How I Solved My Sleep Dilemma

My struggle with sleep has been ongoing for some time although it went to a whole different level last year when I went full-time as a fitness professional.  My challenge has never been in going to sleep.  My ex-wife would say I could literally be talking one second and snoring the next.  The problem was with me staying asleep and waking up early…sometimes more than an hour before my alarm…and often hungry to the point that there’s no way I could go back to sleep.

I tried numerous sleep supplements and none made any difference.  One particular product from GNC gave me some pretty wild and crazy dreams.  Valerian Root was one of the key ingredients and it is known to cause “vivid” dreams.  Unfortunately it didn’t improve my sleep.

As a trainer, it seemed that my busiest days where I would often go over 10,000 steps on top of my personal workouts were followed by the earliest mornings in terms of me waking up hungry.  Clearly I wasn’t eating enough.  The challenge was where to add the extra food and how much.

A “busy” Saturday.

I’ve been lifting weights since high school and at 51 this year, I’ve spent the bulk of that time training in the early mornings.  As a result, I’ve always placed the majority of my carbs earlier in the day in my post-workout shake, breakfast, and lunch.

It is widely accepted that our bodies respond best to carbs in the hours immediately following a workout using them for recovery rather than storing them as “extra”.  Consequently, my afternoon snack and dinner have always been made up of lean proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous veggies…but little to no starchy carbs.

That used to work in that I had no issues with my sleep, however as the years passed by, the quality of my sleep diminished.  After talking with Keith Klein, my long-time nutritionist in Houston, TX, and Paul Kriegler and Jacob Webb, members of our corporate nutrition team with Life Time, I was definitely open to change.

All three collectively believed I was under eating in general given my level of activity and that I especially needed to add in more carbs at night.  They suggested that my low carb dinner was setting me up for low blood sugar during the night, and that was the cause for me waking up.  That all sounded great in theory and I made the changes they suggested. Unfortunately, in the short run, it didn’t really help.

And then, I found the answer…

Have you ever heard of the risk factors associated with blue light exposure?  Bottom line, we as humans are very sensitive to light.  Many years ago, before electricity, our daily schedule was largely driven by natural light.  When the sun came up, we got up and did our thing.  When the sun went down, bed time was soon to follow.

When the sun goes down, our body naturally produces more melatonin which is our sleepy-time hormone.  With the introduction of electricity followed by an ongoing proliferation of technology, our exposure and in many cases over-exposure to light in the evenings has steadily increased.  The blue light that comes from our screens including our phones, tablets, games, and TV’s is particularly damaging in that it can literally suppress the production of melatonin and ultimately alter our circadian rhythm.

Some positives…far more negatives.

If you’re basically glued to your screens right up until you go to bed, good luck with your sleep.  This doesn’t even include the stimulation to our brains from the very thing you’re doing with your screens in the first place.  This can only exacerbate the problem of not properly winding down before attempting to drop into a deep and sound sleep.

For me, learning about the effects of blue light and really light in general was life changing.  I was guilty both at night and in the morning for different reasons both with equally damaging results.  For years, I have been very much plugged into my screens in the evening which never kept me from going to sleep, however I would routinely wake up multiple times a night so clearly I struggled with staying asleep.

Waking up extra early in the morning was totally self-inflicted despite my best intentions.  Before I became a fitness professional, my career was in sales, and I would regularly set my alarm up to an hour early in order to workout before making it to an early morning appointment.  I probably did this to some degree several times a month for the past ten years or so.

In my research I found that exposure to blue light in the early mornings can actually reset your body clock.  Wow!  As a creature of habit, I always start the day with coffee, my bible, and my lap top.  So every time I got up early on purpose, exposing myself to the blue light from my computer and phone, I was slowly teaching my body to wake up earlier and earlier.

Then when I started working as a trainer last year, I was waking up early partially due to hunger and yet I would still start my day the same way…with my coffee, bible, and lap top.  Talk about a negative compounding effect.

To break the vicious cycle, I took drastic measures.  Thanks to the advice from my  nutritional advisers,  I finally figured out how much to eat every day to match my high activity level.  This pretty much solved being overly hungry even if I did happen to wake up extra early.

My blue light “blocking” strategy includes the following:

1 – Setting the “night shift” on my iPhone for 2.5 hours before going to bed.

2 – Downloading the F.LUX app on my lap top which allows you to customize the timing of it’s blue light blocking effect.

3 – Purchasing a pair of blue light blocking clip-ons for my prescription reading glasses.

GAMEKING Ultra Lightweight Blue Light Blocking Clip On Glasses

4 – For watching TV, cooking, and any other domestic activity, I purchased a basic pair of blue light blocking glasses.

Eight Sleep Blue Wave Glasses

5 – And finally, because my two desk lamps are LED (emitting blue light), I purchased an OLED desk lamp which I use strictly after 6PM until going to bed.  OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diodes and has ZERO blue light.

Ascend OLED Desk Lamp

The results?  My sleep has completely changed.  According to my Fitbit, the length and quality of my sleep has steadily improved.  Now after several months of putting the latter pieces into play, I pretty much sleep through the night sometimes with my alarm going off.

Trust me…that hardly ever happened in the past.  I’m not really sure why I ever set my alarm in the first place because it would never go off.  Now as crazy as it may sound to those who battle with their snooze alarms every morning, it’s almost a welcome way to start the day as it means I got a much needed good night’s sleep.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

For those of you using your cell phone as an alarm, these closing remarks are just for you.  Do yourself a huge favor and go buy an inexpensive alarm clock.   If your phone is close to your bed, whether you’re using it as an alarm or not, you will be compelled to check it.  Simply remove the temptation completely by leaving your phone somewhere outside your bedroom.

