You have stumbled upon the start of one of my books. This book was started late October 2017. It is not formatted for a web page. It is simply pasted here from the 6″x9″ manuscript. Work stopped in December 2017 because I had too many other projects, but I hope to resume this project in February 2018 and have it ready to submit to publishers by April 2018. Feel free to send me your comments and suggestions. Victor@HelpGettingOff.com Some of my recent articles are found here: helpgettingoff.com/view You can buy my best selling book here: California Criminal Defense Motions in Limine
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I have read many excellent motivational, educational, and other books containing life advice. To varying degrees, these books infer, imply, or outright state that they will transform lives. The admirable work by Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, promises, “If you follow this plan persistently you will be almost certain to uncover and appropriate the secret formula by which Andrew Carnegie acquired his huge fortune…” I read the book – several times – and I believe it was a great benefit to me, but it did not bring me the wealth of Andrew Carnegie.
In her outstanding book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins claims “she’ll give you one simple tool you can use to become your greatest self.” And it only takes five seconds to use the rule. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I still do not believe that I am my greatest self.
In Secrets of Power Negotiating, Secrets of Power Performance, and his other fine books, Roger Dawson implies that his books will be life changing to those who read them. I read them, and they did change my life, but my life was also changed by the writings of Napoleon Hill, Mel Robbins, and many others.
No single book, no single idea, no single tactic, trick, or technique has fully revolutionized my life and changed me into the perfect being. None of these books and none of the other books I have read have succeeded in transforming me into the perfect me. The books have, however, given me tools to help me live a better life.
The book in your hands, in your ears, or before your eyes on a screen will not succeed in transforming you into the perfect you, but it will provide you with a few more tools to help you along in your journey.
The idea of this book is simple – simplify and take more control of your life by making carefully considered decisions one time instead making repeated decisions with little thought.
To weed out those who would readily reject the concept, I have started the book with what I consider to be one of my most controversial yet liberating decisions – a daily work uniform. This decision works for me, but it I doubt it will work for all readers of this book.
You are responsible for the path you take along your journey. If you use some of what you read in this book, it will help you on that journey, but no matter what books you read and advice you receive, the paths you choose are your own, and journey is yours to make.
Fair winds and following seas.
- Purple Shirts. 8
- Black Socks. 14
- Eva. 18
- Pockets. 22
- Celebrities and Shows. 28
- Weight of the World. 32
- Body Weight. 35
- Walking. 38
- Firefighter Preparation. 41
- Fighting Fires. 46
- Quiet Schedule. 49
- Call Screening. 56
- Investment and Ceremony. 59
- Thought and No Thought. 62
- Work Once. 71
- Zones and Lists. 68
- Take It Along. 76
- The Answer is No. 80
- I Really Mean No. 84
- Touch Twice. 89
- Leverage. Error! Bookmark not defined.
- Bananas. 89
- Engineer Everything. 92
- Measure and Reward. 93
- Less Windup, More Pitch. 94
- Religion. 94
- I Will Fail 95
- Haters. 95
- Stay Constipated. 95
- The Answer is Yes?. 98
- Epilog. 99
I thank some of unconventional heroes who have made this book possible.
Chuck E. Cheese has given me a place to sit, power for my laptop, WiFi, and low cost entertainment for the kids while I was working on this and other books. I have spent many Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. caressing my keyboard. Dear Chuck E. Cheese management, please, go back to opening the doors at 9:00 a.m.
Action Sports has large walls for the children to conquer while I conquer my writing. When they first opened many years ago, I purchased a bike that they still tune up for free each year.
Rush Air Sports, American Kids Sports Center, and Golden Tiger Karate have also provided me with a place to sit and type, WiFi, and low cost entertainment and education for the kids. To these dear friends I make a plea, give me an electric plug and the opportunity to buy a diet soda.
Russo’s Books. When I was an unknown nobody of an author, Russo’s stocked my first book even when no other book store would do so. My books are now easily found, but I beg my readers to visit this small blessing in Bakersfield and the few other local booksellers still in business. On the shelves of these small stores, you will often find wonderful treasures from worthy authors that are neglected by the major chains.
Father’s Day, 2017. My family is out of the country. I have the house to myself. Kohl’s is having a sale. I have a coupon.
After my morning shower, I step on the scale and read an all-time high: 240 pounds. I change the settings on the scale and see that I only weigh 109 kilograms. I change the settings again and see that I only weigh 17 stones. Seventeen doesn’t sound so high. I change back to pounds and see that my weight has dropped to 239.5 pounds. At least I don’t weigh 240 pounds anymore.
At 6’ 11”, I have a normal Body Mass Index, but my doctor has never taken my word about my height; she insists that I’m 5’ 11”.
It is hot out, even by nine in the morning, so I grab the first short sleeved shirt in my closet. It is a half button-up cotton shirt that was given to me on some holiday by some relative that doesn’t understand my requirements for a shirt. I am partially to blame – before that day I have never really defined or listed my requirements for a shirt. I had given the topic little thought except when browsing through shirts in anticipation of a purchase. When purchasing, I would only give thought to the shirt immediately at hand. Naturally, it had to be my size and within my budget, but after that, shirts were simply judged individually using a two part test – yes, no.
This day, I defined the “yes” and the “no” using what came to be a ten prong test.
First, it must fit. This should be a given.
Second, it must be affordable. Even if a gift, I don’t want a ridiculously expensive shirt. I don’t want to fret when a shirt gets torn, stained, frayed, or faded. I want to discard or donate it.
Third, my shirt must be permanent press. I don’t want to iron, and no one else in my house will do so.
Fourth, two words – natural fabrics.
Fifth, no part of my belly should be exposed when wearing the shirt. This goes beyond the shirt being my size. Many shirts labeled with my size actually appear to be designed for a person who is 4’6”. I’ll settle for a shirt that will fit someone who is 6’11”, but the shirt must at least cover someone who is 5’11”. I’m not a twenty-one-year-old body builder out to show off my six pack abs. No one wants to gawk at the lower two inches of my belly as I saunter down the street. Simply put, I want my shirts to be long enough to cover my torso, even when I twist, turn, and pirouette as I roller blade through the neighborhood. This shirt is only long enough if I stand at attention after doing a William T. Riker comfort pull on a windless day. That is unacceptable.
Sixth, I want a regular pocket. I don’t want two pockets. I don’t want a pocket in a non-standard location. I don’t want a button on my pocket, and I don’t want my pocket to be a different color than the rest of the shirt. Put my pocket on the upper left corner of the shirt and make it the regular shape and size. The aberration in my hand had no pocket. No, I don’t fill my shirt pocket with pens and pencils, and I don’t have a plastic pocket protector. I do use my shirt pocket for three specific items: a few business cards, a silk hanky, and a gimmick. I carry a second gimmick in my front right pants pocket, and sometimes a third in a different pocket, but I’ll get to these things later. I realize that my normal shirt pocket accoutrement’s may be non-traditional, but it isn’t like I carry “normal” things in every pocket. My left pants pocket nearly always has a deck of cards and my right pants pocket has a three headed quarter. Stick with me and it will all make sense. For now, please accept that this malformed shirt simply failed the sixth prong of my new ten part shirt test.
Seventh, I want buttons all the way up the shirt. I don’t want any possibility of the shirt being described as a pullover. If I pull a shirt over my head, it is probably going to be stained with deodorant smears (I have yet to master the concept of putting on deodorant after fully dressing). Further, pullovers accentuate my belly, which as has already established, by clear and convincing evidence to the eyes of anyone who has recently witnessed it, is something to be concealed, not accentuated. This shirt looked like a button-up, but it only had the three top buttons. The bottom part of the shirt was a broad swath of cloth of the type traditionally called broadcloth. It did, indeed, make my midsection appear to be broad and it was cloth. I do not wish to see broadcloth in this way. This prong of the test was not met.
Eighth, no stupid words. I don’t want a shirt that says, “I’m with stupid,” “Show me your tits,” “I’m not a gynecologist, but I’ll have a look,” or any other such stupidity. Yes, it is sometimes funny to look at the guy wearing a shirt with a ridiculous slogan, but I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want my shirt to endorse racism, sexism, or even nihilism. I am also against having my shirt endorse optimism, pessimism, or any other ism. My shirt is not a place for isms or even pride in cans. I don’t want my shirt to proclaim that I am or that I support being an American, Mexican, Republican, or any other type of can. Such messages have many media outlets, but my shirt is not such a media outlet. I don’t want my shirt to advertise or promote an alcoholic beverage, a tobacco product, or any other vice. Simply put, I don’t want words or messages on my shirt. As to this requirement, the present shirt passes. It has a pattern of trees and fish on a blue background, but no words or product placements.
Ninth, closely related is the requirement that the shirt have, no fanatic messages. Fan is short for fanatic. I am not a fan – not of any team. Sports fans often wear the colors and emblems of their favorite team. This is not for me. I don’t know which football team or teams are in Los Angeles, and I really don’t care. I don’t know the difference between the AFC and the NFC and I don’t care if either one ever uses a designated hitter, disregards the two line pass, or votes to move back the three-point line. I don’t care. I have nothing against sports fans. I am impressed by the memorization and math skills of many of them, but it is simply not something I am interested in. I have been to one “scratch and spit” game, no football games, one basketball game (Harlem Globetrotters), and less than a dozen hockey games. While I did enjoy playing hockey (before ballooning to 240 pound and growing to a self-proclaimed 6’11”) I have never garnered much pleasure from watching others play it. In my younger year (yes, only one year), I did play some baseball, but I was discouraged by the advice of my coach: lean in so the ball will hit you and you can walk. I just don’t have the desire to watch others play a game, and I don’t care to have team endorsements on my shirt. The shirt in my hand passed this prong of the test swimmingly. It was ugly, but endorsed no team.
Tenth, my shirt must not induce nausea. Some clothing is so hideously ugly that mortals are induced to projectile vomit in the direction of the eyesore so as to coat it with stomach paint and protect inquisitive eyes from the indecent exposure. The shirt in my hands had a pattern of trees and fish. The message presented was obvious: the long-forgotten relative who cursed me with this shirt hates me. My current best guess is my Aunt Sandra. I think she may still be mad about me mentioning Uncle Charlie after she married Uncle Ralph. I was very young, but the shirt demonstrates ancient hatred.
The shirt in my hands obviously failed many prongs of my test, but as is my habit, I tried it on anyway and hoped for the best. I looked at myself in the closet door mirror, reached for the next shirt in the closet, and came to the first of several realizations in my path to decide once – no one is home.
I hate this shirt. I have worn it more than a dozen times and I have hated it every time. I hate it so much that I hate the spawn of the womb of the woman who gave it to me. To be fair, I just don’t get along with my cousin, but that is a different story. For now, I will take the liberty of blaming the shirt, that may or may not have been a gift from her mother, because my cousin is actually probably an okay person. I do hate the shirt so much that I don’t even remember who gave me the tormented cloth, but I now realize that no one is home. The choice of what to do with the shirt is mine. There is no one to mock me or stop me.
I am a god to this shirt. The life of this shirt is in my complete control. No one can order me to put it back on a hanger, wear it with a different pair of pants, or wear it just this once.
I deem this shirt worthy of death by hanging.
I hung the shirt back on a hanger in the closet and grabbed the next shirt.
I was unfulfilled.
I hated a shirt, but I put it back in the closet to await the next time that I would wear it, but I had no desire to ever wear it again. I never had a desire to wear it the first time I did so. This was unfair to the shirt, but more important, it was unfair to me. I am in a bad relationship with this shirt, but I just don’t have the strength of will to end the relationship. As with many such problems, I set it aside by returning the shirt to a hanger and the closet. The shirt was still mine, but I would fight the fight another day.
The next shirt failed over half of the prongs of the ten prong test as did the next. Many… yea, most of the shirts in the closet failed one or more prongs. Many failed the belly test. 240 pounds gives an unacceptable belly to shirt ratio and blame is most easily placed on the shirt. Some failed the pullover test. None of the shirts failing this prong of the test were purchased by me, and none of the shirts failing the stupid words or fan prongs were purchased by me. I have never bought a shirt with a message for myself. The shirts I buy for myself don’t promote a religion, a political view, a team of any kind, or any sort of message at all other than the fact that I want to conceal my nudity from the public.
I realized that I had a problem with the shirts in my closet – many of them were my enemies. I could not continue to squeeze my mass into uncomfortable shirts without proper pockets that were an abomination to the senses just because someone had given them to me. This was a real problem that I had avoided for most of my life. A real problem needs a real solution.
I was alone in the house – the solution was fire.
I rifled through my closed, gathered all of the shirts I have long hated, and took them outside with thoughts of burning them in the firepit.
Common sense, economic reality, and the desire to help others overtook me, so the shirts escaped the hungry flame. They were instead deposited with the nearest tax write-off charity – Good Will.
My closet was now a quarter empty, but my pocket still had a Khol’s coupon (and a deck of cards), so I set off on an adventure disguised as a quest – get shirts that meet all ten of my new shirt rules. I drove to Khol’s.
Kohl’s had a sign with a picture of three people. Each person was wearing a blue shirt. I had a realization somewhat short of an epiphany – everyone I had ever met from the Law Office of Christopher Martens was always wearing the same shade of blue. Without stating it or emphasizing it, this company had branded itself as the law firm that wears blue – not just any shade of blue, but Martens’ Blue.
I glanced around the store and saw Martens’ blue on signs, on clothes, and throughout the store. Belts, jewelry, handbags, towels, and even toys were in Martens’ blue, but it was just blue. Mr. Martens had claimed the shade as his own. He was, he is, a genius.
I needed my own shade of my own color. I wasn’t just going to buy shirts that met the prongs of my test, I was going to buy shirts that branded me. I was going to get my own color and adopt it as my own.
I found my color – my shirts – on sale, with a coupon, and with free shipping.
The shirts that were on sale at Kohl’s were so affordable that I am ashamed to mention the price here. My shame tolerance is very low, so much so that I have discussed my fat belly hanging out of my shirts, but the price of these shirts was even lower my belly droop. Still, I seek better value.
My branding choice was purple. I’ve always had a fondness for purple, but while I did not realize it at the time, this became the defining moment for the decide once idea and the revelation of this book. I did not realize the significance of this idea and this book at the time, but at that time I resolved to decide once: my shirts shall be purple.
I bought the three purple shirts that were my size. I ordered 24 more. 24 was a specific number so the clerk might think there was some significance to the number – maybe there were 24 of us who were in some sort of theatrical production. Maybe it was for company uniforms. I definitely was not buying a bunch of purple shirts just so I could wear the same color and style of shirt every single day. That would make me seem crazy.
Shipping was free. The coupon made a low price even lower. I was destined to wear a purple shirt every workday.
I cleaned out the shirt section of my closet. I added the new purple dress shirts to the several purple dress shirts I already had and cleared my closet of the remaining distractions. I still retained a small section of casual shirts for weekends, some workout shirts, and some shirts for special occasions, but the majority of the shirt section was now purple. I would select a shirt from this section each workday.
It is difficult to explain how free this decision made me, so I will instead talk about my wife in her prison of clothing.
Our bedroom closet is only one quarter mine. The rest is filled with her clothes. The children also share half of their closet space with their mother, and our nook is stacked high with her clothes.
Each morning she tries on a combination of clothes. Then she switches out one or more articles. It is a process that can easily last half an hour or more as she cycles through possible wardrobe choices for the day. At half an hour a day, my wife’s time in “clothing decision prison” is about the same amount of time in a normal work month.
My time trying on clothes in the morning is much shorter, but the purple shirts would reduce my time in “clothing decision prison” by perhaps ten minutes a day.
I could do better.
About a week before Independence Day, 2017. My family is out of the country for a few more days. I have the house for a few more days. I have no coupons, and I know of no sales. Minor eating changes and a long term change of setting on the scale to kilograms have lowered my weight to nearly an even one hundred.
I just finished sorting dress socks on the table. More than a dozen single socks remain. Many of the pairs have stretched out tops; some have a hole for my big toe to poke out of. I still wear the socks with holes. I just fold the tips under as I out on my shoes. Other pairs are unevenly faded, so I wear a dark sock with a light one even though both are from the same pair.
Since adopting the purple shirt decision, I’ve abandoned several pairs of pants as being incompatible. All blue pants are gone. Mostly gray and black remain, but I grudgingly endure a few brown and khaki pairs. My morning dress time is minimal. The remaining pants all go with the purple shirts, and dress socks go with both.
I still have one troubling choice each morning – underwear. Socks are not a problem or a delay in the morning – that delay and frustration has been moved to days I do laundry. I gave little thought to the sock issue and scant time to contemplating the underwear issue, but I would never buy underwear for another adult, even my wife, unless that person is present to approve, yet my wife, my mother, and even a few friends have chosen to give me fancy, sexy, and cute underwear.
The underwear often comes with an excuse such as, “I know you like ____ and these had pictures of _____, so I thought of you.” Please, friends and family, don’t think of me when you see underwear.
I have Hugo Boss, Banana Republic, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, and other fancy brands of underwear. Some are boxers, some are briefs, most have pretty designs or pictures. Most ride up, ride down, or strangle the boys. I wear the same brand and size of boxer briefs every day until every pair is dirty, and then I wear the designer underwear until the torture of the designer underwear drives me to do laundry early.
After matching the socks that could be matched, I searched the hampers for straggler socks and tossed them into the washer with a load of underwear. I am always hesitant to wash socks with underwear lest there be some sort of anomalous cross contamination of the malodorous regions of my body, but I take the risk when the sock count is low. Still, I use the steam cycle.
