The Obstacle Between You and Happiness

Over the Memorial Day weekend I spent time with an old friend. He doesn’t have job or a car and lives on less than $200.00 a week. He is looking for a job, but he already has what he needs and he knows it.

As we sat outside, watching fireworks, he said to me “I don’t care if you’re a billionaire or homeless, if you don’t have gratitude, you ain’t got nothing.”

With an atitude like that, how can you help but be happy?

In that moment I felt like a fool, because it’s easy to forget. When we are fixated on our goals we miss where we are and what we have to grateful for. When we feel pain, we disregard the good things in life.

I once read a story about a nun who volunteered to work with the criminally insane. When she was asked why she did it, she said, “Do you see that white wall behind you? Take your pencil and put a dot on the wall. Now look at the wall, the dot is what is wrong with the people I help. The white space is what is right with them. I don’t look for the dots, so I see what is right with them.”

For most of you who are reading this right now, your problems are smaller that the dot on the wall and the wonderful things surrounding you are bigger than the wall. Stop looking at the dot, it keeps you from seeing the wall.

Don’t let one little dot stand between you and hapiness.

When Life Isn't Fair–Read This

Tonight I tried to teach my son a lesson about life, but again, he taught me the lesson.

Stick with me, you’re going to like the payoff.

My son has been in MMA (Blended Kenpo) for 8 months and he still hasn’t earned his first belt. His instructor is tough and expects a lot. My son is close to earning his first belt, he has the moves down, and when I asked his teacher if he was ready to test, the teacher replied, “he still needs to learn the the Stack and Guard Pass.” I was surprised, because the kids who had just earned belts didn’t know the Stack and Guard Pass.

So why is it different for my son? I thought it wasn’t fair that he had to learn a move that others didn’t.

I decided it was a opportunity to teach him that life isn’t fair.

So at the dinner table tonight, I said, “you have to learn a move that other kids didn’t, just to earn the same belt, and I know that it isn’t fair. But that’s too bad, because sometimes life isn’t fair. If you want the belt, you’ll have to learn it anyway.”

My son replied, “You’re right dad. It isn’t fair… to those other kids.”

I said, “No, it’s not fair to you.”

He said, “No dad, it isn’t fair to them, because I get to learn more than them.

What Do You Want Out of Social Media?

Scoble just published a post (Has/How/Why tech blogging has failed you), which sums up how a lot of people feel about blogging in general. Like Scoble, we should question why we are blogging and if it is taking us where we want to go.

Before I read Scoble’s latest post I was contemplating this question:

What do I want from blogging and social media?

And this is the answer:

I want to meet interesting people, engage in interesting conversation, and share interesting stuff with them…

And it’d be nice to make some money in the process, but money isn’t the goal.

Friendfeed will help me reach my social media goals. The more I use it the more I love it.

Take a look at my feed on friendfeed and you will see how useful it is. You can see my Reddits, Diggs, Stumbles, Tweets, Bookmarks, and blog posts all in one spot. You can comment on them and vote for them with the “like” button. You can follow some of the top social media mavens like Muhammad Saleem, Zaibatsu and Jon Phillips and see what’s hot before it breaks. And you can do this without checking a hundred different websites or feeds.

Right now I am trying to find a way to implement friendfeed on my blog, but I think it is going to take a redesign.

I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I know enough to endorse it and encourage you to join friendfeed. Let’s build a bigger community.

(Hat Tip to Robert Scoble and Paul Buchheit)

11 Ways to Build an Extraordinary Life

How can you build the life you want? The answer to that question is different for each of us. But it’s critical that you answer it, because in the answer you will find purpose and meaning. Many of us look for happiness in things, but happiness doesn’t come from things, it comes from how we relate to ourselves and our world.

  1. Be True to Yourself – This doesn’t mean a life without compromise. It means that you don’t lie to yourself. It means that you find out what is true in your heart, and you seek people, places, and experiences which support that core truth. It means you don’t settle for mediocrity. It means you keep striving for excellence even in the face of failure, because you know you are not mediocre. You know that you are absolutely unique and are capable of contributing something great. Being true to yourself means you don’t hide behind a mask. It means you’re a WYSIWYG person.
  2. Have a Vision for Your Future – Take action now, with a picture of your future in mind. Have a vision that improves your life and the lives of others. Our CEO has a vision of attaching our ergonomic products to every display and laptop in the world. He never stops talking about it, because he knows if we realized even a portion of his vision, that our world would be a better place. Some people have a vision of living off the land like Thoreau (HT to Paul Buchheit). You already know how to build a vision. You do it on a small scale everyday when you jump in your car and drive to a destination. You have to start with a destination in mind or you’ll end up at some random place. So what is your life vision?
  3. Avoid Debt – Debt is slavery. If you can’t afford it now, save for it. If you do decide to take on debt make sure it’s critical to your life vision. What is important enough to take on debt?
    • A home? Maybe
    • An education? Maybe
    • A business? Maybe
    • A car? Maybe
    • A pair of shoes? No
    • A latte? No
    • A night out drinking? No
    • Christmas gifts? No
    • Trendy new eyeglasses? No
    • An iPhone? No

