Monday, 15 September 2014

"Over Prepare, Then go With the Flow" - Unknown.

How to have personal discipline:

My personal discipline isn't excellent yet, but I'm working on it.   I think that having a little bit of personal discipline helps you to improve your life.  I like change, entropy, unpredictability,  novelty, and creativity.  Thriving in chaos is an excellent skill to have in this day and age, and to thrive in chaos you need to be able to think on your feet. In order to think on your feet, you need some sort of initial framework that constitutes personal discipline.  Over thinking leads to rumination, negative thoughts,  insecurity, and depression.  You need to be self confident and prepared in order to think on your feet in life, because if you lack self esteem and self discipline, then you will just second guess yourself constantly.  As a result, you  will be unable to take action effectively.   Being able to be adequately organised, disciplined and prepared, gives you the freedom to thrive in chaos later on. 

Again, I don't claim to be an expert because I'm just learning, but here is what I have discovered so far:

1.  “If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things" - Admiral William H. McRavenThis quotation has been going around the Internet ever since Admiral William H. McRaven said it in a commencement speech  at the University of Texas-Austin.  He went on to advise students to make their beds every morning as an example.  I think the takeaway from this is that sometimes details and routine matter for the sake of discipline and self confidence.

2.  Start small and work your way up.  Every day, schedule one easy tasks that requires only a very small time commitment.   For example, if you want to begin exercising, start with a 5 minute walk every day.   You will find it very hard to think of an excuse not to do a 5 minute task.  After a while you will realise that you CAN stick to commitments, and it will give you the confidence to do more! Also it will create a habit. 

3.  Convince yourself to treat self discipline as a tool to prevent a future situation in which you feel the discomfort of regret.   Time will pass regardless of your actions.  While being mindful and living in the moment is important, sometimes you have to do what is best for 'future you', for the sake of practically and getting things done.   Remember, motivation comes after action, not before. Sometimes, doing things that you don't want to do, or that are outside of your comfort zone, can be character building exercises. 

4. Make it easier on yourself by removing temptations, and creating situations in which it is easier to be  follow though with disciplined.  For example, it's difficult to resit ice cream that is already in your freezer.  It's easier to just not buy the ice cream at the grocery store in the first place.

5. Be kind to yourself.  Making sure that you are mentally and physically healthy will only allow you to be even more confident and disciplined in your life, so take care of yourself.  Continually work on having good self esteem.   Also, do not fall prey to negative thought processes.  If you mess up on being disciplined sometimes, don't beat yourself up over it.  No one is perfect.  Finally, don't forget to reward yourself for a job well done, and to take adequate breaks from your self discipline routine so that you don't get burnt out.

Friday, 15 August 2014

How to be happier.

To some extent, happiness is a skill that you can learn.  Note: I do not claim to be an expert on happiness, but here it is:

1. Let go of perfection:  Life is imperfect; actually that's what makes it beautiful.  Give yourself permission to be imperfect, and to embrace the imperfections of life.  Things fall apart.  Entropy and chaos are part of life. Most people don't have life all figured out, and that's ok. 

Perfectionism will make you unhappy because perfection does not exist.  As a result, failure is inevitable since perfection is impossible to achieve.   It is in your best interest to strive for doing the best that you can with the tools that you have in front of you, instead of perfection.  That way you will be less stressed out, less judgmental of others and yourself, less afraid of mistakes, and you will have better self esteem.  You cannot be creative or effective if you are afraid of mistakes!  

2.  Take care of your mental health:  If you work on your mental health, it will vastly  improve all the other areas of your life.  Do you suffer from negative and distorted thought processes?  Be kind to yourself, because it's important to have good self-esteem. A book that helped me with this is Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns.  This award winning book is one of the most frequently recommended books by mental health professionals. This is one of those rare life changing books! Your thoughts and emotions are directly responsible for your mood and perspective, and vice versa.  It's like a mutual feedback loop.  Keep a journal for emotional self regulation and awareness.  See a therapist or take medication if you need to.  Your mental health is too important to ignore.  It's very difficult to be happy if you do not have good mental health.

