How to Deal with Your Enemy

I have an enemy.
I know his name.
I know where he lives.

PDF How to Deal with Your Enemy

Audio:

I use the male gender pronouns, because I am a male. And my enemy is mostly found in my work.

Like many things manly, my enemy goes by many different names:

Clutter,
sloppiness,
disarray,
rat’s nest,
disorder,
chaos,
bedlam.

(That almost looks like a poem – a free verse poem. The title might be Not Getting the Work Done.)

The primary name that I call my enemy is Disorganization.

He usually brings his cousin along for the ride… Distraction.

Some people seem to thrive on disorganization. I have had students who could take a perfectly organized desk or locker and in less than an hour reassemble it into Chaos.

My experiences with Disorganization and Distraction follow a predictable pattern.

Assignment papers are missing, late, incomplete, messy, carelessly worked, found in unexplainable places. Even for students who participate in class with apparent understanding, Disorganization causes them to present work that is mediocre at best.

The Teacher in me rejects Disorganization as an acceptable work style.

In my work now, Writer / Author, I am blessed by the sudden flash of a memory of a previous idea in my brain. Too often that is followed by a disappointing physical search for the notes that document and explain and elaborate on the idea. After the search, which occupies my time and attention, I realize that my thoughts are incomplete, and the inspiration evaporates.

I recently found my brain reluctant to sleep, even though the lights were out and my wife was already dreaming. In that transient world of close-to-sleep-but-still-awake I had the idea for writing a book focused on 5 Cs.

Reluctant to turn on the light and search for paper and pencil to document my brilliance, I lay there and rehearsed the five jewels of thought until I was sure I could never lose them.

I awoke a short time later. My consciousness searched for those 5 gems. Four of them presented themselves to my memory, but the fifth one was absent.

What does this have to do with my enemy? A year ago when I began this venture into writing, I placed paper and pencil, and even a flashlight, on my nightstand. I was ready for night-time inspiration.

I don’t know what happened to those writing tools. I know where they aren’t. My nightstand.

My enemy hid them from me.

Illness often invites Disorganization into the home and life. That’s what happened in my case.

I have discovered Disorganization to be an overwhelming enemy. Clutter piles up. Papers, receipts, notices, discharge documents… They soon cover all flat surfaces. Disorganization rears its ugly head.

Writers often have this enemy: Disorganization.

We get ideas at all times of the day and in the most inconvenient places.

We write notes on napkins in restaurants and fast-food places.

We try to put them on our phones, but the keys are so small the message is often unintelligible.

We use the voice record feature, then can’t find where on the phone the audio is stored, or how to get it downloaded, or how to transfer it to text.

I’m going to learn how to use the selfie-video capabilities of my phone so I can start that app without looking at my phone or fumbling with the touch screen.

While driving is the worst time to have an epiphany. Distracted driving. Oh, my!

I carry a notebook with me everywhere. 

I remember a Columbo episode in which he had been gifted a small, battery-powered tape recorder. He tried to use it to take notes as he worked to solve the murder. It was funny for me because he made it seem so inconvenient to retrieve the notes when he needed them.

I guess I’m old-school like Columbo. I like the shuffle-ability of paper notes. But they do add to the clutter. So, I use Composition Books. And I never tear out a page. I fold pages and paperclip pages together after I have used the ideas.

I also use on-line storage for easy access from all of my devices: Google, Amazon, Evernote, OneDrive and OneNote, DropBox, iCloud.

As I read that list of online connectedness, it may be that I am cluttered there, too.

I have hundreds of ideas to turn into blog posts, novels, poetry, instructional directives, on-line courses.

My challenge is usually selecting just one thing to write about. Often life filters through my ideas to distill the surplus and place one drop of inspiration on my worktable to be nurtured into an enjoyable read.

Lacking that serendipity, I dive into the pool of opportunity and thrash around until I catch something.

Maybe I am one of those writers who excels at pulling order out of chaos, who can reach into a pile of ideas and extract one, then develop it into a coherent piece of art that is presentable, and sometimes helpful, even inspirational, for a select few readers.