The worst thing you can do for your sleep is to check your phone during the night.  Your brain will light up like a Christmas tree and it will take some time for you to calm back down and get back to a deep sleep.  Trust me, social media or email or whatever can wait until the next morning.  It’s not worth the damage to your sleep which is vitally critical to your overall health and well-being.

 

 

Posted in better sleep, blue light risk factors, Diet, learning from mistakes, Nutrition, nutrition for better sleep, sleeping problems, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The 135 Calorie Solution

As a master fitness professional and nutrition coach, I find that many people struggle with snacking at night.  Two common reasons are habit and boredom while the third is a bit more insidious.  Controlling hunger is a huge key to successfully managing your weight and many people set themselves up to fail at night by under eating earlier in the day.

In my nutrition coaching sessions with new clients, the percentage that skip breakfast is typically high which often results in struggling with snacks and in particular sweets at night.  Those who skip breakfast inevitably seem to make less healthy choices later in the day with the culmination being to consume the largest portion of their calories in the evening.

Technically you can under eat for the day in terms of calories consumed and still end up gaining weight because you take in more than your body can handle in a short period of time.  Ever hear the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
Well, there’s a lot of truth to that statement and the benefits of starting with a solid breakfast are numerous according to oatsovernight.com:

  1. Having a solid breakfast will reduce your overall appetite throughout the day
  2. You will ultimately eat less throughout the day
  3. You will have better memory and improved cognitive performance (better thinking)
  4. You can help prevent type 2 diabetes
  5. You will weigh less with a lower risk of obesity and have healthier BMI measurements

So if the first step in managing hunger is to have a good breakfast followed by a solid lunch and dinner with 1-2 snacks strategically placed in between, then what about late night snacking?

A Blast From the Past…

Back in the late 90’s I used to have a small protein shake literally right before bed.  It wasn’t really a shake but simply a couple of scoops of whey protein with just enough water to mix it completely.  I would place this mixture in the freezer for a half hour or so and it would harden up to form a nice little frozen treat just before bed.

Fast forward to the present and I’ve learned that a better solution for a night time protein treat is not a fast absorbing whey but rather a super slow absorbing casein.  Another key to managing hunger is regulating blood sugar and casein is a much better choice because of how slowly is breaks down in the body.

Ever hear of the suggestion that you shouldn’t eat after a certain time at night?  That is about as random as saying everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day.  I don’t believe in cookie cutter solution or random absolutes.  How much you drink and what time you eat should be tied to the individual needs of your body and overall life schedule.

Last year I didn’t get off work until 8PM having my dinner immediately afterwards.  I would finish my meal by 8:30 at the latest and be in bed no later than 9:45.  That’s only 1 hour and 15 minutes between finishing my dinner and turning out the lights and my body handled that schedule very well.  I maintain single digit bodyfat year round so clearly eating after 6PM wasn’t hurting me.

No what you eat and how much does make a difference, but there’s nothing wrong with having a balanced and appropriately portioned meal later in the evening.  Further,  including a late night snack can make perfect sense if it fits your daily schedule and life style, and matches up with your overall daily caloric requirements.  In the case of the casein, it might actually help with your sleep because of better blood sugar regulation during the night.

The 135 Calorie Solution

One scoop of Optimum Gold Standard Casein has approximately 120 calories, 24 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fat, and 1 gram of fiber.  It comes in a variety of flavors with my favorite being chocolate peanut butter.  Mix this with a 1/2 cup of sugar-free almond milk plus a couple of packets of sweetener and you get a super thick protein pudding that taste pretty amazing.

 

Now you can eat as described above or as is my preference, throw the mixture in the freezer for an hour and then enjoy as a frozen treat.  For something so simple to make, it really is good and way better nutritionally than indulging in ice cream or some other high calorie snack food.

It’s really as thick as it looks…and it’s super yummy!!

I now have numerous clients that have added my casein protein pudding to their nutrition strategy with great success.  These are clients who used to struggle with unhealthy evening snacks who now rely on the casein as a much better alternative.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

If you currently struggle with snacking a night, take a look at your eating habits earlier in the day.  For my clients, having breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner is pretty much the bare minimum standard.  Ask yourself, “Am I eating because I’m bored, out of habit, or am I truly hungry”?

Only you can honestly answer these questions and then take the needed action.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an evening snack if it’s healthy and compliments your body’s daily energy requirements.  If you’re struggling in this area, I encourage you to reach out for help from a registered dietician or certified nutrition coach.  Life is too short to struggle with food and help from a qualified professional could make all the difference.

Best of luck in your journey.

 

Resources:

Optimum Casein via Bodybuilding.com

Optimum Casein via Amazon.com

Optimum Casein via Ultimate Sports Nutrition (In Dallas, TX)

 

 

Posted in better sleep, casein protein, Diet, Health & Fitness, late night snacking, Nutrition | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Swing the Axe!

From my perspective as a master fitness professional, one of the biggest challenges people struggle with is a lack of belief.  Those desiring weight loss especially tend to lack the belief that they can make the lifestyle changes needed and then stay on track long enough to reach their goals.  As a trainer, it is my responsibility to fill in the gaps where necessary and filling the belief gap is critical if clients are to ultimately take enough action to get sufficient results to start believing in themselves.

The following little analogy is from world renown leadership expert and my long-time mentor John Maxwell.  Here’s the set up.  You have a large tree in your back yard and I give you a brand new bright and shiny axe along with simple instructions.  Your task is to take 5 swings a day at the tree.  I’m not asking you to spend hours at a time…just 5 swings…every day.  My question is, will the tree fall?  Almost without hesitation, the answer that even my most extreme weight loss clients give is “yes”.

