Practice, Practice, Practice

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I read an article a few days ago that suggested if you want to make positive changes in your life, you should strive to be at the top one percent in something. In fact, the writer went on to say that it doesn’t even matter what you decide to be good at – just be in the top one percent of anything. Okay, I found that to be just a little intriguing.

Let’s set aside the familiar discussions of top one percent, which normally relate to income and wealth. In the US last year, the top one percent earned a total of 13.4 percent of the nation’s total wages, about $718,000. I guess I could live on that. But this isn’t about income. It’s about finding something you want to be good at and being your absolute best.

We’ve all heard the story of a tourist who asked a New York taxi driver how to get to Carnegie Square, and the driver responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” Or the football fan who showed up at the Cleveland Browns stadium and the ticket agent asked, “Are you here to watch or play?” Sorry, I had to throw that in. Being from southern Ohio, there’s a bit of a rivalry.

But the point is pretty much the same. If you want to get out of the spectator seats and onto the main stage, there are two ways to do it. Dedicate yourself to becoming the very best at whatever it is you want to do or look for something where everyone else is performing like a rank amateur. Both will get you closer to the big game. But only one will carry you through life to bigger and better things.

We’ve all worked with people who try to get ahead by making others around them look incompetent. They take on all the “important” work and leave everyone else to do the menial tasks, beating their chest in front of the boss the whole time. But what does it say about you if you’re the best of the inept? Wouldn’t it mean more to shine brightly among a sea of stars?

Practice, practice, practice. Very few things in life come naturally, with no practice involved. If you don’t believe me, watch a baby try to master the most basic human skill of walking. It takes skill, determination, and practice. Sure, it becomes second-nature after a while. And most of us are pretty good at it.

But is it more impressive to run a relay race with hurdles, or walk in circles around a baby who’s just learning to crawl? Being a good walker doesn’t put you in the top one percent. It puts you in the top ninety-nine percent. And if you strut around in front of a room full of people in wheelchairs, it just makes you a jerk.

If you want to really stand out, be good at something where others have an equal chance. And if you find yourself surrounded by people who aren’t quite as good as you are, help them become better. Hang around a group of comedians after a show, and you won’t hear much in the way of gossip. They’re too busy congratulating one another on a solid performance and offering suggestions.

When I had the opportunity to headline a show and bring my own opening acts, I always looked for people who were as strong as I was, or even stronger. Nobody wants to hear someone after the show say, “You were pretty good, but those other guys sucked.” Putting the strongest acts in front of me made me work that much harder to deliver my very best. And everybody benefitted as a result.

And how do you get good? Practice, practice, practice. You don’t get to Carnegie Hall by practicing once or twice a year. You don’t get there by practicing once or twice a month, or even a couple of times every week. You get there by practicing every single day, without fail. No breaks, no excuses. You make the commitment and stick to it.

Do you want to be a better leader? Maybe a stronger employee, a better parent, a more loving spouse, a better woodworker, or more successful in business? Then practice. Do it every day until it becomes part of who you are. Build on your strengths, and work on your weaknesses. And surround yourself with people who are better at it than you are today. Watch them. Learn from them.

It’s easy to rise above a room full of people who are sitting down. Instead, find a room full of people who are where you want to be, and make a commitment to be among the best of them. No matter what it is, you can do it. None of them got where they are by natural talent alone. It’s only when their talent becomes their passion that they rise to the top. And you can, too. All you have to do is practice.

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

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Resolution or Resignation? It's All About Commitment

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

Did you make any resolutions for the New Year? How are you doing so far? I normally don’t make resolutions, because I don’t like being reminded halfway through January that I already failed. But this year I did. They’re personal, and mostly related to my mindset and outlook. And, I’ve decided that 32 years after leaving the Navy, it’s time to stop talking like a sailor. Okay, I had good intentions.

Resolutions are simply a new start. Doing something we want to start doing or dropping habits that no longer fit who we want to be. It’s about change and moving forward. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s the start of a journey toward a better version of ourselves, something we aspire to be. It’s a dream. But the moment we resolve to make it happen, we commit ourselves to that dream.

According to some sources, as many as 80% of us will fail to achieve our New Year’s resolutions. Why? I guess there are a lot of reasons, and I won’t go into them here. But the main underlying cause is that we just lack the commitment. We want to make a change. We know we should make that change. But at the end of the day, it’s just a little more trouble than it’s worth. Old habits die hard.

