The Principle Foundation

The quote in the graphic pictured below is attributed Thomas Jefferson. It is very powerful, and it hangs prominently in The Sellinger School of Business and Management. By basing our life on specific, defined principles we have a road map for our goals, our habits, our career and even our life purpose. Without defined principles we end up self-serving ourselves and trying to evaluate “on the fly” what is the best action in every specific situation. This “on the fly” approach is much like navigating the streets of Washington DC by randomly choosing one way streets to turn on. It leads you nowhere.

Thomas Jefferson Quote: Principles

Basing our life on defined principles is what Steven Covey calls “Character Ethic” in one of my all time favorite books: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey says that the philosophies for success over the last 50 years has been primarily focused on self presentation and promotion, however at the time of America’s founders (such as Thomas Jefferson) it was all about principles of character. That is where we want to be. Our character is our foundation.

That’s why Productivity Wellness depends on a solid foundation of principles. To do this write down (or type out) your principles. What are your principles? You’ll be surprised at how many you already know. These things are close to our hearts so they may pour out easily. If not, make sure that you are in a quiet place, with a quiet mind, where you can just jot down what comes to you. Don’t be self critical, let your thoughts emerge, even over a number of days or weeks (and they will evolve from there).

I’ve revisited, reordered, added, and revised my own principles since writing them originally. As you learn more (often through reading books) your principles will evolve, become modified, and may grow in number. Reviewing them frequently, regardless of how polished they may or may not be, helps keep them front and center and keeps them growing.

Here are a few examples of effective principles. Some of these may ring true for you:

  • Live with Integrity
  • Live a Life of Fidelity
  • Love My Family in all Dimensions
  • Live my Life with Honor
  • Take Responsibility
  • Handle Money and Understand it Appropriately

Adding a few sentences under each will help you to understand and remember what each principle comprises.


Live my Life with Honor:
“I treat all people with fairness, honor my agreements, and have a consistent track record of trustworthiness. I am honest, and do not misrepresent the truth. I do not discriminate against others based on race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexuality, or political notions. I stand up for the weak and persecuted. I speak out for justice, kindness, love, and for my faith in the Lord God. I will never compromise my faith based on popular opinion. I will die for what I believe in and for the people that I love. If the cause is just I will lay down my life for it or sacrifice myself to save the life of an innocent. I will treat others with honor even if they treat me otherwise.”

May your day be productive and well,


Productivity and Wellness is an affiliate member with Amazon, which means that if you buy the product through a link on this site, Productivity and Wellness gets a small percentage of the sale. I will always be honest with you about any product I feature or review, and only endorse something I can honestly associate my name with.  That is a principle I will not waver from.

In this post, I highly recommend Steven Covey’s masterpiece The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. This book has impacted my life in many ways, but most importantly in helping me to establish the Principle Foundation I speak of here.  I have given a copy to every member of my staff.  I find it relevant at work and as a husband and father. I am very pleased to recommend it whole heartedly.



The Consumer vs. The Provider

My Daughter
The best things do not come from Amazon Prime. (My daughter is an exception.)

I’ve been thinking this morning about how people in this country seem to have a consumer or a provider mindset. This mindset can change, but yet switching between them takes energy and willpower. I have come to believe that spending more time in the provider mindset adds greater value to your life than time spent in the consumer mindset.

While getting together with my friend Scott Sax and some of his closest friends I heard his brother Ben comment on how the “Netflix Binge Watching” approach to TV “comes from our desire to consume as much as we can as quickly as we can”. The image that came to mind is that of locusts ripping through a field devouring everything around them. Or  a mosquito that will eat until it is brushed off or bursts.

  • Consumers feed themselves. Providers feed others.
  • Consumers struggle to seem important. Providers lead through example.
  • Providers create. Consumers devour.
  • Providers give. Consumers take.
  • Providers are interested in what others need and want. Consumers are interested in what they want.
  • Providers build wealth. Consumers tend to stay broke.
  • Providers build security. Consumers cycle between desire and fear. (A concept taken from the terrific book Rich Dad / Poor Dad)
  • Providers seek to learn. Consumers seek entertainment.
  • Providers grow. Consumers stagnate.

