Time to Start Being Weird

Ok, this weird that I’m talking about isn’t really weird. It’s just uncommon these days. I’m challenging you to start reading. I’m not talking about books and articles (though those are important). It’s time to start reading the fine print.

Insert dramatic pause.

I’ve got news for you: companies are out to make money. No matter how many say they want to offer great customer service and make sure you’re satisfied and this and that, money is the ultimate goal of every company from Amazon to Gucci. When your local grocery store takes back that product that they say can be returned at any time if you’re dissatisfied, it’s because they can damage the product out without losing money. If stores’ bottom lines were affected with every return, please believe there would be a system in place to minimize that. Don’t believe me? Look at how Nordstrom’s return policy has shifted over the past two years. Or L.L. Bean’s policy change. Bottom lines matter more than customer service at the end of the day. Yes, some companies will take short term losses for long term loyalty but that only goes so far, as was the case with Nordstrom.

Which brings me back to my initial point (and the purpose of this post): You have to be weird and read the fine print. I know no one does it but I’m not in my twenties anymore. I can’t say “I didn’t know” and have people feel bad for me. Yesterday, I came out of pocket for something that could’ve been replaced free of charge because my failure to read fine print voided my warranty. Not saying you have to read all the fine print in the world but, for those things that really matter (cars, homes, life insurance, etc.), make sure you’re aware of what will keep you from taking full advantage of everything you’re paying for.

It’s a part of adulting, people. It sucks but it is what it is.

 

Make reading the fine print a priority.

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Saturday Morning Ritual

Over the past 26ish years, the way I move on Saturday mornings has shifted tremendously. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the MC Hammer or New Kids On The Block cartoons while eating cereal. At the time, I was probably hanging out in my favorite Knicks shirt and some UNC shorts. It was pretty cool after a hard week of doing whatever it is that three-year-olds do.

Looking back now, those were some great times. How I operate on Saturdays now, relaxed as it may be, is still about growth as much as my Mondays through Fridays are. Most Saturdays, I wake up to pull out my yoga mat and stretch (tip to my near/post-30 year olds: STRETCH!), after which I go into the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee, spread some cream cheese on a bagel (unless I feel like cooking), and head over to the NY Times website to see what’s going on in the world. Then it’s time to shower, shave, get to running a few errands, after which I can get to my crossword puzzles. I used to exercise on Saturdays but that’s been moved to my Sunday morning regimen.

Saturdays have changed and, as a kid, I would think of my current life as boring but this is fun. I’m learning, I’m growing, and I’m keeping myself sharp.

Construct a Saturday morning routine. Make it cathartic and enjoyable. And let it work for you.

 

Make professional development a priority.

Ummmm… I Didn’t Know You’d Be Here So Soon….

Ever have that friend who shows up right on time to hang out but you really weren’t expecting them to be there when they were supposed to be?

This year, that friend is August. I’m sitting here looking at my calendar and August is HERE. Here here. As in here right this moment. I’m looking at all I’ve accomplished and, while I am pretty proud with some of my forward steps, I’m behind the 8-ball on a couple things.

So, now that we’ve realized our awesome buddy Auggie is here to crash on my couch for the next 31 days (only to be followed by his sweet sister September), I’ve got some tips for both myself and you all that will help us fast-track our way to reaching our 2018 goals before the ball drops.

  1. Maximize your time. We all need rest (not just sleep but truly restful periods) to be healthy, happy, and productive people. That being said, some of us have been resting a lot during these first seven months. Shoot, I just took a whole two months away from the United States (but I was working on some major projects while I was gone, so don’t get it twisted). Use your lunch breaks to knock out some smaller tasks or to get a larger task done over the course of a few lunches. If you need to, pick a day out of the weekend to truly wind down but, if you’ve got goals and you’re far behind, you have to make up for time wasted by grinding on that other day.
  2. Pick an accountability partner. Yesterday, I had lunch with two of my closest friends. We had a running challenge while I was out of the country. I lost badly. They picked on me. The challenge required that the losers buy the winner lunch and the winner certainly didn’t let us off the hook. If you have a goal but you’re having a hard time reaching it, get someone who is going to be honest with you and set some consequences for yourself if you don’t reach it.
  3. Cut out the unnecessaries. Do you need that burger? How about that beer? You say you want to save money but you’re going out again this Friday? Netflix is cheap (or free for some of us whose families are generous). You set a financial goal at the beginning of the year. What will you need to sacrifice to get there before the end? If you need some help, click this link and check out what George Acheampong can do to help you get on the right track.
  4. Nike said it best: Just Do It! Apply for that job. Start reading some books. Fill out those incorporation papers. Enter an art competition. You have time and you said that, at the end of 2018, you won’t be in the same place you were at the beginning, but, many times, what stops us from reaching our goals is that we over plan. It would be nice if the stars all aligned and everything was perfect but, to be realistic, that will not be the case very often. Sometimes, you just have to look at the plan you have, say “Shoot, this’ll get me 75% of the way,” and figure the other 25% while you’re on the journey.

We have five more months. That’s almost half a year. You can do this. Put in 2.2x the work and you’ll hit the mark. I know we can do this.

 

Make achieving your goals a priority.

Bro, The E-Mails Keep Coming!

