reflecting on failure in order to bathe in success!

After reading this blog post, I decided that I love the idea of “only for today will I [do this/that]. If it’s good enough for the pope, it’s good enough for me. And you already know I’m not yet comfortable doing things that have yet to be done if you read my previous post on entrepreneurship.

That brings me to todays post. I didn’t really complete any MIT’s from my previous MIT post on that particular day, but I did complete one of them today. I got my birth certificate! Hurray.

After reflecting on how I managed to not do any MIT’s the past two days, I realized that I often fail to take my own advice – nothing new there. If you see my last post about failing to do it, you can see that I do actually know how to get “it” done, but when it comes to making the decision to do it or not, I sometimes decide not to do it – that last post was also advice for myself, which is why I took the time to post such a lengthy collection of words.

That last post, in summary, basically said that we fail at “do it” because we decide that “doing it” is too hard for one reason or another although it’s really not hard at all and only takes time and attention to turn around and decide to do it. Now, with that in mind, and if I know the trick yet decide not to implement it, there must be something else going on in the background to block me.

After reading the stuff about “only for today will I [yada yada]”, I get this thought in my head … I think that the reason I don’t go pwn it every single day, even though I could easily do so, is because I’m afraid! I’m afraid I’ll run out of energy and, although I’ll feel good for a moment after getting those things done, instead of feeling satisfied, I’ll feel worn out and over worked – I know, I know, it seems like a list with 3 things on it isn’t much, and it isn’t much; exercising discipline by following a list every day, consistently, is not something I’m used to.

Digging into my background, I see a line of uncompleted projects (see: how to memorize a book, in my previous posts), neglected tasks, doors left half open, etc. I have a history of starting out with flying colors, and tossing any successes to the wind when I decide the task/project/whatever isn’t “worth it”. This is both good and bad. I do give myself the liberty to throw a task in the trash-can if I’m unsatisfied with it; but, more often than not, I unintentionally neglect said task/project/whatever upon setting my sights on a new task/project/whatever.

I do things throughout the day, but a lot of times, I find more interesting and instant-rewarding things to do that aren’t on my to-do list. My to-do list isn’t necessarily boring or anything, but if I were to actually do all of those things currently on the list, what would I really get out of it? Where’s my reward? Why is it worth it? Why do [item on my list] as opposed to writing a blog post or reading something interesting and insightful?

Are you with me? Do you understand what it’s like to have an item sit on your list that you know you want to do yet, even though the deadline is quickly approaching, you manage to negotiate with yourself that it’s not worth the time and attention required to get it done yet? Alright if you’re with me and all the other “do it at the last minute” when it finally feels worth it, read on.

Here’s a [true] scenario: I’ve got this paper to fill out for my new job. It’s only about 5 pages long. It’s composed of a bunch of intrusive questions about my history on all fronts. Now, I’ve had “fill out paperwork for work” on my to-do list since I got this form. I completed everything else except the last 5 pages of this document because those last 5 pages would take the most TIME and ATTENTION, and of course, my time is valuable and I have better things to do that seem to be ‘worth it’ more than spending an afternoon filling out this jazz.

So, my next step from here is to figure out how to make this [name your task] feel like it’s actually worth the time and attention it requires. And I need to figure out how to escalate the worth of a task on command.

My current feeling is that these tasks really are not worth it at the moment. They will be worth it eventually, close to the time that they’re due, but right now, they just aren’t worth it at all. So why should I bother if it’s not worth it … in fact, it’s hard for me to even do something trivial if it’s not worth it. I rely on “worth it” almost entirely in order to complete a task. Otherwise, the only way it’s going to get done is because of an outside influence (*cough* my girlfriend *cough*).

Let me back up a bit. Let me get down to the feeling level of why, when presented with task, I manage to weigh the odds and come out empty handed.

example: changing the tail light

Walmart is soooo far away, I know if I drive over there, it’s going to take me an hour just to find what I need. And then, I’m going to get to the car and it’s not even going to fit, or I’m going to be missing some tools needed to get the friggin broken light out of there. I’ve also gottah figure out what type of light it uses and to do that, I’ve gottah find tools needed to get it out of there and then take in the bulb with me to match it up, and then even with the bulb in hand, it’s probably not going to be labeled to where I can easily find one that matches. And, I know this entire process is going to take FOREVER and completely kill the rest of my day because I’ll be worn out from travel and light bulb frustrations. Then, if I do do this, I’m going to be nagged at constantly by outside sources to do this/that and to get this and that while I’m at walmart. Plus, I’m probably going to have to take my daughter with me and I’ve gottah worry about keeping her pleasantly appeased at the same time. Then when I get home, I’ve still got task [whatever], task [whatever 2], etc into infinity and it just doesn’t stop.

