because you’re so good at your existing ones) or new social opportunities- just say no if you don’t want it.

Say No To Yourself

As a high achiever you will always want to do more. Just say no to yourself unless it directly helps you achieve your goals.

Set Aside Me Time

When you set aside time to do things you enjoy don’t give up that time. Don’t let your other tasks bleed into your time.

Watch Your Goals

At all times you want to keep on eye on your goals. In every action be mindful of what you ultimately want to accomplish.

Take Enjoyment From Everything You Do

Live in the moment. Look for opportunities to enjoy what you do.

Make The Best Of Your Situation

After years of hard work a friend was recently promoted to a senior role in his organization. Now he’s complaining the challenge is gone because the team he assembled can handle everything. So he’s thinking of going to another company so he start the fight again. Rather than moving on he should seek the challenges in his current role. Try to double revenue. Try to make the company better. Try to make the world better. With the machine he’s assembled he can achieve a lot more.

Happy New Year- beat those deamons.

Are you Successful or SuccessFool? 9 Questions To See If You’re A Fool

Many people run through their day being busy and trying to do everything but sometimes you have to ask are they successful or successfool? They fool themselves into believing they are productive because they are busy. Sometimes they fool others into thinking they are busy. Either way they aren’t being as successful as they can be.

What is a Fool?

A fool is someone whose outward presentation isn’t reality.
I know calling someone a fool is dangerous and I certainly don’t mean to demean people. This is just a way to highlight areas where we are not acting in our long term interests. Sometimes we fool ourselves.

Here’s some questions to ask yourself to see if you’re acting like a fool.

Are you Fooling Yourself?

  • Do you read every productivity article out there but don’t implement them?
  • Do you rush at the end of the day (or project) to accomplish your goals because you didn’t give a better effort earlier?
  • Do you really need to do what you’re doing?
  • Did you waste time doing a fun job that was unnecessary?
  • Do you snooze your alarm clock and go back to sleep?
  • Are you doing your subordinates work because you think you can do it better?

Are you trying to fool others?

  • Do you just generate a large stack of output from your task, but most of it doesn’t help achieve the goal?
  • Do you use big words when simple words would do?
  • Do you make exaggerated responses when people are around to highlight your hard work?

If you answered yes to the above questions think about ways to stop acting like a fool. Check in shortly for some suggestions.

Do you have other “fool” questions or scenarios?

How a Simple Story Answers All of Life’s Questions

The recent fable I told about David in Diamononia had some powerful lessons. It can help lead to the answers to life’s many questions. Here’s some more specific questions:

What’s better a gorgeous wedding or a gorgeous marriage? The New York Times has the answer.

What’s better keeping up with the latest styles or being comfortable in your own style?

What’s better being “well liked” or being your best? Willie Loman has the answer.

What’s better a teacher with many advanced degrees (e.g. papers) or a teacher who can teach? Malcolm Gladwell has the answer

Would you rather serve soup at a homeless shelter for free, or for $2 per hour? Scott Young has the answer.

Why didn’t that recent raise make you happier?  Simpleology has the answer.

The unifying answer to all of these is our view of money, materialism and externalizes. You can count on those to make you a success or you can count on your soul. I know which way I’d bet.

Next Actions:

  • Look at something you’ve been putting off because of money or other externalities and decide if you really need it.
  • Look at something you’re about to purchase and decide
  • Look at something you want to do but you think you can’t because you of an external factor and do it on your own (even in a small way).

Rich Lessons From David in Diamondonia

I recently wrote about a tale “David in Diamondonia” I heard when I was a child that still resonates with me years later. There are numerous lessons that can be learned from this simple story.

Here’s a few and then I’ll tell you about the one I thought of now decades later- that’s even more powerful than all of these.