3. Comparison is the thief of joy:  The only person you need to compete against is yourself.  Everyone has a different path, different circumstances,  and different hurdles to overcome.

4. Make a gratitude journal: It sounds cheesy but it's effective.  Write down anything in your life that you are grateful for.

5. Lower your expectations:  Mastery, prestige, and widespread acclamation are not required for enjoyment or happiness.  For example, you don't have to be a talented professional athlete to enjoy playing sports for recreation.  Talent, achievement, and admiration are not required to feel joy.   Strive for achievement and greatness, but remember that it's ok to be average, since most people are.  Being happy and enjoying life is not reserved for the superstars and the prodigies.   Again, life is not perfect and that's ok.

See: Aspirational TV is ruining your life on Youtube

6. let go of your ego and stop attaching your self worth to outside things: You are enough just the way that you are. Ambitious and successful people are certainly admirable, and it's important for everyone to strive for greatness.   However it's unhealthy to attach your self worth to your achievements, belongings, or status in life.  Remember that you are enough, just by virtue of existing.

7. Strive for equanimity:   "Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace.” Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.”  - Marianne Williamson.  A peaceful mind and attitude definitely contributes to happiness.  

8. Life is happening now.  If you wait for the perfect time to do something, it will never get done: Try to experience life in the moment.  Try not to leave your longings unattended for too long.  Don't wait until you have graduated from school, landed that promotion,  retired, or reached some other arbitrary goal, to begin living.  Life is happening now.   That sounds scary, doesn't it? It's because many of us are used to living in the past, the  future, putting off living,  or avoiding doing the hard things until the right time comes along.  Part of living a happy life is having the courage to be vulnerable, accept reality as it is now even if it's scary, and to just....try.  Try to experience love, joy, sadness and grief. Try to take the chances,  get messy and make mistakes.   You were made for this and you are strong enough.  You evolved over millions of years to be an expert at endurance.  We were designed to thrive in chaos.

You can  teach yourself to CHOOSE your perspective on life because perspective is subjective.   Your mind is free to choose which things in life are important and meaningful, and which ones aren't.

See:  The late author David Foster Wallace and the commencement speech  he gave at Kenyon College in 2005.  Youtube deletes it every once in a while, but it's worth the watch if you can find it.  It's called This is Water.

9. Have the courage to be vulnerable:     Having the equanimity to accept reality as it is will make you calmer, and actually give you the ability to seek out pragmatic solutions to life's problems.  Furthermore, emotional vulnerability is essential if you want to experience things like love, confidence, equanimity, creativity and happiness.

See: Brene Brown's TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability. This is one of my favourite TED talks!

10. Priorities:  People make life complicated when really, it can be simple.  Some things just  don't really matter.  Remove the excess from your life to create simplicity and focus.   “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. ”- Fred Rogers

11. Know that fear, mistakes, struggle, setbacks, and uncertainty are normal and part of life:  Feels good to know that you're in the same boat as everyone else, doesn't it?  Try to actively forgive yourself for past mistakes so that you can move on without being held back by baggage.  

12. Put one foot in front of the other and take one step at a time:  Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, advises readers to " content to live the only time we can possibly live: from now until bedtime. “Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, from now until nightfall,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. “Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means.”  Take one step at a time and you will see that the path will reveal itself as you go along.  Plan for the future, and learn from the past, but try to concentrate on the present.  I have found that trying to do this has contributed to my general happiness.

Another good quotation from Carnegie: 

 “...the best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today's work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.” 

13. Cultivate empathy:  Be part of your community by volunteering or being part of a group.  Be a good neighbour.  Keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. Go out of your way to do something good for someone or your community.  We are here on this earth to connect with and help each other. Our actions help to define us.

See: Volunteer Manitoba  or

14. Take joy in small things:  Did you enjoy a walk in the forest, cook a yummy meal, and see your friends today? Great, sounds like you had an awesome day!

