Week 4

This summary of the fourth week of 2022 is coming at the time I wanted to post it. I was still dealing with some lingering symptoms of my upper respiratory situation. It’s mostly an annoying cough, but I also get fatigued a bit more easily than normal, so I’m still making adjustments as needed.

Looking back on the past week, I am feeling some pride in myself (healthy pride, not the kind the Bible says leads to trouble) for pressing onward in so many ways. I still have room for improvement in several areas, but I know this and I am making adjustments in the fifth week already so I can continue to move forward. As I mentioned in the previous summary, this is the first year I can remember continuing to move ahead in spite of obstacles like being sick.

Core Focus of the Week: Plus one, plus one, plus one.

During the fourth week, I continued to remind myself that each day is part of a process of making 2022 my best year ever (hat tip, Hal Elrod). And none of this is about perfection. It’s all about progress. As I have heard Brian Johnson say, several times, in various Optimize.me pieces, “Plus one, plus one, plus one.” Similarly, another thought I have been keeping in mind is the Buddha’s “drop by drop, the bucket is filled.”

I continued with my predetermined processes, doing them as consistently as I could, with the highest quality I could bring to the table in the moment. During the fourth week, I started working to optimize each day by seeking opportunities to stack process steps. For example, listening to an Optimize.me content module on Stoicism, Buddhism, and “Conquer” module (typically anxiety or depression or procrastination) while I am making my first bathroom visit, doing a weigh-in, drinking my 8-ounce water, and making the bed. So far, I am liking the stack.

Drop by drop, the bucket is filled – the Buddha.

Up to now, I have gotten discouraged by smaller “imperfect” steps and then allowed that discouragement to be my excuse for not living up to my potential. This year, I am working on being mindful of every drop I can add to the bucket, every “plus one” I can add to my best version of myself. And looking at what I CAN do has been much more empowering than looking at what I could NOT do. I only wish I had given this approach a try about 25 years ago when it was first suggested to me.

But this year, I am reflecting on results, which is why I am doing these summary posts. If my only two options in this world are to grow or to wither away, I continue to choose to grow. Even if that means I am only growing by a 5-minute walk around my condo, or one new idea, or by two minutes of meditation practice, or by 15 minutes of reading.

In the fourth week…

  • I brought my bodyweight back towards a better number, which is actually close to the original starting point. Yes, on paper, this is embarrassing. But I am fighting 5 decades of bad habits and creating a new me, so I understand this will take time. That said, I DO need to focus more on mindfully eating and drinking more water.
  • I continued to drink more water than I did prior to 2022 and I am resolved to continue adding more throughout the day.
  • I made better food choices, more often than not.
  • I continued intentional walking, totaling another 2 hours worth.
  • I added another $10 to my savings balance.
  • I added another $100+ to my investment balance.
  • I continued investigating side hustle ideas, ruling out several more ideas already.
  • I continued to deepen and strengthen my relationship with my wife.
  • I consistently did my Miracle Morning SAVERS each day, and enjoyed Hal’s app for the 30-day challenge.
  • I read from 12 Rules for Life. I also received by new copy of Illusions, Illusions 2, and The Messiah’s Handbook. And I started re-reading Illusions.
  • I continued to engage with high-quality content about Stoicism, Buddhism, and conquering my anxiety, depression, and procrastination, learning about practices that will make me a better version of myself each day.
  • I enjoyed some additional Jim Rohn content, taking advantage of Jim’s proven mindset and philosophy towards life, to begin refining my own philosophy and mindset.
  • I laughed, deeply and often, each day because I made it a point to take advantage of the best medicine (I am convinced it is the best medicine for mind, soul, spirit, and body). I did not laugh as much in the past week, but I am refocusing on laughing more.
  • I continued learning about Buddhist teachings and taking time to deeply reflect on the Four Noble Truths.
  • I continued learning about Stoic philosophy.
  • I engaged with Psalms, Proverbs, and the Tao Te Ching, filling my mind with ancient, but timeless, wisdom. I missed one day, but otherwise have been on track.
  • I finished moving my Bite Size Wise podcast to Anchor.fm and have relaunched the podcast, including starting a series of episodes on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
  • I re-launched my Illusions podcast on a whole new platform and will be starting real weekly episodes in the fifth week.
  • I enjoyed a dinner out with my in-laws to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. The dinner, the restaurant, and the company were all amazing. A VERY GOOD evening.
  • I played guitar at church and very much enjoyed the weekend of playing, especially with the group on platform with me.
  • I unsubscribed from several podcasts that were centered on cynicism and too often, anger at the current state of affairs in the political context. And in their place, I found several other podcasts that teach history, or provide positive mindset inputs and new ideas to consider.