E-mail can be a beast during a regular hour/day/week, depending on how busy you are. So imagine being away for 2 months with no connection except during the hours you’re either in your Airbnb or at some coffee shop that has complimentary WiFi. iMessages stack up but I’m at a point in life where I’m more apt to look for e-mails from clients, recruiters, and professionals who want to connect and make magic happen. And let’s not forget the awesome newsletters I get daily and actually try to skim (there is some valuable and inspiring content in those things!). Then there are the junk e-mails I signed up for to get free stuff. Before you know it, my inbox is overflowing and it’s only been 36 hours since my last thorough purging.
So, how do I combat this? Well, first, I go through and DELETE the junk that I know I’m not going to need. It’ll just take up valuable space (y’all know you can run out of free Google space) and I know I’m never going to want to reference the expirational“BOGO 🍔” from a favorite chain at home. And the “70% off Swimming Trunks For the First Day of Summer” from my go to inexpensive retailer? I’ll pass (this time). You get the gist.
After digitally tossing the useless stuff, I archive the daily newsletters that are more than a day old (but I keep those from the last 24 hours incase I need to something fresh to read). I may actually go back and peruse them sometime but it’s going to be when I’m either on a plane/train or searching my mail for something specific and that newsletter just happens to relate. (By the way, Instapaper is the way to go if you identify an article you want to read at another time. Thank me later.)
Lastly, I meticulously go through and try to respond within 24 business hours* to those e-mails that actually look like they’re either:
A) from a loved one;
B) Going to add immediate value to my life;
or C) Require a timely response.
I really suggest that, if you’re on an actual computer, you save time by selecting all unread e-mails and moving through the bulk stages (deletion and archival) that way, in that order. Then pick through the important ones. My goal, when all is said and done, is to keep the inbox with 15 or fewer e-mails after each purge. I’ve been hanging around 20 or 25 this trip but there’s no time like the present to fix that.
✌🏿
How do you manage e-mails when you’re away? Any additional tips? Let me know in the comments.
Make keeping a clean(er) inbox a priority.
*Just because you see an e-mail doesn’t mean
you must respond right away. Take time if you
need to (and can) to craft an appropriate response.

What Do You Do When The Connection’s Gone?

I will preface this post by saying that this problem is first-world in nature and an indication of the privilege many Americans have.

Desirée and I have a 9-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey. Yes, you read that right. Nine hours. #NoTypo. We can’t We’re not leaving the airport because, to purchase a Turkish visa, you must pay 30 USD per person and we weren’t down for that. What really sucks about this layover is that there’s no way for us to connect to the internet for free. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent about 8 USD trying to connect over the first four hours ($7 on some subpar ice cream from a shop that provides “free” wifi and $1 on an “unlimited 24 hour web connection” that didn’t let me get any further than Google.com). The major problem is that, in order to connect to (what I assume is) the best internet in the airport, you need to be able to receive an SMS text message. Because we don’t have phone service here (Verizon’s international plans were just too expensive for all that), we couldn’t get the code necessary to purchase service.

But, per usual, I came prepared. Though I’ve never been to any international airport in the world that doesn’t have complimentary internet (and I’m sure I’ve been to at least 35 international airports over the past decade and a half since wifi use began norming), I knew that, on this trip, I wouldn’t always have internet connection. Therefore, while I was packing, I made sure to toss in a couple paperback books that I wanted to finish over these two months (ended up downloading the books that I packed to save on weight but you get the gist). Additionally, before leaving the United States, I snagged a few films that I had purchased on Amazon Prime and the iTunes Store. And, because I have a Spotify Premium account, I made sure to save all my favorite playlists and albums to the phone. When I got tired of being inspired by literature, cinema, and music, I’ve proceeded to write, both here on The Reader and continue working on my book. And, lastly, once all that has been done, I spend time looking through and editing photographs because, on a trip like this, there are always photos I can be touching up.

The moral of the story is you don’t need to have an link to the World Wide Web to get the most out of a layover at the airport. All these things (books, film, music, and writing) require no sustained internet connection as long as you plan ahead. But that’s enough for today; time to get back to this awesome book.

 

Make preparing for the worst a priority.

Don’t Wait Until Monday

I haven’t ran more than six miles at one time since 2015. I’ve done quite a few five-milers and even an accidental six here and there but today, I went out and did seven solid miles on an unforgiving hilly trail.

The thing is, I wanted to wait until Monday to “get back.” I figured it made sense to start on the first day of the week. But who made up these asinine rules that you have to start and end at a certain time to be effective? Who informed us that we have to look a certain way to succeed?

Don’t wait until Monday to go for a run. Don’t wait until 8 AM to start being productive. Don’t wait until January 1, 2019 to make the changes that you know need to be made right now. Life is short. Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow is a fantasy. All we have is now and, right now, I’m telling you to break the rules of conventionality and do it with such confidence that everyone around you wonders why they too are not living with such freedom.

 

Make being effective more of a priority than looking effective.

0° to 180° to 360° Real Quick

On Tuesday night, I was having a talk with one of my good friends while I was driving back from Greensboro. We talked about developing good habits and changing destructive ones. It made me think back to the beginning of the year when I committed to living a healthier lifestyle during 2018. And I did for the first quarter. I was eating better, drinking less, and exercising at least five times a week. I even started off the second quarter like that. But, throughout this quarter, I’ve seen my resolve wane, and, this past week and a half, it has come to a complete standstill.

Why?

Because life happens. Over the past few weeks, work has been hectic, family has been demanding, and side hustles have been taking up my weekends. I just feel like I don’t have the time. But really, I haven’t had the drive to get it done. There are twenty-four hours in every single day and, where I started the year off using the first two waking hours of those twenty-four to focus on my spiritual, mental, and physical health, lately I’ve felt too drained to do that at all. But we’ll always have some excuse to say we’re drained, be it work or family or funds. But that’s no excuse. Realizing that, I have to work twice as hard to make up for the two weeks of quality work I haven’t put in at the gym or in the kitchen.

Don’t let your 180° change turn to a 360°. Good intentions will have you change for a short period of time. It takes true discipline to ingrain that change into your life. That’s not to say that you won’t hit slumps where you fall off the wagon but staying off is a choice. Choose to get back up and back on today.

 

 

Make developing a stronger resolve a priority.