How Spilling Ice Tea Taught Me To Live My Values

The other day I was bringing lunch to a customer of mine.  Usually I have it delivered, but on this day, they requested a local burger place that wasn’t set up for delivery.  As I loaded the lunch in my car, I realized the 6 fountain drinks were going to cause me trouble.  Top heavy and flimsy, the drinks looked almost “eager” to tip.  Corner after corner, I drove timidly and very deliberate.  I was already running late, but didn’t care.  My objective wasn’t customer focus, make the sale, or go above and beyond. My objective was to NOT spill the drinks.  As I was nearing their office, the driver of the car in front of me was spooked by a yellow light and slammed on his brakes.  Normally, it’s not a big deal to come to a quick stop, but today was different.  I was out of sorts and balancing something new.  The drinks went sliding

English: An artist's depiction of the rat race...

English: An artist’s depiction of the rat race in reference to the work and life balance. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_race Made with following images: http://www.openclipart.org/detail/75385 http://www.openclipart.org/detail/74137 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

across the floor of my car soaking my floor with Ice Tea.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what living a  balanced life looks like.  Not the “business book” balanced life of “work-life balance” where you somehow are happy because you don’t work too much, but the appropriate balancing of the stuff that matters.

I discovered, for me, that living intentionally also means living for purpose and doing the things that matter.

This means having a clear vision on what my values mean to me.  My values are clear and aligned to my living, rather than my living aligned to my values.  As part of “faith” we go to church, but we would have done that anyway.  Every week on our way to church, I have had  a gnawing sense that we could be doing more to incorporate faith into our lives.  Until recently, most of the time my values were “touched” in the way I lived my week, but that was mostly by chance.  Mediocrity, however, is the only result we can expect from living by chance.  Awesomeness comes from intentional living. Without clear direction, I was unbalanced in living my values, taking the “bumps” of life timidly and defensively trying not to stray too far.  While I’ve been busy living the ins and outs of life, checking a lot of boxes, I was not clear on how to LIVE my values.   I have discovered that to do this, I need clear specifics defining what those values look like in action.  Faith goes beyond “living a Catholic life”, and drills down to “praying nightly, prayer before meals, mass every Sunday” and much more.  With this I am able to intentionally pull specifics and plug into my weekly planning and measure my accomplishments against.  Instead of the careful balancing act of chance, I am able to aggressively incorporate the stuff that makes my values real and a part of the life i’m living intentionally.

How do you stay balanced and live an awesome value centered life?

 

Rocco De Leo

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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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How the Book “Divergent” Taught Me Success Skills

I recently took my periodic “fiction” break.  I usually pick up a book to completely escape the crowded thoughts in my head and simply relax. As a fan of The Hunger Games, I was excited, albeit late to the game, to read Divergent.  I also was unable to shut down the create engine that can sometimes be exhausting.  Without giving away too much of the book for the 3 people left who haven’t read the book, the main character, Beatrice, has a special gift that classifies her has divergent.  The teens, who make up the characters, are put through a series of fear simulations to test how they react in a stressful environment.  In order to truly measure someones reaction to their greatest fears, they need to actually feel fear.  Written into the story, the majority of the characters are unaware that the simulations are actually “simulations”, thus feeling the full force of their fears.

Stray dog - asleep

Stray dog – asleep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some, however, they are aware of the “simulation” and are able to manipulate the outcomes based on this “awareness”.  These characters, Beatrice included, are “divergent”.

How does this relate to the us on our journey toward success or “awesomeness”? Most people are simply going through life one day at a time.  The days “happen” to them.  Unfortunately, they are unaware of the clock and the calendar speeding up.  They are unaware that they have the control to change their destination, to “manipulate” the outcome through intentional living. Fortunately, you are here, and you realize this.  Intentional living is the awareness that we control what we do.

There are no guarantees that we do the right things and get the perfect outcome, but without awareness, you have no chance.

You will be a puppet being manipulated by time.  We read stories of older people gaining this awareness and sharing regrets of things left undone.  Get intentional, stay intentional, and live with an awareness of your purpose.

Rocco
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How Hating People Helped Me Change My Narrative

Recently my narrative, that little voice driving my view of the world, has had me thinking about people. Not in ways I’m proud of.  The narrative has become negative and aggressive.  Frankly, I’m starting to feel like I don’t like people.  This, of course is ridiculous, and completely detrimental to my mission.  This reminds me of  the resistance Steven Pressfield writes of.  In a nutshell, the resistance is the militant arm of mediocrity.  It is the distractions and self doubt that stop you and I from climbing out of the average. This is a new  and very affective attack from the resistance.

