Mondays – Dread them? Or Charge Into Them Like a Mad Man (or woman)?

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What’s your take on Mondays?

When you woke up today, were you dreading going to work? Did you roll out of bed at the last possible second, wishing that the weekend could’ve lasted longer? Thinking of all the things you didn’t want to do today, or wishing for all those phone calls that you didn’t want to make to magically disappear?

Or did you wake up excited, ready to grab this Monday by the gonadulums (may have to add that word to the dictionary) and see what new challenges could be conquered?

Purpose

You can tell a good bit about a person’s ambitions (or lack thereof) by how they view Mondays. The same could be said also about their weekends, but Mondays usually are the best indicator.

If their Sunday nights/Monday mornings are usually filled with doubt, complaints, grumbling, moaning, hellfire and brimstone (maybe a bit of an exaggeration on that one), it’s a good indicator that they really don’t enjoy what they’re doing.

On the flip side, somebody who wakes up on a Monday just as excited as they wake up on a Saturday usually is a mover and a shaker. This isn’t a “you should quit your job and come bask in the sunshine of liberty” type of post, but typically the type of people that take Mondays with this approach are entrepreneurs. If not entrepreneurs, than people that have really gotten involved into a work (notice I didn’t necessarily say “job”) that they enjoy. It’s fulfilling. It’s worth something to them. It’s exciting.

Just a simple question

“Chase your passion, not your pension” – Dennis Waitley

My good home dawg Bruce (remember him from this post? Again, that’s not his real name) uses this quote as his email signature. I like it. It’s a good reminder to be involved in things greater than just a few trinkets.

Again, I’m not trying to be some lame holier-than-thou type and imply that wanting to make money is a bad thing, or that being an employee is a bad thing either. Neither of these are true. But here’s a good question to guage your view on Mondays:

If you weren’t getting paid to do what you do, what would you be doing?

I’m gonna leave it at that. More to come in a few days! Now, some fun videos for your enjoyment 🙂

A little motivation

I don’t know about you guys, but music really helps to fire me up. Sometimes aided with a little  bit of well-timed caffeine, a good song can make the creative juices flow like Niagara Falls. So I’d like to give you a few songs and videos that have helped me get the wheels turning, and help to keep the big picture in mind. Enjoy!

As you may see, I like a little piano music. If you haven’t gotten a Grooveshark account yet (it’s free), check it out and feel free to add these songs to your playlist.

And finally, for some odd reason (maybe the travel-aspect?), I watch this video anytime I need a jump start to plan and do amazing things. It’s kinda like a shot of adrenaline for me. 🙂

Cheers!

– JC

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Lifetime Learning – Why Now is the Time to Start and How You and I can Help Each Other

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Ghandi

Taking Fun Seriously

Over the past 9 years, learning has become an obsession of mine. Maybe it was going to a good college. Maybe it was joining the military. Or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the (sometimes not so common) idea that learning is, and can actually be something fun.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately (uh oh…he’s gone crazy!), and one of the big topics that has been on my mind has been Taking Fun Seriously. What is it? Is it a blog? A website? A brand?

And then it hit me…

Thanks to some good “big picture” inspiration from my buddy Joel Runyon, I’ve come to the conclusion that “Taking Fun Seriously” is a living manifesto. It’s me. It’s who and what I am. I love to have fun, and I’m serious about doing it. I’ll elaborate more on this in the coming months, but I’d like to focus for now on one of the aspects that make TFS, well, FUN!

