Order Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q4

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Short week with a lot to do;
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving.

Whenever I think of Order, do you know where my thoughts immediately stray? The endless list of growing, and useless, “to-do’s.” Unfortunately I skip over the first clause of Ben’s sentence: “Let all your things have their place” and instead try to accomplish everything. Regimental drudgery takes over and I become miserable. It’s not what Order is about – not at all.

Over the past year, I’ve realized that whenever I get caught in the Order trap – the trap of lists, schedules and plans – I usually end up miserable. I’m miserable because: One, I don’t care about most of the stuff in my inbox or on my schedule; Two, once I pretend to care about it and add it to a list, I immediately care about it greatly, even though I don’t care about it at all; Three, when I greatly care about that which I don’t care about, I’m never more fraught to explode; Four, overloaded, I explode; Five, I feel guilty I exploded and spiral in misery. The Order trap, it’s one of the fastest ways to accomplish nothing.

Practical tips. 1) Don’t waste effort on items that needn’t get done in the first place. Practice whittling away until core items remain. Ten items on your list? Focus on two. 2) Everything takes approximately 10 steps, 1 item is not 1 item. Mailing a postcard entails buying a postcard, writing a postcard, finding a stamp, remembering an address, writing the address and walking to the mailbox. I spent all day yesterday mailing a postcard. 3)  Get it done. If it is important and needs to be accomplished, the longer it hangs out there, the worse you’ll feel. Nothing feels better than clearing a list of important items.

And it’s true, nothing feels better than tackling what needed to be tackled. A weight is lifted, angels sing, and the rest of the day proceeds with ease. That is the key to Order. Order is not about tackling everything. Order is not about running yourself ragged. Order is about creating attainable goals. Order is about calmly navigating the day. Order is being free to let all things have their place in your life. It took a while to learn, but when I’m not chasing frivolous tasks, the world is calmer, and I’m far less likely to lose my mind when my 2-year-old wants to play. After all, playing with my 2-year-old should be at the very top of my list, but I’ll never add it to a list. The most important things in life are never on a list.

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Next Week 

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q4

Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Personal notes:

  • Determine key tasks this week;
  • Ignore unnecessary items;
  • Act with purpose.

The turkey hangover has scrambled my brain. All I want to do is go back to doing nothing while eating more gravy. With Christmas lists and holiday cheer on the horizon, it’s going to take a lot of Resolve to get anything done this week.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving

Silence Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q4

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • If you have nothing nice to say…
  • We could all use a little more quiet in our lives and we can all practice being a bit more quiet.

Silence is against my nature. I like to talk, interject, state my viewpoint, and shoot from the hip. Needless to say, it gets me into trouble. That’s why I’m amazed by people who can sit silently during a board meeting, a story, or an altercation. They always manage to avoid that foolish, foot-in-mouth, guilt-ridden incident, while remaining gracious and empathetic. It’s inspiring.

Before this year I would routinely get into trouble for firing from the hip: wife, parents, kids, friends. To be honest, I never really thought about being Silent. Most of the world doesn’t: “this is my viewpoint, and dammit, you’re going to listen.” The funny thing is, as I practiced being more quiet externally, my world became more quiet internally. It took time, but it happened.

Silence is golden. It really is. Shutting that internal, nagging voice is worth its weight in gold. Think about how much time and energy you’ve wasted: Why did I say that? Did I sound stupid? I wish I hadn’t said it? I’ve certainly spent my share of hours and days exhausted and taxed by a ceaseless, internal self-critique. A lot of that goes away with speak not but what may benefit others or yourself.

This year has really given me a chance to see where the holes were. One hole was not giving more to the important relationships in my life: listening to my wife, listening to my friends, listening to my kids. A depth grows as deeper roots take hold. Silence is key to that growth. Without really listening to or understanding those closest to you, roots remain shallow and upend in the passing storm. Save yourself a million hassles and a million sorries, let the angst wash away. Practice Silence and watch your happiness grow.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q4

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Short week with a lot to do;
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving.

