Wake Up and Smell the Routine

Comment

Wake Up and Smell the Routine

 

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

— Gustave Flaubert

 

After miraculously putting our kids down to bed one night, my wife and I decided to give the Chef’s Table a shot. It’s an original series on Netflix that profiles famous chefs from all over the world. In a 50-minute episode you can expect to learn about the history and cooking philosophy of these celebrated “heads of the kitchen.”

Early in Season one, they profiled the renowned Argentinian chef, Francis Mallmann. His cooking philosophy is fascinating and unorthodox, but what really got my attention was the place he calls home.

Francis lives on a tiny island in Patagonia, 100 miles from modern civilization. To get there, you must spend a couple of hours driving down dirt highways until you reach the shore of a lake engulfed by mountains. From there, you must take to the waters by boat until, about an hour in, you arrive at his remote, floating patch of earth.

At first glance the island appears both glorious and frightening. Glorious because the unspoiled landscapes are a beauty to behold. Frightening because the trappings of modernity are no where to be found!

In referring to his cold, forested island-home, this place he's lived for some time, Francis said:

"It's a land you learn to love very slowly."

As the episode marched on, I kept returning to those nine words that contradicted everything my culture had ever taught me about love.

I must admit, the idea that love could be cultivated was foreign to me in my youth. I just assumed you either fell head-over-heels for something or someone—or you didn’t. That’s what the movies & music I grew up on preached anyway. Having to learn to love something? That sounded like settling. Actually, it sounded like a sacrifice of love itself.

But, for those who have ears to hear, Francis’s passing remark imparts a nugget of wisdom; a much needed message, especially for those who, like me, were raised in a “love at first sight” culture:

• Just because you don’t fall head-over-heels...
• Just because you’re disinclined at the outset...
• Just because you dislike, or even loathe something in the beginning... doesn’t mean you won’t come to love and cherish that thing in the end.

Just as Francis, very slowly, fell in love with his island home, I too, after surveying my own list of loves, recognized a handful that took considerable time to cultivate. One I now deeply cherish took longer than most: The infamous morning routine.
 

The Least Interesting Word in the English Language

I get it. Routines, especially morning ones, aren’t something the young are eager to establish. But anyone who’s gone to the trouble of implementing one will tell you it’s the essential ritual in their day they wouldn’t dare live without.

Nevertheless, the word, routine, is the least interesting word in the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a sequence of actions regularly followed.” Another describes it as “an unvarying method or procedure.” How many of us have a passion for following unvarying procedures? It’s only when we discover the word’s etymology, however, that it gets a real chance at redemption.

Routine originated in the late 17th century and is derived from the word route. As we all know, a route is a well-worn path or trail leading to some important or satisfying destination. When I hear the words, “well-worn path,” I can’t help but think back to U.S. History class and to the unit on the Oregon Trail.
 

Go West

The Oregon Trail and many other east-to-west routes were carved out of the earth by the great mountain men of the early 1800s. These frontiersmen and fur trappers were the first to blaze new trails that eventually hundreds of thousands of emigrants would trek in the second-half of the 19th century.

These rugged individuals were incentivized to clear paths so they could get their goods, especially furs, to market back east. The route was one of the keys to these explorer’s productivity and prosperity because it facilitated a free flowing network that made their hopes and dreams possible.

If these pioneers were still alive today they’d be the first to tell you that the trail wasn’t the thing. It was important. But it was what passed though the trail and the speed and ease with which it passed that was the rationale for putting in the backbreaking work of clearing and connecting hundreds of miles of track back east.

Here’s where I’m going with this. Stout-hearted mountain men aren’t the only ones who need an established route. You need one too. Not a 2,000 mile wagon trail, but a well-worn routine that provides the time & space for fruitful patterns of behavior to ritualize. This process of ritualization is the very thing that facilitates the calling welling up inside you.

From hence forward banish the idea of a routine as some “monotonous method” or “unvarying procedure,” and instead start seeing it as the quickest and easiest way to reach the kind of productivity that produces the desired result.

What you’re about to read may sound strange, but I believe it’s true; and it’s the thing I wish someone would’ve told me when I was just starting out:

A routine practiced routinely is what separates a regular life from a remarkable one.

If you’re of the mindset that you have yet to become as you ought, if you wish to give more than you take, if you desire to impact the world and those around you, if you long to taste something of the Divine, then you ought to get serious about blazing a trail. Sharpen your axe, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to swing. The work will be painful—excruciatingly so at the start. There’s no getting around it. But my promise to you is this: If you put in the hard work of clearing a path, and you stick with it, you’ll not only establish a routine that facilitates your deepest calling, you’ll build a ritual that brings fulfillment to everyday life. 