I started the clothes washer. I started the dishwasher. I put cleaner in the toilets. I tied a plastic bag of vinegar onto the showerhead. I sprayed a mix of dish soap and vinegar onto the shower walls (when the family is gone, it is time to catch up on chores), and I left for Costco to get the essentials for a man whose family is away – ribeye steaks and smoked salmon.
Before judging me too harshly for this food choice, please consider that a high protein low everything else diet had helped me lose almost twenty pounds as of July 2017.
The Costco lines were long, but I was not in the least bit of a hurry because I was listening to a good recorded book, so I meandered down each isle finding new items that were necessary for our household. I did not know that we needed batteries until I saw how inexpensive they were, and I did not realize that lobster tails were necessary for a high protein diet until it dawned on me that I was eating for one but our normal family budget was for four. A few lobster tails could fit into the budget. On the other end of the spectrum, Vienna sausages were less than fifty cents a can when purchased in bulk, and Spam can be part of a high protein diet. A case of paper towels is always a good investment, and socks… I have plenty of socks. Yet, I just spent around half an hour sorting socks. I don’t usually slow my pace as I walk past the Costco sock isle – yes, there is a full isle of socks at Costco, albeit a short isle. Today, I contemplated my socks and had flashbacks to my purple shirts and the time wasted sorting socks.
Costco had packages of dress socks in which each sock was the same as each other. All pairs were fungible, exchangeable, match able, and pairable with all others in the pack and all others in each other pack. My math degree (bad education decision) struck in – I could buy just six packages of socks, pay less than two dollars a pair, and have enough dress socks for an entire month. I looked at the sports socks. While I do little sport on the weekend, I do wear white sport socks and sneakers (tennis shoes, running shoes, or whatever you want to call them) on the weekend. The sport socks were even less expensive. While I did not discuss the sorting and matching of my sport socks, it is an equally daunting task, but is perpetrated less often because I only wear sport socks twice a week whereas I wear dress socks five days a week. The sport socks at Costco were also completely interchangeable. I could buy a pack of six pairs and any sock from any of the pairs was also a pair to any of the other socks.
I thought back to my holey dress socks and my many dissimilar socks both dress and sport. I had to decide once, but I did not realize the implications or even name the concept at the time – I was just sick of sorting socks. My dress socks would be these. My sport socks would be these. I would be free from sorting socks forever except for two easy categories – black or white. All of my dress socks would be the same exact black socks and all of my sport socks would be the same exact white socks. I grabbed six packs of dress socks and two packs of sport socks.
With this decision, I would only have to wash socks once a month. Sorting would be simple. I didn’t even have to sort. I could throw all of the clean socks into one basket and just grab either black or white depending on whether it was a weekday or a weekend.
My basket flourishing with socks, I continued my shopping excursion but I did not make it far into the frozen food isle before being beckoned back to sockland. I gathered into my basket enough socks so that I would only need to wash socks about once every three months. More importantly, I would never again need to match socks.
I was rather happy with my decision and smugly believed that my morning dressing routine was now set in stone, but this image vanished when I wandered down the underwear isle. It was there that I realize I hate every pair of Banana Republic underwear I own. I don’t hate Banana Republic – I even have a very comfortable pair of Banana Republic pants – but none of the Banana Republic underwear I own fits right. I also hate my Banana Republic shirts, not because they are defective, ugly, or even of poor quality. None of these things are true. All of my Banana Republic shirts are very quality and even quite good looking, but none of them fit right and none of them have a standard shirt pocket. I should say, all of the Banana Republic shirts I used to have. All of my Banana Republic shirts went away during the Purge for Purple.
Today, all of my Banana Republic underwear would be gone. Today, all underwear except Hanes boxer briefs would be gone. Today, all of my dress socks would match one another and all of my sport socks would match one another.
What started with purple shirts would extend to my entire wardrobe. When I took the socks and underwear home, I did not stop by replacing the old with the new. I organized my closet for the last time – for the first and the last time. When I finished, I had four sections – office clothes, weekend clothes, workout clothes, and specialized clothes.
Every day, my underwear brand, style, and size were the same. Color doesn’t matter.
On any given workday or day of a more formal event, I could grab any shirt, any pants, and any two socks to make a complete, matched ensemble.
On any given casual day, I could grab any shirt, any pants, and any two white socks to make a complete, matched ensemble. My only decision for casual days was shorts or long pants.
Sport clothes were just as easy, and the specialized clothes were such things as thermal underwear and heavy sweaters for when I visit extra cold places.
My life, at least my morning dressing routine, would now be much simpler. A went one last step further and sorted my shoes into two categories: black dress shoes and casual/workout shoes.
As I finished up this last task I remembered hearing something about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, always wore the same thing. Perhaps I was on to something.
I decided once what I would wear each day, but I still haven’t founded a Facebook.
I hate doing simple document preparation services, and I hate working on family law cases. I believe my reasons for this hatred are rather sound.
Document preparation services are mind numbing and frustrating. The clients give the information to type into the forms they have chosen, and then the document preparer types in the information. The clients often choose the wrong forms to do the wrong things and then insist on filling them out incorrectly. The document preparer is legally not allowed to tell the client what documents to use or what to type in the documents. This alone is bad, but it gets worse.
After the forms are prepared to the client’s exact specifications, often from their own written or recorded words, many clients will then seek endless revisions to their own words, insisting that their words don’t mean what they said. During such revisions, some lasting over the course of many days, the clients usually attempt to argue the merits of their case and attempt to draw the document preparer into a discussion of the righteousness of their case while soliciting advice from the preparer. No matter how many times the document preparer explains that he or she is legally limited to typing the documents selected by the client with the words selected by the client, many clients continually say things like, “I know that, but what is your personal opinion?” or, “but just between us, what would you do?”
If I gave my true opinion to such questions, many clients would not return: “My personal opinion is that you should not be doing these documents yourself because you have no idea how the legal system works” and “I would shell out the bucks and pay for actual legal representation instead of simple document preparation.” I am not at all against pro per litigants. I believe many people are perfectly capable of representing themselves. I will go so far as to state that I believe most family law cases would be best served by a lack of attorneys and that attorneys are simply an unnecessary expense civil cases involving small dollar amounts. However, when someone comes in for document preparation services regarding child custody and that person doesn’t know the birthdays of the children in question, I know two things: that person should not have custody of the children, and that person needs an attorney if they are actually going to take the matter before a judge.
I also find document preparation services mind numbing because it involves a low level of independent thought on my part. I like to get a case file, review it, conduct my own legal research, prepare pleadings suggested by the lead attorney, add pleadings I believe appropriate, and then submit everything to the lead attorney for final approval or revisions. Any such revisions made by the lead attorney will generally teach me something new or, at a minimum, give me a new area of law to use for further research.
When doing document preparation, the client reviews the case file, conducts the legal research, and tells the document preparer exactly what to write. Little thought is involved except the recurring thought, “what the heck is this person even thinking?”
My hatred for family law cases runs even deeper and has two underlying reasons. First, many custody battles revolve around the best economic choice for the party instead of what is best for the children. I have seen many fathers (and mothers) argue for increased custody, not because they want to spend more time with their children, but simply because they don’t want to pay as much in child support. I have heard a parent ask, “how much more custody do I have to have to get out of paying support?” My true answer would probably not be well received: poke yourself in the eye with a rusty fork.
If you come to me with a custody issue and your major concern is not the wellbeing of your children, I’m probably (definitely) going to hate you and hope that you slip on a dog turd and land in a pile of boogers before sliding into the nearest sewer line.
Eva came to the office looking for document preparation services for her family law case. I needed no other reasons to attempt to avoid her. It is mid-October. I have no shopping plans, and I’m back up to 225 pounds. I’ve given up on messing with the scale settings.
The office has a bar Certified Family Law Specialist as well as an attorney who is an expert in family law, a Licensed Document Assistant who concentrates on family law, and a paralegal who’s primary duty is family law. When a family law client comes in to talk to someone about their case, the last resort is usually a plastic hammer named Pat that we keep in the lobby in Handy Manny’s tool chest for kids to play with, but even he was unavailable, so the burden of talking to Eva fell to me.
Eva had a stack of court orders. She spent six hours detailing every problem in her life, but she did it in fifteen minutes. Her rapid staccato explanation of the pleadings and orders gave me little useful information, and she attempted to show by thousands of messages from her ex discussing child support, visitation, and general hatred for one another. I could see that the bickering and abusive message exchanges had been going on for longer than the original relationship that spawned her children. I could see that she was suffering, and I was sure that the children were suffering even more, but her words gave me few clues as to why she was in my office and what the firm could do to help her. She was clearly not happy with her custody and visitation orders, and she had many complaints about baby-daddy, his family, his new girlfriend, and their lifestyle.
She attempted to show me the bimbo’s Facebook page. I asked her what papers she wished to have filled out. She alluded to the possibility that baby-daddy’s new fling might be a stripper. I asked what type of new orders she was seeking. She began a discussion of possible drinking habits, and explained that baby-daddy had not been doing his scheduled visitation.
I finally had something meaningful to grab on to. “Do you want to change visitation?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
It appeared that this very nice girl who was very distraught had come to a law firm for help with her child custody and visitation issues, but she didn’t know what custody and visitation she wanted.
“He didn’t pay any child support the last two months,” she continued. Perhaps I was mistaken in her desires, so I asked her if she wanted to file something regarding the support.
Her phone again teleported to her hand and she began attempting to show me discussions about support. He made sporadic payments and occasionally bought clothes for the kids, but they had weekly arguments about what he should pay and what he should buy. She had been negotiating child support payments on a weekly basis for more than three years.
I was more confused than ever. I read Eva’s papers as she continued to attempt to enlighten me with her words Her words were many, but they failed to provide any valuable instruction as to how I, or anyone else in the firm, could help her. What was lost in her many words was found in her many papers – Eva couldn’t decide.
There were no child support orders in place. The visitation orders did not have a set visitation schedule. The supervisor for visitation was subject to change, but there were no guidelines requiring her and baby-daddy to use a certain visitation service or requiring the supervisor to have any particular skills. The location of visitation was not set. Nothing was really clearly set except for the fact that baby-daddy would have supervised visitation once a month.
Eva and baby-daddy had been deciding custody and visitation issues again and again on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis for years. They were both constantly stressed out over it, and they constantly fought about it.
Eva needed to decide once. I explained this to Eva. I also told her that because she did not know what she wanted, I was unable to do document preparation services for her. Decisions of what custody, visitation, and support Eva should request are not for me to make, and it is not for me to decide what forms she should use to make those requests –she needed help from one of the family law attorneys.
As I explained all of this to Eva, I realized the bigger implication in my own life. It was not just that I decided once about my clothes, I had decided once on many things in the past, and I could decide once on many more things. I had my own battles that were being fought again and again and my own mundane decisions that were being made repeatedly because I did not decide once. I had other dilemmas that had been decided once long ago and were no longer dilemmas but rather a part of me. That which I decided once became who I was. Matters that I did not decide once were also a part of me, some of these matters caused continuous or recurring stress and problems. I had too many things that I was deciding too many times. For these things, I needed to decide once.
A humungous stack of decisions towers over each of us, and we each battle against those decisions as they tumble from the tower, yet there are many decisions that we do not simply make or avoid – we add them back to the tower so they can accost us again and again.
If we simply decide once, we escape a small portion of the endless cascade of decisions. We liberate ourselves from the onslaught, not by avoiding the decisions, but by defeating them. When we face dilemmas, big or small, we defeat them when we decide once. The dilemmas are beaten, we never need fight the battles again.
Several years ago, I had what has turned out to be a significant decide once moment, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I was under the belief that most people had the same basic items in their pockets everyday – keys, wallet, and phone.
I was recently surprised to learn that many clothes designed for women and girls have no pockets. I even bought jeans for my daughter and was greatly disappointed to learn the “pockets” were sewn shut. I got out a seam ripper with thoughts of recovering the hidden pockets, but I soon learned that there were none. The “pockets” were simply a design sewn onto the pants. I despise women’s clothing designers, at least those who designed my daughter’s clothes. But, I digress. Even those people unfortunate enough so suffer from a lack of pockets seem to have a specific set of things they take with themselves every day.
I also put the typical items in my pockets until one day a few years ago, I actually sat down an thought about what I was putting in my pockets, and what I needed to have with me on a typical day.
I need my wallet and it’s contents: ID, credit cards, club cards, library cards, museum cards, and money. Or do I? My wallet was rather thick. As you have probably ascertained, I had a Kohl’s card (so I get the extra discounts), but I also had a Sears card, a Chevron gas card, as well as several other department store and gas station cards that I rarely used.
I remembered going to Kohl’s once without my card. The current specials required me to make my purchase on the card, so the sales associate simply asked me a few questions and printed out a temporary card. I had had a similar experience at Sears, and I had seen other people using temporary cards at other retailers. I took all of my department store cards out of my wallet as being superfluous and locked them in a safe place at my house.
As for the gas cards, I could not remember ever needing one except when I was in my car. The same thing with my AutoClub card – I needed it when I was in my car. My wallet did not need these cards, but my car might. I realized then that I have never walked to the zoo, any museum, or even the library. I have always taken my car. These cards also could remain in my car.
My wallet had long been serving a role that was better reserved to my car.
I looked at each card in my wallet. All but two were only needed shortly after exiting my car. I would always use my car to get to museums, libraries, gas stations, and even Costco or Kohl’s. There was no reason for me to carry the cards for these places everywhere I went. The two remaining cards were my Visa Debit and my ID. I sometimes used one or both of these cards after walking or biking. These two cards remained in my wallet. The remaining cards were place in a secure place in my car.
Inspired, I examined my key ring – keys to five different offices, a mailbox key, a car key, and several mystery keys. I always drove to each of the offices. Like so many cards removed from my wallet, these also could remain in my car. The mystery keys remain a mystery. They were placed in a drawer at the house with phone chargers for phones I no longer owned, parts for unidentifiable appliances, and many other items that would never again be used, but were too valuable to discard.
My mailbox (P.O. Box 81, Bakersfield, CA, 93308 – send me a note if you like – send me money) is downtown, but I live in the suburbs, and I drive downtown, so my car is always with me. The mailbox key also remained in my car. This left me with one key to carry every day – the car key.
People often telephone me with information or requests. People I meet also give me information or requests. I get ideas from recordings I listen to in the car. I get ideas from recordings I listen to as I walk. I get random ideas. I need to write things down so I don’t forget. I carry index cards in my pocket; I keep two pens with me. The pens are purple.
The cards come in several colors, and I have tried to use the colors as a code for what I write on them – white for calls to return, blue for to-do list, and so on, but it has never worked. When I need to write something down, I usually end up just grabbing the first blank card.
I’ve also tried carrying a pocket recorder, but during a typical day, I might write down half a dozen names and phone numbers along with notes on a dozen or so other cards, but I don’t call everyone back at the same time. With index cards, I can quickly flip through the cards to find the person I need to call back first. With the recorder, I found myself listening to my notes for the day again and again as I searched for phone numbers. It was a waste of time to listen to a ten minute recording to find a fifteen second message.
With index cards, I can usually find the note I want in just a few seconds. Once I have taken the required action for the card, I just toss it. When I return a call, if it is a number I think I may need again in the future (which is pretty much every number I call), I save it in my phone.
My phone is also one of the things I carry each day, and I made several decisions about that phone.
I decided once to always enter an area code, even for local calls. The effort to enter the extra three digits is slight, but I believe it has saved me possibly hours of frustration and delay. If I am out of town, I can’t dial anyone from my contacts list unless I enter the area code. If the area code has already been entered, which it has been for all numbers in my phone, I don’t have to worry about it. Also, I can’t send a text message to anyone on my contact list unless I have the full ten digit number for the person. If I do, I get an error message; they don’t get the original message, and I can’t send the message again to the same contact, even if I go back and edit the contact to add the area code. I have to delete the last few messages before trying again. I realize that it is quite probable that many people don’t have this problem. Maybe it’s my phone; maybe it’s my network; maybe it’s me, but once I decided once to always enter the area code, the problem was cured.
I also decided once to always have multiple educational recordings on the phone. The library system has more recorded books than I’ll ever be able to listen to, and there are many free books and lectures available for download online. When I get into the car, Bluetooth connects, and I listen to a book. I hope someone is listening to this book.
Most of the books are for my own edification, but I also include some that are age appropriate for my children. My children probably will have little interest in listening to The Philosopher’s Toolkit or The Five Second Rule (the next two books in my playlist), but they probably will like A Short History of Everything. As for others who may ride in my car, I generally don’t impose my choice of listening material on them. Other passengers are given the choice of the book, a radio station, or silence.
Returning to the contents of my pockets, I have a deck of cards.
The cards are in my left pants pocket along with my keys and a few pieces of promotional material for my businesses. In my right pocket is $1.34 – every day, exactly $1.34 and a gimmick that holds the coins.
In my shirt pocket, a silk hanky, a few business cards, and a gimmick that shall remain a secret. Those readers who have attended Castelobruxo, Durmstrang Institute, Mahoutokoro, or other such find institutes of learning know what that gimmick is and also understand the significance of $1.34. Those who know Castelobruxo, Durmstrang Institute, and Mahoutokoro without Googling the names might better themselves by heeding two pieces of advice:
- Magic isn’t real.
- Read more than one genre
I had to Google “magic schools other than Hogwarts” to come up with the names listed above. If you already knew the names, please, don’t name your children Hermione and Harry. My suggestions would be Sue and Bill, just in case they decide once to be in the legal industry.
As for these odd items in my pockets, I decided once that part of my personal branding scheme would be magic tricks. I must emphasize tricks because that is what I do – tricks. I don’t have any special relationship with the devil, spirits, or any sort of supernatural power. I know a few tricks designed to fool most people.
