Sharing Tears

The other day my son did something dumb, but it was something he knew he was not supposed to be doing. I had removed him from the temptation several times. Emphasized and been stern in how he was not supposed to be doing what he was doing. Finally, he was not listening and I sat him down in time out and made it explicitly clear he was being disobedient.

Next, he starts crying. Not the wail of pain or the cry of whining because he wants something. He just stares at me, with tiny little tears rolling down his round little cheeks.

And I am standing there watching him cry.

Then I start crying!

He is a good kid and he is learning boundaries, but I also need him to listen, the first time. It is only so long that until I need him to listen and it is the difference between him running out into a busy street or listening the first time when I tell him to stop and he does not run out into the busy street.

Until that day, I can only bond with him with the minimal vocabulary he has and the nominal understanding of the world he has. But in that moment when he was sitting, staring, and crying. It was the best thing I could do to meet him there, staring, and crying.

We can understand one another when we meet each other in these moments of tears and mutual emotion. We can share a moment together and know that despite our differences, we see each other and though we are different, we are still humans meeting each other where we are. We share emotions and humanity together.

Where are you meeting other people where they are at? How are you showing other people you are human and the same as they are despite your differences? How are you sharing moments of humanity with your coworkers, friends, and family?

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In My Head

In my head, I compare myself to other people.

I compare myself to people, and I tell myself they are more fit and athletic than I am.

I compare myself to people, and I tell myself they are smarter than I am.

I compare myself to people, and I tell myself they are more successful than I am.

I compare myself to people, and I tell myself a lie. I tell myself an assumption.

A fictional story about who they are, how they got where they are, and why they are better than I am.

What stories are you telling yourself?

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Meeting Binary

Once again, you are showing up to the usual weekly business meeting for your group.

The meeting where the leader always drags the group through topic after topic that nobody really cares about. And there is the one person who always over-talks, they showed up and…they are over-talking. A few people are trying to discreetly be on their phones, but are still nodding, grunting, and laughing when appropriate. And they they are not really that discreet.

The meeting that slowly eats away at your soul no matter how hard you try to keep your mouth shut, keep the meeting focused, and ‘use the bathroom’ when certain topics come up.

The meeting is missing something.

The meeting is missing you.

The meeting where your input would make it better. Your preparation would help the meeting leader prepare better topics. Your input during the meeting would help resolve issues faster.

You can add in to the meeting rather than take away. Everyone in the room is either adding in or taking away. The people on their phones are taking away from the meeting. You, sitting silently, are taking away from the meeting. At least the over-talking guy is contributing something to the meeting.

You can add in rather than take away. Move the meeting forward and escape the mind numbing pain of another thousand hours of painful meetings.

Where can you contribute to make a meeting better? What other avenue in life can you be a more active participant in? Where else can you join in rather than riding along?

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Songify

Lin Manuel Miranda, Rogers and Hammerstein, Beethoven, Bach, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Vivaldi wrote every song, score, and symphony the exact same way: One note at a time.

They sat down with their staff paper and added in note by note, part by part, every melody, chorus, verse, bridge, and prechorus. 

After outlining the core of their piece, the added on the harmonies to round it out. Once it was satisfactorily well rounded, they added in the embellishments that set it apart with their mark and style. 

Likewise, you are today because you build upon who you were yesterday and who you have been up till now. You have not found a way to jump to a point where you are more developed or fully developed without putting in the work. 

Each day of your life is another dot on the staff paper. Each week, another bar. Each year, another phrase, melody, and embellisment.

Like their compositions, your life does not compose itself it is made up of the decisions you make and the way you live your life and there is no shortcut to becoming who you want to be. Each day must be lived in consistency with the key signature and values you want my life to be consistent with. 

Some of these decisions are made for you. Skin color. Height. Eye color.

The rest is up to you to maximize the decisions you cannot control for the good of the people that matter most to you. And every day is more progress toward giving them the sweet song your life is becoming. These people are the audience of the song of your life. The people who get to enjoy your life as it plays out.