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

My Morning Routine

Comment

My Morning Routine

 

Earlier this year I was asked to speak at a conference on the subject of Personal Vitality. It didn't take me long to pick a topic: The Importance of Establishing a Morning Routine in Your Life. In the talk I discussed why you need it and how to go about making it a permanent fixture of your day. It was a lot of fun. I also gave the attendees a handout of my actual routine; that is what you see below. It's mainly a brief sketch. If you have more questions, please feel free to leave a comment!
 

5AM-5:30AM | Morning Prayer (30 min)

Morning Prayer includes both liturgical and freeform prayers, as well as scripture reading. I try to read through the Psalter every month, so I typically read three chapters from the Psalms every morning. I will also read one chapter from the New Testament.
 

6AM | Journal (5 min)

Journaling for me is a 5-minute exercise. I keep it brief as to not overwhelm myself. What’s important is to keep a running history so that I can glean from it in later years. Before I write a new journal entry, I always read an old one. This helps me stay aware and track my personal growth.
 

6:05AM | Read (25 min)

I love to get lost in a book. I either go with something spiritual or something that pertains to personal or business growth.
 

6:30AM | Write (1 hr 30 min)

Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) once said, “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

Writing is where I get alone in my study and learn. It’s where all of those foggy ideas swirling around in my head get worked out. For an hour and a half, I focus on writing material for a book project, blog post, or a manuscript for future talks. FYI: Those who write on an ongoing basis understand that the act itself is its own reward.
 

A Few Thoughts

• Your routine will most-likely look different than mine, and that's great. For example, you may want to include physical exercise in your routine. Awesome! Go for it. Simply use mine as a guide.

• I don’t always nail the time windows above. Sometimes I read for an extra 15 minutes. Other times I skip the reading and give myself more time to write. But the one thing I don’t skip is morning prayer and journaling. These, for me, are non-negotiables.

• While this is the routine I strive for every weekday, I by no means boast a perfect record. During any given week, I may wake up late once or twice. I don’t, however, let this get me down or deter me. I’ve learned that progress is always two steps forward and one step backward.

• Lastly, perfection in anything is unnecessary. The truth is you can get the same long-term results perfection affords by practicing consistency. Consistency defined is steadfastness; it’s perseverance through the ups and downs of life. The good news is you can slip up and still get where you’re going. You can drop the ball and still score. Consistency does not mean never failing; it means never giving up. 

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

How to Access an Extra 500 Hours of Free Time Per Year

Comment

How to Access an Extra 500 Hours of Free Time Per Year

 

We’ve all said it. “There’s just not enough time in the day.” But what exactly do we mean?

Are we wishing we had more time to spend working? Maybe. Most of us, however, already spend a fair chunk of our time doing that. Are we wishing we had more time to catch up on Game of Thrones? or play an extra hour of Call of Duty? Doubtful. We already find ways to fit little pleasures like those into our schedule.

When we say we wish we had more time, we’re referring to moments that bring about fulfillment. We are looking to fill up on experiences that bring growth and meaning, not simply temporary pleasure. Taking advantage of the early hours is a way of filling up on the meaningful time you may be missing.

The reservoir of early hours is available to us all. We all may access this secret supply of time by forming the habit of early rising — waking up between 5am and 6am.

You may want to write this off — wait.

Imagine having time — every day — for writing your blog, for working on your startup, for marathon training, for communing with God, etc. Imagine more time for meaningful pursuits, things that truly fill you up. Just imagine a dedicated, distraction-free hour or two focused on growth and learning.


Here’s how I arrived at 500 extra hrs of free time per year:

2 hrs per day x 5 days per week x 50 weeks per year = 500 hrs


Waking up 2 hours earlier than normal every weekday for a year (minus two weeks for vacation) would yield an astounding 500 hours, the equivalent of 62 extra eight-hour working days. That’s an additional three working months of time per year!

You can now see why Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

He also wrote a book on the subject that’s in the public domain and free to download. It’s called Early Rising: A Natural, Social and Religious Duty. There is no question, the habit of waking up early is an advantage to anyone who is wise enough to form it.

The early morning is the best time to do the most important work of your day. And for all of you night owls who are vehemently nodding your head in disagreement, here’s why:

1. Your body, mind and spirit are starting from a full charge.

Every part of you has had the opportunity to shut down and rejuvenate.

2. You’re distraction-free

Stillness and quiet are most easily acquired in the wee hours of the morning.

3. The cares of the day have not yet befallen you

Days can get messy and in a hurry. New appointments pop up, schedules get rearranged; your workday and evening can shift on you at a moment’s notice. This is less likely in the early morning because few are stirring.

4. You make a statement to yourself about what you choose to do first

I guarantee that on your death bed you aren’t going to be wishing you had watched more TV or surfed more of the web. Be intentional. Do what matters most, first.

When you think about it, you really have all the time you need. The wee hours in the morning are available to you every day.

When you wake up rushing to get out the door, you’re saying ‘no’ to growth and denying yourself a moment to fill up. When I miss an early morning, I know that there was time missed, an opportunity for growing personally, spiritually, professionally lost.