As I look back on that list, I must say, in both humility and honesty, that the week was definitely not perfect. BUT, I made some good gains again, moving closer to the results I want to create in 2022. Sure, I could look at the desired end-state and think I have SO SO SO far to go. But, I know from my history that it would only discourage me and give me an excuse to stop.

Instead, I will simply continue to trust my daily predetermined processes, do periodic check-ins to get feedback, and continue to make gains.

Are You a Weeble?

Have you ever had it happen that all the sudden you start seeing and hearing a word EVERYWHERE. I mean, it’s a word you never really noticed before and then BAM! All the sudden that word is everywhere you turn. It’s like the Universe, or God, or whatever you call the Source or the Greater Than or the Eternal Is, has decided you need to focus on learning something and is trying to get your attention.

For me, most recently, the word is “equanimity,” which means “composure, especially under stress or strain” or “the quality of being calm, especially when under stress.” Another way of looking at it is that you are centered and when something comes along to knock you off center, how quickly you can regain your composure, how quickly you can get centered again.

It makes me think of the old Weeble toys that were huge in the 1970’s when I was a small kid. The commercials used to say that Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

Weebles wobble.

At the beginning of the year when I first started learning about Stoicism and Buddhism, I bumped into the word “equanimity” for the first time that I can recall. And I basically learned the meaning and said to myself “That’s a cool idea, I should learn to do that more.” Then I did literally nothing to do that more.

And without giving it another thought, a few weeks later, suddenly “equanimity” is EVERYWHERE I look or listen.

I’m a hardheaded guy, but it doesn’t take a ton of bricks falling on me to get my attention. (Or maybe it does.) So OK, Universe / God / Eternal Is / Source / Greater Than, you win!

I will start to act more like a Weeble!

Today, I will make it a point to pay attention to how far off center I get when something doesn’t go according to plan. Today, I’ll start noticing how much and how often those kinds of things knock me off center. Today, I’ll start being more mindful of what things I allow to knock me off center. (Ouch, that one hurt a little as I typed it because it sucks to admit that I am the one who allows myself to get knocked off center for longer than it really takes.)

Starting today, I will begin learning to wobble, but not fall down. As much.

I hope you’ll join me in that learning.

Week 3

This summary of the third week of 2022 is coming at about the time I wanted to post it. I was still dealing with some lingering symptoms of my upper respiratory situation. It’s mostly an annoying cough, but I also get fatigued a bit more easily than normal, so I’m still making adjustments on the fly. In the past, I would have come up against obstacles so early in the year and I would have just given up and then promised myself I would try again next month. But so far this year, I had simply made the adjustments and adaptations I need to, and continued moving forward as best I could, moment by moment.

And frankly, I’m kind of proud of myself for rolling with those punches and making the adjustments I needed to make, while still making progress towards many of the results I want to create in 2022. This is the first year I can remember actually just continuing to move ahead in spite of obstacles like being sick.

Core Focus of the Week: Just keep going, adapting as needed.

During the third week, I kept in mind that each day is part of a process of making 2022 my best year ever (hat tip, Hal Elrod). And none of this is about perfection. It’s all about progress.

I continued with my predetermined processes, doing them as consistently as I could, with the highest quality I could bring to the table. I stayed with the previous adjustment to my Miracle Morning SAVERS exercise, still not doing pushups and crunches…when I tried, I spent the next 20 minutes coughing a LOT and struggling to catch my breath. So I simply continued my walking part, where I can self-regulate to keep from coughing.

Every step forward is a step forward.

I have mentioned in previous summaries that this idea can seem pretty silly. Partly, it’s because of how I phrase it, as if I am channeling my inner Yogi Berra (baseball hall of famer who said things such as “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”). I know it seems overly simplistic, and maybe even a little too obvious that every step forward is a step forward. But up to now, I have gotten discouraged by smaller “imperfect” steps and then allowed that discouragement to be my excuse for not living up to my potential.

