1 Reason You Suck at Your Job

Are you scared of losing your job? If so, you are going to suck at it.

Fear, while an important motivator in life, is a paralyzing factor when it comes to your daily work life (and other aspects, just talking work right now).

Fear is an unpleasant emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing. -wiki

Do you say statements such as “If I lose my job I don’t know what I would do”?
If so, you are backwards with your current mindset on what actually creates value for both yourself and your employer. In essence you have broken down your work to be:

work = Maslow’s 2nd Level 

If/when operating at the 2nd level you will be both myopic and miserable because you will not be able to see beyond yourself. Sure you may have a mortgage, spouse, etc to account for…however this only enhances your fear.  Fear will never produce a good work in you nor by you, rather only a selfish survival.

When you are selfish you are – > Unaware of others needs = Unable to proactively think on behalf of employer/customer/other = No Value

Sure you may keep your job because you are so skilled at survival you keep it….but you will still suck at it, and it sucks to suck.

Choosing Not to be Lame

Everyday I feel that I wake up ‘lame’ rather than vibrant, engaged, and ready. That just me?

Thus, each day I must wake up twice. Once from my sleep and again from my lame stupor. The earlier the 2nd awakening happens the better it is for me and all those who I come into contact with. If I am honest, somedays I don’t even wake up from my 2nd sleep. I carry my ‘lame’ self around fooling many of those around me. I cheat them when this happens.

I know I am being lame when:

  • I am being an asshole – I am consumed with self
  • Unable to think quickly – I am not engaged
  • Uninterested in all things – I am not seeing the bigger picture

To wake up I attempt to practice the following disciplines/activities:

  • Meet with someone first thing – Immediately I need to engage with someone in the real world, rather than crawl into my office/cube stuck with my own thoughts
  • Go for a run or hit the gym – Exerting effort and struggling helps me break the spell
  • Read and write – Helps me process and ask bigger life questions

This was on my mind today because I woke up lame. I didn’t really wake up until later in the day. I hate being lame. Hate it! I must choose the above disciplines/practices daily in order not to be lame daily.

Are you h(app)y?

We are a people addicted to the ‘new and nuanced’. This is not necessarily a negative assertion of who we have become because it’s who we have always been. Our wonder and amazement for such things is wired in. Whether staring at the latest gadget or gazing at the Swiss Alps, all of it brings intrigue.

With the rate today’s technology is cranking out the latest ‘new and nuanced’, you have to wonder if the intensity is too much for us to handle. Never before have we been inundated with so many intriguing things. Technology, by its very nature, is always changing, and when paired with the natural state of humans, can be very dangerous to our personal welfare. Is technology fostering a shallow sense of happiness for those who wield its power to meet their need for the ‘new and nuanced’? I believe it is.

Modern technology and our humanness is a perfect recipe for producing shallow individuals who lack deep-seeded knowledge about anything or anyone due to a burgeoning impulse to discover the next thing. While discovery is good, so is the need to explore that discovery further. You might say that the deep-seeded enjoyment of something can only be had after exploring it, sitting in it, resting in it, struggling in/through it. However, in today’s world, rather than patiently pursing such ends, we move on to the new. Our wonder has a shelf life comparable to the average YouTube clip.

So, what to do?

Here are a few tips just in time for the holiday season- one of the times we get most inundated with the ‘new and nuanced’:

  • Understand what technology is and does to you individually at a fundamental level. While technology is a great tool and makes for some great gifts, it can also be a weapon (in more ways than one). Don’t let it rob you of deep-seeded knowledge and enjoyment of life.
  • Even in the midst of the holiday craze, take time to sit and think about what you are learning, what you want to dive deep into, and how to go about doing that. The beginning of a new year is a great time for setting new goals and forming new habits!
  • Explore your discoveries! Let yourself sit, rest, and struggle and resist the urge to move onto something new right away. Enjoy where you are right now.
  • If you have a hard time thinking about such things,turn off your technology for a few days (not hours), pick up the paper and pen (older technology) and go to town. It’ll be well worth your time!

The Popular Version of Marriage

Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate “relationship” involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now take the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the “married” couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.

-Wendell Berry, from “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine”


on Running Hills

Hills are speed work in disguise -Quote from Born to Run

I have always dreaded the up-hills until I read this quote. This doesn’t mean I go gleefully into each hill along my run but it does mean I weather them with a new perspective.