  • Know your goal. While working hard to get were you want you should keep in mind the goal. Often while working we forget the main goals and principles that cause us working so hard. (Martin Wildam)
  • Think ahead. Instead of bringing money he should have brought candles – sell them for expensive and buy diamonds for those. (Martin Wildam)
  • Value is a completely relative thing. It depends on: Who, Where, When (Martin Wildam)
  • Give people what they want, not what you want.
  • Trust but verify. Even the best and brightest aren’t always doing the best thing. They need to have some monitoring.
  • Small gestures (of the right kind) can be worth much e.g. the diamond in his shoe.

But the lesson I recently thought of is that Diamonds (and money) are just our candle. Diamonds don’t do anything- they don’t make people happy, healthy or successful. Think about it- a diamond is just a glittery rock. Similarly dollars are just paper. Diamondonians aren’t stupider than us, we just have different value systems so we chase diamonds instead of candles. Because our world places such a high value on “diamonds”(material objects) we constantly strive for diamonds when we may be missing something more valuable. Certainly money or candles have value and are needed but at the end of the day they are only there to get you to your goal- they aren’t a goal.

Getting Fun Done (GFD): Teaching Corporate (er Family) Values

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Released to Public: Apollo 15 on the Moon (NASA)Corporate Values are taught by actions of leadership and stories that are passed down and around the company. Think of the pirate flag that flew over the Macintosh building when the software was being written. Isn’t that a precursor to “Think different“? Same with the “Don’t Be Evil” slogan that google used to inspire it in it’s fight against Microsoft. But how are family values taught? The same way, through stories. Because kids love stories It’s actually easier to teach family values and lessons through stories than teaching corporate values.

Where can you find appropriate stories?

  • Many classic children’s books teach good values. E.g. “The Three Bears” teaches don’t go into stranger’s houses. (Feel free to use “David in Diamondonia” which left a mark for me.)
  • Open your bible and you’ll see stories and lessons abound (any religion will have them). E.g. Abraham’s visit from the three angels and how he treated guests.
  • My personal favorite- make up your own story.

Making up your own story

The main advantage of making up your own story is that it can be tailored to the exact scenario you want. Kids are very forgiving so you can make up your own story it doesn’t have to be perfect. Make it interesting by throwing in facts that your kids can relate to such as the age of the characters being the same as your kids or the place that the story takes place is one that your kids are familiar with.

Reinforcing lessons

After the story ask your kids some questions to lead them to realize what the lesson was. Have them generate more lessons. Ask them what they would have done.

photo credit:

Are We Collecting Candles or Diamonds?

When I was around 10 years old I heard a parable that made such an impression on me that I never forgot it. The story had an important lesson that is just as important today as an adult- maybe more so.

David in Diamondonia

Once upon a time deep in the mountains of Russia a small community was in trouble. The harvest was weaker than the normal tiny output and there wasn’t much optimism for the future. There was little food, the houses were falling apart and many were residents were sick. The elders in the town got together and discussed their dim situation. They went through their options but there were none. They had tried all options in previous years and each year was just getting worse. There weren’t any good new ideas that the elders could came up with. Finally an old man spoke up and told of a far away land called Diamondonia. It was always dark in Diamondonia but it had diamonds for sale so cheaply that they were almost treated like rocks. The road to get to that land was long and dangerous. After much debate the elders of the town decided that this was their only hope. They decided to send a messenger to the far off land.

For a mission this important they needed to pick their smartest and ablest citizen a man named David.  They collected as much money as they could and sent him off with for his treacherous journey.

David traveled for months over mountains through the coldest cold he’d ever felt and across deserts with the hottest hot. There were many times he wanted to give up but he thought back of his town and continued on. Finally after almost a year of travels he was getting close to Diamondonia the sun was disappearing and it was getting darker. It was so dark that he could barely see.

Finally he came to a peddler selling candles. He asked about Diamondonia and got directions to the town- just one month away. He was excited. But the peddler warned him “You’ll need to buy many candles to make it to there and this is the last place you’ll be able to get it so cheap.” The candles were quite expensive, it cost five times more than it did in his town. He was wise and surmised that this peddler was honest. He needed the candles to keep going so he bought a bunch with almost all his remaining money.