15. Do something that you love or are passionate about:  It doesn't matter what it is, just find a hobby, cause, or passion.  If you don't know what your passion is, the TED talk below might be able to help you out.  In the video below, Adam Leipzig tells you how to find your life purpose in 5 minutes or less! Give it a watch, it works.

16. Do something tangible with your hands:  Building or creating something, especially something that will outlive you, is satisfying and therapeutic.  Also, completing a challenge and then seeing the physical results gives you satisfaction and  confidence.  Doing something with your hands will  give you a chance to live in the moment.

See:  the Instructables website

17. Be part of something larger than yourself.  I haven't figured this one out yet, but I feel that it is important.  It is seemingly human nature to have this compulsion and I think this is why people do things like have kids,  participate in organized  religion or volunteer for the Peace Corps etc.

18. Try new things and get out of your comfort zone.  It doesn't matter what it is.  Even taking a different route to work counts.  whether you succeed or fail at the 'new thing' is irrelevant.  If you succeed  you will give yourself more confidence.  If you fail you will gain humility, and the knowledge that its ok to fail.  Also, novelty makes your life seem longer. 

19.  "Of course you can do that.  You can do anything."  My grandfather used to tell me this.  Confidence and self esteem are essential for happiness (as long as it doesn't deteriorate into arrogance).  Believing in yourself can change outcomes and give your courage for the next time.  Having a limitless imagination leads to increased creativity and better problems solving.  If you can read and you have google, you can do almost anything.

20. Stop worrying about what others think of you: The amazing Dr Seuss said: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

21. Stop over thinking:  Thinking is essential to a well lived life, but over thinking will lead to rumination and negative thoughts.  If you begin over thinking, switch to another task, hang out with a friend, or find an activity to do.

22. Stop worrying so much. What's the worst that could happen?  Give yourself the tools to deal with triggers or emotions.   Take things to their logical conclusion; what's the worse that could happen? If it does happen, will it ruin your life? I think you'll find that in most cases, the answer is 'no'.  Most of time things turn out better than expected.  Most things that people worry about never happen.

See: Dale Carnegie's Banishing Worry Formula:

  1. Writing down precisely what I am worried about
  2. Writing down what I can do about it.
  3. Deciding what to do.
  4. Starting immediately to carry out that decision. 

23. Always be curious  about the world around you:  Always learn and do new things!! If you're bored, get lost in Wikipedia, explore your own city, or get to know a new person and what makes them do the things they do.  Did you know that some butterflies can see hundreds more colours than the human eye? Imagine that!  It makes you think about what other things exist that humans cannot perceive due to our limited five senses?  The universe is an amazing place.  Try making a bucket list.  Seeing and photographing the Aurora Borealis is on my bucket list, but I haven't yet completed it!

24. If you are feeling cranky, make sure it isn't a circumstantial problem:  For example, you need adequate food, shelter, health care, sleep, physical exercise, and mental health.  If you're feeling down, maybe you just haven't had your daily dose of endorphins from exercise and fresh air.  Perhaps you haven't cuddled your dog today.  Simply being over-tired can negatively change your whole perspective on life.

25. If possible, do things to objectively lift your quality of life:  Are you heels hurting your feet? Then stop wearing them so much.  Is your apartment neighbour noisy? Think about moving if possible.  Are you lonely? Join a group on or get a dog.  Life is full of things that you cannot control, but you can give yourself agency  by taking action on the things that you CAN control.

26.  Take care of your physical health:  Everyone knows that exercise makes you happy  by releasing endorphins, giving  you energy for your day, and giving you a sense of accomplishment.  Also, studies show that lifting weights or doing other types of strength training makes you healthier and more resilient in your golden years.  Exercising is a good way to clear your mind and stay in the moment.  Eating healthy foods gives you the right kind of fuel to feel at your best.

27. Be mindful:  Meditation and being mindful is gaining traction for a reason.  It's because it actually works!  The easiest type of meditation for beginners is called body scan meditation. Go outside and feel the sun and breeze on your face.  Look at the beauty of nature.  Experience the present moment.  If you're having trouble being mindful, practise it daily during one activity, such as whenever you have coffee.  You will realise that actually, much of life happens in your imagination.

