Real Memorial Day Weekend

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I had a unique experience this Memorial Day Weekend that I felt compelled to share.  It is Sabrina and my 10-year wedding anniversary.  We spent the weekend on a few “honey-do” things and reflecting on a few memories of fun times over the last 10 years.  On the same day, I also attended a funeral – wake for an acquaintance who recently passed away from pancreatic cancer.  Similarly, it was an afternoon of sharing stories and laughing among memories.

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(Photo by Tom Hussey)

This experience reminded me of something I’ve been witnessing recently in our business.  We’ve had a fair number of cases where parents have passed away or been moved into a care facility, leaving the house and contents to the adult children.  Of course there is a lot of emotion due to the passing parent, but I can tell the kids are just overwhelmed.  More importantly, I have seen time after time they just don’t care about the contents of the house.

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(Photo by Melody Komyerov)

I think we spend a lot of time accumulating possessions throughout our lives, so much that sometimes we need to rent additional storage space.  We place value on this stuff, or worse, we even place our own self-worth on the items we have bought. 

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Let me tell you, whoever inherits your stuff after you pass away really doesn’t want it.  I’ve witnessed it time after time.  They throw it out, or give it away, or garage-sale it to others who are in the same rat race of collecting stuff.  We convince ourselves, “oh Jimmy is really going to want those fishing rods, or Susie always appreciated those quilts”, but in reality that stuff really didn’t mean very much at all.

Would it be better to collecting memories and experiences instead of hoarding “stuff”?  What do we want our children to remembered and share it with their children? 

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One family member I worked with recently had discovered a box of old reel-to-reel audio recordings and a tape player.  When he set it up he realized he was listening to his own family singing and joking and telling stories on a tape that would be sent to their family back east.  He couldn’t stop listening to them and went through countless reels remembering his childhood. 

He looked at me and joked, “That’s the way we did it back then, this is how we kept in touch and the east coasters would record something else and send it back to us.  I guess that was an early form of ‘facebook’.” 

We need to get out and do something together with the ones closest to us.  Think about the impact we could leave by journaling daily/weekly emotions and decisions into a book of wisdom.  I could only imagine the treasures that would be passed down by recounting stories and episodes as they unfold. 

This is where my thoughts gathered on this Memorial Day weekend.

No News Changed My Attitude

Sunday morning I went over to the PW market to buy some
groceries and they offered a free Sunday San Jose Mercury newspaper, so I
accepted one.  It only took a
moment for me to start shaking my head once I sat down to read the front
page.  It was depressing.

 

Here are the front-page stories:

 

“Red ink flooding state” — “A year of turmoil” — “After
the crash” — “Reps financial picture grows even grimmer”.

 

Yeah, I’ve heard there’s a recession going on but in our
house we’ve chosen not to participate! 
As you know, I gave up watching any TV last year for the month of
December.  I gave up my morning
ritual of watching the stock market opening news on CNBC and that tradition has
carried forward.

 

No news TV or newspaper for us — and I feel great!  Friends tell me that hiring has started
again; they are getting calls from recruiters; VCs are funding a round for a
startup of another friend; and our business has really taken off at an unbelievable pace since the
beginning of the year!

 

What does it say about our society when the best news we
find fit to print on the Sunday newspaper, a day of family and relaxation for
most people, are 4 bad news stories? 
I didn’t even open the paper to continue, just recycled it.

 

-Mark

No TV for December — Part 2

This month seemed to just fly by so quickly, despite my
commitment to not watch any TV for the entire month.  It was much easier than it sounds, trust me.  Your time will become filled with other
things, hopefully things that are much more important and meaningful.

 

Observations:

1)  
I don’t feel like I really missed anything.  I still read my Wall Street Journal to
keep up with events.

2)  
Surprisingly, I think I have a better or more
positive daily attitude since I don’t watch any news.  I believe I’m already a pretty positive thinker, but I have
to say that I surprised myself to see how much negative influence the little
news that I used to watch was having on me.

3)  
I’ve been reading more — I finished 3 books: The
Lost Symbol, Airframe, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and have made it partway through
Smart Couples Finish Rich.

4)  
We watched several DVDs for films that we really
would not have had time to watch before giving up TV.

