Tag Archives: Seth Godin

The Problems That Remain

To Do List

The list stresses me out. Maybe it does you, too. Time to make it smaller.

When I have a bunch of chores, I tend to save the hardest stuff for last.

I think there’s probably an argument—a good one—for knocking out the more-challenging stuff first. But I’m a world-class procrastinator. One of the best of all time.

And if anyone knows how to push off challenging tasks for later, it’s me.

Finance coach and get-out-of-debt proponent Dave Ramsey preaches a debt-elimination method he calls the Debt Snowball Plan.

It calls for listing all of your debts from smallest to largest, making only minimum payments on all of them, except the smallest one. On the smallest one you put everything you can into paying it off.

When that goes away, you take all of that same money budgeted for debt elimination and you apply it to the second-smallest debt. The amount of money each month dedicated to paying off debt “snowballs” until your debt is completely eliminated.

Ramsey is coaching people to knock out the easiest stuff first. To taste the small wins. And to feel the motivation to tackle the bigger challenges and win those, too.

Whatever problems you’re facing in your life are probably the most-difficult for you to overcome.

Any problems you had which didn’t require a lot of time, money or effort to solve, have most likely already been solved.

What’s left is the really hard stuff.

One of my favorite writers and thinkers—Seth Godin—wrote about this a few days ago in his “The problems you’ve got left…” post.

Godin writes about business. About marketing principles. I work in marketing so I try to read him every day. But he has a knack for writing things that cross over into other aspects of the human experience as well. I think he’s a genius.

In this post, Godin is asking us to evaluate the remaining problems, challenges, obstacles in our lives at work.

I think we can just as easily apply this to our lives at home.

He wrote this:

“The problems you’ve got left are probably the difficult ones.

“We’d all like to find discount answers to our problems. Organizations, governments and individuals prefer to find the solution that’s guaranteed to work, takes little time and even less effort.

“Of course, the problems that lend themselves to bargain solutions have already been solved.

“What we’re left with are the problems that will take ridiculous amounts of effort, untold resources and the bravery to attempt something that might not work.

“Knowing this before you start will help you allocate the right resources… or choose not to start at allthis problem, the one that won’t be solved in a hurry, might not be worth the effort it’s going to take. If it is, then pay up.”

I immediately started to evaluate my “problems.”

Which ones lend themselves to bargain solutions?

There are some that do. Facets of my life that can legitimately improve if I’m only willing to make a few small, disciplined changes to my schedule, to my work ethic, to my routine.

The big problems are big.

They require big ideas. Big effort. Big solutions.

But in the meantime, maybe we can start building some momentum by knocking out some of the simpler ailments that impact our lives.

For most of us, the biggest obstacle to getting started is inertia.

People don’t think enough about it. I know I don’t. But it’s important. And it’s real.

Inertia is the resistance of an object to any change in its state of motion. You know. Isaac Newton shit.

It means that objects at rest tend to stay at rest. That’s the bad news.

Because it’s really hard to get moving sometimes.

But inertia can be our friend, too. Because the same principle applies to objects already in motion. They tend to stay in motion.

Our lives, I think, work the same way. When we’re stuck in ruts… financially, spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally… we tend to stay stuck in the rut.

Until something—hopefully our will—forces us to do things differently.

And that’s when real change happens. A snowball effect.

Building problem-solving momentum, feeling the joys of those small wins, and using inertia as a tool rather than a hindrance.

I don’t know if I’m ever going to achieve the life mastery skills I want to feel in control of all the important parts of my life.

But I know that I have big problems.

And I have small problems.

Seems extra foolish to not at least get those small ones marked off the list.

Because I don’t believe life should be a list of chores.

I believe it should be a list of adventures.

Of hopes and dreams.

What do I want to do today?

I think that’s what happiness looks like. But there are still things that must be done.

Responsibilities. Obligations. People who need us.

I really want to play. And I intend to. Perhaps more this year than I have in a very long time.

But there are some things which require my attention first.

And it’s time to get down to business.

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Do What Matters

what-matters-most-678x278

What matters most varies from person to person.

Often it’s our children. Our family. Our friends. Our faith.

We value our pets. Our homes. Our jobs. Our money. Our cars.

We’re passionate about our hobbies and interests. Our pursuit of fun. Adventure. Pleasure.

But what really counts?

