Doing Just Enough To Get By And Still Accomplishing Maximum Results

Photo by Andres Rueda

Photo by Andres Rueda

Minimum Effective Dose

Minimum Effective Dose or MED is one of those semi-new concepts being discussed quite a bit right now. The concept was originally developed and utilized by inventor and exercise guru Arthur Jones. Today, the MED banner is being proudly waved by none other than author Tim Ferriss.

The minimum effective dose (MED) is defined as “the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.”

Let’s look at some examples of MED.

Examples

First, here’s a practical, “real life” example that is often cited: boiling water. Water boils at 212° F. Raising the temperature beyond that will not make something “more boiled.” Boiled is boiled. If we do raise the temperature beyond the minimum, then we are just wasting energy and heat resources.

Second, example: bombs (I know, weird example. Follow me, though). Back in World War II days, we needed hundreds of planes with hundreds of bombs in order to “carpet bomb” cities to force an eventual surrender. But, today, with our sophisticated laser guided hardware and global satellite positioning systems, we can send up just a few planes with a few “smart bombs” and target just a few, select locations to accomplish (mostly) the same result.

Third example: music instrument practice. Now, in this example, this will vary from one musician to the other. There will be variables based on age, maturity level, concentration ability, and difficulty of music. So, each instrumentalist needs to measure their own optimal practice time frame. Again, based upon the variables, this could range from 30 minutes to 3 hours. But, there will come a point for an instrumentalist when further practice in a 24-hour period becomes a waste of time. They will hit the wall of the law of diminishing returns if they keep on practicing.

Fourth example: physical exercise. I’m all about MED on this one. I have no desire (and zero extra time) to spend hours in the gym or training for a marathon. I’m all about doing the minimal amount to achieve my desired results! Again, this varies according to each person, their metabolism, the intensity of the workout, and so on. For me, I’ve found that 4 days a week, with alternating days of cardio and strength training of about 25 minutes per day, seems to be my MED. I’ve been able to accomplish the level of physical fitness I need for maximum performance.

Fifth example: writing. There is an MED to the skill of writing. Writers like Seth Godin have become masters of it. They utilize writing techniques that use fewer filler fluff words and maximize a few select concentrated words in order to get the desired point across to the reader.

Application

I know what you’re thinking at this point. “Larry, who cares? Does the minimum effective dose really matter to me and my life?” Sure does. If you can truly grab a hold of this concept, you can use it as a filter to pass through all of your activities, actions, schedule, and even financial purchases.

We live in an excessive, over the top world. We’re all trying to out man and outgun each other. Go the opposite direction. Try the MED approach, instead.

Apply it to a house you may be looking to purchase. How much square footage do you really need? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you really need? Use the MED approach to calculate what will get the job done effectively.

Apply it to your career. Do you really want to work 80 hours a week for $120,000 and never see your family? Or, could you see yourself in a simpler, less stressful position at 40 hours a week at $75,000, spending more time and energy on the ones you love most? Something to consider.

Apply it to your eating habits. Do you tend to consume mindless calories? Or, using an MED approach, do you consume smaller amounts of higher quality foods such as on a slow-carb diet of higher amounts of protein and vegetables? Try it. It works.

Apply it to your sleep patterns. Do you really need 8 hours to function properly, or could you actually get by on 5.5 hours if you are in great physical shape and take a 20-minute power nap every afternoon? I know that’s actually possible for a lot of people.

In my personal opinion, the MED possibilities are endless and can help you achieve amazing, maximum results if applied well.

Questions: Are you familiar with the minimum effective dose approach? Do you employ MED in your own life? In what areas do you utilize it? What kind of results do you receive with this approach?

How To Turn Personal Defeat Into A Possible Resume Builder

Photo by vcorne00

Photo by vcorne00

Always Be Trying Stuff

I believe you should always be trying different things. Learn the fine art of plate spinning. If you have an interest in something personally or professionally, then I think you should go for it. Possibly, you have an interest in a personal development class. Perhaps, you would really like to audition for a local theater company. Maybe, you would like to write a book.

Unfortunately, we will not always be successful in every activity we engage ourselves. There will be some victories as well as many defeats. We will learn new distinctives about ourselves. That’s normal and extremely good for us. We may even be able to turn some of those “try’s and fails” into great resume builders.

Let me give you an example from my own life.

One “Failure” That Helped Me Land My Last Two Positions

While I was a graduate student down in Florida during the mid-1990s, I found out about a conducting audition for the United States Air Force Band program. I was a conductor. I had conducted elementary, middle school, high school, college, and even civic bands and orchestras. I had great conducting mentors during both my undergraduate and graduate days. I was eminently qualified to audition for this prestigious position. So, I went for it.

