(#369) About Kayaks And Perspective

June 18, 2017

If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it.

Lessons. Everywhere, lessons present themselves.  And they remind us that we are always students. Lifelong learners. If we pay attention.

My latest education has come over the past few weeks courtesy of my new twelve-foot ocean kayak.

Previously, I had paddled in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and in North Florida inlets.  Let’s say my first week of ocean kayaking has gifted me some wonderful lessons.

  • Perspective. I spend time on the beach observing surfers and paddle boarders. I notice smooth water, small waves, and storm-tossed breakers. The appreciation for the conditions, though, changed when I walked my kayak into the ocean for the first time. The waves took on a very different perspective  atop of (and soon tossed from) my kayak seat.
    • Lesson. Until we dive into a project, we do not have a full appreciation of what to expect.  A new job might look perfect—until we report to work. Perhaps it’s criticizing a co-worker, government action, or the stance of a group different from ours.  Until we get into that water, we really don’t understand that perspective.

  • Respect and Fear. I have always had a deep respect for the ocean.  That is different from the fear I felt the first time I paddled beyond the breakers. I could feel myself tense up—which in turn led to poor body mechanics. Instead of attacking the waves, I stopped paddling–and eventually ended up in the water with the boat on top of me. (With a broken seat back and lost sunglasses, thank you very much!)
    • Lesson. Fear can lead to counter-productive actions. We start to focus on the thing we do NOT want to do. I once heard a race car driver’s advice on how NOT to hit the racetrack wall. Simply, he said, do NOT look at the wall. If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it. My first day on the kayak I focused on the waves and not being tossed rather than focusing on the shore and gliding to a stop. I tensed up and face planted in the water.

  • Adrift. The first time I got beyond the breakers and to (relatively) smoother, less undulating water, I looked back and saw that I was further from shore than I had thought. The voice in my head cried, “What the hell are you doing out here? Way out here?”
    • Lesson. When we attempt something new, when we stretch ourselves, we might feel adrift. Like we have no anchor. We find ourselves treading unfamiliar waters. Some people quit. Some figure out how to persevere. Some look for reassurance and guidance.  In my case, I looked a little north and spied surfers and paddle boarders. I felt better knowing others were close by. They wouldn’t paddle my boat but just knowing others were in similar waters gave me a feeling of security. When you feel lost and adrift, look around for those who may be in similar waters. Collegiality can be a powerful motivator.
  • Coaching. I sought out a neighbor with experience to help me with kayaking technique.  From posture, to paddle stroke, to entering and leaving the surf, he has provided needed guidance. Simple ideas take root due to his repetition
    • Lesson.  There is no need to be an island.  Reach out for coaching.  A fresh set of eyes and a different perspective can help move you to a new level. (And do not forget gratitude. Bruce found a twelve-pack of his favorite beverage on his patio later that week.)
  • Daily Discipline. Each day I go out, I see improvement. I paddle further; spill less frequently; unload, load, and strap the kayak to the cart with more skill.  I now look at how the waves break on a particular day before lunging into the surf.  I am more aware. I still have a long way to paddle—and I have come a long way, as well.
    • Lesson. Whether you want to call it locus of control or self-efficacy, when you fall short, get up, fall again, get up again…ad nauseum….you learn, you grow, and move closer to a goal. If we fail to notice that we fail to notice—we hinder our movement forward.


Video recommendation for the week.

Sometimes laughing is the best way to soothe a bruised ego. With that in mind, my bride sent me this video link.  Even kayakers have a blooper reel.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#342) Let’s Review

December 11, 2016

This week spend some time looking in your rear view mirror. 

In a few weeks, the calendar turns to 2017.  For some, it will be “good riddance” to 2016. Others will have fond memories and gratitude of the past twelve months.  And then there will be the innumerable New Year’s Resolutions that will be broken before January turns to February.

 Photo SteSt

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you have read my thoughts about the importance of goals. I have shared strategies and urged you to stretch yourself. Above all, I encourage you to believe in who you are and who you can become.  None of us has to be a finished project. Look to the future and all it holds.  Be a cheerleader for your future—and find others who will push and pull you along toward your dreams.

This week spend some time looking in your rear view mirror.  Do you know how you have spent this year? I mean, do you really know what you have done with your time on your way to your goals?

We have often heard that “experience is the best teacher.”  In reality, “evaluated experience” will be a better teacher.  We have to take time to reflect not on just what we have done, but also on why we have done what we have done.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Here is an illuminating practice I started doing five years ago. During the last week of December, I conduct a 52-week review of my life.

