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Brain power: The king of pain

Your mind can be very powerful. It controls much more than you realize. I realized this a few years ago after several years of dealing with sporadic lower back pain. The pain seemingly appeared for no reason. In other words, I would get lower back pain without doing anything like pull a muscle. The pain just seemed to come from of nowhere.

One day I came across a report from John Stossel. He is the news reporter from ABC’s 20/20 and now on Fox News. In the report he described the same back pain I had. He came to realize that the pain came from mental stress. Every time he had significant stress, his back pain would return.

I was very skeptical. I started paying attention to my back pain and came to realize every time I had lower back pain, I could point to a significant stress in my life. So, I started paying attention to stress. Now when something particularly stressful is happening, I deal with that stress immediately. I have gone more than 3 years now without any significant back pain.

Now, I know there are people out there who have real medical conditions that cause back pain not related to stress. A few years ago, I had a herniated disc that ruptured in my neck and I had to have the disc removed. That was not stress related. I also have several relatives with significant degenerative back issues. I am not talking about medical back pain.

My point is that your mind can have a significant effect on your physical health. We all know the other health issues that can be created from stress. If you have health issues, consider that it could be related to stress in your life. So, relieve the stress.

To eliminate stress:

  1. Identify the stress. Determine what is causing your stress. Take the time to figure out what is wrong. Unless you can identify the source of your stress, you will never be able to do anything about it. Write it down if you have to so that you can remind yourself of the source of your stress.
    I started getting that old familiar sign from my back earlier this week. I identified that the stress was because I was behind in my blogging plan.
  2. Do something about your stress. The stress may be from outside forces, or may be self-inflicted. Either way, determine what you can do about the stress and fix it. Fix it now.
    I took action to catch up my blogging plan by converting my voice notes to actual drafts. Within an hour my back pain was gone.
  3. If you can’t do anything about your stress, accept it. Sometimes whatever is causing your stress is out of your control like gasoline prices. If it is, acknowledge it is out of your control. There is no reason to stress about something that you cant do anything about.

Lance Armstrong says, The real reward for pain is this: self-knowledge. My lower back pain has taught me a lot about myself. I have been able to better manage stress because of this biological barometer.

What are you stressed about? What effective ways have you found to deal with your stress?

Why read?

Why do you read? Reading is for enjoyment, for entertainment, because it is required (for school or work). Reading is also for learning. Reading can change your life. Think hard about the last thing that you read. What have you done with what you learned?

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones (no relation) said, “You are the same today you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

I am a slow reader and even today I have to read some sentences two or three times until I understand what what I just read. When you read like me, sometimes reading is not fun. But reading is one of the best ways to learn because what you read and what you do with the information you read is up to you.

There is great satisfaction in finishing a book. You can put it on your book trophy shelf. You may even take notes while reading the book but how often do you take time to use the notes that you wrote? To be honest, in many cases, as soon as you move on to the next book you have mentally forgotten what you have learned. How do you apply the information that you learn from reading?

A book that changed my reading life was “Love is the killer app” by Tim Sanders. Success Magazine (my favorite magazine) just posted about a visit from Tim Sanders earlier this week. In a section of Tim s book he describes how to read a book so that it becomes a tool for you. He uses a “cliffing” technique to extract the most important information and quickly access it later. That one concept has completely changed my reading life. I have significantly increased the number of books that I read because I have more purpose in my reading. I turn the books in to tools of reference.

With the next book you read try these techniques:

  • Underline key concepts. Some information just grabs you. You may think that it is something you will remember. But you won’t. Underline it. The effort of underlining makes an additional connection in your brain.
  • Make a note about the information you underline. This may seem like a tedious task. Writing a note about the information makes an even more significant connection in your brain. These notes go on the blank pages at the beginning and end of the book. Hint: include the page number with your note since you are writing anyway.
  • Review the book after completing it. Reviewing a book becomes very easy and quick with your underlines and notes. You will find that it is like re-reading the entire book when you read your notes. And, re-reading the book takes just minutes.
  • Extract key notes for action. There is a reason you underlined and noted the information. Determining action with a few of the most compelling ideas from your notes. This will ensure that the book makes a change to your life.
  • Make tasks of key notes. Assign them as actions to take. Don’t feel like you have to assign action to every note, just assign action to 2 – 5 of the key notes you wrote. Make the extra effort of determining when you will complete each task.

