Becoming Extraordinary

We are officially into 2016. It’s also that six-week block on the calendar when resolutions are both foremost and in danger of extinction.

How would you like to be extraordinary this year? Let’s start by looking at some definitions of the word.

Extraordinary (adjective):

  1. beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established: extraordinary costs.
  2. exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable:

Last Friday—officially, “New Year’s Day,” Mary and I participated in our first Lobster Dip. Basically, it was a dash across a portion of beach, running into the surf and then, plunging into ice-cold ocean water guaranteed to numb you from head-to-toe. It was also friggin’ exhilarating!

Miss Mary; keeping warm pre-dip.

Life is short. Why spend so much of it muddling along with the mundane?

My wife is exceptional (and extraordinary). It’s only taken me about 35 years to truly understand her qualities (I’m a slow-learner). Continue reading

“D” is for Discipline

Discipline is an old-fashioned word. It belongs to the time before everyone’s shortcomings got filed under disease, disability—or better—blamed on someone else or a societal injustice. To use “discipline” in a sentence or conversation is a great way to get you branded as an anachronism.

That’s fine. There are some things that can’t be fixed without traditional approaches.

I was thinking about this as I was swimming my lengths in the YMCA pool, part of my twice-weekly routine that I’ve adopted to remain fit and flexible. I rarely am excited when I wake up at 4:30 to be in the car by 5:15 (that’s AM, not PM!) to do something that three years ago I considered impossible. But when I’m done, I’m thankful for the intrinsic motivation that got me up and out the door.

Discipline means having your own personal drill sergeant.

Discipline means having your own personal drill sergeant.

Continue reading

News From Around the World

The past four days have been an interesting stretch. I’ve actually been down the rabbit hole for much of three of them, piecing together the most ambitious short-term freelance assignment that I’ve landed to date. The payout for giving up my weekend is about a month’s worth of income. After the year I’ve had, any ka-chingle at this point is welcome. I’m actually in the throes of a decent late-year rally.

Up from the rabbit hole.

Up from the rabbit hole.

While in the course of my work, a major international event occurred, too—a terrorist attack in France—but I literally couldn’t stop to ponder or pay much attention to it (save for about 5 minutes on Saturday morning when I checked my social media feed). I did see that many “friends” were acting like lemmings. Continue reading

Self Improving

Every time that you think you have it figured out, the universe comes along and teaches you that there are a few more lessons and tricks to learn. Being content with the status quo doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did.

I became aware again this week about the overwhelming volume of negative messaging emanating from people fully immersed in a culture perpetuating the status quo. Government is an easy scapegoat here, and if they were the only institution with this problem, then we might simply dismiss them and their antagonistic talking points. Continue reading

Becoming excellent

Excellence

Let me make an observation. Excellence isn’t something that most of us strive for.  It seems that good enough is close enough. Perfunctory is too often the norm. It infects our work culture, our politics, our interpersonal relations, and our communities.

We expect excellence from everybody else though, don’t we?

What if we chose to pursue excellence in our own lives? Would it make a difference? Continue reading

Taking care of your customers

Tires are important–they are what keeps your car in contact with the road and the basis of a smooth, comfortable ride.

I rely on my tires a lot. When you put on in excess of 20K miles a year, having your tires at peak performance is essential. I’m also a stickler about how my car rides.

This week, I’ve noticed some tire “chatter” that wasn’t there before, especially at highway speeds in excess of 65 mph. Today was the day this week when I had a window of time to take care of my tire issue; otherwise, it would be another week, at least and I’d start to get a bit annoyed knowing that something wasn’t right with my tires. Continue reading

Focus on what you can control

If you didn’t stay up ‘til just before midnight last night watching the Boston Celtics’ heartbreaking loss (heartbreaking, at least, if a fan of the green team), then this post might not interest you, or so you think. Stick with it a few more sentences however, so you’ll see where I’m going.

Basically, an aging team, beaten up, besieged by injuries and a steep underdog, rode their future superstar, Rajon Rondo, to the brink of pulling a huge upset. Instead, a few missed calls and officiating that seemed to be set upon protecting the NBA’s two certified superstars, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and marginalizing Rondo and Boston’s star Paul Pierce (who fouled out), prevailed; or so one kind of narrative goes. I haven’t listened to WEEI today, so I’m only guessing. Continue reading

Learn from the past

Einstein receives attribution for the maxim that “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results” is one definition of insanity. If Einstein’s true, and his body of work supports his veracity, then a good many people are just plain bonkers.

Over and over again humans choose paths leading to dead-ends. Even when given a second (and a third and a fourth…) chance, they regularly choose futility.

When I began writing, I was forced to fake it ‘til I made it. Without clips, clients, or any kind of substantial work, I learned to bluff my way forward. I ended up getting work, some of it offering valuable experience to someone finding his way as a freelancer. Continue reading

Better than mediocre

Self-improvement is hard work. It’s so much easier to just let things slide. Whether it’s doing something about your weight, writing a book (instead of talking about it), building a better widget, or developing a topnotch company culture or world-class organization, striving for better rather than mediocre puts you in a small, increasingly rare group of people.

We all like to point fingers at others, criticizing their lack of vision, ability to balance budgets, or throw a baseball. It’s much easier to identify the short-comings of others. Our own face in the mirror gets a free pass more than it should.

Back in 2009, June 23 to be exact, my weight was at its apex. I knew it was time to institute a strategy. Know what it was? Eat less, exercise more. No fancy diets or bizarre combination of foods. I tried to cut 500-1,000 calories from my daily intake, tracking it via a nice free online tool called FitDay. I also joined a gym and began regularly leaving the house at 4:30 to get a workout in before my workday duties made getting away impossible. You make room for what’s important in life and this had become a priority. Continue reading