But this year, I am trying new experiments with my life and reflecting on the results, which is why I am doing these summary posts. As the Buddha said, “drop by drop the bucket is filled.” And this year, one of my experiments is to learn to be patient with myself and to accept small, imperfect, sometimes stumbling steps forward, as steps forward. If my only two options in this world are to grow or to wither away, I choose to grow. Even if that means I am only growing by one new idea, or by two minutes of learning to meditate, or by 15 minutes of reading.

In the third week…

  • I raised my bodyweight by a ridiculous amount in two days (7 pounds), probably by overconsuming sweets and salts, leading to fluid retention and probably some new fat creation, but then I got back on track and lowered my weight again by about 3 pounds. So still higher than it was before we did our weekend getaway trip, but back on track now and coming down safely by the day.
  • I continued to drink more water than I did prior to 2022.
  • I continued to make better food choices, more often than not, even with two days that were much less controlled.
  • I continued intentional walking, totaling another 2 hours worth.
  • I added another $10 to my savings balance.
  • I added another $100+ to my investment balance.
  • I continued investigating side hustle ideas, ruling out several ideas already.
  • I continued to deepen and strengthen my relationship with my wife.
  • I consistently did my Miracle Morning SAVERS each day, and enjoyed Hal’s app for the 30-day challenge.
  • I read from 12 Rules for Life and ordered a new copy of Illusions, as well as Illusions 2, and The Messiah’s Handbook.
  • I continued to engage with high-quality content about Stoicism, Buddhism, and conquering my anxiety, learning about practices that will make me a better version of myself each day.
  • I enjoyed some additional Jim Rohn content, taking advantage of Jim’s proven mindset and philosophy towards life, to begin refining my own philosophy and mindset.
  • I laughed, deeply and often, each day because I made it a point to take advantage of the best medicine (I am convinced it is the best medicine for mind, soul, spirit, and body).
  • I continued learning about Buddhist teachings and taking time to deeply reflect on the Four Noble Truths.
  • I continued learning about the Stoic philosophy and the idea of “memento mori” (remember death), deeply pondering the idea that I might be dead at any minute, so I should make my moments count.
  • I consistently engaged with Psalms, Proverbs, and the Tao Te Ching, filling my mind with ancient, but timeless, wisdom. I missed one day, but otherwise have been on track.
  • I started moving my Bite Size Wise podcast to Anchor.fm so that I can save a little money every month on hosting and have opportunities to monetize my podcast.

As I look back on that list, I must say, in both humility and honesty, that the week was definitely not perfect. BUT, I made some good gains again, moving closer than ever to the results I want to create in 2022. Sure, I could look at the desired end-state and think I have SO SO SO far to go. But, I know from my history that it would only discourage me and give me an excuse to stop.

Instead, I will simply trust my daily predetermined processes, do periodic check-ins to get feedback, and continue to make gains.

Week 2

This summary of the second week is a little later than I was planning, but the second week itself was a pretty huge challenge. And for once the challenge was not the typical “these new habits are hard” type non-sense I have tried to use as an excuse in the past. This time, I was sick and I simply did not have the energy or opportunity for my full predetermined process situation.

Core Focus of the Week: Just keep going, as best I can.

During the second week, I had to keep in mind Hal Elrod‘s reminder that this whole process of making 2022 my best year ever is “about progress, not perfection.”

I did as many of my predetermined process steps as I could, and modified others as best I could, given the health challenges I was handling. For example, I slightly modified my Miracle Morning SAVERS to accommodate my strength limitations and the extreme fatigue I was feeling. BUT, I still made it a point to do my Miracle Morning.

Every step forward is a step forward.

As I mentioned before, I know that idea seems almost ridiculous, far too simple, or even childishly simplistic on the surface. But it is so easy to forget that stumbling forward is still moving forward. It is so easy to forget that a 1% improvement, or even a 0.1% improvement IS improvement.

If the goal is to be the best version of myself, then every single step forward, however small and halting, is a step forward. Every single improvement, no matter how small, is still improvement and means that I have become a better version of myself than I was before that small improvement.

