10 activities to do away from work that make you better at work.

Happy Labor Day! This is the day we set aside to honor working people like you. Your work is important and noble. It helps you pay for your groceries. And therapy. But today I hope you don’t work at all.

Instead, consider these 10 non-working activities that make you better on the job.

  1. Rest Recover, refresh, and renew. Take time to rest so that you don’t burn yourself out at work. (Yes, I realize that activity #1 is technically an inactivity.)

2. Exercise This keeps your body strong. A strong body is a strong asset during the work day. And if you can run a 5K, rock climb or lift Instagramable weight, then stapling the coversheet on your TPS report should be a breeze.

3. Read: Reading helps you discover new ideas. It inspires. It sparks creativity. It expands your worldview. It enables you to bring new thinking and perspective to work. And like Southwest Airlines, reading helps you get away.

4. Socialize: Develop and maintain relationships to improve your mental well-being. Socialize to expose yourself to new opportunities in a clothes-on-kind-of-way. All of this contributes to your workplace success.

5. Sleep: Experiment to discover your optimal amount of sleep. Then hit your number as often as you can. Getting the quantity of sleep your body loves will help you wake up ready for the world, like an 80’s band. And ready for the work day ahead. Waking up each day feeling strong and rested for the work day ahead is a beautiful way to start your day.

6. Travel: When you see new things it exposes you to new ideas. It leads to a greater understanding of the world and all of its beautiful diversity. Which contributes to creative thinking, problem-solving, and points with your travel loyalty program. (You did sign up for the loyalty program, right?)

7. Spend time with nature. Spend time away from the human-made world to recharge and gain perspective on life. It is a great way to slow down, destress and break out your cute outdoor clothing. While you are out there you have time to think. And thinking is the worker’s most valuable activity.

8. Volunteer: Offer your time, talent, and energy to do meaningful work without pay. It reminds you of the ways your work can create a better, more caring world. It reminds you that there are many ways to add value and contribute. And that there are many ways to be compensated for your efforts that are not monetary.

9. Laugh: Laughing is living. It relieves stress. It makes you feel like everything will be alright. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. See the world as a great comedy and your perspective will contribute immensely to your enjoyment of both your work and play.

10. Spend time with your family: Make sure to balance your commitment to work with a commitment to family time. Spend quality time with your spouse and children. (If you have them.) Spend time with your parents and siblings. (If you have them.) It will remind you why you are working in the first place. (Especially when you see your kids’ smiling, crooked teeth in need of orthodontia.)

Key Takeaway

You don’t become a better teammate, employee, or leader by spending all of your time at work. You become better away from work. Use your time off to become a better, smarter, more relaxed human. Up your creativity, connectedness, and curiosity away from work. Then show up to work a little better every day. Now go make the most of your Labor Day. I want to hear all about it on Tuesday morning.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Yesterday I knocked off a very important long term goal.

Today people talk a lot about wellness. About taking care of ourselves. And about preventative care. But many of us are terrible at this game. And by some of us, I mean dudes. While women often have regular health checks of some sort (or multiple sorts), guys often go completely undoctored. Which can have serious consequences.

Health Slacker

Since college, when I still had regular health supervision through the athletic department at The University of Wisconsin, I have had very little interaction with doctors other than Dr. Pepper, Dr. Suess, and Dr. Dre.

Back in the Saddle

But yesterday morning I established care with a new primary physician. (The staff kept telling me that I was establishing care, or I wouldn’t have known that was what it was called.)

Part of the reason I hadn’t seen a doctor was that I have been healthy. But that’s not a great excuse.

The other reason I hadn’t seen a doctor was that I didn’t know who to see. So I finally asked my good friend and fellow Badger, Dr. Michael Brin, an Emergency Room doc in Milwaukee, for a reco. He gave me a recommendation. I called to make an appointment. And they told me that doctor was not accepting any new patients. So I instantly knew he was lazy. And an elitist. And I didn’t want to see him anyway.

Plan B

Then the woman I was talking to recommended another physician from the same office. This doctor was a woman. I politely declined, because I prefer a dude doctor. I have a policy against getting all naked on a papered table with a lady in the room other than my wife.

The woman then offered a 3rd option, who was a dude doctor, who was seeing new patients and was not fresh out of medical school. I said yes to the dress and booked the appointment.

Then, after I got off the phone I looked up the doctor online to see how he was rated. People seemed to love this guy. So I kept the appointment.

The Big Day

Yesterday was the day. And it was easy.

I scheduled the first appointment of the day to minimize waiting room time. I saw the doctor’s assistant very quickly and got to make a bunch of health jokes. When I was asked if I vaped or smoked I responded that I wanted to, but no one had invited me yet.

I got measured.

I was thrilled to still officially be 6 feet tall, and within single digits of my weight when I graduated from high school.