And nobody wants to admit they lack commitment, especially when we make that commitment to ourselves. We know deep down that we can accomplish anything if we just set our mind to it, but it’s hard to fully commit to something when deep down we’re not sure we want to do it. We want the result – just not the work that goes into it.

So, we make a half-hearted resolution that sounds something like this … “I need to lose some weight this year. I probably won’t be as skinny as I’d like, and I’m not giving up any of my favorite foods, but I’ll see if I can eat a little less and maybe exercise once or twice a week.” Sound familiar?

If you read that “resolution” again closely, you’ll see it’s full of everything except commitment. “I need to” … “I’ll probably come up short” … “I’m not giving up any of this” … “I’ll see if I can” … and “maybe”.  It’s just a lot of words, mixed in with a few excuses and an overall prediction of failure. If somebody said that to you, would you put any money on their chances of success?

Another reason we fail at resolutions is because we lack belief. Oh, we know it’s possible. Just not probable.  Before we even start, we put our success in the hands of fate. “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” That’s a nice sentiment if you don’t have any desire to influence the outcome of your own life. Instead of hoping for a miracle, how about creating one of your own?

It takes 21 days to change a habit. That doesn’t mean you can completely drop a habit in three weeks or form a new one. It means that if you keep repeating the same behavior for three weeks, it begins to fit into your comfort zone. It still takes a little willpower to stay on track, but in that short period of time, it starts to feel more natural. It’s becoming more a part of who you are.

And the easiest way to get through 21 days is one day at a time. When I quit smoking, I never once said “I’ll never smoke again.” I simply said, “I won’t smoke today.” That simple substitution of words made all the difference in the world. You can do anything for a day. And if you did it yesterday, you can do it again today. And tomorrow and the next day. One day at a time.

And if you happen to fall down, it’s only one day. You don’t have to start all over. Just pick up where you left off and get back on track. Strengthen your commitment. Write a short list of the reasons you made this decision in the first place and read it every morning until the urge to fall off the wagon starts to fade. If you can do it for a day, you can do it for life.

Change is hard, but it’s a necessary part of growth. As you envision the changes you’d like to make, don’t focus on the change itself but the end result. See yourself as the person you want to be. Reaffirm your ability to attain that goal every day. Believe in yourself, and anything is possible. Combine that belief with commitment and it becomes inevitable.

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

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Make Time to Enjoy the Season

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

This is a time of year when routines change and what we’ve become accustomed to yields to something completely out of the normal. We shop. We go to parties. We spend a little time with the kids as they thumb through toy catalogs with nearly every page earmarked. And we eat. Oh, do we eat. Candy, cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and everything else our brain tells us we should avoid.

Even the morning traffic is reduced, which I’m still trying to figure out because the parking lot at work is still just as full, so I imagine everyone else’s is as well. Are people just leaving a little later? Are they leaving earlier? Or are they simply driving with a little more of a cool head, not in such a rush to get someplace they’d rather not be? Maybe someday I’ll look into that. For now, I’m just enjoying it.

But in the evening, there are a lot more people out and about. Parking lots at stores fill up more by the day, and even Walmart has hired a few extra people to work the cash registers. Too bad they don’t keep that up through the year. It’s a good time to go grocery shopping, because everybody else is in a different store. Unless they shop online, which more and more people are doing.

And then there are the parties. I have one this week and one next week, plus a happy hour after work. Twice. After that, I’m not sure. But given that this will be my last month in my current position, I’m sure I’ll get out with a few more people before this calendar page hits the floor.

And then there are the holiday celebrations, church services, and meals. You’d think we’d lose weight with all this running around. But, remember the candy and cookies? Yeah. Mystery solved.

It’s a time of year most of us look forward to, because we find ourselves interacting just a little more. We’re a little nicer (well, most of us). We’re a little more generous. We find delight in the simple things, like a child sitting on Santa’s lap, eyes aglow, as they verbalize their dreams.

It’s also a time when stress levels are through the roof. Just watch cars in a parking lot jockeying for position as somebody in a prime spot sits with the engine running and the transmission in reverse, carefully checking their receipts against their shopping list. It takes about 6.2 seconds for tempers to flare. Before long, fingers are in the air and the Christmas spirit goes right out the window.

A lot of that is simply the result of overcommitment – trying to do too much in too short a time, when there are other things we should be doing instead. Kids are still in school, and the teacher still expects them to finish their homework. Dinner still needs to be served. And the boss still expects us to get the job done, even if that means working a little late to make up for all the socializing. And on it goes.

