Archive for June, 2007|Monthly archive page

3 Reasons to Complete Personal Challenges

GoalsWhat I like best about assigning yourself challenges is:

1) They are a surprising learning opportunity

Changing your habits of TV/Exercise/Sleep/Cleaning/e.t.c., sheds a big light on your relationship with those habits. If you want to know how you use the letter “b” in your writing, try using the letter twice as much or try writing without it. If you want to know the impact that TV has on your life, try giving it up.

2) They are a gateway to continued good habits

When you exercise everyday for one month. It is almost effortless to exercise a several times a week the following month.

3) They teach you how to integrate good habits into your life

Logistics are a big stumbling block to adopting good habits. For example, sometimes the hardest part of exercising is figuring out when to do it, where to shower, how to pack a bag, and how to handle laundry. When you force yourself to exercise, you also force yourself to solve and practice all the logistics involved.


Challenge #13: Adopt an Early-to-Bed Early-to-Rise Sleep Schedule

Sleep! For this challenge, we will adopt a fixed sleep schedule. We will give ourselves a mandatory bed time and a mandatory wake up time. Here are the rules:

  • As you begin, pick a sleep schedule. You can pick different schedules for different days of the week. Adhere to the schedule that you pick. Remeber that your body might appreciate having the same times each day.
  • Be realistic about the number of hours of sleep you need each night.
  • Choose bed times for Friday and Saturday night that are consistent with the social life you desire.
  • You can’t use the snooze button on your alarm and you can’t stay in bed past your wake up time.
  • You can choose how many weeks to do this challenge for. I am trying it for two.

Here are two articles (both from the same source) that might help with establishing an early wake up time: Waking up Early and Consistently,
Waking Up Early – 15 Tips That Work

Don’t forget, the easiest way to wake up early is to go to sleep early.

Stephen Colbert on Improv in Life

YES!In performing improv, the first rule is to say “Yes”. Well, many rules of improv apply equally or better to life. In a commencement speech to Knox College last year, Stephen shares this tidbit with the graduates.

So, say “yes.” In fact, say “yes” as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, “yes-and.” In this case, “yes-and” is a verb. To “yes-and.” I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what’s going to happen, maybe with someone you’ve never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you’re doctors—you’re doctors. And then, you add to that: We’re doctors and we’re trapped in an ice cave. That’s the “-and.” And then hopefully they “yes-and” you back. You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other’s lead, neither of you are really in control. It’s more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience.

Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say “yes.” And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back.

Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

Personal Challenge #12: Five a Day for Good Health

Fruits and Veggies.My fiancee has offered the next personal challenge: To eat a total of five servings of fruits and vegatables each day. She is planning on doing this for a whole month, but the challenge is only for two weeks. We are hoping that eating more good food will fill us up and leave less room for junk food. With our wedding rapidly approaching, maybe we will be heathier and fitter for our big day too.

We can still eat chocolate and ice cream. She hasn’t gone completely crazy.

Personal Challenge Recap

Managing GoalsHere is a recap of challenges that have been posted on this site in the last month.

I’ve finished most of the first half, and most of the second half is in progress or wrapping up. You can join pick any ones you like and join in anytime.

Dressing Up for Interviews or a New Job

Work Clothes.Getting Started
If you are a male who is interviewing for or starting a job that requires a suit and tie, go to Brooks Brothers. Take a good look at the suits. Take a good look at the ties. You want suits and ties that look like these, but do not buy them there. They are overpriced for someone who is starting out.

Brooks Brothers’ shirts are a different story. The quality and value are exceptional. They cost twice as much as other shirts, but they look three times as good and last four times as long. Also, when you take them out of the dryer, they look great. This feature saves a bundle of money on dry cleaning and saves a bunch of time on ironing. Most of the shirts here will be blue and white with some sort of stripe pattern. Any dress shirts that you find here will be appropriate for work.

For suits, you can go somewhere like Men’s Warehouse. A safe foundation is a dark blue suit, a black suit, and a charcoal grey pinstripe suit. Do not chase current trends. Buy suits that you think would be in fashion either ten years ago or ten years from now. The suits at Men’s Warehouse are reasonably priced, but the shirts, ties, and accessories have high markups. As a result, the sales people have become masters at cross-sell you ugly, overpriced shirts, ties and accessories. They will happily push shirts, ties, and suspenders on you in green, purple, and cream. They will sound convincing, but do not fall into their trap.

