It’s About Time: Live your values not your work

I don’t watch a lot of TV, and watch movies even less.  I have this crazy tendency to want to do way too many things, and the idea of sitting for two full hours on one task that is not in my “project” Notebook in Evernote seems like a waste of time. The other day, however, watching a movie was more of “spending time with my wife” than actually watching a movie.  As we kicked off our shoes, shut down the iPad, and I even put down my current book, Jamie found “It’s About Time” on demand.  This is a romantic comedy about a twenty something named Tim who discovers he has the power to travel back in time as himself.  While the majority of the story was a build up toward his relationship with the love of his life, another, much more profound message snuck up on us as the movie ended.  Tim discovers that even the ability to travel through time can’t fix everything and guarantee a happy and fulfilling life.  He ultimately learns to live life of purpose, being intentional to notice the things that are easy to miss; like most of life.

Smelling the roses

Smelling the roses (Photo credit: Ed.ward)

Earlier in the day, I had been frustrated, even grumpy,  that I had been unable to run my typical long run for the week.  We slept in and had a packed day of birthday celebrating for our 6-year-old.  We brought the kids along with us for a slow-paced two-mile run/walk.  In my infinite crankiness, I even murmured to myself a narrative that blamed the kids for my potential future fatness by undoing my years of running routines.  The message I discovered from “Its about Time”, reminded me of my single dad “surviving days” when a scene of a mom and dad pushing a jogging stroller along side two boys on scooters with oversized helmets, and a little girl riding a beautiful purple bike was the envious picture of perfection. Here I was, painted into the picture of everything I ever wanted, and I wanted to be somewhere else.

The downside of clarity and the intentional life can be seen in our inability to handle the vast power it gives us.
Like the nearsighted man who discovers  prescription glasses for the first time, the scene of clarity is overwhelming at first. Our perspective needs some time to adjust.  I currently have 34 live “projects” in action in Evernote.  I know, without a doubt, that I will complete everything in those folders within the time frames allotted.  The tendency is to feel “driven”, to put our heads down and be happy, even fulfilled with the ability to complete stuff.  From remembering to back up my Mac, to writing my book, I will get my stuff done. What about my values and my purpose?  If my Evernote Notebook “Values” had a note that said writing my book and back up my computer are my “values”, or even if it said “stuff”, then I would be spot on.  This, however, is not the case. My values, embraced in my Family Mission Statement center on Faith, Family Togetherness, Education, and Healthy Living.  All is not lost.  As I recently wrote, awareness is such a great gift.  Seeing our path twisting and winding is an opportunity to right the curves and even learn as we grow through the recovery.

While projects, stuff, and even people come and go, your values remain relatively constant (especially after having kids).
Be intentional about defining values and writing them down.  Anchor yourself to your values. You’ll have the confidence to find your way back to your purpose if and when you go astray.  It’s About Time, shook me  from my “life hypnosis”.  It certainly was “about time” I realized that picture perfect painting of family was only perfect because it was commissioned by my values and had me colored into the heart of it.
How will you intentionally “stop to smell the roses”?  Do something intentionally today and tomorrow.
Rocco
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7 Steps to Start Creating Margin

Life with 5 kids and a sales job that has me driving 100-200 miles per day is very busy.  2013 was a new beginning for me as I re-awakened the intentional monster within me.  This gnawing feeling of knowing I can do much more in all pillars of my life (faith, finances, career, family, fitness), created a 2013 of discovery.  2014 will continue this path and will add elements of achievement and accomplishment that will undoubtedly create more discovery.

It Gets Crazy Busy After Keynote

It Gets Crazy Busy After Keynote (Photo credit: Sklathill)

 What I have discovered is no matter how much I need to accomplish in a given day, I only get 24 hours.

The goals I have created based on my family’s mission and my obligations are difficult, time/focus consuming, yet achievable.  I wrote a post a while ago about the tyranny of the mundane.  As my goals (and family) get larger, these “mundane” tasks  wreak more havoc on my ultimate plan.  In a nutshell, my vision is to achieve my personal and professional goals, enjoying every step of the journey without sacrificing family time or assuming I can be “daddy” or a “better husband” once my goals are met.  Bottom line is I need more margin.  I need to do laundry, grocery shop, soccer practice, dishes, etc.  I need to be organized and eliminate clutter.  I believe there are many readers attempting the same thing.  Here is a list of  7 important things to start with as we eliminate clutter and enjoy our lives more.