As an entrepreneur I’ve learned that “time is money”. As an early riser I’m also painfully aware that “time is learning”. Here’s another way of reading Uncle Ben’s famous quote:

“Late to bed, late to rise makes a man poor, pitiful and altogether unwise.”

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

10 Reasons to Get Growing

Comment

10 Reasons to Get Growing

 

I know growth is good for me, but I don't always make time for it. Why? Because I live in a time and place where coasting through life is a bona fide option. Unlike my ancestors, I no longer have to forage for food; I can have it delivered to my door. I no longer have to protect myself from the dangers of the wild. I just have to call 911.

With the innumerable conveniences modern civilization affords, growth no longer feels necessary. I can eek out a pretty decent existence as long as I can pay the rent and my Netflix bill.

But there’s so much more to life and I know it. The more I've grown over the years, the more I've understood what life is really about. And the more I've made an effort to grow daily, the more full my life has become.

If you’re feeling stuck, or just unsatisfied with where you're at, then intentional growth may be what you’re missing. Here are 10 of my favorite reasons to get growing:

1. We Have so much to Learn

Michelangelo was recognized as the greatest living artist of his day. 500 years later his art still touches the heart and staggers the mind. Many become breathless at first brush with his works. Who wouldn’t? The paintings blanketing the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling span 6,100 square feet. His famous statue of King David stands at a towering 17ft tall.

This Renaissance Man died at a ripe old age of 88. Do you know what his last words were?

“I’m still learning.”

Michelangelo—considered one of the greatest artists of all time—reveals, in his final words a powerful truth: We have so much to learn. 

If this consummate artist was still learning, still studying, still discovering, then so too should we. There is always something more. Learning is for a lifetime. 

 

2. Growth Gets You Ready When Your Time Comes

Every young man and woman should take Benjamin Disraeli’s sage wisdom to heart: “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes." Here’s a sad fact: You can be at the right place, at the right time and be the wrong person. In other words, you're not ready for your moment. Focus, instead, on becoming the right kind of person, then - in the right place and at the right time - you'll be ready.

This, of course, is exactly what growth does; it gets you ready. It prepares you for your unique opportunity that’s coming your way as sure as the dawn. The only question is will you be ready?

 

3. Growth = Health

I bought a ton of flowers the other day and did something dumb. I never planted them. I guess I got busy, and just let them sit on my patio. I never got around to getting them into the soil. It didn’t take long for them to wither away. 

We’re not much different than flowers. The same thing can happen to us. If we aren’t intentional about digging our roots into good soil we can slowly waste away. Growing is how we maintain health.

It’s so simple, yet so easy to miss: Healthy things grow. If something isn’t growing, then it’s withering, fading, dying. There is no middle-ground, especially when it comes to flesh and blood people. There is no homeostasis of the human soul.

 

4. Growth is its Own Reward

Do you remember the moment you figured out how to ride a bike? I’m talking no training wheels, no hand-holding from Dad; just you, two wheels, and the open road. 

Remember?

There was a point in time when we couldn’t. Every time we tried, we fell over and failed. But with a little encouragement from Dad, we kept at it. We kept learning, practicing, failing until eventually, we succeeded.

That first solo run was pure joy. We pedaled down the street in triumph. Victory was ours! Before long we were cruising to a friend's house and racing our buddies to school.

That inaugural sense of joy is a direct result of growth. It’s a reward hard-wired in by God for all our hard work. And you can count on experiencing it every time you grow. 

 

5. Growth Gets You that Much Closer to Your Goals

I’ve committed to memory this quote from Zig Ziglar, “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” Each stair, I believe, is a stage of growth that can’t be skipped. Okay… perhaps you can take a couple stairs at a time—but the stairs are your only option. 

Overnight success stories are a myth. Talent is overrated. And nincompoops rely on luck alone. The self-aware and sober-minded, instead, understand that the only way to reach a goal is to steadily work toward it. Piece-by-piece, chunk-by-chunk, step-by-step. Steady growth, day in day out, ensures that you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Just bear in mind the words of Henry David Thoreau, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving them.”


6. Growth is Contagious

There is a saying in the real estate business that, “Activity breeds activity.” The idea is that others will become interested in a given piece of property or neighborhood if someone else becomes interested first. The initial act of interest is a sign to others; it piques curiosity and instills confidence. This same kind of thing happens in the area of personal development. In short, growth is contagious.

Changes we make for the better never go unnoticed by family and friends. And it’s mostly motivational to the others that witness them. Get ready; your activity will breed activity. Your growth will beget growth.


7. Growth is a Never-Ending Adventure

Adventures of the heart, mind, and soul await those who set their sights on growth. Books, for example, can take you into uncharted territory. You can travel back in time. You can acquire knowledge and wisdom. You can learn a new skill. You can meet with the Divine.

