“Men Have Become Tools of Their Tools”

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The title of this blog is a famous quote from Henry David Thoreau. And while he said this about 170 years ago with an intended meaning that is a bit different than my blog’s use of the quote, it’s very relevant. Here’s the SmarterSooner interpretation… Simply put, the more we have, the more we complicate our lives. And, in fact, we become the tools of our tools. While human nature drives us to want more because we think it will enhance our lives, the opposite is often the case.   This notion is captured well in the following saying about buying a new expensive toy like a fancy car or boat: “The two best days of Porsche (or other fancy, expensive toys) ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.” I have learned a lot about this over the years and share a number of examples that support this below. I hope this blog provokes you to think about your interaction with material things.Read More »

No More College / Career Anxiety

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More than 20-years after graduating college, I clearly recall how college was a very anxious and uncertain time in my life. I know I was not alone and that it’s common to feel this way during this period or any major transition in our lives. After high school, I felt a combination of real and self-imposed pressure to figure my life out and select a plan (college, whatever) that would lead me to be successful and happy. As much as I tried, I was young and inexperienced and didn’t know the best plan (sound familiar?).   I was lucky to go to a good college and just jumped in. Today, I can say that I made it and it’s important to reflect on one of the keys that got me here. This blog is dedicated to those who might be feeling anxious about what’s next either after leaving school or a job, or relocating and starting anew somewhere.  Read More »

What Exercise Teaches Us

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When we are forced to focus, we actually clear and calm our minds, which is the fundamental discipline of meditation. So, when this ‘focus’ happens during exercise, whether you realize it or not, you are actually experiencing moments of meditation. And, as documented by hundreds of books, experts and web sources, meditation is VERY healthy (link to one of the many documented meditation benefits given below).   Many sports including cycling, trail running, mountain biking, water skiing, snow skiing, snowboarding, surfing (and others) are ways that we calm our minds without even trying. Here’s why… Read More »

One Nice Deed a Day

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What actually is a “Random Nice Deed”? Simply defined, it’s anything (big or small) that you do that makes somebody else smile and/or say thank you (and it’s even better when it’s unexpected).   Think of the last few days for a minute. During this period, do you recall either a time(s) when you went out of your way to do something nice for another and/or do you recall a time(s) when perhaps you could have done something nice? And, can you remember a time when somebody unexpectedly went out of his / her way for you? Whether or not you did ‘a random nice thing’ in the last few days or were a recipient of a nice deed, know that the impact is larger than you might expect. It’s one of those extremely simple things that has a disproportionately large impact because it takes so little effort to do it. Read on and I’ll explain why it’s Smarter Sooner to be conscious of this and do it as much as possible.

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Anger or Poison?

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“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”. That’s what a wise friend once told me and I never forgot it (apparently this is a famous Buddhist quote). It’s so true and accurate and conveys so much. If you hold anger, resentment, grudges or other negative feelings inside, in actuality, you are the one being poisoned and the one who is suffering. Nobody else feels that but you and, most likely, the person you’re angry with is completely unaware of your inner turmoil. You suffer by electing to harbor these negative feelings about somebody or something else. Regardless of what happened and who was right or wrong, you don’t need to hold poison (negative, toxic energy and feelings) inside. Take a deep breathe, exhale and release it.   Holding anger (resentment, grudges, etc.) inside does absolutely nothing positive for you. Think about it and be honest with yourself. It doesn’t feel good at all. So, what does one do to change this? Simple… if you’re Smarter Sooner, you’ll LET IT GO.Read More »

Picking Battles

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Aligned with some of the thinking in a previous blog called Don’t Engage (https://smartersooner.com/2016/06/03/dont-engage/), this blog suggests a very important strategy when dealing with conflict among friends, family and significant others. It’s called “Picking your Battles” and the name conveys it all. Picking your Battles simply means that one should carefully think about which ‘conflicts’ are worth arguing.  In other words, if you subscribe to ‘picking your battles’, you’ll only argue, challenge or otherwise ‘dig in’ when it’s a truly important matter. At first glance (in the heat of the moment) lots of things may seem substantial enough to justify arguing, but if you wait a few minutes and really consider it, you’ll often realize that it’s just smarter to keep quiet and move on. There are lots of reasons to be conscious of this. First and foremost, people who argue about ‘every little detail’ (or always have something to say) are annoying and taken less seriously. These people can aggravate their friends and family, and waste a lot energy in the process. Conversely, people who are very selective about their arguments and statements, are much more likely to be acknowledged when they do, in fact, make an argument or have something to day. The Smarter Sooner strategy is obvious here!