The first round of the audition consisted of creating a quality VHS video tape (remember those?) of me conducting various ensembles. I vaguely remember finding someone to help me with the video editing process, and together we put together the best product we could. Then, I shipped that off to the band department of the United States Air Force in Washington, D.C. A few weeks later, I received a letter informing me that I had made it into the finals round of the conducting auditions. Yes, I was one step closer to a professional life achievement. Awesome!

The finals round of the audition required me to fly out to St. Louis , Missouri, at my own expense, and audition for the band at Scott Air Force Base. The actual finals audition had three parts to it. First, stand in front of the band and conduct them through 3-4 pieces. Second, take a written test to demonstrate my musical knowledge. Third, take an extremely difficult ear-training exam, to see if I could hear melody lines, harmonies, and chord changes, and then write that all down as quickly as possible! If my memory serves me correctly, I think I had about 6-8 weeks to train and get ready for these 3 tests before flying out to St. Louis. It was a challenging and nerve-racking time in my life, to say the least.

So, I made it out to Scott Air Force Base for the auditions and didn’t do quite as well as I had hoped. I kind of choked on the podium in front of these incredible Air Force musicians. Plus, the written and ear-training tests were extremely difficult. Within a couple of hours, the entire process was over. I didn’t even make it to the next round. Bummer.

But, what I did have going for me, even after that whole ordeal of the audition, was the fact that I did make it to the finals round of the prestigious Air Force conducting program. I could highlight this fact on my resume. And, when it came time to interview for both orchestra director positions at my former church First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, FL as well as my current position at First Baptist Raytown, MO, both of my bosses had mentioned to me that this part of my resume was definitely a reason they chose me over other candidates.

So, the lesson I learned from this experience is always be seeking ways to turn your failures into success stories, some way and some day. Don’t give up. Keep trying different things until something sticks. You can do it!

Questions: So how about you? Is your life marked with a few failures that, while discouraging, have perhaps moved you closer to personal or professional victories? Do you have a unique failure to victory story to share with the community?

How To Gather The Best Ideas In A Google World

Illustration by ePublicist

Illustration by ePublicist

Living In A Google World

We live in a Google World. Need information on a particular topic? Then, just “google” it. You’ll find something. You may need to sift through a number of search pages, but eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for. I do this all the time, when I have time.

Let me give you a quick example. Just the other day, our church staff was meeting to discuss some upcoming worship services. Our pastor (BrandonPark.org) referenced something about the book The Hour That Changes The World [affiliate link] as related to an upcoming prayer service. Fortunately, I had my iPad with me, so I just pulled up Safari and did a quick Google search on the book. As a result, I discovered a great little pdf that outlines and summarizes the book. Then, I just emailed this to our pastor and tuned back into the meeting.

I’m still amazed by people I know who will send me text messages or emails about looking for a specific piece of information from me. My initial thought is, “uhhh really? Don’t you realize you could just google that question and most likely get the exact information you’re looking for?”

For Google searches, you usually need to be intentional and very specific on your search terms to get the exact information you’re looking for to show up on the first couple of search pages. If you’re looking for amazing quality information on a continuous basis, though, then I believe there is a better strategy.

A Better Long-Term Strategy To Gather The Best Ideas

Illustration by jrhode

Illustration by jrhode

Over the last several weeks, I have developed a long-term strategy to gather great ideas. This is a two-step process:

  1. Figure out who the “best of the best” are in the area(s) of your interest and follow those people’s blogs, websites, and social media.
  2. Digitally clip, tag, and save their best information for future use.

I use two tools to accomplish these two steps:

 

  1. Feedly: A Quality RSS Reader To Replace Google Reader. Several weeks ago, Google announced that it would be phasing out its Google Reader application in a few months. After this announcement was made, several well-known, respected people (including Michael Hyatt) began recommending Feedly as a quality replacement RSS reader. As a result, I set-up my account online and downloaded the apps for my iPhone and iPad. Then, I went back into my online account and started organizing all the best blogs I enjoy following.
  2. Evernote: The Digital File Cabinet Of The 21st Century. If and when you have the time to do a lot of googling (that just sounds wrong, doesn’t it?) and webpage browsing, then there is a great tool to gather all of your new digital ideas in one place. A digital file cabinet called Evernote combined with Evernote Web Clipper for your internet web browser. See this blog post by Michael Hyatt about how to get your stuff into Evernote.

Yes, I still find value in doing various Google searches and web clipping. Two to three times a day, I find myself doing mini-web searches here and there to chase down some ideas. Or, I click on a link in somebody’s blog post, and then all of a sudden, I’m 10 sites deep in link clicks and Evernote web clippings. I’m sure you can possibly relate.

