Connect Around a Common Interest

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

~Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I had 2 opportunities this week to talk with people who were as excited as I was about a common topic.  The first opportunity centered on a software tool called QlikView.  The other was around the area of personal development.

In both cases, there was an excitement as we discussed our common interest.  Ideas were shared, questions were asked and answered, problems and setbacks were discussed, and suggestions for improvement were provided.   I loved the exchanged because I felt like I was not only heard, but I got to give value to the other people, as well as receiving value from them in return.  Those exchanges were highlights of my week.

It reminds me how important it is to spend time with people who are on the same path as me, in an area where I want to improve.  Some of the benefits of doing so include:

  • Being exposed to new thoughts, concepts, and ideas
  • Deepening your understanding of the topic
  • Sharing what you’ve learned with others
  • Being able to ask questions to someone who can potentially help you or point you in the right direction
  • Making connections with people who share a common interest
  • Increasing your network
  • Hearing what other people are working on, struggling with, or discovering in the same area as you
  • Feeling like you’re on a journey with others instead of being isolated and traveling alone

Those conversations this week were very rewarding, and left me wanting more interactions just like those.  I’ll certainly be looking for similar opportunities, only at a higher frequency per week.

Be on the lookout starting today for opportunities to connect with others around a common interest.  Not only will you have fun discussing it with someone else, you just may have the knowledge and experience someone else needs to hear in order to get unstuck.

This is What Discipline Looks Like

I used to play the drums when I was in high school.  Although it was fun to sit at my drum set and play, I was never very good.  What held me back was my unwillingness to put in the disciplined practice to master the fundamentals and hone my skills.  Eventually, I gave up the  drums to pursue other interests.  Looking back, I wish I would have stuck with it and been disciplined in my practice.

Since I’m familiar with drumming, I’m always interested in watching really good drummers perform.  Earlier this week, I came across a video of a performance by Neal Peart, the drummer for the band Rush.

This guy is awesome!  When I first saw the video, I was amazed at how easy Neal made playing the drums look.    As I continued watching, it became apparent that he has also spent thousands of hours mastering his craft.  He was obviously both willing and disciplined to pay the price to achieve mastery. His performance was a striking example of what the results of discipline look like.

Is there a craft or skill that you want to master or hone?  If so, realize that it will take time and effort.  However, most important, if it’s something you really want, commit yourself to its disciplined pursuit.  Be willing to put in the time required.  Neal Peat didn’t become an excellent drummer in a single day.  Neither will you achieve mastery of your craft in a single day either.  Like most things that are worthwhile, it will take time.

Be willing to put in the time.

Be Curious

A couple of weeks ago I went to listen to a lecture by Brent McGregor, a photographer and ice cave explorer who has done significant work on Oregon’s Mt. Hood.  I expected to learn a lot about ice caves on Mt. Hood, which I did, but I was surprised by what, for me, was the biggest take-away from his talk.

His lecture was extremely interesting, and the pictures and video he presented were breathtaking.  What was most interesting to me however was that Brent came to ice-caving later in life, and has been able to have significant impact on ice cave research and exploration in such relatively short time.

This encourages me, because I’m reminded that no matter our age, we still have the capacity to be curious and interested in new things.  We also have the ability, and privilege, to pursue those things that interest us.

Fortunately, there is no age where we are no longer allowed to be curious or interested.  The only limits to our curiosity are the ones we place upon ourselves.

Go out and be curious.

The Clairity from Writing it Down

I’ve recently got back into the habit of daily journaling and have been amazed at the positive impact this discipline has on me.

When I journal, I often write about improvements I want to make in my life and what I’m’ currently struggling with or working toward.  The exercise of giving thought to a topic and spending several minutes putting these thoughts on paper give me the following:

  • Clarity of direction
  • New ideas
  • A way to process and organize my unformed thoughts

When I don’t journal, I find I only spend a few brief minutes each day thinking about what I’m working on, pursuing, or struggling with.  This brief, unfocused thinking always leaves me void of any real plan or direction I can take to make progress in that day.  However, when I journal, especially in the morning before the day gets started, I gain a clarity about whatever issue I’ve written about, but more important, I feel energized and eager to jump in and get the day started.

If you’re considering the practice of daily journaling, here are 3 suggestions that I find helpful:

  • Pick a consistent time every day. Do mornings work best for you or evenings before bed?  Perhaps around lunch time works best.  It doesn’t matter at all what time you journal.  What does matter is that you find a time that you can commit to as much time as you need to journal, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour.  Find what works for you.
  • Find a journal that you like the feel of. This may seem like a funny thing, but the journal you right on must “feel” right.  Does it fit well in your hand or on your lap?  Do you like pages with lines or blank pages?  Do you prefer a spiral binding, a yellow note pad, or leather bound journal?  I prefer a smaller size page (because it feels like I write more) and I also prefer a journal that lays open nicely.  It doesn’t matter what your preference is, as long as your journal feels right for you.  It should be something you want to spend time with.
  • Write about topics that interest you. I mentioned above how I like to write about what I’m working on our struggling with, but that doesn’t have to be what you write about.  Maybe you want to write about what you did that day, or keep a list of ideas, or record significant events.  Perhaps you just want to write about whatever is on your mind.  Those are all great topics! As long as you’re writing about something that is interesting to you, you’ve got the right topic.