M. Scott Peck, MD said, “Once a mind is truly stretched, it never returns to its former dimensions. Reading a book does not truly stretch your mind. Taking action on what you learned is what stretches your mind. That is when a book changes your life.

Look back at the last book or two that you have read. What do you remember from these books? How have these books changed your life? Please leave a comment to share some of your favorite books.

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Too much time on my hands: Exercising your body and your mind

Our culture is undeniably focused on overindulgence. We have more leisure time than any of our previous generations because of great technological advances. With this additional time, we need to be more intentional with it.
Just two generations ago, it was common that the entire family was involved in the family business. As soon as the children were able, they were in the fields, tending livestock, cooking meals, doing laundry. There wasn’t much time for leisure. It may not feel like it now but we have more discretionary time than we realize.

 

Look at the most successful people you know. What do successful people typically have in common? They use most of their discretionary time doing something productive. People who are waiting to be successful make poor choices with their discretionary time. Dont get me wrong, you need to take some time to rest and do something just for fun. However, if you want success, the majority of your focus should be on accomplishing something.

It’s common to hear people say (including me) that successful people exercise because they have more time. The argument sounds good because successful people can make time to be in good shape. If you ask people who are physically fit, they will say that they are physically fit because they make the time. They will also say that they made time for exercising before they were successful.

Successful people also make time to exercise their mind. People who have learned to exercise their mind consider this a form of mental fitness. Examples include reading, listening to presentations, attending conferences, watching inspirational shows and movies, studying new topics that increase their productivity, etc.

It can be difficult to make time to be physically and mentally fit. I struggle with it all the time. There is always something seemingly more important than going to the gym or reading a book or attending a lecture. I made up my mind to be physically and mentally fit. Once I made up my mind, I had to take action.

To ensure you develop your physical and mental fitness:

  • Determine weekly goals. Each week determine how many times you will spend exercising your body and your mind. Determine what will be your physical fitness and what will be your mental fitness for the week. You may decide to exercise for one hour 3 – 4 times per week and read for at least 30 minutes every day. Make sure these goals are achievable. Start small and expect to add more later.
  • Include these goals in your daily to-do list. Putting exercise and reading on my to-do list gives me something to cross off. I have a sense of accomplishment when I can cross off these goals.
  • Schedule the time in to your calendar. It is great to list these goals for the week, but you will not complete them unless you take action. Decide when you will do them and commit to it. Block out the time to make the time.
  • Now is the time to rest. Once you accomplish these mental and physical goals each day is when you can do something relaxing or for entertainment. Make it a mini celebration for making yourself better.
  • Repeat. It can be difficult to keep going but make this a weekly habit to ensure your physical and mental health.

Try these techniques for 21 days and reassess. If you don’t feel better about yourself or feel you are accomplishing more, let me know.

What are you going to do this week to exercise both your mind and your body? When are you going to do these exercises? Leave a comment here.

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Another alternative to reading: Podcasts

What do you do with idle time? I define idle time when you are doing a mindless activity. Idle time examples could be taking a shower, driving or riding a bus to work or school, doing house work, or any kind of repetitive task that doesn’t require 100% of your attention. What could you do to make the most of your idle time?

 

You may have never heard of a podcast or maybe you have heard of it but don’t really know what it is. A podcast is a recording (much like a radio talk show) that is posted on the internet for audiences to either listen right from the internet site or downloaded to an MP3 player (iPod, Sandisk, Zune, or smartphone).

The term podcast originated from recordings (aka broadcasts) designed to be downloaded and played on an iPod (iPod broadcast = pod – cast). The really neat thing about downloading to an MP3 player is that you can then listen to the podcast any time you want and wherever you want. The range of topics are countless and can of course be paused, rewound, and listened to again (unlike a radio talk show).

If you have iTunes, or other MP3 player device you can find a function that lets you view, and search podcasts. There are other programs that are free like Juice that can go to internet sites and automatically download the latest podcast for you. Your MP3 player can be setup to download overnight so that when you plug in before you go to bed, your podcasts update and are ready to listen to the following day.