In the normal course of a relationship with friends, family and significant others, we can all find lots of things that we don’t necessarily agree with or otherwise have varying opinions about. These can be big and little things. If you made a point to correct or argue each and every issue, it would be quite tiresome and likely a waste of time. So many things will transpire in the exact same manner whether you choose to say something about it or not. On the other hand, if you’re generally more tolerant and only speak up when absolutely necessary, your words will have much more impact.  Remember, you’re not put on this earth to police people.

My brother-in-law talked about this a long time ago in relation to his marriage to my sister. I’ve not forgotten it and witnessed his behavior accordingly on a number of occasions. At the beginning of his marriage to my sister, he very frankly said, “I pick my battles because it’s definitely not worth arguing about everything.” That resonated with me and later occurred me to me as being VERY mature (he was being Smarter Sooner!). Finding it a waste of time and energy (and generally unnecessary) to have something to say all the time, he carefully picks his battles. When something TRULY is upsetting to him, he brings it up and my sister is much more likely to listen. My sister has a strong personality and my brother-in-law reads the room well. We all have our threshold for being instructed, ‘barked at’, etc. Think how this applies in so many different circumstances, including in the car when somebody is backseat driving. Backseat driving only really gets annoying when that person has something to say ALL THE TIME even when it’s really unnecessary. When the ‘back seat driver’ is being selective, he’s not annoying and his commentary is likely well-received.

The person who is SmarterSooner is thoughtful about how much or little he engages in arguments, instructing others, etc. Less is definitely more in these circumstances. Try taking a deep breath and being quiet next time you feel compelled to ‘say something’. I guarantee it will be soothing to just observe without saying anything.

Don’t ENGAGE!

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We’re all human and when we feel slighted, attacked or threatened in some way, our instinct is to respond in some way (yell, argue, fight, hold our ground or, in other words, ENGAGE).   In some (rare) cases, it’s important to engage, but in most cases, it’s a COMPLETE WASTE OF ENERGY and something the Smarter Sooner person would avoid. Why avoid these types of thing? Because nothing good comes from these exchanges, other than unhealthy stress, negativity, embarrassment and more. I most recently saw an episode of this happening in a WalMart…Read More »

Point of Diminishing Returns

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The best and, in many cases, the most common Point of Diminishing Return happens as the evening gets later when you’re at a bar, party or club. We’ve all experienced this… we are out for an evening on the town having a great time, drinking and socializing. The music is loud, the drinks are flowing fast, but it’s getting later and you’re getting tired. You’ve had a few drinks at this point and you’re feeling good and have had a nice night with your friends (meeting new people, whatever). At some point as the evening goes on, the quality of the evening hits a peak, plateaus and then starts descending / deteriorating. The point at which the night starts getting worse is the exact Point of Diminishing Returns, where the ‘returns’ or ‘gains’ for the evening start evaporating.Read More »

A Simple Bottle of Wine

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When you’re invited to a party, dinner or similar, make it a rule to bring something. If you’re invited as a guest to somebody’s house, bring something. If you attend somebody’s birthday, bring something. Be gracious and go beyond the call of duty in these situations, even if you are not expected to bring anything. This applies even if you know the hosts of the event very well… (in that case, you really know what they need or like).  And, as often as possible, ask the host what you can bring or do to help prior to arriving. Asking this question alone suggests that you are appreciative of being invited and generally conscientious. Even if the thing you bring is very small, it will be well-appreciatedRead More »