Who is the audience of the song of your life? What values are you keeping your life consistent with? How are you focusing on making the people you care most about better? 

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Human Touch

When we order a steak at a restaurant, we ask for our steak with the appropriate fixings and cooked to order.

There is nothing in the order about the chef or the waiter. There is only the specifications of our order and the expectations the food will be everything promised on the menu.

The waiter being attentive, magically keeps our cup full, and cracking the right amount of jokes to be friendly without being too involved in our experience is a stylized personality bonus.

The chef stopping by to check on us and to make sure our food tastes right and more than meets our expectations. This is a bit of personality the restaurant offers.

When we encounter unexpected good personality, it is a massive bonus. We get to enjoy our experience knowing we are getting everything we ordered PLUS there is the added joy of the personality we cannot get anywhere else.

Where else do we go and the chef checks on us? Where else do we go and the waiter knows our name? Where else do we go and the experience is cooked to order and personalized, just a little bit, for us?

How are you personalizing each experience for people? How are you adding in a slight margin of human personality to your job? How can you add a human touch to your service? How can you add in a custom touch to make it better when your peers to stop by your desk?

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USE CASE

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A factory’s primary job is to produce a product at the end of an assembly line. Mattel makes toys. Ford makes cars. Boise Paper Company makes paper.

The raw product, parts, and pieces go into the factory and out the other side comes the finished product.

Actually, the ‘finished’ product.

When we break it down, the product is not actually finished. The product is now ready its appropriate use case.

The toy is ready to be broken out of the package and used by a child for, hopefully, years of enjoyment. The car is ready to be driven. The paper ready to be printed on, written on, or turned into an airplane.

In life, we never arrive either. When we are trying to lose weight, save money, develop a new habit, or improve ourselves, we never arrive. We never reach a point where we have permanently lost the weight and we are done. Transitioning from a weight loss diet to a weight maintenance diet means we keep the weight off. Going back to how we were eating before we lost the weight means we gain it all back.

These lifestyle changes are not destinations, but they are mile-markers. We develop the habit of reading daily so we can learn and read more. We do not develop the habit of reading daily in order to then be done reading. We might run a 5K to accomplish a life goal, but we will start reading daily to learn more about the American Civil War or learn about modern philosophy on assembly line factories.

Our lives do not have a point where we are finished products. There is only the race we run each day and the habits, actions, and use cases we are developing ourselves to be ready for.

What use cases are you ready for? What use cases are you developing yourself for? What tools do you have in your personality toolbox? What tools are you developing? What use cases should you be ready for? What use cases do you encounter regularly? What use cases should you be handling better than you do?

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FOIL

When I learned algebra, I was taught First Outside Inside Last as the order of operations. Today, when I type a formula into Google or a calculator, it then follows the rules to calculate the correct answer.

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Meanwhile, when I hand the same formula to a human, they will usually follow the rules as best they can. Fortunately for us both, I do not need very complicated formulas. Then again sometimes I will put the wrong formula together to try and find the information I need. Other times, I will be looking for the wrong information altogether. I will have the right answer to the wrong question.

Meanwhile, when working with people, they are not nearly as predictable and analogue as the calculator. Every interaction I have with a calculator has a limited number of reactions. Other people are not nearly as simple. Every interaction and micro-interaction has several reactions per person, and in some cases, there are several potential reactions based on the time of day, week, month, season, or year.

The calculator was designed with the same limitations. The designer of the calculator knew that various people would try and interact with it in different ways. They knew that some people would follow the rules and other people would type “01134” into it, turn it upside down, and show their friends that they made the calculator say “hEll0.”

I need to also design my interactions to be good, better, and the best for most people, most of the time. So whether I have someone trying to run a complex formula using the ‘Manning Interface Guidelines’ or someone who is trying to type “hEll0” I still provide the best experience in the interactions and micro-interactions I have.

When I am initiating an interaction, I need to make sure I am designing the interaction to be the best for the person I am interacting with. Present them with a genuine and positive interaction to give them the best opportunity for the best and most positive reaction.