    Make sure you’re not paying compound interest on stuff that will end up in a landfill or get flushed down the toilet. Make it a rule, to avoid debt.

  4. Save – The financial experts all say, Pay Yourself First. Pay yourself at least 10% of your gross income. It’s easy if you have 10% automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited in an investment portfolio. You’ll never miss it.
  5. Continue Your Education – Invest in your mind. Few people do.
    • 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school
    • 42% of college graduates never read another book
    • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year
    • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years (source Jeff Jarvis)

    Traditional education isn’t an end, but a beginning. Traditional educators endeavor to create within your mind, a set of tools with which you will build a lifetime of education. Even if you never acquired a traditional education, you can still enjoy a lifetime of learning and growth. Keep an open mind, look for educational opportunity everywhere and become a wealthier, smarter, more creative person.

  6. Take Responsibility for Change – If you aren’t getting the results you want from life, you’re probably thinking and doing things that are counter-productive. Only you can identify what those things are and only you can take responsibility for changing them. To discover what changes you need to make, find someone who is getting the results you want, then compare your habits to theirs. Find out how they think, how they speak, how they act, what they do, and what they value. Don’t be a phony, be yourself, but learn from other people. You can take huge shortcuts in life if you are willing learn from other people.
  7. Learn from Mistakes – Not just your mistakes, but everyone’s mistakes. View history as an opportunity to learn. Some of us are embarrassed of our past and would rather just forget about it, but that can easily turn into denial. Denial is imaginative stubbornness which causes us to repeat the same foolish actions. We fear what we don’t understand, so if we don’t understand our failures we create unnecessary anxiety in our lives. To act courageously in spite of fear we must be honest with ourselves about our past.
  8. Build Quality Relationships/Discard Destructive Ones – The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of the people you choose to have relationships with. Make sure your relationships are two way relationships. If they are all take and little give they are will suck the happiness out of your life.Love: Look for a partner who is on a similar journey as yours, who has similar goals and values, and build on your relationship by giving your love and encouragement. Be ready to compromise, because great relationships are built on shared visions not selfish ambition. Share the difficulties and the rewards. Listen closely. Be patient.

    Friendship: Look for people with similar values, who give as much as they take, with which you can share interests and hobbies. Good friends don’t try to change each other, they accept each other for who they are. Laugh, listen, and offer help.

    Business: Expect high ethical standards from your business associates. Don’t waste time with people who use questionable business models and practices, they can only muddy your name. All ethical business relationships are built upon providing mutual benefit. If you are questioning a relationship, trust your instincts and examine the relationship to see if it is lopsided. If someone is questioning you, listen and be honest with yourself. Is there a mutual benefit? Are you being fair? Can you see another perspective?

  9. Do the Right Thing Even When it is Unpopular – Have you ever gone along with the crowd and said or did something you knew hurt someone else? Most of us have. I have, and I’m not proud of it. Every time you fail to stand up for what you know is right, it leaves a little hole in your soul. It’s like cutting flesh away, it will heal but it leaves a scar. You can’t change other people, but you can call them on their bullshit or walk away when they are acting like Neanderthals.
  10. Honor Your Commitments – Do not make commitments lightly. Before you commit to anything, think it through with your heart and your mind, and if you have doubts, don’t commit. But if you do commit, follow through. Our biggest commitments are to our spouses and our children. If you fail to honor those basic commitments, the damage can last generations (This is not to say that you should stay in an abusive relationship. If you are in one, get out. The abuser has already broken his commitment). Our business commitments can be nearly as important. If you fail to pay your bills and honor your contracts, you will see opportunity evaporate. Others will lose trust in you, which will destroy your relationships.
  11. Be Charitable – Now that you’re saving 10%, take another 10% and give it to a worthy cause. I am sure some of you are thinking, “whatever, he’s talking about rich people, not me, I don’t have enough money to give any away.” No, I’m talking about you. If you only make $1000 per month then you only have to give away a 100 bucks. If you can’t give away $100 now, it will be even harder to give $1000 later. Why? Because it will add to your overall
    well being. You’ll feel better about yourself and your world and it will come back to you ten fold. Being miserly will not improve your life, generosity will.