You don’t have to quit your day job and trek around the world to find adventure. You don’t have to be living out your dream career to feel fully alive. Growth can do that for you. And you can experience growth every day.

Grab a map. Pick a trail. Your pilgrimage awaits. You can begin as soon as you decide to.

 

8. Growth Combats the Flesh

Hear the words of the 15th-century devotional master, Thomas a Kempis: “The greatest hindrance to our spiritual development is that we allow our passions and desires to control us…” When we choose to intentionally develop ourselves in mind and spirit, however, we do the opposite; we check those unhealthy passions and desires that keep us from living out the divine life.

Dallas Willard has said that “while the flesh isn’t necessarily bad, it isn’t safe.” Acting on every impulse is a mistake. When we make commitments to grow and stick to those commitments we beat back those passions and desires that are toxic to our soul.   


9. Growth Shapes Character

Traits trump skills. While developing solid skills is an important life pursuit, we should—with greater vigor—devote time to shaping our character. 

Your character, as it stands, is the product of your choices. Each decision you’ve made, both large and small, has shaped the person you’ve become. 

So when we make growth a priority in our lives, we’re saying yes to character traits like courage, perseverance, discipline, self-denial, self-awareness, and more. In order to be successful (in anything!) these character traits must be present.   


10. Growth Honors the One Who Made You

In Tim Keller’s, Every Good Endeavor, he states, “Though all God had made was good, it was still to a great degree undeveloped.” While Keller was primarily referring to the earth itself, his statement certainly holds true for humanity as well.

We human beings, in large part, enter time and space shockingly undeveloped. We are little bundles of potential, and in order to unlock that potential, we must grow. When we do, we honor the one who made us.

The God-Man, Jesus Christ, says that he came so that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). That fullness is not something we passively receive, rather it’s something we actively grow into under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. 

But this life that He speaks of isn’t merely spiritual. This fullness extends to our relationships, our experiences, our character, our career, and so on. It touches every aspect of our humanity.  

Simply put, we honor the Creator’s wishes for us when we get off our backside and get growing.

 

 

Waking up every morning and dedicating part of your day to growth isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding. If you don’t currently devote a chunk of time to it, why not give it a shot? I say start with 30 minutes and see where it takes you.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

Pick Your Pain

Comment

Pick Your Pain

 

Saying, "no" to self-discipline is saying, "yes" to regret.

I have a goal to be up by 5:30am Monday through Friday. I spend the first two-and-a-half hours of my day in growth mode and I love it. For me it provides the space for solitude, spiritual connection and personal development.

Though I love the time, I still don't always love rising so early. Some mornings, right after the alarm goes off, a battle begins in my brain. Am I going to get up or not? In those moments, part of me can come up with some great justifications for sleeping in.

The Logical Excuse
"Since you had to stay up a little later last night, you should stay in bed a little later this morning."

The Faker's Excuse
"Your throat feels a little sore, catch a few more zzz's to give your body time to rest. No sense in making your work day less productive."

The Slacker's Excuse
"You're too hard on yourself. Just relax Mr. Drill Sergeant. Live and let live."

Excuses come in every shade and color, but the fact still remains, I have to pick my pain.

In that dark room, and in that warm bed, I recite a version of Maxwell's quote: "The choice you're about to make will either lead to the pain of self-discipline or the pain of regret. It's your choice Josh." That usually sobers me up pretty good. It awakens me to the realization that there's no easy way out.

There's no getting off the hook. There's not the "hard" way and the "easy" way. They're both hard because they both come with pain. It's my choice.

Of course, wise men have been telling us to pick the pain of self-discipline for centuries. But, I'm not only picking it because they said so, I'm picking self-discipline because the fruit tastes better than the alternative. The choice to stay in bed may feel good and right in the moment, but I know from experience that regret leaves a bitter aftertaste.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

What Plateaus are for and Why You Shouldn't Stay There

Comment

What Plateaus are for and Why You Shouldn't Stay There

 

Nobody writes poetry about a plateau. Summits get all the glory. It's always about reaching the tip top. No one ever exults, "I've reached the plateau!" In terms of personal growth, the summit seems to be the place of glory and the plateau—mediocrity.

In life, we use the word plateau to describe non-movement, to describe being stuck, or stagnant.

If someone says, "I just feel like I've plateaued." What do they mean?

They mean they've been consistently engaging in an activity over a period of time and it's begun to lose its effectiveness.

But here's the point of this post: Plateauing is not a bad thing, it's a normal thing. In fact, if you're into growth, you love plateaus. Arriving at a plateau means you've achieved a level of mastery at whatever you've set out to accomplish. It means you've grown.

In my opinion, plateaus (in terms of personal development) are great because they give you  three things:
 

1. A better view than where you were before

In other words, reaching a plateau provides you with a better perspective than wherever you were before.
 

2. A place to rest

Plateaus are relatively flat. You can set up camp and kindle a fire on a plateau and relax.
 