I use these tricks to break-the-ice, calm distraught children, demonstrate legal realities (my hanky vanished and so did your alibi), distract from the horror of the judicial system, and introduce and promote myself. Potential clients may not remember my name, but many come looking for the guy in the purple shirt who does magic and wears an exceptional hat. I have a lot of interesting hats; most have bright feathers.
I can reach into my pocket and withdraw exact change between one cent and a dollar. I can tear up a piece of paper and have it recombine. I can make a hanky vanish; I can demonstrate that I chose a named card before it was even named; and I can do several other tricks without significant preparation or the need for additional props.
My personal branding also includes a hat, I hope that you also will wear a hat. I’d really like this trend to catch on. I hope that no one reading this book decides to wear a purple shirt each day but I do hope that some will choose to wear a hat each day.
Skin cancer is a scary thing. A hat helps prevent it.
When my first child was born, I decided that she should wear a hat every day to help prevent cancer, to keep her warm during cold weather, and to keep her cooler in the summer.
The same rule would later apply to her brother.
The same rule had to apply to me.
When I decided once that she would always wear a hat, it was axiomatic that I also would always wear a hat. A ball cap provides slight protection. I chose hats for her that protected both her face and neck. I now have a large collection of hats of questionable aesthetic quality, but I adorn most with vivid feathers and other decorations.
Do they make me look silly? Often
Do they distinguish me? Often
Do they help prevent cancer? Always
Do I worry people thinking my hats are ridiculous? I would like to say, “never,” but at this point I can only answer that I know wearing hats like mine, especially with feathers, is outside what is normally expected in our current culture, but I have reached the place in my life that I am fairly comfortable going against mainstream culture.
Side note: Another reason not to wear a ball cap is that I don’t know who won the last World Series. I don’t know who won the last Super Bowl. I don’t even know what the super duper basketball world’s best game is called. I don’t care, but I hope your team wins.
Sporting events are part of mainstream culture, but I decided once, a very long time ago, that because it was not of interest to me, I wouldn’t waste time watching other people play games, no matter how much better than me they are.
The daily items I carry are summarized as follows:
- A hat
- Wallet (with limited contents)
- A key
- Index cards
- Two purple pens
- A hanky (with gimmick)
- $1.34 (with a gimmick)
- A deck of cards
- Some business cards
- A phone
Unfortunately, I have not been able to break the habit of carrying a second phone. I acquired the phone number (661)Justice a while back, so I carry that phone with me. Many people still call me using the number for my old cell phone, so I carry that phone also. Someday, I hope to decide once how to resolve this problem.
There are some popular cultural things that I decided once not to participate in.
One of those things is the stalking of celebrities. I don’t know who Kanye, Snookie, Cardi B, Bezos, or Blac Chyna are, but I keep hearing their names and seeing pictures of them in the undesirable section of the grocery store next to candy, gum, and other items the children ask for but almost never get. I realize that they are some sort of entertainers, but they are not entertaining to me.
I don’t like Harrison Ford because I don’t know him. I don’t dislike Harrison Ford because I don’t know him. We have never met. I am not interested his daily activities or the daily activities of any entertainers. I don’t care who he is dating, where he is going, or what color underwear he wears. None of this is any of my business.
I do like Harrison Ford’s work. He has made some great movies. I like the work of many celebrities, but I don’t need to know anything about them beyond their work. It is nice that Harrison Ford performs CPR on drowning infants, pilots the planes that fly orphans to hospitals for life-saving operations, rescues dolphins from rouge fishing nets, and helps rehabilitate one-legged dogs. I think he’s probably a pretty good person. We could hang out and be friends, but we don’t. He makes movies and I watch his movies. That is the extent of our relationship. I’m not trying to take it to a deeper level, but he is welcome to call me if he wants to hang out.
I also don’t need to chase down celebrities and beg for photographs, autographs, or any other type of graphs when I see them in public. I decided once that I would leave them alone and they should leave me alone, unless one wants to actually hang out and be my friend. This decision has resulted in me having minimal conversations with celebrities, even though I have seen many – most likely many more than I recognized.
Tip for running into celebrities: hang out at international airports. Celebrities seem to have a plane fetish. I’ve seen quite a few in the airports. This phenomenon must be widely known in foreign countries because I have been recognized as both Martin Mull and Jeff Foxworthy. I have since shaved my mustache and my head, but at the time I was gracious enough to sign an autograph.
Celebrities also seem to have a fondness of political figures. When I ran across Arnold Schwarzenegger and Henry Winkler, they were hanging out with California Governor Pete Wilson. I didn’t request or receive photos from any of them. Nor did I get autographs, but I would like to point out that Mr. Winkler appears to no longer be “The Fonz.” He is an excellent writer of children’s books. He also may want to stand a few feet away from Arnold when they hang out because he makes Arnold look huge, and Arnold makes him look miniscule.
My avoidance of celebrity interactions has only failed twice.
At Los Angeles International airport, one of the Baldwin brothers who I didn’t recognize at the time, I think it was Alec, was on a bench reading a book. Someone else recognized him, and a crowd quickly formed. He graciously set aside his personal business and began chatting with people, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. He demonstrated that he was a gentleman, and when he realized that his admirers were beginning to block foot traffic, he grabbed his bag and moved the throng to a more open place.
I thought it very rude of his admirers, and I believed him to be a genuinely kind man to put up with their behavior. This man was minding his own business reading a book and they decided to accost him for the bragging rights of being in his presence.
When it was time for me to head to my flight, I gathered my things and started moving towards the gate. Mr. Baldwin was also attempting to get somewhere, but he cordially responded to every fan request. As we each worked our way through the crowd, I found myself right in front of him. He smiled and asked, “autograph?”
I pulled out an index card, signed it with a purple pen, handed it to him, and moved on.
My second interaction with a celebrity was while passing through some other international airport, I believe it was Moscow, where I was blocked by a crowd of people hovering around some martial arts celebrity in what appeared to be a long black dress and pants. It was irritating because crowd was blocking my way as I held my daughter in my arms while attempting to drag my luggage. The helpers with the man in the dress refused to step aside as they held back the crowd with commands like, “not yet,” “stay back,” and “Mr. Seagal will see you shortly.”
I didn’t care when Mr. Seagal would see me. I didn’t care if he saw me at all. I could see him, he was in my way. I would prefer not to see him or at least to see him not in my way.
The whole situation really stunk. The metaphorical stink became real stink when my daughter filled her diaper, and my urgency to penetrate the crowd became more intense as I began to gag. I had nowhere to change the diaper and no place to even set my daughter down, so I stood and waited behind a wall of hirelings and admirers while Mr. Seagal chatted with some reporter, politician, or some sort of other celebrity who appeared to believe that their conversation was of the highest importance.
The discussion between the deities finally ended, and the servants started allowing people to approach the maser. Eventually, our turn came to approach. As we attempted to simply pass his highness, a prominent peon informed me, “you can have a quick photograph with Mr. Seagal.”
I choked out an answer through eyes made teary by the stench, “my daughter would love to have a picture with him.” I snapped the picture right as he glanced down to find the source of the new aroma.
I don’t want to make it seem as if I don’t like Steven Seagal, I don’t really know him, but his entourage and his antics inconvenienced me, so unlike Mr. Ford, I probably won’t be inclined to hang with Mr. Seagal, even if he wears a nice dress. Still, some of his movies are very entertaining, and I hope to see him on screen from time to time.
I also decided once to shun the latest popular television program.
I watched every episode of Breaking Bad. I watched every episode of My Name is Earl, every episode of Malcom in the Middle, every episode of Scrubs, and every episode of several other television programs, including every episode of every iteration of Star Trek. In my younger years, I probably saw every episode of Brady Bunch, Flintstones, Jetsons, and multiple other shows.
One day, I simply asked myself, “why?”
Why am I watching so many shows with so many episodes?
They are entertaining, but a television series may consume many hours over may years.
I have heard many good things about Game of Thrones. I think it would entertain me to watch each episode, but a quick Google search indicated that such an endeavor would consume more than sixty hours of my time.
I decided once that I would not even start watching the show. I decided once that I would only watch one such television series at a time and no more than one episode a day. The current series I am watching is Better Call Saul. There are currently new episodes available that I have not watched, so I spend my time on other endeavors, such as writing this book. Television is a consuming habit, but by deciding once that I would only watch one series at a time, I have freed myself to pursue other desires. I look forward to each new episode of Better Call Saul, and when that series ends, I may begin watching Game of Thrones, but it will be a decision, not the reflexive action of watching whatever show is currently popular.
I decide once whether my participation in a popular cultural matter is worth my devotion to it. If it is not worthy of my time, I decline to give it my time.
In a similar vein, I decided once to avoid carrying the weight of the world’s problems.
This year, a tsunami with a wave crest on nearly three hundred feet tall stuck Greenland and killed some of the residents there.
Tornadoes across the southern states destroyed many homes and killed more than thirty people.
There were also several terrible hurricanes this year. There was a lot of damage, and many people in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico suffered major losses, but so did people in Barbados, Guyana, Nicaragua, Belize, Mexico, Ireland, France, Spain, and other places. Hurricane damage this year was huge and widespread. Several hundred people lost their lives.
There were also multiple devastating earthquakes this year, including two big earthquakes in Mexico, killing nearly five hundred people, and a big earthquake in China, killing a few dozen people.
Disasters like these strike fairly suddenly and cause widespread damage that can be photographed and plastered across the television and web pages for weeks or months until the next sensationalized disaster strikes.
Because it is so difficult to find and count the dead, reported death counts are sometimes little more than speculation, but tsunamis kill an average of around 8,000 people a year. Average number of deaths from tornadoes comes in around 60 people a year. Hurricanes and earthquakes each bring in an average death toll of 10,000.
The World Health Organization reports the average annual deaths from alcohol use worldwide to be somewhere around 2,500,000. Heart disease takes somewhere around 8,760,000 people’s lives and stroke takes an additional 6,240,000.
The United Nations recently reported that we still have an enormous number of slaves in the world with around 25,000,000 people are in forced labor and another 15,000,000 people in forced marriages. Women are still considered property in many places; many nations are being devastated by famine, and several countries, including Myanmar, are practicing genocide on their minority populations.
Global warming is causing the ice caps to melt, sea levels to rise, and more hurricanes. Plastics in the ocean are working their way into the human food chain. Nuclear weapons have fallen into the hands of unstable leaders who have the ability to use them on United States soil. Antibiotics are beginning to fail as bacteria evolves to defeat them. Justin Bieber has reunited with Selena Gomez.
There are many disasters.
Every day, there is an extraordinary disaster or soon to come horrific tragedy somewhere. These matters are always on the news. I decided once that I simply cannot pay the required price of keeping up with the daily catastrophes. That price is not just the money donated to relief for each calamity, but also the emotional trauma caused by seeing so many others suffering, and the worry about disasters that may or may not happen.
We may go to war. There may be a massive, deadly earthquake that effects my community. There may be an epidemic, a famine, or a mass shooting. I decided once to not dwell on such things. Instead, I wear a hat.
A hat is a small preventative measure against the disaster of skin cancer. Losing weight is a small preventative measure against heart disease (213 pounds today, a few days before Halloween). Reusable shopping bags reduce my impact on the environment. Having a garden reduces the amount of food that must be transported to feed me and my family. Donations to responsible charities with low administrative expenses helps cure diseases, relieve hunger, and lessen the impact of disasters. Food storage and a stockpile of candles in my home helps prepare my household for a local disaster. I take many small steps that could, combined with small steps by others, lead to significant changes, but I decided once to avoid carrying the weight of the world’s problems. I similarly decided once to avoid carrying other weight, but that is another chapter.
I cannot solve all of the world’s problems; I can’t even solve all of the problems in my own country. I don’t think anything I do will have a reasonable impact on any national politics. I, therefore, have also decided not to waste my time participating in national political races.
I don’t believe anything I do to promote any particular candidate will have the slightest impact on national elections. Presidential candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars to be elected, and even congressional candidates spend in the six and seven figures. Any donation from me would be a drop in the bucket, a pittance, a trifling sum… no, it would be a drop in the ocean.
I do vote and I do have my favorite candidates, none of whom do I expect to win, but my opinions regarding any of the candidates are unlikely to change anyone’s mind. I don’t expect anyone to say, “I saw your bumper sticker, and it really changed my political opinion” or “that sign in your yard convinced me that your candidate is much better,” especially since I neither place such bumper stickers on my car nor such signs in my yard.
If I did display such messages, I would not expect someone to come up to me, offer me a hearty handshake, and thank me for joining them in voting for their favorite candidate. I would expect people to approach me and ask questions like, “why are you supporting that asshole?”
I decided once that I would not waste time with national politics or discussions regarding the candidates. Lines like, “I’m still researching the candidates,” and “I’m not fully decided yet,” dissuade most who try to discuss the candidates, but sometimes I must practice misdirection with phrases like, “please, don’t discuss the debates until after I watch the recording of it.” I don’t watch the recording. I couldn’t watch my recordings of the debates even if I wanted to. I don’t make any recordings.
To this point, I have spoken of times that I decided once that have been a success for me in the past. I now turn to something I decided once that is still in its infancy. At 213 pounds, I am still very much overweight. This is not good for my health and it makes me look even less attractive.
Being fat does have some advantages, but they seem to be fewer than the disadvantages. I find it easy and relaxing to float in a pool. I can play Santa Claus without using a pillow. Large groups of people are willing to carry me to the water at the beach. I have adequate insulation for all but the coldest weather. I never get stuck at the top of a teetertotter. People naturally think I’m jolly; I’m not. I can make weight loss look easy by dropping five pounds in just a week; dropping any more is difficult. I can create shade for both of my kids at the same time.
I have dieted on many occasions. Over the past decade, my weight has fluctuated between around 200 pounds and around 240 pounds. It is not good.
I have set goals. Sometime I have succeeded; often I have failed. Eventually, I have always met my target weight, but many times it was months after the date I hoped to step on the scale and see my target number. The target number has widely varied. When I was up to 240, I set a goal of 220 and made it, but then I swelled back up to 230. I set a goal of 200, and I made it, abet many months after the target date, but then I again grew to 210, then 220 and eventually 240 on Father’s Day, 2017.
My problem with goals is that they have a fixed point in time.
I set a goal to have a certain weight by a certain date, and I would often achieve the goal. The goal having been met, I would take pride and reward myself with something delicious. Weeks or months of dieting and depriving myself made food taste all the better, so I would eat well and often and my weight would return.
Goals work for me when the end product is something that has an end. I set a goal to finish writing this book by the end of the year. I might reach that goal or I might be late, but the end product will be finished when the goal is reached.
It is not the same with my weight. When I reach my goal weight, the project is not finished. I have to continue working on the project or the weight will return.
When it comes to weight, diets don’t work. Goals don’t work. To stabilize my body at a good weight, I had to decide once what my weight will be.
I conducted some research and found that a healthy Body Mass Index would require me to weigh between 133 and 180 pounds. Another site gave the numbers as 136 pounds and 178 pounds. Whether 133 or 136,
I found all sorts of advice and formulas. Based on the Robinson formula, my ideal weight is 160.7 pounds. The Miller formula gives my ideal weight as 158.1 pounds. The Hamwi formula says I should weigh 171.3 pounds, but the Devine formula puts my ideal weight as 166 pounds, and the Lemmens formula 157.2. The People’s Choice Ideal Weight for me is 189 pounds. The Metropolitan Life Insurance company’s weight table puts me between 157 and 170 pounds.
There is too much information, but it seems most experts agree that I should weigh somewhere between 160 pounds and 170 pounds.
I decided once that my weight is 170 pounds. Notice that I did not set a goal of getting down to 170 pounds. I decided once that I weigh 170 pounds.
My scale currently disagrees with my decision, but the decision that I weigh 170 in the present tense not only serves as an affirmation, but it also forces me to make additional smaller decisions as I bring my body into conformity with my decision about weight.
Now, each time I am offered food, I must briefly consider whether the food is consistent with my decision that I weigh 170 pounds. I was offered pancakes this morning. They were inconsistent with my decision, so I had none. I helped my daughter make a pumpkin pie from scratch, but I already know that I won’t have a piece because I decided once that I weigh 170 pounds, and eating deserts or other high carb foods is inconsistent with that decision.
I also need to get more exercise. I had no regular exercise routine and most of my hours were spent sitting in front of a computer.
I find it difficult to exercise, not just because it is physically difficult. Mild exercise is not difficult, but I do find it monotonous and boring. If I go for a walk, I feel that I am not accomplishing much, so I usually cut the walk short to work on existing projects or work on ideas that spring to mind during the walk.
Accounting for my limitations, I formulated a plan – Pokémon and recorded books. My phone still has Pokémon Go on it, but the kids lost interest in the game several months back. I can’t just walk around catching Pokémon, even if it is for my health, but if I also listen to educational recordings while I walk, I can exercise my body and mind while catching Pokémon as entertainment.
Please, don’t think this book is dated because it mentions Pokémon Go. The Pokémon Go fad ended long before I started this book. Like most fads, Pokémon Go still has its merits even if it is not the topic of daily conversation.
The Pokémon account I hijacked from the children, BeauMaverick, is level 33 with 942,100 experience, but it has only one incubator and 15 Poké balls. I invested $39.99 into my new fitness regimen and bought the seasonal special package that included many nice items, but six essential items – incubators. I buy two more packages for a total of 18 incubators. This does not resolve the shortage of Poké balls. I have 2,102 coins left, and I could buy 200 balls for 800 coins, but that would run contrary to my decision. My decision is to walk. I can get free Poké balls at spinners, and the nearest spinner is almost exactly a half mile from my house. The nearest gym, that also gives Poké balls is only a tenth of a mile more, so the round trip would be about 1.93 km, just shy of the amount needed to hatch a 2 km Poké egg. I plan my route and set my alarm for early tomorrow.
