I know a guy who, when searching for a book to read, can spend hours being overwhelmed by Amazon’s selection. He finds a book he thinks he’ll enjoy but then goes down the Amazon Rabbit Hole only to come out an hour later having one-clicked three times. The books often sit on his shelf, half-read and not even partially digested.
I know a guy who has spent more time reading about working out than actually working out. One month he thinks he wants to be leaner, so he alters his diet and exercise approach in an attempt to become cut. The next month he watches a movie in which the main character has clearly lifted weights and packed on muscle. This inspires him. So, he spends the next month eating and working with the hope that he too will become jacked up or swole as the kids these days like to say. Thing is, at no point does this guy every become cut, swole or jacked up. In fact, oftentimes he gives up halfway through the month because he didn’t see immediate results.
I know a guy who is always wanting to learn new skills. He once downloaded an app designed to teach him Spanish in just 15 minutes a day. He is still monolingual. Then one week he thought it’d be great to learn how to take better photos. He had a cool camera from his brother-in-law that just needed a new battery. He did a little research online and was able to order the battery on Amazon. The camera has been sitting in the back of his desk drawer for the past month.
I know a guy who …
Let me cut to the chase.
The guy is me.
I have a problem. I often become overwhelmed with too many choices. I try some of this, a little of that and in the end, realize that I have gained very little and accomplished next to nothing. It’s not the shiny that distract me, it’s the many. It’s frustrating. I mean well. I really do. But this keeps happening.
Not this summer. I have come up with a plan, actually I am borrowing ideas, that I believe will help me accomplish more and focus better so that when I look back at the summer of 2019, I will feel good. In fact, I think this is not just going to be a summer thing. I expect I will continue with this plan throughout the year.
Last month I read an article by Ryan Holiday titled Crowdsource Your Reading List From People You Admire. His words came at just the right time for me. I had been all over the place with my reading. As I mentioned earlier, just picking books that caught my attention. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. It was getting me nowhere fast.
But Ryan’s approach has.
In his article he explains how he often chooses the books he reads. Ryan asks people who he admires or have influenced him, to recommend a book that has greatly impacted their life. I thought this was brilliant and it would save me a lot of time. Last month, I asked a good friend for a title of a book that has profoundly impacted his life. He gave me the title of a book that I would have never chosen on my own; The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Just this morning I finished reading the book. It helped me better understand my friend, his values and the way he lives his life. To me, that is powerful. I definitely came away from this book with more than usual.
And when I was halfway through The Purpose Driven Life, I asked another friend of mine, who I admire and respect, to give me the title of a book that has helped shape him into the man he is today. The book he recommended; The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. I am looking forward to starting today. While I don’t have the physical copy yet, I remembered that the Kindle app allows readers to download the first couple of chapters for free.
Choosing books using this new method has not only saved me time, it has also freed up space in my brain that can be used for other things, or better yet, not used at all. Who says we have to try to use every ounce of our brain, all the time? A little free space might be just what many of us need.
There is no way I am going to the gym for an hour or running for half an hour. The former takes too much time and the latter hurts too much. I am just being honest. I know it’s possible and I have friends that are able to train for marathons, spend an hour in the gym and compete in Spartan Races.
But, if you’re like me and you can’t seem to stick with a fitness plan, I’ve got something for you. It’s short, it’s simple and it actually works. I mean you won’t end up looking like Chris Hemsworth or Beyonce’. But you will be able to improve your fitness without having to research and keep up with the latest work out fads.
Are you ready? You don’t need a notepad or a journal for this.
Every day do 100 of one exercise. 100 curls. 100 pushups. 100 sit ups. etc. That’s it. Sometimes I do 4 sets of 25. Other times I do 5 sets of 20. Or maybe I knock off 100 all at once. Why 100? You know, I can do 100 of most exercises in 5-10 minutes. Better yet, I don’t need any weights or if I do, they are very light. And when I don’t have weights, I find something in the room that can double as a barbell; a book, a mug, whatever.
Why does this work?
Because it is easy and it is something I know I can commit to every day, or at least 6 days a week. I was inspired to try this plan after I read James Clear’s New York Times Bestselling book Atomic Habits. In this amazing book, James talks about the power of consistently repeating small (atomic) habits day after day. If you are skeptical at this point, I don’t blame you. But I am telling you, after trying this 100 rep strategy for 2 months I was as fit as I had been in a long time. Try it for 2 weeks and see for yourself.
*I’m so psyched! I recently had the chance to interview James for an episode of Teachers’ Aid. Click here to learn more about how to set and keep habits.
Do you remember when breakdancing was popular? Actually, many folks reading this probably weren’t even alive when the movies Breakin’ and Beat Street were out. Hopefully some old-timers like myself remember those days. I even ordered a Breakdance Instruction Manual from Scholastic, in the hopes of showing off my moves at the next middle school dance.
Uhhh … that never happened.
I opened the book. Tried a few of the moves. Unsuccessfully. And hid it away in my closet. My younger brother did bust me one time trying the Egyptian Twist. He will never let me live that one down. Show me some of those moves or Jon used to be a breakdancer are phrases I hear at least once a year.
Since my middle school years, it’s safe to say I have probably started and given up on learning a thousand skills. Was it because I wasn’t coordinated enough? Sometimes. Could it have been because I just didn’t have the physical capabilities? Sure. I think no matter what I try and how many hours I practice, I will never be able to dunk a basketball.
More than anything though, I think it had to what I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I tried learning thousands of skills. That’s about 900 too many, if you ask me. I believe I would much better off if I had picked a hundred, or fewer and stuck with them. Now I am not talking about the 10,000 hour rule here. I am not looking to be world class. Just decent. Maybe even good.
This summer I am committed to improving my memory. More specifically, I want to be able to memorize quotes and stories that I will use when I speak and present publicly. I have already begun memorizing a quote that I plan on using in my next presentation. I don’t have it down yet, but I am halfway there. I think because I am committing to improving just one skill, I really have a good shot. I’ll let you know in September how things worked out.
So go ahead. Commit to improving or learning just one skill this summer. Of course, you will learn more along the way. But, your main focus will be on that one skill. As the title of James Clear’s recent blog piece states, If You Commit to Nothing, You’ll Be Distracted By Everything.
I know a guy who is going to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X this summer. He may not read any other book, but I am certain he will finish that one. And when he finishes, he and his friend can sit down and discuss it over coffee.
I know a guy who is going to work out a little bit each day this summer. At 48, he is not looking to show off his biceps. But he would like to look better and feel heathier. And at the pace he is going I am certain he is.
I know a guy who is going to work on improving his memory this summer. The goal is not enter any memory competitions and he still won’t be able to recite Jack Nicholson’s famous monologue from A Few Good Men. That is tempting though. But he will memorize several poignant quotes and stories so that he can share them the next time he presents or is asked to speak publicly.
So, if you happen to see this guy in September, get him to talk about the book he read or recite a quote he memorized.
And, if you want, you could even tell him he looks jacked up or swole. A little white lie never hurt anyone.