Category Archives: inner peace

Gee, thanks Trent. Now I’m a chef.

Chef and his signature dish.This has got to be my last after-midnight post. This schedule is killing me, but I’m just so pumped about a couple of things going on right now that I can’t stop working on them. I’m also pretty pumped to have more than a week of daily postings to this blog — just 2 more weeks and the habit will be formed, they say — but I do have to figure out how to get it done before 2am.

What really pumped me up today — the pump, if you will — was an article posted by Trent on The Simple Dollar. This is one of probably a dozen personal finance blogs I subscribe to, and it is by far my favorite. The article was about the benefits of setting up multiple income streams in your life, effectively diversifying your human capital to increase your income and cushion the blow if something happens to you day job.

Here was my comment on his blog:

“Trent, thanks again for the kick in the pants (the backside kind (good), not the frontside kind (bad)).

“I’ve been thinking about the multiple income stream idea for a while, and I guess my chief concern was that raised by Barbara Stanny above. I figured I’d earn more by focusing on my highest-income pursuit – my day job – rather than diversifying my human capital, since nothing else I could do would earn me as much per hour of effort as my day job, not even close, especially with overtime factored in.

“This post got my cranial juices flowing, though. What if I break out of the time-for-money paradigm? Right now I’m developing an information product related to cooking that could generate a passive income that could scale WAY beyond the number of hours I put into it. That was already in the works. What THIS article got me thinking was: why don’t I start a personal chef / small-scale catering business?

“I already do the majority of my cooking 1 day a week…what if I just doubled, tripled, or quadrupled the quantity (which does not increase the level of time and effort by the same amount) packaged it into meals, and sold it to folks who want home-cooked meals without the hassle? This is turning my greatest passion – cooking good food for people who appreciate it – and turning it into an income stream. I figure at the very least, my passion for cooking will start to pay for itself, and what I learn from this business may improve the quality of my info product.

The punchline: I posted an ad on craigslist earlier this evening. If anyone’s in the Minneapolis area, search for “personal chef”. Bon appetit.”

Sorry for the long quote — especially one that’s already posted someplace — but it demonstrates that I’ve done my 500 words today, even with a weak post like this one. I guess I just want to make a couple of things clear.

First, follow your bliss, even if it’s only by a couple of baby steps each day. That craigslist ad was a huge step for me, because it’s starting the ball rolling on testing a career in cooking — even for only a few hours a week — that I’ve always dreamed about, and that act of putting myself out there only took 10 minutes and is completely anonymous if I fail (unless you’re reading this…d’oh!).

Second, I guess it’s alright that most personal finance blogs, when they’re not filling pages and pages quoting each other, publish a lot of repetitive stuff, just like magazines do. Eyeballs are drawn to new posts, not new ideas. Because a lot of these messages take time and repetition to set in, especially when your skull is as thick as mine. I’ve read about the value of having multiple income streams dozens of times, but I’ve never put it into practice. Trent just happened to have that thought today, when I was receptive to it and needing to be reminded. This time I’m ready. Thanks again, Trent.

Call to action (which I’m going to start calling “required reading”): read Trent’s article about multiple income streams, as well as this one on Monster about monetizing your hobbies. List 3 things you love to do and would do for no money. Pick the easiest one to monetize, and post an ad on craigslist advertising your new business. You can always use their anonymous email feature in case you chicken out, but I want you to try this so you can see for yourself how responsive people might be to your new business. You might be surprised. Then, you might also wind up following your bliss.

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The 4-Hour…Sleepnight?

New testament for the new rich.Holy shoeshine, am I beat. It’s going on 2am and I’m yay-close to wrapping this Seinfeld chain around someone’s neck and playing “start the lawnmower”.

Why am I up so late? I’m glad you asked. Oh, right. You couldn’t have asked. You’re asleep.

I’m up so late because of my dreams. Not bad dreams that scare me awake. Good dreams that make me afraid to go to sleep.

You see, I’m a devotee of Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek phenomenon. I got the book at the bookstore the day it came out, and I read it cover-to-cover — taking copious notes — over the weekend that followed. The whole book seemed to speak to different areas of my life that I found wanting…working in office environments that value presence over performance, allowing meaningless tasks and useless information to consume my attention, trying to get ahead financially under a non-scalable paradigm of trading time for money.