How are you when someone interacts with you? Do you react well when someone tries to type “hEll0?” Do you try to set up other people to have the most opportunity for a positive reaction? Do you go into interactions looking for good ways to improve the best for others before it is good for you?

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Favorite Part of a Song

I was singing along to one of my favorite songs and towards the end of the song, the lead singer sings the chorus and another singer sings the bridge over top of them. It is truly a goosebump sort of moment.

All the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The hairs on my arms stand up. I get a slight shiver in my spine and my smile spreads a mile wide.

I know it is coming and still. I cannot stop it from happening when I listen to my favorite songs.

So good.

Whether it is our favorite song, favorite movie, play, musical, book, painting, tv show, or time of year, we all have these little items we love. However, what stops us from making more of these moments?

What stops us from planning these moments out and being ready for them all the time so we do not have to wait for them, instead we can experience them more often. We can plan these moments out for others to add value to their lives.

We can enrich the lives of friends and family by sharing our goosebump moments and share enrich our own lives by asking others about their goosebump moments and we can see something new or old in a way we have never seen it before.

Who are you sharing your goosebump moments with? Who are you asking about their goosebump moments? How are you seeking out new goosebump moments?

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Drawers

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I had an opportunity not too long ago to visit the hospital, and while I was there, I was noticing the drawers, cabinets, and equipment they had around the room. Of course everything was on wheels and there were all sorts of different machines, signs and bins for disposal of all the various stuff.

What truly stuck out to me were two rolling carts with drawers.

One of them was this large rolling cart with multi colored drawers. Each drawer in addition to being a color was also labeled: Pink/Red, Purple, Yellow, White, Blue, Orange, and Green. On the opposite side of each drawer, was a piece of masking tape with another label scribbled onto it in the usual doctor’s handwriting. Each drawer had at least one and most of them then had the first label crossed out with a sharpie and a new label written on it. Equally illegible.

The other cart was all the same color, a drab sterile grey-ish color. The cart had large labels on it. Each label was a folded piece of paper shoved into a clear sleeve that was glued to the front of the drawer. The label printed in a plain font in all caps. It was far from a genius design, but it made the necessary point. No room for ambiguity.

As you live your life, which are you?

In a hospital room, I want to know my nurse, doctor, surgeon, or EMT is reaching for the drawer labeled MEDS when she is looking for the necessary meds to keep me alive. I do not want her opening the Orange drawer and then opening the White drawer and then opening the Red/Pink drawer to find what she needs.

If my son is putting his toys away, I want the multicolored rolling drawers. I can work with him to learn his colors and help him access/store his toys. He needs more opportunities to work with colors, not fewer.

When someone talks to you, are they talking to the grey drab well labeled drawers, when they need the multicolored drawers, poorly labeled, but full of personality? Or does your job need the consistent and stable grey drawers, well labeled and ready for action and you are trying to be the brightly colored poorly labeled drawers and making everyone’s day more difficult?

How do you need to change to better suit your work environment? How does your product need to change to better suit its use case?

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Freedom of Information

I love sharing novel and obscure information with people. Information about how Daylight Saving Time works internationally, the history behind why a certain thing is the way it is, or what things were like before the upgrades and changes that have been made to the iPhone or computers.

The unintentional drawback of wanting to share this information is I sometimes am not helping with the information I am sharing. People do not always want to know or they do not care. And sometime, sharing extra information even causes extra stress or anxiety because they are overwhelmed with the excess information.

What is a small way you like to add value to other peoples’ lives? How can this cause people stress? How can it add value? How can you better assess when to add value and when to keep it in?

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EXCITE

When I’m texting, I will add in exclamation points more often than I would for pretty much anything else I write. I am especially fond of the emoji exclamation points (‼️❗️⁉️). I know I’m not the only one, many other people I text will do the same thing.

I will add in exclamation points to indicate extra positivity or emphasis even when I do not think I would normally. It is always a struggle to decide whether or not I should even add them in.

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The reality is though, they do not matter or count anymore.

When there is an exclamation point in a text. It does not really matter. I will get a 100 or more text messages a day and if a few of them have an exclamation point. No. Big. Deal.