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple weeks because of two things I read.

The first was this great blog post by Seth Godin, titled What kind of media counts?

In the post, Godin writes about how actors would rather be cast in low-rated cable television shows than appear in YouTube videos that will be seen by millions.

Godin writes about famous newspaper columnists that look down at bloggers—even though there are bloggers (like Godin, himself) with significantly more readers and impact than the columnists have.

He writes about how television didn’t count when radio ruled. How cable TV didn’t count when network sitcoms were all the rage.

His point? The definition of “what counts” will always change and evolve. And we need to think about which line we want to stand in.

The second thing I read that really has my wheels turning is James Altucher’s Choose Yourself.

Altucher might come off a little radical to some people. He’s anything but conventional. But as I read him, and I read some of the more “outrageous” or unconventional things he espouses, and then think about them, my initial reaction is never: “That guy is wrong.”

I always just nod.

This guy makes so much sense, it frightens me.

I brought it up a week ago today when I was losing it and wrote about some overdue library books I had at home.

I’m beginning to question so many things about my life. About how much it makes sense for me to go to work every day so I can just have enough money to pay for my house to sleep in, and my vehicle to get me to my job.

That’s it. A cycle of senseless suck.

It BEGS the question: Does any of this make sense?

Every day is one day closer to my death. Every day I’m running out of time.

The hourglass is always spilling from top to bottom. And if I knew I only had one week, or one month, or one year, or whatever to live, how would I choose to spend that time?

What Makes Us Happy?

I always cringe a little when I write about happiness. Especially after yesterday when I labeled feelings “bullshit.” I do not want to come off hypocritical, but I hope people can appreciate the distinction between how we feel about our human relationships versus our never-ending quest as human beings to pursue happiness.

Happy is just a word. It’s a word we use to describe a feeling. And it’s the feeling we have when things are going really well in our lives, or when we feel peace, or love, or pleasure, or fun, or some combination.

Our happiness is triggered by a variety of things and it varies greatly from person to person.

I’ve been asking myself a lot lately: What makes me happy?

I don’t have a comprehensive list. But here’s a brief overview:

1. I feel happy when I’m with my son and we’re getting along.

2. I feel happy when I’m with a woman who makes me feel loved and wanted.

3. I feel happy when I’m in good physical condition.

4. I feel happy when I am spiritually balanced—when I don’t feel dark and disconnected because I’m not living the way I believe I should.

5. I feel happy when I’m connected to friends and family. When I’m physically present with them, laughing and sharing moments.

6. I feel happy when I travel, exploring new places or revisiting places I love.

7. I feel happy when I do things for other people.

8. I feel happy when people appreciate and acknowledge the work I do—both here and professionally. It feels nice to have your efforts validated.

9. I feel happy when I have financial peace.

So, here’s the question: What really counts?

How important is my house? How important is my job?

Shouldn’t I ONLY spend my time pursuing the things on this list? Isn’t everything else meaningless and wasteful?

I don’t know. But I think it might be.

I think I waste a lot of time. I think I procrastinate. I think I rob myself of the joy of feeling happy by not taking small steps that will accomplish many of the things on this list.

I think I’m running out of time. I think that life is precious. I think that I want to be so much more than I am.

I want my life to have mattered. I want my life to be substantive. I want my life to be happy.

I’m chasing it. That dream.

We all are, really.

Do you feel stuck on the hamster wheel, like me? Just running in place all the time but never really getting anywhere?

What makes you happy?

Don’t you owe it to yourself and to the people you love to pursue those things? With vigor?

Of course you do.

Think. Pray. Feel. Love.

Choose yourself. Be grateful.

Find the best-possible you. Maybe help someone else find theirs.

This is your pursuit of happiness.

It happens once in a lifetime.

So please figure out what really matters to you.

Then make it count.

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How to Accept Gifts

I must learn to accept gifts.  So must we all.

I must learn to accept gifts. So must we all.

I am historically bad at accepting gifts from anyone who is not my mom or dad.

I get a little shy. I sometimes feel a little ashamed that I didn’t first give them a gift. I sometimes feel obligated to get them a gift after receiving theirs.

So, opposite of when I was a child, I often find myself wishing I wouldn’t receive gifts.

That’s a sad story.