Bingo!  The answer is so obvious that regardless of how little belief the person has in themselves, they readily and logically feel that they can tackle the task of falling the tree…if they just persist long enough.  As soon as I get this answer, I immediately turn it back to them and reassure them that if they will treat their fitness goals the same way, their “tree” will fall as well.

There is tremendous power in consistent small steps taken daily in pursuing any goal.  Another question I ask is “what happens when you double a penny every day for 31 days?”  Most have no clue so they are shocked and usually a little disbelieving when I give them the answer.  Do you know?  The answer is $10,737,418.24.

Now here’s the catch.  The math is the same from day 1 to 2 just like from day 30 to 31 and it never changes.  It’s just simple duplication.  From day 1 to 2 you go from $.01 to $.02.  From day 30 to 31, you go from $5,368,709.12 to $10,737,418.24.  Again, the math never changes…the key is the daily action taken.

I teach my clients that their consistent efforts compounded over time will allow baby steps to add up to incredible and life changing results.  It doesn’t take huge extraordinary leaps of faith or action at any point.  Just take small, faithful, little steps…daily, and you can accomplish even the most seemingly impossible goals…including weight loss or whatever your goal may be.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

Jerry Seinfeld was once asked by an interviewer the secret to his success.  He gave credit to his wall calendar.  Confused, the interviewer asked for further explanation.  Jerry said in his early years with the television show Seinfeld, he set a goal to write every day.  Some days he wrote “crap” and some days “gold”.

Regardless of the outcome, if he completed his daily writing, he put a big check mark on his calendar for the day.  It became a game after some time where he had such a string of “X’s” going that there was no way he was going to break it.  The daily victory of being able to check off the calendar played a big role in his success helping to produce one of the most popular sitcoms ever.

Whatever you’re striving for, break it down to the most simple daily tasks.  And it really must be simple.  Best selling author Jim Collins said in “Good to Great” that if you’re pursuing more than 3 goals at any one time, then you’re just spinning your wheels.  You may have many goals overall, but you must discipline yourself to focus your energies on only a select few and then really give them your complete focus.

The sun shining down is simply warm but focus the light through the right type of lens and it will produce a laser that will cut through steel.  This is the kind of focus you need to accomplish your biggest goals.  And remember, it doesn’t need to be complicated.  In our penny example above, the action was simple daily duplication.  The key is to take consistent action over the long haul which will yield incredible results.

Best of luck in your journey.

 

Posted in attitude, Faith, goal setting, Health & Fitness, John Maxwell, leadership, life path, Nutrition, personal development, self talk, success, Uncategorized, weight training | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Journey Back From the Wilderness

On Sunday evening, November 19, 2017, I received a last second meeting request from my boss.  He apologized for the late notice asking that I clear my calendar for the next day and to meet him at the DFW Grand Hyatt Hotel at 10AM.  In an instant, I understand that I had just been fired.

My first two years with Workrite had been good and my business had generally ramped up.  I had a strong relationship with my boss and he had always been a great supporter of me.  My third year however had been slow and I knew my position was in jeopardy after a less than positive annual review just a few weeks prior to my dismissal.

The meeting was short and sweet and I was close to tears as my boss had become like a father figure to me.  After turning over my credit card, cell phone, and laptop, we parted ways.  He promised to be a reference as needed and we said our goodbyes.

As I drove home, my thoughts raced as to what would be my next move.  With Thanksgiving only days away, I made the decision to take the week to go and spend time with my family.  After the holiday break, I would then tackle the decision as to what would be the next chapter of my life.

Having spent 39 months working as a manufacturer rep for Workrite Ergonomics, my first choice was to pursue a reps position with another manufacturer.  Unfortunately while the DFW market is huge, rep jobs are hard to come by.  For the positive, I had my first connection and interview the week following Thanksgiving with one of the top manufacturers in the industry.  Ultimately, the position did not pan out.  That was one down.

Throughout my journey, I committed to maintaining my normal daily schedule of getting up at the same time, heading to the gym after my bible study, and being locked and loaded in front of my lap top by 8AM.  I figured if I wasn’t working for someone else, I could spend the same amount of time looking for a new job.

Between Thanksgiving and April, I interviewed with numerous companies both in and outside of the furniture industry.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would be possible to go without work for five months…almost to the day.  It wasn’t for a lack of effort.  One great example is a company where the time between the first and second interview was a whole month.  I was disqualified shortly after the second interview and lost 4 weeks from that one opportunity.

This same scenario repeated several times leaving me less and less hopeful.  Fortunately, I had been frugal with my savings and had a nice cushion to weather the transition.  While I was fine financially, it still left me feeling rather dejected every time I had to shift funds from savings to my check book.

My new office…

The happy ending to the story is that I accepted a new position with Life Time Fitness as a Fitness Professional on April 17th.  The rest of this post will share the thoughts and considerations that took me from pursuing another position in sales to following my true passion which is to serve people through fitness.

Most people have heard some version of the old saying that if you do what you love the money will follow.  That general idea has “haunted” me for years because I’ve spent the bulk of my working life questioning whether I was doing the right thing given my skills and passions.

Outside of my commitment to my faith and family, my dedication to fitness has been the most dominant passion in my life.  I had worked as a fitness professional for two brief periods where both times I ultimately left each job for all the wrong reasons.  An injury took me out the first time and a failed marriage engagement the second.  Under those circumstances, I was never been able to get it out of my mind that fitness was where I was truly supposed to be.

Author, speaker, and uber success guru Brian Tracy poses the question in his book “21 Success Secrets of $elf-Made Millionaire$“, “If you won $1,000,000 tax-free today, would you continue in your current career?”  The point is obviously about passion and I’ve asked myself that question countless times over the past twenty years.  With only two exceptions, my answer would always be no.  Those exceptions would have been during my two short stints working as a fitness professional.

