Monday, April 14, 2008

Guarding your mind

I would like to take a little bit of time this morning to talk about guarding your mind. From what? Glad you asked!

I was in a statistics mood this weekend and looked up many different stats from the number of incorporated places in the United States and Ohio to the effects of advertising on consumers.

Here is one that really caught my attention:

The average 1970s city dweller was exposed to 500 to 2,000 ad messages a day; today it's up to 3,000 to 5,000.
--Yankelovich, October 2006
No way! 3 to 5 thousand per day?!?

Here's another blurb I came across:

by understanding that consumers are more receptive to food advertising when they are hungry, we learn to schedule snack advertisements late in the afternoon.

There are people at work right now who are paid exclusively to devise clever ways to part you with your money. While watching television with my wife last night, I noticed commercial breaks have two basic goals:

1. Give us your money for this product or service - the typical commercial.
2. Hey watch this entertaining show on this day at this time - in other words watch more TV so we can show you more commercials and part you with your money!

Television can be summed up as a device to entertain you while the marketers bombard you with commercials to part you with your money.

Radio is pretty much the same. You listen to music, you get bombarded by commercials. You listen to radio shows like Rush Limbaugh, get bombarded by commercials to part you from your money.

It's kind of depressing how just about everything in our lives revolves around money in some way. I am not innocent either as you can see by looking carefully at this blog! ;-)

So what can we do to combat the brainwashing? I am guarding my mind as much as possible. I don't listen to the radio that often and when a commercial break hits, I usually turn if down or off. I also use a digital video recorder (DVR) when I do watch a show. I fast-forward through the commercials. I also make sure I eat before sitting down to watch the TV. I feel sated and even if I have to watch a Papa John's commercial, I am, for the most part, unaffected by it.

I even go as far as to have a small snack in the car with me on the way home from work! I used to be tempted all the time by a fast-food restaurant I would pass right before getting on the freeway. Not anymore!

It also helps to be aware of what the marketers are trying to do and to fight it. You want my money? Good luck, I'm on to you!

Advertising works very well or they wouldn't do it. Guarding yourself from unwanted influence is an example of living consciously and will help you stay focused on your goals.

Well, thanks for reading The Daily Discipline. The Daily Discipline is your friend. Visit it everyday and...oh, sorry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting into a goal "rut"

Let's face it, sometimes setting goals and going after them is just a boring process! Let's look at 5 examples:

Losing weight:
I eat five meals a day which average about 390 calories. I eat anything I want as long as I average those calories per meal. I have selected many meals that fall within that category range. I also walk 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Total time invested per week even thinking about this goal: About 2 hours.

The Total Money Makeover:
I have to make sure that everyday I don't spend money. This requires almost no thought whatsoever. I simply ask myself do I absolutely need this? If I'm honest the answer is NO! The time of opportunity comes on payday - once per week. I budget the money for the week and spend accordingly using the rest to pay extra on my bills. Total time invested per week even thinking about this goal: About 3 hours.

Increasing my job skills:
Job 1 in this area is to become Java certified. I am still struggling with this goal and don't spend as much time as I should on it. I need to just Do It Now and get it over with! Hmm. Writing this post has helped me see where I need to focus. Cool! Right now the total time invested per week on this goal: About 2 hours. That's it!?! That should be more like 8-12 hours. I really need to get busy!

Having great relationships with my family:
I do spend time each week, especially Sunday, working on this goal. The average conversation between a parent and a child per week is only 8 minutes. My daughter and I average at least an hour per week. We're talking about good conversation, not me lecturing her (though I do plenty of that) but listening to her.

I also talk meaningfully with my spouse about things each week although I would like to improve each area. Time invested per week on this goal: About 3 hours.

