Keep It Simple – Then Make It Easy

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Mom always used to say I have diarrhea of the mouth. Don’t read that again – you got it right the first time. Seems there would be kinder ways to tell somebody their breath isn’t minty fresh. And no amount of Listerine made it any better. Believe me, I tried. All that did was give me medicine breath. Turns out Mom was just saying I talk a lot. Well, duh!

If you’ve been following these posts any time at all, you’ve probably figured that out all on your own. I’ve never been at a loss for words. Even at work, when somebody else writes a 12-page functional requirements document, mine is 50 pages. If I’d been paid by the word all these years, I’d be rich.

There’s something to be said for getting the point across clearly. Nobody has ever accused me of producing work that lacks detail. The problem is getting people to actually read it. Even the developers who need the information toss it aside and say, “Just give me the Cliff Notes version.”

Years ago, I was a lead writer on a program writing Air Force maintenance manuals. Some of my writers would agonize over which word to use, or whether to use a comma. I always told them, think of how the technician will use this book when it’s finished. They’ll take it out of the box, stack it on the floor, and climb on top of the stack to reach the paper cups on the top shelf.

Not a really comforting thought, especially if you live directly under an Air Force base landing approach. But it does put things in perspective. Keep it simple. Nobody cares about punctuation when they’ve got a wrench in one hand and grease is dripping out of the landing gear motor all over their freshly starched uniform. They just want to get the job done.

You see, the job is simple – it’s just not easy. We talked about that last week, but what does it really mean? Simply stated (like how I threw that in there?), it means it’s not rocket science. I can explain it so anybody can understand. But beyond the explanation, it still takes a little skill to make it happen. And that skill comes from experience.

In fact, our procedural manuals were written on that very premise. We would bold key words in each instruction so the more experienced technician could just focus on those words. “Tighten the attaching bolts in an alternating pattern to 16 ft. lbs.”  A pretty neat concept, if you ask me. But do you think anybody even noticed the spelling in the middle?

Okay, you can stop reading the sentence – I didn’t misspell anything. I’m just making a point. Sometimes, we get so bogged down in the details that we overlook the simplicity of what we’re trying to do. And let me tell you, I’m the king of that domain. I can overthink anything. It keeps me from making any huge mistakes.

The problem is it keeps me from not making mistakes as well. You see, there’s a point where we need to stop thinking and start doing. Are there things I’ll need to consider along the way? You bet. And fate has a way of putting those things in front of you at just the right time. Does it matter what you’ll do if a traffic light twelve miles away turns red? No. Not until you get there.

But if you don’t start the engine and put your foot on the gas now, you’ll never get far enough to find out. Planning isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much planning stands in the way of action. At some point, we need to actually do the work. And that’s when we begin to find ways to make it easy.

My business is built on a very simple concept. Anybody can do it. The same is true of just about everything I do, from my day job to writing these posts and changing the oil in my car. But none of them are particularly easy. They take practice. And after a while, you get really good.

Learn the concepts, and then put them into practice. Handle obstacles as they arise, based on what you’ve learned along the way. Taking something that’s simple and making it easy is just a matter of doing it until it becomes second nature. You’ll encounter new challenges as you grow. But with each success, you’re that much better equipped to overcome whatever may come your way.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

You Can’t Fail If You Don’t Try

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

No, I didn’t drop off the face of the earth. No, my account wasn’t hacked by a political troll. I didn’t have my morning coffee until mid-afternoon yesterday, so that’s my defense against anything I may have said or done that made a few heads spin. But I know you’re my friends, and if my lack of coffee went further than I’m aware, I’m sure I can count on you for bail money.

It’s the first Monday in a new month. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, that would be the dead of winter. I’ve often wondered why people south of the equator don’t just advance the calendar six months so we can all dread February equally. Or maybe we should just turn our calendar back six months, though enough people whine about August already. I’m not sure I could handle that.

This is typically a week when those of us who made resolutions take a few moments to reinforce our goals. That’s not to say we’ll do anything more about it – we just admit we blew it and remind ourselves why it was important in the first place. For another week or two, most local gyms will still be pretty well packed. But by mid-month, all those workout clothes will be in a Goodwill bag.