To stay on the passion theme, leadership expert, John Maxwell says to find something you love enough to do for free, and then get good enough that people pay you “well” for doing it.  It’s the same idea as the Confucius quote above.  John also shared in his book, “Leadership Gold”, about a study of 1,500 business school graduates whose careers were tracked from 1960 to 1980.

The first group (83%) made the decision to make their money first and then spend the rest of their life enjoying themselves.  The second group (17%) pursued their passions trusting that their finances would ultimately work out.  After twenty years, it was determined that from the original 1,500, 101 became millionaires.  Oddly enough, 100 of those came from the passion first group and only 1 from the money first group.  There’s definitely a lesson there to be learned.

Author and speaker Jim Collins teaches on pursuing your passions with The Hedgehog Concept using three circles all overlapping in the middle.  The circles represent your passions, skills, and ability to make $.  The middle or sweet spot is where you really want to be and unfortunately most people do not live their work lives with this type of alignment.  My last job touched on elements of my passion for serving through fitness, but it was far from providing me with the vehicle that the fitness industry does for truly changing lives.

Now for the first time ever, I have the skills, passion, and one of the best companies in the fitness industry to harness and move into this next season of my life.  This actually gives me much-needed piece of mind because of the last two influences.

While most people are familiar with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, they may not know the story behind the story.  According to Wikipedia, Jeff graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.  He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994.  In late 1994, Jeff founded Amazon and the rest they say is history.

The take home point for me is the thought process Jeff used in determining to leave his cushy Wall Street career to found an online bookstore.  After sharing with his boss his plans for Amazon, his boss replied back that he thought it was actually a good idea.  He thought however that it would be a better idea for a guy who didn’t already have a great career.

After careful consideration including 100% support from his wife, Jeff broke the news to his boss that he would be leaving to start his “little” online book store.  He said the biggest driver was the fear of regret.  He said he didn’t want to stay in finance and look back many years later with thoughts of regret for never having given his Amazon concept a shot.  He could always get another job in finance, but didn’t want to live with any regrets for actions not taken.

My last motivation comes from my all time favorite book, The Bible.  In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus teaches on the Parable of the Talents.  For those not familiar, a wealthy master leaves his home to go on a journey.  He gives three of his servants, 5, 2, and 1 talent respectively.  The first two servants took what they were entrusted with and doubled their master’s original investment.  The third servant took his talent and buried it in the ground for fear of loss should he try to go out and increase the investment.

When the master returned, he praised his two servants who were faithful in doubling their talents.  The third servant however was punished because he didn’t even have the initiative to invest the talent in the bank to at least create a minimal return.  Verse 29 below is the one that’s always stuck in my mind…

“For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

God has given me gifts and abilities to serve people through fitness and I have felt for quite some time like the third servant.  It’s not that I haven’t helped people as an extension of my daily life both in and out of the gym, but to serve on a full-time basis is a different story.  So many times I’ve gone to the Lord in prayer asking where and how to best use the gifts He’s given me.  I believe God answers all prayers, however, in some cases, we have to be willing to step out on faith and trust in Him before he answers our prayers and blesses our efforts.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

I first contemplated a career in fitness back in 2004.  Now after 14 years of mental gymnastics, I’m finally where I should have been all along.  If there’s any advice I might offer, it’s this.  Life is not a dress rehearsal.  This is our one shot so make the best of it.  You don’t want to look back at the end of your life and have regrets for risks not taken.  It really is never too late to make a change.

Leadership expert John Maxwell wrote his first book in his 40’s.  Now at 71, he written in excess of 100 books selling many millions of copies.  I can only guess as John struggled to scratch out his first book called “Think on These Things“, that he would never have imagined selling millions of books in the years to come.  The key point is that he had to take the first step.  It is truly amazing how small steps, taken consistently, will compound over time to produce amazing results.

Never negotiate time as a price to achieve your dreams.  The time is going to pass regardless.  Only you can determine whether you make your dreams a reality or allow them to remain a fantasy.

Best of luck in your journey.

Special Tribute:

Throughout my time in the “wilderness” one friend above all others stood by my side and  encouraged me through my trial on a daily basis.  Joe was my voice of reason as I interviewed with each company.  Throughout the process, he knew fitness was where I should be and thankfully never let me forget about it.  He played a huge role in giving me the courage to pursue my true passion.

Joe & Dawn Pici

I can never begin to repay my friend and now mentor, Joe Pici.  Joe & Dawn are master sales trainers based in the Orlando, FL area and work with companies around the country helping them take their business to the next level.

Thank you Joe!

 

 

Posted in attitude, career change, Christian, Dawn Pici, Faith, Follower of Christ, Health & Fitness, Joe Pici, John Maxwell, learning from mistakes, life path, living your dream, personal development, spiritual gifts, success, the power of associations, Uncategorized, weight training | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Multi-Tasking Required

I’ve always believed that thin threads bring people into our lives and in the Summer of 2012, a friend gave me a CD that introduced me to Darren Hardy, who at the time was the Publisher of Success Magazine.  Darren is one of the sharpest guys on the planet and I’ve been studying and following his teachings to the present day.

In the Summer of 2016, I had the good fortune to see him speak in Dallas, TX at a Brian Tracy Success seminar.  As much as I appreciate Brian Tracy, I went to see Darren and he didn’t disappoint.  His talk on the “Productivity Secrets of Super-Achievers” was awesome and I walked away enrolled in his 12 week course called Insane Productivity.

Darren Hardy – Success Mentor to CEO’s & High-Performing Achievers

The course literally changed my life in how I structure my days and weeks and my thinking in general regarding success and high productivity.  Unfortunately, the course is only opened to the public periodically so if you ever have the opportunity, jump in and you’ll be glad you did.