Becoming more spiritual:
I would like to get back to studying the scriptures more. I don't think just listening to the Bible and following along is enough. I mean deep thinking on the scriptures and internalizing (memorizing) them. Time invested per week on this goal: Sadly very little :(

In conclusion:
As you can see, I'm clearly not quite where I want to be on even my Phase 1 goals. By posting this re-evaluation post I can see that I need to devote more time and energy to at least the last three of these goals. Going after goals can be tough. Things that are worthwhile are often not very engaging or entertaining all of the time. The results are what excites and sometimes milestones are few and far between.

I have to remember that setting short-term milestones are important. For example. Could I just finish one 30-minute block of study time each day on my Java goal? How about one 30-minute block of study time on the scriptures? That is what the Daily Discipline means - getting a little progress in each goal each and every day.

I also need to ask myself the question - what is getting in the way? Blogging perhaps? :-)

Phase 1 Goals

There are a million opportunities out there to choose from so where should we start? I have begun with what I call the Phase 1 goals. I have 5 basic wants right now. You'll notice that these are spread across 5 major dimensions of a human being - physical, financial, mental, social/emotional and spiritual.

1. I want to be my ideal weight.
2. I want to be debt-free.
3. I want to have more skills for my career.
4. I want to have great relationships with my family.
5. I want to be a more spiritual person.

These are certainly not my ultimate goals in life but they are a rung on the ladder to my ultimate vision. There are many phases (progressions) of goals in each area until I reach my vision. The first physical phase is to be my ideal weight. I am working on this with dieting and basic exercise.

Phase 2 of this goal might be to be athletic by stepping up my exercise routine with weight training and more strenuous cardiovascular exercise as well as eating better quality foods.

Phase 3 of this goal would be to complete the P90X training program and have eight pack abs.

My financial goals would follow a similar pattern. Phase 1 is to be debt free. Phase 2 is to start replacing my job income with income from other sources such as investments, businesses and real estate. Phase 3 is building my wealth to a point where it pretty much takes care of itself and I am free to do what I want like engage in philanthropy.

As we graduate up to the next phase in each area of our life, we will begin to see new opportunities on the horizon. These will be things we couldn't have done at earlier phases. Imagine being at Phase 10 in your financial life. The dreams of phase 1 and 2 probably would seem ridiculously simple at that point even though they were tough and serious goals back then.

This post is basically talking about baby steps again, using progression for each area of your life until you've reached the goals in your vision. Of course, by then you'll see new goals up ahead that look even better.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A great article

I was flipping through Steve Pavlina's website and found an article that really interested me. I knew that Steve completed two bachelor degrees in 3 semesters - that is not a misprint - 3 semesters(!), but I never read the entire article on how he did it.

His article is titled Do it now and, in my opinion, it is a must read!

One big affirmation I received from this article was his point about guarding time. In this section he states:

To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you won't be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else.

I have preached this principle for years to our management but they like the open atmosphere where anyone can just walk up to your desk and interrupt you at will - and they do.

Steve goes on to say:

The state of flow, where you are totally absorbed in a task and lose all sense of time, takes about 15 minutes to enter. Every time you get interrupted, it can take you another 15 minutes to get back to that state. Once you enter the state of flow, guard it with your life.

I have suggested that as software developers we should be isolated from all interruptions so that we can focus on the tasks at hand. I believe doing so will greatly increase productivity. It's funny but those same managers that like the open environment wonder why no one is motivated and really getting the work done!

Up until now I have approached this problem with a victim mentality - we need our managers to make it happen for us, we are not responsible. I no longer subscribe to this paradigm. Now I have a more proactive approach. When I really want to get some work done on a project, I don't do it at my desk. I find a conference room, schedule time there and do my work.

It's my experience that if interrupting you is easy, such as walking up to your desk or instant messaging you, then people will do it and they will do it often. But if they have to spend more than two minutes tracking you down, they realize that what they need probably isn't that important and they will get with you later.

I try to find a conference room on a totally different floor and one that has few if any windows. I also make sure our instant messenger program is turned off. I keep my cell phone turned on in case of emergencies but find that most people will think twice about how important their question is if they have to call you on the phone - weird!