Attack on Hindenburg line

Attack on Hindenburg line (Photo credit: National Library of Scotland)

While out on a run yesterday, I decided to unplug and face this resistance head on.  Seth Godin writes that as the resistance gets more intense, we should celebrate.  I decided to leave the party hat behind and stick with my Brooks running cap.  I ran with a smile as I realized that my work and my art is getting better.  The resistance is threatened now more than ever.  This is evidenced by the hardened strike force of subtly (the slow increase of my negative narrative) rather than simple distractions is used to see.
The break in the armor of the resistance is found in facing it head on.  After all, the resistance uses elements of truth to strike at the core of our creative spirit.
 I realized it is not people who I hate. I hate what I see so many of them doing and not doing, and of course I see a reflection of this in myself. These “people” are fake, wasting time, and are bored and boring. They are awkward, uncomfortable in silence and never present.  They are all busy doing things, but busy doing the wrong things.  These are all things I see creeping up in myself.  If I am to succeed in my mission of helping people achieve awesomeness, I must be aware of my vulnerability to these attacks.  In fact, these “things” are all the things  this site is all about changing.
 Intentional living is not easy, but it is the way only way to succeed.  Success doe not happen by chance.
The resistance is much more savvy with me than simple Facebook pings or email interruptions.  I’ve built effective defenses to these and have created better work with the gained focus. This is a good thing.
I share this because we are all in this together.  I’m excited that my art is worth attacking.  My narrative is not that difficult to change.  The simple process of knowing my mission and being aware that I am in fact living and creating my own narrative on a daily basis gave me the wisdom to re write the current and dangerous direction it was going.
What is your narrative telling you that is pulling you toward mediocrity?  How are you fighting back?
Rocco
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Driving, Smoking and Cell Phones: A guide to distracted living

Dropping off my Highschooler today, I saw something interesting.  I am not referring to the “you smell like fart” t-shirt, although that may be fodder for another post. Turning in toward the parking lot, as I was leaving, I saw a lady driving, perhaps by tele kinetics.  She has a lit cigarette and a cell phone in one hand and was driving with the other.  She seemed deep in conversation with anyone except those in car with her. This isn’t a rant about her, though.  I don’t know the specifics.  She could be getting biopsy results (in which case, talk away), or she could be discussing the Full House reunion commercial (can this wait?).  This also is not a post about distracted driving.  This is a post about distracted living.  We are all guilty.  Jeff Goins does a great job addressing this in his recent book “The In-between”, but he didn’t invent the concept of “smelling the roses”.  Seeing this lady talking away while her teenage passenger stared into space reminds me of the many times I was checking e-mail while my daughter discussed the intricacies of her 4th grade tether ball tournament, or my boy giving me play by painful play of jumping his scooter off the curb.  I’m reminded of “helping” along stories my kids have shared with a “yes, yes…and…and”.

lonely kid on a beach ... standing

lonely kid on a beach … standing (Photo credit: Pierre Metivier)

We are busy, and that’s ok.  Somehow, in my impossible attempt at becoming the perfect parent, I have discovered something way better than perfection: Presence.

The idea of being present doesn’t end with our kids.  Although I’d argue that this is the most important and most neglected opportunity. Being present takes intentionality.  Ultimately intentionality as a lifestyle makes this easier.  When I am in control of my goals, projects, and tasks, I am much less distracted by the “stuff” of life.  Intentionality toward being present is also key, and a great opportunity to develop much deeper relationships. The ability to hold a cell phone to your ear in the same hand as a lit cigarette without igniting your hair is a great skill, perhaps that energy and focus could be used toward awesome intentional living.  I challenge you to find 2 people in your life (child, spouse, co-worker, etc.) who you let the rules of presence slip.  You may have slipped into distracted habits or finishing sentences to “move on”.  Be fully present to them today.  Turn off the cell phone, the TV, or whatever has your mind.

Share the “relationship changing” results.
Rocco
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Self Honesty in the Intentional Life

One of my favorite things to do to unwind is walk through the local Barnes and Noble.  The combination of the smell of new books and starbucks brewing bring a creative calm to my heart.  I usually browse through history, current affairs, business and christian living.  I love to read books.  If I could read 10 hours a day, I would.  Perhaps I may even have an addiction to books. My typical “poison” is Non Fiction. I’ve learned from reading well over a thousand books, that every Non Fiction book sells you a perfect life, with steps to this, and steps to that.  All the success, effectiveness, and happiness you could ever dream of in 10 easy steps. Anxiety filled office overhaul day after anxiety filled office overhaul day, I have learned to manage expectations and be real.  There are circumstances in life that are not excuses, and certainly not roadblocks to success.  Managing our specific lives rather than comparing ourselves to others will vastly increase our happiness and drive further effort rather than stifle them in anxious self pity.  I’ve done them all.  Here are some key learnings from my anxiety filled attempt to become everyone but myself.

