“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. You don’t have to do it all today. Just lay a brick.”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. You don’t have to do it all today. Just lay a brick.”

—James Clear, author, entrepreneur, and photographer

Image from Unsplash by Joe Dudeck

What does being highly productive look like? How do things go when you are at your best? How have the last few days, weeks, or even the past year compared to the benchmarks and standards you hold for yourself?

Let’s face it — our best each day can vary widely due to internal motivators and capacities as well as a host of external constraints and limitations. How do you feel at these times, when your expectations of yourself and your world are not met?

Our lives are constantly under construction. What we get done with each day is simply what we get done — that’s it.

EXERCISE:

What cornerstones and foundational bricks can and will you lay today to build upon with each new day?

“We often avoid taking action because we think, I need to learn more, but the best way to learn is often by taking action.”

“We often avoid taking action because we think, I need to learn more, but the best way to learn is often by taking action.”

—James Clear, author, entrepreneur, and photographer

Image from Unsplash by Ethan Elisara

Following a two-year career as a middle school science teacher in Philadelphia, I secured a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative with the Upjohn Company.

That’s right — in the early 80s I was a legal drug dealer, promoting Motrin for pain and arthritic conditions to physicians, over other meds available at the time.

My training was rigorous, with an initial one-month stint in chilly Kalamazoo, Michigan in January. The company — which is now part of Pfizer — was about a century old at the time and took great pride in preparing over 1,000 sales reps to be among the best in the industry.

Once our book learning was complete, we were sent out to work with our district managers, to get field experience meeting with real doctors, intending to influence them to prescribe our magic orange tablets.

In the beginning, my manager did most of the work, describing features and benefits of our medications over those of our competitors. Following a few such interactions, my manager, Stan Ershler, informed me that he had to leave. I indicated that I would head right home to continue my studies. He said, Absolutely not! Go out and find some more physicians to talk to — see what happens! I definitely could have used a pill for panic attacks at that time!

With great patience and a bit of tough love, I was out the door, diving in the deep end in my new career.

EXERCISE:

Where are you hesitating or procrastinating on taking action because you feel you need to learn more?

In what situation is taking action and getting in the game likely to be your best teacher?

“Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past.”

“Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past.”

—Richard Hamming, 20th Century American mathematician

Image from Unsplash by Adam Winger

Who have been your most influential teachers? Which of them tapped into your greatest interests and inspired you to want to learn, grow, and achieve?

Which of them poured themselves into you with love and also saw that their job was to bring out the possibilities within you?

The questions, Will this be on the test? and How will this prepare me for my future? are worlds apart.

Fulfilling even the most well-intended curriculum and tapping into the knowledge stores of many teachers and other advising professionals can only go so far.

How can we better prepare our youth for a future in which exponential wisdom will be required?

EXERCISE:

What would be possible if your role as a life-long learner was to use up all the teachers that come into your life?

As you soar beyond the relevancy of these well-intended individuals, keep looking for the future sages and stoics to help you take your next steps.

“I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interest. The library was open, unending, free.”

“I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interest. The library was open, unending, free.”

—Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates, American author and journalist

Image from Unsplash by Susan Q Yin

Thinking back over my education, I seem to have lived two lives. Up to and through college, I was a classroom kid — following the rules, studying for each test, pursuing good grades — to become what society called a success. At the time, my SAT scores and GPA were all that mattered, with, of course, the right extra-curricular activities and work experiences.

Cracking a book that was not required reading or (Heaven forbid!) reading a book for pleasure could never compete with playing with friends or watching TV.

Years after traditional school was over, I discovered the wonderful world of books in which I could explore any interest that suited me. Suddenly, I couldn’t get enough of the knowledge and wisdom packed into all the treasures they held.

EXERCISE:

Examine your own educational journey. Where and how have your classrooms and libraries influenced your life so far?

How do you intend to continue your education from this point forward?

Please reply to this post with a few books that have opened up your world and set you free.

FRIDAY REVIEW: CONTRIBUTING

Friday Review: Contributing

In what ways do you contribute to others? In what ways do others contribute to your life? Here are a few contribution-related posts you may have missed.

 

“Business and life are like a bank account. You can’t take out more than you put in.”

 

 

 

“Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.”

 

 

 

“Good people bring out the good in people.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You can attract luck simply by sharing your work publicly.”

“You can attract luck simply by sharing your work publicly.”

—James Clear, author, entrepreneur, and photographer

Image from Unsplash by Phil Hearing

Who are some of the luckiest people you know? What do they do for a living? How did you happen to learn about their work? Where and when did you observe a public appearance of their level of skill and mastery?

Where else do you see a correlation between perceived luck and the willingness of people to offer their work, art, music, and physical capabilities on a public stage?

How lucky have you been in your personal and professional communities? To what degree have you gotten up to bat and swung away, over and over, until some of your strike-outs became hits, and even a few home runs?

EXERCISE:

Where is it time to come out of the shadows to share your work publicly and increase your luck?

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

—Desmond Tutu, South African Anglican cleric and human rights activist

Image from thoroldnews

How often do you find yourself in an argument in your personal or professional world? They say the best way to win arguments is to avoid them. Beyond that, here are a few nuggets of wisdom from an article by Paul Sloane to consider:

  1. Stay calm and keep your cool or you will lose.
  2. Use facts as evidence for your position.
  3. Be curious rather than furious. Although this is similar to point one, questions can help you stay in control of the conversation, by making your opponent scramble for answers, and challenge their points.
  4. Listen carefully and be prepared to concede a good point.
  5. Appeal to your opponent’s higher values to go beyond logic. Use a little emotion by appealing to worthy motives that are hard to disagree with.

EXERCISE:

Check out Paul Sloane’s article How to Win an Argument — Do’s, Don’ts, and Sneaky Tactics

Please also check out these books to expand your communication mastery even further:

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Patterson

“The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world. I am like a snowball — the further I am rolled, the more I gain.”

“The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world. I am like a snowball — the further I am rolled, the more I gain.”

—Susan B. Anthony, 19th Century American social reformer and women’s rights activist

Image from britannica.com

Susan B. Anthony spent her life working for women’s rights. In 1888, at the age of 68, she helped to merge the two largest suffrage associations into one — The National American Women’s Suffrage Association, then led the group until 1900.

She traveled around the country giving speeches, gathering thousands of signatures on petitions, and lobbying Congress on suffrage for women.

Susan died in 1906, 14 years before women were given the right to vote. The 19th amendment was passed in 1920, one hundred years after her birth.

EXERCISE:

Who are some notable people from history who kept rolling and picked up steam well into their golden years?

How and in what ways can and will you continue to gain momentum and contribute the work of your heart and hands to the world?

“The role of a teacher is to introduce you to your inner teacher.”

“The role of a teacher is to introduce you to your inner teacher.”

—Loch Kelly, author, meditation teacher, psychotherapist

Image from Unsplash by Science in HD

Who were your favorite teachers when you were young? What made them so pivotal in your growth and development? What lessons did you learn that live on within you these decades later?

Mr. Felteberger was my high school physics teacher, Mr. Zimba was my grade school shop teacher, and Dr. Schmuckler from my college years all left great impressions on me, and their memory still brings many smiles.

Each of them brought tremendous generosity and enthusiasm to their art, and saw their role as building and shaping minds and characters to take into our futures.

Most significant was how they instilled and brought out my natural curiosity and passion for learning, which continues to this day.

EXERCISE:

How did the great teachers in your life light the fires of you own inner teacher? How can and will you be such an educational catalyst for others?