Notes from this Morning #18: Are you an egotistical narcissist ? Yup, arrogant too.

"I hated every early morning workout I ever had, but I loved being a champion." -- Mohammed Ali

Hello friends. I’m not calling you any names this morning. Nope. This is the question that I asked myself today, and you can see my answer. I wish I was joking but it’s true. The reason that I’m an egotistical narcissist today is that I am a terrible delegator. People don’t call you that though when you’re out there in life, they call you a control freak or if they are kinder, a perfectionist. They whisper behind your back and say, “he won’t let anyone help him.” They let you blame it on OCD or whatever.

Dan’s NEXT Interview

Interviewer: What’s your greatest weakness?

Dan: I’m a bad delegator.

Interviewer: NEXT!

–the truth hurts.

Now I know I have other weaknesses, but the heart of the matter for me is that now that I know about this one; I need to get busy being the best delegator that I can be so that I can get on with the main task at hand–doing what I do best.

Let’s break it down a bit. Why? Well, for one thing. I’m good at a lot of different things. I’ve spent my life learning things and perfecting the things I love doing. If you look at my CV–not the abbreviated resume that I have on LinkedIn, you’ll find that along with computer, information, and data science, I studied religion, psychology, philosophy, business, and photography; I was a rock climbing guide, a whitewater raft guide, a musician, a farmer, a miner, a youth minister, a pizza cook, a horse-wrangler (cowboy), a post-hole digger, a landscaper, a waiter, a bartender, a mentor, a curriculum writer, a teacher, a lecturer, a salesman, a counselor, a song-writer, an artist, a wedding photographer, a tailor, a builder, a webmaster–and these are just some of the things I’ve been paid to do in the past.

Didn’t see CEO on that list, right? Successful company owner? Foundation starter? Why the heck not? I believe now it’s because I couldn’t get the help I needed because I WOULDN’T ASK FOR HELP. And maybe I wasn’t meant to do those things. We are going to see in real-time if this part of my life will truly help me achieve what I’m meant to do on this Earth. Because at the moment I realized my greatest weakness, I realized my greatest strength.

I am a creator.

I think all of us know what we should be doing in life. It’s that little voice you hear whisper to you, it’s the part of you that sometimes, and in my case, you want to push back against. A lot of my life’s choices were not just at odds with that little voice–I was in active rebellion against it. I was determined to do the opposite. I was specifically taking the wrong path thinking I could get to the destination I wanted. I’m fully listening to that voice now. I’m writing it to you now as you read this. When I reflect back on the people in my life who have told me, over and over again what my greatest strength was… I never heard it. I listened, but it never got me until today. Thank you to all of the people in my life that tried to tell me what I needed. I’m with you now.

I can create something from anything.

Daniel Hwan Oostra

Growing up I had religion in my life. A lot of it. Unfortunately, I started to look at religion as something bad, and therefore everything associated with it was bad. I wanted to be different from my adoptive family, I didn’t want to do the things they thought were right. I wanted to be independent of them, so I would sometimes decide that if that was the right way to do things, I’d do it the wrong way. If stealing was wrong, then I’d make it right to steal. If cheating was wrong, then I’d cheat the right way. I wanted to win the wrong way. Luckily, as a younger man, I adopted the philosophy of being a force for good in the world. My wife’s grandmother taught me that. That helped me overcome many of my character flaws. It didn’t take care of all of them–but, it probably kept me out of prison. Now, I hope you can see I’m in beast-mode in regards to finding my blindspots and getting the full bright light of the sun on them to either kill or plant new things that defeat them. I’m in command. Watch out universe, get ready to get dented.

I hope that you find some inspiration today to figure out what your blind spots are and to take action to make that change that lets you know what to do. It’s taken me a long time to be able to write this article, to be so open about my thoughts, but I’m grateful. I can tell you my morning workouts have been tough, maybe not Mohammed Ali tough–but I love being my own champion.

I love you! I hope you know I’m cheering for you and sending love every morning. We are the best. We are winning.

Featured Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #17: What are you willing to give up to get what you what?

My family and I were watching Olympic swimming and gymnastics last night. I was definitely impressed with the daring and speed that some of these athletes have in the water and flying over some gymnastics equipment, pulling moves that made me feel they were doing something truly impossible. I don’t know what all the moves they were doing but I did know one thing. It wasn’t easy. These young men and women obviously put in hundreds of hours of practice to be able to do what they are able to do, and they aren’t getting paid like some of the professional athletes who now perform in the Olympics these days.

What struck me though while watching this was the question. What had they given up to be there?

Just follow the story of one athlete, you’ll find that she gave up her first year at Stanford–delaying enrollment because COVID changed the schedule on her. Another gave up her senior prom, parties, friendships, all to represent herself and the USA for a chance to do what she wanted to do. I think we could go on and on through all the sacrifices that these athletes, their parents, their coaches, and all the other supportive people in their lives made to get them to the Olympics, and we only hear the stories of the ones who are medal contenders or champions.

Would you trade your first year to attend Stanford to swim in the Olympics only to miss the finals by 1 second and come home empty-handed? Of course, you wouldn’t. Especially if you knew that was going to be the outcome. Yes, we’d all trade it for a gold medal and our chance to be written in the history books. But medals aren’t a sure thing, there are no guarantees when it comes to the experiences we choose.

What’s exceptional about these athletes is that they know it’s not a sure thing, but they are going to try their absolute best and give up everything and anything to achieve the goal of standing on a podium and hearing their country’s anthem being played in the background. From the interviews we watch, that’s all that it seems they care about. They aren’t guaranteed to become the hot gold medalist that ends up on a Wheaties box; I’ve never heard that as being the goal for any of these people. What I have heard is a ton of respect and care given to the other athletes they’ve competed against when they’ve both won and lost. What I have observed is that these people are working at a higher level of attention and focus.