When I decided once that I weigh 170 pounds, it naturally flowed that I would need to get some sort of exercise, and I decided to start my exercise regimen with walking, and my first steps (both literally and figuratively) would be a walk to the nearest Pokéstop and gym. I thought the hardest part would be the walk. I was wrong.
The hardest part was getting out of bed. Getting out of bed isn’t usually a problem for me, but the weight of knowing that I was getting out of bed to exercise was added to my own weight. It was simply more than I could lift, and I was tightly pinned to the bed.
I considered starting the routine on a different day, perhaps begin on a Monday so I could more easily count the days I had walked. It was almost Halloween, so if I just waited two days, I could begin my new exercise program on the first of the month. For that matter, New Year’s Day was just a few months away, and… I had decided once. There was no reason to decide again. The was no logic in attempting to justify my sloth. When I decide once, I must only rethink the decision if there is truly more information that must be considered when making the decision. It does me no good to decide once if I don’t follow through.
If I got out of bed and saw that my neighborhood was having a dust storm or that we were in the midst of some sort of disaster that prevented me from carrying through on my decision, it would be acceptable to delay. If I were sick or I had a sick child, that would be something new to factor into the decision, but I had no new information. I had decided and I needed to act.
Nike tells us “Just do it.” The “it” is going for a walk, getting some Poké balls, and coming back home. I had decided it, now I needed to do it.
I got out of bed only to be met by two more obstacles: my clothes and my phone.
I thought that all clothing issues had been resolved as discussed earlier in this book, but I could hardly wear dress pants for a walk and my workout pants were all shorts. The weather was too cool for shorts, and I couldn’t find my workout shoes. Leather dress shoes wouldn’t be good for the task because part of the route is an empty dirt field, so my shoes will get dusty. I also needed headphones, but I didn’t know where they were. I began making a list of things I would need for the planned daily walks with the idea that I had been defeated this day. I had index cards close at hand along with a purple ink pen, so I began the list.
- Workout shoes
- Long pants
I stopped, crossed out the items on the list, and wrote one word, firefighter. I decided that I must act like a firefighter.
I quickly put on dress pants, a dirty purple shirt, white socks, and dress shoes. It didn’t make me look much like a firefighter, but I’ll discuss that in another chapter. I found my workout shoes on a rack by the back door as I started to leave, so I changed and checked my phone for messages.
This was my last obstacle, the phone had multiple messages and e-mails that demanded my urgent attention: a file was missing at one of the offices, I was needed to talk to a client at his 8:30 a.m. hearing, an attorney had questions about another hearing scheduled for the same time, there were several dozen new police reports that needed to be printed. Nearly everything was required before court started at 8:30 a.m.
I stepping into my home office, got on the computer, and opened a remote connection to the first law firm so I could print the new discovery. As I was waiting for the connection to establish, I sent a text regarding the missing file; it was checked out to me since I planned to go straight to the courthouse this morning. I began printing the reports that had been e-mailed to the office, but realized that I was putting out other people’s fires instead of working on my own projects.
On a normal day, I would first check messages after the children had left for school. Those who work with me know that any message to me before around 7:45 a.m. will probably not receive any action before that time, but today I was dealing with other people’s emergencies before 6:00 a.m. I pulled out my index card. I wrote “be a” before the word “firefighter,” and I wrote, “don’t fight fires” below that. I started the Pokémon program and began my walk.
This walk was unexpectedly pleasant.
First, the walk was much easier than anticipated. I thought I would get tired right away, but I didn’t get tired at all. The weather was nice. It was quiet enough that I could hear the audio book without headphones, and even though there were plenty of people out and about to see my odd clothing choices, it was dark in most areas, so I was nearly anonymous. Besides that, some people were in robes, some in sweatpants, and some appeared to be dressed similar to me – in whatever clothes were to be found in the hamper or on the floor. The morning people didn’t seem to care what they wore or what I wore.
Second, the Pokémon gods were extraordinarily good to me. I fear that if I truly write how good they were, this book may be classified as fiction, but I will take the risk. I caught a Chansey and two October Event Pikachu – the ones with the little witch hat. To put this in perspective for those of you who may not be aficionados of the game, catching such prizes in such a short distance is like hitting a full-court shot in basketball, getting a two on a par five golf hole, or getting a homerun off of the first pitch.
I was no less fat, but I was one decision and one walk closer to average weight.
The 911 operator answered the phone, “911. What’s your emergency?”
“The house is on fire! 1701 Palm Street. I’m getting out now. 1701 Palm Street. Please, hurry.”
An alarm was sent to the nearest fire station. It woke Firefighter Dave and the rest of the crew. Dave looked at the clock, “5:23 a.m.” He covered his head with the pillow and rolled over, “five more minutes he muttered to himself.”
He heard someone yelling, “move, move, move,” so he rolled out of bed and stretched. He was still tired from the night before. The station had not had any calls for service, so he stayed up late marathon watching Game of Thrones until he was startled awake by a loud noise onscreen and realized that he had lost the plot line during his involuntary slumber.
A fully dressed firefighter approached Dave and asked, “have you seen the keys to the fire engine?”
Dave glanced around, “I think Mike had them last. Look in the window over the sink or maybe on the hook next to the fridge. Did you check your pockets?” The firefighter shrugged and left.
Dave opened his closet and got out a pair of pants. He started to put them on, but a suspender strap was broken, so he hung them back in the closet and got another pair. He put them on and looked for a shirt. “Whose turn was it to do laundry,” he yelled. No one answered. He eventually found a shirt and put it on.
“You’re going to miss the engine,” a voice called out as Dave looked for his boots.
“Who took my boots?” Dave yelled.
“I put them in the bottom of your closet so I wouldn’t trip over them,” another firefighter answered. People were always moving Dave’s stuff. As he pulled on his boots he heard the engine pull out of the station. He would just have to ride in the tanker or on the ladder truck. Dave put on his jacket, but realized it was way too tight, so he took it off again. Just as he suspected, David had accidently switched jackets with him, but he was running late, so he wore it anyway as he climbed into the tanker.
They got halfway down the block when the driver said, “shoot, I forgot the address. Did anyone bring the paper with the address on it?”
No one did, so they tanker turned around and returned to the station.
When the crew arrived at 1701 Palm Street, there was little they could do to save the structure. No one had remembered to fill the tanker with water, and someone, probably Mike, had taken the wrenches off of the trucks and forgotten to put them back. Mike was always doing things like that. Without the wrenches, they couldn’t open the fire hydrants, so Jose and Marty ran off to see if they could borrow wrenches from someone while Dave argued with David about him always taking the wrong coat.
The scenario is ridiculous for a fire station, but it is also ridiculous for my house. I decided once not to participate in the morning chaos.
My decide once moments have simplified my morning routine, and I have repeatedly attempted to simplify the morning routine for others in my family with what I see as simple rules, such as:
- kids go to bed by 8:30 at night
- homework goes in the backpack before bedtime
- backpacks go by the back door
- lay out your clothes and shoes before bedtime
- get out of bed by 6:30 in the morning
I give the rules early in the week, but my rules become mere suggestions by the end of the week, and it is rare to have either child go to bed before 10:00 on Friday night. Any semblance of order is lost by Saturday morning when my wife gives her usual directive, “let them sleep in on the weekend.”
Sleep-in they do.
Michael usually gets up sometime around 8:30, but he merely moves from one supine location to another. If I am lucky, he will get dressed and eat breakfast by 9:45, which he knows as the Chuck E. Cheese deadline. If we are going to Chuck E. Cheese’s on a Saturday, I insist that we are the first to arrive and that we depart before the throngs enter at about 11:30 a.m.
Sasha often remains in bed until almost noon.
Saturday night, neither child is tired, so they stay up even later.
Sunday morning, they each sleep in late because they are tired from the night before, and then they can’t fall asleep at night when they are forced into their beds by 10:00 or 11:00.
Monday morning, the battle to get them to the bus on time is rarely won. The struggle to get them in the car on time with all of their school things likewise fails. It is common to receive a call from the school shortly after dropping off a child. The calls usually involve a request that we bring some forgotten project or attempt to locate some required school supply. It is rare, nearly unheard of, for both children to make it to the bus on time with all of their things.
Monday night, we diligently attempt to enforce the 8:30 p.m. bedtime rule, and we start the cycle again with full knowledge that the children will stay up late Friday night, sleep in Saturday morning, stay up later Saturday night, sleep in later Sunday morning, and have a miserable and chaotic morning on Monday. We do it every week. It is the choice my family has made.
I nearly always wake up first in the morning. I invite the children to wake up at 6:30 by turning on the lights and telling them that it is time to get up. I say “invite” because I have surrendered to the fact that they often won’t get out of bed when they should. It is not their fault. It is a problem caused by their parents. It is a product of the cycle of staying up late and sleeping in on the weekend. We repeat the error every weekend and we see the effects every Monday. We know the cause of problem – their parents.
We have given the children an irregular sleep cycle and we force it on them every week. We, as parents, have decided to create the problem and our children suffer for it, but they are old enough now that they can choose something better. Unfortunately, the problem has gone on for too long and it currently has the support of ¾ of the family. Mom and both kids want sleep late and stay up late on weekends because it is seen as a weekend reward instead of a weekday problem. I, therefore, have little control over the issue without causing an all-out rebellion. I have over the years reduced the number of edicts issued on the matter, stopped attempting to pull the children out of bed, and stopped otherwise act in an authoritarian manner.
Seventy-five percent of the family has ignored my rules anyway, so I simply give sound advice and then not save the children from the consequences of ignoring the advice.
The children are given the opportunity to go to bed in a timely manner and get up in a timely manner. I tell them the time for both. If the children get up and get ready on time, I will assist them by helping prepare breakfast, driving them to the bus stop or to school, or however else they want help. If they choose sleep, I simply depart and leave them to face the consequences of their decisions.
I decline to participate further in the decision to have morning chaos. As for my own share of chaos in the morning, I have decided once to prepare like a firefighter. I have advised the children to do the same.
This decision led to the following preparation routine that I use to prepare me to face each day.
I suggest that the children lay out their clothes. I don’t need to lay out my clothes because I made final adjustment to my closet to overcome the problem with an outfit for walking. Now, I need merely put on walking clothes, catch some Pokémon, and then take a shower and put on office clothes.
My shoes are sorted and by the back door next to the chair I sit in when I put them on. I suggest that the children leave their shoes in their shoe area anytime the shoes are removed.
The many items from my pockets are places on the same spot on the same table each night and are retrieved each morning. The children do not appear to have any required pocket items. At their age, they don’t have to carry money, an ID, or even a library card for the school library.
Anything that I wish to take with me to the office or to anywhere else in the morning either goes in my briefcase or goes in the car. The children are instructed to put all required items in their backpacks. The briefcase and the backpacks go by the back door. If something is required from the refrigerator, a bright piece of cardstock emblazoned “Refrigerator” is placed on the briefcase or backpack.
There is little danger of forgetting my phone (currently “phones” as discussed above) because they are on my person or on the charger. If a child takes a phone to call someone, to play games, or for another purpose, I turn the ringer volume to maximum so it is easier to find in the event of loss.
I have no worries about locating a hat in the morning. I have several dozen. The children’s hats go on their hat tree.
Before parking the car at home each night, I make sure it has at least a quarter tank of gas. If it does not, I stop on the way home and fill it up.
I check my calendar each night and jot down a to-do list for the following day. The list doesn’t contain everything I must do, but is instead more of a list of matters that will probably require my attention before I get to the office or fairly soon thereafter.
I check the food inventory and ensure that I have something to make for breakfast. If there is nothing readily at hand, I get something from the freezer or the store. I don’t search for breakfast food in the morning. I decide the evening before what will be served for breakfast if the children choose to get up.
When I decided once to prepare like a firefighter – ready to go at a moment’s notice, the Modern Minute Man in Mauve – it led to these simple preparations that have become an automatic routine. Like Pavlov’s dog, certain stimuli elicit an automatic response. As I pull off the freeway, my eyes automatically go the gas gauge. When I empty my pockets, there is no thought about where to put things.
On any given morning, I wake up ready to attack the problems of the day and seize the opportunities of the day without having to find my keys, remember where my shoes are, or remember what I need to take to my office. I don’t even need to think about what to wear or what to put in my pockets.
My typical workday begins with several text messages and phone calls. A file is missing. A witness is missing. A defendant has changed his phone number without telling us, so he is missing too. Someone or something goes missing every day. A pleading is due before the courthouse closes today. A transcript is needed this afternoon. Something is always urgently needed.
I am constantly fighting other people’s fires instead of preventing them.
I am reactive instead of proactive, and I am reacting to other people’s problems instead of being proactive on my own long term projects.
If I sit down in a quiet room and work on a project, say research on a particular legal issue for a section of a book, I can make good progress in a short time. Even in a noisy room, I can make reasonably good progress so long as the noise is of the type I don’t have to pay attention to; hence, the thanks to Chuck E. Cheese in the Acknowledgements section of this book. The noise at Chuck E’s is loud and obnoxious, but the kids love it.
A background of white-noise is my preferred work environment. A quiet room is my second choice. Random, regular background noise, even if loud, like at Chuck E’s, is still acceptable because no particular noise requires my attention. When someone hits the jackpot on Sea Wolf, the screen spins, the bells go crazy, and the machine spits out 200 tickets (if you don’t get 200 tickets, two tips: wait until the prize reaches the 200 max, and aim for the edges of the screen). The win draw my attention, but it does not require my attention. This is a subtle but important distinction.
Many of the games are loud, flashy, and exciting enough to draw my attention, but none require my attention. I can decide to ignore the distractions or at least to quickly return to my work.
The worst work environment is one where the noise requires my attention. If I am working in an office, the phones ring. Someone must answer. Often, that person is me. The phones require my attention.
I also receive scores of text messages throughout the day, and these too require my attention. If an attorney messages me from the courtroom, “need authority – detention illegal for misdemeanor theft if only shown by video,” I need to first figure out what the message means, then research the legal issue, and finally message the attorney with the legal authority.
Even if I make it past the volley of calls and text messages demanding my immediate assistance with some crisis, I work in an office with other people – other people who have questions, comments, instructions, or information to share. Some even have stories to tell, rumors to spread, or reports on the latest sporting, political, entertainment, or religious events.
To those interrupting me with business (yes, they are interruptions) I will attempt to assist you as quickly as possible. Business requires effective communications, and I need to keep informed and provide information.
As to interruptions from those with matters unrelated to business, please, imagine the following scenario.
You pour yourself a cold beverage, grab a snack, and settle down to watch your favorite form of televised entertainment, whether it be a sporting event, reality television, series, or something else. It is your favorite. It is only on tonight, but your DVR is broken, so you can only watch it live. I come to watch it with you, and it turns out to be the best episode ever.
I thank you for inviting me. I’m so appreciative that I begin telling all of the details about that episode of Gilligan’s Island I really liked when I saw it in reruns as a kid.
Gilligan found plastic explosives, or was it the professor? No, I think the Captain found the plastic explosives, well, the stuff they found actually looked like clay, so… you see on the screen what appears to be something critical about your program, but you can’t hear what the characters are saying… I drone on about how they made plates out of the plastic explosive because, you know, it looked like clay and they didn’t have any plates on the island, which was funny… a character you’ve never seen before hands something to a main character in your program. It looks important, but you can’t see what it is or hear what they are saying because I continue… it was funny because in earlier episodes they had plates, but they made a big deal about needing plates all of a sudden…
Frustrated? Wish I would just let you get back to your show?
This is how I feel when I am trying to work on something important for my job and people come in to talk to me about the show they watched last night, their team’s latest victory, or their favorite political candidate’s latest speech.
There is a time for chitchat, but that time is not when I am trying to work.
Even if the interruption is to give me important business information, it is still an interruption. It derails my train of thought. A two minute interruption of a task requiring thought and concentration doesn’t only cause the loss of two minutes, it cause the loss of my current thoughts (which may have been brilliant), and I have to spend time to review whatever it was I was working on, and try to resume again.
Yet, I have chosen to work in an environment where I am constantly and continually interrupted – an office. Not just an office, an office is just a room. I have chosen to work in an office with people, with a multi-line phone, with an “open” sign, with continuous drop-in visitors, and with cell phones. The office is swarm of activity and interruptions.
I interrupt other workers and they interrupt me. My interruptions are interrupted by interruptions. I start typing some important paper only to be interrupted with a call that my presence is requested at court. Before I can even depart for the courthouse, I am interrupted by a walk-in client, but I don’t finish explaining why I can’t see him now before I am interrupted by a coworker who needs me to take some pleadings with me to court, but before I learn what to do with the pleadings, I am interrupted by another call from someone at the courthouse who needs something. It goes on and on as I struggle to put fight multiple fires, most of which were started by others or were completely preventable.
I decide once: I will not spend my day reacting to crises; instead, I will be proactive in preventing the emergencies and will limit my availability to assist others with their emergencies. I also decide once that I will limit the interruptions I cause others.
To implement these decisions, I must schedule my work so that I have quiet time.
To be proactive instead of reactive, I decided that I need some type of schedule along with tactics and rules to avoid interruptions and give myself ample quiet time to work while also giving my clients ample attention.
A schedule with rules and tactics that are too inflexible will alienate my clients, but if I am too lax, I will allow the interruptions to continue. I must also be mindful that I am a cause of interruptions for those who work with me. I, therefore, came up with the following general guidelines and specific rules.
I, therefore, tried to make a schedule that allows me to block out four hours a day for quiet work. I say “tried” because with my work it is extremely difficult to keep to a set schedule, so my schedule is often subject to change, but it is a tool I use to reach the goal of four hours of quiet work time each day.