Your best bet for staying up to date with Darren’s current promotions is to register for “Darren Daily”.  This is a free video program offered every week Monday through Friday  in the early morning.  The content is awesome and he regularly includes special offerings including a heads up on enrolling in Insane Productivity.

The following is just a small sample of some of the ideas I was exposed to during my involvement in the course.  I hope you enjoy…

Technology is changing our lives today faster than ever before in the history of the world.  We are living in exciting times and yet it can be pretty overwhelming with the new information we’re being bombarded with daily.  The world’s collective knowledge used to accumulate in a linear fashion, however in the late 80’s to early 90’s the progression became linear.

The result is that in the 21st century, we will experience 20,000 years of growth according to the renowned and brilliant scientist, Ray Kurzweil.  This means that for every year, we will experience 200 years of growth.  And it’s no wonder that we sometimes feel like someone pushed the fast-forward button on life.

Does this look familiar?

In defense of the hectic pace of daily life, many people have adopted the practice of multi-tasking as a skill and wear it like a badge of honor.  The truth is there is no such thing as multi-tasking.  You can strategically layer separate tasks and ultimately get two things done at once.  For example, you can work out on a piece of cardio equipment at your gym and listen to music or read at the same time.  However in its purest form, multi-tasking is simply impossible.

Don’t believe me?  Try this little exercise.  Count from 1 to 10 as fast as you can out loud.  Now say the letters of the alphabet from A to J again as fast as you can out loud.  Now  alternate numbers and letters 1A, 2B, 3C and ect all the way to 10J.  Did you notice the obvious slow down and drop in your pace?  It’s because you can’t run two cognitive processes in the same part of your brain simultaneously.

What you’re actually doing is “switching”.  And switching makes you dumber than if you’re stoned.  According to CNN, statistically your IQ drops 5 points when your stoned.  Switching drops your IQ by 10.  This is why it’s so dangerous to text and drive.  When you’re texting and driving, you’re not doing two separate activities.  You’re creating a whole new activity which makes you six times more cognitively impaired than when you’re legally drunk.  You are quite literally a lethal weapon.

So many people spend a good part of their day baked out of their minds.  Between driving or simply walking in public, it’s almost the exception to the rule now to see someone with their head up and alert to what’s going on around them versus having their eyes glued to their phone.  The following is a short and humorous video on this growing phenomenon:

(Click to Watch)

Speaking of, you do realize there is a serious and rising problem with people being addicted to their phones.  Consider the following questions to determine whether you may have an issue:

  1. When you first wake up in the morning, what do you grab first…your phone or your spouse?  Statistically in today’s world, the phone wins.
  2. Do you find yourself checking email or Facebook before going to bed?  How about in the middle of the night?  How about when you go to the bathroom.  Some people refuse to go to the bathroom without their phones.  Wow!
  3. Do you check your phone for new emails or texts even when you don’t hear an alert?Most people do and this is about as crazy as picking up a land line (that didn’t ring) and asking “Is there anyone there?”
  4. If you’re backing out of your driveway and realize you forgot your phone, do you go back to get it?  If you answer yes to this, you may have Nomophobia which is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason.
  5. Do you check your email on the weekends, while on vacation, at your kids sporting events, or any other social event?  Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and yet most people have become a slave to their technology and in particular their phones.

Pardon my little phone rant.  It’s just sad to see the progression and how disconnected we’re becoming as a population given the attraction to our electronic screens.  Our children are literally growing up handicapped in terms of developing healthy and natural social skills because of their over-reliance and dare I say addiction to their phones and social media in general.  Now back to multi-tasking.

So, if multi-tasking is impossible, what is the best way to get things done?  The answer is one thing at a time.  The highest achievers in the world are not attempting to multi-task.  Rather they focus on their highest priorities and work on them one at a time.  Now you may be thinking there’s no way I can do only one thing at a time because I have so many different task to accomplish each day.

That may be true however, you will still be far more productive if you batch common tasks and then schedule them…tackling one at a time versus switching back and forth.  Switching basically constitutes an interruption and it takes our minds 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain a state of deep concentration after being disrupted.  Avoiding distractions will probably be your biggest challenge in seeking to be more productive each day.

Depending on what you do, you really have to protect yourself from distractions.  Between technology and people, this can be difficult.  Your mind can only focus on one task to a high degree for about 90 minutes and then you need a break.  So if possible, schedule periods of high productivity each day with your head down and your blinders up.

Afterwards, come up for air and deal with the activities that don’t require the same level of focus.  This game plan of alternating periods of highly focused work with the inevitable social interactions required to function in most work environments can be very successful.

One related strategy to avoid multi-tasking and achieving high productivity is the art of delegation.  Depending on your position, you may have more or less ability to delegate, however, it is a vital tool for allowing you to focus on your highest producing activities.  One of the keys to delegation is to know your worth.  I don’t mean as a human being but what you literally bring to the bottom line per hour of work.

For example, if your salary is $100,000 a year and you work an average of 50 hours a week for 50 weeks with 2 weeks off for vacation, your hourly rate is $40.  Now the key to earning your keep and beyond is to consistently perform work worthy of $40 per hour.  Checking email or worse, getting sucked in the social medial black hole is far from being worth your going rate.  This is where you have to be extra vigilant in this day and age of constant social distractions coming at us from every direction.

One other element in the art of delegation is knowing your strengths.  You have to know your strengths and then fight like everything to work in areas that allow you to maximize them.  As much as possible, delegate task that are not related to your strengths and strive to stay in your strength zone.