I want to perform at a higher level. I want to be the best Dan I can be. I want to be the best husband, the best father, the best friend, the best colleague, the best co-worker, the best writer that I could be. To do that, I also have had to and am still figuring what I need to give up to become the best version of myself. My goal isn’t to be better than anyone else. I do believe that I have God-given talents and intend to spend the rest of my life figuring how to use them at a world-class level.

Over the last few months, I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. It’s been both easy and difficult to navigate the forces of change and my desire to slip back into old habits and patterns. Easy because I’m inspired by my daily progress, and hard because some of my habits had been carefully nurtured for years–and are like giant oak trees in my yard, very hard to remove. So let’s start with that today. Let’s do a quick accounting of the things that I’ve decided to give up recently.

What I’ve given up to be a better ME.

  1. Staying up late–I used to think that I was so productive late at night. I wasn’t. My nights would start with me finishing up some work and then diving into videos, movies, and shows. I’d have a nightcap that was supposed to put me asleep, but then I’d get stuck doing something like online poker, reading some trash articles, random shopping, then I’d be “seasoning” some awesome new drama–3 episodes and 3 drinks later… I was overstimulated, hazy, and half-drunk, and I’d wake up late, grouchy, and already behind.
  2. Random TV/Videos–Ending my late nights effectively ended this as well. It’s so easy to open YouTube and, poof! I’m off in the matrix. Now, if I’m going to watch a show or video I plan ahead to watch it (like the Olympics) and make it an experience. Last night it was the three of us on the couch rooting loudly for the athletes–it was fun and I enjoyed myself. I also try to carefully curate what I do watch and schedule it specifically as downtime.
  3. News/Social Media/Howard Stern–This was hard. I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going on in Congress, with Kim Kardashian, or if we are on the brink of nuclear war. I know that if any of these things went critical, I’d find out in time. I’ve also decided that I’m going to give myself one day a week to check out the news, it’s Sunday. But, I don’t really care anymore, this last Sunday I didn’t even check any media/news. Now, I know I might be a little uninformed, but, ignorance is bliss, right? I feel better, and that’s all that matters. I’m not stressed or even thinking about what’s happening. That’s not to say I don’t know what’s going in cryptocurrency markets or with my mining operations, sure, I read some industry news in those areas. But I’m not locked on Twitter when I’m in the bathroom anymore. I’ve given up listening to Howard Stern–he was a great distraction in the car, but now I listen to audiobooks, the occasional favorite songs from my playlist, or I just have a conversation with the person or people in the car with me if I’m with someone.
  4. Getting Angry–I spent a lot of my life angry about one thing or another. I didn’t always know why, but I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing work unraveling the anger that was in my life. I was angry about a lot of things, being abandoned as a young child, global racism, my failures, not living up to my promises to myself and others. Yes, anger was something I used to cope with these things, mainly because I didn’t take the time to understand and educate my emotions so that I could understand them in a way that would help me. I still get angry now and then, I’m not cured! But, now I recognize more and more of the things that do bother or trigger me, and I try to change my frustration into fascination. When someone says something to me that triggers me, I look at them and say to myself, “How did you get to this point in your life?”, “What kind of person are you?”, “What experiences did you have that would cause you to do or say such a thing?”, “Why am I feeling this way about this interaction?” I try to let curiosity sneak itself into my perspective and take over slowly. Try this sometime when you feel the urge to just go ballistic on someone. Try to figure them out. This one change has already helped my relationships and my mental state. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and I still slip up, but I’m learning to get better at channeling my anger into other things. (like writing!)

Let me make a point here. This is my list. This isn’t a suggestive list of what you should give up or try to give up. I’m just telling you exactly what I’m doing now. What I can tell you is that I’m making progress. My relationship with my family is better than ever. I spend more time with them, I’m more present and I’m seeing the fruits of these efforts come to life, I’m happier and healthier–I have more hope for the future than I’ve ever had. I don’t hate anyone or any group. I’m not wrapped over a barrel on any personal/social/political/financial issue and my conscience is clear. I do know that giving up the things I’ve listed has made me feel lighter and more alive. I’m on my way to becoming the best husband, father, friend, and person I can be. ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ

So, let me ask you the question you know I was going to end with. Are there things in your life that are holding you back that you need to give up so that you have time to get the things you really want?

Love is being sent to you all! Have a great day! Be the best.

Featured Photo by Karim Ben Van on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #16: Don’t let the dogs eat your goals.

"We can't direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." - Thomas S. Monson 

NASA does more than just look at stars, in fact, a large portion of their mission is focused on the Earth. I should know after spending the better part of a decade working with the team at the Atmospheric Science Data Center headquartered at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. I spent a lot of time looking at satellite data that was focused on the Earth; so, when someone would ask me about a shuttle launch or something that was happening on the Mars Mission, I would smile and tell them I worked in Earth science and didn’t really know a lot about what was happening in space. That’s usually when I’d lose them, and I realized now I was missing a lot by not looking up sometimes. Let me explain.

Today, and more recently, I’ve been looking forward and upward–with you, my inner circle. Instead of trying to understand the beginnings of hurricanes and staring at the data about them, I’ve been trying to sort out the storms that I have on the inside, trying to find the reasons for inner turbulence, exploring my personal dataset.

My inner studies have taken me a while to bear fruit. It took me a long time to take responsibility for every aspect of my life; I wanted to blame others, to assign excuses to things, I wanted to make up reasons for my failures. All of which clouded my perspective on the problems in my life. There was a time that I didn’t see us all using the same sun, the same moon, the same winds, the same government, the same company policies. It was easy to blame the winds. It was convenient to blame everything but myself for my problems.

I feel in command today. In command of the USS Oostra, to be sure, my family is battened down and they have PFDs on. However, today, now, I understand and see things differently. I see now that we all have the same winds, and it’s up to me to decide how to use them. I’ve learned and am still learning from others who have been able to harness the proverbial winds of our world–I’m learning that with greater precision, mindfulness, and awareness–I can tune my sails and get me to my destinations faster and with ease. It feels good to be on the razor’s edge of success and failure; at least it’s me at the helm.