1.  Live intentionally. Schedule time to plan tasks based on goals you have defined.  If you are doing activity that doesn’t match these goals, STOP!
2.  Overoptimism is over booking.  Understand that you can only accomplish so much.  Stop scheduling your days/weeks tasks based on perfect world, ‘“best case scenarios”.
3.  Eliminate redundancies.  My grocery shopping has been a weekly event with at least 2 stops and sometimes 4 stops (Trader Joes, SuperWalmart, Costco, and Stater Bros Grocery Store). As a goal oriented person I have given myself 4 weeks to research and implement a way to shop for 2 weeks at a time and break my stops to Costco and Trader Joes.  I am looking into automation through Amazon Prime, but the Jury is still out on this.
4.  Timing is everything.  I am more focused and productive in the morning.  It makes more sense to schedule creative and focus centric tasks in the morning and the more mundane tasks in the afternoon.
5. Remain Curious.  While I wouldn’t recommend changing your routine on a weekly basis, be open to learning new ways to do things.  I am a growing fan of the Simple Life Together (SLT) Podcast, Beyond the To Do List, and many other productivity/effectiveness Podcasts.
6. Consider going digital.  Eliminate as much clutter and accessibility issues as  possible.  I am a huge fan of Evernote.  I used to stumble around in an anxiety induced stupor looking for things like birth certificates (always needed to sign up for kids’ sports), shot records, social security cards, etc. I am in the process of migrating a lot of my “filed’ documents into Evernote.  The accessibility is amazing.  I will be writing more on the Amazing Evernote in the near future.
7.  Automate.  I recently heard the phrase “touch it once” on the SLT Podcast.  Certain emails and other electronic documents can be automatically stored into Evernote for reference and easy retrieval.  Programs such as “If this then that” are valuable tools.  As I stated earlier, Amazon Prime can eliminate stops to the grocery store (free shipping).  Hiring gardeners, dry cleaners, and housekeepers can create margin usually at a nominal cost.  Unless you enjoy these tasks, you can be working toward your ultimate goals or simply relaxing while someone else does the work that must be done but you don’t want to do.
With these 7 steps, I have only just begun.  Number 1 on the list is the overall theme of this blog:  intentionality.  If you are living intentionally, you are either doing these things or will eventually to come the conclusion that these are valuable pieces of advice.  Share with me some of your tools.  I am particularly interested in automation tools and how to reduce the grocery shopping burden.
Rocco
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Clipping My Wings & Productivity

Who says they can just “wing it” when it comes to getting things done?  Typically someone who is underachieving. I had my wings clipped many years ago.  If you are like me, you are busy.  I heard Dan Hayes of the Simple Life Together Podcast (SLT) say “Busy is the New ‘I’m fine’”.  People wear busy as a badge of honor.  Busy without purpose and focus is just a waste of time.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m not going to be productive, I’d much rather do it on the couch than running around in circles.

How do we avoid being busy without accomplishing anything or more likely, busy while accomplishing “little”? Clip your wings! Planning with a purpose, being intentional with and an end in mind changes the nature of your activity beyond filling the day to “feel accomplished” to actually accomplishing things.  Often, a productive day is a shorter day since you move with purpose from one task to the other without wasting time.  Productivity Gurus  David Allen (GTD) and the late Steven Covey (7 habits), talk about goals and objectives.  Take time to plan.  If you aren’t a “planner”, start small.  Here’s a list of 3 things to start with:

RAF Flypast - Red Arrows

RAF Flypast – Red Arrows (Photo credit: Mikepaws)

1.  Define your Goals:  From spring break travel, to organizing the garage for spring, to building a business or planning your retirement, start with the end in mind.  Most people don’t even get this far.  Defining your goals will give you a tangle and “clean” target to work toward.
2. Build your Plan: Creating a simple plan to intentionally achieve some or all of your goals gives you a road map.  Have you ever been driving on a road toward a new destination not sure if you should be going North or South.  The anxiety is torturous.  Once I decide to hit the Onstar button for directions, even if I’ve been going the wrong direction, I get back on track and feel great.  Why? Because I know that I am on the path to my destination.
3. Execute:  There are people who plan but don’t follow through, and there are people who do things but have no plan or direction, and finally there are a group of successful people who do both.  Planning without execution is only a dream.  Create  a plan that is realistic and fits your season in life.  Check in periodically to make adjustments and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not 100% on target.  Keep on Keeping on!
These 3 steps are the foundation to clipping your wings and living intentionally with purpose.  How will you start today to live with purpose and intentionality?
Rocco
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Stop Being the Character and Play Your Authentic Part