I’m not sure how to really fix that, but there are a couple of things we can do. First, be realistic about what you can and can’t do each day. You don’t have to do it all, and certainly not all at once. If the store is sold out of that prized toy, look online. With parties, you don’t have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Just showing up is enough. Fit it into your schedule as your schedule permits.

And no matter what, set aside some time to drive around and look at house decorations, or to take the kids for a sleigh ride. Go out for ice cream. Enjoy a quiet dinner for two, or drinks by the fire. Breathe. The holidays will come regardless, and in January another year begins. Make sure you leave enough of yourself intact to face the new year. Everything else will work out. It always does.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Focus Your Effort for Amazing Results

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

So, the weekend is here and hopefully you’ve got something fun planned. After all, it is what we seem to spend all week working for. And I know, for some of you the weekend is when work really heats up. But you get a little reprieve while the rest of us are enjoying Monday, so it all works out. Either way, I hope you enjoy your time off, whenever it comes.

I listen to motivational audios most days, and in some of them the speakers are young people with names that sound even younger. Names that weren’t so common back when I was in school, with youthful voices to match. They’re full of excitement and energy, and don’t appear to have a care in the world. And somehow, they all beat me to retirement. What’s up with that?

These are people who are still sound asleep each day as I begin my morning routine. They get up whenever they feel like it, or whenever their kids wake them up. They take their time with breakfast and get dressed if and when they feel like it. They go to morning aerobics classes, have lunch with old friends, take the kids to the park, and pretty much do whatever they want most of the day.

And best of all, they plan work around their vacations instead of the other way around. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but that lifestyle sounds pretty appealing to me. And believe me, they’ve earned it. They’re not rock musicians or movie stars. They’re just ordinary people like you and me who decided they wanted something more and were willing to get out and work for it.

And the thing is, they didn’t have to take on another fulltime job to make it happen. A laser is nothing more than a highly focused beam of light. It can travel great distances and, depending on the type of light and how it was generated, it can cut through steel with precision that’s just not possible by any other means. It’s all about focus – putting the energy where it counts most.

And when you can find something that works, something where you can generate a little extra income or pay off some bills a little early, all you have to do is focus that energy to get extraordinary results. It doesn’t have to take up all your spare time, because you’re not trying to do everything all at once. You’re focused on one thing at a time with a precision that magnifies your effort into something incredible.

But it all has to start with the basics. A laser pointer is essentially a battery, an LED, and a lens. None of them on their own are all that extraordinary. But when you put them together in just the right way, the result is pretty impressive. And that’s how it is with the things we do for ourselves. A little extra effort, focused on the right things, can accomplish a lot of work with the precision of a laser.

If you throw enough mud on a wall, some of it will stick. And if the goal was to cover the entire wall in mud, sooner or later you’ll get there. The end result won’t be very pretty, and some areas will be a lot thicker than others. But if you could find a way to spray that mud in a fine stream, you could cover the entire wall a lot faster and with a much more impressive result. Focus.

Put that same premise to work on your personal goals, and you can achieve some incredible results with a lot less effort than you’d imagined. All it takes is focus and commitment – honing your effort to whatever produces the best results and sticking with it no matter what. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, instead of looking at your goals as a huge job that’ll take up all your waking hours for the next fifty years, figure out how to focus that effort and do the work that produces results. You may need to adjust the lens a little along the way. But once you dial it in, nothing can stand in your way.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

The Success You Achieve Is Never Less Than You Expect

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

Yesterday I worked from home. It’s a benefit that’s available in my job, one that I rarely take advantage of, but it’s nice to have the option. No traffic, dress any way I want, and lunch is only a few steps away. Besides, it gave me the option to cook breakfast for my little ones. That’s always a special treat for them. Times like this go by fast and you can never have them back.

I guess that’s what it feels like to be retired. Okay, aside from that part about going downstairs to the office to work all day. I know people who retired early, some in their thirties. That doesn’t mean they stopped working completely. Just that they stopped working at a job that requires their physical presence every day and found something that offered a little more freedom.

And make no mistake, these people are earning much more money than most of us will ever dream of, simply because they were willing to do something most people won’t. I’m sure they put up with their fair share of ridicule and doubt. I’m sure there were days when they wondered if all that extra work would ever pay off. But it did, and because of that, they have choices most of us will never have.

In yesterday’s post, I touched on two important premises. First, the notion that success occurs when our dreams become bigger than our excuses. Dreams give us something to work for, a goal to achieve. They make us get out of bed a little earlier and work a little later. Excuses are simply a free pass for not doing the things we need to do. Except they’re not really free – they end up costing a lot.