[ D ] Salvador Dali - Metamorphosis of Narciss...

[ D ] Salvador Dali – Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) (Photo credit: Cea.)

1. Don’t compare your work to people in different stages of life or career.  Comparing my blog to Michael Hyatt’s blog is ridiculous. He is the retired CEO of a major publisher, vastly more experienced (by 20 + years I’d guess), and has way more resources than I do.  Compare, instead to novices if that’s where you are.  How do you compare to people just starting out?
2. How much time do you have available? Trying to squeeze in another “thing” is difficult.  Some people can tightly schedule their time, some can’t.  Too rigid a schedule leads to anxiety and no room for life’s inevitable interruptions, especially if you have kids.  Rigidity leads to rushing, which kills creativity. Be realistic about how long things take.  Too many times I see people simply overplaying their hand when it comes to their ability to get things done. If, on average, it takes 30 minutes to mow the lawn, don’t think you can do it in 10.
3.  Live in reality.  You have obligations on your time and energy. Life has seasons.  What season are you in?   Prioritize not just your time, but your energy.  Being honest with your commitment to give effort to a project is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your happiness and success. You can over commit and fake it for a while with other people, but you know if you are out of your comfort zone and will be unhappy. One blog post per week and happiness is better than 5 posts and misery.  It’s not sustainable and is counterproductive.
4. Define your goals.  What are you trying to accomplish.  My goal with this blog is to write for the sake of writing and to get better.  I periodically check in with my motives and compare them with my goals.  If I’m unhappy with my follower count, or engagement, I remind myself that was never my purpose.  Your goals may be different.  Defining them gives you firm ground to stand on.  Self honesty is a must.  Changing goals with the weather doesn’t usually lead to success.
Understanding where you are in the development process and how much time and energy you have and are honestly willing to give toward a defined goal is key to intentional living.
What one thing have you lied to yourself about in the last week?

Rocco

Intentional is the New Cool

The 1990’s were an interesting time.  From Parachute pants to Al Bundy, it was a decade of personality.  Bill Clinton made smoking cigars cool again, although I heard Bush relegated them back to the status of “cancer causing”. This was a decade of mullets and grunge. Sad was the new happy.  I must have had the entire collection of the Bart Simpson “Aye Carumba” T-shirts. The 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street asked the ever nagging question of which is cooler, “back-pack on one shoulder or on two shoulders”.  I think the answer is two…two shoulders. What’s it mean to be cool.? Cool is trendy and fleeting. Cool 10 years ago is just stupid today! Cool is what people who haven’t defined their own “awesome” seek to become.  In essence, cool is someone else’s “awesome”.

The problem is that “awesome” is not a one size fits all…

pondering life

pondering life (Photo credit: Chimpr)

“I recently wrote about being influential rather than known.  While many people are known and influential,  too many are simply known (usually by chance) and do nothing with it.  Starting with your “why”, your actions must remain constant with your purpose.  It’s human to fall away from your purpose and your “why” in the heat of battle. Your purpose is clear and doesn’t change.  Trends and procedures change, but the ultimate goal does not.

When you live your life trying to be cool, you are living on someone else’s agenda.

If you like Guess jeans and a tight shirt, wear them.  Be yourself.  Don’t wear them because it’s what’s “cool”.  Nowhere is this more important than in your art.  Whether it be your writing, singing, crafting, or teaching, your art has value because it is YOUR art. You have a talent that should stand on its own.  Stay true to your purpose.  My purpose is to become Awesome by helping as many people themselves become awesome.  When I feel like my actions are being motivated by a need for validation, or anything other than my purpose, I stop. This is a dream killer. Living intentionally gives you the opportunity to filter these moments and get back on track.  Falling from your purpose and being so blinded by busy-ness to notice…that is not an excuse.  Living intentionally involves time for honest review and reflection.  Be on the look out for your motivations.  Inevitably they WILL get out of control.

What have you done in the last week that you did because it was cool?
Rocco De Leo

How Osama Bin Laden Will Help Your Mission Statement

It was May 2011 when an elite team of Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden.  It was a simple mission where a bunch of SEALs decided to hop on a helicopter, fly into Pakistan, and kill the most notorious terrorist in the last hundred years. Afterward, they stopped off for 2$ off lattes at the Abottobad Starbucks.  This, is of course, absurd.  The successful execution of the mission to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden came after years of careful research, planning, practicing, and even failures. The CIA team  and later other key players charged with this mission knew the ultimate goal.  They had a “mission” to achieve.  The mission was so well articulated, understood, and believed by those engaging, that through failures, thousands of miles, and a helicopter crash, Seal Team Six was still able to achieve mission success without loosing a single American Life.