This command and my personal integrity have forced me to look harder at the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Not in a mystical or magical way; but in a physical, tangible way. Try to think about trying to get a boat out of a channel at low tide, you’re gonna get that keel stuck if you have one, the water’s depth is at it’s lowest. The smart sailor waits until high tide. The tides are controlled by the moon’s position and relative distance from the Earth. So, why wouldn’t we think about the other forces of nature when trying to manage our lives?

July 3rd – August 11th: The dog days of Summer

The “Dogs Days of Summer” have been defined by as “A period marked by lethargy, inactivity, and indolence.” But why? Who decided this? The ancient philosophers and Greek poets associated the dog days with random and intense thunderstorms, heat, fever, and unrest–they had noticed that one of the brightest stars, Sirius, would also be rising and prominent in the heavens during this time. Since Sirius, the star primary to the Canis Major constellation is “rising” during this time, the dog days were born.

The constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog.

In 2011, the American Express Open Forum did a study on the decline in productivity during the summer months. This study found that there was a 20% decline in workplace productivity, a 19% drop in employee attendance, a 13% time increase in project completion, and lunchtimes increase 2.6 times the normal time. Even more shocking was that they found a 200% increase in shopping during working hours, and a 120% increase in employees searching for another job during the dog days. Wow.

Now that we know that the dog days are real, we can take action. Lean into this knowledge and into the dog days. Do this by understanding the wind. It’s a puff, barely blowing now… So if you find yourself in the dog days and you can’t get out, I suggest that you lean into the punch. Do the counterintuitive; instead of trying to work harder, take time off.

Yes! I said it. Be lazy and enjoy it. Don’t fight it. Plan a vacation during this time–some of you need it desperately. With a lot of us working MORE from home, we need to take even more time off. Check out this IPX work-study shows that during COVID 37% of us put our vacation plans on hold (amongst other things). My family did. We didn’t go to the beach cottage in RI last year; we postponed my birthday trip to DC where we stay at the Ritz Carlton and order room service for a weekend, we were going to visit my friend’s new home in London–all our plans down the drains. My son just asked me last week about the trips we didn’t do last year in the hope to rekindle those lost plans. I need to do this, and fast.

The other thing we can do is plan our playtimes. Make sure that we plan for times to rejuvenate. I’m a huge believer in taking time to specifically “make yourself young again.” This was reinforced after hearing a 75-year-old scouter on my trip to Raven Knob Scout Camp last week tell me that going to camp adds years to our lives. I also heard a former BSA climbing instructor tell me the same thing on the top of Pilot Mountain where we were setting up climbs and rappels for our certification course. Our playtime is just as important as our work time. We have to respect it the same way.

Let’s slow walk the Dog Days.

My business partner and I have a philosophy of taking things slowly when we know we are going to win. We “slow walk” on the fairway down to the 18th green as Tiger Woods did during his greatest times. Lots of things can happen on that walk, but if we just take the time to put one step in front of the other we will get there. The dog days are when we just hit a ball into a sand trap and have to take a detour to “the beach.” When we are on the beach, we should be on the beach! We need to stop thinking about the destination for a minute and just relax and deal with the situation.

I challenge you to make a plan to deal with your dog days today, and the future dog days. Make a plan to take time off and stick with it. When you’re there on the beach, BE ON THE BEACH. No phone calls, meetings, zooms, or whatever. I can already hear half of you saying, “I can’t do that! I’m busy! I have work to do!”, and yes that’s all fine and good. But, you can also make plans to deal with those things to give yourself a week, a day, or even just an afternoon. Use the time to shut down your work brain and turn on your rejuvenation brain.

For me, this is about personal integrity. If I don’t take time off to be with my family–I’m missing the point [deep breath].

Whether you believe it or not, the forces of nature are in full affect in our lives. They will have an effect on us no matter where we hide. It’s our responsibility to recognize the effects and plan to use them for our greatest advantage. I’ve started to begin new projects and initiatives under a new moon, and now I’m going to start to plan for downtimes and energy conservation during the dog days. I’m going to use them for maximum rejuvenation and healing. I believe this gives us a huge competitive advantage.

Remember, it’s not the wind. It’s the set of our sails.

I love you guys/gals! Have a great week. Make someone smile this week, especially yourself. Slow walk!

We are winning!

Featured Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #15: Elephants aren’t goals.

there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” - Desmond Tutu

I don’t know about you, but sometimes this phrase/quote/question really chaps my ass. No offense Desmond. First of all, I’ve never eaten an elephant and I’ve never taken a 1000 mile journey on foot. So for me, the analogy is a bit off. Let’s look at some more equally ass-chapping quotes:

  • Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.~ Robert Collier
  • Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow. ~ Doug Firebaugh
  • Each step you take reveals a new horizon. You have taken the first step today. Now, I challenge you to take another. ~ Daniel Poynter
  • Success is the sum of small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward. ~ Chinese proverb

The problem with all of these quotes, is that it doesn’t help us figure out what the proverbial elephant is. What is the harvest I want to reap? What is success? What is a better tomorrow? What is a new horizon?

A little negative I know, but right now, I almost feel like asking: How do you get drunk? One glass of wine at a time.

It’s been a rough week. We all have our ups and downs, and this week I’ll acknowledge… I’m down. It’s hard to get to work when you feel a little lost and not sure what’s up. I do a lot of work thinking about my goals and goal attainment. So, like I said at the beginning of the week. Reconnect, Refocus, Rejuvenate. Has it worked? How are you doing? For me, I’d score myself a 5 or 6. I do feel refocused, but not as connected as I want to be. Thankfully, I have a lot of good people around me that keep me young, and a large portion of that must be credited to my family and my closest friends.