I enjoy the way that I work, under pressure, looking at a deadline, pushing to create, hoping that the finished composition will speak to some readers. Maybe kick start some thoughts. Maybe it’s just what a few readers will need to make it through the day or the week.

Maybe, after reading about my experiences, someone will find the courage to write, to work, to publish. Their enemies will fail to overcome them. Their ideas and words will flow, to join mine in the network of online inspiration and encouragement and wisdom.

Where do we start on this battlefront to defeat and expel the enemy? There is no convenient answer. But, there is no wrong answer, either.

To quote from Macbeth, “Screw your courage to the sticking place” and begin.

Dream on! Write on! Forward! Ever Forward!

PS: We are going to begin with our office.

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Choose and Decide plus Knowledge

My girlfriend had just broken up with me. I was lonely.

I fell in with a small group who seemed to be having fun.

Their nickname for me was Shnook. Yeah, I know… I shoulda known better.

But, I didn’t. My bases of knowledge and experience had not acquired what I needed to meet this situation.

PDF of this post:  Choose Decide Knowledge

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As I look back at this time in my life, I realize I was socially awkward. I had been sheltered from the reality that there are people “out there” who will use the lonely, inexperienced person for sport. I guess it makes them feel superior, or somehow feeds their ego.

I was unprepared to choose well and decide for my best interests, because I was ignorant in social experience – lacking in knowledge – and because my loneliness ruled my decisions.

And it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that this happened in college. I have not Friended any of those classmates on FaceBook. Recalling this time causes me to shrivel into myself, maybe like a cucumber being soaked in brine to turn it into a pickle.

(I have no cucumber-to-pickle first hand experience. But this explains my brain response image as I write about this.)

The twin giants Decide and Choose enable us to be masters of our own destiny.

Babies have the infant stages of Decide already in their brains. Their automatic response to discomfort is – Cry. In response to certain uncomfortable stimuli, they speak in the cry language in an effort to bring relief. When their efforts bring results, a stimulus-response pattern is created.

One of the goals of growing up is that we learn of other options than temper-tantrum to negotiate the relief we want.

Which reveals the third giant in the trilogy: Knowledge.

In every situation there are multiple options (choices) available. Knowledge enables us to decide which choice to make so that we achieve the desired goal with the least amount of discomfort and delay.

A child is endowed with Choose and Decide abilities. Their choices and decisions are often faulty, though, because their foundation of Knowledge is lacking.

Be careful to build a stable foundation of knowledge for yourself and in your children and grandchildren, so that choosing and deciding do not lead to problems and failures. Learn from your own past – and others – so you can avoid problems that arise from ignorance.

Experience is often not the best source of Knowledge. It takes time to experience all the possible ways to fail in order to determine the best way to achieve success.

Read books.

Study other peoples’ stories – it’s called History.

Read the Instruction manual before attempting to assemble by trial and error.

Hire a mentor or tutor or coach.

Ask your parents and grandparents to share their stories with you. Then avoid their mistakes.

Build your base of knowledge from reputable authors and verified sources.

Don’t base your knowledge on what you find on Facebook, Twitter, or even News Organization’s websites.

Be careful – selective – with what you put into your brain.

Way back when computers were new it was common to hear the expression GIGO. Garbage In : Garbage Out.

A computer can work only with the programming that is put into it. If the program has garbage in it, the results of running the program will be Garbage Out.

Our brains have many similarities to computers. This GIGO characteristic is one similarfity.

Our ability to make best decisions and choices is completely dependent on the knowledge program that is used to make the selection. Our Knowledge Program is written by the Knowledge and Experiences we store in memory.

Choose to be the Best You Possible. Choose Your Best. Do Your Best.

Fortunately for humans, we can create new knowledge that over-writes old, bad knowledge-code. The remnants (artifacts) of the bad code remain in our brains, but we can strengthen the new experiences through repetition, so old code is defeated when it tries to rule.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

We think about the stuff that we feed our brains: music, games, TV, movies, books.

To change your brain, change what you’re feeding it. Stop the flow of Garbage In. That will cut off the flow of Garbage Out.

Hollywood does not have the knowledge or the answers that will make your choices and decisions better. Hollywood is entertainment. They want to make you laugh and cry and shudder in fright. But most of all they want your money and your mind.