Contrast my text messages with longer form writing, there are almost no exclamation points. There are periods, commas, occasionally a semicolon, almost never a colon, and even fewer exclamation points.

Exclamation points in a text message do not have the same purpose. They do not perform the same function. They most certainly are not as rare. And they are as common as sand in the desert.

The exclamation point is a tool for communicating excitement and we are frivolously using it as if it hardly means anything at all. The only difference is long form and text messages. Text messages happen all the time. Rarely do we sit down to write a long form letter.

Sitting down to do more long form writing we could develop a better sense of value for the exclamation point. Whereas when throw this golden hammer around so easily, we lose perspective on the true power it can posses.

Similarly, if we sat and watched a road crew pave a road, we might be more patient with the small pothole on the highway. The crew has an immense power and it is incredibly labor intensive to fix one pot hole much less an entire neighborhood of boulevard of them.

Spend a day watching your barista, you might be more forgiving that they used soy milk instead of almond milk in your drink this morning.

Follow around your mayor or senator for a day and you might be a little bit more patient with them as they tend to their jobs.

These modern marvels surround us every day and they have a face behind them.

What luxuries have you become too familiar with? What valuables are you taking for granted? Whose work are you taking for granted? Who are you being too critical of? How can you give value to the people you are taking for granted?

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The Customer's No

When you have an idea. Take a shot at it.

Why are you the negative force in your life? Let someone else tell you, ‘No.’

Where are you stopping before you start? What ideas do you have that you can act on? Where can you add value to other people’s life? What significant work can you do? What excites you? What meaningful work can you do and let other people tell you, ‘No’? Where are you telling yourself, ‘No’ because you are afraid?

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No Way

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In improvisational theater they have a rule of thumb. When another player on stage does something, you always say, ‘Yes.’

Occasionally the new idea is at odds with the direction of the improvisational scene and then the players have to act on the Rule of Yes. Their tool of action is to say, ‘Yes and...’ With ‘yes and’ they can move the scene forward in a meaningful, often hilarious way, and engage one another. The scene becomes more because the players on stage are saying, ‘Yes and...’ and the scene is moving forward. Constantly being added to.

The scene grows with each passing action, line, and move. The players deftly navigate a scene about deep sea fishing to battling an ancient leviathan with QTip swords and armor made of canned tuna.

At work, how much more limited are you? Can you really not participate in that new project or are you saying, ‘No’ because you don’t like the project? Can you be a part of the project and add meaning to it rather than nay say and shame it? When your family wants to go on a crazy vacation, do you shoot it down because it is out of the ordinary? When a friend calls you about a new project, do you say ‘yes and...’ or make excuses for why you cant?

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Picking Winners

March Madness. Fantasy Football. Fantasy Baseball. Fantasy Basketball.

They are all systems of picking winners. Picking winners based on statistics and biases developed by the “experts” who spend a bunch of time with the statistics and biases that we all have access to.

They then use those numbers to quantify a player or team’s value summed up in a number of points they might profit your team or bracket as you play against another team. This is purely speculative based on people’s opinions and how high or low profile the given team or player is.

When choosing a player or team for any given matchup, we choose based on our own hopes and dreams of what we hope the player will do. We choose based on our own biases. We choose because we think based on the commentary we like from the “experts” we agree with.

We choose not because we have any hard and fast data. We choose because we are hopeful.

We choose because we are biased to like our own opinion and listen to the people we agree with most.

Unfortunately, this is also how we choose our political views, financial views, family views, and spiritual views. We find the thing that sounds the best coming from an expert and go along with it. We do not spend the time challenging the assumptions and research made by the “experts” we agree with.

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What “experts” are you listening to? What does the other side say about your “expert”? When was the last time you reviewed your values and beliefs based on what the expert thinks and believes? Who are the experts in your life helping you along?

BONUS EXERCISE: Take a minute with one of your values or beliefs and assume that you are wrong. Now look up some articles proving you are wrong. What do they say? What valid points do they make? How can you improve yourself using one of these valid points?