My company is very results oriented but they don't maintain an atmosphere conducive to getting anything done! So, since our bonus and annual raise is judged on results, I, as a proactive person, have to make it happen by creating my own atmosphere. It's sad, but true.

Anyway, I suggest you read Steve's article. It's a long one - It took me about 45 minutes to get through it but it was very enlightening.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Best Solution - Weight Loss - Update 1

Today I hit a milestone in my weightloss plan. I dropped from a size 44 waist to a 42! Woohoo!!!

In my recent fascination with finding the best solution to a problem, I thought I would update my post from March 11th. My weight loss plan is based on 9 principles:

1. Daily Weigh-ins.
2. Calculate daily caloric intake needs.
3. Subtract 1000 from principle 2's calculation.
4. Divide the remaining amount over five meals and a late snack.
5. Try to eat healthy foods and stay frugal.
6. Exercise regularly.
7. Cycle Caloric Intake.
8. Evaluate Weekly.
9. Constantly look for ways to improve.

The Principles

Principle 1 - Daily Weigh-ins:

I weigh myself every morning to keep my weight loss goal firmly in my mind every day. I weigh myself at 5:00 AM every morning for consistency. I also use pretty much the same clothes - shorts and a light shirt when weighing in.

Weighing in every day also shows me if I "lose consciousness" of my weight loss and begin to slip. Seeing the numbers rise the next morning really focuses me to evaluate what, if anything, I did wrong the previous day.

Principle 2 - Calculate daily caloric intake needs:

I now use a great website I found since my March 11th post to calculate my daily caloric intake needs. I use the RMR calculation instead of the BMR calculation. I highly recommend reading all of the articles on this site. I particularly found the Calculating BMR and RMR and Calculating Daily Calorie Needs very helpful.

Let's take a look at an example of using this wonderful website. Let's say you are a 30 year old woman who is 5'7" tall and who weighs 187 pounds. You could calculate your ideal weight and discover your ideal weight is 139 pounds with an ideal range of 118 to 159 pounds. You realize you need to lose 187 - 159 or 28 pounds to be in your ideal weight range.

So you need to calculate how many calories you need to maintain your weight in one day. There are several ways to do this and you decide to use the BMR/RMR calculator. You have to make a decision on your activity level. You walk 3 times a week and decide that you are lightly active. The results of your calculator are a BMR of 2255 calories and an RMR of 2201 calories.

You want to lose 1 pound a week for 28 weeks so you subtract 500 from your daily intake need. Using the RMR calculation that means you can eat 2201 - 500 or 1701 calories per day for the first week and lose 1 pound. Of course you'll have to re-evaluate your weight and calories each week to maintain the weight loss.

Principle 3 - Subtract 1000 from principle 2's calculation:

This step is based on the theory that if you take in 3500 calories less than what your body needs, you'll lose one pound. I find this theory to be pretty accurate. So to lose 1 pound per week I would need to take in 500 calories less than what I need on a daily basis 3500/7 days = 500/day. To lose 2 pounds, I would need to eat 1000 calories less per day. My goal is 2 pounds per week so I subtract 1000 calories from step 2's calculation.

Principle 4 - Divide the remaining amount over five meals and a late snack.

On Monday through Saturday I eat at the following times:

6:00 AM
9:00 AM
12:00 PM
3:00 PM
6:00 PM
9:00 PM - Cup of milk only

I spread my total daily calorie count as evenly as possible across all meals except the 9:00 PM meal in which I just have a cup of fat free milk. I don't like eating after 6:00 PM.

I am a diabetic and eating 5 smaller meals helps me control my blood sugar and helps prevent me from getting that hungry feeling and it works great!

Principle 5 - Try to eat healthy foods and stay frugal:

I don't eat perfectly, I sometimes like to eat things I actually want to eat, like a cheese coney every once in a while. I do eat healthy most of the time, high fiber whole grain cereal (Kashi) as well as lean meats and vegetables.