For shoes, I recommend Bostonian. They are a good balance of quality, price, comfort, and appearance. Shoes and belt should be the same color. I’ve used the rule that one should wear dark brown shoes (not tan!) with a blue suit, but since then, I’ve heard the rule is to wear black shoes with a blue suit. If you do some searching online, you will find many people who are strongly in one camp or the other. I am going to go out on a limb and say that you can wear either (but keep your eyes open to see what your colleagues are wearing).

For ties, I recommend simple ties in red, blue, or yellow that are bold in a conservative way and conservative in a bold way. Here you have more leeway to follow current trends. Andrew’s Ties and Benetton have good-looking, good-value ties. Your local department store will have a wide selection of good and bad ties. So, do not go there until you have an idea of what constitutes good and bad.

Learn to tie a nice solid knot. If the tie is thinner material or the gap in the collar is wide, use a full Windsor. If the tie is thick material or the gap in the collar is narrower, use a half Windsor.

I am not a fashion expert. These are just my personal observations and recommendations. I haven’t had to wear a suit to work in several years. (I do think Brooks Brothers shirts are great for business casual too, but I am at a loss for suggestions regarding business casual pants or shoes.)

Challenge #9: Now We Never Need to Clean Again?

[Need to Clean]Wow, I was naive about this clean for a week challenge! I did use my egg timer. I did do good things. However, the time spent cleaning made such a tiny dent in the things that I wanted to address.

After this week, I have a better understanding of the problem, which is this: There is maintenance cleaning and there is deep cleaning.

Maintenance Cleaning
Maintenance cleaning is the laundry, dishwashing, incoming mail, vacuuming, garbage, and recycling. Yet, all this stuff can easily take up those 15 minutes a day. So, after following this challenge for a week (or a month, or a year), you are no closer to where you want to be. The original challenge wasn’t supposed to be about this stuff.

Deep Cleaning
Deep cleaning means dealing with all that stuff in your various junk drawers, all that stuff in piles or boxes, all that stuff that you don’t know what to do with. After you take care of this stuff, your life becomes simpler and happier. The physical clutter is hidden in the back of a closet is manifested as clutter that you carry in the back of your head.

Updated Challenge
I am extending this challenge for two more weeks and I am adding a new rule. The new rule is that you have to spend at least half of your time doing non-maintenance cleaning.

Remember, organizing isn’t import because it helps you find your stuff. Organizing is important because it helps you find your peace. (I just made that up. It sounds famous. Doesn’t it?)

Completing Challenge #8: Learn to Play a New Song

A GuitarThis musical challenge has a surprise ending, just like the “I see dead people” movie and the “guy crying in the bathtub” movie. To compete this challenge you need to perform the song that you just learned this week for someone else.

If you need chord charts or lyrics for the performance, I suppose that is OK. If you are really dreading this, your alternate option is to perform this song for yourself by making a recording of it.

Me? I’ll be playing a Damien Rice song for my fiancee. I don’t like performing, but I am crazy about her.

Psycho Runs Manhattan

Jogger.Here is a woman who made a ridiculous plan without thinking about it first. She wants to run the entirety of every street on the island of Manhattan.

She has no idea how many miles this is. She doesn’t know how long it will take. She decided to do this, but without any idea of what she could possibly gain from it.

What do I think of this crazy and ill-conceived plan? It is brilliant! Inspired! Inspirational! Many years from now as she tells her grandchildren about her accomplishment, I will be telling my grandchildren that I flossed everyday for the span of two weeks.

Good Luck, Ridiculous-Plan-Girl! I am adding you to my “blogroll” so we can check on your progress.

That reminds me. I have to start saving up money so years from now I can afford to buy my grandchildren expensive gifts so they will like me and not think that I am a loser (even if I do still have all my teeth). Either that, or I need to start some better challenges!

Personal Challenge #11: Memorize All Your Vital Information

Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!For this challenge, you have a week to memorize all the numbers for your primary credit card, checking account, driver license, and social security. (Am I missing anything?) Maybe you already know all these of these, or maybe you just moved, got married, opened a new account, and went into witness protection.

When I used to know this stuff, it came it handy. These days, the Internet remembers these for me, which is nice until I visit a new site or when I try to use my credit card over the phone. It is strange that I still know more of my old long-gone numbers than my current numbers, but NOT FOR LONG! In one week, I will know them all! Hopefully, so will you!

Good luck!