Disneyland is a paradise for kids.  All the fun, food, and entertainment all catered toward them.  One of our favorite things to do at Disneyland is take pictures with our favorite characters.  Goofy has always been my guy.  In fact, I have a great picture of my kids and I with him on my Facebook.  Goofy is  a 6 foot tall talking dog that runs into situations that are hilarious. The thing about Goofy  is he’s not real.  He is a character with an actor “playing” the part. There is nothing wrong with playing a character for work or fun, but what about the character we play in the game of life?

drama queen

drama queen (Photo credit: beccaplusmolly)

I am guilty, guilty, guilty of playing many roles.   I was,  for many years the “super single dad“.  My high flying antics included taking kids to the dentist, doctor appointments, church, and school plays.  I have chronicled my adventures on my Facebook page.  Before my heroic adventures as a single dad, I was the super “victim husband“.  Everything was my [ex] wife’s fault and I was just trying, heroically, to keep it all together.  I spent a lot of energy griping and complaining rather than listening and seeking to understand. There are characters everywhere.  The “super single mom” posting pictures of soccer practice.  The “super athlete teen” with all his trophies and championships, and the “tortured soul teenage girl” with black lipstick and and angrier than Avril Lavigne look.

Many of these characters are important and inspiring.  Once again, the problem remains that they are not real.  We where these badges, all polished and shiny for the world to see.  We have 275 friends on Facebook (of whom 2 send you a Christmas card).  When I played the “super single dad” hero, I posted pictures of myself doing cool things with the kids.  The little red box in the corner would light up with a 4 or a 5 and I would be validated.  Sometimes the photo upload session happened at a stoplight, or a school event, or the dinner table.  The world needed to see my character.  Lights, camera, action.  See the irony?

When you play the character you were born to play with authenticity and intentionality, it isn’t “play” at all.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing on Facebook.  As with anything in the pursuit of awesomeness, you must be intentional and in control.  Are you posting a picture to share something, for laughs, or perhaps memories?  Excellent.  Are you seeking more?  What if no one “liked” the picture of you and your daughter at choir?  Would that diminish the value of your time together?  My challenge to you and myself in this New Year is to be aware of WHY you are doing things.  Do things with purpose, love, authenticity, and a giving spirit.   Click here to read my article on authenticity. Be present.  Maybe even leave the iPhone in the car.

What character have you played the most this year?

Rocco

Keeping Pace with Life: Wisdom on the way to school

I recently had the opportunity to share some wisdom with my 17 year old daughter on the drive to school.  Most days the 2.5 mile trek to school is no more than a song or 2 and the click…click of her texting her friends regarding her upcoming arrival. This day was different. College is less than a year away, and with the college discussion comes the life discussion.  What to do, how to live, and what is an acceptible  standard of living.  This 5 minute conversation stirred up some great thinking and some real questions, especially as I reflect upon my life.

Horse Racing

Horse Racing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s a smart kid.  One of the features she gets from me is the uncanny ability to get things done.  Maybe they aren’t done smoothly (maybe they are), and maybe not according to the plan, but done nonetheless.  Many times she, and i alike, achieved great grades and successful marks without too much challenge. This ability is a double edged sword.
Seeing results without intentionality trains the mind to feel entitled.
I lived, and sometimes still do, this way for many years.  I am happy with my life and career but wonder  what could have been.  I have worked hard to get here, but not always intentional, strategic, and certainly not open to much risk.  The question I posed in our discussion was what if I had added  1 or 2 of those elements to my earlier years (as I am incorporating them now)?
My success today does not mean that I arrived here in spite of my lack of intentionality, strategic thinking, and risk aversion. I believe my success today is just the tip of the ice that could have been massive success beyond what I have achieved today.
This is not to say I am regretful or in any way unhappy with my life.  I love my life and my family.  This is about others, in particular, my 17 year old daughter.  This could be you reading this post today, or your very own 17 year old daughter.  Life is a constant moving object.  You are moving at 1 speed, and life (society, careers, family) is moving at another. I told her that for many years I thought I could find a trajectory and get comfortable.  I even fooled myself that I had arrived there several times. While I never went backward, life kept moving forward.  Soon, life was moving faster than me and I had to catch up.  There have been other times where I have been so overly ambitious that I outpaced life with the power of a bullet train.  The problem with this isn’t my ambition, work ethic, or intelligence; its my perspective.
Move too slow in comfort, life passes you and you live with regrets.  Move too fast and you miss the moments life was designed for.  
I told my daughter that you need to find a pace that is comfortable, sustainable, and slightly faster than the speed of life.
What do you do to keep perspective without loosing out on opportunities?
Rocco

The Extraordinary Standing Ovation

The performance was amazing.  The symphony touched the souls of every person in the concert hall.  Upon every note, the audience breathed in the experience and mastery.  Upon the final note of audible greatness, the sold out crowd stands in wonderment and gives a great and glorious ovation.  Paying for the ticket and sitting for the show was enough.  Maybe a polite clap at the end of the show would express gratitude for the effort.  A standing ovation is not
typical. In fact, it should be rare.  A typical standing ovation is like tipping the waitress for delivering the wrong dish, delivering it cold,  and spilling it on you while charging you to remake it, then coming back and doing it again.