I have to say I’ve done pretty well with my resolutions so far. Granted, cutting certain words out of your vocabulary isn’t that great an accomplishment, especially when you’re not out in morning traffic every day. But I’m trying. I had a few others as well, and I’m hitting about 50% on those. Half the battle is recognizing where you’re falling short. But the other half is doing something about it.

We make a big deal about New Year’s resolutions, but they’re really no different than any other goal we may set during the year. So let’s stop calling them resolutions and just call them what they are … pipe dreams. Okay, goals. Some would say the two are about the same, but I say there’s one big distinction between the two. Intent. Premeditation. The willingness to see it through.

A goal without a plan is just a dream, and a plan without action is somebody else’s roadmap to success. And years down the road, we’ll tell people, “I had an idea about that once, but I failed.” No, you didn’t. You can’t fail if you don’t try. And that’s what stops most of us from taking that first step. Inaction is life’s only certain hedge against failure. It’s also a guarantee against success.

Which brings me to an important point. The absence of failure doesn’t mean you’ve succeeded, and the absence of success doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Read that again. You can’t fail until you stop trying, but success will still take a little more effort. And as long as you’re in the hunt for success, you haven’t failed. Both are absolutes at opposite ends of the spectrum. Action is what lies between.

So, try this. Find the most obnoxious person you know and share your goals with them. Tell them the great things you’ll do in the coming year, and then sit back and await the inevitable barrage of criticism. Then do yourself the best favor you possibly can. Succeed. Not just a little, but all the way. If for no other reason, than to rub their big fat nose in it. By then you’ll be able to afford the protection.

A goal is simply a dream with a due date. But as long as you’re willing to give yourself a free pass on that due date, it’ll never happen. Figure out what needs to be done and do it. See it through to the very end. And if it still doesn’t work, at least you’ll have earned the right to say you failed. But odds are, you’ll be telling a completely different story.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Goals are Great – But What’s Your Plan?

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off just right.

Well, it’s a new month and that means another chance to do the things we wanted to do last month, but never quite got done. Unless you live where I do and what you wanted to do was play outside in the water. I think we missed our chance on that for a while. But, as we discussed a few days ago, winter always turns to summer … eventually.

But if you had some other goals in mind, things that don’t require nice weather, now would be the time to refocus on those goals. I have a lot of things I need to do inside and now is the perfect time to get them done. Things like cleaning up the basement, going to the gym, and writing my book. If I could get any of that done over the next few months, I’d feel pretty good.

And then there are those other things, the ones we tend to describe in vague terms. “I need to get out of debt.” “I need to learn some marketable skills.” “I need to build my business.” “I need to do more with my family.”

When we say those things, we think we’ve pretty well defined what it is we need to do. But really, it’s no different than a military commander saying, “We need to win this war.” Duh! A third-grader can figure that out. Want to try a little harder, genius? Like, how do you plan on accomplishing that goal? What’s your strategy? What’s your plan? And when do you intend to get started?

Thankfully, military commanders don’t go into the battlefield with nothing more than a vague goal. They assess the situation, take stock of their assets, look for opportunities, and formulate a plan. And hopefully they do that pretty quickly, because the other side isn’t sitting back waiting for them to get out of bed. Odds are, they’re already on the move.

More often than not, we get a little more time to plan. Very rarely are we in competition with anybody else, and the stakes aren’t nearly as high. And that’s exactly why we have such a hard time accomplishing the things we need to do. If you’re like me, planning alone can take months or even years. I’m great at planning. But at some point, those plans need to be put into action.

Nobody likes a “to-do” list. Well, almost nobody. I guess some people rely on them like I rely on the battery in my car. But for most of us, it’s just another tedious task to complete before we can get anything else done. And at the end of the day, it’s one more reminder of what all we didn’t get done. Like we need any help with that. It’s like a GPS when you make a wrong turn … “Recalculating!”

But sometimes we need those written reminders to keep us on track. With all the distractions around us every day, it’s easy to find other things to occupy our time. Whether it’s TV, or phone calls, or email, or surfing the Internet, we can always find something to take up a few minutes when we really should be doing something else.