I have never wanted to be a better hill runner. I HAVE wanted to get faster. Hills are now a welcome part of my run.

So this analogy spills over into all of life &  I don’t need to apply it for you.

“As Is”…Your working assumptions are failing you

We presume certain aspects of life will keep working as is. Simply and logically entropy will not allow ‘as is’ to exist truly as it does in our imaginations and in our mental models. We often forget nothing is static. ‘Keeping things simple’ won’t save you. Living on a plot of land in BFE won’t save you. Your valiant attempt to be a stoic won’t save you.

I have caught myself saying ‘If everything stays as is we will be fine…..this applying to family finances, health, business etc…you get the point…but we don’t get the point. Nothing stays as is, its a farce. Yet we continue to make decisions with the ‘as is’ assumption. Perhaps you do not fall victim to this as I do…but for those who do here are a few working examples I am processing as of late that help me shape the rut of ‘as is’.

I do well personally assessing many angles and to make sure I understand all the ways something can go right or wrong. While I can’t possibly consider all angles it helps being more firm in my position to do something especially if you have people counting on you such as family or employees. Also, this is a thought gauntlet you should go through annually at the least, quarterly at the most….not often in other words but likely more often than you are doing currently.

  • Finances – Lets say you are wanting to buy a new house:
    • Does this plot of land increase/decrease my ability to find a job that fits my skill sets in the years ahead? IE I am a sales person/tech person….does this put me in proximity of more or less opportunity? I am a farmer…does this put me in more/less opportunity?
    • Is my ability to afford this house dependent on 1) my finances improving 2) staying flat 3) can it sustain some degree of financial loss?
    • Does my spouse/partner also need to work to afford this house?…if so, this inserts more risk/questions.
    • Should my health suffer…what protections do I have in place to continue to stay in this house? Insurance to hedge against that risk.
    • If I knew this house were to decrease in value by X% over the next 10 years would I still be ok with this decision?
    • Is this area becoming more or less susceptible to sector setbacks? IE land has a variety of uses allowing it to better weather varied economic times….IE employers in difference sectors, mixed use retail in the area, etc
    • What % of my take home pay is going towards the house?
      • 28% of your income before taxes is the lenders rules…but that to me is too risky….bc thats likely 35% of net if not more.
      • 25% of after tax income is about where you should be
      • 25% of after tax income with taxes and insurance is ideal.
      • So math given the above for an 80k/yr (assuming AGI of 55K)….
        • Risky: $1,900 for house/rent
        • Fine: $1,400 for house/rent
        • Ideal:  $1,400 all in for house/rent + property taxes + insurance
        • Given the scenarios above you basically live in 2 different houses based on what you choose
  • Company or Job – You are an employee (IE don’t own the company, not on the cap table) and want to make sure you are thinking through your options well.
    • At any point a public or private company is for sale….meaning everything could change overnight
    • New boss or CEO? Is this an opportunity or a threat to you?
    • A new law that increases/decreases the market and/or the opportunity….i have heard of medical reps losing their job/comp levels after health care stuff went into place over the last decade.
    • Is your resume up to date? Always have a version that is no more than a year behind…this is not being un-loyal, this is making sure you are ready to go should something bad/not ideal happen
    • In the above vein, how is your local network of people who can connect you to the next opportunity? Having no opportunities is a bad proposition for you and your family. (How to keep a local network/pipeline going? That’s a different blog)
    • Your product/service is thriving/dated….what next? Double down or exit stage right?

This exercise can be stressful and i encourage you to go through it and report findings to your spouse (if you have one) and at least 1 friend.

Dumb down your smart-phone!

Why would you do such a thing? Modern man has achieved much in recent history. One of man’s major achievements as of late, for the lack of better terms, is creating the cure for boredom. That’s right – boredom.

Thanks to our smart phones (along with tablets, other hand helds, etc.) the modern man no longer has to fret with nothing to do. There is always an app close by, another email to read, a bill to pay, an Angry Bird to save, and the list goes on and on with what’s at your fingertips. While there is much to be thankful for about the ‘productivity’ in our hands, there is also something to worry about – the demise of boredom.