Does that seem worth it to you? It doesn’t seem worth it to me. It actually seems pretty scary.

example2: filling out the last 5 pages of this paperwork for new job

I know that when I first even look at those papers again, I’m going to be met with something I don’t want to see. It’s going to ask me some question that I’ve gottah dig through generations of people, who are no longer anywhere near my place and don’t have cell phones, to get the answer to. I’m going to have to call 10 dozen people just to find out the answer to question such and such. It’s going to take me 10 hours just to fill out this piece of crap, and I don’t want to give it 10 hours. Also, what if I write something down there that the new employer doesn’t like? I already quit my stable job after this new job had me sign papers to get it – but they could always fire me on the spot for giving misinformation or because of something I wrote down that they weren’t pleased with. They hire me first, without paying me a dime, get me to quit my current job, and then do all kinds of in depth and unrelated background checks so that they can up and fire me because I once walked out on an employer for good reason? How could I not feel uneasy about that.

Now that, that’s over the top for five sheets of paper. How scary is that?

How could I even begin to “focus” on my other tasks when these two buggers keep knocking at my door. I’ve written them down in efforts to get them out of my head, but they’re still in my head banging away at the walls.

On the flip-side of things, when push comes to shove for both of these issues; the due date will come for these last 5 pages of paper and I’ll spend an hour max filling them out to the best of my ability and be done with it; a cop will pull me over after noticing I have a messed up tail light and I’ll roll my vehicle straight to walmart, disregarding any outside influences, and purchase/install the new light in less than an hour.

So, these two things have a maximum of being monstrous tasks and a minimum of being hour long tasks. I can handle an hour long task that takes up only a fraction of time, but I’m willing to bet that something wont go as planned and it might reach the maximum allotted time and attention required to complete the task.

The thing is though, that’s inevitable! I can’t stop that so why don’t I just get started and mow my way through it? Good question me thinks. Lets dig deeper!

One thing that both of these tasks have in common is that they’re scary. And that, to me, rings a bell. I don’t like being scared, and I know that fear is something that has plagued me in the past (see post about entrepreneurship). It is TIME to address that issue as it’s creeping up into my every day normal tasks. It definitely feels “worth it” to solve this riddle.

[fruitful research went on at this point in this post]

So after mucho googling (what would I do without you!), I’ve determined that this issue is a matter of not having a strategy for my TIME OUT period (see previous post). Basically I get to step 3 (doing the task) and I FREEZE. I take a moment to think of my strategies and then realize that’s just not going to cut it for these two scary items. So, I’m going to use the end of this post to list out all the strategies I’ve found and can think of at the moment. But before I do that, let me tell you how I’m going to prepare for battle *rawr* today.

I have a pda that I use solely for MyLifeOrganized (an awesome hierarchal list manager – best I’ve found over the years, but only runs on windows so … yeah deal). Today, when I come across an item that scares me to inactivity for one reason or the other, much like a lot of my MIT’s, I’m going to flip to a word document with my TIME OUT game plan (steps to follow during my time outs) and play a motivational song on the PDA – I don’t have any music on there now, but I’m going to put some on there tonight (this morning).

OK, so here’s what’s going to be in the document, more or less. Here are the tips/tricks to boost my feelings from “uck” to “pwned” – oh, keep in mind that this is just what I’m going to use temporarily for personal use ’til I make time to edit it down, making it prettier and junk:


  • visualize doing the task, succeeding, and how you’ll feel afterwards
  • (10+2)5 – do it for 10 minutes, stop for 2 minutes, and do this 5 times for hour before taking a long break
  • 15 seconds – do it for 15 seconds and then decide if you want to continue from there
  • remember what goal this item ties into, and realize that this is for the greater good
  • get the blood flowing by doing some exercise! Do 20 pushups, some situps, go for a run, whatever yah need to do
  • break it down into something that’s simpler. focus on the next step and succeeding in the small thing then relish in the success and move along
  • make sure that you have the time. if there’s nothing more important than this, then you have time
  • get someone else to motivate you
  • don’t feel down because you can’t get this seemingly “simple” task done. if it’s not that simple for you, then it’s not a simple task it’s a complex one
  • build on success by doing something else you KNOW you will be able to do, get a few of those under your belt and ride onto the new daunting task as a winner with success in sight
  • if this doesn’t tie into your goals, rm -rf and delete it
  • 80/20 rule – 80% of the results come from 20% of the tasks .. or something like that
  • imagine you were someone else or even some imaginary figure who pwns to-do lists. step into that persona and rake havoc
  • promise yourself a reward. if you do this this and that, you’ll treat yourself to dinner or buy yourself an ipod touch. pick a reward that feels like a reward
  • remember all those other hard things you did that turned out to not be as hard as you thought they were going to be
  • remember that one thing that was so hard and you still did it
  • ensure that your thoughts are positive – negative thoughts are just going to screw you into the ground
  • write down your fears of doing the task and look at it in its true form (not all that big bad or ugly is it) then write down counter thoughts to resolve that fear right below what you previously wrote
  • think to yourself “i only have to do this once”
  • boost moral by listening to some motivational music
  • think to yourself “only for today will I [do such and such]”
  • breath in deeply for five minutes and imagine yourself doing it slowly and meticulously as a way to relax
  • take a moment to realize that you need to live it, do it, be it, now. You need to be your dreams now, feel how you’d like to feel now, get things done as you’d like to get things done NOW, act as you’d like to act NOW. You need to BE the you of your dreams NOW because tomorrow may never come for you or me, seriously. Be accomplished now. Be fulfilled now. Yes, you can reach that goal NOW with what you do NOW and how you feel NOW in these 24 hours. Tomorrow may never come, why wait for [whatever] to arrive .. have it now. NOW is the time to have everything you ever wanted and perform like you want, and get things done like you want, etc. You only have to do it for today. Just today. Just now. Only now. This is a one time event.
  • if the task is important enough that it made it to your top priority list, it’s important enough to spend the time and attention needed to negotiate your thoughts from “wanting to do it” to “doing it”
    -remember that guy bill? Yeah, he did this same thing you’re doing and he didn’t have the slightest of a problem. You gunnuh let bill show you up like that?