And it really smacked me in the face how sad it was this morning when the wonderful writer at BulgingButtons—one of my newest readers—nominated MBTTTR for Blog of the Year 2013, not unlike my nominations about a month ago for Most Influential Blogger and Most Versatile Blogger.

And my initial reaction was to express my deepest gratitude, and leave it at that.

Because at first:

It felt egotistical to accept.

It will force me to nominate blogs for Blog of the Year, also. Which is not a problem. The problem is, I feel shitty thinking that people I care about might be wondering: Why doesn’t Matt think I deserve a nomination? Asshole!

The hard truth is, I don’t read a fraction of the great writing floating around WordPress and other corners of the Internet as much as I’d like to. I have a really hard time working 40+ hours per week, writing every day, being a single dad 50 percent of the time, and not letting every other facet of my life suffer. All that other stuff competes with my reading attention. Which is bad if you wish I’d spend more time reading your writing. And I’m so sorry. Because I feel deep within me the inequity that exists when many of you give more to me than you get in return.

Like a thousand micro-metaphors of the first seven years of my now-failed marriage.

I was going to thank BulgingButtons for the flattering nomination and simply leave well-enough alone.

And then I read something.

Accepting Gifts

I’m quoting this, word for word, from TheWannabeSaint.com from this morning.

“It was said of Abba Zeno, that from the outset he never wished to receive anything from anyone at all. Those who brought him something came away hurt that he had not accepted anything. Others came to him, wanting to receive some token from a great old man and he had nothing to give them so they too came away hurt.

The old man said, ‘What shall I do, since those who bring things are hurt just as much as those who wish to receive something? I know what seems right to me: when someone brings me something, I will accept it and I will give it to anyone who asks me for something.’ So he did that and was at peace and satisfied everyone.” 

The 180

So, I instantly recognized that me and Father Zeno suffer from the same illness—misplaced… I don’t know what… humility? Fake unselfishness? I’m not sure.

But I know this: We hurt people’s feelings when we don’t accept their gifts.

I love to give gifts.

And I’m often impatient about it, too. One of my favorite things about this time of year during my marriage was that we celebrated both my wife’s birthday and Christmas this month. Two opportunities to give her gifts.

She didn’t always love them. She hated an aftermarket car stereo I bought her one year. But mostly, she did like them. Tickets to live theater. Jewelry. Spa day gift certificates. Pretty, yet comfortable, things to wear around the house.

And those were some of my favorite moments. Buying her gifts. Giving them to her and seeing her smile. And mostly winning her approval afterward.

It’s not okay to deprive people who care about you of feeling the joy of giving.

They’re not giving because they want anything in return. Except one thing. You accepting their gift. Because that gift is a piece of them. Whether it’s a drink at a bar. A thoughtful card. An act of kindness. Or something much bigger.

I’m shitty at accepting gifts. One of the many accidental wounds I inflict with kindness efforts that miss the mark.

I’m always trying to be better.

Learning to accept gifts, compliments and love with graciousness is another leg on my journey.

Blog of the Year

I’m in the very early stages of learning to love myself again.

It’s laughable to me to have such a loftily titled award associated—even loosely—with what I’m doing here.

This still feels like a selfish exercise. Writing stories in the first person.

But in many respects, me giving myself to the keyboard is a bit like giving myself a gift. Present-day therapy. And long-term, perhaps my tiny little mark on this planet. My “I was here” sign stuck in the ground for wanderers—both hopeless and hopeful—to find.

In the end, I don’t get to decide how good or bad this stuff is. You do.

And instead of trying to discredit people who like my work, I should instead use their generosity to lift me up. To push me harder. To propel me further.

Thank you.

I don’t like nominating people for things for fear of offending the rest.

But if I’m going to be something like courageous, I’m going to have to be that here, too.

I’m also going to cheat.

1. Because I don’t always follow rules.

2. Because I care about truth (when it’s not too embarrassing for me to admit).

3. But mainly, because these are the blogs I don’t miss.

Only one of these is on WordPress, and I’m almost afraid to mention my blog crush on her because EVERYONE has a blog crush on her.

But, in my estimation, no one’s doing it better than Aussa right now.

1. Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.

But Matt! You just like her because she’s a pretty redhead with piercing blue eyes!!! Typical male!,” followed by lots of eye rolling and judging.

