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Archive for the ‘kaizen’ Tag

A little boulder   Leave a comment

I used to watch a lot more television then I currently do now.  I would get lost in wonderful adventures as they unfolded before my eyes.  Which is why I don’t watch as much anymore.  I’d rather be spending more of my time doing things which nurture and nourish my mind.  Reading and meditating being big parts of that

Having said that there are always lessons to be learned if you look closely enough.  And one of my favorites comes from Superman: The Movie.  What kid wouldn’t be fascinated by it.  Christopher Reeve was a great Clark Kent, but an even better Superman.  The movie had a classic villain in Lex Luthor, played by the amazing Gene Hackman.  Great storyline, great special effects (for the time), and top-notch acting.  You watched it and you felt like a hero.

If you haven’t watched the movie, beware, there are spoilers ahead.  It’s a great movie, so if you hate spoilers go ahead and get a copy, watch it real quick, and then come back and finish the post.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Back with me?  Good.  During the movie a large dam breaks and Superman has to save a town in the path of the raging waters.  How does he do it?  Does he pick up a mountain and drop it in the path?  Nope.  Does he use his freeze breath to turn it into a big iceberg? That isn’t it either.  What he did was push a couple of rocks over.  And those rocks hit other rocks on the way down, that went on to hit other rocks, that went on to start an avalanche of rocks that created a new rock dam which stopped the water in its tracks.

One little action, begat another action, which led to big things.  What a wonderful lesson that is.  Superman, as powerful a being as he is, didn’t go from start to finish in one big move.  He started a cascade of smaller actions which created big results.  And if it works for a guy running around town in blue tights and a cape, it can work for you too.

Take my case for example.  As I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t watch as much television as I used to.  I didn’t go from watching hours of tv a day to pulling the plug on the cable.  Instead, I just came to the realization that one of the shows I was watching just didn’t really have any benefit for me anymore.  I didn’t even feel entertained by it.  And so I stopped watching that show, adding an open hour to my schedule.  That was the first small step.  I used the extra time to read more.  Another small step.  Reading opened me up to new ideas which did benefit me, leading to more steps.  And then the cascade happened.  I sat down and thought about the shows I was still watching.  A number of them were just as bad about squandering my time.  So I stopped watching them as well.  Now I had a lot of extra hours in my weekly schedule.

I still have this really nice 4K television that I enjoy using.  I just use it for viewing things that are more beneficial.  I watched “The Magic Pill”, which is a documentary about the ketogenic diet.  It’s on Netflix.  In fact there are a lot of good documentaries on Netflix. There’s also a lot of great information to be found on YouTube as well (although I will mea culpa to a few funny cat videos along the way).  YouTube has videos on working out, van life, the ketogenic diet, and mindfulness to name a few.  You do have to be mindful that it’s very much like Wikipedia.  Go into it knowing that just because it’s on there doesn’t make it 100% true so take it all with a grain of salt.  But there is plenty of good information to be found there.

All of this information has led me to better life practices.  I meditate more.  I’m learning how to write better.  I’m learning music again.  I spend time making plans and goals using methods I’ve learned have worked for others.  And that cascade of rocks continues.  Each little act getting me closer to being saved, like the village.

So this week, knock a rock over.  Just make sure it’s in a direction where it will hit another rock.  Let those rocks hit more rocks for you.  Let the movement create a cascade of energy that propels you forward until you reach your goal.  All because you took a small action with intent and precision.

You don’t need one big action that solves everything.  You don’t need to have godlike powers because you were born on Krypton.  You just need to be willing to knock over a rock.  And just like Superman, knock over another rock from a slightly different vantage point to compound the results.  Start today.  Let the actions compound.  And in time you’ll have created your own damn, stopping the things which are putting your village in jeopardy.

Choose to be the hero of your own life’s story.

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Rising Sun   Leave a comment

It’s one of my all time favorite movies.  I’m a huge Sean Connery fan and I found this to be one of his most underrated performances.  It’s based off of the Michael Crichton novel of the same name.  In the movie Connery plays a police consultant called in to assist Wesley Snipes investigate a murder at a prominent Japanese electronics company.  It’s a great movie for sure, but I haven’t read the novel (I’ve included an affiliate link to both at the bottom of this post, just click the image).

I won’t go into great detail on either as I don’t want to give out any spoilers but there is a line from the movie I did want to share.  It doesn’t give away any of the plot so feel free to continue reading if you intend to read the book or watch the movie.  The line, spoken by Connery, is “Fix the problem, not the blame.”  It’s such a great line, and a great practice to include in your life.

The idea is that you have discovered a problem.  There are many actions you can take.  The one that usually comes up first is we want to know who caused the problem.  It kinda seems logical.  If there’s an issue that causes a problem, certainly somebody should be held responsible. The things is that figuring out who caused the problem doesn’t really do anything about fixing the problem.  It’s something we can figure out down the line, once the problem is fixed.  And that should be the focus, fixing the problem.