A normal workday for most people is eight hours. I have a proposed schedule to help me use half that amount of time each day in quiet. To have the quiet time, I must avoid other people, so I came up with following general but flexible schedule to avoid people during the workday:
7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Make calls and send text messages to ensure that people are at the right place and have the things they need with them. I can make the calls handsfree while taking my morning walk, while driving to work, or even while puttering around the house preparing breakfast, doing laundry, or helping the kids get ready for school.
8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Review tasks that have been left for me, prepare instructions for those who help me, check computer backups, turn on lights and signs, and otherwise prepare for the first arrivals at the office.
From 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., I hide. This is my first period of quiet work time. I Inform those I work with that I will be available again at 11:00 a.m., but they can contact me for emergencies. If someone needs to see me, my helpers can schedule an appointment. I request that someone else in the office answer all calls and text messages. I then find a quiet place to work, and I work. Over a quarter of the days, some emergency comes up, so I am unable to get my two hours of quiet time as scheduled. When this happens, I hide later in the day.
9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. is the guideline, but the rule is that I will have four one hour blocks of time for work that is virtually uninterrupted, and I will try to have at least two of the blocks of time back-to-back. While the exact times I hide to quietly work are flexible, I decided once that I need four hours a day of uninterrupted work, so I enforce that rule.
The reason I need uninterrupted time is that there are some things that cannot be done effectively in pieces. Most of us need six to eight hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period, but it would be ridiculous for me to attempt to achieve those hours by sleeping in ten minute increments throughout the day. When I drive to work in the morning, I don’t do it in five minute segments, stopping along to way to do other jobs. Some things simply must be done all at once. I can’t fly from Los Angeles to Europe in five to twenty minute increments, and I can’t efficiently do big jobs in five to twenty minute increments. Efficient work on big jobs requires big increments of uninterrupted quiet time.
I can greet clients, return phone calls, file, tidy up the office, and do many other work related activities in short increments, but when I am conducting legal research, writing pleadings, creating web pages, or even writing books, I need long blocks of uninterrupted time so I can continue my train of thought and stop at a logical stopping point.
The rule of four one-hour quiet work periods gives me this time.
From 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., I meet with clients, attend meetings, return calls, and do work that can be done in small blocks. Many clients wish to meet during their lunch hour, and I am happy to accommodate. The courts are generally not in session from noon to 1:30 p.m., so this is also a good time to coordinate with them, but what I don’t do during this time is also important – I don’t go out to eat.
Going to a restaurant between about 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. is inviting frustration. The same is true for visits to restaurants between about 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The restaurants are usually at their busiest during these times, so delays are to be expected. Reservations may assist in getting a seat, but the kitchens are still overworked, so I simply decline to visit restaurants during these hours.
Like my decision to not participate in the morning chaos at my house, I decided once not to participate in restaurant chaos. I also decided once, long ago, not to participate in Disneyland chaos, Universal Studios chaos, Chuck E. Cheese chaos, or any other popular attraction chaos.
As much as I love Disneyland, you will not find me there on a summer weekend. I decided once not to knowingly go to crowded places. You may find me at Disneyland on a Tuesday or Wednesday during the schoolyear when wait times at Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Small World are under five minutes, but if you see me waiting in a two hour line, you’ll know that my wife overruled the many protests of the rest of the family and made us participate in the chaos. Please, find my children nearby and comfort them. They are probably crying, but you need not comfort me because I will have important work with me, which shall be explained in a later chapter.
While I am prepared to work while I wait, I beg you that if ever you find the wait at Peter Pan’s Flight less than twenty minutes, please realize that you are better at crowd-avoidance than I am, and please write a book explaining your methods. Peter Pan’s Flight is always crowded even though it appears to be a minor ride.
Returning to my target schedule, at 1:30 p.m., I try to plan my afternoon. I look at each job that must be done, and I do those that can be done in less than five minutes. Others, I add to a list.
2:00 p.m. is my typical lunchtime, if I feel like going out to eat. It is Happy Hour at Fresco Mexican Grill, which is just a few blocks from my office. Tacos are just a dollar and many other items are at giveaway prices. I can walk and catch Pokémon along the way, and the place is almost never crowded at that time. Unfortunately, my decide once weight of 170 pounds prevents me from ordering the entire menu (the shrimp plates are great) but the staff members (all of whom are super model material) are always friendly. By going during non-peak hours, the wait is short.
From 2:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. I try to address the remaining emergencies of the day and complete as many short items from my task list as possible. At 3:30 p.m., I strive to depart from the office with instructions that I will not be available until after 6:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. is my second hiding time. I am generally home with the children by then and they have three tasks, which are to be done in order: do their homework, leave me alone, play games.
I reemphasize that this schedule is flexible. On Tuesdays, the children have piano lessons starting at 4:00 p.m., so my best option is to do some work while they have lessons, and this counts as one of my quiet work hours. On Tuesday and Thursday, Michael has karate lessons at 6:15 p.m., so my uninterrupted work time is interrupted by the required drive time; however, the extra 45 minutes of work I am able to do at karate lessons helps me keep up on my overall goals.
While my proposed schedule is to have uninterrupted time to work between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., my rule is simply this: I will have four periods of one hour each to do uninterrupted work.
If I miss one of my periods of quiet work time, I reschedule. I treat it like an appointment with an important person, and that person is me.
When I retreat to a quiet place to do my work, I am not just helping myself, I am helping everyone who works around me by removing an interruption from their day – me. I am giving my employers greater productivity and higher quality work both from me and from others who would otherwise be interrupted by interactions from me.
I first attempted this practice several years ago, but it did not go over well. A gentleman I was working with at the time wanted to see his people working, and he gave constant instructions. If he was working on something, he would call the nearest employees and contractors into his office and show them his work, ask them for assistance, or send them on errands. He was always surrounded by a swarm of activity, but a dearth of productivity. No one around him ever seemed to accomplish anything.
However, this is not to say that his method was wrong or even bad. He is a top trial lawyer who is an expert in criminal defense. He regularly defends capital cases and other high profile cases that are extremely demanding and require the highest skill level. During a jury trial, there is no quiet time to sit down and prepare – trials are chaos. This attorney ran his office in a similar chaotic manner. When he viewed a piece of evidence, reviewed a report, or received a pleading, he would immediately discuss it with others. It is his way of analyzing things, learning the case, and preparing for trial.
When a case comes to trial, no piece of evidence surprises him and he is prepared for every conceivable discussion about the evidence because he has already had every conceivable discussion about all of the evidence multiple times with multiple people.
His method of continuous discussion, instruction, and interaction is something he decided to do, and it works for him. I decided that it does not work for me. I need quiet time for my important work.
Long ago, I had another job that would not have been the least bit helped by periods of quiet time. I worked a meat counter. At a meat counter, there are really only three jobs: fill the case, empty the case, clean everything.
If a certain type of meat is not in the case, my job was to grab some from the back, slice it or grind it if needed, and put it in the case. If a customer came to the counter while I was slicing, there was little chance that I would completely lose my place and need to spend time finding where to begin slicing again. I don’t think I ever returned to the slicing portion of my job after assisting a customer and accidently sliced a steak out of the middle of a chunk of meat instead of off of the end.
The goal of any meat shop is to empty the case as many times as possible – sell the meat. I did not need quiet time to sell the meat, I needed to chat with the customer and draw their attention to our latest specials while offering them unadvertised deals on whatever meat didn’t seem to be selling fast enough that day, “May I offer you a round steak? Perhaps a sirloin tip steak?”
“Do I like those cuts? No, that is why they are cheap. I would rather chew a shoe.”
Departing from the main theme of this book, I will share with you a bit of advice from behind the meat counter:
- The best meat is usually found in the small shops. The chains sell to the masses, but the small meat shops often carry the highest grades and the best quality cuts. Sadly, their prices are frequently considered to be too high so they have limited clientele, but the misconception is cause by the misunderstanding about quality and cost. The cost of high quality meat from the supplier is high, so the small shops have to charge a high price to resell high quality meat. The small shops rarely make much of a profit, and most appear to be on the verge of bankruptcy.
- Just because it includes the word steak doesn’t make it good.
- The best steaks are generally Rib, Filet Mignon, Porterhouse, T-Bone, Tritip, and Chuck. Some of these steaks have other names such as New York for a T-Bone without the bone, Delmonico for a Rib steak without the bone, or Beef Bottom Sirloin Butt for Tritip, but these are the basic steaks I deem worthy of sitting on my table. For the purists, I know that chuck is generally considered to be a roast, but it is literally in the same section of the cow and just a few inches away from the rib steaks. Proper preparation minimizes the differences.
- A mechanical tenderizer does not make meat more tender. It tears, rips, and otherwise thrashes the meat. The price of a piece of meat should not be increase just because it has been mutilate.
- Fillet is not the same as filet. Fillet is just a strip of meat (or fish or chicken or some other dead animal) without bones.
- Filet means almost nothing unless followed by the word mignon. If you are offered “beef filet,” “eye of round filet,” or some other filet that is not filet mignon (also known as tenderloin), beware.
- Wash your hands. When I worked the meat counter, I washed my hands hundreds of times each day. There were many rules for when to wash hands. Touch poultry – wash your hands. Wash them again just to be sure. Poultry spreads disease. Touch pork – wash your hands. Touch beef – wash your hands before touching anything that doesn’t have to be cooked. Touch cold cuts – wash your hands if you feel like it. Shake hands with a customer – wash your hands – customer hands are filthy because they have just touched shopping carts, canned goods, and other things in the store that are far from sanitary. Touch your hair – what are you thinking? Why are you trying to contaminate the entire shop? Never touch your hair. Wash your hands immediately. Wash them again. When I was a meat cutter, I constantly washed my hands, and I almost never got sick. Maybe the constant contact with meat healed me, but maybe it was because I kept my hands clean. If I could come up with a way to have half of my readers touch fresh meat and the other half constantly wash their hands, we could do a scientific study. Until then, I can only give my unscientific advice – wash your hands.
- There are four basic grades of beef: Prime, Choice, Select, and Crap. If you check with the United States Department of Agriculture, they will disagree with me. They have beef grades of Prime, Choice, and Select, but instead of Crap, they use names like Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner, but believe me, these grades are Crap. Crap beef is sometimes relabeled with silly names like “Butcher’s Best,” “Best Choice,” “Tender Selection,” “Pride Cuts,” or other deceptive names. If you are really into bubble gum to the point you chew for a long time even if the flavor is gone or never existed, you may like these lesser grades of meat. I avoid them, and I avoid meat shops that use deceptive names.
- For a steak, buy Prime or Choice. If you are an expert and know what a sous vide is, Select grade may turn out well for you. Lesser grades are lesser grades for a reason.
- For a roast, the grade doesn’t matter as much – money may be wasted on Prime and Choice. I buy Select if I can, but preparation is more important than grade.
- For ground beef, grade is almost meaningless. Something in the 15% to 30% fat range is probably best.
- If the meat in the case is in a marinade, it is probably old.
- If the poultry is in the clearance section and you decide to buy it, buy some Imodium and Pepto-Bismol at the same time to save yourself a trip to the store.
- Nothing really gross goes into the ground beef or the sausage. Not even the hot dogs or the baloney has gross stuff in it. The gross stuff goes into the chorizo and the headcheese.
- Smell the fish before you buy it.
- Give tips. Waitresses expect tips even if the service is horrible. Meat cutters rarely get tips, even if the service is extraordinary. If you really want to always get good meat, pick one shop to buy all of your meat there. Give the meat cutter a big tip the first time you go in and small tips on subsequent visits and he or she will remember you for years. I still fondly remember two very nice gentlemen who gave me a tip and a card for Christmas. I never steered these men to yesterday’s sausage or the round steak. I told these friends about the secret specials and the sales that would be listed in the next edition of the Rosedale Roadrunner, the store’s choice media outlet. I would have been embarrassed to suggest the marinated steaks to them, and I would never steer them to the 5% ground beef. The small investment they made in tips ingratiated me to those kind soles for many years.
Returning to the topic at hand – scheduling – if an important person were sitting in front of me in my office, I would be free to chat with that person for hours. Coworkers would not interrupt the conversation to let me know that the copy machine was jammed, a salesman was on the phone, or that someone wanted an appointment. I work with highly skilled, competent people and they are able to handle such issues without interrupting my conversation.
By treating my quiet work time like an appointment with an important person, I am able to block out the time on the office calendar so no appointments will be set for me during the chosen times, and coworkers won’t expect me to be available.
At first glance, it seems like a good idea to always have someone else answer the phone for me and cull out the undesirable calls, such as a robot named Carol who claims to be my Google Specialist, a man with a thick accent who identifies himself as John from Microsoft who has detected a virus on my machine, the IRS prosecution department that is willing to stop my arrest if I make an immediate payment, and less scurrilous salespeople, such as those offering solar panels or janitorial services. However, there are several problems with having someone screen my calls.
First, the majority of my calls are actually from people I want to talk with. I want to talk with existing clients and potential clients, and I want to talk with most of the salespeople who call because most of the sales calls are related to things I am actually interested in purchasing. I am interested in further legal training, law books, and legal advertising, and these are the bulk of the sales calls to my office. Second, if someone I work with were to screen calls, it would merely waste their time instead of my time, and their time is also valuable. Third, I can’t afford to pay someone to simply answer calls. It is not just the money for such a helper, it is the idea of paying for something so simple. I just don’t like it.
On the other hand, phone calls are an interruption and a distraction. I decided once to minimize these problems, so I formulated the following rules.
One, during my quiet work time, as previously discussed, someone else answers the phones or the phones go unanswered.
Two, I strongly encourage people to send me text messages instead of leaving voice messages or talking to me on the phone. A voice message takes a few minutes to listen to even if it is a short message. Phone numbers are often difficult to understand because people naturally say their phone number quickly, so I may have to rewind several times before I am able to catch the full number. Sometimes, I never get the full number.
Further, voice mail messages are listened to sequentially, and there are always a few people who leave very long messages. It is not uncommon for me to receive a three minute voicemail from someone who wants an appointment, but during the voice mail attempts to explain every aspect of their legal matter so as to somehow convince any listener that the caller’s cause is just and he or she should win in court. This causes delay in answering voicemails, but text messages can be accessed in any order. If I see a text message that begins, “I need an appointment,” it will receive my immediate response, “Will today from 11:10 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. or tomorrow from 2:40 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. work for you?” A later chapter will shed light on the odd meeting times.
Text messages can often be responded to much more quickly than voice mail messages, so my voice mail greeting encourages the former.
Three, I added all of my numbers to the “do not call” list. I’m not sure how much good it does because I still get many unsolicited calls.
Four, I made two special rules for sales calls. I won’t talk to them on the phone about their offer unless they first send me a detailed e-mail about the offer, and I only take their calls on Thursday between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. I ask all salespeople to add me to their own “do not call” list, but give them permission to call on the one day during that one hour I chose.
Five, I deal with abusive callers by defining their ring tone as “quiet rain.” This ringtone is almost completely inaudible. By abusive callers, I primarily mean those who repeatedly call seeking free help. I believe in giving free help, but it is not uncommon for a person to call ten or more times a day on the same matter. By setting their ringtone to near silence, I can more easily ignore the many calls and then call them back at my convenience. Often, by the time I return their calls, they have resolved most issues without me.
These are my five simple rules for screening calls, but there are other rules I considered but rejected.
I tried blocking calls from phones that have caller ID blocked, but this resulted in rejection of multiple calls from legitimate clients. I also considered letting every call go through to voice mail with the hope that the caller would hear my message and decide to text, but I found that people would leave voice mail messages anyway, and I would make more work for myself by having to listen to all of the voice mail messages. I also tried a few voicemail to text services, but I found myself listening to the voice mail messages anyway to overcome the errors made by the services.
As for what I do when I do talk to someone on the phone, I always have pen and paper close at hand (see the list of items in my pockets from an earlier chapter), and I almost always use it. If a new client calls for an appointment, I write their name, number, and appointment time on an index card so I will have it available to transfer to my calendar later. Most people who call have some information to give me, such as a phone number, a court date, or an appointment time, so I jot down a quick note. Even if I don’t need to take down any information, I’ll make note of the call. By keeping track of calls I am able to bill for my time if appropriate, but at a minimum I am able to politely point out to some of the callers that we have already spoken a specified number of times and that I am going to
have to start billing them for my time.
For some people and for some decisions, it may be enough to decide once and then that decision becomes a part of the person, but for most of my decisions, it has been much more difficult.
A couple may decide to marry, attend their wedding, and they then continue life as married people. One moment they were single, but in the next moment they are married. A person may decide to be Muslim, recite the Shahada, and thereafter be Muslim for life, or a person may be baptized a Presbyterian and live the life as a Presbyterian from that day forward. One may accept the Amrit and thereafter be Sikh for life. These ceremonies strengthen one’s decision to walk a certain spiritual path.
In less spiritual areas of life, a person could join Local 460 and be a pipefitter for life or could join the Teamsters and spend their life ensuring people have food, a table to set it on, a stove to cook it on, and clothes to wear while enjoying it all. The investment in joining the union reemphasizes a person’s chosen career path.
“Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” Once a person decides to be a Marine, he or she can complete boot camp and become a Marine for life. People who wishes to become Marines must make a significant investment of their time and a tremendous investment of their energy to complete boot camp, but once they do, they participate in a ceremony where they become Marines.
Each of these decide once moments begin with the one decision, but continues with an investment and a ceremony.
I decided once that each time I make a significant decision, I will support that decision with an investment, a ceremony, or both.
For decision to have a standard work outfit, the investment was obvious – a closet filled with purple shirts. The investment in so many shirts reaffirmed my resolve, and the ceremony of donating non-conforming clothing to charity made me fully committed to the decision.
