Posts in Leisure
The Value of a Thinking Walk


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Exercise is sort of like travel on the airplane for business purposes- not always fun but effective for clearing out the cobwebs in your head.  Getting moving is good for your body and great for your mind.

 

Tony Robbins says, “If you want to change your emotion, get in motion.”

 

A new idea that I learned recently is called the “thinking walk”.  A thinking walk is basically a slightly slower walk than a workout.  You’re not moving at a snail’s pace but you’re also not training for a marathon.

 

You’re thinking first and walking second.  Most of us do the opposite which is why the thinking walk is so effective. 

 

A thinking walk is useful if you have a big idea that you want to ponder.  You’re giving yourself permission to think while you walk.  I know it sounds kind of weird but once you try it, I suspect that you’ll be a believer like me.

 

The walk can take place at the beginning or even the end of the day.  If you really want to take it to another level, you can build a walk into your day, as if it were a scheduled meeting.  The advantage to this is that it will force you to think deeply while you walk.  After all, you’re on “company time” if you do it this way.  When you return, you might even want to jot down a few thoughts you had during the walk.  

 

When can you schedule your next thinking walk?  Which problems will you ponder when you are walking? 

Go to the Place That Grounds You
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What do you do when you absolutely must get something out of your head or off your chest?  Where do you go when you are frustrated and need to release nervous energy? 

For some, it's out for a run. 

For others, it's to the kitchen to make something delicious. 

For me, it's writing. 

When I'm writing, everything makes sense.  My mind is literally unfolding on the page, or often through a keyboard and into Squarespace for my blog.  It's an energy that grounds me.   

The mystic Meister Eckart said, "A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don't know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox's or bear's, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there."

Cary and I had dinner the other night with some folks who happened to be former professional dancers.  They described dancing with broad smiles on their faces as if talking about "their happy place".   

My neighbor's place of grounding is out on a boat, fishing.  Everything makes sense when he's casting and looking out over the water. 

The problem is, many of us, as life goes on, ignore the places that ground us.  We instead fill our schedules with the things we "have to do" and lose the joy of the things that ground us.   

Problem #2 is that we often think that if we cannot do that thing we love "full time", we shouldn't do it at all.  Imagine if the Pope used this as an excuse before being elected, "Well, I'll take the job but only I if I get to preach all day every day."  Just because we aren't doing the thing we love full time, doesn't mean it's not worth doing some of the time.   

Go to the place that grounds you.  It's probably either physical or artistic (and sometimes both).   The key is to go there and savor every moment of it.

 

How to Go Deeper
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Summer is the perfect time for extended reading.  For some reason, we feel as if we have "permission" to read when we are on vacation or have a more relaxed schedule at work.   

My summer reading list includes Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.  It reminds me of Essentialism by Greg McEown.   Deep Work is resonating with me on, no pun intended here, a deep level.  

His point is this: to do work of significance, you must strip away the trivial tasks that our world loves.   These are the shallow tasks that are probably not that important.  

These shallow tasks can include filling your day with email, social media, gossip, cubicle chatter, unnecessary phone calls, and anything else that's taking you away from what's essential.  Did I mention interruptions?  In place of these, it's vital to carve out prolonged periods of focused work, "deep work", where you can be alone with your thoughts and have permission to do the most important tasks.

I'm going back to my reading... What about you?  What are you reading this summer that is striking a chord with your life? 

An Inside Look at my Social Media Fast
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Fasting is not something I particularly enjoy.  When Lent (a period of fasting prior to Easter) began a few weeks ago, I wasn't really sure what to "give up" or fast from and then it hit me- social media.   

Again, to reiterate, I don't love giving things up- who does?   

Still, I decided to craft a few guidelines that I would explore in the weeks leading up to Easter.  They included:

  • No Facebook browsing
  • No Twitter browsing
  • No Instagram browsing
  • If I had to post something to one of those networks, I would use the share sheet in iOS to do so but not log into the network and putter around. 

I'm not the only one either giving up social networks for a period of time or paying attention to what's got my attention.  I really like Cal Newport's idea of an Attention Charter.  Maybe he's on to something. 

So how's it going?  I've noticed some really surprising results just a few weeks in: 

  1. I have more time.  I didn't realize that Facebook and Twitter were taking up so much of my attention and time. 
  2. My blog traffic hasn't suffered at all. 
  3. While I'm "less social", I also don't feel so pulled in so many different directions.  This is nice. 

You might try this yourself.  Especially if you feel like you have to be checking your social networks all the time...that's a sure sign that you might be giving them more attention than they really deserve.   

Will I go back to Facebook (et. All) after Lent?  I'm not sure but for now, the extra time it's providing is really fantastic.   

