The Perfection Trap

A few months ago, we bought a new Honda Pilot.  It was shiny new and right off the truck.  It had four miles when we first looked at it. Even though it was brand new, the carpet under the driver’s side seat was a little “worn” looking. There are little air vents for the people in the middle row that protrude through the carpet. For some reason, the carpet was cut a little uneven.  We didn’t notice this immediately.  When we did, we felt as though the car was not good enough.  We got over it after a few days and are really enjoying our new car.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realized our concept of “perfection” goes well beyond the cars we purchase.  As a writer, I know all too well the traps of perfectionism. The “perfect” blog post is still being worked on and will never be read, the childless parents are waiting for the “perfect” time well into their forties as nature slips away, and that “perfect” vacation is still only a brochure.  Confusing good enough with perfection is worse than its distant cousin: confusing bad,  with good enough.  At least the bad work gets shipped and gives the world something that it can fix.
 Perfection rarely gets shipped.  This isn’t because we don’t have talented people working among us.  It’s because we are people and people are not perfect.
Whatever it is that “perfection” has hostage, ship it today.  A 90% perfect blog post today is better than the idea of a 100% blog post tomorrow.  Write two  90% posts in the next two days and that’s 180% perfect.  Letting go of perfect gives you the real opportunity to transform your idea into something very real. Ideas are a lot like clogs in the shower drain.  A lot  of people have them, but they are only significant when they are in the shower.  Let go of perfection and grab on to action.

What perfect ideas are you holding on to?

Rocco

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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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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

Act Courageous and offend people

20130418-074835.jpgThere is so much to say and so much to share in today’s hyper connected world. Those of you who utliize some or all of the tools for consuming (and ultimately sharing) information are part of an ever growing intelligence the world has never seen.

Reflecting on an article about Guy Kawasaki auto tweeting during the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing made me think of the wisdoms of Greg Gutfeld’s book The Joy of Hate. He basically states that too many people are whiners and walk around spouting phony outrage. This phony outrage has us discussing the “discussion” rather than what we should be discussing. Make sense? The unintended consequence of over thinking is that we loose our focus on what really matters. What really matters is what you and I have to say. We must walk through our days mindful of our fellow man, yet understanding that he needs (not just wants) to hear what you have to say.

I want to hear from you. Share with me a time where you had something profound to say but feared offending someone and said nothing.
Rocco De Leo