But, I’m also finding myself combining the power of Feedly with Evernote. So, when I run across a great blog post in my Feedly reader, then I’ll forward that post on to my Evernote account, where I can tag the information with appropriate tag topics for future reference. The whole process is very fast and efficient.

Questions: So, how do you deal with today’s information avalanche? Do you use an RSS reader? Which one? What do you like about your reader? Do you currently use Feedly or Evernote? What are your thoughts on these two applications? Feel free to leave a comment with the community below.

14 Practical Leadership Lessons I Have Learned From Being An Orchestra Director

Photo by nasa hq photo

Photo by nasa hq photo

The Life And Leadership Of An Orchestra Director

I think everybody has a certain perception of symphony orchestra directors, especially the top-end professionals. People probably view them as suave, sophisticated, jet-setters who have a pretty cushy job (yeah, sure, that’s me!).

While that may be true for a small minority of the top professionals, in my experience, being an orchestra director has awesome rewards as well as very unique challenges. This is particularly true of those of us conductors who lead volunteer orchestras. The musicians in our orchestras can walk whenever they feel like it. As music directors, we either lead them well or they will bail on us, guaranteed.

Over the last 16 years of leading volunteer orchestras (as well as from being a trumpet player under a bunch of great and horrible conductors), I’ve learned several valuable leadership lessons that apply not only to directing orchestras but also really to leading any organization.

14 Leadership Lessons From Orchestra Conducting

  1. Clarify the mission and vision. Every group is energized by its own unique vision and mission. If your group is not clear on what their mission is, then the organization will break down over time. As the leader, be sure the mission is clear in your own mind, first. Then, find creative ways to communicate the team’s mission on a regular basis.
  2. Model the organization’s values. Let me give you an example here. One of the values that I regularly discuss with my orchestra is excellence. If I preach excellence each week with my orchestra, but then come into rehearsals and worship services unprepared to direct them, I am essentially a hypocrite. I need to practice what I preach. Whatever values your organization upholds, be sure that you model those values for your followers.
  3. Communicate clearly and consistently. As a conductor, I have to be extremely clear with my baton, hands, and verbal instructions in order to communicate exactly how I need my orchestra to perform. My personal leadership pet peeve is communication. There are a lot of bad communicators out there, that’s for sure. I believe all leaders need to be obsessed with the flow of clear communication between them and their followers. Without good, secure, clear lines of communication, the team will break down over time. Communicate a clear, consistent message through phone, email, social networks, text messaging, newsletters, and personal talks with your team.
  4. Set high expectations. “High expectations are the key to everything.” – Sam Walton. The groups you lead will rise (or fall) to the level of your expectations. Make sure you are crystal clear in the expectations you have for yourself as well as for those you lead. If your people believe in your leadership, then they will do whatever they can to rise to your desired level of expectation.
  5. Be prepared to lead. Anytime you’re out front leading your team in a meeting, a project, or any event, be sure you have your act together. Prepare heavily on the front end before meetings or events, so that things flow well on the back-end. Come prepared to lead your team in order for your team to be inspired to follow you.
  6. Focus your best energy on leading your leaders. The most effective leaders understand this key principle. Spend the majority of your time leading and developing your leaders. Your team will achieve more long-term when all the leaders are leading at their highest potential.
  7. Be respectful of your team. Gone are the days of the tyrant director on the podium. Stomping around and yelling at your followers just doesn’t fly anymore. They will stop following you. You must lead your team as a group of (mostly) equals. You just happen to be the one who has been placed in the position of leading the team.
  8. Prioritize the work flow. As you analyze the work projects that need to be accomplished, be sure that your team understands the priority assigned to each task. Have them focus the majority of their best time and energy into those tasks that are the highest priority.
  9. Prepare the work environment. Your team will have physical, tangible equipment needs at some level. Make sure your team has everything they need to do the work you are asking them to do. Have everything set-up in the right manner, ready to be put to its best use.
  10. Quality practice leads to excellent performance. Musicians understand this concept better than anyone. The better my practice time flows, the better my performance will go. Work hard for excellence in the private practice room, in order for your public performance to match that same level of excellence.
  11. Be an encourager. “A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.” – Kevin Bacon. Your group is going to climb higher, faster based on the amount of encouragement that you give them individually and corporately. I’m not talking fake encouragement, either. When you catch them doing awesome stuff (and you will), then give them a bunch of high-fives and pats on the back. Your followers will appreciate the sincere encouragement you give them.
  12. Praise publicly. Criticize privately. I’ve learned this leadership lesson the hard way, mostly in reverse, though! Here’s what I mean. Several years back, one of the leaders in my orchestra went on a critical rant during a rehearsal in front of the entire orchestra about something I did that he didn’t like. It really threw me off-balance the rest of the evening. The next day, I set-up a time to have lunch with this individual. When we met for lunch a few days later, I shared with him this principle. I simply and politely asked him that when he had a specific problem with my leadership, if we could meet privately to discuss the issue. I didn’t think our rehearsal time was the best time to “air our grievances.” Thankfully, we have never had another issue, since!
  13. Celebrate the victories. Honestly, I always struggle with this one. I’m the type of leader that has the tendency to move on to the next project as soon as possible. Take time to publicly “bask in the glory” of a job well done with your team.
  14. Quietly analyze the defeats. While victories should be celebrated publicly, your team’s defeats should be analyzed privately. Meet with the various leaders of your team to determine why you failed and how the failure can be corrected. Turn your team’s immediate failures into learning and growth opportunities for future wins.