I learned an awful lot from that book. I began to apply the lessons to my working life and my dreaming life. Re-evaluating all my commitments with the killer combination of the Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law has boosted both my productivity and my free time. But I also made a resolution I’ve yet to follow through with, until now.

I’d resolved to give Tim’s “muse” business creation plan a try. He said you could get a small business — simple enough to practically run itself, yet lucrative enough to free you from some or all of your time-for-money commitments — in a matter of a few weeks. I made this resolution at the end of April.

May came and went. I kicked around a few business ideas, but I crafted no “muse” to speak of.

June, July…same drill. Stuff going on with my then-employer kept me preoccupied; however, it also strengthened my resolve to work toward breaking out of the time-for-money and praise-for-presence box I was in.

August: wedding and honeymoon. Mine. Gimme a break.

September I opened my paper calendar (ug ug…fire much bad…) and found a sticky-note with a goal written on it: “$15k profit/month in 90 days!” It was dated July 15. I’d stuck the note in September to get myself back on track IN CASE I’d fallen off. I know myself too well.

The punchline: I’m up late working on a website to test the demand for a product I’m considering developing. I don’t want to jinx it by letting on, but it’s something that combines my greatest passions of cooking and performing. I hope the demand is there — in my mind the value proposition is pretty compelling — because I’d have a blast developing the product, which would boost my chance for success even more, I think. Stay tuned.

Call to action: read Tim Ferriss’s book, The 4-Hour Workweek. It may or may not change your life, but it will definitely broaden your perspective on how you’re living your life (or letting IT live YOU).

Now I’m off to bed for 2.5 hours’ sleep before I have to get up and take the kids to schoozzzzzzzzzzz…..

How to love your life

Love, American-style.As someone on an endless quest to refine my identity and define my purpose, I often try to summarize my findings to-date into a catchy motto or creed by which I should live, some sort of shorthand standard or “rule of thumb” (for those not afraid of useful cliches of patriarchal origin). I need a slogan. A cheer. A cheat sheet.

Or how about this: an algorithm.

An algorithm is a set of instructions for accomplishing a certain task, ideally with the fewest possible steps necessary to complete the task satisfactorily. Or it can be a set of rules, preferably the fewest rules necessary to govern the situation and handle all possible or likely inputs and outcomes.

Here’s my algorithm for living a happy life, a life that I love:

Spend as much time as possible doing what you love with whom you love.

How did I come up with this? I sat down this evening and thought about whether I love my life. The answer: sometimes. The follow-up: when? When I’m doing the things that I love to do. Or when I’m with the people I love.

Synthesis: chocolate and peanut butter, dude. Why not both?

I love my life when I’m spending time doing what I love to do: writing, cooking, entertaining, performing. I also love my life when I’m spending time with people I love to spend time with: my wife, my children, my friends.

It stands to reason that I love my life the most when I’m doing what I love WITH the people I love. Conversely, I love my life least when I’m spending time doing things I don’t love with people I don’t like or just don’t know very well.

This conclusion has two key lessons for me.

First, I need to maximize my time in that “loved things and people” quadrant. Whatever I can do to get there as often as possible and stay there as long as possible is a good move.

Second, if I find myself in the opposite quadrant — the sad little quadrant of “unloved things and people” I can improve my situation in one of two ways: either substitute loved activity for unloved activity — for example, by volunteering to write the executive summary for a project instead of handling an account reconciliation — or start loving the people I’m with — for example, taking the time to get to know my co-worker, seeing what hobbies or interests we have in common.

By the disjointed narrative above, you can tell I’ve got to do some more thinking about this idea, this new motto of mine: Spend as much time as possible doing what you love with whom you love. In the meantime, I challenge you to answer this call to action:

List three activities that you love and three people that you love. Then make some time this week to do at least one thing on the first list with at least one person on the second list.

Extra credit: come up with your own motto, your own one-sentence algorithm for living a life you love. I’d love to hear it.

Friday evening resolution

Shabbat Shalom!  Hey!50% too clever, I know. But worth mentioning all the same. That’s what you get when you force your work ethic upon me, Seinfeld, even if only memetically.

Damn you, Jerry, and damn your stupid chain. But here I am, punning the blog’s name.

So around the same time I stumbled on the name “Monday Morning Revolution” (and was shocked by the revelation it was not already a registered domain), I decided that I should host people for Shabbat dinner every Friday that I was free to do so. I decided I’d wait until after my wedding in August (an impending wedding is a useful excuse to get out of just about anything) and then make it a full-blown resolution.