  • I print out the previous 52 weeks of my calendar.  All my personal appointments and my professional opportunities.  Everything. I color-code my calendar appointments during the year so that I can easily see categories and projects (like: writing, program development, program rehearsal, program delivery, house projects, community connections, meetings with friends, dates with my bride, and so on). If you want to save a tree, forego the printing and review your e-calendar from your phone, tablet, or laptop. Caution: If you do this e-review, shut off your incoming messages. You really want to have undivided attention on this process. You are worth it!
  • I typically go to a local beach coffee shop, find a quiet corner, and start my 52-week review. You can do this any place. I suggest a place where you can focus and have some “you time.”
  • I make notes about which activities got most of my attention, which ones did not get much time on the calendar, and what did not appear to make it into my life.

Every time I do this, I learn something about myself.  While I know in the broad terms how I use my time, this exercise helps with specifics.  One year, I “learned” (really, became more aware of) what was NOT there on the calendar.  Or at least, what was NOT there ENOUGH times.  I found that important things like lunch with friends was not as prevalent as I had thought.  And while my wife and I spend quite a bit of time together, I felt like we could have done more special things.

Photo c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

The exercise, in short, re-emphasizes the importance of balance and integration in life for me. It helps me clearly see where I have been on the journey for the past year. And it holds my feet to the fire. Have I been authentic to myself? What stories have I been telling myself—and what stories have I been living?

Before we can adequately plan, we need to have a firm understanding of where we have been.  We do not need to bog down in what ifs. Just an objective view of the journey so we can better prepare for the next part of the road.


Video recommendation for the week:

Sometimes goal setting can become a passive activity.  We list a number of goals and then we see what happens.  In this video, I suggest that rather than “wait for” we “work for” our goals. Start working for 2017 with your 52-week review of 2016.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#329) Textured, Colored And A Bit Off-Center

September 11, 2016

By going a little off-center, we start to see things that can enhance our view.
We open ourselves up to larger possibilities and opportunities.

Over the past few months, I’ve been dabbling with photography. Having fun, getting creative, learning, and further appreciating the environment around me.  I understand more about textures and colors and the importance they play in the overall presentation of a particular photo.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Just this week, I shared some of my latest photos with a shutterbug friend of mine.  She tutored me about shooting a scene off-center. That is, placing the focal point of the shot to the left or right. Such a view creates a more dynamic presentation. It helps move the eye and create interest.

I shot most of my photos, interestingly, with the subject dead center in the frame. The colors and textures created interest but after a few shots, I could see what she meant. There seemed to be a sameness. Something was missing.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

As I played with the angles and perspectives, I had an AHA moment. By shifting the focus a little this way or that, the entire scene took on a renewed perspective.  For instance, look at the photo below. With the rising sun off to the right, my eye went to a paddle board in the lower left and a ship on the horizon. Two pieces of the scene that I had earlier missed because I kept the sun dead center.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

This got me thinking about how we can view our world.  While a centered focus helps us zero in on the big part of the picture (a goal, for instance), we might miss those things just off to the side. Maybe these items provide color or a bit more texture.  This additional information can be useful in understanding and appreciating the larger glory and story.  By going a little off-center, we start to see things that can enhance our view.  We open ourselves up to larger possibilities and opportunities.

Where can you shift your focus a bit to see a problem or a major decision from a different perspective?  What little things might you be missing because you will not move the focal point? A little this way; a little that way. A bit more texture; a different hue.  A clearer view. More mindful.

On what can you adjust your focus this week? Where can you go a bit off-center for a different—and perhaps—renewed perspective?


Video recommendation for the week:

The Heath brothers use the metaphor of shifting the spotlight to broaden the view of our world.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#326) Where Is Your Focus Space?

August 21, 2016

It seems I do some of my best thinking when I am not in my workspace.

In her book Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up Patricia Ryan Madson suggests that we pay attention to our “hot spots.” These places feel right for us and, for whatever reason, we have a clearer view of our world.  In these spaces, we have a better than average chance of pushing distractions aside and concentrating on the important stuff in our lives.

As Madson says, we “just show up.” We don’t over prepare. We step into the space and allow our creative juices to flow.

_____________________________________

“Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.”
Soren Kierkegaard

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I think of these hot spots as unfocused spaces that allow me to focus.  That is, when I am feeling stuck (on a project, for instance) rather than force a narrowly framed decision, I find these focus spaces allow me to see broader and more creative options. I don’t force my thoughts. I allow the options to flow to me and open up a pathway for ideas to take root and begin to bloom.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

When I jotted down my creative spaces I had an “aha moment.”

  • Doing yard work.
  • Drinking a cup of coffee in a cafe.
  • Having talk-time with my bride.
  • Meditating
  • Relaxing in a hotel room.
  • Sitting in my seat during a flight.
  • Waiting on a flight in the airport.
  • Walking, sitting, or biking on the beach
  • Walking with my canine companion, Roxie
  • Working in my home office
  • Working out in the gym.