I listen to podcasts every day as I am driving in the car, or sometimes when I am exercising. Some of my favorite podcasts are:

  • 48 Days – Author Dan Miller’s podcast answers email questions about entrepreneurial ideas and seeking your vocational calling.
    Typical length: 48 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • 60 Second Science – Scientific American spends 60 seconds discussing some new scientific fact or discovery.
    Typical length: 1 minute
    Frequency: Daily, Monday – Friday
  • A Moment in Time – NPR broadcast from Richmond Virginia’s Dan Roberts explains a short historical event
    Typical length: 1 minute, 30 seconds
    Frequency: Daily, Monday – Friday
  • Best of YouTube – Video podcast that is guilty pleasure. Posted are top funny or amazing videos from YouTube.
    Typical length: 30 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the video
    Frequency: 5 or 6 times a month
  • The Buzz Report – CNET’s video podcast that highlights the past week’s technology news
    Typical length: 5 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Discovery Channel – short video clips from recent Discovery Channel programs.
    Typical length: 1 – 2 minutes
    Frequency: 6 – 8 times a month
  • Freakonomics Radio – Unique perspective about what you think is true.
    Typical length: 15 – 20 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Free Agent Underground – Owner of Free Agent Academy discusses through a live chat the tools of free agency.
    Typical length: 45 – 60 minutes
    Frequency: twice weekly
  • Manager Tools – Mike Auzenne and Mark Horstman discuss business management effectiveness.
    Typical length: 30 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • NOVA Video Cast – short video clips from recent PBS NOVA episodes.
    Typical length: 8 – 13 minutes
    Frequency: 1 or 2 times per week
  • PhotoTips: Photography Tips by BCphoto – video program that highlights basic to advanced photo techniques.
    Typical length: 30 – 40 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Saddleback Church Weekend Message – Rick Warren (author of the book Purpose Driven Life) delivers his weekend sermon to Saddleback Church.
    Typical length: 60 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Saddleback Church: DriveTime Devotionals – Tom Holladay from Saddleback Church reviews a portion of the bible designed to be listened to as part of your commute.
    Typical length: 5 – 10 mintes
    Frequency: weekly (5 posted each week designed to listen to one per day)
  • TEDTalks – Video podcast of some of the most compelling conference presentations from the TEDTalks conferences.
    Typical length: 5 – 20 minutes
    Frequency: daily
  • The Dave Ramsey Show – One hour of Dave’s 3 hour call-in radio show. Almost commercial free.
    Typical Length: 39 minutes
    Frequency: weekdays

I also listen to a few more than just these podcasts. Of all of these, podcasts that are at the top of my list and I try not to miss include, The Dave Ramsey Show, Saddleback Church: Drive Time Devotionals, Saddleback Church Weekend Message, Free Agent Underground, and 48 Days.

If you haven’t listened to a podcast, check out an few of these and let me know what you think. If you listen to podcasts already, let me know some of your favorites. I am always looking to find the next best podcast.

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Overcoming a major personal blow

Our culture may define our status in it, but it doesnt have to define you. Keeping up with the Jones isnt really that hard to do (just look at my family). You and I know plenty of people working hard to impress their friends, family, and neighbors. I have found that these same people care more about their status than they do your status.

Middle School is some of the most difficult years in a kids life. I remember the transition being significant for me. For the most part no one cared about impressing each other in elementary school. You could just be yourself. From the first day in Middle School, forming clicks and labeling people was the common sport.

A pivotal event happened to me in the first few weeks of my 6th grade year. With a group of guys I said something that left me wide open to be made fun of. They verbally attacked me with a vengeance. They not only saw the opportunity to knock me down in the pecking order but also raise their status with their peers. From that day forward, I was labeled with a nickname I didn’t shed until after high school. My confidence was knocked down.

It took me years to find a way to persevere. I came to realize that I need to be comfortable in my own skin. I had to overcome my need to be accepted by other people and chart my own course. There are times when I still find myself worrying what other people think of me. When I worry about what other people think, is when I make bad decisions. I catch myself trying to meet their expectations and not mine.

Meeting someone else’s expectations will rarely make you happy and not help you achieve what you were meant to do.

The most superb quote about this is from Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Do you worry about what other people think of you? How do you or have you overcome meeting someone else’s expectations of you?