English: Osama bin Laden Compound Italiano: Il...

English: Osama bin Laden Compound Italiano: Il complesso di Osama Bin Laden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you living the intentional life, A mission statement is your guidance for daily living.

 
If the US Military can achieve mission success  thousands of miles from home, traversing hostile lands and facing brutal enemies, why do we find it so hard to achieve our mission here at home? Most people simply get through the day  in a “survival mode”.  A day becomes weeks…becomes months…becomes years…Steven Covey, wildly popular for his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says in habit number 2 to “begin with the end in mind”.  Imagine traveling without a destination, or even direction.  At best, you would be treading water, at worse you’d run backward.   Your career, where your live, investments, behavior, children, the books and movies you consume, and what time you wake up everyday will be measured by your mission statement. Writing a mission statement can be intimidating.  In fact, I believe this is the number one reason why people don’t write one.  As with so much in life, the hardest step is the first step.  I have put together an 8 step list to help you get started writing your mission statement:
 
1.  No rules.  It’s your mission.  Grammar, time lines or no timeliness, too long or too short…don’t worry.
2. It can evolve.  Remember number 1.  Things in life change and so do priorities.  Don’t feel like you have to wait until you have everything figured out to write a mission statement.  Feeling “locked in” to a mission statement that cannot change is fuel for procrastination.
3. Brainstorm your values.  Write down your values.  Values such as faith, health, education, and a spirit of togetherness, help focus your mission.  After all , a mission statement is a clarified goal to live a life achieving your values.
4. Be intentional.  Writing a mission statement takes time and focus.  Spend some time reflecting upon yourself and your family.  Being intentional to write a mission statement that works for you can take several months.  Build space in your weekly planning for focused time for your mission statement.
5.  Don’t limit yourself.  Your mission statement is a goal to build upon. Later, you will take each value expressed in your mission statement and build a strategic plan on how to achieve it.  You’ll once again “begin with the end in mind”.  As a guide for living your life, it may seem “far-fetched” and “perfect world” today.  That’s normal.  Don’t aim for the ordinary, target the extraordinary.
6. Be honest.  Write a mission statement that works for your life.  This is your life, your chance to succeed by being intentional.
7. Pause. Do not rush to finish.  Being intentional is not about simply “finishing”.  Resist the urge to simply finish and “check the box”. Take a week or two to reflect, pray, and discuss with your spouse.
8.  Have fun! life is fun, enjoy!
 
Imagine a life without excuses.  Your daily living is the foundation of your future.  Share with us what a perfect day looks like.  How does this related to your mission?
 
Rocco De Leo
 
 
 

Have A Beginner’s Mind

As a distance runner, I have never competed against anything but myself and the clock.  My first real event was the 2011 Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach California.  My goal was simply FINISH, FINISH, FINISH.  The idea of a respectable finish of two hours was not in my plans.  I did, however finish with a two hour and 31 second time without really trying.  That is not where the story ends, though.  After several events over the past few years, I have never been able to duplicate those results.  Whether I blame it on injury (not really, but a great excuse nonetheless), or lack of training (no way!), the fact remains that I ran that February morning in 2011 with a  beginners mind.

Kids marathon (17)

Kids marathon (17) (Photo credit: carlaarena)

 Author Dan Miller, in his 48 Days to the Work You Love, tells us “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few”. In life we run into beginners who bring energy and possibilities everyday.  They are in the Spring Training mode of life.  The possibilities are great, but they aren’t yet playing for keeps.  We also meet the “experts” who bring a lot of experience, and with that, some measured success. For many experts, their success traps them in a “yesterday” mode, unable to change with the environment.  They “know what they know” and it’s got them this far.
For those of us seeking our own personal “awesomeness”, success comes from being extraordinary.
We all have met the know-it-all guy.  He is easy to spot.  Most likely, he’s still at the base of the mountain of success.  You and I are already ahead of him.  We are already halfway up the mountain struggling to see the peak through the fog. This isn’t about him.  This is about you and I.  A beginner looks at every possibility without making assumptions.  The “expert” assumes he’s exhausted his opportunities and moves on. Be intentional to avoid these limiting assumptions.  They are closed doors to possibilities. you are intentional depends on you.  Journaling, logging opportunities for future review, or conversations about decisions with partners, help challenge your assumptions.   Leverage your experience to approach difficult situations.  Most likely you have faced many similar challenges with success.  Work backward and reconstruct those success.  Read my article on being intentional . Be intentional and make this happen.  Don’t forget that there is always possibility.

What one assumption are you going to challenge today?

Rocco De Leo