3. A mark of achievement

You can't get to a plateau unless you climb, unless you hike. You still have to work to arrive at a plateau.
 

That's what plateaus are for. But, and this is a big but, if you want to keep growing, you can't stay there. Plateaus have their place, but you have to leave them if you want to continue to grow.

Therefore, with every plateau we reach in our lives, there comes a decision. 

Do I stay? I have a beautiful view. Things are comfortable, I've made some progress. Or, do I go? Do I keep scaling the mountain? Do I push along, further up? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. But my position is this: We're all, at best, a little ways up a very tall mountain. And while we've all taken in beautiful views from particular plateaus, there are so many others to reach and enjoy.

William Blake said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” And Edmund Hilary, the first man to summit Mount Everest, got it just right when he remarked, "It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

The mountain and it's many plateaus are such a powerful metaphor because its elevation provides the resistance we need in order to grow. In the same way, goal setting provides the resistance we need in order to flourish and develop. The journey we take up reveals and shapes our character,  it illuminates where we need improvement, and it shows us things we need to change.

So, if you find yourself on a plateau, do you stay there? I challenge you to answer that question with a resounding: No. 

By all means:

• Enjoy the view
• Rest and relax
• even celebrate your achievement

Then get going. Keep climbing. It's amazing what a mountain can make of you, if you let it.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

Begin Your Day with an Evening Routine

Comment

Begin Your Day with an Evening Routine

 

We all know the adage, "Begin your day the night before." This post is about how I've tried to put that quote into practice.

To give you some background, I have a morning routine that begins between 5am and 5:30am. It's a habit I've formed over the years. I knew I was starting my day off right with my morning routine, but I never felt like I was finishing it right.

After putting the kids down, my wife and I found ourselves glued to the television or our phones until 9:30pm or 10pm. It's easy to do. For the record, I do think there's great value in kicking back and enjoying a good show. But for 3 hours straight? Was this how I really wanted to end my day?

I discovered what I really wanted was a more fitting conclusion to my day. Wouldn't it be nice to bookend each 24-hour period with a solid routine? 

I agree with Jayson Demers, founder of AudienceBloom, when he wrote, "one of the most overlooked productivity and schedule hacks is the entrepreneur’s nighttime routine."

My wife and I began our evening routine in the beginning of 2015. Ours' is a one-hour period that starts at 8:30pm. We certainly don't have a perfect record on this, but it's something we like to strive for. I've broken it down into sections chronologically and used alliteration for your pleasure (or lack thereof).

Reward (5 min) 

If you find ways to reward yourself when implementing new habits, you're more likely to succeed in forming them. So, once the TV goes off at 8:30pm, the first thing we do is crack open a bottle of wine. That's our reward. Me and the wife will enjoy a glass throughout the hour. Again, gives us a great incentive to shut off the TV. 
 

Reflect (10 min)

The next thing we do is ask each other the following question: "If you could live this day over, what would you do the same and what would you do differently?" This is similar to Benjamin Franklin's question, but I think better (Sorry Ben)because you're reinforcing the good, while bringing attention to the areas where you want to improve. What I like most about this question is that it helps you stay aware. My wife and I have found that this question succinctly gets to the big moments of our day and makes reflecting painless. 
 

Review (10 min)

It's nice to know what tomorrow is going to look like the night before. So the next thing we do is look at our schedules for the following day; we review each other's as well.

This simple act helps me not miss anything or be taken by surprise come sunup. It's nice to know what's on my wife's schedule too. She helps me stay up to date with events like kids appointments or family outings.
 

Reset (15 min)

Resetting for us is about preping for the next morning. You'd be surprised by how much peace can come from a little prep. Here's what we do. We clean every dish, load it into the dishwasher and start it.  This ensures everything will be clean and ready to roll in the morning. I have to confess, my wife usually gets stuck with this job.

I always place my coffee cup and a Keurig k-cup in the machine in advance. I set my Bible, the book I'm reading, my journal, iPad and wireless keyboard on the side table so I don't have to go looking for them in the wee hours. And lastly, I also set out my early-morning clothes next to the bed. Once again, this is all about setting myself up for a peaceful and automatic morning routine. 
 

Read (20 min)

We spend the final part of our evening routine reading. Fiction is a great nightcap to an evening. I also save lots of blog posts to Pocket and may read one or two during this time. Daily readers are a good option also. I've got one by CS Lewis that I enjoy glancing at every now and again.
 

Conclusion

So there it is, our evening routine that we enjoy so very much. You may be reading this and think it's too regimented; I get it. It's not for everyone. Maybe try to implement one or two of the sections. I do, however, think that some sort of evening routine is richly beneficial and I recommend implementing one of your own. Part of the secret to tomorrow's success is hidden in your evening routine. 

 

Do you have a nighttime routine? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Drop me a comment or shoot me an email.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

How Big is Your Focus Muscle?