And while we’re discussing who to blame, it’s easy to see that you could substitute “what” just as easily for “who”.  Spinning wheels figuring out what caused the problem, before you fix the problem is jus as silly.  Unless you need to know who or what caused the problem to fix the problem, you should only be worried about HOW to fix the problem. Everything else is spending time on something that doesn’t really move you forward.

So from this point forward fix the problem, not the blame.  It more productive and actually improves your life.  Finger pointing, not so much.  Have a nice day and see you soon.

Momentum   Leave a comment

So I’ve been waiting until I get home at night to try and post and there’s one drawback to it. I keep nodding off before I post. My momentum has stopped because I’m sitting in bed doing nothing that requires energy. It wouldn’t take a lot to fix this, just a little movement. That would create enough momentum to keep me going.

How big can a little momentum be? I’ll answer that question with one of my favorite trick questions. I can give you $1 million right now or I’ll give you a magic penny that doubles in value every day that you can’t spend for the next 30 days. Which do you choose? Most people would give me a quizzical look and say “the million bucks, obviously”.

Here’s the reason it’s a trick question. While the penny is literally as close to nothing as you can get in US currency it does have value. Double that value every day for 30 days and that lowly penny becomes over $5 million dollars. If you take the million today you’re getting less then 20% of the money you could have if you were patient and waited for the momentum to build.

How does this relate to life? Well a lot of us will avoid doing small things based on the faulty premise that because the “penny” doesn’t have much value why bother. But even a penny doubled over time can have amazing outcomes. I’m not saying if you can do .01 push-ups today you’ll be doing over 5 million by the end of the month. I’m saying that if all you can do today is a penny’s worth of work do it and try to build on it tomorrow with the momentum you’ve created. Who knows how far that will take you? I do know if you do nothing you’ll stay where you are. Take care.

Dartboards   Leave a comment

In the last post I talked about finding out your why.  And once you’ve found out your why, walking the path towards your why.  Today I’d like to talk about dartboards.  This seems like an odd right turn, but the dartboard is very connected to walking your path.

You see, staying on the path is a series of foot placements. One right in front of the other. And where each foot lands determines how well you stay on the path and how quickly you reach your goal.  And that’s similar to a dartboard.

Now, keep in mind I don’t play darts so this is a very rough analogy.  The dartboard is divided in two ways.  It has a center circle, the bullseye, surrounded by ever larger circles until you reach the outer edge. It’s also divided into 20 wedges starting at the bullseye, getting wider towards the outer edge of the board.  Each subdivided area of the dartboard has a numeric “score” attached to it.

So the goal in darts is to get to zero by subtracting the points obtained from where the dart lands on the board.  The exact rules aren’t important for this analogy, only making sure your darts land in the right segments is.  Each dart can be looked upon as a step.  And each dart that hits the board gets you points which are subtracted from your score. Just like every footstep reduces the distance between you and your goal.

Here’s the important thing about darts.  You can’t get points if you don’t throw the dart.  The time you spend standing there worrying about how many points you’ll get, or not get, from the throw is time you’re not making any progress.  Which is silly.  Simply throw the dart.  Assuming you don’t miss the board, the lowest score you can get is a 1.  While a 1 may be the lowest progress you can make, it is in fact progress.  Even if all you get are ones you’d still, eventually, hit zero (your goal).

But of course it’s always best to aim.  The better you aim the dart the greater the chance you’ll get a higher score. And that moves you to your goal quicker.  It also has a side effect.  The more darts your throw with aim (intention) the better you get at it.  The better you get the more likely your aim will result in accruing the points you are trying for.  Just as the better your intention and focus is will result in a quicker journey down the path.

Again though, all this is contingent on actually throwing the dart.  So don’t be fearful or hesitant.  Don’t get frozen by concerns that may or may not ever come to pass.  Just throw the dart knowing that with each dart (or footstep) you’re getting better and better at achieving your goal.

Why are you doing this?   Leave a comment

Probably the most important question you can ask yourself.  I’ve done a couple of posts about acting with purpose.  Living your life not on auto pilot, but with definite intention.  When making the decisions that will move you forward along your path you should do so willfully.  This brings up the question, why are you doing this?  After all, how do you know which path to take if you haven’t figured out where you’re going?

The way to find that path is to know your why.  And the obvious way to find your why is to ask yourself why.  Unfortunately this isn’t a Google maps search.  You can’t just type a destination into the search window and be given a clear cut path to your goal.  Instead it’ll take time and meditation on the questions of why.  And that’s because to get to your why you need to keep whittling things down.