Personally, I STRUGGLE to move from the consumer mindset and yet EVERYTHING I WANT TO BE resides on the provider side. My wife encourages me constantly in this battle. She is a practically perfect example of a provider. When she spends, it is on clothes for the kids or something that improves our home environment. Other than charitable giving her dollars stay put. How frustrating it must be when her husband easily drops $20 on a Star Wars Blu-ray, a few iPhone apps, and the latest gadget.

In their book The Resolution for Men Stephen and Alex Kendrick explain the dangers of this kind of consumerism on families: “Men today spend more time watching TV or surfing the Internet than in meaningful conversation with their children. If his children are with dad while he’s being entertained, then the television becomes their influence instead. And it is a lousy father.”

But aren’t we all consumers and providers?  Yes, but the point is which is your focus?

Remember this old story?

The Two Wolves

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

  • Steps Forward
    • Principled
    • Health
      • Heart (relationships)
      • Spirit (love)


EQ Anyone?

People talk about IQ and EQ a lot, and we can typically identify folks by “gut” that have low EQ (without a clear definition), but I think frequent LinkedIn contributor Travis Bradberry does a good job boiling it down for us.  It also gives us a list of things to work on.  One of his points is that EQ is something that we can work on (good thing) and we’re not stuck with whatever we’re nature/nurtured to be.  His list is good, and it does make me interested in his book.  If you are interested in being a top performer, this could be just what you need.

Telltale Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Travis Bradberry

Steps Forward:

  • Effectiveness
  • Healthy
    • Mind
    • Spirit
    • Heart




An organization with inspired and productive employees prospers. I have been working on a model that demonstrates the components that lead to maximum inspiration and productivity.

This work is not based on any one organization but is the result of many conversations with people from many organizations, as well as reflection, self examination, and relevant study. This is my first cut at this model and I consider it to be a work in progress. I offer it as a way for organizations to reflect on how to be more successful and for individuals to reflect on how they can be more effective. Any note or reference that seems to refer to any particular organization or person is entirely coincidental.


Inspiration provides vision, creativity, problem solving ability, and initiative. Inspiration is critical for an organization in order to capitalize on new opportunities, grow, and remain competitive.

Productivity facilitates the ability to execute. Without strong productivity, an organization will become inefficient and unable to maintain or advance.


Organizations often struggle to maximize inspiration and productivity and yet the answer may be as simple as two components: “MOTIVATION” and “ATTITUDE”.

The combination of the MOTIVATION offered by the organization and the ATTITUDE of the workforce determines the overall level of inspiration and productivity of the organization. 

Inspiration of Productivity

MOTIVATION:  Every organization has the opportunity to offer a member / employee / customer a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves. The opportunity provided by the organization is the “motivation” we are talking about. If this opportunity is significant, genuine, well articulated, well understood, and believed in then the desire to give all of one’s self to the cause is unparalleled.



A Worthy Cause is one for which you would dedicate time, energy, (or money) whether you got compensated or not because of your personal belief in its value.


In order for an opportunity to be a “Worthy Cause” it must be:

  • Significant: The cause makes an important difference in the lives of others
  • Genuine: The organization supporting the cause lives its defined values and is committed to its cause
  • Articulated: Leadership can clearly and concisely express how the work of the organization supports its values and cause
  • Understood: The workforce fully understands how their individual work supports the organization’s values and cause
  • Believed in: The workforce believes in their heart of hearts that their work supports a significant and genuine cause that makes the world better


What is love when it comes to work? You walk into the office with peace in your heart and a gentle warmth about you. You treat others with patience, kindness, and mutual support. You believe the best about others and they about you. There is no distrust, suspicion, angst, or self-serving ego. There are no grudges, no blame, but plenty of forgiveness. You care about your colleagues and they about you. In an environment that encourages love, people thrive.

Feelings are often minimalized in the workplace. Ever hear these misperceptions?

  • “It’s nothing personal. Just business.”
  • “We can’t afford to worry about feelings.”
  • “You are a professional. Pull it together.”
  • “Crying shows weakness.”
  • “Feelings are subjective. They can’t be measured or managed.”

Those sentiments are false of course. In fact, in order to have an inspired and productive workforce feelings may matter more than anything else.

When people feel loved, and give love to others, inspiration, productivity, retention, and results will all surge. Workforce members will go the extra-mile for each other and for the organization. More of their identity will be tied to the organization and they will speak well of it to everyone they meet. They will attract others to the organization (including talent and customers).


Your organization makes a significant contribution to the world and your workforce continues to move you ahead with enthusiasm and strength. They have unstoppable initiative, creativity, dedication, loyalty, and sense of community. New opportunities are constantly being recognized and new ventures undertaken. The organization will develop a strong positive reputation. Your success will grow as will your ability to positively impact others. Leadership must carefully nurture this level as it is their most important asset.




Some organizations may not quite be able to identify with a “Worthy Cause”.  Would people volunteer their time, energy or money to support your organization?  Believe it or not, regardless of the business you are in, you may get there if you pursue it. If not, have heart, a company that has genuine values and goals can provide a worthy mission that can propel you forward to great levels of inspiration and productivity.

At Level 2 the organization must have clearly defined Mission and Values.  In addition the following must be true:

  • Genuine: The organization / leadership lives its defined values and supports its mission and is committed to both
  • Articulated: Leadership can clearly and concisely express the mission and values of the organization
  • Understood: The workforce fully understands the mission and values
  • Believed in: The workforce supports and identifies with the mission and values of the organization


Employees that feel appreciated for their contribution and gratitude for the opportunities they are afforded will perform well and affect others well. This solid attitude promotes a healthy, happy, productive, and supportive work environment


 Your organization will set goals and achieve them. You will be able to grow, expand, and attract and retain top talent. Your workforce will be dedicated, highly productive, loyal, and happy. As with Level 1, leadership must carefully nurture this level as it is their most important asset.




Organizations that struggle to genuinely convey how they add value to the world provide an inconsistent message to their workforce. Perhaps there is no clear vision, mission, value statement, or consistency. Perhaps leadership fails to live the values they espouse. Hypocrisy, bias, or mistreatment may be occurring. Poor hiring decisions may have resulted in middle managers who enforce values inconsistent with the organization’s. Regardless of the reason, the organization is struggling to communicate a reason for the workforce believe they are supporting something bigger than themselves.

  • Genuine: The mission or stated values of the organization may not be consistently demonstrated by leadership
  • Articulated: Leadership may not clearly express the mission and values of the organization
  • Understood: The workforce may not be able express the organization’s values mission or values
  • Believed in: The workforce may question whether the organization has a genuine mission or genuine values


Employees that feel and express uncertainty are less productive and are prone to bring others down. This uncomfortable feeling can be accompanied by worry, cynicism, suspicion, low morale, gossip, or depression. Your top talent will be looking to move elsewhere and word will get out that your organization is not the place to be.


Not only find will your workforce be uninspired and less productive, but you will also feel as though opportunities are drying up. Inspiration is required for initiative and pursuit of new opportunities. You will be forced to cut costs because the opportunities for growth don’t seem to be there. Leadership must take responsibility and action to change organizational culture.




When the workforce is only in it “only for themselves” the organization will never rise to significance. Members of the workforce may have lost hope and are simply trying to hold onto their job at all costs. Other workforce members may have always been operating out of self-interest and their lack of altruism and empathy is part of the reason the organization is failing.

  • Genuine: Any expression of mission or values may be utterly disregarded by the workforce as a complete fallacy
  • Articulated: Actions speak louder than words, and at this point words may no longer matter
  • Understood: The workforce may only site mission and values when pointing to organizational hypocrisy
  • Believed in: The workforce may feel betrayed


An atmosphere of fear is not only unproductive it is destructive. Many employees are afraid of losing their sense of self-worth either by being degraded, bullied, disciplined, or fired. Recent research indicates that there is surprisingly large number of toxic people in the workforce that purposefully manipulate others and perpetuate fear. They may be part of the reason the organization has faltered in the first place.*

*Note:  For information about highly toxic people,  I recommend reading Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (by Robert D. Hare and Paul Barbiak), The Sociopath Next Door (by Martha Stout), The Narcissist You Know (by Joseph Burgo), and Psychopath Free (by Jackson MacKenzie). If you have been hurt by a toxic person this last book is pure gold.