With the exception of “working in my home office,” the other ten spaces actually remove me from my day-to-day work locations and routine actions. It seems I do some of my best thinking when I am not in my workspaces.  I’m not forcing myself. When I don’t force myself to focus, I seem to focus better. This sweet spot helps me stay resilient.

Video recommendation of the week:

So, maybe, if you’re feeling stuck or you’re having difficulties stimulating the creative juices, pay a visit to your non-work focus spot. Make a list of the top places where things seem to happen for you—where ideas appear and conundrums appear to become clearer.

When was the last time you visited your focus space?

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#264) Manage Your Energy. Maximize Your Productivity

June 14, 2015

What small step can you take this week to set your agenda,
manage your energy, and accomplish the most important thing on your radar?

In last week’s post I briefly noted the concept of ultradian rhythms. These 90-minute full-on work cycles have the potential to help you manage your energy and perform at your highest and most effective level.  I was reminded of the research behind this practice when I read The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz.

Getting into the rhythm requires a bit of a mind shift and, if you believe Schwartz’s findings, a major behavioral adjustment for many of us. This week, let’s drill down a bit further on this intriguing concept.

Remember the old tale of the tortoise and the hare? Well, it seems that maybe the hare was onto something.  Sprinting has its benefits over endless plodding.

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it came to a teaching schedule, my favorite teaching session was, hands down, a 75-minute session. If you added the 10 minutes I arrived early and the (usually) 5 minutes it took me to pack up and speak with a student or two on the way to my office, you’d find I was right in this ultradian rhythm.

When it comes to a workshop on the road, guess what my favorite session length is. 60-75 minutes.  Add in Q & A and I’m right at the 90-minute cycle.

And for the past decade or so as I have gotten deeper into my presentation rehearsals, guess how much time I typically spend rehearsing in any given practice session. 90 minutes!

Keep in mind, I had been doing the above long before I read about ultradian rhythms. The timing just felt right. My energy levels remained high. And I got (and continue to get) things accomplished.

Over the last month, I have made a point to consciously carve into each day three or four of these ultradian cycles. I am more intentional about my schedule. Truth be told, some days I am much more successful than others. I do find, however, when I actually schedule and block the time on my calendar I am more apt to honor the commitment to myself.

Video recommendation for the week:

Schwartz provides a few tips to consider as you build your cycles:

  1. Identify the number one item you need to accomplish Understand it. Focus on it. Put it on your daily agenda.
  2. Identify the time of the day when you will have the most energy and fewest distractions. For me, that is the first part of the day. I’m up early. Typically, my first 90-minute cycle is my morning workout. Followed by breakfast and a review of what the day ahead looks like. Then I go headlong into my first ultradian work/professional session for the day.
  3. Before you actually start the work minimize (better yet, eliminate) your distractions, says Schwartz. I shut off my email screen and silence my phone (and put it out of sight). If you are a supervisor, this might be your “closed door time.”  Even for supervisors (especially for supervisors) it is critical that your supervisor understands and respects your time.
  4. Sprint for 90 minutes. When you get to the end of the time, stop. Take your break.  Honor your start and stop time.

As I consider and (more and more) live this strategy, I cannot help but think about the traditional school days our students (especially middle school and high school) and teachers are on. Or the constant push by the boss to do more with less—and at double the pace and without break. And then there is the night after night of less and less quality sleep time so that we can work on work-related tasks.

As Schwartz states, the way we’re working isn’t working.  What small step can you take this week to set your agenda, manage your energy, and accomplish the most important thing on your radar?  If you can’t do 90-minutes sessions, start with 15, 30 or 45 minutes.  And then build from there. Make it a habit and grab control of your day and the stories you create.

Either you create your story—or you let someone else create it for you.

P.S. This week’s blog post…took me 90 minutes to compose the first draft.

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#259) Is “Hope” a Meaningless Sentiment?

May 10, 2015

Is hope just a word that will soon be washed away by
an incoming tide? 
Or does it send a message of resilience?

What is the worth of “hope”?  As in, “don’t lose hope.”  Or, “I hope tomorrow is better than today.”  And, “I hope the boss likes my report.”

I have gone around the block with hope.  Like many of us, I have used the word without real thought any time I wished for something either to happen or not to happen.  It became a cliché word without much thought.  (A lot like the word “try” that is bandied about all the time. You know, “It didn’t work but I tried!“)

I then went 180 degrees and embraced the thought that “hope is not a strategy” and is not conducive to progress. It can be, I thought, a comfortable rationalization for inaction.