According to the Mirriam Webster dictionary, mindfulness is:

the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also:  such a state of awareness

28.  Do things that are therapeutic:  Experiment and find out what things are therapeutic for you.  Examples are: Listening to music, cooking a yummy meal, going for a jog, creating art, or interacting with animals.

29. Laugh:  Laughing is important because it's a coping mechanism that helps you to make light of the realities of life.  It releases endorphins and lowers your blood pressure.  Laugh with your friends or watch a comedy!  Reality has a way of slapping you in the face sometimes.   Life is real,  visceral, and  hard.  Paradoxically, it is simultaneously ridiculous, absurd, and trivial.  The fact that human beings even exist flies in the face of probability.  Scientists do not yet know of any other young planets who managed to create intelligent life from scratch.  Life is so, so precious and yet, when held up against the backdrop of time and space, everything seems so meaningless. Sometimes you just need to laugh. 

see: Dog Shaming for laughs.  Also, for some reason this Youtube video always makes me laugh!:

Change is difficult, and you will hate it because you brain will fight you every step of the way.  But it is worth it.   Just put one foot in front of the other and take one day at a time.  Happiness is a skill that you can learn over time.

Monday, 24 March 2014

“The menu is not the meal.” ― Alan Wilson Watts

There is something visceral about  language because it is one of the ways in which we communicate the things that we are thinking.  Language and words  connect us to our past, present, and future, and are one of the ways that we try to make sense of our consciousness.    I've compiled a collection of my favorite words and phrases and then done some research regarding their origin:

1.  "Hoisted by my own petard"
What does it mean to be hoisted by ones own petard?  First of all, what is a petard?  The word itself is of French origin.  A petard is a sixteenth century explosive device used to destroy doors or walls, so as to grant the user entrance to a given fortification.   The petard was attached to a wall or door and then set off,  meant to blow a hole in the fortification so that troops could enter.   The device was dangerous and unpredictable such that occasionally, one could be injured or blown back by the explosion, hence, being 'hoisted by ones own petard'.    Therefore, the phrase refers to the irony of being hurt or mistreated by your own attempt to hurt or mistreat someone else.
2.  Chairman of the Board
A Chairman of a Board is the head of a meeting or committee, or someone who presides over a board of directors.  What is the historic origin of the title?  It goes back to Medieval England, when land owners employed a whole team of people to work their land and take care of their other endeavors.  Land owners would build a large, communal house for all of their employees, where everyone would eat communally  in a great hall regardless of status.  People were very aware of hierarchy at that time in history, so the head of the entire household  would sit at the largest table in the great hall, at the focal point of the room.  In the 16th century, a table was called a board (Latin Tabula, or board).  The most important man would sit at the head at the best table  and he was the only one who sat at a chair instead of a stool.  Hence, he was called the 'chair-man of the board'. 

Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley explains this in the History of the Home documentary:

3.  Gobsmacked:  A  British slang, and an adjective meaning 'very shocked or surprised'.   The word dates back to the 1980's and refers to the shock of suddenly being punched in ones mouth, or the act of covering ones mouth  in response to a sudden surprise.  A 'gob' is is the Gaelic Scottish word for 'mouth'.  

Oh look they made a nail polish colour called Gobsmacked....

Other sources:  Wikipedia, oxford dictionaries, Butter London

Monday, 15 July 2013

Things that I think are fabulous...Youtube edition!

How to Tie a Tie.    Always useful.
How to Make a Peauntbutter and Honey Sandwich In Space with Canadian Astronaut  Chris Hadfield!  This guy is completely awesome and has inspired kids everywhere during his time in space.  He has also announced that he will be writing  a book, which will come out next year!  I will be reading that!

How to Survive on a Farm in Rural Britain During World War Two.  I love the BBC because they do great documentaries.  In this nine  part series, archaeologists and historians actually live and work on a farm that simulates what  it was like during the war.  It's very accurate and interesting.  Actually, farmers were hugely important to the war effort because they were growing food.    Now I want to research what it was like for Canadian farmers during the Second World War as well!  I really like learning about what history was like for the average person, and not just for the 'important' people. 

How Not to Hide a Body.  Another one from the BBC.  Agatha Cristie's Miss Marple books have been made into a TV series!  This is my favourite one because it's particularly well done.   Miss Marple's friend witnesses a murder on a train, and they enlist a savvy housekeeper to help them find the body.  Miss Marple is so smart and clever!

How to Wear Eye Liner with Lisa Eldridge.  Lisa Eldridge is a very talented professional makeup artist who does spreads in fancy magazines!  She has her own Youtube channel and does makeup tutorials all the time. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

"Get the confidence of the public and you will have no difficulty in getting their patronage." - Henry Selfridge

An innovator is someone who changes reality as we know it.  Henry Selfridge was one of those people.  He was an innovator who's goal was to make shopping thrilling, and he succeeded by revolutionizing the way department stores are presented to the public.  I learned about Selfridge when I watched the latest episode of Mr. Selfridge, a ten part series currently airing on PBS that surveys the man's life at the height of his career.  Seeing that London could benefit from the changes that he helped create in North American and European department stores, the entrepreneur opened the first Selfridges department store in 1909.  To this day, Selfridges is still one of the most recognizable department stores in the world, due to the provocative and creative way in which it is presented, even today.   Henry Selfridge  set a standard for the industry and is responsible, in some ways, for the way that we shop in the present day.

How did he accomplish his goal of making shopping a thrilling experience?  He used paid advertisements and fanciful window displays to draw customers into his department store, where they would buy things they didn't even know they needed or even wanted.   Henry Selfridge was one of the first business man to market goods to people in such a way.  This was even before Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, invented the field of public relations and basically created the consumer culture in which most first world countries reside. Selfridge was one of a handful of people who changed the way that we consume by using techniques in  human psychology to manufacture consent

Major department stores still use some of Selfridge's sales techniques, even today.  For example, he made his department stores feel luxurious and exclusive by creating a coat depository for his customers,  instructing his sales professionals to be more personable with guests, and telling them to always side with the customer.  Restaurants were installed so that shopping ladies could have an all day shopping experience.  There were also post offices, hair salons, and quiet rooms for rest.  Selfridge also decided to design the interior of  his department store in a new and provocative fashion.  Perfumes were moved to the first floor in the entry way where they were placed on glass counters and fitted with expensive price tags.  Common items were grouped together usefully; something that set Selfridges apart from other department stores.  In other stores, all of the items belonging to  one brand name were usually displayed together, even if the products  were not directly related to one another beyond their brand name.   To create a bit of controversy and spectacle, Selfridges  sold cosmetics; an item that was taboo  at the time.  The store layout, as well as the entire shopping experience, was geared toward female consumers, since they were usually the primary shoppers in most households.

To attract attention and create buzz, Henry Selfridge hosted speakers and events at his department store.  For example, there were flower arranging and design classes or seminars.  Prominent people were invited to give speeches or create spectacles.   The plane used to make the first flight across the English Chanel was displayed in one of Selfridges display windows to attract attention.   The man was obviously ahead of his time!

Looking at Selfridges today, it is still a spectacular department store.  The window displays are still colorful and provocative, and their advertising campaign is still impeccable.   Selfridges website is great; it`s easy to navigate, the branding is good, and every opportunity is used to offer suggestions.  Other department stores, such as The Bay, should be looking to Selfridges for inspiration if they want to stay relevant.   Actually, non-department stores can be inspired by Sellfridges as well.  For example, lets look at Chapters Indigo, the book retailer.  What could they be doing to sell more books in a time when book sales are down?  They could connect customers with the outside community by offering seminars or speakers that tie in with products being sold, just like Mr. Selfridge did.  Mr. Selfridge was a smart man.  The average person can witness iterations of his marketing ideas just  by going to their local mall. 

Disclaimer:  It's always good to consume responsibly, whenever you can.  This test will tell you if your consumable goods are sourced from companies that do not abuse human labour. Even if you do not choose to change your consuming habits, it's good to be aware of where your stuff comes from. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

"How embarassing it is to be human" - Kurt Vonnegut

Humans are strange, stupid creatures.  Generally speaking, most of us suck.  I can probably make a pretty long list of people I want to punch in the face right now without thinking too hard.  We are all looking for a life of happiness, fulfillment, meaning, glory, and yet few of us ever figure it out.  This is all very tragic, and yet, the universe remains unaffected and unconcerned about the subject in general. Regardless, I hope to figure out whatever 'it' is before my time on this earth is over, and I have a working theory:

All glory comes from daring to begin. All good things come from being vulnerable: love, happiness innovation, creativity.  This is my theory, anyway.  If you want to be creative, you cannot be afraid of failure; you have to be willing to be wrong a lot if you want to stumble upon something awesome at some point.  Earnest Hemmingway himself said to write drunk; edit sober.   Once you let go of your inhibitions, good things generally happen, or at least memorable ones.   After all, there is a certain beauty in the breakdown, isn't there? 

To succeed at this, you must be courageous because you have to be willing to be silly or stupid or wrong.  Of course this is uncomfortable, which is probably why Hemingway suggests inebriation. Don't we all go through life trying to numb the galling truth of it all?   Still, it's worth it because after you're done being courageous, then you can edit the crappy ideas.  All the greats do this.   The brilliant Bob Dylan used to just write down random sentences on a piece of paper as they came to mind.   Then he would pick the good ones later and create a song.  The smart ones have figured out that you aren't going to fart unicorns and sparkles right away, so you might as well stop trying.  No one just pulls fabulous, perfect ideas right out of their ass.  It's more of a journey full of trial an error, and mistakes will be made.  There is no room for perfectionists in this journey and it isn't for cowards either. 

So, it follows that as far as creativity goes,  there is no point in guarding your thoughts or ideas because no thought or idea is original since we do not live in a vacuum.  Every thought we have has been inspired by something else because our consciousness is based on our reactions to what we perceive as reality.  Every idea is a descendant of another idea.  Everything is a remix.  Everything.  So share, because this will breed more innovation as everything will come full circle.  Forget about competition and just share.  And check out this documentary I found on the subject.  It's creator is Kirby Ferguson, who is a film maker from New York.

Monday, 12 March 2012

On the Importance of Research

Adequate research is very important for any public relations campaign.  Doing your research makes your final product far more credible.  I am not a PR professional yet, or an expert, but I feel as if research should be a huge part of your job if you work in PR.  Also, research ensures that your work is complete and relevant.  For example, if you are doing a PR campaign for an animal shelter, you must do a huge amount of research before even starting anything else, so that you  can do your job well.  You would have to immerse yourself in the environment of the organisation to begin with.  You could talk to employees, customers, volunteers, and the public.  You would also have to research the organisation's past attempts at PR so that you can see how improvements can be made.  Researching what other similar organisations do about their own PR campaigns can also be useful. 

Luckily for me, I really enjoy doing research, and I am good at it.  For me, it's like solving an exciting mystery.  I have lots of experience with doing research because I majored in modern history when I did my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Manitoba.   I feel like I have a good handle on how to do good research, but I am also excited to improve on my skills.  When I wrote history essays for my bachelors degree, I spent more time researching the subject than actually writing the essay itself.  I think that I would employ a similar strategy if I were doing a PR campaign. 

Doing this writing piece reminded me of a conversation that I had with one of my history professors when I was a student at the U of M.  Most of us know about the difference between primary and secondary sources.  A primary source is an original document or artifact.  A secondary source is anything, such as a piece of writing, that builds upon the primary source.  Actually, one could argue that there is no such thing as a primary source!   My professor was saying that it's important to be wary of secondary sources, even those created by other professionals that you know and respect.  This is because one person will interpret a primary source differently than another person.