Fuel your Awesomeness with Mental Energy

As a runner, I recognize that I only have a certain amount of energy to run a distance at a certain pace. By fueling my body with the right types of food and energy bars, I am able to incrementally increase my maximum output.  Running a marathon is a great example.  On a normal day, running 26.2 miles is outside my physical capacity.  But with some training and slow stepping up of my mileage, I am able to build my body’s energy capacity to that level.  Mental energy is no different.  Our ability to think, smile, create, walk and chew gum has a finite energy source. On a typical day, my mental energy level is at its highest around 7 am and at its lowest after dinner.  The importance of managing mental energy toward success doesn’t stop with knowing your mental time clock.  This is nothing new.  Perhaps more important is focusing your mental “spend” on  the things that matter.  The other day I as I was driving home from a week long meeting when I received a frustrating phone call regarding a returned check to my Chevron credit card.   After 45 minutes we realized the mistake and remedied it.  However, I was exhausted.  It took a large portion of my mental energy. Each and every day you and I both recharge our physical and mental batteries as we sleep. By focused training like reading, engaging conversations, audio programs, and meditation, you increase your mental capacity. If you’re doing this, keep doing it, if you’re not, you should. During a typical day, you also spend that energy on important things such as writing, talking with your kids, working on projects at work, and planning for the future.  Unfortunately, things like my Chevron credit card phone call interrupt the normal flow and “steal” some of that energy.

 

Awareness of the limits of your mental energy  gives you  a sense of urgency or a desire to protect the things you are doing.  Just like time management, mental management is a must have skill for a successful life.

 

Of course, interruptions do happen and sometimes are important to handle.  You can’t control that.  Here is a list of 3 things I recommend to keep mental energy at its best:

 

Wind Energy

Wind Energy (Photo credit: janie.hernandez55)

 

 

 

1.  Avoid Distractions: This is so obvious and immensely important.  So many times I’ve sat down to work on a mentally draining task (like writing a blog post), only to have my focus taken away in a moment of email distraction.  Even if the email doesn’t need my attention, the mere fact that I know I got an email takes a little slice of my mental energy. If you are intentional toward avoiding distractions, you will learn with time the things that take distract you and steal your mental energy.  I use squarespace notes app on my iPhone to send quick notes to my Evernote inbox.  When something distracts me and I don’t want to fix it then and there, I put a note in squarespace to fix it.  Then, I fix it.

 

2. Schedule your mental tasks at the appropriate times:  Different tasks take higher and lower levels of mental energy.  This is something you will learn with time.  Typically the more creative (writing, planning) and involved (things with complicated directions) take the most mental energy.  Creating enough space in your schedule and the best available time will vastly increase your mental energy and lessen the frustration.  Deciding to build the IKEA entertainment center and hour before church is a bad idea.  Mental energy tasks are not usually the “on a whim” things you want to do.  Be intentional and realistic and schedule this time.

 

3.  Know what you want to do:  This may be too “big picture” for a small blog post, but you need to know what your goals are.  If you have a vision, and idea of what you are trying to accomplish, you will be able to identify the things that are ‘right” to be doing.  If you don’t have a vision and a plan in place to achieve that vision, I am going to create one for you.  Your vision is to create a vision.  With a defined vision, you will have “stuff” to do.  We all have “stuff” we have to do such as laundry, dishes, feed the dog, etc.  Most people stop there.  That’s the mediocre life.  You are going to plug in your awesomeness and the “stuff” needed to be done to accomplish this awesome.  If what you are doing does’t fit into one of those two categories, stop doing it.

 

 

Remember that you own your mental energy.  It is yours to spend as you wish.  We all have responsibilities.  Better management of your mental energy will improve your results in all areas of life and leave room for you to do things that make you awesome.

 

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Discipline isn’t enough

Waking up at 5 am everyday is not easy.  Running 10 miles in the bitter cold of winter before the sun rises or facing the  choking humidity of August awakens the voices of doubt and procrastination.  Doing things that are awesome that most people don’t  is ridiculously hard.  Doing the extraordinary work with extraordinary results on a consistent basis demands putting in the work that is…well…extraordinary.  If you are making art that is worth looking at (or reading), you cannot be “just like everyone else”.  You must be different.  Ordinary people are boring.  While they may work hard at times, they do not live outside the ordinary.  Their art is not worth seeing.