Sports are also for entertainment. Neither Hollywood nor Sports are real life.

Control.

People and organizations will use trickery to gain control of your thoughts, your choices, your mind, your money.

You were created with the abilities of Choice, Decision, and Knowledge so that you could prepare for the Future.

The Future is coming – faster than you can imagine. You are reading this part of the sentence in what is the future to when you started reading.

The Future involves God. Only He knows the Future. Only He can take our present – our Right-Now – and make it ready for Eternity.

Decide to learn more about the God Who holds Eternity in His hands.

Read the Instruction manual He has provided – The Holy Bible.

Find a mentor and a community support group – church.

Contact me if you need help with these steps. Eldon @ EldonRoberts.com

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What To Do About Your Comfort Zone

When you are floating on a Lazy Lake you are moved from place to place only by the wind. On most days, the breeze blows occasionally, with no apparent purpose or direction.

PDF of post: What to Do About Your Comfort Zone

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Floating… Lazy… These will lull you to sleep. Those who allow themselves to be lulled to lazy inactivity arrive at destinations unplanned and unprepared.

You may accidentally reach a good place, but then be unable to benefit from the good luck, due to lack of preparation.

Life is filled with opportunities. Some are easy; some are hard. But all new opportunities challenge us to get out of our Comfort Zones.

Change is hard work.

Difficult tasks tend to be scary.

As I visited with a friend yesterday he recounted an experience he had before his retirement. Somehow he managed to upset his boss. There were no grounds for firing him, so the boss reorganized the whole department and gave my friend a new job for which he had no training.

During the required training course the instructor kept repeating, “Just do this every day, even though you don’t know why. In six weeks you’ll understand. The process will make sense.”

He doubted it, but he followed the instructor’s instructions.

One day my friend was busy doing the assigned work, when suddenly he realized, “I know what I’m doing and why!” He had applied the knowledge he had gained and soon became the go-to guy for systems analysis questions from his superiors.

Life is like that. You may easily stay afloat on Lazy Lakes and Lazy Rivers. But you aren’t in control of where you’re going. You aren’t developing knowledge and skills that will create a bright future for yourself and your family.

A caterpillar who doesn’t change, never becomes a butterfly.

A Lazy Lake is easy on the Comfort Zone scale.

River Rapids are scary. Danger lurks in the form of rocks, currents, and unfamiliar skills required of the paddler.

Moving the boundaries of your Comfort Zone to include a new experience, a new skill, a new adventure, is almost overwhelming at times.

But you won’t likely be lulled to sleep on the journey. And you will learn from the experiences.

I’ve taken more than my share of classes. New ideas and new skills have been presented by experts. Some of them have made sense and seemed reasonable – worth doing in my work. I even got excited about some things I learned. I thought, “I can do that!’ Or a particular student or colleague jumped to mind. “This might help him!” I’d decide.

But, I never really understood the new information or technique until I attempted to do it myself in my work.

Sometimes it would be a total disaster. I didn’t do it correctly or well. It didn’t work.

What to do?

Try again. And again. And again.

It was uncomfortable. My muscle memory and performance habits resisted change. It was outside my Comfort Zone.

In time, the process, the skills, became mine. A little modification, a lot of muscle memory development, and I was able to see the hoped-for results. New habits of performance kicked in.

I had to change in order to create change around me.

My colleagues considered me to be the “Early Adopter” – the one always trying new things.

But change is uncomfortable for me, too. I remind myself that Change is only different the first time you do it. So, in theory at least, discomfort with change should be short-lived.

After the first attempt, it is what I do, and how I do it.

Modifications, adjustments, may be applied to perfect it. But now it’s me. It’s mine.

Comfort Zones are dangerous.

Moving out of yours may be scary, but it’s not dangerous.

It quickly becomes, Tah-dah! The New You!!!

The Best You (#BestYou)

As the old adage goes, “Try it; you’ll like it!” (Eventually.)

#BetterChoiceBetterResults

 

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Be Ready Before

In my garden are planted green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes. This is not the first year I have grown a garden. Nor is it the first time I have planted those three vegetables.