 

Five Ways to Become a More Detail-Oriented Person

This past weekend my daughters and I headed to one of our favorite spots, The Great Swamp, located here in northern New Jersey.  We filled out a sheet of paper for the little one, trying our best to find spider webs, mushrooms and frogs.  It was an hour of unhurried bliss, completely attentive to every little detail of the Swamp.

Details are like that- they are really important and often overlooked.  If this blog post is filled with typos and errors, you probably wouldn't return for a second visit.  Worse yet, you might feel as if the effort going into the blog doesn't meet your standards.


We make these conclusions with people as well.  As it turns out, there are at least three things that interviewers notice in job candidates.  We meet someone and immediately form a judgement based on such small details as their clothing or tone of voice.  I once interviewed a man who was late, had dirt under his fingernails and hadn’t flossed in some time.  Needless to say, he wasn’t hired.  

I like this piece about the kinds of things that detail-oriented people notice, including:

  1. What people wear for clothing: i.e. a red tie implies strength.
  2. Body language: A strong handshake indicates confidence.
  3. Improper grammar: You want to build your vocabulary via more frequent reading.
  4. The big picture: Detailed people understand context and perspective.
  5. Patterns: i.e. “I have a pattern of getting along with my bosses”, etc.
  6. Things out of place: Detailed people recognize when a room is off-kilter or when a meeting is missing a key person.
  7. How much is left: Whether it’s time or money, detailed people have a good sense of “enough”.

These are the indicators of people who are detail-oriented but how do you develop that muscle?  I suggest five ways:

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  1. Get in touch with your faith.  Your relationship with God, cultivated over time, will enable you to be more heartfelt, more of a listener and more appreciative of your surroundings.  My faith in Christ (and I am happily Catholic) is not only the source of all I do but the engine behind noticing the many wonderful details around me.  The more often you can pray, the better.
  2. Get outside.  Nature is the best classroom for noticing details.  The more time you can spend outdoors, the better.
  3. Read more.  Authors are masters of inserting small details into otherwise complex storylines.  The more you can read, the better.
  4. Create a home with less noise.  Cary and I have four kids and lots of glowing devices, from iPhones to tablets.  Still, our kids know that certain times are meant to be quiet like during dinner or early in the morning.  The less noise, the better.
  5. Create a workspace with fewer interruptions.  I had the opportunity to interview Tim Metz whose company is dedicated to fewer interruptions at work.  The less interruptions, the better.

It’s worthwhile to try to be more intentional about who and what is around you.  Pay attention to them in every way.  In your daily journal writing, take note of your own personal details like how you are feeling, what makes you happy and what you're anxious about.  

Over time, simply by paying more attention, you'll start to notice even the smallest of details.  For whatever strange reason, I have an uncanny ability of noticing when someone gets a haircut.  I've learned how to compliment people on their haircut and they love it.  They love being noticed, just like you and me.

Why Playfulness is Important for Your Career

If you walk through the Google Headquarters, you’ll find brightly colored bikes to help employees get around campus faster. Keep walking and each of the Android statues greets you, from the huge Donut to the enormous Ice Cream Sandwich.  It's weird...and cool.

Not that all tech offices are like this but a thread of playfulness runs through Google’s top spots and at those of...

Lego (you know...)

Zynga (video games)

Moo (business cards)

Dropbox (online storage)

Skype (online phone calls)

LivePerson (marketing)

How about your current workplace?  Is it playful?  Is every wall off white?  Does everyone dress like they are the most boring people on Planet Earth?  You can check out some of the most fun workplaces here.

I’m feeling very guilty about this because my work is pretty vanilla.  In a traditional field like education, bold colors and indoor slides are well, unheard of.  If I’m honest, I need to do a better job of promoting “play” and being a more playful person.  Still, it's not exactly clear how I should do this.

The quality of "play" is important for a number of reasons:

  1. People tend to be drawn to organizations that are fun and playful.
  2. Play makes you less boring as you get older.
  3. Play gives you a wonderful set of interests that will come in handy for your next interview.

Let’s take these apart, one by one:

  • Job seekers want to get paid for doing meaningful work.  But, and this is at least true for younger workers, they also want to be a part of something cool, something fun.  Companies like Google know this.
  • Most of us wear khakis and drive Camrys and Accords as we get older (at least speaking for the guys reading this).  Playfulness says “hold up” to this trend.  When I see an old guy driving a Harley, I smile and realize that he’s on to something (and I need to save more cash for that bike!)
  • Playful hobbies are really important for your next interview.  At some point, they will either ask you or you’ll bring it up.  The bottom line inquiry is this, “What’s the rest of your life like outside of work?”  As a hirer, I always ask this and find the responses typically dull.  

Take inventory this week- how playful are you?  What can you do that’s fun and makes you smile?