So, when you’re in a slump–what do you do? Well, let me show you what I do when I’m not sure what I should be doing. I go back to the goal setting drawing board and figure out what really means the most to me.

This week, we talked about Pareto–using it to prune your life down. Figuring out what your area of excellence is–what are you good at? Well, if you’re still scratching your head, get out some paper and answer these questions. These will help you figure out what’s most important to you, and help you set a foundation for all the elephants you decide to eat–and even more importantly, WHY.

Seven Things To Do When You don’t know What To Do

  1. What are the five things that you value most in your life? (write these down) What are your most important values? What are the five things that you’d fight for, stand up for, or pay the most for? (Only a small percent of the population has ever written down their five most important values, doing so makes you one of the few. These five things comprise the foundation of your life–and will be the basis of all your goals.)
  2. In 30 seconds or less, write down the three most important goals in your life, right now.
  3. What would you do if you won a million tax-free dollars? The real question here is, if there were no financial limitations to what you could do today, what would it be? Would you pay off bills? Would you go on a trip? What would you really do?
  4. What would you do if you found out today that you only had 6 months to live? This question exposes what our true values in life are. If what you would do is different than the answers to the first three questions, then you might need to re-evaluate what your values truly are. You might be fooling yourself.
  5. What is one thing that you haven’t done because you are afraid to try? Remember that fear is just a conditioned response to your past, your beliefs–or even someone else’s belief that they’ve taught you. Many of us are or aren’t doing something because, that’s the way they or someone they know has always done it. Fear is just a conditioned process, we can break down and overcome fear with courage.
  6. Look at your life and reflect on the things that give you the greatest feelings of well-being, the greatest feelings of satisfaction. What makes you feel most important and satisfied with your life? Answers to this question or not being able to will also tell you a lot about your self-esteem and self-worth.
  7. Finally, imagine if I gave you a magic pill that if you took it, you’d be able to accomplish one thing without fail. What would that one thing be? The beauty of this question is that if you can put your pen to paper and really write what your heart desires, then you can accomplish it. I strongly believe that the universe, nature, the gods are not capricious; I know that if you can crystalize this one thing in your mind and put it on paper, then you can achieve it. No questions. The only question will be is, are you willing to pay the price. Are you willing to do the thing that your heart desires?

I’ve done the above assessment on myself a few times already–and I had forgotten how much I love the outdoors. Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking, Whitewater rafting/kayaking/canoeing, Snowboarding–any physical adventure were the things I used to live every second of every day for, I’d forgotten this. But today, I’ve taken the magic pill and I’m not turning back.

I challenge you to take time today or over the weekend to answer all of these questions and pull them from the ether and put them on paper. If you can do this, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll give yourself a road map to your greatest accomplishments.

Next week, I’m in North Carolina teaching Boy Scouts and their parents how to rock climb near Stone Mountain. It’s beautiful there. I’m going to still try to post my NFTM–since when I’m at camp I’m usually up even earlier than when I’m at home. I look forward to the change of environment. I’ll send some pictures.

Happy Friday! Love you all! Let’s have a great day today.

Featured Photo by Neil and Zulma Scott on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #14: Nurture your Nature: A guide to figuring out your talents.

The best way to ride a horse is in the direction it's going in.

In yesterday’s NFTM #13, I asked you a common question that I’ve struggled with in my life, “What are you REALLY good at?” Or, what are your natural talents? How do we make them better? Let’s dig deeper today and try to come up with a guide that can provide us with clarity on this question that seems to come up often and always.

Excellence as a philosophy: Our Competitive Edge

Before we get onto the guide for this, let’s first talk about something important. One thing that I believe you have is to drive for excellence in your life. I do; I want to be an excellent father, husband, and friend; Second, I want to achieve excellence in all that I do professionally, I want to be in the top 10% of whatever I’m doing for my work.

The last point I want to make is that very few of us are striving for excellence in our fields. Some studies say that 80% of us are just getting by, doing the minimum, and just rolling along in life. That gives us a huge opportunity–by simply committing to excellence in your life’s work, you already have an advantage.

8 Ways to Find Your Unique Talents and Abilities

The goal here is to identify one or two things about us that we are uniquely good at or have a natural talent for; once we find that thing about us, then we can go to work honing and sharpening that skill or talent.

Let’s start with a quote from the great Michael Jordan and use it as inspiration for following through on our task to nurture the natural talents in us.

“Everybody has talent, but ability takes hard work.”

— Michael Jordan

Eight ways to identify your special talents:

  1. You are the best and happiest when you are doing your “thing”. You love doing it. If you could afford to do it for free, without pay, you’d do it in anyway. This activity brings out the best in you. When you are engaged in this work, it gives you tremendous enjoyment and it feels like it is the most rewarding.
  2. You do it well. You have a natural ability to perform in this area–even as a child you might have been given compliments about this ability.
  3. This talent has been responsible for most of your success and happiness in life up to now. Go back and review your successes–you should always be reflecting on your past success when trying to create new success.
  4. This ability has always been easy for you to learn, and easy for you to do. You might have even forgotten how you learned this ability in the first place. It’s because when you first did it, it came so easily you just started to do it and never even thought about it.
  5. It holds your attention like a moth to a flame. It totally absorbs you. You’re fascinated by it. You read things about it, you talk to everyone about it.
  6. You like to learn more about it. You’re always trying to get better at it. Maybe you’ve taken time away from it now, but, quietly you’re always learning about it when you can.
  7. Time stands still when you’re doing it. You’re so engaged when you do this activity, you can work for hours, days, weeks and not even realize how much time you’ve spent on it.
  8. You admire and love other people who are doing what you are most suited to do.