Of these suggestions, I think that finding a consistent time to write is the most important to maintaining consistency.

If you want to increase the clarity of thinking,  make significant progress toward achieving your goals, or just be more mindful of what direction you’re leading your life, I suggest giving journaling a try.  Your writing doesn’t have to be eloquent, flowery or even grammatically correct.  It just has to be a written expression of whatever is on your mind.

Does it Really Matter

Does it really matter if today you:

  • Exercise or go to the gym
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Zone out in front of the TV all night instead of doing something more productive
  • Hold a grudge
  • Spend time improving yourself through reading and study
  • Neglect the most important relationships in your life
  • Complain about things that aren’t going well in your life

My response is, no.  In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you did one or all of those things today.  In fact, I would even argue that it likely wouldn’t matter much if you did or didn’t do all of those things for a whole week.

But eventually, it will matter.

Suppose you want lose a few pounds and be healthier, so today to start eating better and exercising.  At the end of today, after you’ve eaten well and exercised, are you going to notice a significant difference?  Will you be healthier and at your desired weight?  No, you won’t.   You’ll look the same as you did the day before.  It’s likely you won’t even notice much of a difference after a week.  This is a point where people become frustrated, and often give up on a long term goal; when significant results don’t immediately follow effort.

However, if you stick with your plan to eat well and exercise every day, after 365 days, you’re going to notice a big difference.  At the end of the year you will undoubtedly look and feel much different, and better, than you did 365 days ago.

Now suppose at the end of 365 days of sticking with your plan I was to ask you, “So which day out of the last 365 days caused you to achieve the results you’re enjoying today?”  You might say it was the day you decided to take action, to which I would absolutely agree.  But if I pressed, to know which specific day’s effort made all the difference, your answer would be:  they all did.

Likewise, suppose you’re in good shape and living a healthy lifestyle, but you decide to skip working out today and also to eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.  Will this day totally ruin your health?  No.  If you return to your healthy lifestyle tomorrow, will this one day’s activity even make a dent in the big picture of your health?  No, it won’t.  But, if you continue this habit for 365 days, you’ll also see significant results in the deterioration of your health.

It’s the compounding effect of our consistent actions that yield results in our life, both positive and negative.  This compounding is at play shaping all areas of our lives:  health, relationships, career, personal development, finances, and attitude.

Is there any area in your life where you’d like the compounding effect to work for your benefit to achieve results you’re looking for?  If so, begin by following this simple checklist:

  1. Think about the change you’d like to make, and what your life looks like as a result of this change.
  2. Determine the actions you need to take today to achieve your desired result.
  3. Take those actions.
  4. Go through all 4 steps in this checklist again tomorrow.

We’re all building something with our lives, and the compounding effect is a significant principle that will yield powerful results, both positive and negative.

So decide today to put the compounding effect to work for you by providing consistent actions that will yield the results you’re after.  And if you mess up or miss a day, don’t be too hard on yourself, and certainly don’t give up as a result.  Just recommit the next day, and get back to providing the consistent effort that will be rewarded by the compounding effect; because it really does matter.

The Secret Ingredient

I believe there is a not-so-secret ingredient to achieving results in any area of your life.  Before I share this not-so-secret ingredient, let’s first review the other necessary ingredients in the proven formula for achieving results:

Vision + Knowledge + ? = Results

The first 2 components of the formula make sense, right?  Without a vision of the result you want, it would be challenging to even know where to begin.  We must first know where we’re going (know the result we seek) before we can move toward its achievement.

Likewise, we must also possess the knowledge required to achieve the results we want.  A vision will only prove frustrating if we lack the requisite knowledge for its attainment.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is the secret ingredient you say I need in order to achieve results?”  The complete formula for achieving results is:

Vision + Knowledge + ACTION = Results

Does that secret ingredient leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Were you perhaps expecting something more exciting and grand?  The truth is, any results or success we seek only come through the disciplined and consistent application of action.  We’re not talking about action that fills our time and causes us to appear busy, but rather specific actions that move us closer to our desired results.

Very often, this is the step that trips people up.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the necessary action we should be taking to achieve the results we want.  We simply need to be courageous enough to take the action we already know we should.  We need to cause something to happen.

What results are you trying to achieve that could use a healthy dose of necessary action?  You probably already know what action you need to take.  So… when will you take it?  Today would be a good day to start.

Don’t delay.  Results await!