Comment

How Big is Your Focus Muscle?

 

Today, the ability to focus is fading fast. The new reflex of checking in on instant messages, notifications and little red badges is stealing bouts of concentration and leaving ourselves vulnerable to shallow work. 

For me, it gets worse. Even when I don't have anything interrupting me on my phone or laptop, I still feel the reflex to eject from a more difficult project or task and check in somewhere else.

Focusing is downright hard; it's like working out. We all know it's good for us; we all know we should do it, yet few of us do. At the time it doesn't seem like a big deal to break focus. It's only when we wake up years later and begin taking inventory, that we realize how much time we've wasted on being reactive instead of proactive. Here are 3 reasons to fight for focus:
 

1. Focus helps you take new ground

I have several goals, one being to share what I'm learning about entrepreneurship and startups with those just starting out through this blog.

In order to accomplish this goal I have set a task of writing no less than 100 fresh words per day. It can be more, and usually is, but it can't be less.

Writing 100 words a day, as any writer knows, is a tiny task. Easy peasy. But I purposely set it low so that I don't have to have a debate with myself about doing it.  

I know if I just hunker down, concentrate, and get it done, I will not only follow through with my goal of sharing what I'm learning, I'll also build the habit of writing in my life. But the key ingredient is focus. 
 

2. Good fortune follows focused action

You can wander into mediocrity, but you can't wander out. The big secret is that times of heightened concentration and focus are where you build the greatest value for yourself and your company. 

It's easy getting caught up in doing weak work, tasks that really don't make or break your startup (Is my new landing page pixel perfect? Did I add an image to every social post today?).

But it's those who diligently do the hard things that bring good fortune their way (I researched and sent out 40 emails to potential Strategic Partners this week and got two to bite. I personally spoke with three key customers today and got their much needed feedback on our beta). 

Every time you exercise your focus muscle - even when it would be easier to bail - you're pulling yourself out of the pit of mediocrity and putting your feet firmly on the path to success.
 

3. Focus builds fortitude for the inner battles

We're complex creatures. It's fascinating how there is a part of us that will say, "I want to achieve "x" and I will stop at nothing to make "x" happen!" The very next day we begin making little justifications and excuses about why the-goal-that-we-would-have-stopped-at-nothing-to-bring-into-existence is going to have to wait. 

Focus helps you say, "yes" to what your better side wants and "no" to what your lesser side craves. Don't be surprised if your focus muscle has atrophied due to diminishing use. You must persevere. Don't let yourself off the hook. Don't buy into the notion of "needing" a break every 20 minutes. Or, worse, that you're not "genetically wired" to focus on one thing for too long. These are excuses masquerading as explanations. 


We need to fight for focus in the waking moments of our lives. The only way we're going to maintain or strengthen it is by consistent exercise. I want to leave you with this beautiful progression: 

Focus builds Fortitude... 
Fortitude builds Habits... 
Habits build Character... 
Character builds Destiny.

That's why I'm practicing the discipline of focus. I know my destiny hangs in the balance. 

What about you? How do you find ways of focusing on what matters? Any tips or hacks to share? If so, I'd love to continue the conversation in the comments below.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

These 5 Books Impacted Me Most in 2015

Comment

These 5 Books Impacted Me Most in 2015

 

During the last week in December I like to scan my bookshelf, searching for those books I’ve read over the last year. Upon finding one, I readily recall the impression it left on me (Books always leave a mark). What surprises me, however, is just how hard it is to remember a particular quote or even the title of the first chapter.

In fact, I’m embarrassed to say that if you asked me to summarize a book I’d recently read, I would not be able to do it justice on the fly. But, that wouldn’t mean that I didn’t get anything out of it. On the contrary, the impression or imprint that a book leaves on a reader can be as strong as that of a coach, teacher, or parent, even if it can’t always be verbalized.

But summaries are useful to have. So, here are 5 brief reviews of the 5 books that impacted me most in 2015.   
 

1. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

This book was my favorite read last year. Its premise, I’ve found to be true in my life. Newport believes that Skills trump passion in finding the work you love. He recommends adopting a “Craftsmen” mindset over a “Passion” one. “A Craftsmen mindset focuses on what you can offer the world,” Newport writes. “A Passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you.” 

With that in mind, Newport encourages us to be so good at something that our skills can’t be ignored. That’s how you step into a satisfying career. That’s how you arrive at doing work every day that you love.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

Telling someone to ‘follow their passion’ is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.

All of us who do creative work…you get into this thing, and there’s a ‘gap.’ What you’re making isn’t so good, okay?…It’s trying to be good but…it’s just not that great. The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.” (This is actually a remark from Ira Glass quoted in the book, but it does a good job of capturing the book’s theme.)  
 

 

2. Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis and his writings always strengthen my faith and exercise my mind. The Problem of Pain is chocked full of intelligent and fascinating answers to life's toughest questions. Is there a God? If so, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? If God is love, then why is there a hell? 

