How To Balance Consistency With Creativity

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The Hobgoblin Of Small Minds

When I was in college, one of my music professors would say the following quote to his students on a regular basis:

“Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

It wasn’t until sometime later that I discovered he was actually misquoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, who stated in his essay Self-Reliance:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

This is about on par to misquoting the Bible on the topic of money – “money is the root of all evil” versus “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But I digress.

I am a super consistent person. Always have been, and I’m pretty sure I always will be. That’s how I’m wired. I’m not sure, though, that people would classify the majority of my consistent behavior as “foolish.” But, I can see the need to regularly evaluate any consistent life behaviors.

I don’t want to foolishly pursue consistent behaviors, purely based on the desire to be consistent. I want to make sure my behaviors are effective as well. If they’re not, then that would be foolish to pursue on my part.

Consistency Vs. Creativity

The challenge with the characteristic of consistency is that it can be misrepresented as boring and not very creativity. When you are locked into a pattern of consistent behavior, then you can lose a great deal of creative possibilities.

Let me give you an example.

In the pursuit of renaissance living, I practice my musical abilities on trumpet, four to five days a week. There’s my first consistent behavior. In my daily practice, though, I have the tendency to practice the same routine, the same exercises, the same songs almost every day. There’s my second consistent behavior. I have two different levels of consistency going.

I think the first level is good. The idea of setting and maintaining some type of trumpet practice time each day is good for me. I need to make music on a regular basis. Where I run into trouble, though, is on the practice routine, itself. I tend to get stuck in a rut of consistently practicing the same stuff, over and over again. This second level of consistent behavior is stifling my creativity.

How Do You Balance The Two, Together?

It can be challenging trying to balance these two behaviors of consistency and creativity. In my trumpet practicing example above, I have found that I need to purposefully seek variety in my daily routine. This helps me avoid that second level of consistency that is dampening my creativity.

So, I’m becoming more proactive in looking through my music library and finding different songs in different styles to play through. As I pursue more variety in my practice time, the creativity is beginning to flow! I’m getting new and different ideas.

I believe the balance between consistency and creativity works in this way. First, the consistency part should focus on doing the specific activity, whatever it may be, on the regular basis. So, carve out a consistent time each day, five days a week, to practice your renaissance activity. Then, within that consistent time frame, be proactive in pursuing variety within your routine time block. Change things up. Get creative.

How do you balance consistency with creativity? Do you have any additional ideas? What have you found to be helpful in your own life?

Resources:

Self Reliance


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The Secret To An “Easy” Life

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Press The Easy Button

You may recall the “Easy Button” commercials produced by the office supply chain store Staples over the last few years. Staples asserts that if you utilize their products and services, that you are essentially pressing a metaphorical easy button to accomplish whatever you need to in business and life itself.

Easy Doesn’t Happen Easily

But, easy doesn’t necessarily happen all that easily. Here’s what I mean.

For example, let’s take playing a musical instrument. If you’ve ever observed an extremely talented musician play their instrument, they seem to do it very effortlessly. It’s almost as if their instrument is simply an extension of themselves. In a strange way, the inanimate object and the human being have merged into one unit.

Or, take another example, a professional athlete. When you see an athlete playing their particular sport when they are “in the zone,” they are moving with extreme ease. Their movements seem very natural. You almost feel like you could accomplish what this athlete is, simply because they make it look so deceptively effortless!

The reality in both of these examples, though, is that the musician and the athlete have both worked extremely hard to get to this place. Through challenging themselves in the practice room or the gym, they were able to get just a little stronger musically or physically each time they practiced their craft.

Make It A Little Harder Each Time

If you want to get into shape physically, you have to push yourself beyond normal levels, three to four times a week. As you workout each week, you need to constantly be thinking about how you can “raise the bar” just a little.

I discovered this when I changed my workout approach a few months ago. Over the last year, I have been doing some moderate exercise at home, using inferior, home gym-type equipment. I felt as though I was just maintaining and not getting much stronger.

I happened to start working out in a gym while my wife and I were on vacation back in May. At that point, I realized what a quality physical workout feels like. I had a better understanding of pushing myself a little beyond my ability in the areas of cardio and strength training in order to get stronger. The weird part of the process – I liked it!

Life Application

If you want easy anything, you need to push yourself. I’m not just talking about working out either. This can apply to all areas of renaissance living: writing, playing a musical instrument, painting, sculpting, reading, and so on.

We all have mental limits we have placed on ourselves in every area of life. The people who have achieved great success in this life have figured out ways to push past those limiting beliefs into a better place. Their lives look deceptively easy, and they are easier in a sense. But, they had to push themselves past their limits in order to get to that next, easier level.

In what areas do you need to start pushing yourself past your own limiting beliefs, in order to reach that “easier” state?

The Wrong Way And The Right Way To Make An Impact Before You Die

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Death At Any Age

You could be one breath away from death. Have you ever contemplated that fact?

While doing research on my last post, How To Pursue Excellence Like Andy Griffith, I ran across the website OnTheRedCarpet.com. This site has a picture gallery for celebrities who have passed away within the last few years.

As I quickly scanned through this gallery, I was struck by the wide range of age in these deaths from young to very old. This gallery includes celebrities who have passed in their mid-30s all they way up into their 100s.

As I looked at the cause of death, especially in many of the younger celebrities, I saw a pattern of wrong living. I saw young celebrities who have made a horrible impact on those around them. But, I also saw others who have lived amazing lives.

What would be considered the wrong way and right way of making an impact in this world before you die?

The Wrong Way

If I could boil it down to one key characteristic, I would say that the wrong way to make an impact in your life here on earth is to live selfishly. Don’t give a flying flip about what your spouse, immediate family, extended family, friends, or co-workers think. Do whatever you want, and the heck with whatever anybody else thinks. Hey, it’s your life not theirs. Chase after every pleasure under the sun. Make life all about you.

These type of people have the statistical tendency to end up dying from drug overdoses, drunk driving, drive-by shootings, and suicides. Or, they have so abused their bodies and minds that they can barely make it into their 50s and 60s. They die younger than expected.

The Right Way

Conversely, if I could boil the right way down to one key characteristic, I would say it’s about living a generous life. I’m not taking about giving money, either. If you have a generous spirit, you care about others. If you care about others, especially those closest to you, then you’re going to take care of yourself. You’re not going to abuse your body into an early grave.

If you’re doing things the right way, then you will be making major contributions into people’s lives. You will spend time with them, care for them, inspire them, and learn from them. You will be a positive influence and major force for good in the lives of others. You will care more about others than yourself.

Living life the right way, of course, is no guarantee for a long life. Awesome, clean-living, generous people die young too. The difference, though, is that even after living a shorter life, they were still able to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

Which Way Are You Headed?

So, are you headed down the wrong path or right path? Are you living a life of selfishness or generosity? Do you care more about yourself or others? Do you even really care about making an impact in the lives of others? When you do pass from this life into the next, how will people remember you? Will they remember you as being a selfish or generous person?

I would encourage you to take a long, hard look at your own life and determine which path you’re currently on. If you’re headed down the wrong path, figure out a way to reverse course as quickly as possible. It’s never too late to make a positive life change.

Have you experienced the impact of right or wrong living in your life or as a result of someone close to you? If so, feel free to share your story in the comments section.

How To Pursue Excellence Like Andy Griffith

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Andy Griffith, RIP

Last week on Tuesday, July 3, the world mourned the loss of actor Andy Griffith. Andy was best known for his roles as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show as well as country lawyer Ben Matlock in the legal drama Matlock.

Ron Howard (a.k.a. Opie), then child actor who co-starred with Andy on the Andy Griffith Show, tweeted out this statement after hearing about the death of his friend and mentor:

Andy Griffith His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life I’m forever grateful RIP Andy

According to Ron Howard’s tweet, it would appear that Andy Griffith was a man known for his pursuit of excellence. He worked hard at his acting career and enjoyed the journey along the way.

Pursue Excellence Like Andy

As I contemplate Andy Griffith, his career, and a pursuit of excellence, I can’t help but think of some of the unique characteristics of excellent people like Andy who:

  • Work Hard. People who pursue excellence aren’t afraid of a little hard work. They’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done with quality.
  • Have fun. People who pursue excellence attempt to enjoy the ride. They live in the moment and have fun even while working hard.
  • Bring people along for the ride. Excellent people aren’t afraid of surrounding themselves with other great talent. Many tend to build strong mentor relationships with those around them who are younger and less experienced. Andy seemed to excel in this area.
  • Aren’t afraid to fail. Andy had a breakout role in an early film as well as two hit TV sitcoms. Did you realize, though, that he had a bunch of failed films and TV shows inter-mingled with his major successes? He kept on trying different roles until something stuck. He didn’t throw in the towel when one of his TV shows didn’t work out.
  • Keep on fighting through the challenging times. Did you also know that Andy suffered leg paralysis from Guillain–Barré syndrome back in the 1980s? After an extended period of rehabilitation, though, he returned to television in the legal drama Matlock. He fought through the pain and then went on to star in another hit TV show.

Are You In The Pursuit of Excellence?

How about you? Are you in a pursuit of excellence in your life? If so, I would just encourage you to follow the example of the life of Andy Griffith – work hard, have fun, take people along for the ride, don’t be afraid to fail, and keep on fighting through difficult times.

Are there other key characteristics of people who are in the pursuit of excellence? I welcome your feedback in the comments below.