An organization motivated by self-interest in an atmosphere of fear will fail. Unless it is able to pull itself out of this unfortunate state it will struggle in agony until eventually it can no longer stand under its own weight.  Leadership must take drastic action to change organizational culture or dissolve the organization.


  1. What level would you say your organization is in? Why? Has it always been this way? What changed?
  2. What level would you say you are in personally? Why? Have you always felt this way?  What changed?
  3. What can you do to support your organization to rise to a more effective level?  How can you do so for yourself?
  4. What can you do more of to support others within your organization?
  5. What Worthy Causes can you support outside of work (to support personal fulfillment).
  6. How can you operate with greater love regardless of the culture of your organization?

Productivity When it Matters Most


Angel Park

This weekend my family and I visited Angel Park in Perry Hall Maryland. Much like it’s predecessor, the beautiful “Annie’s Playground” in Fallston Maryland (built to honor kindergartner Annie McGann Cumpson who was killed by a drunk driver), the community of Perry Hall came together and constructed a smaller but very modern playground called Angel Park. This park honors Ryan Szcybor who died of leukemia at 15 months. Both playgrounds, built by loving communities, honor not just these two children but all children. Angel Park was built to bring joy to families and to be completely accessible to children with disabilities. It is truly a labor of love.

Nearly 4000 volunteers dedicated their loving time to constructing Angel Park. Donations came in from everywhere (as did the volunteers) and together they built something miraculous. Many of the park’s creative features were designed by children at elementary and middle schools. One of the children even drew a zip-line which would eventually grace the park as a very popular attraction.

I had an opportunity to speak with David, pictured below with his daughter on the zip line he helped build. He told me with obvious joy how the volunteers built everything there. The zip line was his favorite project and he shows obvious pride in his involvement. If it looks like it is “industrial strength” you are right. He told me it could easily hold me and that heavier men “tested it out” over and over again during construction. (“Weeee-ha!”)

Angel Park broke ground in March 2016 and then opened early November 2016. In only eight months Angel Park went from vision to reality and is in fact the most impressive playground I have ever seen.

Dave, a community member and dedicated volunteer.
Dave, a community member and dedicated volunteer, stands by the zip-line he helped build as his daughter soars across her Dad’s creation.
The castle-like structures of Angel Park are obviously very well constructed and lovingly crafted. Walls and benches are creatively and skillfully painted and the entire park is top-notch.

Productivity When it Matters Most

So, what it is that generated such amazing productivity from so many hard working and dedicated people? The answer? They had love in their hearts and a worthy cause. In today’s workplace so many organizations struggle to keep their employees motivated, morale high, and productivity soaring. Yet, the answer is so simple… love and a worthy cause.

Isn’t it amazing how inspired we can become simply by the idea of making a meaningful difference in the lives of others? When we understand that our work really helps others, we soar. When an organization goes off course, dilutes its values, fails to affirm its members, and gets in the way of people helping people, we fall.

Organizations fail to get the highest levels of productivity when love deteriorates and the organization’s demonstrated behaviors are seen as contrary to its core values. However, everyone is motivated by a supervisor that demonstrates genuine care both for the employee and the organization. Everyone is motivated by an executive team that lives the values they espouse. Everyone is motivated by the opportunity make a positive and lasting impact on the world and to have the opportunity to help others. Everyone is at their most productive, most creative, most dedicated, and most inspired when they have love in their hearts and a worthy cause to work for.

Forget compensation. No one got paid for Angel Park. Forget hypocrisy. Everyone was there to love, support, encourage, and give. And positive change? Angel Park will stand as a testament to love as it brings joy to countless families and children. Productivity? Off the charts! 4000 people came together, got organized, and built a masterpiece in a very short time (while going to school or holding down full time jobs).

Can you imagine the productivity of your organization if everyone felt the love and passion that the 4000 volunteers felt? It would be off the charts!

Is it possible? Yes, if organizational leaders will jettison the hypocrisy, jettison the workplace bullies and toxic employees, fight for a worthy cause, and love, love, love the people they work with and the people they serve. Who would think it would come down to love? When you think about it, it is a no-brainer, and yet the most obvious answers can sometimes escape even the most intelligent leaders.

