Occasionally a word pops into the lexicon of business (or whatever industry of which you are a part) that announces or describes some new phenomenon. Often, when the phenomenon becomes commonplace, the word falls out of fashion and virtually disappears, never to be used seriously again.
Remember multi-tasking? I don't recall the first time I heard the word, but I do remember it was a light-bulb moment. Yeah, that's what I do. I multi-task, and I'm really good at it.
Today, I never hear it. In fact, it seems funny to me that once upon a time it was a kind of a big deal.
In another post from David Cain's 16 Things I Know Are True But Haven't Quite Learned Yet (at Raptitude.com), he writes:
Ultimately, to get something done you have to forget about everything else while you do it.
What I think I learned about multi-tasking is it doesn't really exist. You cannot actively do two things at once. While I am writing this post, I am conducting a backup of one of my client's websites. Technically, I'm doing two things at once. Actually, I started the backup and it is running, but I'm not doing anything but monitoring it. When I make the decision to check it, I stop what I'm doing, check the update, and return to the previous task. (There. You didn't even know it, but I just checked the backup. It's running smoothly. Now, I'm back.)
It's never more apparent than when you see someone driving a car and looking at his or her cellphone. Sure, the car is moving. But if the driver is sending a text, the driver is not driving at that moment. He or she is riding, a passive activity. Makes me shiver.
Still, each of us is usually involved in any number of things at once. Our business, CJDR, has many clients with multiple demands. I bounce back and forth between tasks all day every day. At any given moment, however, I'm only doing one thing. When I really need to accomplish something, in detail, on a schedule, I shut all browser windows, close my office door, put on some Return to Forever in the background and do it. It...I do it. One thing.
What demands or, better stated, deserves your focus today? Are you prepared to give it the focus it deserves?
There are so few unique artists. I listen to a lot of music, and I find the vast majority of the music produced today cookie cutter - one artist indistinguishable from the others. The truth is, it's always been that way. Most music is made by artists who are vaporous - here today, gone tomorrow, never remembered.
No one appreciates the effort more than I do. As someone who has tried to produce original music, I know from experience. It's a hard, laborious, heart-wrenching endeavor.
But most music (or artists) simply will not survive the test of time. Sure you know the Beatles. But who remembers Zager and Evans or the 1910 Fruitgum Company from the same era? Few. Truly unique and timeless artists come around far too infrequently.
David Bowie was one. He is already missed.
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
(from "Space Oddity" by David Bowie)
On Sunday Blair Walsh, placekicker for the Minnesota Vikings, lined up for a field goal in the last minute of the Wild Card Playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. The kick was what most pro football fans (who, by the way have never played a down of pro football) would call a chip shot. It was a 27-yarder that, if made, would most likely have won the game 12-10 and propelled the Vikings into the next round of the playoffs against the Arizona Cardinals.
He missed it. To the left. Seattle won the game 10-9 and will be heading to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers. The Vikings will be staying home for the remainder of the playoffs. They are out.
From what I could see on newsfeeds and social media, the reactions from Vikings fans to Walsh's miss have been both admirable and inspiring. It's just a game. We'll get them next year. I love thinking about having this nucleus of a team for the next five years. Sure, there've been a few jerks. But the Vikings have been a franchise for a long time. Out of 49 Super Bowls, they are 0-49. They've been here before.
It's also worth pointing out that of the 9 points the Vikings did score, Blair Walsh scored 9 of them. All 9. Three made field goals and one miss - a big one, but only one.
In professional golf, if a player gets to the green in regulation 75% of the time, he's a star. In the history of the NBA, no player has hit 75% of his shots over the course of a season. In Major League baseball, to hit .750 would be unheard of.
Sure, it's unfair to place a player's season stats against the stats of one game. It would just as valid to point out that, among all field goals inside 27 yards attempted in 2015, 99% were made.
But hopefully, you get my point. Blair Walsh hit 75% of his attempts yesterday. It's hard to perform at peak level day in and day out. And when something that is automatic is exposed to have never been so in the first place, it stings.
The question becomes this: why does losing the close game feel so much different than losing the blowout? Would it have been any better if Walsh had missed all four field goals and Seattle had won 10-0?
In the 1935 film Annie Oakley, the title character said it first: Close, Colonel, but no cigar. At some point, we've all felt it - whether it was a game, a business pitch or any number of other competitive situations. We come close, but we don't quite close the deal.
My allegiance is to the University of Tennessee. The Vols had a good season in 2015, going 8-4 in the regular season, and winning the Outback Bowl handily over Northwestern, finishing the season 9-4. Our four losses were from a combined total of 17 points. Close, but no cigar. We were not blown out in any game. And we finished with 9 wins. Still, it's hard not to think about those 17 points...