The joy of learning

Notice I did not say “schooling”. I’m not anti-school, but I do know quite a few people who from an early age grew a disdain for formal education. Just so I don’t step on any toes here, let me repeat: I am not anti-school. I had a VERY good public school and college education, and still feel like much of what I learned back in high school is still very relevant and useful to my everyday life (I AM smarter than a 5th grader, thank you very much!). My 11th grade English teacher would be so proud…

The problem with people who have a disdain for formal education is twofold:

  1. They have mistakenly identified formal education with all forms of education. One of my very favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “I never let schooling interfere with my education”, meaning that he was learning all the time, just not in a formal environment.
  2. They have mistakenly associated their disdain for formal education with all available forms of formal education. Why do/did they hate school? Did they have a crappy teacher? Was the curriculum not relevant to what they wanted in life? Neither of those 2 questions mean that there aren’t GOOD teachers just as there isn’t RELEVANT curriculum for their life goals.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it opened up a world of possibility for the human

Having 2 little daughters (both under 3) in my home has caused me to really appreciate the human characteristic of curiosity. Everything is amazing to them. Everything!

Walking outside in the snow, the fact that cold and pretty stuff falls from the sky and settles on the ground is simply amazing to my oldest daughter. My youngest just learned how to walk. Seeing her waddle around the house, you’d think she was a brand-new gold medalist in the olympics.

Their world is so big, and learning new things brings so much joy to them!

Daddy could learn a lot from these two.

Where did it go wrong?

It seems like once a child starts the journey to adulthood, the current cultural mindset is to snuff out this curiosity.

Why? (this is a question I’m constantly trying to answer myself, so don’t expect an immediate answer here 🙂 )

This isn’t going to be a rant about “what’s wrong with our world today”. No, rather let it be a reminder that there are still many fun and new things to be learned in the world, and taking the time to read, listen, study, and DO them brings happiness.

While there are many reasons why I left my job over a year ago, one of the main ones was this: I had stopped learning.

The shiny-ness of the job and the skills required to do it well had been mastered. The opportunities for personal and professional growth had been exhausted. I was in danger of shifting from new and exciting into boring and mundane. So I quit.

(Warning: Like I said, that was just one of MANY reasons why I left. Don’t use just this reason alone to up and leave your job. You still need a plan, and you still need to think things through. Hence the reason for a post on learning)

What’s next?

So back to my buddy Joel real quick. One of the things I really appreciate about him is his “Impossible list“. Joel doesn’t publish anything on his Impossible List unless it’s good-as-gold he’s gonna do it. Integrity baby! That’s both honorable, and scary as a mutha sucka (maybe it’s one of the fears that’s holding me back from publishing my 2011 goals…ahh who cares. They’ll be up soon now)!

One of the big goals I have for this site in 2011 is for it to be a learning-hub. A CPU of sorts for education. I’d like to have it both be a diary of what I’m learning (and how it can help you), and a sort of “yellow pages” for different areas for you to go for different topics you’d like to learn as well.

Some topics that I’d like to learn and discuss on here (yes, discuss, which means you gotta get in on the conversation) are:

  • Skill acquisition
  • Mental performance
  • Language learning (while Joel is going to tackle French, I’d like to knock out Spanish)
  • Critical thinking (don’t worry, it won’t be boring)
  • Writing
  • Reading (faster)
  • Motivation (a favorite of mine!)
  • Being a dad
  • And just plain cool stuff (like travel-hacking, which I’ll be talking about in an upcoming post. Oooo baby I’m excited about this one!)

Finishing with a quesiton

My brotha-from-another-mother, Josh Buisch, likes to say “I don’t know what I don’t know”. So I’ll probe y’all with a similar question: What don’t you know, that you’d like to know better? (and a bonus question) What would you like to see more of here on TFS?

Cheers!

– JC

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Patience has paid off!

I’ve been waiting for over a year for the iPhone to come to Verizon. Finally, the wait is over.

(This is a semi-lengthy post. If you’d rather skip my story, head on down to the portion of the page that’s called “The TFS list of ‘must-have’ iPhone apps”) 🙂

A brief look into history

Last year, I did what every PC owner swears they’ll never do. I converted over to the “dark side” and bought a 13″ MacBook Pro. Wow, I was blinded by my own ignorance!