When I decided once that I would always carry certain items in my pockets, I made the investment of purchasing two Fisher Space Pens. This type of pen will write on almost anything, including damp paper, and they can write at any angle, which is helpful since I often hold documents up against the wall at the courthouse when making quick notes or getting a signature. The choice of pen, however, is a matter of personal preference. An attorney I regularly work with always carries a few fountain pens, and I regularly see people with Montblanc, Waterman, and Parker pens. My total investment in the two pens was around twenty-five dollars. This is enough to reinforce my decision, but not so much that I would suffer great emotional distress if a pen were lost. I’ve seen the mental anguish caused by the loss of a Montblanc Meisterstück, and thought the former owner was joking about the six hundred dollar price tag. He wasn’t.
I can’t always make an investment in my decision, and ceremonies are often not feasible. I didn’t chant some ancient Latin verses when I decided to change my body weight, but I did buy batteries for the scale. When I decided to walk each day, I invested in some coins for Pokémon Go, and each day as I walk, I partake in the ceremonies of catching Pokémon, spinning Pokéstops, and conquering gyms. These ceremonies reinforce my desire to walk and encourage me to walk a bit farther to make it to the next Pokéstop.
When I decided to prepare like a firefighter, I went through the ceremony of putting the things I will need before leaving the house in an exact place in an exact order. The ceremony has been performed many times and it eventually became a simple habit.
Small investments and ceremonies like these help to reinforce the decisions, so I try to make an investment or at least have some ceremony each time I decide once.
16. Thought and No Thought
Leonardo da Vinci could write forward with one hand while writing backward with the other, producing a mirror image writing. President James Garfield could write in Greek with one hand while writing in Latin with other. I have not yet mastered writing with my left hand, forwards or backwards, in any language.
I do like the idea of this type of high level multitasking, and I decided once that I would multitask in three specific ways. The first way I multitask is by combining jobs requiring thought with those requiring no real thought. I match mundane tasks that require little attention with tasks involving some need for thought or attention.
I always have multiple educational recordings on the phone, and I usually have some educational CDs in the car. Driving my regular routes does not require a great deal of thought. I, therefore, multitask driving with education. This allows me to listen to hundreds of hours of educational material during times that would otherwise be squandered.
I also multitask driving with mundane phone calls, such as reminding someone we are meeting at the courthouse or letting someone know that I have completed an assigned job. I avoid phone calls that might require me to write something down immediately. If someone tries to give me a phone number, I explain that I am driving and I ask them to text it to me. When I get to my destination, I jot down a few notes regarding the other phone calls.
Walking is multitasked with Pokémon Go, but even this requires little thought, so I also play educational recordings as I walk. This sometimes overloads the phone operating system, but the benefits outweigh the minor inconvenience – I’m accomplishing three things at once.
Laundry and housework are often combined with listening to recordings or returning phone calls, but sometimes I simply use this time to think about other projects, advertising ideas, book ideas, how I can better serve my customers, how I can increase my income, and what would be fun to do with my children. As I come up with ideas, I jot down notes on index cards.
When doing work around the house, I use two basic methods – “let it simmer” and “shell-sort.” Shell-sort is a method I use to tidy up inside the house. Shell-sort is based on an old computer algorithm of the same name. The idea is to switch out-of-place items with other out-of-place items that are closer to the proper location. Items are not immediately put away where they belong, but instead items are moved much closer to where they belong, and tasks are not completed sequentially; rather, many tasks progress simultaneously.
Let’s say I am loading the dishwasher, so I want to collect all of the cups and other dishes from the house. I intend to head upstairs to the master bedroom, but first I glance around for anything close at hand that needs to go upstairs or in the direction of the stairs. I see nothing that goes upstairs, but I see a pile of my daughter’s clean socks on the laundry table, so I change my intended destination to my daughter’s room because it moves something from where I am to closer to where it should be. The socks should be in her drawers, but I leave them on her dresser. She can complete the job later and organize her drawers as she likes.
I look for dishes in my daughter’s room, but I also look for things that go in other areas of the house. I see some books that go to her brother’s room, which is immediately adjacent to her room, so I take the dishes and the books to my son’s room. I leave the books and take the dishes from both children’s rooms back to the kitchen but before doing so, I note that my son’s room has many items that go other places in the house; however, I can’t carry them all at the same time.
I put the dishes in the dishwasher, grab my son’s laundry off of the laundry table, and return to his room where I retrieve more dirty laundry, several books that belong upstairs, and a few items that belong in my office. The items that belong upstairs are left on the stairs. The method is to take things closer to their ultimate destination on each trip, so the items that go do my office are placed on the buffet – a central location in the house.
My son’s dirty laundry is sorted and much of it is placed in the washing machine with additional laundry from the hamper. Note that I still have not made it upstairs to get dishes, and the dishwasher is still not full, and the clothes washer is still not full. I do add soap to the clothes washer at this time and adjust it to the proper settings to I will only need to close the door and press the start button once any remaining clothes are added.
I take the items that belong in the office to the office. While there, I gather dishes and other items that belong in other rooms, including a phone charger that belongs upstairs. I put the dishes in the dishwasher, but I still don’t start the wash cycle.
I finally head upstairs to complete my original task, get the dishes from upstairs. On the way, I take the books that were moved from my son’s room to the the stairs to their ultimate destination, the upstairs bedroom. I leave the books and charger upstairs, and I take dishes and some dirty laundry downstairs. Some of the laundry goes into the clothes washer; the rest goes in the hampers, and all of the dishes go in the dishwasher. Both washers are finally started.
Each time I move to a different part of the house, I try to take something with me that belongs in that part of the house and bring things back that belong in other parts of the house. I don’t always take things to their ultimate destination, but I try to take things closer to their ultimate destination on each pass through the house.
This is the idea of shell-sort. The other method I use for work around the house is “let it simmer.” The idea of “let it simmer” is to let time do as much of the work as possible. For example, once the clothes washer and dishwasher are running, there is really little that can be done with laundry or dishes. I must simply wait for the cycles to finish. This is the idea of “let it simmer.” I try to start tasks that will automatically come to some sort of conclusion without the need for much attention from me.
I try to apply this method to as many areas of life as possible. Naturally, it is the generally preferred method of investing – time in the market beats timing the market and all that stuff, but I’m not rich enough to make daily stock market investments, so “let it simmer” doesn’t really do much work for me in that respect. As for investments, “let it simmer” generally increases the value, but doesn’t save me much time.
“Let it simmer” seems to save the most time for me in three categories of work: cooking, soaking, and “not my job.”
I will address the last category first because it is widely overlooked by other members of my household.
Leaves fall from trees and land on the roof, in the yard, or in the street. There simply is no place else for them to fall. It is true that some fall on the car and one or two may strike the stray child or pet, but these leaves reach a lower resting place in short time. These lower resting places are “not my job.” Once a week, every week, Raymond comes to my house and mows the lawn. Any leaves on the lawn are caught by his mower and deposited in his truck. After he mows, he uses a blower to clean up stray grass for deposit in his truck. Inevitably, the process also catches most of the stray leaves. I decided once, long ago that any leaves are Raymond’s job, not mine. Still, members of my household are often found sweeping the porch, raking the lawn, or otherwise messing with Raymond’s leaves. If they enjoyed it, I would not point out their folly, but often their interference with the natural order of Raymond and the leaves leaves people in my house somehow upset with me for not upsetting the leaves. I choose to let the problem of a leaf on the lawn, even just one, solve itself using the “not my job” category of “let it simmer.” If I leave a leaf alone, it will go away.
As for leaves that fall in the street, Raymond collects and disposes of the ones that are mostly dry, but leaves that decompose in the gutter are not his job. I believe most of these decomposed leaves come from those I shall refer to as upper riparian, and I offer as evidence of this accusation that I have no mulberry or magnolia trees in my front yard, yet the gunk in my gutter is often teeming with their rotting leaves. Cleaning this rot is not Raymond’s job, but it is also “not my job.” I don’t want to clean up this gunk, and I don’t want my upstream neighbors to do so either. I want a streetsweeper to clean my streets and gutters on the first Wednesday of the month. My desires have come true. The first Wednesday of the month a streetsweeper does the job. By employing the tactic if “let it simmer,” the gutter is cleaned by simply waiting.
The tactic of “not my job” has also proven to be helpful at the office. Private investigators and other experts are often assigned to assist in the defense of those charged with crimes. These experts read case files and often (nearly always) request copies of documents and computer files from the file.
This is a gray area. It is unclear who is supposed to provide the copies. The experts are able to bill for their time making copies, but for many jobs, I am paid a flat rate, so I cannot bill for time spent making copies. If I have nothing else to do, I will make the copies immediately so the expert can take the copies and go on their way. This, of course, has never happened to me, but it theoretically could happen someday. I have never had nothing else to do. Instead, I let the experts know that I will add copying the documents to my to-do list, which I show them is very long, and they can check back in a week or so for the progress. If they are unable to wait an infinite amount of time for me to get around to their job, I would be happy to let them use our copy machine or let them take the file to the nearby copy shop. I’m not really sure who is supposed to make copies, but I am sure that I will treat it as “not my job.”
The technology of caller ID has also made it “not my job” to answer out-of-state calls. When I see a call come in from Connecticut, Massachusetts, or some other place that I have difficulty spelling, I ignore the call. I even ignore calls from New York and Florida because I have learned that calls from out-of-state are nearly always sales calls, robots, and/or scams. If someone else in the office wants to gamble on the call, they are free to place a bet, but I have decided that it is “not my job.” I will “let it simmer” until the answering machine picks up, which usually results in a hang up, or someone else decides that it is their job.
I also apply the “let it simmer” method to many cleaning tasks.
When I am cooking, I prefer to clean as I go, yet some person or persons in my house regularly cook oatmeal, eggs, and other sticky substances that leave plaster-like materials cemented to the pots and pans. These adhesives could be easily cleaned up at the time of food preparation, but once left to dry require a chisel to remove – unless one is willing to use the “let it simmer” tactic by soaking the pots and pans in water. When confronted with any stuck on cooking grime, I let it soak for a short time before trying to scrub. Then, I scrub a bit and let it soak some more. Time in hot soapy water tends to make the grime weaken.
Soaking is also a good tactic for dirty toilets, dirty cat boxes, dirty showers, and other places in need of disinfection. A bit of toilet cleaner left for a short time can make it easier to clean the toilet. Bleach water in a cat box makes it less disgusting in short order. Descaling cleaners on shower walls often result in a clean shower with only a short rinse after a long soak.
My last category of “let it simmer” is by far my favorite in that it is not at all disgusting, and it even gives a pleasant odor: food.
I like cooking methods that involve up-front preparation followed by a long period of me doing nothing. A full meal, or a good portion of it, can be prepared in a crock pot, with a suis vide, in an oven, with a pressure cooker, or using other methods that allow time to do the bulk of the work.
These methods are well-known and the subject of many cookbooks, but beyond food preparation, they are efficient time-management tools.
Time also gives me fruit trees and food in my garden. The small effort given to planting and caring for an orange tree has repaid me multiple times with many oranges. It takes little effort to plant and care for a garden, but after a short time, I receive a bounty of tomatoes, zucchini, and other produce.
The second way I multitask is by using zones and lists to reduce unnecessary travel. I group businesses that I regularly frequent by the area of town – the zone – where they are located, and I keep a lists of suggested purchases organized by zone.
Shopping without a list often leads to frustration, so I decided once that I would keep a list of things I need to buy. When I stepped on the scale this morning, it read 217 pounds briefly, but then it said “batt.” I checked a few times, but my weight didn’t change. My decide once that I weigh 170 pounds may have suffered a setback, but it is only mid-November and there is a chance that the low battery is causing an inaccurate result. I add AAA batteries to my shopping list.
Without a list, there is a high probability that I would forget that I needed batteries or I would forget which size I needed. An alternative would be to go to a nearby store and buy batteries right away, but batteries are expensive at the nearby stores, and it would be a waste of gas and a waste of time. It would also tend to cause more pollution than necessary for the task, so I will use lists and zones. The AAA batteries are now on such a list just below packing tape. Both are on the Harbor Freight list.
Costco is near Harbor Freight. Items needed from either of these retailers are listed on the same index card. The Costco list is on one side of the card, and the Harbor Freight list is on the other side. These places are in the same zone for driving purposes. When I receive coupons for Harbor Freight, I keep them with the list. I don’t go to Harbor Freight without a coupon. They regularly give out coupons.
The local farmers’ market I visit is between my office and my house as are Smart and Final, the Post Office, and a gas station. The farmers’ market It is only open on Saturday morning, so I make it a point to visit the establishments in this zone on Saturday morning as needed.
Trader Joe’s is near Sprouts, so they are in a small zone in that area of town, but I also have a much larger zone – Los Angeles.
When I have business in Los Angeles, I try to make appointments and meet with as many clients and potential clients as possible. I also go to Fry’s if I need electronics, IKEA if I need certain household items or wish to practice assembling things, and Magic Apple if I need magician supplies. Sometimes, I need magician supplies.
The zone I use in San Francisco includes a few magic supply stores, but one in particular warrants discussion – Misdirections Magic Shop. Misdirections is run by Joe, and I consider him to be a fine example of the Work Once concept discussed in the previous chapter. As with all great magicians, Joe has spent many hours practicing many tricks. I have not discussed this with him. I hardly know Joe. I’ve only seen him half a dozen times in his shop – San Francisco is a long way from my hometown – but I know the time and effort required to master the art, and Joe has it mastered.
Joe has used the Work Once concept to ethically increase his income in several ways. Joe doesn’t just sell magic tricks, he also holds classes to teach magic. His shop, that took great effort to establish, can also host classes by other magicians, and Joe can make a small profit on those classes. I would not be surprised to learn of the release of videos, books, or other materials. Joe has also developed magic tricks that he can sell again and again. He can, and does, repeatedly sell his knowledge both in person and in podcasts.
Joe has used the Work Once concept to generate multiple income streams, but I must confess that I did not like Joe at all when I first met him. I thought he was arrogant. I thought he was rude. I was wrong. I met Joe when I walked into his shop with several specific items in mind for purchase and the idea of possibly getting a few new mentalism tricks. I saw one of the items I wanted in a glass display case, so I requested it during a short break in the conversation between Joe and another customer.
Joe said something like, “I’m not sure if I can sell that to you, but we can talk as soon as I finish with this customer.”
I thought that this guy, who was probably some flunky, was doing his employer a disservice by refusing to sell a readily available product to a willing buyer. I was unable to find anyone else to assist me, to I browsed while I waited and fumed. By the time my turn had come, I had found several desired items in the display cases, so I requested them. Joe gave me one item, a beginner level trick I wanted for one of my kids, but he again said something like, “I can’t sell these things to you…blah… blah… blah…”
Okay, so I didn’t really listen much after he said that he wouldn’t sell things to me.
Eventually, I learned that Joe was neither arrogant nor rude, he was ethical. Joe refuses to sell tricks unless he knew that the tricks were within the skill level of the proposed purchaser. If Joe thought the trick was beyond the capabilities of a would-be magician, he would not sell the person the trick. I’m sure that this has caused him to lose many sales, but I offer this as a shining example of the ethical use of the Work Once concept – Joe has done the work and earned the right to sell, but he won’t sell to a buyer who is unable to make good use of the product.
I don’t have a set zone around everyplace I go, but I decided once that before I leave for any shopping, I will consider what surrounding businesses I can visit on the same trip. I also decided once that I will keep lists of needed items to avoid forgetting items and having to make extra trips for shopping.
The third way I multitask is by attempting to work in such a way that my efforts can be used in more than one way. I decided once that with each job I do, I will try to use the product of that job in more than one way to make a profit more than once. I like to call this multitasking method, Work Once, Collect Twice. Optimally, it should be called, Work Once, Collect for Life.
I have read several excellent books by Harvey McKay. As I remember his story, which I suggest you read, Harvey made envelopes. He didn’t make money. His company, McKay Envelope, had a dozen or so employees, high overhead, and only one product – envelopes. Harvey was a brilliant salesman, but no matter how many envelopes he sold, his company continued to wobble on the edge of failure. The turning point came when he found a way to sell another product that he was already manufacturing – trash. Before realizing that the trash from his factory, the small scraps of paper left over from the envelope manufacturing process, had value, Harvey was paying someone to haul it away. No doubt, whoever Harvey was paying to remove the trash was selling the paper scraps to a recycler and making a profit on both ends of the transaction. When Harvey began selling his scraps, he began making a profit.
I have seen the idea of getting paid once for the same work put into practice in multiple other areas.
When my clothes washer died a few years back, I first checked the warrantee, then tried to fix it myself, then gave up and called a haul off service to take the piece of junk away. The haul off service charged a reasonable price, and it saved me from having to figure out how to get rid of the thing without borrowing a truck. A few weeks later, I was attempting to find a rail to replace one that had cracked in my just-out-of-warrantee refrigerator. The manufacturer did not carry the part; the local appliance repair store could not get the part, and I couldn’t find anywhere to order the part online. I decide to try a major used appliance store I had driven by on multiple occasions. There, I met a familiar face. He didn’t have the part either, but he did have my old washer. It had been repaired with parts from other washers that had come from other people who were willing to pay him to haul them off.
The fabric store where my daughter buys cloth sells high-priced pre-cut quilting patches, and the man who trims my trees also sells wood. No doubt, the quilting patches are made from the small scraps at the end of a bolt that would otherwise be sold at a discount, and the firewood I buy came from my own trees.
I find these methods of recovering an otherwise lost product or profit ethical and ingenious, but I have also seen the idea misused.