Why does losing the close one hurt more than losing the blowout? Easy. We're wired to win. It's pure human nature. We want to win the prize, and the closer we get to it, the more we want it. Nobody, no matter how much she says she is not competitive, wants to lose. When the ring is within grasp, we chalk up the win too quickly. When it slips through our fingers, we mourn. Deeply.
Is there anything you can do today - on any project, in any relationship or in any competition - that will give you any further assurance that you won't hear close, but no cigar?
I am too busy. I know this because at the end of each day I remember things that I intended to do but failed.
Each day. Every day.
The truth is I can't move any faster. I wake up early, get moving quickly, and don't slow down until evening.
In David Cain's post 16 Things I Know Are True But Haven't Quite Learned Yet (at Raptitude.com), he writes:
Our minds are geared to manage much less than we typically end up managing. Modern people have so many options they conflict with each other in almost every area. The fewer things I have, the more I enjoy my things. The fewer goals I have, the better I do them. The smaller the portion size, the better food tastes.
I know this. I really do. But I haven't quite learned it yet. I pack my days tight. There's business and personal, optional and obligated, the fun and the not-so-much fun.
Franklin includes Resolution as one of his 13 virtues: resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. It's somewhat comforting to know that even in the 18th century, great people struggled with being too busy - enough so that one of our founders even made note of it.
Have you resolved to do more than any human could (or should) do?
I am neat. I apologize for it no more.
David Cain at Raptitude.com thinks being neat is important enough that he made it the fourth of his 16 Things I Know But Haven't Quite Learned Yet:
Nothing makes me more productive and in-the-moment than a clean house. There is mind-clearing magic in cleanliness. Waking up in a house where everything is put away is a glorious feeling. There seem to be more possibilities in the air, and all my things seem more useful.
I not only know this, but have learned it, and in our house we have it solidly in practice. My closet is neat (no clothes laying around the bedroom). I have summer shirts on one end, winter shirts on the other. All hangers are facing the same way, and all clothes go on the hangers and then on the rod in the same direction. All of my dress pants are together, by color, and my jeans are folded uniformly and stacked on a shelf above. My socks are all sorted by dress and casual. T-shirts (white and printed) are folded the same.
My desk is clean and neat. I have a small file cart in which I store my papers. My digital world is equally organized, as is our whole house. I would have no problem at all walking to a pair of scissors, potato peeler, new roll of toilet paper, USB cable, dictionary, spare blanket or a pair of jumper cables. If I have it, I know where it is.
There seems to be some romance these days with disorganization and chaos. I've got so much going on, I don't know how I'm going to get it all done. The thing that seems to be left undone is the very thing that will aid in the accomplishment of it all. Organization.
A couple of weeks ago, we lost our checkbook. I know that we lost it because it was not where it always is (in the billbox, an organizational file box I bought 20+ years ago so that I could keep personal bills and invoices organized). We looked for it for a short while. Then, we quit, stopped payment on remaining checks, started a new checkbook and moved on. We don't misplace many things because we know where things are. Always. There was no need to waste any more time on it.
David and I agree: it makes me more productive and in-the-moment. He stops one emotion too soon. We clean our house ourselves. It's part of our weekly ritual. The goal is to close our at-home business at noon on Friday, clean the house in the afternoon and enjoy it at its cleanest the entire weekend. Sometimes, deadlines push cleaning to Saturday. We never skip a week. Kitchen, bathrooms, floors (vacuum and mopped), dusting, the whole nine yards. To productive and in-the-moment, I add appreciative. When I take the time myself to touch my things, put them in place and care for them, I appreciate them more and an unexpected by-product is I don't seem to need as many of them. To truly remain neat and in order demands keeping stuff to a minimum.
Franklin includes order as one of his 13 virtues, but takes it one step further. He wrote, let all things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. I practice this, too. I section my day into units and place them in the time slots I am best equipped to accomplish them based on my temperament. I write, design and do other creative tasks in the morning when I am fresh. I save the analytical tasks for the afternoon when I am more disciplined.
I get more done this way. It works.
Is it your practice to be chronically unorganized? Why?
Several years ago, I stopped making new year's resolutions. I found that I made the same critical mistake most people make - I resolved to do something that would require a complete change of behavior based on nothing more than commencing, cold-turkey, on a specific day on the calendar.
It's poor strategy, and it's the reason most resolutions never make it past January 2.
But starting each December, I do try to make one or more assessments of things I want to try in the following year. I gear up a month or so in advance so when January comes, I can give it a run. This year, I am attempting to put into practice Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues. Only five days into the new year, I find the exercise to be fascinating and illuminating. (Marelisa Fabrega explained it in this blog post from 2013. No need to rehash it...what she said!)