Finally after one month of traveling he came to Diamondonia. There was a large commotion in the nearby market and he quickly ran there to buy diamonds. To his surprise the merchants weren’t selling diamonds- they were selling candles. There were all kinds of candles in all kinds of colors giving off all kinds of beautiful lights. Some candles even danced, others illuminated large areas and still others gave the most beautiful combination of colors he’d ever seen. Then there were even candles that acted as fireworks, fireworks like he’d never seen. There were more candles there than he’d ever seen in his life.

He asked about purchasing diamonds. The merchants looked down on him. “Why do you need that?!?” one merchant replied. “Can’t you see it’s dark in this town. Diamonds wont give you any light.”

Finally he was referred down an alley to a dimly lit shop. In there he saw all kinds of diamonds small ones for a few rubles. Large ones for 50 rubles. Even the smallest diamond would be worth a lot  back home. Unfortunately at this point he’d used up almost all his money on getting to Diamononia and he still needed to get back.

He purchased two small ones and told the diamond dealer “I’ll be back with more money” and he started to walk out.

The diamond dealer just smiled and said “they never come back”.

He planned on spending the next few days working hard and earning money. There was no place to get light, so to do anything at all he needed candles. But candles were very expensive. Even cheap ones could cost hundreds of rubles. He bartered his efforts for money. He sought out bargains and learned to negotate well. He was able to purchasing many candles and even got a few beautiful ones at very reasonable prices. He had an eye for bargains. In his work he befriended some of the richest people in town who showed him their candle collections. One showed him the most beautiful light he’d ever seen- the cinderella. He vowed to himself that he’d work very hard so he could one day purchase a cinderella. He was sure that the people of his town would be similarly amazed by this most beautiful light.

He worked hard everyday motivated by buying that beautiful light so his town can share its majesty. His little town can be the only one in the region with a cinderella. Finally after two years of hard work he was able to purchase that cinderella. He was the envy of his friends in Diamondonia. He realized that although he enjoyed his time in Diamondonia it was time to head back to his own town. He packed up his bags and gingerly put in his candle collection. He’d amassed a small collection and he stuffed every last piece in his bags. His bags that came bare were leaving full. He was proud of his accomplishments.

It took another year to arrive back home and although the cold seemed colder than he remembered and the heat was hotter than he remembered, the road back seemed to go a little quicker. He couldn’t wait to tell the elders how hard he’d worked and show them how successful he was.

Finally one cold winter day he came walking up the snow covered path to town. Word quickly spread that he’d arrived and the entire town was out to greet him. The children were screaming his name, their parents were singing and even the old people of the town came out on their canes, happy that the mission was successful. After a four year journey he was getting a warm welcome. Although the people were a little older and the town was a little more warm, the welcome was more warn than he could have imagined.

Finally he went in the town hall and opened the contents of his backpack and showed the town his collection of candles. The elders were confused.

“Are these candles made of diamonds?” they asked.

“Of course not,” he laughed. “They are worth more than diamonds.”

He then pulled out the cinderella. Everyone agreed it was the most beautiful candle they had ever seen. But the whole town, even the children, also agreed that David was the most foolish person they’d ever seen.

“You can’t sell a candle for more than a diamond in Russia. Even one as beautiful as the cinderella.” they said.

Just then David looked around the town hall and realized his folly. He feverishly searched through his bag  and found the two small diamonds he bought on the first day in Diamononia. He also had a few others he’d picked up around town as souvenirs. He even remembered about one in the heal of his shoe to make his shoe fit better.

The town was happy again. The diamonds were enough to get them through a few winters.

But David was sad- he realized his backpack could have been filled with diamonds.