Not only has my MacBook given me ZERO problems (it’s pretty much the Lamborghini of computers), but it’s allowed me to do some pretty sweet things as far as in-house technology goes. We have an HD projector at home, an iPod touch 64g, and a 1TB Apple Time Capsule wireless hard drive. For you non-techies, this means a potentially gigantic “tv screen”, a fun toy, and a HUGE library of movies, pictures, music, and files.

After learning how a few iPod apps and some careful tweaking of the relationship between hard drive/laptop/iPod/projector, I’d created a pretty sweet setup for our home. I was amazed at how well the iPod touch worked with my laptop, and it seemed like there was an app for just about anything I wanted to do.

If only I could take this show on the road…

Frustrated

When I picked up my Blackberry Curve, I couldn’t have been more happy. It was my first smart phone, and it was pure magic. I mean, I could get the INTERNET on my PHONE! I was George Jetson, and I was living in the future.

However, after I picked up my MacBook Pro, I wanted to be able to have something that worked between my phone and the daily apps/sites I used on my computer. The iPod touch had all that I wanted, but it didn’t have a 3G connection. This is when the iPhone/Verizon rumors started.

I was told by “reliable” sources that it would arrive in January of 2010. I began setting aside a little dough for this magical device, and I couldn’t wait!

January came, no iPhone.

Then the rumors shifted to June/July 2010.

Guess what? Still no iPhone.

The rumors went away for a few months, but then started to resurface in late fall/early winter 2010. This time, they were for real.

My frustrations would soon be over.

Magic

I was one of the crazies that woke up at 3 AM ET to pre-order an iPhone for me and my wife. And although I had a temporary setback with some food poisoning on the day that the blessed Brown Messenger (aka the UPS man) brought it to my home, I couldn’t hold back my happiness.

Phone love (I'm kidding Mom) 🙂

So far, so good

Now, before I continue, I have to say this. I know that it’s just a silly piece of equipment, and it doesn’t bring me TRUE happiness. However, it is still pretty cool, and will be making things a lot easier for me.

Many of you have probably already read reviews about this phone, or have heard your friends (like me) ranting and raving about it. I’m not going to offer a review, because the device can speak for itself. What I am going to offer however, is a few of the apps that help me out in my day to day that I think can help you out as well.

The TFS list of “must have” iPhone apps

These little babies make life very easy and help with some serious productivity (except for the obvious one, which is a game). I’m not some kind of affiliate for the App store, and won’t make any money off of this, in fact most of them are free. I’m just a fan (maybe borderline obsessed at this point) who wants to share the love. Also, these apps will also work on your iPod Touch if wifi is available. Enjoy my friends!

DailyBurn

Cost – Free

My love for the website DailyBurn is no secret. From being able to track workouts, nutrition, bodyweight and bodyfat % goals, to even sleep tracking, DailyBurn is the place to go for measuring and achieving fitness goals. For those who have just picked up a copy of the Four Hour Body, this app is a great tool to help quantify results and progress.

I have used (and still do) the iGoogle DailyBurn app for tracking nutrition and workouts. Now I can load my favorite meals into it, and have everything tracked in a matter of seconds. For those who have ever tried keeping a food journal (but inevitably failed), this is a crucial app to have to stick with it and hit your goals! If you’re willing to spend a few bucks, they also have a built-in FoodScanner add on that uses your iPhone’s camera to scan the barcode of the food you’re eating to making tracking easier. Cool!

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

Cost – $0.99

Keeping in our theme of quantifying results, the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock uses a cool piece of iPhone/iPod Touch technology. Utilizing your device’s accelerometer (the small piece inside that senses motion), Sleep Cycle analyzes your sleep patterns throughout the night. It bases how “deep” you’re sleeping on how much you toss and turn. No tossing and turning = deep sleep.

By scanning your movement patterns throughout the night, Sleep Cycle can determine what the best “window” of time to wake you up (based upon what time you’ve already told it you want to wake up) will be, and it will start 30 minutes (default settings, which can be changed) prior to your preferred wakeup time to wake you up. When it senses that you’re in a light/almost awake moment of sleep, it will softly start playing music to wake you up. The advantage to this, is that it eliminates the groggy feeling you get when you’re jarred awake by a traditional alarm clock. Nice!