Different is Beautiful

Different is Beautiful (Photo credit: epicnom)

Discipline alone is not powerful enough to deliver consistently good art.

Author Gary Keller in his book The One Thing tells us about a life where our success is contingent on every behavior being molded and maintained by training:  this is a frighteningly impossible existence. Your art is worth every bit of effort you put in.  When you first start creating, it’s like a honeymoon. It’s fun and new.  Unfortunately, the honeymoon ends and the gremlins of self doubt and procrastination set in.  You are faced with what Steven Pressfeld calls the resistance. I recently posted  on the resistance and how to use it to your advantage. When the resistance arrives, discipline alone is like bringing a dull knife to a nuclear battle with giant alien robots.  Discipline tells you that you HAVE TO get up and going.  Habit tells you the you GET TO get up and going. Keller teaches that the  success that will lead to your awesomeness starts with having just enough discipline to build a habit of doing the right things.  When the habit of shipping art sets in, your work will be more personal.  Most people don’t get this far because they are stuck in the discipline zone.  They plug it into a calendar and expect the desire to complete it as a task to be enough.  You, however, will make it a habit that simply gets done because getting your art out to the world is what you do when it is a habit.

 Is it a “dream” to think that creating your art can become a habit?  Does that seem too easy? Share your thoughts.
Rocco De Leo

Trade Urgency for Intentionality

Society moves at a lightning pace.  Busy is the “in-thing”, and it is going to steal your awesomeness.  Busy-ness is unfocused productivity.  Doing a lot of the wrong things doesn’t make you effective or productive.  The goal, after all, is to have the power to achieve your awesomeness whatever it may be (insert stop killing your dream), and still be happy.  Stephen Covey illustrated the importantance classifying tasks in a simple manner and knowing how to protect your time from wasteful, non productive things.  His quadrants:

English: Mount Rainier

English: Mount Rainier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Urgent/Imporant: crying baby, kitchen fire, etc.

2. Not Urgent/Imporant: exercise, planning, etc. (this is where your awesomeness lives)

3. Urgent/Not Important: interruptions, calls

4. Not Urgent/Not Important: Busy work, time wasters.
Living intentionally isn’t about blocking out interruptions or never wasting time.  Words with friends, crossword puzzles, and farmville are not wasting  time if you are choosing do these things rather than doing them at the expense of things that matter to your awesome.  There is no magic bullet here.  Every once in a while, you have to get back to basics, and evaluate your path.  Pay attention to these 3 simple things to assess your ability to focus and play in the urgent zone.

1. Define your Awesome:  What are you trying to accomplish.  Thinking with “the end in mind”, what is “the end”?.  Without this, you are wandering around aimlessly and everything will seem urgent.

2.  Awareness of where your time and focus is being spent:  Once you have defined your goals, you have a guiding light toward where the majority of your time and focus should be spent. You must be willing and able to evaluate your time and focus.  If this seems foreign to you, seek some coaching from a personal coach.  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Effective Executive, and Getting Things Done, are great places to start.  They provide classic tools for managing your actions.  How much of your bucket is full of quadrant 2 activities? These are the things that will get you to your awesome.

3.  Making adjustments:  The thing about YOU becomming awesome is that you are blazing your own trail.  Sometimes a seemingly perfect path ends at a cliff and you must turn around and find another way forward.  You may feel trapped on your current path.  Your bucket may be filled with Job pressure, kids’ activities, traffic, ailing relatives, etc. Recognizing these things is only the start.  A small percentage of people get to this point, an even smaller percentage do something about it.  Doing something about it may be as simple as car pooling to soccer practice with anoother parent.  This will open some time for you to work on quadrant two activities.
 Relentless forward movement, however small, toward a defined goal, has a remarkable way of leading to success and accomplishment.
Urgency and focus grow and decline inversely.  Staying ahead of deadlines and intentionally protecting your focus time will keep more of the important things in quadrant 2.  You will get more done at a higher level.  Perfection is not the goal.  You define the goal, now do it!
Rocco

Intentional Perspective

Perspective is a valuable gift.  It is also a skill you can and must develop.

You have a purpose much greater than making more money.