5)  
The house was more quiet and peaceful in a way that
made me notice how much noise was going into my head each day.

 

Should we keep going without TV?  Should we cancel our cable all together?  I’m seriously considering it.

 

-Mark

No TV for December

Yesterday went by very smoothly, despite my new
“commitment” — no TV for the month. 
While Sabrina immersed herself in the Montana photography school she
lived like a hermit by having no TV, pulling all-nighters to deliver a project,
and focusing her energies into her passion — photography.

So I started looking at myself and asked if I could give
up my casual TV as well — after all, how painful could it be?  I don’t really have time to watch that
much TV, but I do turn it on as “background noise” sometimes or to relax a few
moments to wind down at the end of the day.

To challenge myself and see if watching TV is a habit or
an addiction, I have decided to go the entire month of December with no
TV.  I may even realize that
spending $700+ per year on casual entertainment is way too much and putting
that money to work somewhere more productive would make me happier.  We can probably watch whatever
entertainment we may need for free through Hulu or Fancast and I believe that’s
the ultimate future of broadcast TV anyway.

If I start pulling out what’s left of my hair within a few
days I’ll be sure to let you know.

-Mark

Month 2 Week 2: The Magic Formula

Although I may not be tracking my 16oz of water per day, I believe I’m doing pretty well in that regard.  Also, I was very pleased with the results of the last step — 15 minute “speed elimination” as I found all kinds of stuff to eliminate.

This week, we’re going to work on the office drawers.  The magic formula that author Regina is talking about is 1) Eliminate; 2) Categorize; 3) Organize.  I guess we’re specifically applying this to our office drawer space.  She recommends organizer inserts too in case things are just thrown into a “junk” drawer.

So I’m first asking myself “When was the last time I used this?” and if the answer is not within the last 6 months, then it doesn’t need to be in my office.  Another one is ditching old business cards I’ve collected — of course these people are already logged into my relationship database so why am I keeping the cards?

First step: 30 minutes to blast through my drawers and eliminate.  Next step would be to categorize what’s left.

-mark

Month 2 Week 1: Reclaiming My Office

As expected, this month we’re offered 2 new habits to incorporate into our lives.  The first work habit is — to place a 16oz glass of water (or water bottle) on my desk and take it with me everywhere until it’s finished.  The idea here is to detoxify and flush the system for optimal health.  The second is a home habit of keeping the bathroom clean by re-hanging the towel or tossing it in the hamper, wiping off the counter, and checking the trash to be emptied.  I’m already ahead on this one since it’s a natural part of my habits.

This week's office task is interesting.  Regina wants to start by doing a 15 minute “speed elimination” on my office.  Just blast through and get rid of all non-work related items (clothes, extra shoes or exercise outfit, food and drink containers, plates, etc).  I’m pretty good in this regard, no bad habits there.  Next removing seasonal items (fans vs space heaters, umbrellas, etc) or even photos that are out of date and could be updated with something newer.

Wow, 15 minutes went by very quickly!  As suggested, I need to repeat this 15 minute blast cleaning every day this week until I’ve removed all the non-essential and dated stuff.  I have printer cartridges to be recycled and I even found material from the 2007 National Association of Realtors convention that should have been tossed a long time ago…

-mark

Month 2: Organizing the office

I know, it looks like I’ve been hibernating for a week.  Actually, I need to take 2 weeks off from the blog for 2 reasons.  One is that we have been preparing for a long trip, and 2 is because this month of the Organized Work Life is one of the most challenging for me — organizing my office. 

I’m really looking forward to making a lot of progress in this area since I know my office needs an overhaul.  I’m also sure that I am in for a big step in improved efficiency once my office space is optimized.

So give me a week, let me catch my breath, and I’ll be back to post another life changing improvement for an organized work life.

-mark

Week 4: Start the morning right, it keeps your day calm

I think I’m already somewhat ahead of the class on
this week’s organization point.  This week, Regina is asking us to
start the day with a series of new habits designed to reduce the chaos
of the morning. 

One of the first things I learned when I moved into
sales was an expression from our VP that has stuck with me — “As the
first quarter goes, so goes the year.”  I’ve found that if I get off to
a slow start to the year, or month, or week, the rest of the year,
month or week is spent playing ‘catchup’.  Basically, it’s hard to
recover from a slow start!  So now we’re applying this principle to
starting the day.