The second premise I touched on was the habit of success. This is something we’ve talked about before, and you’ll probably hear more about it over the coming year because somebody we all know is writing a book about it. It’s simply the idea that small successes, repeated over and over, build a mindset that can no longer see the potential for failure. It can only visualize success.

Thomas Edison tried hundreds of different designs before he developed a practical, working light bulb. Others were able to produce light, but only for a few seconds before the filament burned out. At some point, they all gave up. Instead of building the habit of success, they gave in to failure. Edison continued, and we all know how that turned out.

What drives a person to keep trying in the face of so many failed attempts? It’s simple. He didn’t see any of those early attempts as failures, because each time he learned a valuable lesson – he learned what doesn’t work. And if you keep eliminating all the different things that won’t work, you eventually reach a point where all that’s left is what WILL work.

Commitment is an absolute requirement in building the habit of success. You have to know, from the very start, that nothing will keep you from reaching your desired goals. That doesn’t mean nothing will go wrong, or that obstacles won’t stand in the way. It simply means you won’t allow those things to keep you from doing what you set out to do. You will succeed, no matter what.

Belief is another important factor. Would you set out on a trip across the country if you had no confidence in your ability to complete the trip? Probably not. The expectation of failure is enough to keep most of us from ever embarking on a new venture. And the stronger that expectation is, the less likely we are to even consider it.

But when success is the expected outcome, we’re not so reluctant to try. And the stronger our expectation of success, the more determined we become. We dodge the potholes, ease our way across speed bumps, and roadblocks simply put us on a different path that may prove to be more enjoyable than the one we’re on. The obstacles are the same. All that changes is our reaction to them.

And that reaction is driven by one thing – the expectation of success. When you succeed at everything you do, you expect to succeed at anything you do. Give that some time to sink in. It’s important. When you can look back at a track record of success, no matter how minor, you begin to expect success in everything you do.

We all have that track record of success. You learned to walk. You learned to talk. You learned to read and write and master the multiplication tables. Arriving at work on time is a success. Every job you complete during the day is a success. And the more we focus on those successes, the less we think about failure.

There is nothing you can’t accomplish if you commit yourself to a goal and believe in the outcome. Build the habit of success and nothing will ever stand in your way.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Make Excuses or Achieve Results – You Can’t Do Both

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

Have you ever set a goal and, halfway through you begin to have that sinking feeling you’ll never make it? It’s even worse when the time is half gone and you haven’t really even started. You get that panicky feeling, and then start to formulate a plan. A plan to get back on track, a plan to get as much done as possible, or a plan to bow out with a handy excuse. At this point, anything will do.

Hopefully that’s not how it works, but all too often we take door number 3. It’s the easy way out. Besides, it was your goal anyway. It’s not like anybody is holding you to the fire, and your job certainly isn’t on the line as a result. You can always just set another goal next month. Right?

We can be very forgiving of ourselves when we miss goals, but we’re not so gracious when somebody else misses theirs. When the cable company says their technician will arrive before noon, and nobody shows up until late in the afternoon, we’re not too happy about that. And odds are we’ve already made several phone calls to complain. At that point, we don’t want excuses – we want results.

But what happens when we miss a goal we’ve set for ourselves? Excuses are not only applicable, they’re a welcome reprieve. That project at work took longer than expected. The car needed new tires. The weather didn’t cooperate. People we were supposed to meet didn’t show. And my personal favorite – “I just ran out of time.”

Okay, if you’re getting the idea I’ve dropped a few excuses over the years, you’re right. I’m no different than anybody else. None of us wants to accept, much less admit, that we came up short because we didn’t try hard enough. There has to be a reason, some other person or force of nature that’s to blame. Otherwise, it’s all on us.

That probably works when we’re explaining it to somebody else, but how well does it work when we say it to the person in the mirror? Sure, the excuse is real. We’re not making it up. And it really did complicate matters a bit. But is that the real reason we didn’t reach our goal? More often than not, it was just a speed bump that we decided to use as a parking bumper.

I talked yesterday about putting forth the effort – just doing what needs to be done, regardless of the results. Jeff Foxworthy, one of my favorite comedians, once shared some thoughts on looking for something we’ve lost. We look high and low, under beds and in the closet. All that time, it’s nowhere to be found. Then finally, there it is … in the last place we looked. Well, duh!

His point was pretty simple – we always find everything in the last place we looked. You wouldn’t keep looking for something after you’ve found it. “I have it right here in my hand, but I want to keep looking just to be sure.” It’s an amusing observation, but it also illustrates another point. You keep looking until you find what you’re looking for. If you stop halfway through, you’ll never find it.