In the second week…

  • I lowered my weight by about 1 pound, in a healthy and sustainable way.
  • I continued to drink more water than I did prior to 2022.
  • I continued to make better food choices, more often than not.
  • I continued intentional walking, totaling another 2 hours worth.
  • I added another $10 to my savings balance.
  • I added another $100+ to my investment balance.
  • I continued investigating side hustle ideas, ruling out several ideas already.
  • I continued to deepen and strengthen my relationship with my wife.
  • I consistently did my Miracle Morning SAVERS each day, and enjoyed Hal’s app for the 30-day challenge
  • I read more from Lead the Field, read more from The Money Tree, and my wife ordered me a copy of 12 Rules for Life.
  • I continued to engage with high-quality content about Stoicism, Buddhism, and conquering my procrastination habit, learning about practices that will make me a better version of myself each day.
  • I enjoyed a great deal of Jim Rohn content, taking advantage of Jim’s proven mindset and philosophy towards life, to begin refining my own philosophy and mindset.
  • I laughed, deeply and often, each day because I made it a point to take advantage of the best medicine (I am convinced it is the best medicine for mind, soul, spirit, and body).
  • I continued learning about Buddhist teachings and launched a page on my site where I can collect these teachings and begin to reflect on my understanding of them and also reflect on how the practices can deepen my Christian faith as well.
  • I learned about the Stoic idea that “glory is fleeting” and began to ponder how I can apply this thought to my own life.
  • I consistently engaged with Psalms, Proverbs, and the Tao Te Ching, filling my mind with ancient, but timeless, wisdom.

As I look back on that list, I must say, in both humility and honesty, that I have again gained a HUGE amount over just a seven-day period, even in the midst of being sick with an upper respiratory illness of some sort. And as I wrote in the last summary, I can see again, why it is so much more beneficial to focus on gains.

Self or Soul or Spirit

Have you ever tried to explain something to a friend and you just can’t seem to get the point across? You understand it without any trouble at all, intuitively, but your friend just can’t seem to pick up what you’re laying down. Honestly, I find those times to be VERY FRUSTRATING!

Just recently, I was trying to explain how I understand the words “self,” “soul,” or “spirit” to a friend that just never really got it. So I will write this post as a new attempt to explain it to my friend and also to create a little bit of a framework for some of the future posts I have in mind.

Before I get started, though, I want to acknowledge there are likely to be logical threads of reasoning that I have not yet explored. This means I reserve the right to continually refine my understanding of these ideas as I continually test them and think them through.

SELF – I view the “self” as the entire essence of my unique and individual personhood. This is the personhood that reasons and feels emotions and interacts with other “selves” (other people) in the day-to-day. In other words, I see my “self” as a unique and individual entity in this world (or all the other worlds and/or dimensions I could be in). I was given a name at birth, to make it easy for other “selves” to interact with me, or refer to me, but my name is not me.

My name is simply a convenient way for other “selves” to identify me. Some of those other “selves” also refer to me by various nicknames or affectionate titles, such as Papa, Dad, Babe, Sweetheart, etc. And every so often, other “selves” use different names for me (such as “a-hole,” “jerk”, etc) in an effort to degrade my “self,” at the very least in their own mind. But none of these names has any real impact on who my “self” is, moment to moment. As Shakespeare once said, “a rose by any other name….”

SOUL – I view the “soul” as the part of my “self” that includes my semi-eternal divine nature. By semi-eternal, I mean that I believe my “soul” had a specific beginning point within space-time, but will now continue to exist until the end of space-time. Yes, my current understanding is rooted in my very typical Judeo-Christian upbringing, in which I learned that only God is fully eternal (ever existing and unbound by the limits of space and time). I acknowledge and accept that other traditions see all “souls” as fully eternal and also see individual “souls” as parts of the “all” (my term) that have been separated from the “all” for some reason I do not know.

I see my divine nature (also called my “human nature”) as divine because of my typical Judeo-Christian upbringing, in which I learned that I was created in God’s image. But realize, by divine, I do not mean to imply only the “good” side we often associate with the word “divine.” I fully acknowledge that my divine nature (my “human nature”) includes an inclination to sometimes do “bad” things, in my mind or in the world. The ancient Chinese yin-yang symbol depicts this idea – that no person is either fully good or fully evil.

SPIRIT – I view the “spirit” as the driving force, the life force, the force that makes my “self” be alive. I see this as the energy that animates my day-to-day expression of my “self.” And not to get to “woo-woo,” but I see energy (as expressed in human form) as having both a “state” and a “flavor.” This means that my “spirit” also has a state and a flavor, which can vary from moment to moment, depending on many factors.

When I say “state,” I’m thinking of things like high energy, low energy, or something in between. When I say “flavor,” I’m thinking of things like “sad” or “happy.” So, it’s possible for me to be at a high-energy happiness (e.g., elation) or a high-energy sadness (e.g., depression). Or, I might be at a low-energy version such as mildly amused or a little sad. Or, very rarely, I might find myself in a neutral state.