Here are few quotes: 

"Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself."

"We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character."

There are so many more great quotes by C.S. Lewis in this book. In my opinion, The Problem of Pain is required reading, even if you are not a Christian.

 

 

3. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning.jpg

This book always makes the list of Top 10 books of the 20th century. I'm glad I finally read it. The first half of the book is devoted to the story of Frankl's experiences in Nazi concentration camps. It is sobering and gripping. You’ll find it hard to put the book down. 

The second half, Frankl discusses his brand of therapy, called logotherapy: the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one's life that is the primary motivating force in our lives.

Here are a few quotes:

"If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an eradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete."

"The sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually."

"Often it is just such an exceptionally external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself."
 

 

4. Good to Great by Jim Collins

Another book I loved is the business classic, Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Jim and his research team clue us into what essentially makes a company exceptional. There are a lot of average companies out there. Jim helps us better understand what it takes to become a great one. The answers he and his team uncover may surprise you.
  
Here are a few quotes:

We (Jim and his research team)expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats—and then they figured out where to drive it.”  
  
Good-to-Great companies appear boring and pedestrian looking in from the outside, but upon closer inspection, they’re full of people who display extreme diligence and a stunning intensity.

 

 

5. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Austin is one of those guys who understands the new realities of living and working in the digital age. I tend to think that this book and his other, Steal Like an Artist, should be required reading for every High School graduate. In Show Your Work, Kleon shares 10 ways you as an artist can get discovered. But the book is more than that. It’s also about understanding how one makes his work remarkable and thus something worth finding.    

Here are a few quotes:

Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you'll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance.

One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life's work.

Don't think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self invention machine. Fill your website with your work and your ideas and the stuff you care about.
 

Conclusion

So that’s my list for 2015. These 5 books made a strong impression on me, and I’ve already begun putting what they preach into practice this year. I’m grateful to each and every one of these authors for taking the time to share their learnings with the world. 2016 is underway, and I just finished reading my first book. It’s a doozy. I bet it makes my 2016 list.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

7 Things I Learned from John Wooden

Comment

7 Things I Learned from John Wooden

 

I always read a book with a red pen. It has to be red. Don’t ask me why. If I’m not careful, I can mark it up pretty good. 

If I like something, I underline it.   
If I really like something, I add a star to the underline. 
If I love something, I go overboard. I double underline. I triple star. I even throw in a few exclamation points!!

I mention this because what you’re about to read are the things I loved most from the life and philosophy of John Wooden. I’m only giving you the double underline, triple star stuff.

Here are the 7 things I learned from the Wizard of Westwood:
 

1) Play to win, but not for winning sake

John Wooden, to be sure, is considered a winner. Take a quick glance at your 10 fingers. That’s how many national championships he and his teams won. No other NCAA coach comes close.

Wooden played to win, but winning wasn’t the way he measured his success. Winning simply provided the resistance needed to achieve what he was really after—competitive greatness. Here’s how he puts it:

“Competitive Greatness is having a real love for the hard battle knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.”
 

2) Success is giving it your absolute best effort

Out of everything I’ve read on the topic of success, John Wooden’s definition has resonated with me most. Coach is teaching me that the quality of my effort is what’s key. Did I do everything possible to achieve victory? If so, I’m a success, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
 

3) Success is also peace of mind

Coach Wooden also prefaces his definition of success with the words, “The peace of mind…” Wow. The predominant feeling attributed to success isn’t jubilation or exuberance, it’s inner peace. Yes, winning and succeeding can be exciting, but the abiding feeling that pervades is a tranquility of soul. 

Question. How much peace are you experiencing in your life? Real success feels a lot like peace of mind.
 

4) Success (often) precedes victory

Mind blown. Success isn't achieved on gameday. It’s accomplished each and every day of practice. Gameday merely has the benefit of putting your success on display, and that success has usually leads to victory.
 

5) Never stop learning and you’ll never stop leading.

I want to remain effective all throughout life, especially in my twilight years. The Wizard provides a framework.  

“Live as though you’ll die tomorrow, learn as though you’ll live forever.”

Translation: Don’t squander a single day and never cease learning and growing. Do that and you will achieve longevity in leadership.
 

6. The Three Don’ts from John Wooden’s Dad

John Wooden’s father taught 3 foundational don’ts to his children. Our modern ears need to hear this homespun wisdom:

  • Don’t whine
  • Don’t complain
  • Don’t make excuses

Enough said.


7. The right kind of confidence comes from the right kind of character

When you become a person of rock-solid character you achieve a strength and confidence, that strikes the right balance. As we all know, strength or confidence can so easily slip into pride, but high moral character provides the rails for avoiding vanity. 

We should all be the right-kind of confident. To do so, shoot for the right-kind of character. 