Questions: Of these 14 leadership lessons, which ones do you personally embrace? Which ones are new concepts for you? What leadership lessons have you learned and developed in your specific career field? Feel free to leave a comment and share with this community.

5 Awesome Books That Have Radically Changed My Life And Made Me More Productive

Photo by Sam Fam

Photo by Sam Fam

A Great Book Can Change Your Life

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been inspired by numerous authors, books, and the entire writing process. Guess that’s one of the reasons I became a blogger. I like analyzing stuff and then getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the computer screen.

The best books by the best authors are able to inspire a different level of thinking and living. They are able to get you to re-examine previously held beliefs and then take massive change in a new direction.

The following list of five books are ones that contain five big concepts that I think about on a daily basis. They have re-shaped my life and literally molded me into a better person (in my opinion). If you’ve never read these books, then I would highly encourage you to check them out!

5 Books That Have Impacted Me

1. Financial Peace [affiliate link] by Dave Ramsey. This is one of the first books that really altered my life in a number of ways. I remember walking into a bookstore around 2004-2005 and running across this bluish-green book by some guy named Dave Ramsey. He completely changed my views on money and the manner in which it should be wisely handled. As a result of reading Financial Peace, I will never again view debt the same way as I did in the past. I will never again be able to return to the old patterns of mismanaged personal finances. Thanks, Dave, for your wisdom and experience in this vitally important area of our lives. My life will never be the same as a result.

2.The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [affiliate link] by Stephen Covey. The big takeaway from this book that has stuck with me over the years is the concept of 4-quadrant living. The four quadrants include:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important Activities. These could include emergencies, putting out fires, and tight work deadlines.
  • Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but Important Activities. These could include exercise, planning, writing, meditation, recreation, and relationship building.
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent But Not Important Activities. These could include some calls, some emails, some meetings, and popular activities.
  • Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important Activities. These could include trivia, busy work, some calls, and some email.

So, the takeaway from Covey and 4-quadrant living that I contemplate on a daily basis is this: hang out in Quadrant 2 as much as you possibly can, especially during the peak performance hours of your day. I attempt to structure my day around these quadrants in order to maximize my overall performance.

3. The 80/20 Principle [affiliate link] by Richard Koch. The book was a reinterpretation of the Pareto principle, extending its use beyond economics and business, to cover issues such as “time revolution” and personal happiness (source: Wikipedia). The world is ruled by Pareto’s Law which states 80% of results are the result of 20% of inputs. Stated another way, 20% of my specific work activities have the capacity of producing 80% of my best work results. The key is knowing which 20% activities produce your best 80%! As a result of reading this book, I ponder every day whether or not I’m engaged in my top 20% activities. As a side note, this also corresponds to Quadrant 2 living in Covey’s book.

4. Good To Great [affiliate link] by Jim Collins – The key idea that I got from this must-read business book is “get the right people in the right seats on the right bus!” Now, with every group that I organize and lead, I attempt to get the right people in the right positions for the right task. If you want to take any organization from okay to awesome, then you must follow this principle.

5. The 4-Hour Body [affiliate link] by Tim Ferriss. I’m a big Tim Ferriss fan. I read his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek in 2007 (I debated whether or not to add this book to this list) and then I started following his blog. I purchased his next book, The 4-Hour Body, right around its release date, and found many of his experiments and teachings to be highly actionable. As a result of following a (mostly) slow carb-ish diet and exercise regimen, I was able to go from 170 lbs to 158 lbs. This took me down two pant sizes (from a 34 down to a 32). My belly flattened out and I have more lean muscle mass and less body fat. I added this book to the list because at age 42, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life as a result of reading it. Plus, there’s a lot of other incredibly awesome experiments and actionable ideas that you should check out as well.

Questions: So, have you read any of these books? Did you glean the same key concepts that I did or something entirely different? Do you a list of books that have impacted your life in amazing ways? If so, feel free to leave your list in a comment below. I’d love to see what books have changed your life!