The Philly Phanatic

The Philly Phanatic (Photo credit: Kyle Slattery)

The standing ovation is reserved for the extraordinary.

While by definition, extraordinary is not an everyday case.  It is, however, something you will see if you are looking. People are silently extraordinary everyday around you.  “Standing ovation” worthy performances are given every day at your local Starbucks.  The cashier at Trader Jo’s, has performed worthy of a standing ovation many times.  My children, hungry and tired, performed at a high level at church while the priest spent too much time discussing things they don’t understand.  Robert D. Smith, in his new book 20000 Days and Counting talks about giving people standing ovations.  He points out that the last time most adults received even an applause was when they graduated High School.  You are here, reading this post, and many others like it because you are extraordinary.  Be intentional and sincere in giving 1 standing ovation per day.  Tell the barista how much you appreciate her extra effort to make your latte extra hot.  Tell her boss, how good she is.  Tell the Trader Jo’s cashier how good the salad he taught you how to make tasted.  Surprise your kids with a tasty treat for a job well done.  A standing ovation doesn’t have to cost you anything except intention.  It’s a great investment in others and will provide profound returns.

Share how you are celebrating those around you. Are you intentional or is this a natural gift you have?
Rocco De Leo

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

Be Intentional or be Nothing

Running through the beautiful hills of Murrieta, California, I felt like I was running  underwater.  I couldn’t maintain a respectful speed and my legs were screaming.  I have been a runner for 4 years, and for 3 of those years, I progressively grew faster and gained endurance. This last year, however, I took a step backward. Running was never anything I thought much about.  I put on shoes and ran a specific set of miles and that was is. I had “big picture goals” such as completion of my first half and my first full marathons.  There were certain trials I wished to conquer. Once completed, I didn’t create new goals other than continual running.  Singular achievement goals are great goals to have, but they are achieved and forgotten.. For me, achieving these goals marked the end of key component to my training: intentionality.

Whether running, writing, parenting, or anything important to you in your life, don’t take for granted that you will always move toward your goal “automatically”.  Yes,  it does happen. Sometimes.  Why take the chance?  The tyranny of beginners luck or the honeymoon phase of new endeavors can fool you into thinking things will always be easy. Here’s a list to guide you toward maintaining intentionality and relentless forward movement.
A Marine undergoes water survival training

A Marine undergoes water survival training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Differentiate the daily from the long term goals. Steven Covey pointed out the difference between tasks that are important and urgent (doing laundry, answering the phone, cooking dinner) and those that are important and not urgent (getting your Master’s Degree, exercise, writing a book).
2.  Align high energy (physical and mental) tasks appropriately.  For me, this is typically in the morning before the kids are up.  If you have a spouse, this time should be agreed upon as your time to focus on your high level tasks (writing, research, excersise, etc. ).
3.  Align the mundane tasks (important and urgent) that don’t involve high levels of thinking or creativity to times when you are less creative for you. For me, that’s in the evening after working and i’m distracted by kids’ homework and tired from work.  This is a great time to hang a picture, do dishes, or clean the patio.  Not a great time to research for my book.
4. Write it all down.  It seems as though the one thing all productivity speaker/writers agree on is the absolute necessity of writing things down.  Goals, tasks, ideas.
5. Create an internal sense of urgency.  Guard your quality time from internal distractions such as getting off task (Facebook, twitters, checking the weather) and outside distractions (phone calls, emails, unimportant tasks). You have to REALY want this!
6.  Keep perspective.  Baby cries, 9 year old is sick, wife had a particular bad night not sleeping.  These things happen.  Understand the difference between pause and procrastinate (click here to read my article on this topic). Sometimes the urgent and important trumps the not urgent and important.  It is up to you to maintain contingencies but also keep perspective on when to allow “intrusions’ upon your times. if you are in a positive and intentional workflow, you purpose can handle occasional interruptions.
What are you doing TODAY to be intentional?
Rocco De Leo