5 Reasons You Need To Establish An Exercise Routine

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Mid-Life Crisis

Almost two years ago, I turned 40 years old. Like anyone going through a mid-life season, I started evaluating my physical body. I asked myself questions such as, “if I continue living the way I have been for the last 40 years, will I even be able to make it to age 80, 90, or maybe even 100? If not, what do I need to do differently in order to go into the second half of my life, healthy and strong?”

Obviously, regular cardio exercise and strength training are necessary to live an extended, healthy life. I’m not saying that exercise guarantees anything, but we do know that it greatly improves the quality of our lives as we age.

And that was my ultimate desire going into the second half of my life. I want a better quality of life. I’m happy to say that I’m seeing and feeling amazing results over the last year.

5 Reasons To Get Exercising

Here are some great benefits that I’m discovering as I continue to pursue my regular workout routine:

  1. More Energy. I have two pre-teen children and a baby on the way. I’m definitely in need of more energy to get through my work day and still have energy reserves in order to give to my wife and kids.
  2. Deeper Sleep. The amazing thing I’m finding out about exercise and overall good health is its impact on my sleep. I’m now getting better, more restful sleep. Because it’s a better quality sleep, I’ve also found that I can sleep less and wake up earlier – BONUS! Go for quality, not quantity.
  3. Weight Control. I think this one is pretty obvious and probably the primary reason that most people exercise. My weight has never been a huge issue for me, but I have been pleasantly surprised with the results of turning some of my excess fat into lean muscle. I’m currently trying to get the 6-pack abs.
  4. De-stress. Over the last couple of years, my personal and professional life have been a bit stressful for a variety of reasons. A few months ago, I found myself experimenting with pushing my workouts a little bit longer and a whole lot harder. The result has been a lowering on my stress level. Exactly what the doctor ordered!
  5. Increased libido. It’s a well-known fact that as we age, our hormone levels begin to decline and our sex drive suffers as a result. Push your body a little harder in the cardio and strength training, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Why Do You Exercise?

So do you exercise? If so, do you have any different or better reasons that you do that differ from my list of five above?

Have you found any of these specific five reasons to have had a huge impact in your life? Which ones? Feel free to share with us the beneficial aspects of exercise from your own life experience.

The Secret To Living To Age 100

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A Personal Goal

I recently added to the long-term vision of my life a goal to live to at least the age 100. Crazy I know. Why would anyone really want to live that long? Kind of reminds me of the movie The Green Mile when Tom Hanks‘ character keeps on living while all the rest of his friends and family are passing away. That’s probably not the most enjoyable experience to outlive everybody you care about.

For some, living that long may not be all that appealing. For others, though, they have the desire to see what the world will be like in the future. They welcome the opportunity to have an impact on the lives of their extended family members in that future.

I think that’s where I’m at. I was born in 1970. I distinctly remember Jimmy Carter as President, the Iran hostage crisis, and the election of Ronald Reagan. My first computer was a Commodore Vic-20. Ever since these early historical memories, I have been blown away by what has happened over the last 40 years. I’m curious to see what our future looks like over the next 60 years.

5 Keys To Living A Long, Healthy Life

Over the last several days, I’ve been doing some research into how people live to be 100 and beyond. Here are some of the key discoveries scientists have made about long life:

  1. You Must Be Born With The Right Genes. Discouraging, I know. People who make it to age 100 seem to be born with just the right combination of genes. If you have any close relatives who lived long lives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.), there is a good chance you may have these genes! For more information, see the following article on the ‘Methuselah’ gene.
  2. Avoid smoking. Although many people who have made it to 100 and beyond may have been smokers at one point in their lives, they did not maintain the habit for their entire life. See article How to Live to 100: Secrets From Centenarians.
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight. In a recent centenarian study in Boston, very few centenarians are obese. Many of these would be considered “lean.” See article How to Live to 100: Secrets From Centenarians.
  4. Stay engaged. You need to be active both physically and mentally. You need to be doing cardio exercise for heart and lung health. You need to be doing weight training to fight the loss of muscle tone and mass. You need to be involved in activities that keep you mentally alert, such as crossword puzzles, brain games, playing musical instruments, reading, writing, and so on. See article How to Live To Be 102.
  5. Eat a healthy diet. The highest percentage of centenarians live in Okinawa, Japan. Their diets are high in grains, vegetables, and fish. Their diets are low in eggs, dairy, and meat. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough fiber and veggies in the American diet. We need these “to push the bad stuff out.” See article How to Live To Be 102.

How Long Do You Want To Live?

How old are you, today? How long do you want to live? Have you ever established a goal to live into your 90s or even 100s?

If you have established a long life goal, what are your steps to accomplish that goal? Why do you want to live a long life in the first place? Feel free to share your “living a long life” story with us.