Believe what you want. She’s good. Really good. I can’t even really pinpoint what’s so good about it. But I want to. Because I want to capture it, bottle it, drink it and incorporate it into what I do.

But that’s impossible.

Because she is as unique and authentic as they come.

Her writing is good-natured. Hilarious. Filled with gobs of humanity. Excellent storytelling. Adventure. And it has captured the hearts and minds of 17 trillion people after only being in existence for nine hours. (She seriously launched the blog less than three months ago, I think. It’s beyond remarkable.)

Aussa is kind. Smart. Courageous. Loyal. Loving.

I feel like I know her because she lets us in.

She’s immensely talented and entertaining and I can’t not read whatever she posts next.

Blog of the (quarter of a) Year, yo.

2. The Altucher Confidential

I don’t think the rules state that I’m allowed to nominate hugely successful bloggers and published authors outside of WordPress. But I don’t really care. Because James Altucher is the most-important thing to ever happen to my writing.

He helped me find my voice. I read everything he writes. And I’m a better person, and hopefully, a better writer, for doing so.

Subscribing to his posts via email is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.

No one is more human than James.

I’ll always love him for that.

3. Seth Godin’s Blog

No one is less needing of blog traffic than Seth. He has one of the most-popular blogs in the entire world. He is probably the most-brilliant marketer on the planet today. He writes several posts a day. Sometimes, they’re only a few paragraphs.

This guy sees the world through a prism that I wish I could clone. Because he really knows how to ask the right questions.

Questions that can make us better professionals, but more importantly, better people.

These three brilliant writers wield a lot of power. Aussa, you’ll get there soon enough.

And they wield it for good. All in their own, unique way.

The reason we need to receive gifts is so that we can in turn give to others.

For those of you unfamiliar with these three writers, I’ve given you a gift.

And these writers? They are gifts.

People who give to the world.

Making us laugh.

Making us think.

Making us feel.

To paraphrase Cousin Eddie, they are gifts that keep on giving the whole year.

And you can open these before Christmas.

Thank you, Aussa. Thank you, James. Thank you, Seth.

You make me want to be better in every facet of life.

The perfect gift.

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Change Your Culture, Change Your World

Don't try to change the entire world. Just try to change yours.

Don’t try to change the entire world. Just try to change yours.

I have a bit of a man crush on Seth Godin.

Because he, in many ways, represents who I want to be.

I work in marketing. And Godin writes for people just like me. But what’s so great about him is that much of what he thinks about and writes about can be applied to our personal lives.

I try to view it through that prism, at least.

As marketers, we want to instill change in consumer behavior by educating or convincing people to make different decisions that will either benefit them, benefit our brand, or God-willing, both.

Yesterday, Godin wrote a post titled “Change the culture, change the world,” where he makes an important observation.

Godin said that “most actions aren’t decisions at all.”

And I’ve spent the past 24 hours thinking about how we can apply his keen observations here to our personal lives.

He gives examples:

“In Reykjavik, shopkeepers keep their doors closed (it’s cold!) and if they were aware that in Telluride most stores keep their doors propped open (even in the winter) they’d think it was nuts.

“In China, the typical household saves three to five times as much of their income as a household in the U.S. This is not an active decision, it’s a cultural component.”

He continues:

“The list goes on and on. A practitioner of Jainism doesn’t have a daily discussion about being a vegetarian, and a female graduate of Johns Hopkins is likely pre-sold on the role of women in the workplace.

“If you ask someone about a cultural practice, the answer almost always boils down to, ‘that’s what people like me do.’”

Do you have anything in your life—something big—that you’d like to change? What about with your spouse? Or your children? Or your co-workers? Or your friends?

Do you make bad choices like me? Do you have addictions? Bad habits? An unhealthy lifestyle?

Because maybe picking the low-hanging fruit isn’t going to be good enough here.

Quitting Ben & Jerry’s might not reduce your waistline.

Forcing your kids to spend more time outside and less time watching TV might not improve their grades or their social lives or your parent-child relationship.

Making a date night once every couple weeks with your spouse might not fix your marriage.

“Powerful organizations and great brands got there by aligning with and accelerating tectonic cultural shifts, not by tweaking sales one at a time,” Godin writes.

You want to change your life? Go big or go home. That’s what it takes.

I wrote this to shitty husbands a week or so ago. But it applies to all of us: Don’t just sit around waiting for things to happen to you. Because while stuff WILL happen to you, very little of it is going to be good. Not when you’re passive. Take some control.