For more on living an extraordinary life, read this.

Ergotron – Ergonomic Wellness Through Innovation

You guys out in the blogosphere spend a ton of time on your computers and you need to take care of your neck and your eyes and your back and your wrists and well… yourself, because hours in front of a computer can wreak havoc on your body.

We have some cool things going on at Ergotron (that’s where I work) that will help keep you well when you spend time at your laptop or desktop.

We just created this hilarious video (it’s funny – it really is – I swear – watch it) which clearly illustrates why you need to go dual with a laptop and monitor and get them off your desk and make them height adjustable:

Another cool thing is… we have a CEO who blogs! When Joel took the leadership position at Ergotron he created a set of expectations and behaviors he felt we must embrace to become a great company. #7 is We Will Accept No Walls or Barriers Between Us and Our Customers. His openness to blogging reflects our principles and is one the reasons I am proud to say I work at Ergotron.

The Essence of Time Management

Time has always baffled me. Questions like…

  • Where does the past go?
  • Where does the future come from?
  • Why can we only act in the present moment?
  • Why are people judged by their past when they can do nothing to change it?
  • Since we can’t change the past, why are we not judged by the decisions we make now, in the present moment, the only place any of us live?

Today, it’s easy to answer the last two, but that still doesn’t explain the first three. Some say time is all an illusion, because there is no past nor future only an eternal now.

Knowing that all my past moments have created my present moment and my present moment will create my future moments, leaves me in awe of the power each of us has over our lives. The modern concept of time management has always bugged me for this reason. I have no desire to manage my time like a machine, because at my very essence I am time and so are you.

Over the years, I’ve asked myself, what can I do to solve my problems with time? And many years ago I found the best answer I have ever read in Leadership – The Inner Side of Greatness by Peter Koestenbaum.

Direct your life so as to make work part of your life – part of living from the inside out, part of your inner production of time. Do not separate work from home and leisure. Do not compromise your full self-disclosure. Know your meanings, and commit yourself to them. Existence is not an easy task. It takes a lifetime to come close to achieving authenticity. But as you move in that direction, your problems with time management will resolve themselves. This works; nothing else does. Do not stop organizing your time, but know the difference between a true solution and an anodyne.

You will never be totally true to yourself, but to the degree that you make a commitment in that direction, and to the extent that you approximate that ideal, the world will respond. This means that your health will improve – your physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, relational, educational, and financial health. You will attract from your environment the people, systems and financial support required to fulfill your deepest essence, for what you do is also the most natural thing to do. This new health springing from within, will express itself in diminished problems with time. To accomplish this is the slowly unfolding project of a lifetime. Each day that you embark in this process can feel like a success.

Peter Koestenbaum’s book isn’t a trendy new book. It’s old and I don’t think it was popular when it was new. But if you’re unfamiliar with his work, I suggest you start with this article in Fast Company. Do You have the Will to Lead?

“Everything I do,” says Koestenbaum, “is about using themes from the history of thought to rescue people who are stuck.” His logic: Change — true, lasting, deep-seated change — is the business world’s biggest and most persistent challenge. But too many people and too many companies approach change by treating it as a technical challenge rather than by developing authentic answers to basic questions about business life. “We’ve reached such explosive levels of freedom that, for the first time in history, we have to manage our own mutation,” declares Koestenbaum. “It’s up to us to decide what it means to be a successful human being. That’s the philosophical task of the age. Nothing happens unless you make it happen. As a leader, everything is your responsibility, because you always could have chosen otherwise.”

I suggest you read his works. Peter will give you a whole new way of looking at time management, GTD, leadership, and personal development.

He also illuminates the fallacy that we control anything but ourselves. We think we do, but we don’t. Well, at least not the way we think we do. All external control is an illusion. The only control you have is self-control. However, that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility, you are responsible for the things that happen in your external world, because their creation begins in your inner world. It is a paradox which sounds like hocus-pocus nonsense. It isn’t. It’s as real as the pain you feel when you smack your head on a rock.

I will leave you with my all-time favorite quote from Peter, one that resonates with the recent discussion we’ve had here about control and parenting:

Does developing the will to transform mean that you can actually will others to change?