We all tend to create broad goals for ourselves.  Why are you exercising?  To get in better shape.  But that’s a broad idea.  A sprinter and a marathon runner are both in athletic shape but both have to train completely differently to reach success in their endeavor.  So you whittle it down.  Why do I want to get in better shape?  To be able to do more with my time.  Why do you want to do more with your time?  Because I feel I waste time.  Why do you feel you waste time?  Because I don’t think my actions have a real impact.  And you keep going and going until there isn’t a new why to ask.

This might be because your answers have become circular.  This is where the answer to why goes back to a previous answer.  So see what’s in that circle.  Like above you might ask the next why as “why do you feel your actions don’t have real impact?”  The answer to that could be because you keep repeating steps.  And you ask why do you repeat steps?  The answer is because they don’t have any real impact.  So the answer to why are you doing this is to have an impact.

Another reason you might not have a new why to ask is you’ve whittled the why down as far as you need to go.  There is no next step, you’ve figured out your why.  Again, going off the original series of why questions your next question may be “why do you want to have an impact?”  And the answer may be that you want to live your life to benefit others, not yourself.  And that answer resonates with you.  You’ve reached your why.  You wish to be of service to others.

And finally you may not be far enough along on your journey to fully understand your ultimate why.  Maybe you only get as far as you wish to be of service to others and that works for you for a while.  And then one day a why pops into your head.  Why do you want to be of service to others?  You’ve spent enough time serving others that you’ve become better.  More self aware.  And now you need more answers.  So you start asking why again.

And that’s how you keep walking down the right path.  You keep asking why.  Maybe one day you reach your destination.  Maybe you spend a lifetime looking.  Either way you’re living your life acting with purpose.  And that’s a good life.

Benefits of Acting with Purpose   Leave a comment

A few posts back I talked about acting with purpose.  This is all about keeping your focus on the here and now.  We go through a lot of life on auto pilot, doing the same thing over and over again, simply because it’s the habit we’ve developed.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  You couldn’t possibly live your life if you had to make a decision on every thing you do.  But when you let it get to the point where you just let your life happen by the patterns you’ve already formed you’ll get the results you’ve always been getting.

The biggest benefit of acting with purpose is it teaches you to evaluate your actions.  Why are you doing what you’re doing?  What benefit are you getting out of it?  What could you be doing differently right now that would make things better?  You can’t change things you aren’t aware you’re doing in the first place.  Again, this doesn’t mean every little thing you do, just being more mindful of the things you do that have an impact on how you feel about yourself.

Another benefit from acting with purpose is a sense of control.  Right or wrong, good or bad, you know you’re making the decisions.  You stop feeling like you’re at the mercy of the tides.  And that can reduce the overall stress you feel.  While a small amount of stress is necessary, and even beneficial for you, being constantly stressed out is not.  When you reduce your overall stress levels your body performs better.  It can focus more energy on healing.  Your mood will improve.  And you’ll feel more relaxed.

And finally, acting with purpose teaches us to become more and more comfortable with making decisions.  One of the hardest parts of the journey to a better you is just getting started.  With all the possible decisions and all the variable and all the possible outcomes, each with a different set of variables and decisions attached to them, it can make the decision making process scary.  And fear is the biggest obstacle we have to overcome to get started down the path to a better you.  How do we overcome that fear?  Just make a decision.  Take one small step in any direction.  Right or wrong you’ve just demonstrated to yourself that you can make a decision and still be here to make another one.  If the decision turned out to be right, keep making decisions to stay on that path.  If the decision turned out to be wrong, decide on a different path.  Every time you make a decision it’s a reassurance to yourself that it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s also a reminder that you can’t get better if you don’t move from where you are toward where you want to be.

That’s it for today’s post.  Hope you all had a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Acting with purpose   Leave a comment

Yesterday I talked briefly about kaizen and making small improvements. Today I’ll share a quick way to make those small steps. And that’s acting with purpose.

How many times have you been engaged in a task that doesn’t require a lot of attention only to realize a good chunk of time has passed? Or, scarily more frequently, been driving down a road or the highway you’ve driven a million times only to realize you blanked out the last few miles?

The thing is you weren’t unaware of what was going on you were just on autopilot. You did it all based on habit and that meant you didn’t need to devote much of any will to accomplishing it.

What if you were focused though? Mindful of what was going on and what you were doing? Think of the things you could accomplish. This is acting with purpose. You choose what you do at each moment based on a desire to do it, not a preprogrammed response.

What could you accomplish if you were focused on the drive? Be more polite to other drivers? Drive in a more efficient manner saving you money? How about just noticing things you may never have paid attention to? Maybe even enjoy the view if, like me, you drive home on a more rural route.

But the best thing you’ll accomplish is developing a sense of control. When you act with purpose you reinforce the idea that you’re in charge of your life. That you decide what happens next. And that can lead to the courage to take those small steps because now you know you’ve got this.

Acting with purpose means taking an active role in your life and being in the present. And that can lead to other benefits, but that’s a post I’ll share with you tomorrow. Hope you enjoy your day.