  • Steps Forward
    • Effectiveness: (motivation)
    • Health: Heart (inspiration, service to others)
    • Health: Spirit (love)
    • Health: Body (exercise)
My wife sits on an angel wing bench.
My angelic wife is a real stickler for the park rules.


There is Reason to be Optimistic

It is a good time to be optimistic about things. I don’t say that because of I think that either of the two leading Presidential candidates are going to make America everything we know it can be. As of this writing, I don’t even know who our next Commander in Chief will be, but I do know that there is reason to be optimistic. I see it in my children. I see it in my children’s classmates. I see it in the kids at church. They support each other. They accept each other. They encourage each other. They love each other. Could this next generation be learning something important that today’s leader’s have lost touch with? Do they understand that it is not about THEM but about OTHERS? I think they might.

The Little 2016 Election

When my oldest daughter (5th grade) ran for student body president her sister helped her film a video for her campaign. Her friend Jordan helped her make posters. Classmates genuinely cheered for her when she won. They stopped by the house to congratulate her after school. I did not see even a hint of envy. Instead they gave her genuine encouragement. There was no ego anywhere. That little election was was so much more genuine, honest, and honorable than anything that we saw in our country’s Presidential election. The kids get it. Why don’t we?

Below is part of her campaign video that she and her sister put together:

The Optimists

Last night she was given an award by the local chapter of the Optimist club. My daughter was attended by her principle, her grandmother, and her family. We were warmly greeted and the Optimist members gave us nothing but love, encouragement, and kindness. They had no agenda other than to celebrate and encourage today’s youth.

My daughter

Most of the members of the club were a generation older than my wife and myself and they seemed to “get it”. There was no pretense. There was no ego. There was just love, support, and encouragement. The evening opened with a prayer and featured a wonderful speaker Christina Flowers.

Christina has risen up in the Baltimore community and advocates tirelessly for the homeless. She has used what money she personally had to start supplying housing and can be found in City Hall advocating for the homeless and holding the government accountable for effective management of funds allocated to support the homeless. She does it all out of love and gives the credit to God. Her program has grown and has housed over 500 people.

Christina Flowers
Christina Flowers: Homeless Advocate

There is Reason to be Optimistic

Forget Trump and Clinton. We can be optimistic because prior generations “got it” and still  encourage our youth with love, support, principles, and role models. And we have real leaders, like Christina Flowers, who sacrifice everything to help others. And our own children understand it all better than we do. They love each other, support each other, accept each other, and encourage each other.

The Optimist Club Creed


  • Steps Forward:
    • Health: Spirit + (hope)


Positive Thinking

I really enjoy listening to Zig Ziglar programs. I have downloaded a bunch of them from and I like pretty much all of them. As anyone who listens to a lot of Zig’s stuff will tell you, a lot of the various programs cover the same material. Zig brings this up himself and makes no apologies for it. The content he is teaching is really good stuff so that is what he consistently shares. It bares repeating. Of course this also means that you can buy a couple Zig programs and listen to them more than once and benefit similarly to someone who buys every Ziglar program released.

If you have not listened to Zig before, he is the very definition of a “Motivational Speaker”. He doesn’t cover new ground, but he hammers home core principles that you already know but need to be reminded of. He believes very strongly in strong character, principled living, positive thinking, and helping others.

Here are some of his quotes:

  • “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
  • “Success Occurs When Opportunity Meets Preparation”
  • “People don’t plan to fail, the just fail to plan.”
  • “A goal properly set is halfway reached”
  • “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”
  • “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
  • “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
  • “If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”
  • “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
  • “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”
  • “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

If you are interested in some of his programs, I’ve really enjoyed these:

When it comes to positive thinking Zig is the master and he can help get you on that road too.  He says:

“Positive thinking will NOT let you do ANYTHING, but it will let you do EVERYTHING better than negative thinking will.”

Well you can’t argue with “Old Zig” (as he sometimes refers to himself). Zig advocates that you must constantly talk to yourself and affirm yourself. When you wake up tell yourself what a great day it is going to be. Affirm your positive characteristics and those you want to strengthen. You will believe yourself.