Some attorneys give their clients what seems to be a good offer. The attorney agrees that he will bill the client for half the normal hourly rate during wait time, but the client must agree that he can bill other clients during the same wait time so as to minimize his losses. There is a lot of wait time at court, especially in family law cases. There are many cases pending at any given time, and there are many family law attorneys with cases waiting to be heard, but there is a finite number of judges and a finite number of courtrooms. The vast majority of the time an attorney spends at court is usually spent waiting for a case to be called. An attorney who “generously” offers to bill wait time at a reduced rate based on the ability to also charge multiple clients during the same wait time may be taking advantage of those clients.
A few numbers can clarity the point. Attorney Adam normally bills $200 per hour, a low rate for family law attorneys, but he agrees to bill his clients $100 per hour for wait time when he is waiting on more than one case. Attorney Adam schedules seven family law cases on the same morning, but also schedules another matter in a different court on the same date. None of the family law cases are heard that morning, but Attorney Adam is able to bill all seven clients for the entire wait time – $100 x 7 clients x 4 hours waiting comes to $2,800 for doing nothing to advance any of the cases. Wait time billing can be used to abuse clients in other ways also, such as setting hearings when it is known that opposing counsel will be unavailable or by billing clients who wait while their attorney litigates some other matter.
Ethical uses of the Work Once concept occur when the user of the idea delivers a valuable and useful service or product and then makes beneficial additional use of that service or product. I see the wait time trick as an unethical abuse of the concept. The person who hauled off Harvey McKay’s trash gave him a valuable service – trash removal. He did not abuse Harvey by recycling, he instead did a small thing to help preserve and protect the planet. I would be happy to learn that someone was going to the effort to recycle all of my trash just like I was happy to see my old washing machine put back into service. I felt a twinge of guilt putting something so large into the landfill just because I lacked the skill to fix it. I have bought firewood from my tree trimmer even though I know that some of the wood may be from my own trees. He has provided a service to me – tree trimming. Besides that, he has uses the “let it simmer” concept to season the wood for a year, thereby increasing its value, before selling it back to me, and he has also used mechanical means to split the wood, thereby leveraging his efforts. I also admire the store that cut the quilting squares, but I think I’ll make my daughter cut her own.
In applying Work Once to my own life, I am putting much effort into this book, but it is my hope that my work will be used in multiple ways and not just become some ink on paper. This book started out as a journal of my own efforts, not written simply as a book, but rather written as affirmations of my own decide once moments. The task of explaining my decisions and justifying each on paper became part of a ceremony that affirms and supports my decisions. The book is also written in hopes that my efforts will result in multiple separate profitable products, such as a printed and bound book, a book for electronic readers, an audiobook, an online subscription based series, or some other profit center.
I have multiple books currently in progress, but this is currently the only one I am actively writing. The other books are simply file directories on a computer. During a typical day, multiple attorneys will call on me to conduct legal research and write legal pleadings for them. When I receive such a task, I first scan through previous pleadings I have written to see if I have something similar to use as a starting point. If I find something I can reuse, I have been successful in multitasking using the Work Once method. Granted, I may have to heavily edit the document, but it is much easier and faster to edit a pleading than it is to create a pleading from scratch.
Each time I finish a new type of pleading for an attorney, I look at each of the file directories for each of the books I have in progress. If the pleading is applicable to any books, I put a copy in those directories. For example, I recently helped prepare an Opposition to the Prosecution’s Motion to Consolidate. The Prosecution’s motion had requested that the defendant’s three cases be combined and tried as one case. I put a copy of this motion in directory I had created for Handbook for the Accused. I also realized that this opposition could be turned into a document supporting severance of charges that had previously been filed together, so I also saved the motion as “Defendant’s Motion in Limine to Sever Counts” in the California Criminal Defense Motions in Limine book. The Opposition argued that improperly joined cases would create prejudicial error, so I also saved a copy of the pleading in directory I had created for the Habeas Handbook, and named it “Improper Joinder of Counts Creates Reversible Error.”
When a book directory gets sufficiently filled with example pleadings, notes, research, and other matters, I format it all into a book.
Using this method, I was able to work with a coauthor to write California Criminal Defense Motions in Limine, 2nd, which contains 512 pages of pleadings. I did not sit down one day and decide to write a thick book about motions in limine; almost all of the work had already been done.
I basically found two ways to sell the pleadings I had been working on already. First, I was paid to research and prepare the pleadings, and, second, I was able to make the pleadings into a book. I wanted more, so I paid someone to format the book into fully formatted separate pleadings with headers that could easily be customized for a specific attorney in a specific court. The pleadings I paid for had tags, such as NameName, AddressAddress, CityCity, CountyCounty, and PhonePhone that can be used with search and replace so that a full set of every pleading in the book can be quickly prepared for a specific attorney with that attorney’s specific information already in the pleadings along with headings appropriate to the court that attorney is practicing in.
I believe these ways to Work Once still have more potential, so I purchased the domain name ProPerKits.com. It is nearly always a bad idea for a criminal defendant to represent him or herself, but many choose to do so. It is my intention to use ProPerKits.com to sell these pro per defendants fully formatted pleadings for use in their criminal cases the same way I sell such pleadings to attorneys.
I have not even set up the site yet, but I can already see many obvious Work Once, Collect Twice possibilities. These pro per defendants need attorneys, perhaps attorneys will pay to advertise on my site? The site will only sell a limited number of pleadings, maybe these pro per defendants should buy more of my books? Do these pro per defendants need investigators, DNA experts, forensic pathologists, latent print examiners, gang experts, or some other type of experts who should advertise on my site? Do these pro per defendants know how to serve and file their pleadings or would they like to hire my company to do it?
One or all of these ideas may fail, but there is little risk in trying. The bulk of the work has already been done. I am already in a position to Work Once and reap the benefits for many days to come.
Celebrities are also in good positions to work once and collect many times because they can market their fame. A sports star may train thousands of hours to achieve peak performance. A singer may record the same song several hundred times just to get it exactly right. Actors may suffer through hours of makeup and wardrobe before suffering through hours of take after take of a given scene and then suffer through hours of wardrobe and makeup removal.
These stars are seen on screens, stages, courts, fields, and in stadiums when they perform their art, but some are also seen on boxes of cereal, fish fingers, toothpaste, energy drinks, kitchen utilities, and other products.
A few celebrities have used their image and popularity to sell pudding. Sylvester Stallone springs to mind. He endorsed pudding, but there was a big controversy about his pudding and some sort of allegations about trade secret violations. I would not expect anything controversial surrounding pudding or those who endorse pudding, it odd things happen.
It is not just big name celebrities who are able to use the work they put into becoming famous to make extra money. Many people have a bit of celebrity status that can be sold to endorse a person, service, or product.
After local news anchor Don Clark left the little screen, he used his fame to endorse Personal Express Insurance and the Kern Veterans Memorial Foundation. Local politician Trice Harvey, who gained fame as a schoolboard member, a county supervisor, and a state assemblyman, was able to use his celebrity status to endorse a local auto sales group, but even lower levels of fame can put a person in a position where they can sell that fame and collect many times for the hard work that has already been done.
I decided once that I will help enrich others by helping them enrich me. I supervise others as they complete tasks that earn a profit which can be shared. By helping others help me, I can multiply the outcome of my efforts.
McDonalds sells hamburgers. If the founder of McDonalds, Ray Kroc, was the best hamburger salesman in the world who could make and sell hamburgers faster than anyone else, we would probably never have heard of him and few of us would ever have eaten one of his burgers.
Mr. Croc would be nothing if it were not for his use of leverage.
Mr. Croc first used leverage by teaching others how to make and sell food from his first burger joint. It would have been unreasonable for him to try to personally sell, prepare, and serve each meal. Instead cook xxx
20. Take It Along
I’ve noticed that there are trashcans nearly everywhere, yet trash continues to pile up in my car. I avoid fast food, but on the rare occasion that we do have fast food, the food to trash ratio appears to be about 1:3. For each food item served, we seem to get three items of trash in the car.
The kids like ranch dressing with their fries, so a bag of fries may produce as trash the little bag the fries are in, a ranch container, a few napkins, and the big bag that was used to contain the fries and the rest of the meal.
A typical burrito may produce a wrapper, four sauce packets, and four napkins in addition to the bag that was used to contain other meal items.
Even a typical drink can produce as trash a drink holder, a cup, a lid, and a straw.
A hamburger often produces as trash a box, a wrapper from the burger, a few ketchup packets, a few napkins, and the big bag.
Only a fraction of the master bag – the one holding most of the meal items – can be attributed to any one food product, and some items require no additional sauce, salsa, dressing, or other add-on packets.
Condiments are the real wild card. Fries can be supplemented with ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing or other condiments ranging in number from zero to sometimes three or more singularly or in combinations. Normally, nothing needs to be added to certain lead items, such a McDonalds’ Big Mac, a Wienerschnitzel Chili Cheese Dog, a Taco Bell Cinnabon, or a Wendys’ chili, so the food to trash ratio for such items appears to be very low even if one considers the fact that additional napkins may be required for messy items, such as the chili cheese dog. However, my 1:3 ratio is based on several realities: (1) when delicious food (such as extra chili) is found on the fingers, people tend to lick instead of wipe, (2) some people use clothing instead of napkins, (3) some people do not realize how great Frank’s Red Hot sauce is when they buy Jack in The Box chicken nuggets.
Whatever the food to trash ratio, the fact remains that fast food makes much trash. Other in-car activities also make much trash. The most trash appears to be produced by one singular activity, the transportation of children. The children exponentially increase the amount of trash produced by fast food, but they also produce heaps of paper. There are old school papers, random doodles, origami attempts, newspaper comics, and other random papers. Often, I find sticks, pine cones, , and leaves in the car. I assume these items have some purpose beyond my understanding, so I ask the children before disposing of the items, but whatever that great purpose was, it is in the past because the children rarely desire continued retention of the items. It is even more rare that they wish to assist in disposing of the items.
I decided once to take the trash along.
If the car stops anyplace that has a trash can within view, we take the trash along with us and deposit it in the trash can. The same rule applies to recyclables; we take it along.
Socks, shoes, hats, and jackets also used to collect in the car, but now these items are taken with us when we return to the house. Each time the car stops and we prepare to exit, we glance around to see if there is something we should take along.
Just like there are things that should be removed from the car, there are things that should be kept in the car.
I am a big fan of reusable bags. My favorites are those from IKEA because they are strong, long lasting, inexpensive, and they hold a lot. The medium size is advertised as a ten gallon capacity, and the large as nineteen gallons.
I keep several of each of these in the car because they are so versatile. A standard banker box neatly fits in the large bag, which makes it much easier to lug a case of paper from the office supply store to the car and from the car to the office. The large bag is also nice for taking towels, sunscreen, and other items to the beach because sand easily shakes out of it. Each large bag can also hold a child for an enjoyable trip around the house, but my children are now close to the maximum weight limit. Obviously, the bags are useful for groceries, and I find it helpful to use multiple bags even if the groceries will all fit in one bag. If I have had a particularly large load of groceries, I may use a bag for frozen foods, a bag for refrigerated foods, a bag for pantry items, a bag for produce, and a bag for fresh meat.
After use, the bags are folded and placed by the back door so that the next time I go to the car, I can take them along.
In addition to the bags, I keep a few emergency items in the car, such as jumper cables and tools. There is little chance I will ever use the tools to repair my own car, but I often need a tool to fix a bike, fix a loose bolt in an office chair, or do some other small repair job while away from the house.
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams explains that a towel is the most massively useful thing. I cannot disagree. I keep an old but clean towel in the car, but more importantly, I keep paper towels in the car. The towel or the roll of paper towels can be used as a pillow. The towel can be used as a blanket or it can be hung from a window to block the sun on a long road trip. Too often fast food workers forget to put napkins in the bag or they are overzealous in their desire to save their employer money, so they only place a few napkins in the bag. Paper towels are a reasonable substitution for napkins, facial tissue, or toilet paper . The many uses of towels, both cloth and paper, are well known.
I also keep plastic cutlery, straws, dental floss, gum (to assist with ear popping when going over mountains), a lot of change (for toll booths and parking), and a blanket (just in case).
Conspicuously absent from this list is water. I don’t store water in the car because the inside of the car often gets hot and it makes the water taste funny. I keep bottled water by the back door, and we some take some if going out of town or if someone is already thirsty.
I decided once that I need to say No more often. Someone is always pressuring me to accept some new responsibility, run some errand, do some task, join some group, attend some function, or otherwise take some action.
Social pressure has let me to say Yes to many unpleasant, unprofitable, and undesirable tasks. Often, the best answer is No.
Albert Einstein is a famous theoretical physicist, and I appreciate his many contributions to science, but I also appreciate his thoughts on life, such as his quote, “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
I avoid many common repetitive chores by saying No to them.
I said No to mowing the lawn, and that decision has been profitable for me based on this maxim: change in use is change in value.
I’ve seen many versions of the following example, but have been unable to track down the source of this brilliant insight, “A bar of iron costs $5, made into horseshoes, it’s worth $12, made into needles, it’s worth $3,500, made into watch springs, it’s worth $300,000.”
If I mow my own lawn, I am giving a very small value to my time. I haven’t been able to figure out how to multitask mowing with anything else because it is noisy and I have to pay attention so I don’t run over something on the ground. The dust, pollen, and grass clippings make my nose run and make me itchy. In the warmer months, the heat makes me miserable no matter how early in the morning I start the job. In addition to time spent actually mowing the lawn, I must also spend time and money maintaining the mower and getting gas for it. My total investment of time to mow my own lawn averages somewhere around 1.5 hours.
Raymond mows my lawn in about 20 minutes. Raymond is extremely efficient. Raymond has multiple mowers, trimmers, blowers, rakes, and other tools that he wields as a master craftsman. He pulls up to my house and his mower is running in just a few seconds.
When I was mowing the lawn myself, I had to prepare for the task by getting the mower out of the shed, checking the gas and oil, and yanking on the cord until it started. Sometimes it didn’t start right away. Sometimes it didn’t start at all and I would often tinker with it, change the spark plug, try some starting fluid, and eventually take it to the shop.
Raymond’s mower is in nearly perpetual use. It seems to always start on the first pull. If it doesn’t, I see that Raymond has other mowers in his trailer at the standby.
Raymond also has several gas powered line trimmers. I have one electric trimmer. My trimmer always starts without problem, but I have to move it between four different plugs to get full coverage of my yard. The string is also sometimes a problem with my trimmer, but Raymond never seems to have problems.
Raymond also has a blower. I have a rake and a broom.
Raymond is efficient. I am not.
Raymond charges $100 per month to mow each week. That’s about $23 per mowing. Assuming that my expenses for mower maintenance and gas are $5 per week (it actually runs a bit more), if I mow the lawn myself, I would be saving $18 in labor for each time mowing, which would put my hourly rate at around $12.
I am no longer willing to do a hard, sweaty, dirty job that I am bad at for $12 an hour. I just say No.
Raymond doesn’t even seem to work up a sweat. He is hardly out of his truck long enough for the cool air from his air conditioner to escape the folds of his clothes.
Raymond’s equipment and gas expenses are obviously much higher than mine, but his expenses are spread out between many happy customers. I must bear the full of my own expenses when I mow my own lawn, but even if I were to assume that Raymond had expenses of $5 per week for me as his customer, at $18 for the value of his labor, the twenty minutes it takes him to mow puts his hourly rate at around $54.
Naturally, he has drivetime between jobs, so his actual hourly rate is less, but his efficiency gives him a good hourly rate that I cannot match doing the same job.
I say No to mowing the law.
I also say No to changing my car’s oil. When compared to the price at the shop that regularly changes my oil, the value of my labor comes in at somewhere around $12 an hour. I save $12 when I do it myself, but it takes me about an hour to do it. I know – I’m slow at this task also.
I say No to washing the outside of my car. It takes me about half an hour to get out the bucket, fill it with soapy water, wash the car, rinse the car, and dry the car. The local drive through carwash charges $6 and the wind from the road dries the car as well as I do when I do it at home. This again calculates to a value for my time of $12. I save $6 when I do it myself, but it takes me half an hour.
I say No to rotating my car’s tires, trimming my palm trees, spraying the yard for bugs, hemming my pants, mopping my floor, and many other tasks. If there is a task I don’t enjoy doing, I calculate the cost of having someone else do the task and compare it to how long it would take me to do the task. This gives me an hourly value for the task. I then look at jobs available to me and the hourly rate of return expected from those jobs.
If I only save $12 an hour by doing a personal task for myself but I have available paying work with an expected return of $50 an hour, it would be silly for me to take care of the personal task.
If I could spend an hour and a half converting video files at my current rate of $100 per hour for such tasks, it would be foolish for me squander the expected $150 return by spending my time mowing my lawn just so I could save around $18 and deprive Raymond of his income.
If I could spend half an hour writing three standard motions (suppression, continue trial, and discovery) it would be senseless for me to pass up the $60 total I would earn at my regular billing rates for these standard motions so that I could use the time to wash my own car and save the $6 that the car wash would charge me.
I strive to be the watch spring instead of the iron bar when the task at hand is unpleasant.
This does not mean that I hire people to do every little task. I spend many hours on tasks that could be done by others at a minimal hourly rate.
I till, plant, and tend my own garden. I enjoy my garden, but sometimes I do pay someone to pull weeds. I cook most of my own food because I like to cook. I sometimes make bread from scratch, which takes more than an hour of labor, even though a loaf of bread only costs a couple bucks.
I decided once that I would say No to tasks I don’t like when there are more profitable jobs available for me, and I evaluate each task that comes my way by considering the cost of having someone else do the task compared to my expected earnings from doing something else.
“No” is not just a good response to unpleasant tasks, I decided once that I would answer No to most social requests.