That seems to happen a lot with keys. They even make key fobs that beep when you ping them from your cell phone. If you can find your cell phone. They tend to walk away from the last place we saw them as well. But hey, if there’s another phone in the house, you can always use that one to call your own. Unless you’re like me and the ringer is on silent.

Okay, that was fun, but you get the point. When you’re looking for something you desperately need, you don’t stop until you find it. And the closer you get to crunch time, the harder you look. You enlist help, you pick things up and move them, you flip things over, you do whatever it takes to get the job done. Failure is not an option.

When we approach our personal goals with the same sense of relentless commitment, two things happen. First, we get a lot closer to our goal than we would have with a bag full of excuses. We may not reach our goal, but we’ll get close enough to finish it up with just a little extra effort. And just as importantly, we become the kind of person who doesn’t quit. We become that person who sees everything through no matter what.

Excuses are handy, and they may make you feel a little better at the time. They may even provide a certain amount of cover in explaining failure to others. But at the end of the day, they’re just excuses. Double up your efforts and you won’t have time to worry about excuses. You’ll be too busy racing toward that goal.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Focus on the Effort – The Results Will Come

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

It’s Monday again, and you know what that means. Play time is over and it’s time to get back to the old grind. I say that as if we spend a lot of our weekend playing, and as if going to work on Monday means we’ll work that much more than we did during our “rest” time. But we all know better. The work continues, no matter what day it is. All that changes is the location.

I guess for some folks, things like shopping and cooking burgers on the grill are relaxing. I’d like to meet those people and learn a little about their secret. Because for me, anything that doesn’t involve a sunny beach is work. Any more, even sleeping feels like work. All night long, I’m waking up to adjust my CPAP mask to get it to stop hissing. I think my face changes shape as I sleep.

And I’m pretty sure if I could spend my days on a sunny beach, that’s exactly what I’d do for the first week or two. If I felt really industrious, maybe I could do it for a month. But after a while, I’d find myself looking for other things to occupy my time. Because there’s always that part of us that needs to feel productive. I guess that’s what happens when you work for 45 years.

But more and more, I’m seeing younger people who have decided that working for 45 years isn’t all that glamorous. At least, in the traditional sense. A lot of these folks have a college degree, so it’s not like they can’t find a job. But they’ve decided that life is short (it is) and that waiting until your body is old and frail to get out and enjoy life just doesn’t make sense (it doesn’t).

Some of them work a fulltime job from home, and home is wherever they want it to be. Some travel around and find a different job wherever they happen to be. They may be freelance writers, web designers, software developers, or anything in between. The ways in which they earn an income are as varied as the people doing it. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

The one thing all these people share in common is a burning desire to live life on their own terms, to the extent possible, and a commitment to making that happen. Employers are learning that, when people work from home, they tend to be more productive and take less time off. And the reason is simple. They don’t want anything to jeopardize that working arrangement.

And the truth is, it can be a lot harder to find a job like that than it is to actually do the work. I’ve done a lot of freelance writing over the years, and it’s not for the faint of heart. For every hour I spent working on an assignment, I spent several hours looking for work and dealing with the inevitable rejections and shady employers looking to get something for nothing. It’s a lot of work.

But we tend to be short-sighted when it comes to these things. It’s easy to focus on the short term, with immediate results. You get a job or an assignment, and then get paid. Mission accomplished. But keeping that job requires a little more forward thinking. You have to look at the big picture and put in some extra effort now and then to build a reputation and keep what you’ve worked so hard to find.

But we’re not always so energetic when it comes to things where the payoff isn’t so immediate. We get an idea, visualize the potential rewards, figure out a plan, and take the plunge. Then reality hits. All that work you did last month, and you didn’t make a dime. If you’re lucky, you at least broke even. But how long would you work like that without some kind of tangible reward?

In most cases, the answer is not long. But sometimes, that’s exactly the kind of commitment it takes. It’s called paying dues. And the greater the potential reward, the more dues you’ll have to pay to get there. And that’s not easy to do when the results just aren’t there, or worse yet, when you seem to be sliding backward. It happens. And that’s when it’s time to dig in and work even harder.

The path to success doesn’t change based on results. All we have to do is follow it. There may be speed bumps and detours along the way, but if we stay focused on the effort, the results will come. And at some point, it won’t take as much work to achieve the same or even greater results. All you need is a goal and the determination to make it happen. The rest is simply a matter of time.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved