THE ART OF STRATEGY
Moving On Up
I grew up in an economically depressed area. Most of the jobs there were low-paying, manual labor jobs. The better paying jobs were extremely competitive. I believe, if you want to remain poor, stay in a poor area. If you want to be rich, move to a place with opportunity. However, be smart enough to build a strategy before just up and leaving to a heavily populated area. Most people will focus on the popular areas like New York, L.A. and Chicago, but don’t. First, get an education.
When you live in an economically depressed area, chances are you aren’t making a lot of money and when you don’t make a lot of money you can get more scholarships, grants, and aid. I went to a community college for my Associates degree since it was less than half what a state school is. Some people don’t like college and believe in going to a trade school. To me, trade schools are just like college except you don’t get financial aid and your degree isn’t transferable to any other profession. Trade schools are generally around 30k though for a total cost, which is considerably lower than a college degree. However, you can do a lot more with most college degrees and most jobs have them as a requirement now. Not to mention, you can make a lot more money a lot quicker than with a trade. I think trades are great and very necessary. It is back breaking work though and most trade worker’s body’s give out before they can retire. Regardless of what you choose, choose one or the other and make a plan for how to pay for it. Do you need a degree to be successful in life? Not always, but for the most part, yes. It pains me when people get caught up in the 1% who dropped out of college and built an empire. If your family has a lot of money and you have a lot of support, then your odds are far better than yours. You have to see the whole story and determine how much you can fail before you’re destitute.
After you choose what you’d like to do professionally, consider the area you want to move to. Don’t get blinded by the lights of a big city, rather, look up cities on the rise, and look for cities that specialize in your field. For instance, San Franciso is the most tech advanced city in the United States, but it’s astronomical to live there. That said, Boulder Colorado is in the top five for hiring the most in tech STEM industries per: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2019/03/25/stem-jobs-15-cities-hiring-most-high-tech-workers-us/39125247/. Once you see the median salary for your future profession, then look into the cost of living in that area. Also consider how much other expenses are like food, parking, car inspections, taxes, etc. ALWAYS look into the statistics so you can best plan your moves: https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/city/colorado/boulder. Two years in Boulder to get some great experience and more reasonable pay will land you more money in the long run and better odds, overall. If that’s too expensive then look at the next location and find ways to minimize your risks.
I choose to live in Columbus Ohio. Why? For two reasons. One, I wanted to go to one of the best research schools in the United States to earn my degree in health sciences and I wanted a city that was way cheap BUT growing. I make an upper-class living here and there are plenty of jobs and things to do. We don’t have car inspections, taxes are still reasonable, and it fits my profession. Do I have enough experience and am I advanced enough in my profession to move to a location with a higher cost of living? Yes. Without a doubt. $100,00k salaries here go a lot farther than $100,000 in San Fran, but, I do my research to know what will help me in the long run and what won’t.
Creating a Base for Self Discipline
I hate working out. Logically, I know I need to do this, but, I don’t like it. If I could, I would sit on the couch and watch movies, eat whatever I felt like, hire someone to clean my home, and completely isolate myself from the world. Ah the sweet life. No obligations. No responsibilities. I am a total homebody and introvert, naturally so when it came to disciplining myself, I was not excited. I also like to move to the beat of my own drum. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd so this made things even harder, but, that said, here are the steps I took to become self disciplined:
What Kind of Life Do You Have Right Now?
I love self improvement, but, I don’t want to improve everything and I’ve made a lot of changes over the years to better myself in a myriad of ways. Change doesn’t have to mean there’s something wrong or missing, it can also just be something new to try. For me, in my journey of self-discapline, I had to take a step back and look at my life as though I was someone else looking at it. Was my place clean? Was I treating my things with care? Was I someone I’d want to get to know? What kind of people do I have/want in my life? Where am I living? Was I healthy? You get the idea. After I looked around I’d then ask if I was fulfilled and if not. If not, then I would ask myself ‘why.’ Now, a lot of people feel they aren’t successful because they don’t have a house, aren’t married, and don’t have kids not because they want them but because that’s the American Dream or what they’re supposed to do. Ensure you aren’t wanting it because other people have it, rather, you have to determine your own needs. I didn’t really have trouble with my needs to knowing myself, but, if you do, I recommend going to http://www.trf.net. They have a free needs/feelings list that can help.
Bored vs Empty
There is a big difference in the two and I have experienced both in different parts in my journey. Hopelessness really does make you stay on the couch. Emptiness is a cancer and you may be creating bad habits as a way to dealing with it. In times when I was empty I knew it was because I wasn’t living up to my full potential. I wasn’t accomplishing anything and I would spend more time being harder on myself than I would sticking to something. If you’re feeling empty, therapy is your best bet. If you’re too ashamed or uncomfortable with therapy, then, I recommend finding resources to help you work though it like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy workbooks and looking into creating SMART goals. Some other things I’d recommend are: stay off social media for about six months so you can focus on getting your power back. Instead join some group activities and build a new network of people you associate with. I’m not saying ditch all of your friends, unless they’re poison, I’m saying expand your circle to fit your goals. How? Well, I’ve joined groups on http://www.meetup.com. I’ve also joined fitness groups on Strave, Nike, and Relive apps. If you’re on Weight Watchers, they also have a community that does weekly meetings and supports each other. Join as many free communities as you can. If you can use social media in a healthy way, there are plenty of groups in literally anything you can think of to join. I focused only on those areas. I would watch things that inspired me everyday for one month. Things like: TED talks, DIY shows, fitness videos, travel videos or makeover videos. It didn’t matter what it was, the rule is it has to be creative, it has to be innovative and it has to be different than what you normally watch. I do this now as part of my annual resolutions. It really opens my mind and broadens me. It also got me really into Ironman. It helps to know there is a brighter world that what you’re allowing yourself to see. Sometimes, in the beginning, it isn’t about being ‘good enough’ as a whole, it’s about being ‘good’ for that day/moment/week.
The Price of Conditions
I find a lot of people don’t do things because conditions have to be perfect. There’s too many people at the gym, I don’t want to do a race if I won’t win, if I start cleaning then I won’t be able to stop because it all has to be perfect, I can’t start college without it being free, etc. It’s very important to think of mitigation plans in our lives. Often, it’s up to us to set those conditions. My strategy is to first know yourself. Are you someone who likes to get into a rhythm with things like an athlete? Are you impatient and need immediate results? Are you someone who can’t do things alone? Or are you someone who has to have a thorough knowledge of every detail to even get started? I am impatient and I don’t like to do things alone, but, none of my friends are goal oriented like me so I’m basically forced to do things alone. My impatience will always be a part of me so I just have to know when to use it to my advantage when when it’s not, I have to find a way to appeal to my impatience. Here are my tips for dealing with that and the other areas I just mentioned:
- If you are impatient:
- Create a movable checklist on paper (not on your phone) so you can see it and physically check things off.
- Create a reward system for smaller goals. For instance, if you go to the gym five days that week, get a massage or if you saved money for the entire month, watch some inspirational videos on how you’ll spend that savings (maybe you’re saving for a trip to Iceland, a new car, a house. Watch videos of people getting to do those things). Regardless of what the reward is, it has to serve a bigger goal. That’s the rule. So if my goals were to get fit and save money, I wouldn’t get a professional massage. My rewards would be sharing my accomplishments online or creating a list of them to keep for future personal motivation. Right now, if I pass my PMP I have my reward to be buying a Chirp wheel to help my back.
- Your goals and rewards should be physical and in the open. It’s good to have the items out on display so others can hold you accountable or the sheer uncomfortableness can hold you accountable. I’m a private person, so, putting myself out there is wildly uncomfortable (especially this blog, but, the goal is to help others and that’s more important than my comfort).
- Break down each goal with daily or weekly goals. This sounds stupid but is a big help. I have a lot to do before I’m in shape enough to where I’m happy. But, packing my gym back everyday is a smaller goal and is easy to achieve. Once that goal becomes a habit, I’ll add other small goals like: competing in a 10k virtually with friends one day, doing a full hour of yoga instead of twenty minutes, eating one low carb meal, etc.
- Do you have to get it all done at once? No you don’t. This style can be impulsive and obsessive. Remember to organize your priorities in your plan early on. This will help tear you away from projects so you don’t spend 23 hours on them in one day.
- If you like to get into a rhythm like an athlete:
- Most likely you’re someone who is methodical. As a result you can get fantastical with your thinking and then overwhelmed. When you are overwhelmed, somehow, majestically, you become underwhelmed and do nothing. You don’t ask for help because you either don’t think they’ll do it right either and/or you don’t want to burden anyone. Right? Maybe. Baby steps are generally the key here. You have to fit into your routine. For instance, if it’s a fitness goal, maybe walk for 20 minutes during lunch or find a gym closer to wear you work, or, if you don’t want to spend money on a gym go to a park after work and workout for one hour. If you like to eat after work then try working out an hour after you eat or before you start your day. I find most people like this prefer to workout early so it doesn’t impact their routine. If that’s the case then learn how to make quick breakfasts or meal prep for the week and include breakfast. I tend to make breakfast as I do my workout in the morning so it’s ready as soon as I’m done.
- Things don’t always go as planned so make a plan B and plan C. If you can’t incorporate it into your life, is it really worth doing? You may be asking yourself this. At this point you may be trying to convince yourself it’s not really worth it or it interferes with your personal time. This style usually has some sort of hobby they escape into like: building cars, video games, playing an instrument, art, reading, etc. They like being left alone and they like figuring things out themselves. That said, if you’re rebuilding a classic car and can’t seem to squeeze working out in, can you work out while building the car? If the answer is no, or you’re uncomfortable with that, set a timer for taking a break and then work out for thirty minutes.
- Consult with the experts. This style will not ask for help unless it’s physically too hard or they have a deadline and even then, it’s unlikely. An important thing to remember here is, the more you procrastinate the harder it’ll be and the more stressed out you’ll be. Since you won’t ask for help, the first thing you should do when building your plan is to do your research. This style is really good at research, generally, because they tend to trust just themselves. Consider your goals as planning a process. Within that process you have to plan for failures too. I find this style is more extreme with holding themselves accountable where they tend to punish themselves. For instance, an old friend of mine was really into video games and wanted a healthier lifestyle. Instead of just telling himself ‘no’ he sold his video games and his couch. He bought a treadmill to replace the couch and turned his living room into a personal gym. Pretty hard core huh? I was impressed. I would not do that, but, that’s just me. I do recommend a great planning system though like a Habinichi planner or something that can help guide you to your goals. Time is of the essence with this style and you are the only style who understands how long things take and how much effort they take. You’ll also have to plan for ‘what is enough’ because you will continue to fix small, unnecessary details and take forever on projects. Before getting started, set that boundary.
- If You Need to Know Every Detail Before Starting a Project
- Then you’re likely a true perfectionist. When things go south, this must be pure hell for you. You also can get into the habit of thinking one way is the only way of doing something so making a plan B, C and D are important here and I encourage you to learn how to make risk mitigation plans for yourself as part of your process.
- How much learning is enough to start? You need to have clear boundaries with yourself as to when you should start a project and how much research is enough to start. I realize making a mistake is something you hate, but, you doing nothing is the biggest mistake of all. Regardless, in your plan adding boundaries is really important here. Add that to your risk mitigation plans otherwise you will spend hours looking up every single thing on the internet about everything, make notes, and then in ten years you’ll start your plan. It doesn’t serve you to do that. Ask yourself what is enough and what happens if your plans get changed? In your learning you should also learn how to adapt to new things. This is a big problem with this style and they tend feel like failures because of it. You’re not. You just don’t like change and you like to double check everything. Create your system of how you’ll adapt and be comfortable with new. Change only sucks for you because you spent a fortnight learning about how to do it one way in the first place now you’re worried you’ll have to spend another trimester learning something else. You don’t. Use an app, get help from a friend, make a spreadsheet, learn how to trust other people and not get so focused on disappointment.
- What happens if you don’t meet a goal? Don’t give up on something just because it’s not working the way you’d hoped. You really should make it about the journey and not so much the goal itself. It would behoove you to use SMART goals though and ensure you’re breaking each goal down into very manageable tasks.
- If You Don’t Want To Do It Alone
- Do other people boost your energy? Then they likely suck it away too when they don’t support your goals by joining in. Even if you make it fun, know people have different motivators and you’ll want to be considerate of that. A lot of people will stop doing something but, I think your style would benefit from making your goals eclectic. This style likes to make things their own and make them fun. For instance, in my planner I put stickers in it to help me stay motivated to write things down. It’s a small thing but it really makes the process more enjoyable. If you’re getting sabotaged by your family or friends on your goals, then, part of your goal setting will need to be how to work around them. Pack your gym back and put it in your car to head directly to the gym after work. Sign up for face to face meetings at Weight Watchers at a specific time of day each week. Start a walking club or join one. Meal prep on Sundays so you aren’t tempted to eat what everyone else is eating.
- Gross yourself out. I find this really helps me. For instance, I think taking before and after photos for a weight loss journey is very important to keep me focused. I do weigh myself but, the biggest measure I use is before and after pictures. If you’re this style the fat rolls should be enough to motivate you. It’s especially damning when you compare your body pics to someone who is in shape. Make sure you do it weekly and keep a diary of your progress. I compare myself by months. I love seeing my own progress, no matter how small. If money is your issue, sign up for an investment class. Don’t watch a YouTube video. The idea is to feel out of place enough to want to get your act together.
- Start with your rewards list and build your plan around it. This style tends to have a lot of excitement early into a project but then loses interest over time. If they can sell other people on joining in, they will to keep them invested, but, this style tends to get board and doesn’t realize how much work a lot of items are. Also, create a consequence list. Accountability may not be your strong suit. I think it’s important for this group to come up with an amazing rewards list for reaching your goals and then, so you don’t cheat, make your goals public and your consequence list. Put them on Facebook, email your friends, print them out and put them on your parent’s fridge, etc. Next, no matter the goal, you’ll have to make it your own, fun, and adaptive. So, if the goal is becoming an expert at Tableau (yawn) and you know it’ll be boring, start by spending only twenty minutes on learning it then reward yourself. After you’ve watched all the videos and quizzed yourself sign up for a certification so you can’t wiggle your way out of continuing to learn it. Make your consequence no TV for two days, Starbucks, or carbs. If you still won’t do it even with your consequence list then either join a Tableau workshop, go to a library or public place to study or ask someone to quiz you. There are tons of resources that can help you like: Alexa, Siri, Quizlet, and a sea of other applications. Ensure you also incorporate them so they hold you accountable. Think of the end goal. Remind yourself if you study for 3 months, then you can pass the certification and forget about it. This should mainly be about the journey of building accountability for yourself and following through on things you especially do not like.