I don't like fancy recipes and meals that involve 12 different ingredients. I am trying to watch what I spend and typically eat easy to prepare inexpensive healthy foods. I buy cereal, bread for toast, fruit cocktail in pear juice, chicken breasts (when they're on sale), fat free milk, etc....

I shop at Walmart most of the time and have a strict budget. I only buy what I need for the week and am able to save money and eat healthier at the same time.

Principle 6 - Exercise regularly:

Exercise is obviously important in any healthy lifestyle change. I walk at 2 1/2 miles per hour for 30 full minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I just began doing this because I hurt my hip in 2007 and have had to take it easy for a while. I will increase my exercise progressively until I'm exercising daily for 30 minutes at a minimum and at a higher pace.

Principle 7 - Cycle Caloric Intake

If you eat 1000 calories less than your body needs long enough, it will adjust and burn 1000 calories less than it did before and you'll plateau (stop losing weight). It has been suggested by some to cycle your calories once or twice a week to fool your body into burning the same amount of calories.

Every Sunday I eat 200 calories more than my body requires. The next day I might stay the same or even gain a little bit of weight but it's enough to convince my body that it doesn't have to go into "starvation mode" and drop my metabolism.

If I plateau in the future anyway (so far so good), I may step up my calorie cycling to two days a week (with a couple of deficit days in between) but that would be the maximum.

Principle 8 - Evaluate Weekly

Evaluation is a necessary principle and I do this every week on all of my goals. First I review my goals - what is it I'm trying to do? Then I measure against specific criteria - in this case did I lose 2 pounds this week? If I was successful on my weekly goal then great, if not I need to try and figure out what is going on and make necessary changes to improve my system.

I would only change a system if at least 2 weeks of data supported the need to do so. I already recalculate my calories once a week at a minimum. To tell you the truth I do it everyday as I have the information in a handy spreadsheet. Planning the entire day of eating takes me about 5 minutes now so it isn't even a bother.

Principle 9 - Constantly look for ways to improve

This system is working great and I'm beginning to see less and less of a need to change anything but that doesn't mean I'm not looking.

I think it's hilarious when I tell people of my success. The first thing they do is suggest changes to my system. Hello! I said it was working perfectly! Doesn't matter, folks just need to prescribe changes from their own experiences. I guess I do the same though so it doesn't really bother me. I listen to them with the intent of possibly getting some actual good suggestions. The calorie cycling was one such suggestion from a friend of mine.

I will continue to read and learn about healthy habits and incorporate the "pearls" into my system. I can't wait until I'm ready to do the P90X system, but that day isn't until late in 2009. But having those eight-pack abs will be worth the wait!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The best solution so far

The Egyptian philosopher Ptolemy theorized that the Earth was the stationary center of the Universe. About 1400 years later, Nicolaus Copernicus displaced this theory with his theory that the Earth actually moved around the Sun. This was a better solution in explaining how the heavenly bodies moved.

The theory was not well received. In fact, 90 years after Copernicus released his theory in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium , Galileo Galilei was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for "following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture,"[21] and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

People have a hard time accepting different ways of seeing the universe. It is hard to change from one way of thinking to another. Stephen R. Covey calls this a paradigm shift. I, however, am starting to embrace new ways of thinking.

The more I learn different ways of looking at the world, the more I realize that my way of thinking is flawed. For example, I used to believe there was a job out there I would love so much it wouldn't even seem like work and I wouldn't be happy working until I found that job.

I now believe that I can choose to be happy at my present job and I am proving that this way of thinking is a better solution. I still believe there is a job which I can naturally be happy doing and I'm still searching for it, but this dream job is no longer the only way I can be happy.