In his classic “Good to Great”, Jim Collins teaches the importance of having the right people on the bus and then having them in the right seat.  This concept perfectly validates the idea of operating in your strength zone.  Whether you’re an employee or own your company, this strategy will ultimately bring about the highest good.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

If you’re open to what I’ve shared on multi-tasking and want to up your productivity, consider implementing the following simple steps:

  • Single Task – Batch your common activities and work in a more focused fashion rather than switching back and forth.  Strive to work proactively rather than always living in a reactive mode.
  • Given your individuals strengths, delegate (as much as your position allows) tasks that are not in alignment with your highest producing activities.
  • Schedule multiple periods each working day for heads down concentrated work where you shut out the world’s distractions.  Be sure to come up for air after 90 minutes because that truly is the human limit for sustained high level mental focus.
  • During your scheduled high productivity blocks, turn off the outside world including alerts on your phone and computer.  You will be far more successful at avoiding checking emails or texts when you don’t hear the alerts going off every few minutes.
  • Remember that your to-do list will never be empty so don’t try to get everything done.  Prioritize your activities and then work diligently on tackling the most important things first.

The following quotes from the late great Stephen Covey provide the perfect closure:

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”


Resources:

Darren’s site below includes the option to sign up for his free “Darren Daily” as well as accessing any of the other products and services his team offers.

darrenhardy.com

 

 

 

Posted in Darren Hardy, personal development, social media, success, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now I Know What it Means for ‘The Room to Spin’

My blog posts are always geared towards adding value to my readers however the following is a little unique given the topic.

In early November of 2017 I felt like my right ear was stopped up.  It was a combination similar to what you experience from flying or from having water in your ear from swimming.  With a history as a swimmer and given that I fly several times a year, these symptoms were not unusual.  However they are typically very short-term and so after several days of them not subsiding, I decided it was time to see my doctor.

On November 10, 2017 I went to my family practice doctor and actually ended up seeing his PA.  She is great and has helped me numerous times in the past with other issues and so I felt just as comfortable talking with her as I would with my doctor.  After describing my symptoms, and a brief examination on her part, she said you have an ear infection.

As a former competitive swimmer, I used to get ear infections all the time and they were always very painful.  She said this was a different kind of infection in a different part of the ear that didn’t really cause pain.  She said the solution was simple and prescribed ear drops that I would take for the next ten days.  This she said would knock out the infection and I should be good to go.

For my part the whole experience was pretty nonchalant.  The PA never mentioned any potential danger or risk from the infection and shame on me for not asking.  After completing the drops the symptoms had decreased but had not completely gone away.  In my mind the improvement meant I was healing and I didn’t think much more about it.

For Thanksgiving, I traveled to East Texas to my hometown of Nacogdoches to be with family. It was at my Mom’s home on Thanksgiving night where I had my first attack of Vertigo.  I had gotten up around midnight to use the bathroom which is only about twenty feet from the guest bedroom.  From the moment I got out of the bed and then as I walked the short distance to the bathroom, I felt like everything around me was spinning.

A scary feeling…

My Mom has a night-light in the bathroom that was zigzagging back and forth along with the rest of the room which was going in circles.  I fault an instant rush of nausea and started breaking out in a cold sweat.  Once I was back in bed, my mind was racing as to what was going on.  With the overhead fan on full blast, I pushed away the bedspread and used only the sheet for cover due to the bizarre way that I felt.

The haunted night-light…

After what seemed like forever, I dozed back off and woke up the next morning with no lingering effects.  How strange!  At first I thought it might have been a dream, but no, I was clear that it did happen.  I just didn’t know why and made no connection to my ear at that point.

After the first couple of weeks in December, the feeling of my ear being stopped up started to slowly return.  Then on December 28, 2017 I had my second attack of Vertigo in the early morning right after getting home from the gym.  I had already showered and dressed and was just firing up my computer in my home office when the nausea and dizziness hit me out of no where.

It was so bad that after picking at my breakfast, I went back to sleep in my lounge chair for most of the morning.  When I woke up around lunch time, the symptoms had subsided enough to be able to eat.  I then decided it would be best to go see my doctor.  For the negative, my doctor’s office is about 12 miles away with most of that being on the North Dallas tollway.  A flare up of the Vertigo while driving 70+ mph could have been interesting.

Ultimately the drive down was okay until about the time I hit their parking lot.  Then out of the blue, the Vertigo came back.  It was a cold day and I was wearing my overcoat and yet I had the AC on full tilt because of the nausea and cold sweats.  Walking in from the parking lot was a challenge as I was definitely impaired.  Anyone watching would have thought I was intoxicated because I was walking as if under the influence.

Normally there is very little wait, however that afternoon the waiting room was full of flu patients and the wait was two hours.  As bad as I felt, there’s no way I was going to wait that long and further expose myself to catching the flu.  I made an appointment for the next day at 4PM and then carefully made my way back home where I slept for most of the rest of the day.

My doctor was able to see me right away the next afternoon and quickly diagnosed that my ear infection had not gone away.  He gave me a steroid shot and prescribed a three-day run of antibiotics to treat the infection.  He also prescribed motion sickness meds to deal with the Vertigo.  The new treatment plan left me feeling hopeful as I headed to Costco to pick up my new drugs.  For what it’s worth, my doctor’s attitude was no different from that of the PA’s in that he didn’t mention any particular danger I was in due to the lingering infection.

The new meds did help and the motion sickness and the blocked feeling in my ear largely subsided…in the short run.  But, by mid-January the symptoms started coming back and so I called to make another appointment.  They were still slammed with flu cases and the earliest opening was on January 23, 2018.  Oddly enough, the night before my appointment, I had the next attack of Vertigo.

I had just showered and was about to cook dinner.  It was so bad that I literally had to force myself to cook and then only ate about half because of the extreme nausea.  Shortly after I went to bed hoping the sleep would help.

The next day my doctor prescribed one more shot and a double dose of antibiotics along with an additional prescription of Prednisone.  We agreed that if the new treatment didn’t help, I would need to see a specialist.  After the previous experience with the same meds, I was not feeling overly confident.  Further, I was not excited about taking Prednisone as it can have some nasty side effects.