However, the only downside to this is, if you’ve got somebody else in your bed (as in my case), their movements affect the Sleep Cycle’s measurements throughout the night. I’ve only had one occasion when it woke me up at the wrong time based upon this, but the rest of the time it’s been smooth sailing. If I had this baby in college, I would’ve slept a lot better and probably would’ve performed better on tests (Hint* Hint* College students).

Evernote

Cost – Free

Note-taking has never been easier! Evernote (pretty much available for every operating system imaginable) is simply the very best “snapshot” note taking program I’ve encountered. I’ve been an Evernote user on my HP laptop, Blackberry, MacBook, and now iPod Touch, and now iPhone for over a year and a half.

Borrowing a book from the library and want to copy down a good section to quote later? No problem, snap a pic and upload it to Evernote. Out at a favorite mom & pop restaurant and want to have a digital copy of the menu? Ditto. Want to recall something you entered into Evernote over a year ago? Easy, just start typing in some text (like you would for Google’s Instant Search) and Evernote will find it. Their text-recognition software is simply incredible. It can even recognize my chicken scratch, which not even most of my relatives can do anymore (which is why I type them emails instead of send them letters).

There’s a certain amount of data usage that’s free per month, and if you want more, Evernote has tiered payment plans that go up from there. For those who encounter a lot of data (which who doesn’t count themselves in that crowd anymore?), Evernote is the perfect pal to help you recall it back to the front of your mind.

Kindle for iPhone/iPod Touch

Cost – Free

Even before I owned the real Amazon Kindle, I downloaded this app. Why? Because I knew that I’d eventually want to own a Kindle, and even if I never did own one, I could still read the books comfortably (yes, comfortably, even on a small screen) on my iPod Touch.

The books still cost the same, and the process for purchasing is still the same. But where the iPhone version of the Kindle may lack in size of words on the screen, it more than makes up for some convenient features: such as a smoother ability to highlight and take notes on book sections, and the ability to change font/background colors (I prefer a black background with white text).

For those who do own a Kindle, the Whispersync technology is in play here, and it helps also. Even if I don’t have my Kindle on me, I can still pick up where I left off in my current book if I have a few minutes to read. When I get back to where my Kindle is, it’s automatically synced back up to where I left off on my iPhone. It’s the perfect marriage of 2 technologies.

Mint.com

Cost – Free

There’s a lot of superlatives going on around this post. Here’s another one: Mint.com is the best (free) financial app/site there is. I used to manually enter transactions into our Microsoft Money program, which would take me about 6 hours/month. I now spend about 10 minutes TOPS per month checking into our personal finances using Mint’s free tools.

The reason I recommend this app is simply so you can have your financial dashboard with you on the go. Even if you have the wifi only iPod Touch, I still recommend this app.

Remember, what gets measured gets managed. 🙂

Angry Birds

Cost – Lite version: Free – Full version: $0.99

Ok, some may say that games aren’t essential, and I’d probably agree with them in most cases. This isn’t one of them.

It’s no surprise why Angry Birds is the highest grossing app in the App Store, it’s a ton of fun and incredibly addicting! Even people who don’t own any Apple or Android products are talking about Angry Birds. My daughter knows the song and starts dancing every time she hears it (side note: I have Angry Birds dance parties with her. One of the many joys of being a tech-nerd dad).

The lite version is fun, the full version is more fun. And if you’ve conquered the full version, there’s also a holiday edition (which covers Halloween, Christmas, and now Valentine’s Day). Down with the evil pigs!

That’s all for now folks!

I’m sure I’ll come up with more apps in the future, and I crossed a lot off the list that I didn’t think were “essential”. Enjoy this list my friends, and if you think I’ve missed some that are note-worthy, add ’em to the comments.

Cheers!

– JC

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