These are just a few of the things that Coach Wooden has taught me. If you’ve yet to read about his life and philosophy, a great place to start is, The Essential Wooden

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

Why Struggle is Your Best Friend

Comment

Why Struggle is Your Best Friend

 

Every meaningful destination is paved with struggle. Think back on any success you experienced when you were young. It may have been in sports, or maybe you excelled in college, or perhaps you were first chair in the orchestra. Whatever it was, you surely recall the struggle it took. Isn’t it always our favorite part of the story to tell?

“Those first few years, I lived in the weight room.”  

“It was research, reading and ramen noodles every night.”

“I practiced the violin six hours a day for six months straight.”

But… 

“I ended up becoming an All-American.”

“I graduated Magna Cum Laude.”

“I got a scholarship to Julliard.”
 

One struggle to end them all?

These storylines in large measure define our adolescence. When we grow up, we shift our sights to the real world. 

We begin our assault on a huge goal: Nailing the perfect career path, building the company of our dreams, or just getting paid for doing what we love. 

We reason that if we can just persevere and push past this one juggernaut of a struggle, we will usher in a perpetual epoch of success and bliss for ourselves.  

But, is that really how life works?
  

A Universal Constant  

299,792,458 miles per second. That is the speed in which light travels. It doesn’t change; it’s a physical constant of the universe, and it affects us all. “Big G” (Gravity) is yet another constant that every one of us on this spinning planet is exposed to.

Try as we might, we can’t shake these constants. We can only learn to work with them.

I’m coming to believe that “struggle” is another universal constant. Turns out it isn’t a hump we eventually get over if we only will work really, really hard. 

As I get older, I’m learning that no matter how much success I experience in life, struggle still remains. It may look different, but it's still just around the corner. 

That sounds depressing, but it’s not. Here’s why:

Struggles are your ticket to success-filled moments. And these moments work to build a life of meaning, purpose and significance.

 

A Cycle to Embrace  

The struggle for success isn’t a one-time battle. It’s not something you’re looking to do once and then wash your hands of. It’s a cycle. And it’s battling through this cycle of struggle/success that will continue to help you find purpose in your life and meaning in your days. It’s also the main way you’ll ensure you wake up every morning 100% in love with the work you’re doing. 

No, you’re not looking to avoid struggle or eradicate it from your life. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Banish these thoughts of arriving at a destination free of travails and battles. 

You’re looking to embrace struggle. You’re looking to use it. It’s a constant. Don’t try to work against it; instead, work with it. Treat it for what it is – fuel to power a life worth living.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.

Good Stories Need 3 Acts—So Do You

Comment

Good Stories Need 3 Acts—So Do You

 

Let's kick this post off with the most overused cliche on the internet.

"Success is a journey not a destination."

The quote is so good it's become bad. It's like the movie Titanic. I love Leo, Kate & Celine, but I just can't watch another scene or listen to another note.

Here's me taking a stab at the truth found in that overexploited quote:

"Success is the whole story."

Not as good, but let me explain. Thanks to middle school, we all know that stories have a beginning, middle and end. Most fiction authors will tell you that the most challenging part of writing is not the beginning or the end—but the middle. It's incredibly hard to, not only hold the tension, but continue to elevate it as you approach the story's climax. Yes, the beginning is crucial. You've got to hook your reader. And the end is, without a doubt, the most important part of any good writing; you've got to satisfy them. But there's something magical about the middle.  Here's the archetypal story structure we're all familiar with:


The Archetypal Story Structure
 

Once upon a time...

I.   I dreamt of accomplishing:  <fill-in-the-blank>
II.  I persevered through every obstacle in my way
III. Until I finally achieved: <fill-in-the-blank>

...The End


That is the structure. That is what makes the story work. You have to have all three sections.

Now imagine taking out the middle. All of the conflict. All of the perseverance. All of the struggle. Every bit of the journey. What are you left with? A boring story. 


A Story without the Middle
 

Once upon a time...

I.   I dreamt of accomplishing:  <fill-in-the-blank>
II.  I achieved <fill-in-the-blank> without lifting a finger

...The End


This, I am afraid, is how some want the story of their life to be written. They assume this truncated story structure would bring fulfillment, skip the conflict and get straight to the good part.

I submit to you that the good part, the great part, is the middle. It's the perseverance, the struggle, the character-forming stuff. 

By keeping the middle right where it belongs, you're saying yes to growth. You're saying yes to moments of discomfort even heartache. Don't forget that uncomfortableness is the indicator that lets you know you're growing.

"The best way out is always through."
– Robert Frost

See, even Robert Frost is with me on this. :)  Success is the whole story: beginning, end and that glorious middle.


Have you found this to be true in your life? If so, how? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

 

Comment

 

 
 

About Joshua Bailey

Serial Entrepreneur, Writer, Husband, Father of Three.
Encouraging others to grow each and every day.

 

 if you're a fan of pithy quotes & good reads FOLLOW ME HERE.