One of Franklin's virtues is industry, about which he writes "Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions."
In David Cain's post 16 Things I Know But Haven't Quite Learned Yet from his blog at Raptitude.com, he offers this nugget at #3:
Whenever I’m playing with my phone I am only shortening my life. A smartphone is useful if you have a specific thing you want to do, but ninety per cent of the time the thing I want to do is avoid doing something harder than surfing Reddit. During those minutes or hours, all I’m doing is dying.
I love my iPhone 6S. I loved my iPhone 5 before it, and my iPhone 4. I was an early adopter of smartphone technology.
But it's a time sucker, and I've already noticed much of the time I spend with mine is not in the pursuit of industry. I love seeing pics of my friends' dogs on Instagram. However if I am not careful, I will look up and notice I've spent 30 minutes living my life in favor of living the lives of others. Further, as I've thought about both Franklin's virtues and Cain's 16 things, I realize that life shortening is not referring to days, weeks or months off the end of your life. It's shortening the very day we are living - 24 hours down to whatever - and today is our only guarantee.
I want to live a long life. More importantly, I want to live my life more and other peoples' lives less.
How much have you shortened your life today?
Happy New Year. 2016.
Sometimes, I try to think back to years gone by and remember what I thought about going into those years. What did I think about as the calendar turned to 1998? And in 1998, if someone would have mentioned 2016, what would have been my reaction?
I love the writing of a guy named David Cain. He has a number of books, and a blog that can be found at Raptitude.com. I highly recommend it.
At the end of 2014, David wrote a post entitled 16 Things I Know Are True But Haven't Quite Learned Yet. The title in itself is a lesson in life. There are so many things that we know are true, yet for some reason, we don't apply them to life. His entry paragraph reads:
There’s a difference between knowing something and living as if it were true. At the end of a memorable year, these truths are all lingering on that awkward threshold, for me anyway.
I could link the article, or you could easily go to it now. Instead, I'm going to add 10 or 12 of Cain's observations to my blog posts for January. Though each and every one of them stand on its own, I may occasionally add my own take. Most of all, I offer them for you to think about and ponder as the new year kicks into gear.
Here's his first thing:
The sooner you do something, the more of your life you get to spend with that thing done — even though it takes less effort (or at least no more) than it will later. It’s the ultimate sure-thing investment and I pass it up all the time.
What needs to be done in your life?
(source: David Cain at Raptitude.com)
Seth Godin is an astute observer of all things marketing. Here are some of his observations on shopping - who does, who does not, and who never has.
We are in the throes of the political season in the good old U.S.A. No one will cast even a primary vote for another 2 months, but the campaigning has been in full swing for almost a year.
I won't be weighing in on it at all, except to say this:
Sometimes, it's OK to quit. Sometimes, it's even advisable.
Several years ago I undertook learning the violin. I play a number of instruments already. How hard could it be? I bought an old violin, had it refurbished and strung. I put new horse-hair in the bow. I bought a couple of books. I had everything I needed for success.
I was horrible. I never gained any traction on it. I blame it on the bow. After a period of trying, I decided that I was going to be content with the knowledge that, as my friend Nancy once said, there were other things I was good at. So I quit.
Which brings me back to the campaign. I'm a political watcher. I enjoy the process, regardless of party. So as we get within 60 days of the first primary voting, I have noticed there are four candidates among the 13 or 14 (I've lost count) in the red party about whom I never hear anything until a debate is on the horizon. Then, I hear their names - Candidate A, Candidate B, Candidate C and Candidate D - followed by the words will participate in the pre-debate debate at 5:00 p.m.
I never hear anything else. From any of them. No interviews. No position statements. Nothing.
Is that the best they can hope for? What if that was your product? You can find us here and there. Check the closeout bin.
It's OK to quit. It really is. I'm sure there are other things you are good at. But running for president doesn't appear to be one of them.
A few weeks back, somewhat obscured by other events that filled the news, Blue Origin, a venture of Jeff Bezos (of Amazon fame), launched a rocket and then did something with it few have done before - landed it.
Elon Musk (of Tesla fame), who is also in the space business with SpaceX, quickly responded it is, however, important to clear up the difference between "space" and "orbit".
Tom Peters (of In Search of Excellence fame) wrote:
Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.
The world needs more Jeff Bezos and more Elon Musks. And, it needs more Tom Peters to inspire them all.
Give us a little information – your name, your email address, and what you want to accomplish. We'll think about it, then be in touch. If we can help you, we'll tell you how. If we can't, we'll try to direct you to someone who can.