Oddly enough, I felt fine the rest of the week until Saturday night, January 27, 2018.  At midnight I woke up with a another attack of Vertigo.  It was the worst by far and the feeling of nausea and the room spinning was almost more than I could stand.  Normally I charge my phone at my desk in my office right around the corner from my bedroom.  With my apartment spinning at full torque, I made my way to my desk to get my phone and then back to my bed using the walls and what ever else to keep my balance.

The Vertigo was so bad that I considered calling 911.  I’ve had knee and shoulder surgery and this was way worse than any pain I had dealt with before.  My mind raced with the ramifications of calling 911 at midnight and the potential ambulance ride to the emergency room.  Fortunately I chickened out and finally went back to sleep.  The next morning I felt better however pretty exhausted after the previous night.

Normally I work as a “sub” at my church during the Offertory as needed which is typically most of the time.  Even though I am only a sub, I still take the role seriously never mind the fact that I hate missing church to begin with.  Since I did feel better and my church is only a few minutes from my home, I decided to go.  I was needed and made it through the offering okay however I had my doubts considering the possibility of another attack of Vertigo.

The next morning, on January 29, 2018, I was at my doctor’s office early to get a referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  Fortunately they had an opening that same day right after lunch.  After sharing my story, the doctor did a hearing test.  The results showed that I had experienced roughly a 2/3’s loss of hearing in my right ear.  He said if I would have come to see him in the first few weeks after the symptoms started, he could have prevented the damage that had been done…which is largely irreversible.

Medical City Dallas

Further, he said there were two potential causes for my condition.  He said either a viral infection had attacked the nerve in my ear or I could potentially have a brain tumor.  The only way to rule out the tumor was to have an MRI…the sooner the better.  Mentally absorbing the combination of the hearing loss and the possibility of having a brain tumor was quite a bit to take all in the span of about 30 minutes.

Why didn’t my family practice doctor not send me to a specialist sooner?  I choose to take responsibility for everything in my life and yet the carefree attitude of the PA and doctor gave me no reason to be alarmed.  Shame on me for not asking more questions about the potential risk.  Unfortunately, none of that matters now.

The imaging center is located in the same building at Medical City Dallas as the specialist and they had an opening within 20 minutes of me walking in the door.  It was a double MRI because the second scan involved a contrasting dye which meant…oh joy…another shot.  Normal shots, I can handle.  IV’s and the like where the needle is left in your hand or arm SUCK!

Definitely NOT one of my favorite things…

One hour later, I was done and on my way home.  The MRI tech said the results would be sent to my doctor that same day and that I should hear from them soon.  It was a surreal drive home talking to my Dad.  I was disappointed with my hearing but pretty much in a state of shock about the potential for a brain tumor.  Brain surgery is not something on my “bucket list”.

The next morning the nurse called me from the specialist’s office and said right away “Great news!  You don’t have a brain tumor.”  Talk about a weight taken off my shoulders.  She did say the doctor wanted to see me in a month for a follow-up but otherwise, I was out of danger.  I asked about the Vertigo and she said the meds prescribed by my family practice doctor were the best under the circumstances.  At that point, with the previous Saturday night being only a few days past, I had my doubts with this plan however I agreed.

Since nothing had changed in my body from my perspective, I figured it was only a matter of time.  Fortunately, the Vertigo never came back.  To date, even as I write this post, there have been no further attacks.  When I did go see the specialist for the follow-up visit, he did a whole new round of hearing tests.  Surprisingly, my right ear had marginally improved from the previous tests.  The doctor attributed this and the lack of Vertigo to the viral infection finally running its course.

The downside is that I still have about a 50% loss of hearing in my right ear that will never come back.  Further, I have a constant ringing (tinnitus) which according to my doctor will also never go away.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

So now I am left with a permanent loss of hearing and a constant ringing in my ear.  If I would have known the potential risk of the original ear infection, I would have opted for the specialist from the very beginning.  I had no idea because the doctor and his PA treated my condition so casually.

While you obviously can’t control everything that happens to you in life, you always have a choice in how you respond to the positive and the negative.  I choose to accept responsibility for everything that happens to me for better or worse.  As soon as you blame outside forces for your circumstances, you give up your right to make change.

There is always silver lining in every adversity if you’re willing to look.  As a Christian, one of my life verses is 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

For me, if the only silver lining in one of life’s trials is that I can learn a lesson to better help someone else in the future going through a similar struggle, then for me, it’s enough.  At least this gives me something positive to focus on rather than simply dwelling on the overall negativity of a situation.

So in the spirit of the verse above, my silver lining given the journey with my ear is to encourage you to take care of yourself.  Take care of your health proactively and then be extra vigilant when an issue comes up.  Ask your doctor lots of questions.  Do your homework.  Get a second or even third opinion.  With the power of Mother Google available to most everyone, there’s no reason to not be educated to some degree on your illness and the track record of the physician you’re seeking help from.

Ultimately you have a huge amount of control over the state of your health.  Please don’t take this for granted.  It is truly a gift that can be taken away without notice.

Best of luck in your journey…

 

Resources:

Positive Health Wellness

 

Posted in ear infection, learning from mistakes, personal development, seeking wisdom, success, trials & tribulations, Uncategorized, Vertigo, wise choices | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Animal Personality Style?

In “Are You Facing Your True North”, I shared about personality styles in general including a variety of assessments available to determine yours.  My original intention was to write about the following however “True North” sort on took on a life of its own and so now I want to share about my favorite way of defining personalities based on the following animals:

  • Puppy Dog 
  • Cat 
  • Canary 
  • Gold Fish 

Like the popular DISC assessment, no one is 100% one specific style.  We’re all a blend of the four types which makes up seemingly endless combinations with each individual having his own singular and unique style.  When communicating, it’s critical that you not only understand your style but also recognize other people’s styles as well.  If you don’t, you might as well be speaking a foreign language to each other because your efforts in communicating can really fall short.