I am sure there are many, many other ways to understand these concepts and use these words. But these are my current understandings of each, and the way I am currently using each. And as I continue to explore my own faith and other faith practices and traditions, I might change – or even abandon – my understanding and use of these words.

Week 1

I did not know I was going to do weekly summaries of my Best Year, until right now as I sat down at the computer. All day long, I’ve had a nagging feeling that I need to capture some of my thoughts as I near the end of the week, especially this first week of 2022.

Core Focus of the Week: Just get going.

Years and years ago, I heard Mike Litman say, “You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.” Many of my mentors have said, “You can’t steer a parked car.” And Hal Elrod, who inspired this approach to 2022, continues to remind us that “it’s about progress, not perfection.” So, as you might have already figured out, the focus for this week was to just get going.

I already laid out my pre-determined processes and all I wanted to do this week was start. Just take those simple steps. And then do that again the next day. And the next. And the next. None of these steps has to be perfect – and that thought takes away SO MUCH stress! But stick with me here as I lay out this incredibly simple but powerful idea:

Every step forward is a step forward.

I know that seems almost ridiculous on the surface. But it is so easy to forget that even stumbling forward is still moving forward. It is so easy to forget that a 1% improvement, or even a 0.1% improvement IS improvement.

If the goal is to be the best version of myself, then every single step forward, however small and halting, is a step forward. Every single improvement, no matter how small, is still improvement and means that I have become the best version of myself up to now. And I can honestly say that, each day, as long as I focus on my predetermined processes, control what I can control, and move forward each day.

And rather than focusing on how far I still have to go before I have created the results I want to create this year, I am going to look back and see how far I have already come in just one week.

  • I lowered my weight by more than 2 pounds, in a healthy and sustainable way.
  • I enjoyed more water in the last week than in the previous two months combined.
  • I made better food choices, in terms of quantity AND quality more often than not, which is very much a step forward.
  • I did a total of 124 pushups, which was more than I have done in the past two years.
  • I did a total of 239 abdominal crunches, which was more than I have done in the past two years.
  • I did nearly 2 hours of intentional walking just to move, which was more than I did in the past 8 months, total.
  • I added $10 to my savings balance.
  • I added $100+ to my investment balance.
  • I interviewed for a step-up position outside my current employer and while I did not get selected for the position, I received very valuable feedback.
  • I started investigating several possible side hustle ideas and begun to take advantage of information and resources from very successful people.
  • My relationship with my wife is closer than it has been in the past 8 years.
  • My relationships with my colleagues is the best it has ever been.
  • I met someone new this week, expanding my circle of influence.
  • I consistently did my Miracle Morning SAVERS each day, and enjoyed Hal’s app for the 30-day challenge
  • I read more from Lead the Field and started reading The Money Tree, feeding new wisdom into my mind
  • I engaged with high-quality content about Stoicism, Buddhism, and conquering my procrastination habit, learning about practices that will make me a better version of myself each day
  • I enjoyed several PhilosophersNotes, which are VERY high-quality summaries of some of the most important books produced in the last century (or more)
  • I enjoyed a great deal of Jim Rohn content, taking advantage of Jim’s proven mindset and philosophy towards life, to begin refining my own philosophy and mindset
  • I laughed, deeply and often, each day because I made it a point to take advantage of the best medicine (I am convinced it is the best medicine for mind, soul, spirit, and body)
  • I enjoyed two new shows and two movies with my wife, which gave us a chance to bond over shared experiences and, several times, to discuss deeper issues
  • I planned two mini-trip getaways with my wife, which give us a chance to break out of our normal setting and enjoy shared experiences that are well outside our norm
  • I learned about the Buddhist idea of reducing/eliminating suffering by reducing/eliminating resistance to pain and started putting this into practice, which has already begun to reduce my suffering in small ways that I am sure will add up
  • I learned about the Stoic idea of “memento mori,” which means “remember death” and started putting this into practice, which has already begun to reframe my priorities as I remember that I could be gone at any moment…have I lived my best life
  • I consistently engaged with Psalms, Proverbs, and the Tao Te Ching, filling my mind with ancient, but timeless, wisdom

As I look back on that list, I must say, in both humility and honesty, that I have gained a HUGE amount over just a seven-day period. And I can see, tangibly, why it is much more productive to focus on gains.