I have it somewhat easier than most people as we
don’t have any kids so the morning time is not nearly as chaotic as I
know some people must be.  Many years ago, when I moved back to
California from Taiwan, I began the habit of getting up early to watch
the stock market open at 6:30am so that is now an embedded habit for
me.  I don’t even use an alarm clock.

One key takeaway to calm the morning rush is planning
the night before like setting the breakfast table, or putting coffee in
the machine so you just need to push a button.  Regina has a whole
bunch of neat ideas that may help you with this point if your mornings
get away from you with kids, spouse, pets, etc.

Here are my commitments to an organized morning moving forward:

1) Eat a real breakfast — shop for a whole week’s worth of real food so it isn’t a scramble to prepare each day
2) Set 15 minutes to exercise — I’m going to get started with some
morning yoga and stretching (… I said start, it will get more serious
over time)
3) Go to bed a half hour earlier so I can still wake up feeling rested
4) Do NOT check email
5) Do NOT check voice messages

-mark

Week 3: Calendaring

We’ve now hit the place in the first month where I
need to organize my schedule.  I’ve struggled with this one for some
time now and it’s frustrating for me because I used to work at Palm —
the king of organizers!

Actually, I think it’s the increase in technology
that has gotten me so disorganized.  Every piece of software has a
calendaring mechanism — Mac has one, iPhone has one, Yahoo has one,
Gmail has one, and my client management system has one.  They don’t
talk to each other and so you could be left with events being scheduled
all over the place and never synchronized.  I also have a huge
month-by-month dry-erase calendar on my wall I use for my overview. 
This is where I’m starting from.

Here’s my “get organized” commitment:  I will use my
Mac iCal application to control events and schedule.  I will
synchronize with my phone daily.  Another tip I learned from a business
mentor (this may be covered in the future of this book) is to 1) Start
by mapping the whole year — vacations, holidays, trips, birthdays and
anniversary, etc; 2) Plan the month — what social and personal events
have to be blocked off or commitments need to be met; 3) Organize the
week — block off time for the must-do business activities; and 4)
Prioritize the day — to make sure I am focusing on the most important
activities that have the most impact to my business and my life.

It’s a start!

-mark

Week 2: Questions about where I am and where I am going

I’ve been through this exercise many times in
seminars.  Before we can go anywhere, we need to take stock of where we
are, who we are, how we got here, and where we want to go.  From there,
we can begin to develop a map of the course it takes to get where we
want to go. 

The first question is — Where am I now?
o I am in the early stages of putting together a stable self-run business.
o I am having an incredible experience in personal growth, building
close personal and business relationships, and for the first time in my
life actually having a direction and goal where I can see the results
of my labor.
o I am confident and committed to our success, and to building a better life/future together.
o I am happily married, but there are clear signs of stress in our relationship due to 2 years of life-work imbalance.
o I am committed to helping my wife find the inspired work she seeks
that shows her talents and that drives her commitment and happiness.

Second — How did I get here?
o I worked for 15+ years in high-tech through multiple positions and
disciplines that increased over time and provided an incredible career
and lifestyle.
o I ascended quickly to a plateau of position and responsibility, eventually growing more disappointed.
o I was unhappy and dissatisfied with my corporate career trajectory and distasteful business practices.
o I found the opportunity to grow myself into my own business and partner with my wife.
o I started working part-time in real estate while learning the
business and establishing what our own small business would look and
feel like.
o I have spent 2 years building an incredible foundation, brand, core values, and sphere of supporters.

Third — What do I love?
o Working to build things — houses, cars, business, relationships
o Designing something complex
o Solving a problem nobody else has been able to solve
o Inspiring people to believe in themselves, to see an incredible future
o Modern architecture, furniture, fine clothes, art

Finally — How do I incorporate these passions into my daily life?
o Identify an investment group to buy, remodel, and flip houses I find
o Have Sabrina and I move into a new project home every few years, start over, remodel, …
o Start working with small builders on their projects
o Find a charity organization working on distressed homes
o Pursue my pre-fab housing interest and find a way to work as part of their business team

I guess that puts it out there for all to see.

-mark