We were wed August 12th. Our first Shabbat dinner guests as a married couple came on August 31. The following Friday was someone’s birthday, so we bagged the big family dinner and went out. Then this week (tonight actually – yes, I blog on Shabbos. But I don’t roll.) we had some more people over: one gal from our Intro to Judaism class and a couple we met in our premarital workshop (a.k.a. group therapy for the betrothed).

We’re 2 for 2. Maybe I should knock on some wood here, but I’ve yet to be disappointed by the experience of having people over for Shabbat dinner. Jews, non-Jews, old friends, new friends, it always works out awesome. Of course, getting all those swell dishes for wedding presents helps, as does the fact that I love to cook in large quantities, but that’s beside the point.

The point is the emulation of my own personal Biblical hero, Abraham. I won’t go into too much detail here, but in the book of Genesis, Abraham is clearly the hostest with the mostest, and his hospitality is rewarded by thousands of years of spiritual progeny in three major world religions marking him as their single common patriarch.

OK, maybe I’m getting a bit uppity, and I really should be in bed right now (damn you, Seinfeld) but I just read a mention in someone else’s awesome blog about one of my favorite books, Never Eat Alone, and that, plus a belly full of kugel and meatballs and a heart full of friendship have inspired the following call to action:

Read Genesis, especially about the life of Abraham, then read Keith Ferazzi’s Never Eat Alone, then go back and re-read Genesis. You should be able to knock all that out in a weekend. Don’t ask me why – both books have been extensively reviewed elsewhere – just trust me on this one. Then ask a few friends over for dinner the following Friday night. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel about your life.

Stay tuned for more Shabbat dinner-based messages; this may be my most inspired and fruitful resolution since “Regular Bathing”.

The opposite of speedwork

chillax!

My greatest lesson in relaxation began as I engaged in the exact opposite of relaxation.

A few weeks ago I was at a running clinic practice where we were doing speedwork. Speedwork is one of those things you really, really hate while you’re doing it, but you’re glad about it after. Like employment. And like most jobs I’ve had, it consists of brief intervals of furious, boundry-mocking, vomit-inducing labor interspersed with long stretches of jogging-through-the-motions indolence. To extend the metaphor further, it’s rarely the jogging part that brings out the complainers.

“Robin (huff puff),” I gasped to the running coach, “why are we (dry heave) doing this?”

“Because your body learns to go faster (perfectly even breath) by…um…going faster (negligible perspiration).”

Which only made more than tautological sense when, a short while later, my running clinic ran a 10k race. Most of our practice sessions were long slow jogs, relative to the wind-sprints of speedwork night. I felt much more confident to kick the pace up above my usual jog, knowing – from experience – that my body was capable of withstanding and executing the harder work for a finite period of time. I finished the 10k in just under an hour, with an average pace of 9:36 per mile, versus my usual workout pace of around 10:30-11:30 per mile.

Yeah, John. Good story. Really relaxing.

I’m getting to that. A short while later, I was on my honeymoon in Colorado. (You think I run for my health? I did it to get into a tux.) A whole week of zero office work and no access to e-mail or the internet. I can say with certainty that this was my longest period of sustained care-free relaxation in more than fifteen years…since those lazy, aimless summer vacations of my grade-school days. Somewhere between simmering in a hot spring and savoring a seven-course dinner at a five-star restaurant, it occured to me that this was also like speedwork, only, you know, slow.

Periods of intensive relaxation teach your body and mind how to relax. Whether you meditate daily, chill out at church once a week, or take a vacation (a real, crackberry-free vacation) once every ten years, it is these intervals of peace that teach you to be calm when you feel like stressing out, just as speedwork teaches you it’s okay to go fast when you feel like going slow. You can handle it.

Following this epiphany I resolved to remember that feeling of totaly relaxation so that I can tap into it when I’m in a stressful work or family situation and remember that it’s okay to be calm, that I’m capable of it, and that I might perform better if I incorporated the calm into the situation, rather than trying to win with a stress feedback loop. So far it’s working beautifully.

Call to (in)action: next time you’re in a stressful situation, take just a moment to remember the last time you were totally calm, totally relaxed. Think about it for a few minutes, and take that feeling back into the stressful situation and resolve it.

If you can’t remember such a time, then for heaven’s sake, take a vacation. You owe it to yourself and to everyone who has to put up with stress junkies like you.