The Moral

Any story you hear when you’re 10 has a moral. The moral I was told was that we are in this world but a short time we shouldn’t be sucked in by the bright lights of this world but we should be collecting diamonds through kindness and good deeds.

As a 10 year old I remember being struck by how stupid David was. The message made it’s point.

More Morals

As I look back there are many more lessons to get from this story. Some of which I see more clearly today. I’ll talk about those another time.

What lessons did you learn from this story?

Optimistic Realist or Realistic Optimist: Which is Better?

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OptimistPreviously I asked Realist or Optimist: Which is better? Those of you who know me know that if I have an either/or choice I’ll usually pick both- why limit yourself. So it’s better to be both a realist and optimist. So should you be a realistic optimist or an optimistic realist?

To me the answer is clear- a realistic optimist. why? because to succeed you want to be optimistic, you want to go as far as possible. The realism only adds a little of reality to make sure you are a little grounded. Why shouldn’t you be an “optimistic realist”? Because then your base is realism, which limits you. It’s not a bad way to go but the other way you can gain that extra edge.

Is this all symantics? Maybe. But the point is that you should try to be an optimist but don’t go overboard.

photo credit: Kevin

Realist or Optimist: Which is better?

People’s mindset matters. Here you’ll see how.

Some people are optimists and everything looks rosy to them. Always. They are even optimistic when crossing a street full of traffic. “The traffic will stop for me” they say. Some times they’re right and they cross safely. But other times they get hit by a truck.

Other people are realists. Realists see things in a grounded way. They see the traffic and know that it will be a while until the traffic clears. They’ll wait and wait because their prepared to until the traffic subsides. Then they cross.

Pessimists, by the way, aren’t in this discussion. Once they spot a street that needs crossing they just turn back and give up because they know streets have traffic and they dont want to get hit by a truck.

So what’s better realists or optimists? Both (or none if that’s how you look at it). Being overly optimistic can get you in trouble as you’re not grounded and your projects fail as you don’t anticipate setbacks. Being overly realistic doesn’t let you meet your full potential because you may be limiting your potential.

So how would a person who is both realistic and optimistic cross the street? He’d figure out when traffic is lite and start waving a sign- “I’m crossing- dont hit me” he’d go cautiously across all the lanes to safety.

The question now is, should you be an optimistic realist or a realistic optimist?

Success Cannot Be Legislated: Success Comes from Service (Action)

In his article “Success Cannot Be Legislated: Who Said It?“, Stephen J. Dubner of the The New York Times (and of Freakonomics Fame- a book I highly recommend) lists this quote:

The people cannot look to legislation generally for success. Industry, thrift, character, are not conferred by act or resolve. Government cannot relieve from toil. It can provide no substitute for the rewards of service. It can, of course, care for the defective and recognize distinguished merit. The normal must care for themselves. Self-government means self-support.

Calvin Coolidge

In an elegant way President Coolidge said someone else can’t give you success- not the government, not your mommy and not your spouse. You acheive success through (service) action.

What action will you take today to achieve success?

Reading The Sign: Getting Paid To Improve

I was excited with my first post-college job working for a computer consulting company. The work was interesting and challenging and my hourly pay was 4 times what I was making in my college part time job.

One day, I was setting up time tracking software for a partner in a law firm, a distinguished gentleman with a cool accent. There was a cryptic sign that hung over his computer that said “CANI- Constant and Never Ending Improvement“, without any context.

After the installation I showed him how to use the software. As I demonstrated I turned on the timer and explained the basic functionality of the system. Finally after about 5 minutes of discussion i turned off the timer. The software showed us how much money he would earn for a similar transaction. When I saw the amount on the screen I was floored. That 5 minute conversation would earn him as much as I made in an hour- this is after my big increase.

Obviously this was a successful person. With constant improvement it’s no wonder he was making the big bucks. Maybe it’s time for me to paste the phrase on my computer:

CANI- Constant and Never Ending Improvement