“Before you change your thinking you have to change what goes into your mind.” -Zig Ziglar

This quote applies to inside and outside talk. That outside talk includes what you watch on TV, consume on the Internet, and the people you associate with. If you are being brought down all the time by any of this then you will stay down. Only you can pull yourself by making your thinking positive. You do this by changing what is going into your mind from the inside and outside.

Steps Forward:

  • goal oriented: + (setting your course with strength)
  • effective: + (“… do everything better than negative thinking will.”)
  • health:
    • Mind: + (lower stress)
    • Spirit: + (lifted self image)
    • Heart: + (courage and strength)

Productivity and Wellness is an affiliate member with Amazon, which means that if you buy the product through a link on this site, Productivity and Wellness gets a small percentage of the sale. I will always be honest with you about any product I feature or review, and only endorse something I can honestly associate my name with.  That is a principle I will not waver from.



One of the great messages of Christianity is that you are loved – unconditionally. Yep, read that last word again: unconditionally. There are no conditions at all. You have the love of God completely regardless of anything you do, say, or believe. If you are or aren’t a Christian you are loved. If you are guilty you are loved. If you’re a man, woman, transgender, gay, straight, hermit or socialite you are loved.

Over the years the Christian Church has gotten itself confused many times in its true mission of love and has blindly turned away many of God’s beloved through accusation, false teaching, and hypocrisy. Leave it to humans to screw up the most perfect message of all time.

However, the message of love remains true. You are loved.

So, take some joy in this knowledge. You are a Child of God and you are 100% loved and adored by your Creator. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. You are loved.

I recently read Glennon Doyle Melton’s wonderful memoir Love Warrior. In that book she finds the presence of God, the hope it brings, and the warm love that surrounds her. She finds herself soon subjected to harsh treatment by a priest she seeks help from and finds herself pushed away from the Catholic Church but not from God.

In her blog Momastery, she talks about how she defines herself:

“I told her [Oprah] the only identity I claim these days is Child of God. That’s the name I came in with and that’s the name I’ll go out with. That’s the only role nobody can take from me. That’s the only solid ground I’ve got.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

I was raised Presbyterian USA and I converted to Catholicism. Entering the Catholic Church as a mature adult brought with it none of the guilt and hurt that I understand some “cradle Catholics” have endured. I empathize with anyone who was treated with judgement as Glennon was. Any Christian that conveys judgement is neither teaching the Gospel nor living it. In my adult life, as a Catholic, I have had many positive experiences with the Church and have found a lot of truth in Christ’s message.

And here is the message: You are a child of God and you are unconditionally loved and adored by your Creator and there is nothing you can do to separate yourself from that love.

Steps Forward:

  • Health:
    • Spirit: + (love)
    • Heart: + (relationships)

What Am I?

The following riddle is by an author unknown. See if you can solve it before the answer is revealed at the end. This work is a piece of genius.

I am your constant companion,
I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well turn over to me
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.

I am easily managed –
you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done
and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great people;
and alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great,
I have made great.
Those who are failures,
I have made failures.

I am not a machine,
though I work with all the precision of a machine
plus the intelligence of a human.
You may run me for a profit or run me for ruin –
it makes no difference to me.

Take me,
train me,
be firm with me,
And I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me,
and I will destroy you.



Gretchen Rubin

After much prodding from my wife Nora I completed Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before. I thought it was good, and I walked away with a healthy respect for Gretchen’s passion for constructive habits. Of course, I agree 100% that the habit is one of the most powerful tools we have to optimize all areas of our life. If we are going to be successful in our quest to be “self-optimized” we are going to need to master habit formation.


In her book Better Than Before Gretchen Ruben explains that habit formation does not require repetition, constant will power, or self control. She says that it requires a choice. Make the choice once and then stick with it. Then you can stop deciding/wrestling each time the Reminder / Stimulus / Temptation comes along. You have already made the choice. Easy. No will power required. Habit formed.

Where I Am in This?

I’d say in terms of habit formation I am a solid C+. I have been a solid B+ in the past but I lost a lot of my routines when I was knocked off my horse by some tough life stuff. It has been a lot harder than I ever thought getting back in the saddle again, though thanks to Jamie, I am at least getting to the gym again.