Boredom, as I see it, is free space to think, wonder, and roam the world between your ears. I do not define boredom as having nothing to do, but rather having everything to do. I believe the individual needs this time for overall health, sanity, and clarity. Humans have always had a component of boredom in their lives, but only recently have we had an option to opt out of being bored. I would argue that our minds are not able to handle the current degree of stimulation that we face day in day out, thus depleting our overall ability to be creative, strategic, thoughtful, engaged, and so on. If our brains were likened to a city’s infrastructure, I’d say there is too much traffic – thus smog, wrecks, and the general annoyance that comes from traffic is pervasive in our brains.

So getting back to the title of the post, dumbing down our smart phones (I could say “smart devices” but it doesn’t have the same punch) is our ability to know when to say “when” and limit our ability to rid our lives of boredom. We need to recognize boredom as a central tenet that allows other mental ascents to bloom.

What are some ideas on how to do this?

This, of course, depends on your personality, so the below is what I have found suits me best. My guess is you won’t like it. Neither did I….at first.

Limit yourself to 2 pages/screens of applications:
You and I both know that you pretty much use the same apps over and over. Some of these get you out of a jam and some of the others you have on there just because they came on the phone or for novelty’s sake. Get rid of the apps you don’t use or that are simply a novelty.

Turn off YouTube
Yes, I said it. It’s like having America’s Funniest Home Videos in your pocket – and while this may make you laugh it doesn’t make you a better human being and/or more productive.  For some reason I always find myself watching soccer highlights – not ones from last night, but amazing plays. I don’t play soccer, I don’t care about soccer, and if you have seen me try to play, it’s a joke. Simply put, it’s a waste of time.

Games, really? Grow up!
Games are the ultimate enemy of boredom. It’s all novelty…if you argue with me on this, it’s going to be laughable logically so just save your breath.  There is no point besides ‘vegging’ and escapism. Angry birds, Words With Friends, Flick Home Run, all of them are dulling you as an individual.

News no more (on your phone/device that is)
When was the last time you read the news? Did you go about your day any differently because of what you read? The information is largely un-actionable, thus to keep checking the news on your phone/device is meaningless to your day’s productivity. Yes ‘news’ has an aspect of value but I am sure you will be fine without it on your phone.

Last but not least…shut down your BROWSER!
Gasp. Breath. Breath.
You mean to tell me after you sit on your computer for roughly 8+ hours a day you ‘need’ a browser on your device? If you live in B.R.I.C. (Brazil, Russia, India, China) this does not apply to you. However in the states, aren’t you tired of being on the web? I know it can seem that being at your 5 year old kid’s soccer game or stuck at your spouse’s 3rd cousins house for a once a decade dinner is not as fun as checking your neighbors Facebook page from your phone but take a break. Chill.

So how do I dumb down my SmartPhone? Use Restrictions

Have a friend/spouse/co-worker lock the parts of your phone that you deem a waste of your time. This just makes sense due to the ‘present bias’ we have towards immediate pleasure, which, in this case, means curing our boredom. Have them use a code (that they won’t forget) to unlock the phone when you need to run updates, download a new business app, etc. Immediately have them lock it back and thank them for doing so.

Sound dumb?
*Written by a novelty addict btw…painfully aware of my addictions.

Creating urgency

I am one of those has-been types. Basically a person who excelled in sports at an early age, developing a very competitive spirit early in life, and can’t quite live up to the hype they have in their head. I peaked when I was 13 sad to say. All the other kids hit puberty and all I did was hit my awkward years. However, what I have left is the need for competing – what does that look like today as a ‘jack of trades’ in a white collar job?

I have identified the common denominator as urgency. Urgency in sports looks different than it does in sales/marketing/hr/etc but none the less triggers a mechanism that I personally enjoy. Where I have no urgency I tend to have apathy. I hate myself when I am apathetic, in all areas of life – not just business.

Examples of creating urgency:
-Challenge someone to a weight loss competition, put real $ or time on the line
-Tell people on your team that you will have X done by Y date, post it to a discussion board, have people depend on you, so that if you don’t get it done you FAIL someone.
-Rob yourself of conveniences until you accomplish X
-Schedule an appointment before you have done the work, thus you must get it done by a certain date
-Have a party at your house so that you actually have a reason to clean it