They found my pulse. Which is a really good sign.

My blood pressure was in the zone, like AutoZone.

I still had no reflexes in my knees. (Throughout my life I have had no response when physicians whack me on my knees with the tiny Dorito-shaped hammers.

The Big Question

When the doctor saw me he asked me a bunch of questions. But the most interesting one was, ‘Why are you here?’

I said, ‘Because I want to live a long time.’

He then probed further, ‘But what was the trigger event that made you want to come in and see a doctor now?’

I thought about his question more deeply. Then I shared, ‘On my birthday I set goals for the year. I had goals related to all the significant areas of my life. Including marriage, family, career, relationship, financial, and travel goals. My health goal was to finally see a doctor and establish a baseline for my long-term health, and to have a resource for the future.’

My new doctor (which sounds like nude doctor) said he thought that was good thinking.

We continued the rest of the exam. He asked me about my health, who lives with me, and about my parents’ ages and health. He asked about siblings. And I was happy to have no major issues to report about them.

The experience was enjoyable. I was able to honestly say that I don’t have any real health issues or concerns.

I didn’t have to have my prostate checked the old fashion way, because apparently there is a blood screening for prostate cancer. I had eaten breakfast that morning, so I had to schedule my follow-up labwork (bloodsucking) for next week.

At the end of our visit, my new doctor thanked me for coming in. When I apologized for being so boring, he said that boring is very good. He said it was a real pleasure to have a pleasant talk with someone enjoying good health and not dealing with any major challenges.

As he was leaving the room he turned back to me, smiled, and added, ‘Tell your wife you did a good thing today.’

Conclusion

I am really happy I finally saw a doctor. Now I have an answer to ‘Who is your primary physician?’ I have peace of mind that my blood pressure is right, that my moles are still the right kind, and that I still have both a height and a weight. Within a week or so I will know if there are any other invisible things I should be concerned about. But even if there are, chances are that we caught them before they were major problems. I am happy to know that I now have a literal health plan to detect new issues early. And someone I can call and say “What’s up doc?’ whenever I have a question.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found a primary care doctor, do it now. Ask your friends who they see. Call that doctor. If they are a lazy elitist, ask for another available recommendation. It’s easier and more important than you think. The key to good health and to preventing small things from becoming big things is early intervention. Your family and friends want you to be around to enjoy life together for a long, long time. So if not for you, do it for them.

Note: If you are in the Milwaukee area and need a good doctor, I am happy to share my guy with you.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The most important declaration you can make on this day of independence.

Happy Independence Day! On the 4th Of July in 1776 America declared its independence from, well, everyone who was not American. You may remember the Dear John letter the guys in Philly wrote, signed, and sent to the world. In essence, it said, It’s not you, it’s me.

In reality, it said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

– The U.S. Declaration of Independence

Boom! I imagine the 4th of July fireworks are like the sound made when they dropped the mic after signing that bad boy. (Although the mic was actually a quill pen.)

Freedom

On the 4th of July, there is much talk about our freedom. Which is perhaps the greatest nepotistic gift our forefathers could have hooked us up with.

Today, we listen to great songs about freedom by Francis Scott Key, everyone who sings country music, and Wham.

We think about and thank those who fought and died for our freedom.

Happiness

But Thomas Jefferson saved the best part of that epic sentence for the end. Because the greatest adventure in life is pursuing your own happiness. And the most important declaration you can make is that you have found it.

The Pursuit

It is not enough to be free. Use your freedom to pursue your happiness.

Find your happy places.

Spend time with happy people.

Find work that makes you happy.

Work with other happy people who enjoy what they do.

Find hobbies and play that make you happy.

Perform volunteer activities that contribute to your happiness.

Eliminate addictions that make you unhappy.

Eliminate people that make you unhappy. #buhbye

Listen to music that makes you happy. #PharellWilliams #BobbyMcFerrin #MoreCowbell

Personal Note

My wife and kids thought that a dog would add to our family’s happiness. And I admit they were right. So maybe get a dog. Unless you are allergic to dogs. (Or to picking up their poop.)

Mini-golf, flip-flops and family time all contribute to my happiness.

Key Takeaway

Let the 4th of July be a reminder to relentlessly pursue your own happiness. Discover, embrace and collect all the things that contribute to your happiness. Eliminate the things that make you unhappy. If you are unhappy with your current situation remember that you can change your whole life in one day. Our forefathers taught us that on July 4th, 1776.

God Bless America.

Have A Happy America’s Birth Day!


*Please share this message with anyone you think would benefit from this reminder.

+For other ways to discover your own happiness check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Are you sinking, floating, treading water or swimming?

How is your life going?

How is your career going?

How often do you stop and ask yourself these questions?

(And how often do you get asked 4 rapid-fire questions to start an article?)