I’ve always had a hard time with this. It’s why I’m writing about it now. What you can never do is get down on yourself about not knowing. In some cases, other people, society, our upbringing, our previous bosses, jobs have all influenced or even told us what we are “worth” or good at. Don’t believe them. This process takes two ingredients. Self-knowledge and change. Once we identify something that we missed, all we have to do is change our habits or something to focus on taking better care of ourselves. We all have busy and sometimes unmanageable lives. The trick is to put your oxygen mask on first, take care of yourself first, respect your career choices, and move forward with resolve to figure it out now and start building excellence into your talents.

Love you guys/gals! Have a great day. Head up, shoulders back–get out there and wrangle this day into submission. We are winning.

Featured Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #13: Imperfect practice makes perfect.

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first. 

There is so much to learn and know, it’s daunting. At least for me. Every day I feel like I gain ground, but the ground ahead always seems uncertain and sometimes even distant. It’s times like these that I have to do a gut check and remind myself that self-development isn’t a destination; it’s constant sharpening and shaping. Today, let’s go back to the mats and spar this one out again.

What are you good at?

It all starts with an area in your life that you want to develop to the level of excellence. Once we find this area, it’s our job to channel all of our energies into developing that one area or group of areas in our lives. It’s what my business partner and I call the “slow walk.” Once we get in the zone we focus so intently on just getting that done it almost is in slow motion. It’s so we don’t make mistakes. It doesn’t always work and I’ve realized that sometimes it’s not the area (in general) that we are missing, but it might be one skill within an area that we are lacking that holds us back from the real successes and gains we could be making.

Think about a manager that is a great communicator, has tons of emotional IQ, is super organized, perfectly honest, but this manager just can’t delegate tasks well. The fact that he/she can’t delegate will be the primary thing that holds them back in their career, especially since delegation is likely one of the top skills in the area of management. This manager might be let go simply for this reason.

We can’t have an area in our life that we are working on be held back because we overlooked one component that, we should work on, we could work on, but we won’t, don’t, or tell ourselves we can’t. Even worse is we decide to give up on that area because of it.

How do we fix this?

Once you know where your area of excellence is, break it up into the key skills that you need for that area in your life. Since I’m working on self-development, let’s look at some of the skills within this area:

Key skills for Self-Development

  • Self-confidence
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Problem Solving
  • Adaptability
  • Integrity
  • Work Ethic

I know when I look at a list like this, the areas where I’m weakest will call to me like a little baby. “Help me, help me!”, and I’ll tell you, the area that I see on this list I pulled from Indeed: is integrity. Ugh.

It’s not that I’m going around being dishonest or stealing from others here. It’s about being dishonest to myself sometimes and not living up to the promises that I’m making to myself. It’s the projects I’ve started and haven’t finished. It’s the exaggeration I sometimes get caught up within my head when I’m trying to stay grounded. Integrity is that 100/0 responsibility that we take–I thought about this a lot yesterday.

This is what I wrote about integrity and 100/0 in my journal:

“Sometimes I fake 100/0. I say it, I think I mean it, but I don’t feel it. When I am 100/0ing everything my confidence soars, I’m proud of my choices, I feel bulletproof and am.

100/0 isn’t something you do like a task. It is a collection of emotions that I harness to create the character that I’m searching for within. Taking responsibility for who I am becoming.

You feel 100/0, you don’t do 100/0.

When I feel 100/0, it’s my phalanx in the tough fights, my ultimate weapon.”

Pay the price.

It’s important to pay the price once we know what it will cost to fix something like my problem with integrity. Just like paying the check on time. Luckily, I’ve found a simple system that I use to attack these sorts of issues, you can use this in any area in your life as well to “pay the price”:

  1. Read up on the skill you’re trying to be better at every day.
  2. Listen to audiobooks and marinate your mind about your skill.
  3. Attend workshops, seminars, Facebook groups–get around others working on this skill.
  4. Practice what you are learning.
  5. Go teach it to someone else.

No one is smarter or better than you. Why? Because all business skills, all skills can be learned. Put this in your mind and believe it.

No one is smarter or better than you because you can learn more, be more, and do more than the next guy/gal can’t you? Of course, you can.

Alright friends. Decide today that you are going to be in the top 10% of your area, industry, or practice. Use your gut and intuition to figure out the skill that might be holding you back. Your weakest skill is going to be the ceiling that holds you back, so make sure that all of the skills in your area of excellence are at the same level. Be honest with yourself, and then test that honesty with those around you. Ask your spouse about what you’re good at, and also ask what they think is your weakest link, ask co-workers, colleagues, friends, it’s scary but you have to do it sometimes if you aren’t sure.

Don’t be afraid. Take your courage, then believe in yourself and your talents. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first, that’s the whole point. We’ll get better.

Have a great day! Let’s harness this day and make it work for us. Love to you all.

Featured Photo by yns plt on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #12: Little things mean a lot.

The irony of not reaching our goals usually comes from the smallest of errors. We launch off into the wild blue yonder with heated emotion and a clear vision. Then, day after day we find that the easy things to do are the easiest not to do. We slowly drift away… we know it’s the set of our sail that gets us to the destination, but, as with all things that we create, we don’t do it perfectly. So what do we do?

I got caught up in this alternate history show about NASA and a different space race. One where USSR gets to the moon first, they get a lab in space, and so on; it’s thought provoking and I find the characters to be well thought out and developed in the story.

There was this one scene where they launch a shuttle to the moon, and they lose communications with Houston. They are freaking out because they were on a rescue mission after the Russians attacked the US station on the moon. The Flight Director of JSC (Johnson Space Center) is calmly explaining to NASA’s administrator that you don’t just launch a vehicle to the moon like shooting a gun at it and then just riding the bullet all the way there. Throughout the trip, there are dozens of delta-Vs maneuvers that the pilot has to perform all along the ride. Calculations are close but not perfect she explains… without communications with JSC, the shuttle was currently going to miss getting into the moon’s orbit by a few hundred miles. And, if that happened. they’d shoot off into the void. The delta-Vs are done to course correct, they are plotting each mile the spacecraft travels–and they check quite often, the course computers are calculating the projected course multiple times a second to be sure.