  • if human kind can create a rocket ship to blast into outer space and play around on the moon, human kind can also do [name the task you’re frozen on]
  • if you don’t try, you have 100% chance of failure. any attempt at all will raise your chances of success by a ridiculous amount.
  • got something else on your mind? if it’s more important, switch to that. If it’s equally important, flip a coin. If it’s less important, write it down and throw it in your inbox
  • recite some positive affirmations in relation to the task “I am awesome”, “I will complete this easily and effortlessly”, “I can relax while I’m doing this”, “I am happy and successful”, “I am productive NOW”, “I fulfill my dreams NOW”, etc
  • “Consider the impact of your decisions and actions, and how they will affect your life in the next 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years.” – someone
  • Got any hero’s? What would they do in this same situation? They would PPWWNNNN
  • Do Your Worst: Give yourself permission to suck. Relieve the pressure of needing to achieve perfection in every task on the first run. [Just run wild.] –
  • give yourself a break. take a rest to recoup and then go attack this
  • is someone bothering you or are you being interrupted somehow? Remove the obstacle in your way. Tell them no. Unplug that television. Grab the modem and stick it in the trunk of the car.
  • read a motivational article
  • google up blog posts about failure and read that for a bit
  • visualize becoming your future self, then looking back on your present self and giving your present self a word of advice
  • add new stuff to this list as I discover them

    If you get to the end of this list and still can’t do it, postpone it and move on to the next item with confidence and vigor.

    One more thing,

    Now that I mentioned tips/tricks to use during a time out, I’d like to also mention that in addition to the following steps in the game of a day of life:

    1. realize
    2. stop and take a time out
    3. turn it around and do it

    There’s also a PRE-STEP that I kind of glossed over simply because I really didn’t feel like going there yet – so, I guess I’ll just dab in the topic a ‘lil bit.

    Just like a basketball game or any sports game, or any big event, it benefits you to prepare. In the sport of pwning your to-do lists and/or beating procrastination, it helps if you’ve got your PRE-GAME down tight. I suppose I could cover this in more detail at a later date… well, here’s some parts of the pre-game that, if not addressed, might be the root cause of a lack of motivation when doing that “hard task”.


  • remove all distractions
  • ensure that your self maintenance is up to par: showered? shaven? well dressed? eaten breakfast? exercised? brushed teeth? slept? – your body is like a car, if you don’t take care of it, it will break on you and cause all sorts of problems along the way
  • prepare to say NO to outside influences
  • write out a plan of attack and visualize that plan of attack
  • schedule to get things done during the first half of the day, and leave the last bits of the day open for whatever. take comfort in knowing you will have ‘no obligation time’ and ‘reflection time’
  • make sure you know what you want … and if you dont’ know what you want, find out
  • is your environment clear enough to allow you to bypass
  • check your compass (ala the secret); how do you feel?
  • are you prepared to singletask, focus, and do one thing at a time?
  • have you automated or outsourced (to your children) the little bitty tasks so they don’t distract you today? And do you have reminders setup to remind you when [such and such task: dentist appt, oil change, etc] becomes important?
  • do you know your de-motivators and your do-not-do list? avoid the bugs and hiccups since you know where they are already
  • …and so on

    PS: After writing the entry, I couldn’t help but be motivated to go and start filling out the paperwork. I didn’t finish it but I definitely put a dent in it. Hmm… seems like I was right about the time out thing. This blog post, essentially, served as a big time out where, at the end of the time out, the result was motivation where there previously was no motivation. Sweeeet.

    PPS: Note to self. It is OK to postpone a blog entry to the next day in exchange for more sleep.

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