This past week I had a conversation with a colleague who is grappling with some professional challenges.  We both had recently heard a speaker focus on the power of hope. Hope for the future. Hope for improvement. Hope for a meaningful life. Hope for a good job. Hope, hope, hope.

My friend said that was nice—but he needed a plan to move through and beyond his challenges. “Hope” would not do the job.

Image: Laurie Piscitelli

Image: Laurie Piscitelli

A little over a year ago, a dear friend battled a disease that would in short order kill her.  While walking on the beach, my wife wrote the word hope in the sand and took the above photo.  So many ways to look at that.

Is hope just a word that will soon be washed away by an incoming tide? Or does it send a message of resilience?

I’ve come to believe that hope can be a powerful source of inspiration. In some cases, it might be the last thing separating a person from desperation and just giving up.

BUT for hope to have any chance of a lasting impact there must be more. Consider the equation:

H  +  P  +  A  =  D

HOPE can be the fuel that keeps our head up in times when we are confused, angry, and/or tired. Nice.  But to that we must add a PLAN. What do we need to put in place in order to move out of the (desperate) situation we find ourselves? Again, the plan (or goal) represents a start but it must be accompanied by ACTION.  What will you actually do to move your goal from words to your desired DESTINATION?

So to answer my question in the title above: Hope can be a meaningful sentiment as long as it is accompanied by a well-thought-out plan that is put into action to move toward the destination.  Hope, to me, can be a powerful fuel. But like the fuel in your car, it will not move you forward unless you put yourself in gear, step on the gas, and navigate down the road.

Video recommendation of the week:

This week, keep hope in front of you.

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#230) Your Habits—Your Choices

October 19, 2014

As Aristotle said, “Excellence is not an act, but rather a habit.”

Ever wonder what separates the achievers from the non-achievers (besides what they actually achieve)? In the November issue of Success Magazine, Tom Corley outlines what he calls “Rich Habits-Poor Habits” (from his book Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals).

Based on his research, he found the clear differences between the wealthy and the poor existed not in talent, charm or intelligence but rather in their daily habits.  The Success article outlined 16 Rich Habits (see pages 73-76 of the magazine).  For our purposes this week, I will focus on the five habits that spoke to me.  As you read each one, do a quick mental check of how you fare in these areas.

rich habits

  1. Read every day.
    Read at least 30 minutes per day.  And it’s not just any kind of reading.  The rich habit focused on reading to learn—to gain knowledge about career, business, balance and well-being.
  2. Forget television and web surfing.
    Corley found that nearly two-thirds of the wealthy people in his study spend less than one hour per day in front of the television or on the Internet (unless it is job-related). Tellingly, more than three-quarters of those who struggle financially spend more than one hour per day in front of the boob tube.
  3. Go above and beyond in your work.
    The poor habit found itself mired in the “it’s-not-my-job” syndrome. What employer wants to entrust that mindset with the keys to the kingdom? Contrast that with the workers who go above and beyond to make themselves invaluable to their bosses and clients.  Yes, focus is important (see #5 below) but so is being a self-starter. The rich habit here is to keep stretching yourself. Find ways to learn more about what you do for your calling.
  4. Avoid toxic people.
    I have written often on this blog about energy vampires—and all of their toxic consequences. Corley found that 86% of successful people associate with successful people, while “96% of those struggling financially stick with others struggling financially.”  Think of the power of networking.
  5. Know your main purpose.
    Video recommendation for the week:  Steve Jobs spoke of the power of saying “No!”  This rich habit is about understanding what your core values are and focusing on them.  In business, that means not being distracted by the little things that may seem interesting or not saying yes because it would make someone feel good.  Your actions should complement your purpose.

To start your week, address each of the habits above. For instance:

  1. I will set aside 30 minutes each day to read for personal/professional development. You could do this with an audiobook or while riding the stationary bike in the gym or getting up 30 minutes earlier to have one-half hour of sustained silent reading.
  2. I will limit my television time to 60 minutes or less. Consider this: If you spend two hours/day in front of the TV that equates to 10 hours per week. (I’m not even counting weekend viewing.) In the course of a month that is the equivalent of one full work week (40 hours). Over the course of the year, you have just kissed more than three months good bye! Really?
  3. This week I will explore one area in my workplace that really is not in my job description. I will work to understand how this area fits with what I do for whom I serve.
  4. I will not only minimize my time with energy-sucking people, I will seek out and continue to develop (start to develop) a relationship with at least one positive and nutritious person this week. Need I really say more?
  5. This is an area that I have had to really work on during my career. I have gotten better—but still need work. My current goal is to work with a mentor by year’s end to help sort through all of my projects and re-focus on/fine tune my core purpose and avoid projects that distract me from that purpose.

As Aristotle said, “Excellence is not an act, but rather a habit.”

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


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