So let’s take a minute to step back and think just a second about this, and let’s look at some other examples to solidify the idea that we need to constantly course correct. I’m also going to tell you how I was taught to do it.

Ever watch golf? I know, boring. But watch the golfers and the caddies, they are looking at little books, testing the wind, they are constantly getting inputs from wherever they can so they can track their progress along the course. They write down everything, they record everything. They come up with a plan for almost every play and they execute. The difference between the best player on the PGA and the 2nd best is literally a few strokes, seconds of time, the margins are crazy.

I could go on all day–the professional _______ (you fill in the blank) stock broker, teacher, mechanic, pilot–the high performing people who do these jobs are certainly logging, reviewing and tracking progress to make small course corrections throughout their jobs and journeys. It’s how they get better.

There are many financial gurus out there that tell you to track everything about your spending. This is something I do myself, I write with pen and paper every penny that I spend on myself and family. I just got a new moleskin notebook set up this morning to do that. I also track my time, I am tracking my time down to 30 minute blocks, that reminds me that I need to do it now.

Let’s get to the why, why track? Well, we need data to draw conclusions… that’s the data scientist in me coming out. In other words, we need to measure things to grow them. We need to build awareness–I’d argue that most of us need to have a hyper-awareness about our behaviors and things at first, so we open our eyes and see what we are actually doing. Whatever we track we have the ability to grow, if we don’t track it we really can’t systematically grow that thing.

You want to have better finances, track your spending. To the penny, do this for a week and you’ll be in. Do it right after you spend. It might keep you from buying that 6.00 coffee you don’t need, just because you don’t want to write it down. You want a better relationship with your significant other, track your progress–write down the things you’re doing to make the relationship better, then write down the result… it’s not hard… it’s easy to do, and therefore easy not to do.

This stuff isn’t magic, it’s discipline, it’s mindfulness, it’s staying in the moment and considering the things that you do every minute of the day. If you end up at the end of the day and you can’t remember what you did, well… that’s just sad in my opinion. I can’t remember sometimes, that’s why I’m recording it on a little piece of paper that’s sitting in my pocket.

Track, then you can reflect and make course corrections.

If you do this you’ll know what to do, just give it a shot. You really have nothing to lose. Try it for a week, track your behaviors and see what happens. You might not be able to make any excuses about why something isn’t done if you have a lot of watching TV, reading Twitter, or other things that are just distracting you from making it happen.

Little things mean a lot. It takes two air molecules to hit each other someplace over the Atlantic Ocean to start a hurricane. It takes a little rock or snowball to start rolling down a snow-filled mountain to start an avalanche, it only takes a spark to start a forest fire. I know this all sounds super cliche, but the fact is, we need to do the little things to make the big things happen in our life.

Have a great Tuesday! Sending you love, good vibes and hope. Let’s go get it!

Featured Photo by Justin Kauffman on Unsplash

Notes from this Morning #11: Small hinges that swing big doors.

This week. Refocus, reconnect, and rejuvenate.

Over the years we’ve all been in workshops, lectures, and seminars that love to hype things. I will admit that I love to weave a story and a lot of times I end up weaving more than basket making, I get lost in the hype also. For that, I apologize in advance because I do get caught up in fancy phrases and quotes.

That’s not what these NFTM are to be used for… This is a distillation of the work that I’m doing on myself every morning and I hope that maybe you get some inspiration, or that after I publish this maybe you take one idea and it “turns all the lights on.” I live for those moments. The moments when I’m turned on about something. 

This morning has been a battle… so let’s get to work.

What is your superpower? I mean really, what is it?

I read something over the weekend called the “20% Spike” and the author who said that believed that within the CEOs, superachievers, there is something they have isolated and are doing it which is creating all of their achievement. Some CEOs are sociopathic monsters, but they might know how to do mergers and acquisitions really, really well. The key here is they know they are extremely good at that, and they protect that skill; so even though you don’t want to spend 2 weeks with this person, you might want to spend 2 hours hearing about how to do mergers and acquisitions from them. I’m very interested in what my 20% is… What is the 20% of what I’m doing that provides me with everything else?

I’m thinking though is that I don’t think it’s the 20% of my behaviors or activities that’s making a difference. I actually know now that it’s more like 1%. If we use the psycho-CEO analogy, then it’s just one thing that they do well.

I want to refine the 20% spike idea and use it in finding my 1% superpower. My question really is, what is the 1% thing in us that really can make us the 1,000,000% gain? That’s what really interests me. 

Here’s something I love: the Pareto Principle. This is really what we are talking about right? So let’s try it. But this time, I want to do something different with it. I want to take the 20 and apply the same logic on it as 80/20. You start with 100, break it into 80/20… now take the 20 and go 20/4, then take the 4, take 20 percent of that, and so on… 

Pareto Experiment Question: Can I use the 80/20 rule, recursively, on the 20, and if we do, can we use it to refine our activities down even more? 

Experiment: I identify the 20% of what I’m doing daily, then I find the 4 things that are driving the 20%, of those 4 things, what are the 0.8 things that I’m doing that drive those 4… Enter this big chart:

Yes, this told me diddly-squat about life.

Nice chart Dan. What it tells me about life is exactly nothing. But, it sorta looks interesting. It took a while to make this chart, and I could barely keep all the zeros straight… about halfway through counting zeros on my phone’s calculator one thing did occur to me. I can take math off the list of things that are providing me with 80%. That’s for damn sure.

Seriously though. What I did come up with is that we need to be doing less. We need to prune the things out of our lives that are keeping us from being the most effective that we can be. That’s what Pareto is really all about and how we can use it. It’s about knowing yourself better and making the small course corrections that get us to the destinations we set.

I believe that we all have one or two talents that we can use to make a huge impact in our lives and in the lives of others. I also believe that like me, we don’t always know what they are, but with a little work, using the Pareto Principle or not using it–we can figure it out.