The faithful would wisely remind you that God’s in control. That we can’t do it all. And while I agree, I think a lot of people use that victim mentality as an excuse for not taking action themselves. Taking the lazy way out of accepting responsibility for their lives.

More importantly, the net result of inaction is your life flying by with you playing the victim. And when you think back and tell your life story, I want you to be the protagonist you can be proud of. A legit hero.

I play poker. Sometimes, very well. When I’m not playing well, it’s because I’m getting dealt shitty hands—life does that!—or because I’m playing too passively. I’m letting other players at the table control the action and dictate my moves.

But when I’m winning? I’m in control. The chips on the table are mine for the taking. And I know it. I mitigate my losses through thoughtful decision making. And I seize opportunities to rake big pots.

Godin has identified one of the many things that separate the winners from the losers in business. He finished his post with:

“There are two lessons here. The first is that the easiest thing to do is merely amplify what a culture is already embracing,” he said. “The second is that real change is cultural change, and you must go about it with the intent to change the culture, not to merely make the easy change, the easy sale.”

Don’t quit ice cream to get skinny. Work your ass off daily and reward yourself with ice cream occasionally.

Don’t try to be more involved in your kids’ lives by merely reducing their TV or video game time. Hell, just watch TV with them. And discuss it. Play video games with them. Or something else entirely. Be present in the moments they’re around.

Don’t try to fix your marriage with out-of-character flowers or surprise gestures of thoughtfulness like making dinner or cleaning the bathrooms. Make those things the rule. Not the exception. Choose to love—actively—every day of your life.

Give, don’t take. Ask friends and neighbors what you can do to help instead of complaining about your problems.

Because if we change the culture in our personal lives, we will—quite literally—change our world.

I don’t know what those ripple effects might look and feel like.

But I can’t wait to find out.

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Adopt the Rhythm of Change

change ahead

Don’t get too comfortable.

I don’t mean that in an inner-peace kind of way. It’s hard to even get out of bed in the morning without that.

Just don’t get too comfortable with the status quo in your personal life—even if you like it.

This is particularly hard for men. We crave routine and stability. And our bodies don’t respond well to harsh or drastic change.

But our entire lives involve change. Hell, it might be the only real earthly constant we have.

Like it or not, change is coming.

This manifests itself in the form of social, political, economic and seasonal weather changes.

But even more importantly, it happens in our personal lives.

I have to believe all of you—while experiencing very different realities than me—must have felt the weight of all the changes in your life as we’ve collectively flipped the pages on our calendars.

Everyone’s life stages are going to look and feel different depending on our individual set of circumstances.

But for many of us, it starts with being a very young child at home. We go to elementary school. Then eventually high school. Some of us head off to college, or the workforce, or join the military.

We experience life on our own for the first time. Some of us get married. Some of us have children.

We change jobs. We gain friends. We lose others. People you know get divorced. People you know start to die.

The only constant is change. Sometimes radical change.

And it’s hard. Even when it’s good—like getting your first job out of college in a gorgeous beach community 1,000 miles from everyone you know and love—it’s hard.

One of the world’s best modern thinkers is a man named Seth Godin. Anyone working in sales and marketing has almost certainly heard of him. The great thing about Godin’s work is that many of his lessons aren’t just about maximizing profits. They’re about maximizing the human experience.

Godin is a great marketer because he understands people. I sometimes think he knows us better than we do.

He’s a magnificent thinker and writer. Please read him.

He wrote recently about professional change. About staying flexible and nimble. About staying ahead professionally by adapting to the new culture of change.

And it got me thinking: Can we adopt the rhythm of change in our personal lives? And could doing so somehow save us from some of the stress and heartache we feel?

I’m not sure. But it feels worth exploring.

Maybe you’ve heard this before: Chance favors the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur, a French scientist, said that in 1854.

We don’t get lucky. We don’t find luck. Luck finds us.

Because we make good choices that put us in a position to capitalize on the opportunities life grants us.

So, let’s be mindful of this.

Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.

To be strong and courageous in the face of hardships.

And perhaps more importantly, so we’re in a position to seize good fortune when it finds us.

Because you and me? We’re on a collision course with something life-changing and beautiful.

Let’s be prepared for it.

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