Perspective (graphical)

Perspective (graphical) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be a goal, a side effect of your achievement.  As you inch toward awesomeness, or maybe just defining what your awesome looks like, you may hear whispers of self-doubt.  I wrote a post on this very subject.   One tool you must sharpen is perspective.  This morning, I received an invitation to attend an urgent conference call with my team.   Immediately I focused on myself. Who is on the call? Layoffs? Is this going to affect ME? It turns out a colleague tragically lost her husband in a car accident and that message needed to be properly delivered to the team.  Beyond the crushing sorrow I feel for my colleague, I was given the gift of perspective. While I balance the natural tendency to think of how things impact me first, I desire to be more outwardly focused. That will lead me to my awesome and will lead you to yours. Anytime I realize I have a weakness, I get intentional about working on it.  I have put together a small list to help develop the skill of perspective.  Start with these 3 things and move forward:

1. What truly matters:  For most of us, this is family, NOT work.  Family loves you, work doesn’t. Do something positive today with your family. A great side effect of achieving awesomeness and realizing purpose, is this perspective becomes much more clear as you approach your goal . If your “success” distorts this perspective, you are moving in the wrong direction.
2. God’s unconditional love: God loves you no matter what you do.  He suffered and died for you and would have done the same thing if you were to be the only person to ever exist. He wants you to be happy and has given you skills and desires to achieve great things.  God is a pretty connected kind of guy, so don’t ever doubt the power of prayer and his ability to partner with you for fulfillment.

The ultimate goal, after all, is does not have a zip code and as of yet has no LTE or wifi.

3. You have grown: I always enjoy looking at old pictures.  The ones of me as a kid are cool, but the ones that really make me cringe are the ones that are about 8 to 10 years old.  They aren’t too old to be a “lifetime ago”, but they are old enough to remind me of changes (good and bad) that I have made.  Look through some old pictures and identify 3 positive changes (lost weight, better haircut, prettier girlfriend now, etc).  Make sure you focus at least 2 to 1 on positive verses negative changes.  Make sure you celebrate the positive changes and decide if the negative changes need attention.

Unwrap the gift of perspective and realize your potential.  How has your perspective changed in the last year?

Rocco De Leo

A Life Well Lived

As someone who values productivity and efficiency, I decided to get a head start on some future projects.   Here is a letter I am writing to address the many,  requests I assume I will get asking me how I became amazingly successful in achieving all my goals.

Worm's Head

Worm’s Head (Photo credit: Calidenism)

I want to get a head start on this since I’ll be busy fishing on Lake Tahoe, or surfing in Hawaii, or playing with great grandkids. Inspired by Eugene O’kelly‘s heart wrenching end of life memoir,  Chasing Daylight, I am sharing with you my perspective on my life,: a life well lived.

Family and Friends,
As I enter the sunset of my life, I am humbled to reflect upon the success I have in every aspect of my life. I have been seen by many as wise, entertaining, influential, and an all around awesome guy. My most coveted awards include “Best Dad Ever”,  “Best Grandpa Ever”, and “Husband of the Year”.  My personal life has been ever as successful as my professional life.  A corporate journey through success and innovation, as well as an award winning international speaker on topics ranging from relationships to productivity, my true professional joy has come from my many best selling fiction and non-fiction books.  Traveling the world sharing my stories has brought me close to the people, You!  Every day, I inspire people to live their dreams and live a life of love and adventure.  The best part of this all is that I have shared my life with a wonderful family. As I slowly fade from public figure to legend, I would be remise if I didn’t share the “secrets” to it all.  Here are 10 things to consider in living a life well lived.
1. Priorities in order:. God, wife, kids, myself, work, everyone else.
2. Do things to help others. Money and fame are side effects.
3. Surround yourself with trusted advisors who will keep you honest.
4. Happy family life equals happy work life.
6. Maintain Friendships and don’t keep score.
7. Wake up early and be passionate about every day.
8. Exercise with purpose. (I have ran at least 2 marathons per year since 2012).
9. Wake up early and don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
10.  Perfection has never been the goal.   Give maximum effort and the results will follow.
Rocco De Leo Ph.D.
President and CEO of DeLeo Enterprises International
May 29, 2060
How are you living well today?