Have a great week all! I’m sending love to you. I believe in you 100% — that’s for sure. Let’s go crush it!

Featured Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Word of the Day: Recursion:

Notes from this Morning #10: You’re not alone, we love you.

My quest for self-development led me down an interesting side road into addiction, psychedelics, and drug use yesterday. I had a call with an acquaintance yesterday that has changed my view of addiction, and my life. Let me share it with you.

I’ve been thinking about starting this company called “Think Station.” It’s an idea to open a “center for cognitive learning”, a place to retrain our brains to do what they want through, deep work, meditation, you know… that meta stuff. I told my friend about this, and after about 45 minutes of me spewing my ideas on him and waiting for him to tell me what a great idea it was; instead, he gave me a couple of pieces of advice and some books to read, and resources to check out. I immediately purchased the books he suggested, became a member of a research group on psychedelics, and watched a talk by Johann Hari. (I’ll share all the resources later)

Now I don’t want to get distracted and talk too much about my ideas, because I want to discuss something that all of us have in our lives right now. Addiction. Addiction and specifically our beliefs about it.

Whether we are addicts ourselves or we have addicts we love, we are complex, interesting people that can’t stop looking at their smartphones, sniffing drugs, or drinking alcohol. You name the addiction and we are all out there and we all partake in them on some level. It might not be us, but it might be our spouses or closest friends that are involved.

Now for some of you, you already have some feelings going on. You might want to stop reading this because it’s just another “drug article” this, or whatever. But, I challenge you. If you are feeling fear, anxiety about knowing more about this, it’s very likely because you need to read on. Please stay with me on this. I know when I uncover things that run through the heart of my issues, I tend to not want to face them. Have courage, you’re not alone.

Let’s look at a couple of interesting “experiments” from our history:

  1. The Viet Nam War. During the Vietnam War, over 20% of the active-duty military were using heroin–the study I’m citing here also says that if you tried narcotics in Vietnam, 79% of the folks who tried, tried heroin. The media was in a frenzy back then, and they thought that America’s military would return addicted to drugs and would be our undoing.
    1. But that didn’t happen. What happened was our troops came home and 95% of them stopped using… They stopped cold turkey just like that.
    2. I still meet Vets all the time who fought in Vietnam. Why aren’t they addicted, or worse yet?
    3. Very Curious–this made me go into overdrive.
  2. Dr. Bruce K. Alexander and his Rat Park. During about the same time in Vietnam, a doctor was also performing some experiments that challenged some of the previous experiments on behavior and drugs. Dr. Bruce had been looking at the experiment of the “druggie rat in a cage.” This is the one performed on rats, with one bottle of freshwater, one bottle of water laced with drugs, and one rat. It was very simple, empty cage, two bottles, add the rat, watch… rat does drugs until it’s dead. Drugs bad, drugs kill, rat wanted more and more. NEXT! (NO!!!!) I thought the same thing in 2021. Yikes. Chemical hooks get into us, and we’re doomed. But really no. People use diamorphine all the time to recover from hip replacements, injuries, and the like. Grandma doesn’t go in to get her hip replaced and comes out a druggie… nope… Something is wrong with that perspective.
    1. Dr. Bruce tried something different. His hypothesis was basically that of course, the rat is going to go for the drug water because they had put nothing else in the cage.
    2. He created “Rat Park”, this was a cage that had two bottles, one laced with drugs, and one clean, but he also added other loads of cheese, toys, things to do, tunnels, but most importantly, he added other rats so that they could play, have sex, and, most importantly, to be with each other.
    3. The Rats in Rat Park did something very different. They didn’t like the drug water at all. None of the rats used it compulsively, none of them died, none of them became “addicted.” Huh?
    4. This was a real eye-opener, it challenges everything.

Major Takeaway: As a result of Dr. Bruce K. Alexander’s work, he’d uncovered that chemical hooks, the idea that most of us still believe–that if you’re exposed to or around drugs, you’ll naturally get chemically addicted to them and then you’ll be an addict. If you do heroin every day for a few days… your screwed. You’ll be addicted and that’s it.

Super Major Takeaway: What if addiction isn’t about your chemical hooks? What if it’s about your cage?

Dr. Bruce’s study has to force us to think: what if addiction isn’t really what we think it is–what if addiction is really adaptation? Addiction should be called bonding. All of us need to bond, and some of us due to some trauma, something, someone; might be missing a part of our lives where we needed bonding and true human connection.

The worst off of us have lost bonding with reality, or our children and family, or our deepest loves or loved ones… so we fill the need with other bonds other connections that help us cope. I and others believe that the most dangerous addictions aren’t just to drugs and alcohol. There are other addictions like gambling, porn, “digital addiction”, that are doing immeasurable damage to our lives. We just don’t have a war on smartphones [YET].

Now, lots of us drink, but we aren’t homeless. We could all probably drink a 1/5 of bourbon or vodka a day, and if it wasn’t for the hangovers and bad moods, we’d basically be okay. Sure, we’d not perform very well, but I worked in an office full of professional, rich, drunks; all day every day did drugs, drank–you name it… for years on end. None of them are homeless now, maybe lots of them have health problems. That’s not the point. The point is we can use these things and not turn into homeless people overnight, we have bank accounts and people that would save us.

Let’s take a quick trip to Portugal. Back in 2000, Portugal was a drug den. It was a disaster by some accounts. The government of Portugal hired Dr. João Goulão to create a drug program in the country to help curb the rise of addiction. What he did was to suggest that they legalize all drugs, from cocaine to crack–but the key to his advice was that all the money they used to interdict, to enforce, to rehab folks in the past, should be used differently. It should be used to connect the drug addicts back into society. Specifically, he wanted to make sure the money was spent on giving the drug addicts a reason for getting up in the morning. He wanted to add things to their cages that made life worth living. Portugal responded with programs that, yes, still included traditional rehabs and psychiatry, but they also included programs where former mechanics would go back to work as mechanics and the government would pay for half of their salary for a certain amount of time. They funded business ideas with grants to drug addicts via microloans, all to do one thing. To rebuild the connections that these people had lost, and to help them rediscover missing bonds with their families, friends, and society. Instead of ripping them away from society, he buried them deep in it he planted seeds of connections. Look at the results. It’s amazing.