Asking the question "Is this the best solution I've found so far to address this problem?" is quickly becoming my new habit of choice. I ask myself this question in regards to my health habits, my money habits, when dealing with other people in my relationships, when meditating on my religious beliefs and so on.

I am now constantly trying to improve the process by challenging my current ways of thinking and doing things. I have a weight loss program that is working very well. I recently watched a show called I can make you thin featuring Paul McKenna. I found that my system of weight loss utilizes very similar techniques as his system. I didn't find much reason to adopt anything he suggests but at least I viewed his suggestions with an open mind. I currently don't have any "issues" with my system, it is the best solution I have found so far.

I am also very happy with my financial plan and the way I live my life with balance using the 8 habits that Stephen Covey has taught in his many books. I am confident I have very good systems in place to help me live a live of health, wealth and happiness.

But I'm still looking to improve them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Have a vision - part II

In Have a vision - part I I discussed creating a vision from a story. This is a pretty fun way of coming up with your ideal life and is an entertaining read when you want to review your vision and goals.

Another way of writing out a vision statement is to just list detailed major goals by human dimension. The six major human dimensions I have identified are physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual and financial.


Your physical dimension deals with your physical health. It involves goals such as weight loss, exercise, running a marathon and having six pack abs to name a few.


Your mental dimension deals with goals of the mind such as learning to play the guitar, memorizing scripture and learning to program computers.


Your social dimension centers around relationships. It can involve goals such as having one on one talks with your children each week, being more romantic with your spouse or working on smiling more.


As the social dimension deals with your interaction with other people, the emotional dimension centers on your personal emotions and attitudes. Some goals in the emotional dimension might be to stop using "victim language" or working on being more responsible.


Your spiritual dimension deals with your belief system. Some spiritual goals might be to live your life based on your list of values, reading the Holy Bible regularly, meditating/praying regularly and helping others with your time and money.


This dimension focuses on money and possessions. It is the easiest dimension to make goals for in my opinion. Objectives like being debt-free, saving a million dollars or owning your dream house are just a few financial goals.


In order to have balance and the best chance for complete happiness possible, you should work on all six dimensions. Goals for these dimensions should be SMART. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

The following is a vision statement in the format I've described. All dimensions have been addressed and all goals are written in good detail. The SMART goal process will be detailed even more during the plan process ( a future post). These are just a couple of goals, a complete vision statement would contain much more.

I will weigh 189 pounds by December 25th, 2008.
After achieving this goal, I will never let myself become more than 9 pounds overweight.
After reaching 189 pounds, I will complete the P90X 90 day challenge and will get some six-pack abs.

I will become a Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP) by December 31st, 2008.
I will become a Sun Certified Java Developer (SCJD) by June 30, 2009

I will internalize the 30 principles found in Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people" by December 31st, 2008.
I will meet with my family every Sunday and discuss the family goals.
I will meet one-on-one with my daughter every Saturday to help her with her goals.

I will form the habit of thinking before I speak to avoid negative habits such as criticizing, complaining and sarcasm.
I will spend 15 minutes each night going over a list of things that I am thankful for to consciously acknowledge that my life is really good.

I will spend a minimum of 30 minutes each night studying the King James Bible and will complete the entire bible by March 31st, 2009.
I will work daily on my personal development in all six dimensions of my life.

I will be debt free (except for my mortgage) by June 30th, 2010.
I will have a six-month emergency fund by June 30th, 2011.
I will save 15% of my gross income into my retirement accounts starting July 1st, 2011.
I will help my daughter pay for college starting August 1st, 2011.
I will pay off my mortgage completely by March 31st, 2015.
I will have my dream house built on May 1st, 2020.

This type of vision statement also gets into the specific planning of the goals. It describes the goals specifically and gives dates in which the goal will be accomplished. It is not, however, a complete plan. I will post about having a plan soon.

The best approach, in my opinion, is to have both a story-type vision as well as a goal oriented vision. This will make for some inspiring reading on the weekly evaluation process.