Self-Evaluation

If you don’t perform a simple self-evaluation regularly you are likely to waste valuable time and energy moving in the wrong direction. Or not moving at all. And honey-child, your time is far too valuable to be wasted.

The 4-Mode Method

We are always in one of these 4 modes:¬†Sinking, Floating, Treading Water, or Swimming. (We are also sometimes in pie √†-la-mode, but that’s a different story.) Use the following criteria to determine how things are going at any given point.

Sinking

Sinking means you are not keeping up with the most basic requirements. You are falling behind. You are regressing. You are deeper in effort-debt each day. Sinking is failing. Untreated health issues, substance abuse, and other addictions can all contribute to sinking. Without an intervening act, sinking will lead you to the bottom of the pool. If you are sinking you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you don’t, sooner or later you won’t be able to ask for anything again. (That went dark quickly…)

Do you sink you are sinking? (Ask in your best German accent.)

Floating

Floating means you are putting in the minimum effort. You are waiting. You are doing nothing to improve, grow, or progress. You are simply letting external forces have their way with you. Floating leads to a lot of regret at the end of your days.

Don’t be a floater. Also, don’t wear a white shirt in the water.

Treading Water

Treading water means you are putting in an effort. You are expending energy. But it is ineffective. All of your motion is simply enabling you to hold your current position. Your intention is good. But your results are not. It is like floating but with a terrible return on your calories burned.

Treading water is motion without results. It’s also what people are doing in scary movies before the underwater thing attacks.

Swimming

Swimming means you are making progress. You have forward movement. You have coordinated efforts. Swimming means that you have discovered a repeatable process that works. You have direction. You have a goal and you are working towards it.

Just keep swimming.

Key Takeaway

Always be swimming. Know what you want and work to get it. It’s the only way to get ahead. And it’s the best way to make the best use of your time.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How much does it take to make you happy?

Happiness can be elusive. So can peace, comfort and contentment. But when I was in college I regularly found a state of complete peace, comfort and happiness. It wasn’t alcohol or drug-induced. Although I did listen to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic more than this parent of 3 would like to admit. But I skipped the Gin, and was simply sipping on juice. #sobersincebirth

Different Times

Looking back, I really can’t tell if college was a simpler time or more complicated. School, with its odd schedule, intense studying and testing seemed harder than my job seems now. Despite the fact that I now run a multi-million dollar business.

Dating was far more complicated than marriage.

My track and field demands at the University of Wisconsin were both significant and complex from a mental, physical and nutritional perspective.

My finances seemed much more complicated back then too. I had to wrangle a combination of my own money, my parents’ contributions, student loans, grants and an athletic scholarship. I was in a perpetual state of relative poverty. And I remember one of my roommates commenting that it looked as if I did my grocery shopping at Goodwill. Maybe that is why dating felt so complicated.

Despite the complexities of my college life, I remember a state in which I felt whole, complete and longing for nothing. In fact, I still remember summarizing that feeling in a brief email to my parents during my junior year.

When updating my parents on my wellbeing in Madison, Wisconsin, 1000 miles from my home in Norwich, Vermont, I wrote:

I have a fridge full of food. A tank full of gas. And a dresser full of clean clothes. Bliss.

With those 3 simple needs met I had everything I needed in life. I have never forgotten that feeling. Ever since that time I have felt whole and at peace with my minimum needs met. And it has led to a tremendous amount of happiness. Like Pharrell Williams, in a room without a roof.

Key Takeaway

I hope that in this complicated time that you can find happiness in the simple pleasure of having your basic needs met. The rest is all gravy.

*If you know someone who would benefit from this message, please share it with them.

What to do when you are pushed to your max.

I love driving in the mountains. Maybe it is because I grew up in Vermont, but I find the twists, turns, inclines and declines thrilling. I love the constantly changing scenery and inspiring views. Mountain driving is like life itself. It offers ups and downs, surprises, wonder and danger all packed closely together. Although in the mountains, the restrooms are always spread far apart.

One of the most fascinating features of mountain driving is the runaway truck ramp. Because of the long steep declines that are unavoidable in mountain driving, truck brakes can occasionally max out. Leaving truckers with no means to slow down or stop their vehicle. Remember Large Marge?

The runaway truck ramp is a last-resort safety measure. It is an off-ramp on the side of a downhill road that consists of an incline filled with gravel or sand. The ramp provides rolling resistance to decelerate a runaway truck and bring it safely to a stop. It’s a simple solution to a potentially deadly situation.

Runaway-Truck-Ramps

Whenever I see one of these ramps I can’t help but think that we should also have runaway people ramps. And not just for Julia Roberts. Because life can be hard on humans.

There are times when we all could use a good backup system to help us regain control. And given the challenges of the past several months, this is certainly one of those times. Stress, sadness, loss, anger, depression, and other mental illnesses can push us beyond our capacity to cope. So can debt and financial difficulties. Drugs and alcohol are famously hard on our brakes too. As are all forms of addiction. Except perhaps Jane’s Addiction. #JaneSays

When the challenges of life push you past your personal capacity do you have a runaway truck ramp? Do you have friends or family that will step in and help you through? Do you have a teacher, coworkers or a supervisor who can step up and listen or lighten the load?

Do you know which people or programs are available for you? No matter what challenges are maxing you out there is help available. There are specialized support groups, counselors and therapists. There are hotlines you can call that can help you with issues more serious than baking your Butterball turkey.

There are doctors and nurses and treatment facilities ready to help. There are websites and chats and technologically advanced resources you can tap into any time from anywhere. A simple google search will often help you find the type of support you need. And if you need any of these things, use them. They are prepared to help you regain control.

Key Takeaway

At some point, we all need backup help. The past several months have provided a wide variety of human challenges. If you feel like you are rolling downhill fast, it’s time to find some help. If you see others who are on a decline and struggling to slow down, step in and help them pump the brakes. We need to watch out for each other. There are plenty of great views just down the road. Let’s make sure we all get there safely.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.

Don’t push yourself until your tires come off. Trust me.

On a recent Saturday my family and I drove from Knoxville, Tennessee to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The drive was beautiful. We rolled through the grand mountains of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. We passed the surprisingly un-Indiana-like hills of southeastern Indiana. Which is by far the most beautiful part of Indiana. We played geographical connect-the-dots with the great cities of Knoxville, Lexington, Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee.

I also saw something I didn’t want to see. I saw a tire come off of a vehicle directly in front of me. Twice. Seriously.

Incident One

The first time it happened was on I-75, as we were descending a mountain pass in southern Kentucky. A large white SUV in front of me lost its driver’s side rear wheel. The whole tire-rim-wheel situation left the vehicle and made a break for the center median. The remainder of the vehicle, now sitting on 3 wheels and a brake rotor, skidded to a stop on the right shoulder of the freeway.

The runaway tire crossed the highway in front of me, slammed into the cable barrier in the median, bounced into the air, and flopped to the ground on its side. I was happy I didn’t run into it. And I was thankful that the barrier prevented it from crossing into the oncoming traffic.

Incident Two

Three hours later I was on I-275, about to cross the Ohio River, north into Indiana, just west of Cincinnati. I noticed the large pickup truck directly in front of me had a flat passenger side rear tire. I assumed the driver would notice the flat tire and pull over. But no. The driver sped right along at 75 miles per hour on that poor flat tire.

We soon drove onto the Carroll Lee Cropper bridge that spans the Ohio River, and I slowed my roll, concerned about the fate of that poor, little tire that probably couldn’t. It was a good thing I slowed down. Because in the middle of the 1700 foot-long bridge, the tire gave out. The outer tread separated like a giant piece of Goodyear calamari. It rolled down the road in front of me like a naughty kid chasing after the car he had just been kicked out of. Which brought back strong memories from my childhood.

The rolling tread then angled to the right side of the road, slammed into the bridge wall, lost its shape, and flopped to the pavement.

Meanwhile, the pickup truck sped down the highway tossing bits of rubber all over the roadway from the tire’s rapidly vanishing sidewalls. Finally, once the truck cleared the bridge, the truck pulled to the shoulder. A woman in her 50s, with her hair in a long braid, wearing denim shorts, dropped out of the driver’s door and quickly ran around the truck to look at what was left of her rear tire, which was not much.

As I drove past the second 3-wheeled vehicle in 3 hours I heard Nate Dogg’s lyrics from Dr. Dre’s Next Episode in my head:

We gon’ rock it till the wheels fall off. -Nate Dogg

Indeed, both of these vehicles rocked it till the wheels fell off.

But you shouldn’t

These two de-tiring episodes serve as a strong reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves. This has the potential to be an uber-stressful time. COVID-19, the economy, politics, racism, weather, social isolation, uncertainty and unemployment are leading to high levels of unenjoyment. Overworking and underplaying are problems too.

Pay attention to both your physical and mental health gauges. Control the things you can control. Eat right. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Brush and floss. Consume more humor. Tend to your spiritual health. By which I mean your Faith, not drinking more spirits. Take your vacation time. We all need it.

Key Takeaway

You have to take care of yourself during this stress-filled time. Think long term. Don’t rock it till the wheels fall off. That is too far. And the results can be disastrous. Not just for yourself, but for those around you. Nate Dogg died at just 41 years old. So check your tire pressure before you wreck your tire presssure. Check your tread and your lug nuts too. Adjust your inputs and outputs as necessary to make sure you and all your tires are here for the long haul.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.