Let’s bring it home. Today, we all feel vulnerable on some levels. All of us have varying levels of disconnection and addiction. It’s scary because we live in a time that we are all supposedly more connected then ever. Today, I feel as if we are living in a parody of human connections. Those connections are played out on the screens of Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

If you’ve had a recent crisis in your life, a real one, I can guarantee that it’s not your Twitter followers that you call or those old Facebook friends who you haven’t seen in years that will be helping you. It will be your flesh and blood friends who will be in your corner, on the phone with you in the dark of night during your deepest darkest moments. It will be the real people in your life that will hug and get you through those moments. And if you don’t have those… Then you have a real problem.

Bill McKibben, has noted in his many books and talks that he sees floor space in our homes increasing, but personal connections decreasing, he sees digital stuff growing in our lives, but tangible human interactions on the decline. I agree with him, and I see this as being more than just an individual problem for us. It’s a global social problem and we need social recovery along with individual recovery.

What we now need to do is tell the addicts in our lives and maybe ourselves a different message to wake them/us up. We don’t need to bring the Intervention reality show into our homes, we just need to change our philosophy about how we view addictions today and we need to immediately change the narrative. We need to get to the people we love and remind them of this:

“We love you and we want to deepen our connections with you. We love you and we and we don’t want you to feel alone. We are here with you and we love and accept you. We are here for you, no matter how bad it gets, we are here.”

This is what we need to be telling addicts.

You’re not alone. I’m here for you.

Finally, let’s rewrite one key belief that we might have held as true for a long time:

The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, the opposition of addiction is connection.

Let’s do this people! Go out there and make it happen. I believe in you. Take from the day today. Take from today and make tomorrow easier. I love you all!

Featured Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

*This article is based largely on the TED Talk by Johann Hari, you can see it here. Thank you @Ben for sharing it with me.

** Here’s the research group I joined:

Notes from this morning #9: Invisible Fences are real.

Every day, I walk my dog Bailey around our neighborhood about 2.5 miles to the marina, where she loves to swim. We walk by this one house that has two dogs that constantly bark whenever someone walks by. My wife Summer calls these dogs the sad dogs. She calls them sad dogs because they both have huge black invisible fence collars around their necks. One of the dogs, a black and white pit bull, charges toward the street in a frenzy, then hits the brakes just moments before hitting the invisible fence line. You can even hear the little beep that the collar makes before it’s about to shock the dog. The other dog just sits in the back barking away with this squeaky bark–very sad indeed.

It occurs to me that a lot of us act like these dogs. I know I sometimes do. We do it in different ways. We all have these invisible fences in our brains.

But, the fences we put around ourselves aren’t just invisible, they are completely imagined. Imagined by us! We tell ourselves that we can’t do this or that. Any slight discouragement that hits us when we are trying to do something new, we immediately say, “I can’t do this.”, or “This isn’t for me.”, and BAM just like the sad dogs, we run back to the house with our tails between our legs. Stopped dead in our tracks.

Our invisible fence tells us things like, “I’m not very good at that”, “I’m not smart enough for that.”, “I could NEVER EVER do that.” We sabotage our experiences because of a little shock we may have gotten in the past, and now we “won’t ever make that mistake again”. All-day long this can happen, we convince ourselves that a certain level of wealth and success isn’t for “someone like me”, or, that leadership position that opened up in my company, is going to be taken by one of the top doggies.” “I could never start a multi-million dollar company. I am not that type of person. I just don’t feel like it’s right.” We invent all of these reasons about why that thing we really aspire for, just isn’t quite the right thing because we just aren’t ready for it yet.

Even though we can, we don’t.

Even though we should, could, would, we won’t. How sad.


–Bailey “the Dog” Oostra

Now I don’t want to be casual here, being casual leads to casualties. I’m not saying that we haven’t had VERY PAINFUL experiences in our lives that truly should be respected and dealt with. These things taught us to stay away from certain things that we very well should stay away from (like sniffing unknown white powders…). This is not what I mean. Kindness and empathy should be exercised on ourselves at all times. We are all humans, we are all incredible creatures with complexities and differences. However, we do have to muster up the strength to overcome the imagined fences and mental blocks that we’ve created based on other false beliefs that may weasel their way into our minds and our philosophies. We do have to make careful assessments about our feelings and be aware that some of them might just be an imagined fence.

Here’s the secret. And no, it’s not going to be child regression, or inner shadow work, or a trip to the shrink. Nope! It goes back to an old philosophy that’s been re-worded, and re-branded, over and over and over. If you fall off your horse, bike, motorcycle, unicycle, tricycle, (lots of cycles here…), anyway you get my point. GET BACK ON IT! Try it again! Try something new! Try a different approach.

Are you afraid of taking to new people? Don’t get self-hypnosis, a life coach, or jump into a self-help group yet… That’s might not be the right thing to do. What I do suggest is to just stick your little toe into the sea of uncertainty in that moment and just say, “Hello.” to a stranger in line next time you’re getting coffee. Ask the barista how they are doing, and just smile and listen. While you’re out for a walk, stop and ask to pet someone’s dog you think is cute.

Take little steps up to and past your imagined fences. Be aware and reflect back on how you felt when you do those little incremental steps. The goal will be to be able to plunge into the things that you once had fenced yourself out of–because you are strong, brave and you have courage.

Last thought: Courage is the basis of all self-advancement and development. Let’s jump the fence together.

Let’s go get them out there today! Love to you all!

Featured Photo by Daniel Oostra on Unsplash