Most times, when we find ourselves engaged in idle activities that don’t do a thing to work toward our goals, it’s because we don’t really know what we should be doing in the first place. A list can help, but only if you know what to write on that list. If your only goal is to start a business, with no more detail than that, you’ll just sit there spinning your wheels until you burn out.

That’s where a little time spent studying and planning can make a world of difference. The more complex the project, the more time you’ll need. But it’s just a simple process of breaking it down into manageable steps. What is it you want to accomplish? How can that be done? What are the steps you need to take each day? What are the obstacles you’ll encounter?

The better you understand the details of what it is you want to accomplish, the easier it’ll be to do it. But don’t let planning become a paralysis. There comes a point where you hit the road, point yourself in the right direction, and work through the obstacles as they arise.

Most of the things we want to do are pretty straightforward. Go to the grocery store, clean the basement, make dinner. We don’t really need a written plan for that. But for the bigger goals in life, you need a solid idea of how you’ll get there, and what it’ll take to do it. Break it down into daily actions, step away from the distractions, and you’ll get there sooner than you think.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

What Are You Waiting For?

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is starting off right.

As I returned to work yesterday from a few days off, I was met by a barrage of emails from coworkers, some sharing the outcome of work they’d done, and some asking me to pitch in and help. I spent most of the day sifting through those messages and catching up on the work I’d missed. If I hadn’t, it would still be there waiting for me today. Isn’t it funny how that works?

Employers pay us to take time off because they know we need a sanity break every now. And they also know that, in many professions, the only thing they’re missing out on is our physical presence, because we’ll work extra hard to clean our plate before vacation, and then again after we return to catch what we missed. The same amount of work gets done, so it really doesn’t cost anything.

Many jobs are that way. The work you need to do isn’t going anywhere, and nobody else will step in and do it for you. They’ve got work of their own. And it’s pretty much expected that you’ll do whatever it takes to stay caught up. Most companies will forgive mistakes, but they expect an honest effort to get the job done. Inaction is simply not an option.

It’s the same with the things you want to do for yourself, your personal goals and dreams. None of them will just materialize on their own without any input from you. They require action, and in the absence of action, nothing happens. Even winning the lottery requires that you go out and buy a ticket.

If you’ve taken time to plan the means by which you’ll achieve your goals, you probably have a pretty extensive “to-do” list. Some of it may be things you need to do one time, like opening a savings account or getting a vendor’s license. Those are the easy ones. Other things are ongoing – you need to do them every day, because they are the activities that truly lead you to your goal.

Like any other job, that work will sit there until you do something about it. And that’s where most of us fall down. We have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way. You work late and come home tired, the kids need help with their homework, the kitchen sink backs up, the lawn needs to be mowed – a dozen different things that all require your immediate attention. So, what gives?

Well, it’s easy to set aside those things we need to do for ourselves because they’re just not quite as urgent. Sure, we know they need to be done and sooner or later we need to get back on track. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week, or next month. As soon as the current crisis is over and things settle down at work, we’ll get moving again. Sound familiar?

Part of what stands in our way is the fear of making a mistake. If it’s that hard to get the job done today, who has time to do it all over again because we blew it the first time? This is especially true of anything that involves money. Mistakes can be costly and set us back to square one. So, we wait until we’re absolutely certain we have the perfect approach.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right now … mistakes will be made. There’s no way to learn something new without a few errors. And, as the saying goes, to have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. It’s all new. And the whole way to your goal, you’ll have to stretch your boundaries and try new things.

But here’s the thing – the pursuit of your dreams will forgive mistakes. They may set you back a bit, and they may even cost a little money. But you can always undo a mistake. What your dreams won’t forgive is inactivity. You have to at least try.

It’s important to do the things you need to so you can be constantly moving closer to your goal. It may not go as quickly as you’d hoped, and there may be times you feel like you’re moving backward. But movement, in any direction, can always be corrected. Sitting still is a sin your dreams will never reward. You know what to do, so do it. Your dreams await. The next move is up to you.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved