Category Archives: Advice for the Manic Impressive

How to Survive the Blazing Heat and Stay Motivated

Don’t know how it’s been where you are, but it’s been blazing here. 107 on Sunday, 105 today, and not our usual heat that lets up at night. We’ve had Fresno heat this past week, where it’s hot all night long and you have to seal yourself inside your house and blast the air conditioning. It’s hard to stay focused and motivated in this heat.

I’ve sort of melted down to a lethargic pile of goo. Feeling swollen, cranky, bored and blue. Very hard to pursue my goals in this weather.

Fighting The Malaise

I suppose everyone has to deal with this at some point in the year. For some it’s rainy weather. Others struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder when the days are short and overcast. But we’re nowhere near the Dog Days of Summer and I’m acting like a bored teenager. Nothing seems interesting or fun, and Summer is just two days old. I may be in trouble here.

Sure I’ll rally. I’m on deadline and that keeps me focused. And a lot of this will pass along with this heat wave. But just in case, we better make a plan. We must stay motivated.

The Antidote Is Water

Got to get in or on a body of water. A dunk in the pool always feels good. Just need to get there and throw myself in.

Wading in a river, splashing in the ocean, it’s been mankind’s answer for centuries. Migrate to cooler climates in summer and hit the water. Leave the sweltering valleys for the coast or the mountains.

It takes more effort, and I’m weak right now, but getting the kayak out on the water would be good too.

Music

Summer is the season for free concerts. I stumbled upon X Factor’s Jason Brock today, in of all places, the cafeteria of San Francisco’s Zuckerberg Memorial General Hospital. Though he opened with a Sade song (I hate Sade!), despite my lethargy and foul mood, he made me feel good.

Music always makes me feel better, and hearing it live and for free makes it even sweeter. Check out your city’s Park & Rec department for their free concert series and bust out your lawn chairs and ice chest. They’re everywhere this time of year in parks, farmer’s markets, libraries, shopping malls, and even hospital cafeterias.

If you can make your way to Fremont tomorrow evening, there’s a great one featuring Big Bang Beat at Shirley Sisk Grove by New Park Mall. I’m a bit biased, as the bari player is my brother, but these guys are an awesome party band. They’ll make you forget the heat, and I’ll have a little something in my ice chest for you. Maybe even some…

Cocktails

I hate to advocate substance use to change one’s emotional state. But hell, it was 107 and the ceiling fan in the bedroom died. We’re talking survival here, and we must stay motivated.

So a little social lubrication could be worth a try. Get a little buzz on and relax. Loosen up a bit and see the big picture. Forget about the present. Reminisce about the past and fantasize the about future.

If it’s good enough for Manic Impressives like Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King, it’s good enough for you. In moderation of course.

Rum is good in hot weather, right? Maybe a refreshing Mojito. Or a little vodka and citrus, like a Salty Dog, or a classic, frozen Margarita. Perhaps an ice-cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or a Pliney The Elder Imperial IPA. This is a battle, and these are my weapons.

Stay Motivated!

Soldier on, everyone. Keep creating and stay motivated. This heat wave too shall pass…

How To Get From Deep In Debt To Solvent And Secure

  1. From deep in debt to solvent and secure

“Debt Kills Creativity”,  Damian Mason

There’s no bigger dream-killer than being deep in debt. And there’s nothing worse on a relationship than financial stress. So in 1995, with over $20,000 in consumer debt and barely one job between us, my wife and I did what anyone should, to get from deep in debt to solvent and secure  – we fled the country.

But not to a place with a lower cost of living. We quit our jobs, rented out our house, put our stuff in storage and bought one-way tickets to Tokyo. The most expensive place we could find. Then we signed contracts for two very low-paying jobs.

You’re right, that’s totally nuts. Crazy financial strategy right there. But 2½ years later we returned to the States completely debt-free with $10,000 cash in hand (100,000 in yen, actually) to re-start our American Dream .

How did we do it? With a change in financial philosophy and 5 simple strategies you can copy.

Pay Yourself First

If there’s one overriding piece of advice to follow, this is it. Pay yourself first. Let everyone else get in line. We’d gotten lulled into thinking we could “afford” a bunch of things we hadn’t yet earned. This causes a lot of people to pay their bills first, squander a bit on luxury, then put what’s left into savings.

Absolutely not. If you’re doing this, stop it right now!

Take 25 percent off the top and sock it away. Then pay your bills. If there’s money left over, great. Have a good time. Buy ridiculous, impractical things. But only when you’ve paid yourself first.

From our first payday in Japan, we sent one paycheck home to pay off our debt, and lived off the other. We paid ourselves first, then lived off what was left.

For Everyone Else, Use Auto Pay 

Living in Japan in the 90’s, we were surprised to find there were no checking accounts. The Japanese paid their routine bills automatically from their bank accounts and used cash for everything else. No checks or credit cards, no late fees, interest or overwhelming balances. Just debts that were settled in full, every month, automatically.

Manics, more than any type of people, have trouble with details like writing checks, finding and addressing envelopes, hunting down stamps and remembering to get things in the mail. That’s five steps for every bill. Neither smart nor lazy, that’s a procrastinator’s path to late fees.

I should know. I’ve paid thousands in late fees. And not because I was broke. But because my process was broke. It required too much discipline. Other types of people live neat, orderly lives. But not us.

So when we returned to the U.S., we set up all our recurring bills on auto-pay. No more late fees, and more importantly, no time, thought or effort. Smart and lazy!

Live Within Your Means

This was tough in a place so incredibly expensive. At home we paid $1 for 4 ears of corn. In Japan we paid $4 for 1 ear of corn. We paid 25 cents a pound for a watermelon at home. In Japan watermelons were $25. Each.

With seeds!

So we adapted, and learned the most important lesson of all. We had to get over the shame of being humble about our spending, instead of  digging our hole deeper to save face.

When a group goes out to dinner in Japan, they split the check evenly no matter who orders what. It only took a few $100 tabs for a bowl of miso soup and a salad to realize we couldn’t afford other people’s extravagance. So we stopped going along with the crowd when we couldn’t afford to, and caught up with them after dinner.

Move To The Cash Standard

When credit is easy, it’s tempting to buy first and pay later. But credit card debt is the number 1 killer of financial dreams. If you’re carrying consumer debt, you’re digging a hole that will be tough to get out of, no matter your income.

In Japan we each made only 250,000 yen a month. That’s $2500 American dollars. Since our credit cards were tapped out, and no one wanted to let a Gaijin (filthy devil foreigner) run up a tab, we had to stop spending when the cash was gone. We walked instead of hailing a cab, and cooked at home instead of eating out.

The upside was losing weight from all the walking, and finally getting full after a meal (Japanese portions are tiny!).

It was tough for a while, but over time we stopped digging the hole and started filling it in. Today we carry no consumer debt besides a mortgage. Yes, we use credit cards, to earn airline miles and track our spending. But we pay them in full automatically each month from our checking account. Because they’re all on auto-pay.

From Deep In Debt To Solvent And Secure

Suzy Orman likes to tell people to “stand in your truth.” It can be painful at first, if your truth is deep dept. But the path to solvency and security is through knowing exactly where you stand financially.

So we put it on paper. All our debts subtracted from all our assets. A classic but simple balance sheet with a bottom line. At first the bottom line was ugly and very red. But we moved into the black with conscious effort and honest acknowledgment of where we stood.

It didn’t happen all at once. But by the time we moved home we were solvent. And we’ve stayed that way ever since by following these 5 simple strategies.

If you want some help with this, let me know. I’ll send you a template of my balance sheet to get you to your bottom line. Then you can go from deep in debt, to solvent and secure. Or to patting yourself on the back for already being financially awesome.

It’s a very good feeling…

 

You May Be Closer Than You Think

You May Be Closer Than You Think
Stargate

My chance encounter last week got me thinking about the barriers that separate us from success. How one lucky break can get us through to a dream job interview, a new social circle, a whole new venture. Singular moments where your world collides with possibility, proving you may be closer than you think to your dreams.

It’s like there’s a thin membrane that separates us from the next big level in our lives. Like that portal thingee in Stargate.  If we can just break through this thin barrier, we can step into another dimension of success, using the talent and experience  we already have.

Challenging The Laws Of Physics

Try this little experiment. Get a cup of water and try to float a paperclip on it. If you’re like most people and most paperclips, you will fail. It will sink to the bottom.

Now, take a second paperclip, bend the inside loop 90 degrees to form a letter ‘L’. Then place the first paperclip on this ‘L’ shaped clip and lower it gently to the water’s surface. If you’re like most people and most paperclips, it will now float on the surface.

Amazing right? How can this piece of metal float on water? It’s because of a thin membrane of surface tension caused by air pressure pushing down on the water.

How Surface Tension Keeps Us From What We Want

Like the membrane on top of water created by surface tension, you may be stuck behind a thin membrane separating you from success.

A flexible barrier caused by opposing simultaneous forces. The outside force, pushing inward, is life’s circumstances that keep you in check.  Lack of  time or money or knowing the right people. Things that can be solved with effort, patience, and a little luck.

On the inside pushing outward, is the pressure from your internal beliefs. You create this in your head, thinking the things you want are so far away and require huge shifts in your circumstances.

Self-limiting beliefs cause the internal pressure that forms the thin membrane separating us from our desires.

You May Be Closer Than You Think

So, what if we lessen the internal pressure? Suddenly the membrane weakens. Our thinking can pierce the pressure that holds us back. Then it’s just a matter of  hustle and patience and persistence. Things we have. Things we can control.

We need to see what’s possible, and listen to the little whispers of our deepest desires. Yet most of us are afraid of our desires. They’re scary because they challenge our current circumstances. We can’t be stand-up comedians because we have families to support. We can’t be wealthy because we’re afraid of losing money in the stock market. We can’t be artists because we can’t make a living right now with our music, our acting or our poetry.

How We Self Sabotage

Those fears keep us from doing what we can do – chip away, little by little, with the discretionary time we do have.

Our desires are so scary that we actually manufacture situations so we can tell the little whispers they’re not practical.

We procrastinate little unimportant things, like paperwork and filing deadlines, until they become urgent. Then we tell ourselves that we can’t chase our dreams. We have to do these other things or the lights will go off or the IRS will garnish our meager wages.

In the end, we’re so afraid of trying and failing that we create situations that rob us of the chance to try.  We tell the little whispers to be quiet and go away – until we retire, or our ships come in, or our big breaks materialize.

Little Breaks Are All We Need

Big breaks are great, but what we really need are little breaks. Little cracks in the membrane, enough to allow us to squeeze through. To taste enough success to know our talent is real, our skills are valuable, and our dreams are achievable.

If you reduce the internal pressure on your membrane, you can start poking holes in it. Then you can take action and breakthrough to the success that is waiting for you on the other side. 

Gloria Estefan sang it best:

Get on your feet, get up and make it happen

Get on your feet, stand up and take some action…

So get out your paperclips. Bend them, float them, and once you see how you can challenge the laws of physics, use their little pointy ends to poke holes. Holes big enough to step through – in the direction of your little whispered desires. Because your dreams may be closer than you think

 

4 Smart & Lazy Methods of Tax Preparation

Smart & LazyTuesday’s the big day. The day all Americans face a hard deadline. You either get that midnight postmark or you pay penalties and interest. Procrastinate all you want, but when April 15th rolls around you’d better have your act together. But it’s okay to be smart & lazy about it.

I imagine you have some friends who filed their taxes months ago. They’re probably at the mall right now spending their refunds. But not you. You’re sweating that deadline like you do every year. And even though you should be working on your return right now, you’re doing everything in your power to distract yourself  and procrastinate (like reading this blog), instead of buckling down and getting your taxes done.

Your organized friends have never filed an extension. You try every year not to, but somehow this annual deadline creeps up and there you are, right up against it, debating whether or not to throw in the towel, file an extension, and put it all off until October.

Again. Continue reading 4 Smart & Lazy Methods of Tax Preparation

13 Surefire Tips To Kill It At Your Garage Sale

It’s springtime. Time to clear out your crap and turn it into cash. If you are like the rest of us, there’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t use clogging up your house. It needs to go. But it won’t happen if you handle your sale like an amateur. Not to worry. I can help you. I’m a pro at this. Here are my 13 surefire tips to kill it at your garage sale.

1 ) Do It Like A Pro

This is a retail sales event, so do what good retail merchandisers do. Advertise, price, display, negotiate and service with a little style and panache. You need a certain amount of organization to attract people, and a strategy to entice and cajole your customers to pay you to cart off your crap.

A sloppy garage sale is less work on the front end, but it will net less cash and create more work on the back-end. Do the advance work. You really don’t want to be moving your crap back into the house at the end of a long day. Continue reading 13 Surefire Tips To Kill It At Your Garage Sale

3 Skinny Gems To Help You Achieve Your Goals

3 Skinny Gems

We’re officially 6 weeks into the New Year. So how are you doing on your goals? I ask because with the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day over and the weather still crappy, this is the time when a lot of people lose their fire and start skipping out on their promises to themselves.

I don’t want this to happen to you, so I’m recommending 3 inspiring little books that can push you forward.  And by little, I mean short, the longest no more than 3/4 of an inch thick. I’ve read them all many times, and I have an extra copy of one I’ll give to one of you. Continue reading 3 Skinny Gems To Help You Achieve Your Goals

5 Rules of Engagement to Win the War on Clutter

win the war on clutter“The professional… is on a mission. He will not tolerate disorder. He eliminates chaos from his world in order to banish it from his mind. He wants the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept, so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.”                       Steven Pressfield, the War of Art.

Like many creative people, I’ve had my struggles with clutter. I used to accept it as part of my nature, but Steven Pressfield changed my mind. He believes creatives must create order in their environment so they can approach their work like pros. This is why I created these 5 rules of engagement to win the war on clutter.

This is how it happened…

I was helping a friend make some progress on his clutter problem. He’s got it bad. So bad that sometimes I go over there just to feel better about me (don’t tell him!)

He was sharing his frustration that though he has cleaned up his place many times, it always reverts back to a giant cluttered mess.

Time for a metaphor.

Continue reading 5 Rules of Engagement to Win the War on Clutter

How to Be Consistent – No Matter What

No Matter WhatThere are only two things I’ve been able to do consistently up until this year: eat sugar and watch television. Manic Impressives are not consistent creatures by nature. We have bursts of activity fueled by imagination, then periods of downtime. But to achieve our dreams, we must learn how to be consistent, no matter what.

We need to build the skills that plodders, people who work from routine and do a little bit each day toward a goal, come by naturally. We are leapers (not lepers, dummy, LEAPERS) and tend to work in bursts, when we are at the top of our manic cycles.

Why We Need To Be Consistent

It’s easy to work with great enthusiasm and energy when we are in the manic phase. Things are easy when we’re inspired or excited. But we still need to perform when these conditions aren’t at play.

We Manics often get distracted from our main purpose. Shiny things and new ideas throw us off track. But this leads to sporadic efforts, which usually means lots of things started and not many finished.

This year I did things differently. I managed to do a little each week because I set a specific goal with regular deadlines. I know, I know, we hate deadlines. We like unfettered freedom to do things our own special way. But without deadlines we end up puttering.

So this year I made a commitment to post to this blog every week. Every Thursday by midnight. This kept me focused and got me to work even when I didn’t feel like it.

51 weeks in a row I fulfilled this promise to myself. If you’re reading this it means I made it to 52. All because of one little phrase: Continue reading How to Be Consistent – No Matter What

Start Planning 2017 Now

Start Planning 2017 Now!No I’m not out of my mind. Yes, like you, I hate that stores display Halloween gear in September, Thanksgiving stuff before Halloween, and Christmas crap before Thanksgiving. Hate it. But I’m not trying to rush things here, so please hear me out. Before you start heading headlong into that final dash towards the holidays, it is time to start planning 2017 now.

You know how it goes. Your best intentions end in a flurry of last-minute impulse buying, sappy holiday movies, and binge-eating sugary baked goods. That’s all okay.

You deserve all that. A nice celebration with family and friends and a break from work. But to get the New Year started like a sprinter out the gate, you need to do your planning and goal setting now.

The next three weeks will be hectic, but it’s important to schedule time to slow down and review the past year. What went well. What you accomplished. What you struggled through. What you learned.

This is a crucial process to your success next year. So we’re going to start now by giving 2016 it’s due. Continue reading Start Planning 2017 Now