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Grownups

When I was a little kid, I always looked up to adults. Literally, I haven’t always been six feet tall. Really though, they were the grownups. They were so much taller and smarter than I was. I wanted to be just like them when I was grownup. Tall and smart, that’s what it meant to me to be a grownup, tall and smart.

Here I am all these years later and I’m still waiting for someone to give me a badge. To let me know, I am an adult. I’m 32, a father, and I still wonder when I’ll be a grownup. Reflecting on what’s so different now from that little kid who sat in the room while his parents and their friends sat around talking and chatting about adult things. Most of which in my memory sounds exactly like the adults from Charlie Brown. I think I’m about as tall as I’ll ever be, unfortunately.

The more I reflect on what a grownup is, the more I have realized, grownups are a process not a destination. I’ll never be grownup. I will continue to grow up and develop and learn and improve and become more adult. I am definitely much taller today than I was then, but that does not seem to make me an adult. It only seems to cause others to assume I am an adult. We will see how the smart part plays out, but I like to think I am smarter today than I was then.

A grownup is a participant in the process of growing up.

I have to choose to be a participant in this process, and that is all it means to be a grownup. To keep participating in the process and never stop. To believe I have arrived at the destination of being a grownup will mean, I cannot grow any more and my potential will then have peaked.

How are you participating in the process of growing up? How are you intentionally participating in the process of growing up? What would it look like fo you to stop participating? (The best way to avoid failure is to know what it looks like.) What would it look like for you to start participating? Who can help hold you to your word to participate in the process of growing up?

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Resistance

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When I go to the gym, I expect to push myself. I expect to have to choose to increase the weight for the bench press (especially for my weak flimsy arms.) I expect to increase the weight I use when I am squatting. I choose to increase the weight I use when I do curls.

I also choose to increase the slope of the treadmill or elliptical to continue to maintain my size and weight. Sometimes I think I will fall over dead afterwards or there is no way I can finish my time.

As I push myself to make these increases, I also increase the amount of resistance each one of these exercises has on my body. And ideally the increased resistance leads to the desired results of weight loss/maintenance, toned muscles, chiseled abs (it is harder to chisel a keg than a six pack. It is really insurance against dying a death too young.)

Increasing the resistance is important. I have to increase the resistance in order to continue to develop and maintain physical health.

Then there is creativity and productivity. I have to focus on developing my creativity too. It comes with its own resistances.

Tiredness: I’ve been up too long and I have already done so much.

Boredom: this part of the project is lame and I don’t like it. I should something that doesn’t take so long or is more entertaining.

Distractions: I know I need to come up with some ideas, but I would rather check my email, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, or listen to a podcast. Those are easier and quicker than making myself be creative.

Excuses: It can wait.

At the end of the day, there are all these resistances I am pushing against when it comes to focusing on doing work that matters. Making a difference in the long term projects and getting real work done. Whether or not I will do anything worthwhile is directly related to my ability to lean into these resistances in the face of excuses.

What are your excuses for not doing something that matters? What are your resistances? How can you lean into them to do work that really matters to you and to others? How can your friends know what you are capable of if you never lean into your resistances?

“Resistance is futile.” - Ancient Borg Proverb

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Internet Time Machine

Think about this. Once upon a time, so long ago, approximately during the 1990’s, I would have an idea, and then think about it for a while. My idea would ruminate inside my own head, then I would tell my friends about it.

On a good day, I would have several friends readily available to me the same day. It might have to be later that week before my friends would be available to talk. I would then tell my friends about the idea and they would weigh in. If they like the idea, they might tell some of their friends about it and get some feedback on my behalf. And then those friends would share with their friends, so on and so forth.

My friends and I would continue to talk about the idea on occasion. They might even remember to give me some of the feedback they received and share it back with me. I would be encouraged or discouraged to act on my idea. All in all, it might take a few weeks before I am really able to say whether or not my idea is going to take root.

Today, I can post on Facebook and Twitter, get the simultaneous feedback of everyone the algorithm allows within minutes.

