Going through the motions
Bart Leist, my high school football coach, said “Be intentional with your practice, don’t just go through the motions. Try to get better with every throw.”
I’m sure he didn’t make it up, but he gets the credit from me. I was a fifteen-year-old-high-school-quarterback punk the first time he said it. I said, “OK, coach.” I didn’t truly appreciate what he was saying back then. I was dumb.
Coach Leist was telling me to focus. He was telling me to pay attention to what I was doing. How often do we go through the motions? Think about your drive to work this morning. Did you turn on the radio? Did you daydream? Did you ‘snap out of it’ at some point and forget how you got to where you were? It happens to me all the time. I daydream about my day. Then, all of a sudden, I’m at work. I don’t even remember driving there. I just go through the motions.
It’s not a big deal when you’re just driving to work. It’s a big deal when you’re living your entire life this way. Are you just going through the motions in your life? Are you just going through the motions in your marriage? Are you just going through the motions in your parental responsibilities? Are you just going through the motions in your finances? STOP. Try to get better. Stop going through the motions.
Focus. Focus on your life.
Be where you are when you’re there
Chad Hemmelgarn, my high school English teacher, said “Be where you are when you’re there.”
This is the smartest way I’ve ever heard someone say ‘Focus’. Be where you are when you’re there. Stop. Soak it in. Be where you are when you’re there. It’s a mindset. Where are you right now? Physically. Where are you? Mentally, where are you right now? You’re hanging out with me, mentally. Not a bad choice, I’m really fun to hang out with.
I do this all the time. I’ll sit at my desk and think about the crap I have to do once I get home. I’ll sit in a meeting and think about the last meeting I was in. I’ll watch a movie with my wife and think about a needing to clean out the basement. I lose focus on what I’m doing. My mind leaves my body and goes somewhere else.
In all of these situations, I’m allowing other preoccupations to steal time from my life. I’m not being intentional. I’m not focusing on my life. I’m focusing on my past and my future. Focus is about the present. It takes a lot of will-power to focus on the present. To be where you are when you’re there takes willpower. It takes strength. It takes discipline.
You’re thinking, “How can I set myself up for success if I don’t thing about the future?” It all comes down to discipline. Focus on setting a goal- in the present. My goal is to retire in less than 20 years. Rather than daydreaming about what I’ll do when I retire at 50, I focus on the disciplines of today. I focus on building meaningful relationships. I focus on building an investment portfolio. I focus on succeeding in my job. Focus takes practice.
Tonight, when you get home. Hang out with your spouse. Hang out with your kids. Hang out with your friends. The entire time you’re hanging out, keep yourself mentally engaged. Be where you are when you’re there. This is step 1. Doing something fun and being there. It’s an easy step, but you’ve got to do it. Don’t scroll Facebook or Twitter while you’re there either. Don’t skip through channels while your wife tells you a story about her day (guilty… repeatedly). Be where you are when you’re there. Be in the moment. Focus on your life as it is right now.
Once you begin focusing on what you’re doing, you’ll begin to see a change in your life. Things will slow down for you… kind of like the moving Wanted with Angelina Jolie. Have you see that? It’s awesome. It’s 100% true though (not the movie, the fact that life with slow down when you live in the moment). Have you ever wanted time to slow down? Have you ever wondered how people around you are able to think of solutions to problems so much faster than you? The answer is Focus. They focus on the present. They keep themselves mentally engaged in their physical surroundings. Be where you are when you’re there.
Get 1% better every day
James Altucher, a serial-entrepreneur, author, hedge fund manager, millionaire, says “Get 1% better every day.”
You’ve passed step 1 of focusing on your life. Great Job. The next step is to get 1% better every day. Be intentional with your focus. Just like coach Liest said, be intentional with your practice.
Step 1 gives you a huge advantage on the rest of the world. You’re now able to see things faster than others. They’re distracted by what their wife is making for dinner. You’re not. You’re focused. You’re being where you are when you’re there. So you are already starting to see things open up. Time is slowing down. Now it’s time to get better. Why? You’ve already got a leg up on the rest of your co-workers. Complacency is the first step to failure. Get better.
How do you get better? Practice: Read, Learn, Try, Fail, Repeat. Do this every day. If you don’t fail at something then you didn’t try something newer. You didn’t try something harder. You didn’t try to get better. Get 1% better every day.
I really like this 1% idea. Here’s why:
I’m an accountant, but I’m not a CPA. Being a CPA would probably make me 25% better at accounting. I’m not trying to get 25% better today. I’m trying to get 1% better. So I’ll ask my boss a question about fixed asset depreciation schedules. He’ll answer and I’ll learn something. Then tomorrow, I might try to incorporate it into a financial model… most likely I’ll fail and he’ll yell at me. Then I’ll remember what I did and I’ll be better the next time. It’s a pretty crappy system, but I work where I work. I’m trying to get 1% better.
Sum it Up
When you start to focus on your life good things will happen. Your relationships will get stronger. Your work will improve. You’ll stop being dumb. Once you get the hang of focusing on your life. Once you begin to ‘be where you are when you’re there,’ you can focus on getting 1% better. You can zero-in on the issues in your life.
Focus on your marriage first. This is the most important relationship in your life. Be with your spouse when you’re with your spouse. How can you be a 1% better husband/wife?
Focus on your children next. Teach them. Learn from them. How can you be a 1% better parent?
Focus on your debt. Make your monthly payment 1% bigger. Get better at paying off debt. How can you get 1% closer to being debt free?
Focus on your current financial picture. Read the book below by Ramit Sethi. I just read it last week, and I’m already recommending it. Ramit is the king of money management. Check out his blog too: Ramit's Blog
When you focus on your life, you get to live it. This is what happens when you focus on your life.
If you made it this far, I appreciate you. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read every email… even spam (fine, not spam).