Taking personal responsibility for getting others to implement strategy is the leader’s key polarity. It’s the existential paradox of holding yourself 100% responsible for the fate of your organization, on the one hand, and assuming absolutely no responsibility for the choices made by other people, on the other hand. That applies to your children too. You are 100% responsible for how your children turn out. And you accomplish that by teaching them that they are 100% responsible for how they turn out.

Bored With the Blogosphere? This is for You

I hope this doesn’t offend you… but…

Are you weary of the same old shit in the blogosphere?

I am. A lot of posts out there are mind numbing. It’s becoming an echo chamber. Most days I look through my feed reader and I think, yeah, yeah, yeah, heard it before. Give me something new. Something with an attitude. Something with some originality.

Want something refreshing and new? Here it is.

Clay Collins is doing great things with IMHO – He has put together the best blog since 2006. He’s smart, he’s original, he’s got perspective, and most of all he’s got guts. He was unschooled, he started a software company at 15, and he’s putting his heart into his posts and it shows.

I don’t need any tips on organizing, or being more productive, or making vegetarian dishes, or decluttering. I want perspective, human perspective on life and Clay gives his perspective with abandon. I love it, because I want to know how others view the world, what does and doesn’t work for them.


This is what Clay Collins wrote about his struggle with perspective:

Being a perspective junkie, I wish more blogs communicated perspective, rather than advice and information (such as news).

But the common practice of trafficking advice and information on the blogosphere makes sense. It makes sense because perspective is a pain in the ass to put into words: putting forth the effort required to write perspective-filled & feature-length posts on a consistent basis isn’t sustainable for most people. It isn’t for me at least.

Thank you Clay, for stating that so eloquently. I appreciate your effort to give us your perspective. You are fostering the conversations we need to have in the blogosphere.


Clay is an unschooled/homeschooled adult. I have never met an adult who was homeschooled let alone unschooled. What a treasure his perspective is. I’m 39, and my research, my experiences in public schools, and the dramatic differences I’ve noted in my observations of homeschooled children has led me to become a proponent of unschooling/homeschooling (and other alternative education). In the 1970s when I was child, almost no one was homeschooled. In fact, I didn’t hear about the practice until I was in my mid-twenties. Although I hated school as a child, I spent most of my adult years believing that public schools were an important institution. Even when I ran for Minnesota State House in 1996, I was a firm believer in the “School System.” A change of heart came after I had children when I realized after much soul searching that I could not subject them to the insanity of the public school system. Seeing the quality of Clay’s work, a mind that is free of “systemized” nonsense, is a confirmation of my observations about forced institutional schooling.

Like many bloggers, Clay probably doesn’t want to come off as a narcissist, but I urge him to give us his adult retrospective on being an unschooled child.

Debunking Personal Development Tripe

Clay also debunks a lot of personal development tripe. He says things I’ve been thinking and feeling but hadn’t found the words to express, like, productivity as a value stinks. The only good reason to be productive is to produce the life you want to produce. For example, I want to spend more time with my boys. Some people might think that is unproductive. Our culture believes that productive men work, generate income, fix things around the house, work on the car, but they don’t spend all day playing with children. When I told people I was considering staying home and homeschooling my boys, they thought I had lost my mind. But to me it is one of the most productive things I could imagine. Productivity isn’t about completing a bunch of tasks, it’s about finding a way to do the things you want to do.

The Cost of Personal Growth Can Be Too High

Clay also writes about the cost of personal growth. For some of us the price is too high.

I’ll probably get some flack for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway: most marriages, most relationships will have a difficult time surviving radical personal growth and evolution.  Relationships can become dependent on hundreds of implicit agreements, patterns, rituals, and shared views of reality and it often puts an unendurable stress on a relationship when these agreements, patterns, etc. are relentlessly challenged, ignored, or changed.  Good relationships can survive depression, and terrorism, and prison sentences, and all kinds of horrible things, but radical growth is a difficult (but not impossible) to survive.  It’s a tuffy.

I’d like to sugarcoat things and say you’ll never have to chose between your marriage and radical growth, or your children and radical growth, but that’s just not the case.  The are priorities that I will always put before such growth because sometimes rapid growth just isn’t worth it.  Sometimes its better to opt for deferred compensation.

He’s right. Sure you could get six pack abs, earn 5 handicap, run a marathon, make $500,000 a year, or you might even solve the economic problems in Africa, but if you lost your family in the process, would it be worth it? I’ll let you guess my answer.

Finally, Clay is doing this full time, he’s taking a big risk to give us this valuable resource, stop by his site and read a few pieces, if you like it, subscribe and leave him a donation.