It would be safe to say those three are my favorite summer treats, fresh-picked from my garden plants.

Be Ready Before : PDF of this post

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Tomatoes have some interesting characteristics. If left to themselves, they like to play in the dirt. The branches are not sturdy enough to hold themselves upright. As they grow longer and larger, they droop until they are lying on the ground.

On the ground they are tempting food for bugs, slugs, diseases, and rot. On the ground is not the best place for a tomato to raise its young.

Tomatoes are suckers for suckers. If left to themselves, a sucker branch will grow vigorously from each branch-pit. These suckers suck nutrients from the main stem, eventually weakening the whole plant.

Suckers will masquerade as worthy arms of the mother plant, but they secretly use up the plant energy, and the tomatoes are all smaller and weaker when they mature.

I know what the life-cycle of the tomato plant will be before I put it in my garden. I know about the weakness in the limbs. I know about the disadvantages of the suckers. Before the problems show up, I know they will come.

What to do?

Take care of the problem before it shows up.

All garden stores have tomato cages. I bought some a few years ago. One is put in place as soon as I plant the baby.

Also, I pinch off each sucker before it gets even noticeable to the untrained eye. With my thumb and finger as close to the stem as possible, my thumbnail removes the offending growth.

Neither problem has showed up yet.

But, the solutions are already applied.

If I carelessly wait until the problems are obvious, branches will get broken as I try to pull and push them into the confines of the cage. Suckers will have already weakened the mother plant and the fruit will be stunted.

Prepare for the realization of the promise before the gift is evident.

I purchased a single 4.5 inch pot of cucumber plants. Yes, plants. The chosen one had four plants growing closely together in the center of the pot.

In past years I have carefully separated such clusters aand planted each one at the proper distance from its neighbor.

This year I left them as they were and planted the quads in one nest of dirt.

As soon as they were nestled into their new home, I fenced them in using a tomato cage. Four plants, four legs on the cage. The only problem was that the cuke vines will grow longer than the cage is tall.

Eventually, the plants will need additional support. So, this morning I cut several long bamboo stalks and placed them around the outside of the cage.

The plants are only now reaching to the lowest rung of the cage. No vertical growth problem exists.

The solution is in place before the problem exists.

I have done the same with the green bean plants. An 8-foot tee-pee is ready for the growth that will happen.

In each of these situations, the promise is present: growth beyond what is currently seen.

Life is mirrored in the garden experiences.

We can easily compare habits to the planting of seeds and their growth into automatic responses in life.

Habits are planted in our lives through repetition of actions and responses to life events.

If you don’t want them to grow and mature into problems, remove them while they are young.

If it is a desirable habit, shelter it and provide a safe place for it to mature and produce good fruit.

We need habits.

Habits control our lives.

Bad habits, habits that hinder or hurt us, should be weeded out of our lives.

Yes, bad habits can be changed. Can be removed. Can be replaced with good habits.

And we can place protections around ourselves to promote healthy growth. I recently wrote about Core Values. Personal Core Values work as fences or cages allowing us to grow, but within the boundaries of the values system in place in our lives.

In your personal and professional life as you work toward goals and achievements, put in place the performance and behaviors that are promised in what you are planting.

Core Values

Excellence, consistency, patience, leadership, teamwork, joy, integrity, innovation.

These characteristics, these values, are the supports that will keep your work from problems, will keep you flourishing and producing quality work-products (fruit).

Work to develop the solutions – the safeguards – before the problems show up.

When you truly believe you will receive it, you act as if you already have it.

Happy Gardening!

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What Values are in the Why?

Every decision that has ever been made, began with a Why.

Every action that has ever been taken, began with a Why.

PDF: What Values are in the Why

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Sometimes we are unaware of the Why.
Sometimes we misunderstand the motivating Why.
Sometimes we deny the real Why.

Yet, there is always a Why.

To be more clear, there are always Whys. Seldom is there a single Why.

Whys can be either simple or complex.

Example of a Simple Why:

I shave in the evening. Why? I want my wife to snuggle with me. It’s gonna be dark, she won’t see my face. By morning my beard will have sprouted again. What’s the use? Snuggle is more likely when I have a clean-shaved face.