With the short week ahead, use Order to ensure everything gets tucked. Don’t roll into the holiday with work angst or a to-do list. Enjoy Thanksgiving and remember to be grateful for the loved ones around you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Temperance Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q4

Temperance: “Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol;
  • Reduce sugar;
  • Improve meal intake

Saturday night was movie night. Normally I enjoy a bottle of red while sipping a movie. This time however, when I finished the first glass, I didn’t want another. This was strange and annoying. It was not my choice. My body hit the brakes with 70% of the movie and 80% of the bottle left. Annoyed I forced myself another glass. Movie night, time to enjoy some wine dammit. But the glass was bitter. So I watched the rest of the movie sipping water.

I know this sounds trivial, but when I started this project, there was no hitting the brakes until bedtime. I’d start a movie after 2 or 3 glasses of wine at dinner, finish the bottle watching the movie, and then move onto whiskey, having one or several glasses until I was deadened enough for bed. That was Friday and Saturday night. Never once did I stop at one glass.

If I think about what else stopped. Thursday night martinis stopped. As did Wednesday night Manhattans. One year ago I drank some form of hard liquor at least once a night Wednesday through Sunday. I almost never drink hard liquor anymore except on rare occasions, and on those occasions it usually leaves me sluggish the next day. We still have wine often, but in smaller portions. It is rare that I drown a bottle in one sitting; before, if it were open, it was gone.

This project brought notice. Stopping for odd intervals hammered home the difference between a normal week and a temperate week. My body noted the change and began to crave the weeks off, better rest and more enjoyable weekends. Not to mention the physical benefits of weight loss and decreased irritability (always important with a houseful of toddlers).

There are 13 weeks in the Bens13 challenge, for me, this week – Temperance – was one of the more important ones. It helped clarify how much I consumed and lit up what could have become a perilous path and for that, my family and I are grateful. If I tried to accomplish this over a short period of time, I would have failed. The habits of old were too strong. A year of reflection was just the right amount of time.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q4

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”

Personal notes:

  • If you have nothing nice to say…
  • We could all use a little more quiet in our lives.

Usually when I am the most offensive, it is out of speaking from turbulence. The storm inside has not settled. Positions harden and sparks fly, and a wrecked path is left in the wake. And at the end, in the center of it all, is a foolish me, wishing I had just been quiet.

Humility Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q3

Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Personal notes:

  • Put yourself into the shoes of others;
  • Remember that we all falter.

“Imitate Jesus and Socrates” is tough to do. We toss around such phrases glibly, in a manner that has almost become (or has become) derogatory: “What would Jesus do?” I feel both the recipient and the bestower could do well with a little deeper reflection. Let’s sit here now with a little deeper reflection. I know in my heart I am perfectly flawed. We all are. How much can we do?

A friend of ours battling alcoholism has relapsed. The underlying conditions weren’t tackled the first time and I’m not sure the person closest to him has the wherewithal to tackle them again. Sadly, we’ll probably be here for a third time, but hopefully not. I hope not, because I’m really tired and want to walk away. I don’t think I’ll be here a third time.

It’s exhausting, and I’m sure anyone who has dealt with this type of behavior understands. You spend hours on the phone with friends and family doing nothing but re-hatching darkness over and over again. You spend time in the dark and you begin to see in the dark. There is mental wear. There is physical wear.

The wear makes me want to walk away, especially when the effort feels unappreciated and is blunted or ignored. The effort was ignored 6 months ago and here we are again. No surprise, I guess. The person’s life further eroded, further pained, but at least this time there is hope and a glimmer of change. It could be the first winds of spring, or winter catching its breath. I hope the former.

I don’t want to be a part of this again and will cut and walk away. But then, this week is Humility, and I have to ask dryly, without the glibness or condescension, “What would Jesus do?” I guess you can say it’s fortuitous that this week is Humility. I know the answer to my question, and I know that I will go on being a friend and helping where I can. But I also know I am human, with all that is flawed, and I know the journey will continue for now, but later my own life and family will take precedence.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q4

TemperanceEat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Personal notes:

  • Pre-holiday cleanse;
  • Feel good at the end of the week;
  • Reflect on take-aways from the year;
  • Act with Temperance, Moderation & Humility this week.

Here we are rolling into our final Quarter, can you believe it? It’s almost been a year. Time really does fly. Ahead is one of my favorite weeks: Temperance. Way I see it, this is a perfectly timed cleanse – a way to feel good heading into the holidays (because I know after the holidays, I feel an extra 10 lbs of terrible).