Puppy Dog 

Puppy Dogs crave words of affirmation or praise.  If you pat them on the head and tell them what a good boy or girl they are, they’re good to go.  They will love you, be loyal to you, and practically run through brick walls for you.

Note to employers:  Puppy Dogs require positive and constant feedback.  It’s not that you’re telling them something they’re not, but when they’ve done a good job, they need to hear about it.  If you want them to “burn the midnight oil for you”, be consistent in affirming their performance.  As with the other three styles, it’s not a matter of manipulation, you’re just giving them what they need based on how they’re wired.

A lack of affirmation or recognition can leave them feeling despondent and wondering what they’ve done wrong.  They will begin to doubt themselves and their ability and their  performance will suffer.  Be especially cautious in how you discipline a Puppy Dog.  By all means, call them out for their failure, but be careful to lift up the person.  Zig Ziglar was wise in his saying “Failure is an event, not a person“.  Puppy Dog’s need to be reminded of this in the scenario of a performance correction.

Note to wives:  For Puppy Dogs, a wife may have more power than any other person in their life.  Say the right words and they will do pretty much whatever you ask.  On the flip side, a harsh word from a wife can send a Puppy Dog scurrying away with his tail between his legs straight under the bed where it can take days to recover.

Again like in the scenario of a boss calling out a Puppy Dog for poor performance, it’s not a matter of not addressing an issue, it’s just critical that a wife go about it in the right way.  The Proverb “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” carries considerable weight in the case of a wife scolding a husband.  By all means call out the poor performance, just be sure to remind the man of how much you love him.

Cat

Cats crave physical touch.  There is power in physical touch in general and you can find examples of this in all areas of life.  The reassuring hand of a coach on a young ball player’s shoulder when he’s next up to bat can make all the difference in his performance.  In days gone by, business agreements were solidified with a simple handshake.  Well, for a Cat, touch is oxygen for their soul.

Note to couples:  Cats want, need, crave, and desire physical touch.  In contrast to a Puppy Dog, all the praise in the world from one spouse to the other will fall on deaf ears if the recipient is a Cat.  And this doesn’t necessarily always mean sex.  Holding hands or a hand on a knee or an arm around a shoulder or just sitting close can be all that’s needed.  Without it, the Cat will feel isolated and ultimately not loved.

Canary 

A Canary needs quality time.  In contrast to a Gold Fish, all the acts of service in the world will mean nothing if quality time is lacking.  A Canary simply needs you to be with them.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Something as simple as a walk in the park holding hands (if there’s some Cat in their style) can more than satisfy a Canary.

Note to couples…and to Men in particular:  When you get home at the end of the day and your wife is a Canary, your best bet whether she’s had a great day or the worst day ever is to “let her sing”.  If she’s had a hard day, she’s more likely looking for a shoulder to rest her head on and share her story than for you to come in and play superman and seek to save the day.

On the flip side, if she’s had a great day and you have as well, don’t make the mistake of topping her story with yours.  It’s not that you don’t share, but definitely let her go first and you might even consider waiting until later to share of your exploits.  Let her have her moment because this is what a Canary needs.

Men, if your wife is a Canary, you could wash the car, take out the trash, mop the floors, pick up the groceries, and any other random household chore but if you fail to give her quality time, you will completely miss the mark.  It’s not that she won’t appreciate your acts of service or words of praise or touch, it’s just not her primary communication style and she will be left feeling unfulfilled in your relationship.

Women, if your husband is a Canary, he needs you to be involved with him in activities outside of your core relationship.  You may not care much for a particular sport, however if you husband is a fan, then attending a game with him or simply watching one on TV will thrill him.  He will always have his buddies to pal around with but none of them can come  close to touching his heart in the way you can by spending time with him in an activity he loves.

Gold Fish

Gold Fish crave acts of service.  In a literal sense, they’re really not into touch and they won’t listen to your words of praise anyway.  Just keep their tanks clean and feed them and they’re great.

My Mom is a Gold Fish and she has one of the greatest servant’s heart of anyone I’ve ever known.  She loves people the way she craves to be loved.  She appreciates quality time and words of affirmation will certainly make her smile, however a simple thing like a greeting card for no apparent reason will mean more to her than most anything.

Note to men:  If your wife is a Gold Fish, then her “Honey Do” list is your ticket to happiness.  She still needs to hear “I love you” and quality time together is essential, but if you want to hit a “home run”, be a champion in helping her around the house.  If you really want to score big, do things proactively without her always having to ask.  And…be sure to give of yourself because you love her and because it’s the right thing to do…not because you’re looking for anything in return.

Note to women:  While I’m a huge believer in men and women sharing responsibilities around the home, if your husband is a Gold Fish, this is truly an opportunity to turn house hold chores like washing and folding clothes into a labor of love.  It may not seem like that big a deal, but to him, it really is.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

For effective communication to take place and for meaningful relationships to exist, you must not only know your style but also understand the styles of the other people in your life.  People’s default way of “showing love” to others is to express their love in the way they are wired to receive love.  Hopefully you can see now how this doesn’t work very well.

If you’re a Puppy Dog and your wife is a Canary, all your words of affirmation to her will completely fall on deaf ears.  She needs your time.  To truly be an effective communicator, you have to seek to “love” others in the way they are wired to receive love.  Only then can you foster and develop the strongest and most enduring relationships.

 

 

Posted in affirmations, communication, love, personal development, personality styles, success, Uncategorized, Zig Ziglar | Tagged , , | Leave a comment