Would I like to go to lunch? No.
Would I like to meet for drinks? No.
Would I like to attend your cousin’s birthday party? No.
Would I like to come to an exciting meeting about a multilevel marketing opportunity that will only be available to a very limited number of people? No. No. No.
I have many reasons and many valid excuses for saying No. I avoid going to lunch for several reasons, some of which are that I hate going during the normal lunch hour, but that is when most people go; most restaurants serve too much food, so I am tempted to overeat, and lunch meetings often drag on for a long time, causing me to fall behind on my work.
Requests to going out for drinks are almost always for evening drinks, when I want to be with my family. I suspect that even the most hardcore socialites would shy away from requests for a morning drinking session. Even if I wanted to go out for drinks, I would not be willing to drive afterwards, so the cost of the evening would not only be the cost of overpriced drinks and the lost productivity, but the cost would necessarily include the increased cost of transportation for the evening or the added burden on a designated driver. Without a driver or other arrangements, best I could do is go out for a single drink.
As for birthday parties, if it is a party for children, and those children are friends of my children, my children are old enough to attend without my supervision at the scene.
As for invitations to other birthday parties, I am reminded of the story of a famous violinist, but he must not have been famous enough because I cannot recall or Google his name. Often the violinist was invited to parties. After accepting invitations, the host would often remark to the violinist, “and do bring your violin.”
He would explain, “my violin does not eat, drink, or dance, so I will convey the invitation, but I doubt it will attend.” In other versions of the story, the violinist attends with his violin, but without a bow or without strings on the violin, or he presents the host with a bill for his normal performance fee.
It sometimes seems that I am invited to parties not because of my fantastic personality or my stunning good looks, but because I have a few odd skills that people find entertaining or otherwise of benefit.
If I meet a dentist at a party, I don’t lean my head back, open my mouth and ask him to have a look. If I meet a comedian, I don’t ask him to tell a joke. If I meet a stock broker, I don’t ask him for his latest stock picks. If I meet a proctologist, I don’t shake his hand. Most people don’t attend parties for the purpose of practicing their chosen profession. I wouldn’t invite Raymond to my friend’s party and expect him to mow the lawn while in attendance. The host of a party should not expect guests to freely share their professional skills with other guests in a social setting. There is a time and a place for such things, and a party is neither the time nor the place.
As for multilevel marketing opportunities, time shares, solar savings seminars, and other such presentations, I must admit that I have attended quite a few such events. However, my skepticism and comic wit has never failed to be noticed.
After eating the free food at MLM ambush events, I have used statements and phrases such as these:
- So, am I correct in saying you tricked everyone here into a sales presentation with promises of free food?
- I would like to profit from this as much as you have profited. Could you show all of us your income tax return so we know exactly how much you are earning from this program?
- I’m thinking of signing up under you, but I want to check something. If I get ten friends and they get ten friends and they get ten friends and they get ten friends, that is over 10,000 people under me, but you have three people above you, so if we all join, won’t the people under you exceed the population of the earth?
If you invite me to an MLM event, you risk the danger that I will attend. There is less than a one percent chance I will sign up, but there is at least a 99% chance I will have fun at your expense. I’m not saying that all multilevel marketing programs are bad. I’m just saying that I have a Bachelor’s in Math, a fondness for free food, and a quirky sense of humor.
In social situations, it is difficult to say no, especially to close friends. A simple “no, thank you” rarely suffices, and I feel compelled to give some sort of explanation, but I often do not have an acceptable explanation that cannot be subject to rebuttal.
If a decline by stating that I’ll be watching the kids or taking them to some minor event, the potential host may respond with something like, “bring them with you. There will be other kids for them to play with.” If I respond that I don’t want to go out to eat because of the detriment to my waistline, it invites complements on my physic but does not excuse me from the proposed event. Any protestations based on cost risk a response from the potential host to the effect that they will pay, but when I reject a given event because I feel it is a waste of money, it doesn’t really matter to me whose money is being wasted. I don’t want to waste my money or anyone else’s money to go to an expensive buffet when I’m not hungry, attend a concert for an entertainer I am not fond of, or do anything else that has a high price but low value to me.
I have, for the most part, simply given up on offering truthful valid excuses because such excuses are so often meet with attempts to refute the excuse and change my mind. It is not a debate. It is a rejection of an offer.
Besides that, often, I just that I don’t want to do whatever is being offered, and I don’t want to go through the façade of tentatively accepting or indicating that I might possibly accept only to cancel later or simply not show up. Those who invite me to such social events deserve a firm acceptance or rejection.
I have come up with several standard answers to avoid giving an uncomfortable rejection or an excuse that invites rebuttal:
- I’m sorry. That is the day I’m going to the barber. He has a long waiting list and it took me months to get an appointment. [For those who don’t know me, I’m bald.]
- Oh no, that’s the same day as the Justin Bieber concert, and the tickets were outrageously expensive, non-refundable, and non-transferable.
- Generic excuse. [Don’t give a generic excuse, just say the words, “generic excuse” and leave them wondering.]
- I wish I didn’t have to attend my great-great-grandfather’s funeral that day. [Say “great” enough times to ensure that the decedent is at least 150 years old].
- The human habitant selection for the Mars colonization project is that day, and I just can’t miss my final interview.
- I have to take the GED that day.
- My parole officer won’t let me out of the house after 6:00 p.m.
- My astrologist told me to expect this invitation and decline. She even used your exact words and described what you would be wearing.
- I was just reading Nostradamus. This was all foretold, so I must fulfill my destiny by declining.
- I cannot attend for religious reasons that I can’t discuss.
No is also a perfectly good answer to requests for free advice and free labor. If people in need ask for help, I’m willing – even happy – to give it to them. If a friend asks for a favor from time to time, I’ll make myself available to help, but I have learned to say No to the people who are not in need but are simply seeking free advice or services.
I’m leery of requests that begin with lines similar to, “you are so good at…” because they often end with, “could you take a look at my…” and are often an attempt by the asker to induct me into their personal no cost labor force.
“You are so good with computers, could you take a look at my laptop,” is the question that knotted me into countless hours of computer repair work for a friend. The computer would not print. I fixed the immediate problem in just a few minutes by simply changing the default printer and deleting the many prints that were in queue for the wrong printer. Over the next few months, everything that went wrong with the laptop was somehow connected to the free work I did.
“My laptop you worked on won’t play videos now.” There was no player installed for the type of videos he was attempting to play. I installed the free VLC player, but the laptop was returned less than a week later.
“Now the laptop you worked on can’t edit anything.” The trial edition of Office had expired. He didn’t want to buy it. I installed and configured LibreOffice, but the computer was returned to me the next day because other members of his family didn’t like the changes to the editor. I explained that it was not changed, it was a different editor. If he wanted the same editor as before, he had to pay for it. This resulted in a discussion of how he never paid for it before and he didn’t know why anyone would pay for something like that. I explained the situation as best I could, but made no changes to the computer.
The next day it was, “it has the same problem I though you said that you fixed.” The computer wasn’t printing again. It was printing fine at his office, but not at his home. We had a discussion about defaults and how to print to printers other than the default. I was instructed to give his family lessons. I declined.
I decided once to avoid such traps with a simple answer that starts with phrases like, “Thank you. I would love to make the extra money, but…”
This lets the person know that (1) you appreciate the offer and (2) the work requested is of the type you would normally charge for. I often end the answer with something like, “I’m really tied up until Tuesday. We could get together or I could refer you to Karen to do the job, but I don’t know how much she charges.” I do this to reinforce that the person is asking me to do a job, I am available to do the job at a different time, and others willing to do the job would also expect to be paid.
I am constantly asked questions like, “could you take a look at my legal papers?”, “could you find me a case that says…,” or “when you go to the court today, could you file my papers?” It may only take me ten or fifteen minutes to look at papers, find a case using my database, or file papers, but minutes add up to hours and hours add up to days.
Many of the requests for assistance previously came from legal professionals who are much richer than I am, yet they sought free help from me. Some of the requests come from pro per litigants who drop in the office without an appointment to just “ask a quick question.” They don’t want an appointment because they don’t need much time and don’t want to pay. Before deciding once to say no, I would spend more time answering these quick question people than I would with my paying clients.
No is also a great answer to cashiers who ask questions like, “would you like to donate a dollar to…” Often such requests include the offer to place my name on a small sign, perhaps cardstock cutout of a balloon or a flower, to be taped up near the cash register with other donors. There is great peer pressure to make such small donations – only a horrible person would abandon handicapped orphans with aids who have been victims of child abuse and genocide, especially when confronted with so much evidence that others in the community have already tried to help by making their donation and placing their name on the signs demonstrating their support.
I still say No. It is not that I don’t care; I do. I say No because this is an inefficient way to help and I don’t know how the money is being divided up. Does the store make a profit from my donation? How much is being spent on advertising? How much do the promoters of the donation campaign get? How much money actually goes to the people meant to be helped?
I’ve researched some charities and learned that often only a very small amount of a donation actually goes to the cause being supported. Much more of the money might be going into the pockets of administrators. Further, donation campaigns may be more of a form of advertising than a philanthropic endeavor. When I see advertisements like, “Walter’s Taco King raised over $10,000,000 to fight cancer,” I realize that Walter’s collected money for some cause. They did not donate money. However, because they advertise their charitable activities, more people will tend to have good thoughts about Walter’s Taco King, frequent Walter’s more often, and increase Walter’s profits.
If Walter’s really wants to help, I suggest that they carefully research charities to support and then make a donation to those charities out of their profits without the advertisements or fanfare.
Visit a typical office and what do you see? Paper – paper on the desk, paper on top of filing cabinets, paper in the in box, paper in random stacks. Most offices are filled with clutter and paper. Paper stacks up around printers and copy machines. Paper stacks up around the area where mail is opened. Paper stacks up.
I decided once to stop the stacking.
There are many organization methods described in books, taught in classes, and sold as part of organization systems. I doubt that mine is any better than others, but it works for me, so I’ll try to give it a memorable name: Touch Twice.
I decided once that I would strive to not to touch any piece of paper that comes to me more than two times. The first time, I glance over the piece of paper and determine what action is needed for that piece of paper, and the second time I touch it is when I take that action.
When my children were in the first several grades, I volunteered at the school on Tuesdays. When the youngest graduated second grade, the school had no further need for helpers to interact with the children, so I was relegated to the copy room. After fourth grade, the only help requested was for special events, like Fall Festival and the party before Winter Break.
You may know the occasions for such events by other names, like Halloween or Christmas, but such names appear to be falling into disfavor because of the religious backgrounds associated with the events. I still prefer to call the fall holiday Halloween and the winter holiday Christmas the same way I call certain days of the week Sunday and Monday, even though the days were named in celebration of the old gods of the sun and the moon.
I also have no problem with the religious background associated with Thursday, which is literally Thor’s day, named after the god turned superhero who has a big hammer. Acceptance of Thursday naturally makes me accepting of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, which are respectively named after Tiw (modernly called Tyr, Oden’s son and Thor’s brother), Woden (modernly called Oden, the father Thor and Tyr), and Friga (Oden’s wife and the mother of Thor and Tyr).
Saturday comes from the Roman god Saturn, and several of our months are named after Roman gods. January comes from Janus (the god with one face looking forward and another looking backward), March comes from Mars (the god of war), and June comes from Juno (Jupiter’s wife).
I have no desire to change the names of the days or months just because of their religious origin, but I do take offense at September, October, November, and December because the names literally mean seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth month even though they are the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months.
An octopus has eight tentacles; an octagon has eight tentacles; and octogenarian is a person who has lived eight decades, but October is not the eighth month; it is the tenth month. This is just wrong.
And what is a decade? Ten years. A decathlon has ten events. Our decimal system is based on the number ten, yet the month named December is the twelfth month, not the tenth as it should be.
The last four months in our calendar are completely misnamed, but not religious. Religion, both ancient, and recent, is infused into our language and our culture, but I digress. Religion is the topic of a later chapter. This chapter is about bananas.
When I was helping in my daughter’s kindergarten class, I would stay through lunch to help the kids get their food, make it to the tables, open food packages, and otherwise assist with their lunches. One day, the cafeteria served bananas as part of the meal. I helped the cafeteria workers hurry from table to table to peel bananas.
I used the method I had always been taught. I would hold the banana in one hand and grab the stem with a few fingers while pressing my nub of a thumbnail into the peel just below the stem. I would then maul the banana as I snapped the peel just below the stem and peeled back the first strip. This left a mushy top on the banana, and it left that nasty little black bit at the end of the banana behind for the kindergarteners to deal with later.
This method is especially difficult on bananas that are not quite ripe because the peel is tougher, so it takes much more force to break and much more of the banana is mushed. To help overcome this issue, some of the cafeteria workers had little knives that they used to cut the peel close to the stem. I didn’t have a knife, so after the first dozen or so bananas, my thumbnail felt as if it were going to loosen.
I approached another table to continue the task, but only a few children still had unpeeled bananas. Yet, before I could assist, a little boy peeled the remaining bananas in a magical way right in front of my eyes.
He held a banana in one hand with the stem pointed down. He pinched the tip, and then simply peeled it.
I had been peeling bananas wrong my entire life. His method was clearly better. I had learned something from a kindergartener.
I was impressed with his banana peeling skill, and I told him so. He told me that he had learned it by watching a video of a monkey eating a banana, but his mother told him to stop biting the tip of the banana to break open the first section to peel, so now he just presses down on the tip to mush it against the table.
In short, I learned from a child something he had learned from a monkey. It took an intermediary for me to learn a valuable lesson from a monkey. This opened my mind to the fact that everyone and everything has something to teach me. I can learn from anyone or anything if I just stay open to different ways of doing things.
After the banana epiphany discussed in xxx chapter,
I learned from The Greatest Management Principle In The World by Michael LeBoeuf that, “the things that get rewarded get done.” I found this a valuable idea, but often difficult to apply. I try to always reward those who do work for me based on productivity instead of for hours spent doing a job. I pay the same rate per page for transcription work if it takes the transcriptionist one hour or six. I pay the same rate per line translated no matter how long it takes the translator to do it.
I don’t pay Raymond any more or any less for mowing my lawn based on the time he spends doing it. In the summer, it takes him a bit longer. In the winter, he finishes the job much more quickly because I don’t plant winter rye in the back yard. Some years, I don’t even plant rye in the front yard, so Raymond is almost finished as soon as he starts. He is paid the same each month no matter how long it takes him to do the job. Raymond is rewarded for mowing the lawn, so he gets it done quickly.
Some of those I work with are paid based on sales. I give exclusive rights for the sale of a certain book, service, or other product to one person for a limited time so that person can advertise and promote the product and reap a significant portion of the sale price. Those who sell generally get a bigger reward than the reward reserved for myself, but selling generally involves personally contacting and interacting with a prospective client. A person who contacts a law firm and entices the firm to use our calendaring and SMS notification services receives the all income from the sale for the first two months and then ten percent of the income each month thereafter, even though no more work is required. In short, the sales person receives a large reward up front and then continuing rewards each month indefinitely. However, even though the reward is great and the thing to be done is small, I have difficulty finding people to reliably do the work.
Sales people often wind up for days, but never pitch. The thing that is being rewarded is the sale, but the thing the salespeople often do is prepare for pitch, wait for the right time, get in the mood, get their game face on, or psych themselves up.
Precatory procedures are preposterous. One wishing to sell does nothing to further that wish by wishing. Action is required. There is no perfect time to sell – do it now. The proper mood to sell is whatever mood the salesperson is in; don’t wait for the mood to change. A salesperson should not wait to get into his game; he should get into the game, and that game is getting out there and selling. xxx
This appears to be xxx of their workbut sometimes difficult to apply when both the person doing the task and the person providing the reward are the same person – me.
Albert Ernest Clifford “Cliff” Young, OAM (8 February 1922 – 2 November 2003) was an Australian potato farmer and athlete from Beech Forest, Victoria, best known for his unexpected win of the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 at 61 years of age.
Goodbye – God be with You
Holiday is from holy day
Sacrifice is from holy
By “the skin of my teeth” Job (19:20)
Don’t put words in my mouth (Exodus 4:15)
Scapegoat Leviticus 16:8
Writing on the wall Daniel 5:5
Isaiah 40:15: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket
I will fail.
“You never stop failing until you stop trying.” Albert Einstein
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
I have failed more than I have succeeded. Babe Ruth batting average was .342.
The lowest recorded golf score ever was 55 by Rhein Gibson of Australia at the River Oaks Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma, USA on May 12, 2012. This means that Mr. Gibson missed 37 shots and only made 18. He missed more than twice the number of shots he made, yet he this was an extraordinary accomplishment.
“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” Albert Einstein
Sunk cost fallacy
Xxx Change in use is change in value
Xxx insert something about torn books
Xxx more pictures for each chapter
Xxx check closing comments for each chapter
“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought” JFK
Xxx Target page count 180 – 250, word count 40,000 – 70,000
During the time it took me to put my thoughts down in this book, my weight only decreased by fifteen pounds. This is a progress, and I could have done better if I had worked harder at it. The task spanned two major holidays that are heavily associated with food and eating, Halloween and Thanksgiving, but holidays are not to blame.
I am responsible for what I put into my mouth. I am responsible for my weight. I did not climb to 240 pounds in a month; it took me years to reach that apex. I, therefore, will not demand of myself that I reduce to 170 pounds within a month or even a year. I did decide once that my weight is 170 pounds, and I am on that journey.
This book contains some of my bigger decide once moments. I hope each of these decisions is right for me, but few will be right for you. I don’t expect to find a throng of followers wearing purple shirts and catching Pokémon during early morning walks, but I hope to hear that some people have xxx
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Just some guy. xxx