For a while I was using a app (iOS) called Balanced that is designed to build habits. It is an excellent app and it really helped me back in my B+ days. Balanced is nothing more than a checklist that resets. So you can set habitual tasks to do every day, every 3 days, every week, etc. You make the decision, keep it up, check it off, and presto – habit formed.

This worked well for me in the past and I want to restore that discipline.

The habits I want to form are:

– Pray 10 minutes each morning
– Meditate 10 minutes each morning
– Clean 10 minutes each morning
– Read (or listen to audio version) of Scripture 10 minutes every morning
– Hit the Gym 3 days a week
– Drink at least 3 large glasses of water daily
– Journal Daily
– Make it through each day without consuming sweets
– Bed by 10 PM

That last one is so important. I find that if I do not get enough sleep I am setting myself up for failure. Gretchen Rubin reinforces this her book Better than Before. She emphasizes the importance of setting a bed time and sticking to it. Since Jamie and I are hitting the gym at 5:30 AM I need that beauty sleep!

I am going to go back to using the Balanced app and I am going to build these habits. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Steps Forward:

  • Goal Oriented: + (establishing goals)
  • Effectiveness: + (positive habit formation)

See what positive habits you can establish today!

– Rich

I’m Getting Moving!

Last year my wife and I made one of the hardest decisions we had ever made. We pulled our daughters out of a prestigious private girl’s school to our local public school (going into 3rd and 4th grade), a decision the girl’s deplored. It was very difficult for us to due to the girl’s tears and my family’s multi-generational connection to the school.

We made the decision for four reasons: 

  1. We were going to send our son to the public school no matter what and it would be nice for him (and more convenient for us) to be in the same school as his sisters

2. One of our daughters made friends with boys more easily than with girls (something that I will undoubtedly lament when she is a teenager)

3. As a family we would become more connected with our neighborhood and develop relationships in the community

4. Free is good

And this is what happened…

We did our research and had lots of conversations. All our neighbors loved the local public school. We made the move, the girl’s cried, then mounted their courage, went to school, and adjusted quickly. Both girls have always performed well academically and this continued. My older daughter landed a staring role in the school play and my other learned to play the recorder and enjoyed performing in the concert. Now they both have lots of friends in the neighborhood (something which was lacking before). Boys show up at our door all the time asking to play with my oldest (something I will undoubtedly lament when she is a teenager). Also, my oldest (in 5th grade) is student body president.

Mom and Dad have also enjoyed the transition. The new school is great, my wife Nora is participating in the PTA, and we run into the same people at school, church, and the pool strengthening our connection to the community. Nora and I have also become pretty good friends with the parents of the kid’s friends. One such family (Jamie, Robin, and their daughters) have become real buddies with us.

And now I am really sore…

So Jamie and I grabbed a couple beers one Saturday at an Irish Pub and over beer and Irish Nachos (which are potato skins drowned in cheese) we decided to start doing “Body Pump” at the local YMCA three times a week at 5:45 am. Though this appealed to me at the time as a way to lose the extra pounds (that I was adding to at that moment) I was headed toward a world of pain.

We are on week two and we’ve done a pretty good job holding each other accountable. I think each morning we secretly hope that the other one of us will wimp out and give us an excuse to go back to bed but neither of us wants to be the one to wimp out. As a result we have been getting there. We’ve even done two Spin classes in between Body Pump days.

Body Pump is not easy, but being part of a class helps you get a solid workout each time. (Sometimes even when I would get to the gym previously I would wimp out on the actual exercises.) I have started with lighter weights (in my younger days this would have assaulted my ego… these days… not so much). I also pause and shake out my legs when the lactic acid starts to really burn. Though I am far from a star student at least I am getting to the gym on a regular basis. I’ve noticed the difference in my body. I am tighter if quite sore.

So, this new venture is a win and a further step toward overall wellness.

Current Weight:  262.6 pounds
Goal: 225 pounds

Steps Forward:

  • Health
    • Body: + (exercise)
    • Spirit: + (hope)
    • Heart: + (relationships)