Example of a Complex Why:

I’m writing this article/post. Why? I have made a decision to operate a blog. I can’t have a blog unless I write posts.

After reading and studying, and trying different frequencies of writing, I chose a once-weekly schedule – Tuesday mornings.

In order to have time for research, reviewing, editing, finding or creating a photo companion that fits the post, uploading to my website, check of appearance, SEO, scheduling for publication – even Thursday is late.

I’m home-alone on Thursday mornings. Perfect writing opportunity.

If I run into obstacles, I still have the week-end. If I wait until Monday, whatever I have will have to be used.

I’ve made a public commitment to my readers, my family, myself, my former students, my Facebook Friends – myself.

I know, I already listed me. But a personal promise is weightier than some others. True to myself is BIG.

This endeavor is my opportunity to pass on to another generation, to another audience, to my legacy – what I have learned, how I have learned, from what I have learned – my life speaking from the podium of a technological classroom, pulpit, stage, radio broadcast.

What if – unknown to me – somewhere, someone is in desperate need of the ideas, instruction, promises – hope that I create with my life and my efforts. I may never know. But I can dream. I can create. I can offer my 70 years of partnering with life. Listening, watching, experiencing, continuing to run the race, falling, stumbling, standing up again, gaining knowledge and understanding and wisdom. Elder Wisdom.

If it is not shared, if it is hoarded, if it remains silent, it is gone when I am gone.

Why used to be straight-forward.

“That’s the way the Roberts men do.”
“That’s the way it’s always been done.”
“Because I said so.”
“So you can eat supper.”

And the thing gets done.

Hoe 5 acres of corn.
Harvest 5 acres of cucumbers for the pickle factory.
Walk 3 miles to school.

Because it had to be done.

Tired? Of course!
Hungry? You bet!
Did that matter? No!

Sometimes it was about what not to do.
“Don’t touch my radio!”
I didn’t. Why? Because Dad said not to.

Some decisions are made because it is the most practical option.
Some Whys satisfy an emotional need.
Some Whys gratify an ambition.
Some Whys are directly connected to a talent or skill that you have developed.

There are good Whys:
Charity, Compassion, Love, Citizenship, to make something better for yourself or someone else, to earn money to meet personal and family needs…

There are bad Whys:
Greed, Selfishness, Revenge, Hate…

Good Whys produce good emotional results.

Whys always come from a value system deep inside a person.

Those values have settled in over the years of growing up and getting educated. Home, school, church, and government combine to promote certain values within society.

Justice, Liberty, the Rule of Law. Those are values at the very core of American society.

Core Values operate best when they are known, when they are spelled out.

But, even when they are not knowingly part of decision-making, they still are present and involved.

There are many websites and services that will assist you to discover your Core Values.

Core Values Link 1 Here.            Core Values Link 2 Here.

Know your Core Values and use them to simplify decision-making.

You probably will have 4 or 5 in your list.

Make a poster of the list and put one in your home and where you work.
You will eventually have them memorized just from frequency of use.

When you have a decision to make, check your Core Values and evaluate the options. Stay true to your values.

After your Core Value list is completed, list your whys for a particular decision or option.
Attach one or more of your Core Values to each Why. Keep a written Journal of this process.

If you are married or have a family, include them in this process.

Knowing your Core Values is still important – maybe more so than in times past.

When you make a decision based on Core Values and someone (like a child) asks Why? You have a concrete answer – your Core Value.

My Core Values are:

Worship – I answer to a Higher Power for the use of my talents and opportunities.
Excellence – Do it to the best of my ability or don’t do it at all.
Integrity – Live the principles I profess. Do what I say I will do.
Respect – Treat others as I wish to be treated. Value life. Be compassionate.
Teamwork – Be an active member of the team; recognize the team’s accomplishments.
Innovation – Find and use new ways, new ideas, new knowledge.
Joy – Life is good, embrace it; focus on the good, the beautiful.
Service – Do for others who need help.

I applied my Core Values in the decisions I made in the Complex Why narrative above. If you are unsure how each provides guidance in my examples, send me a Comment or email.

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