I very-well might be able to get more feedback on more ideas faster than I can come up with ideas.

At this rate of ideation I could actually get more feedback on more ideas in a single day than I could have potentially gotten within a month during the 1990’s. And more feedback than I might have been able to get in a year in before the 1950’s.

Given the ability of so many people being able to weigh in so quickly. We are now able to iterate faster than ever before.

How are you using your friends and family connections on Facebook? What thoughts and ideas are you sharing on Twitter? How are you weighing in on the ideas you see others sharing on social media?

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Snowflakes

I hear a lot about the Millenial generation and they are usually this way and that way. I hear quite a bit about Generation X and how they are the other way and do this thing normally. Then there are those who don’t fit into either category and they are this hybrid generation called Millenial Xer’s. And then I hear about the Baby Boomers and what it means for them to fade from majority to minority. Then everyone has an opinion on the statistics and history of the Silent Generation and how they did this right or that wrong and how it has left us all better or worse off than before.

The more we talk about it, the more we measure it, the more we press into classifying the generations, the more different we all seem.

When I talk to anyone identifying with any of these generations, they don’t carry enough of the identifiers for me to classify them. They might be born in 1991 but carry the opinions and ideas of someone born in 1967. The more I get to know people who fall into all these labels, the more I see people.

Sure these people use a smartphone more and those people do not use a smartphone very much. But they are still people. They breath air, eat food, and sleep, just like I do. The more of them I treat them like people. The fewer differences I have with them.

The less I focus on our supposed differences and classifications, the better I feel and the more friends I make.

Who are you classifying before you get to know them? Where are you making assumptions about people you do not know? Where are you meeting a stereotype, not meeting a person? Where else are you classifying and measuring the differences of people before you meet the people?

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Mundane

Every morning, my alarm goes off. I get up out of bed and get dressed to go to the gym to work out. I go to the gym and follow the workout on my phone. I finish my workout between 7:30 and 7:35. Afterwards I shower, sometimes shave, get dressed, and go to work. I take the same route to work every day.

When I get to work, I make myself coffee. While my coffee is brewing, I finish my breakfast of two hard boiled eggs, a sliced apple with almond butter, and a banana.

At this point, I have made no decisions nor have I had to apply myself. I have followed the road I laid out for myself, relied on the habits I have and the planning I already put into place. I have spent no mental energy to get to where I am by 8:30 every morning.

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My outfit is pretty standard and unremarkable.

My breakfast is the same.

My workout is preplanned.

As mundane as this sounds, it is incredibly freeing. I am set free to execute predetermined systems and processes while I pay attention to the things that really matter to me. I stew on the ideas of the podcasts I am listening to while I work out. I am pondering the items on my schedule while I “pump iron”.

Even when I get to work, putting together my coffee and eating my breakfast is as much a part of my mental boot up process as it is a habit.

Oh, and did I mention I am significantly physically healthier now than I was 2 years ago?

My entire process has freed me to make more decisions about things that matter while I have systematized the mundane. The mundane no longer has the power to steal from me while I pour my energy into what really matters to me.

Where are you spending energy making mundane decisions? How can you better systematize these mundane decisions? What can you make more reflex based than decision based so you can focus on what really matters?

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Easy as...1...2...3

Shoulders back, head up, and a soft smile.

It has been amazing to see how much it changes my life to walk around with my shoulders back, head up, and a soft smile.

My shoulders being back, does not jut chest out like an arrogant pride-man.

My head being up keeps it out of my phone and focused on the people and objects around me.

My smile is not an intense smile like I won the lottery. That smile would be a lie.

That smile would be a lie.

My shoulders are back, where they should be. My head is up, like an adult. My smile is gentle, as if to say, “I am ok and so are you.”

The more I focus on doing these three things as I walk around, the brighter each day is and the happier the people I cross paths with seem to be.

Every time you get up from your chair, give it a try. Roll your shoulders back. Give a gentle exhale and let the tension out. Pick your chin up off your chest. You have a neck for a reason, let it show. Curl the edges of your mouth upwards, smile because you can. The world needs your smile.

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