On a late afternoon about 20 years ago, I stepped into a slow elevator with my college’s most productive, famous, and taciturn senior professor. After 10 seconds of silence, I asked, “Did you publish anything yet today?” He stared at me for about 4 seconds and said, “The day’s not over.” Cool . . . very Clint Eastwood-like.
Most of us have some super-productive days and we have some bad days, but most lie in-between. If we could figure out what leads to great days, we might be able to trigger more of them in our life.
Think of the most recent “great day” you had. What made it great, and how did it start?
For about 20 years, every time somebody told me they had a great day, I’d ask “What made it great? How did it start out? About 50% of the time its greatness had to do with an external “good news” event like something great happening at work, great news from their kids or spouse, a nice surprise, or nice call or email from a grateful person or an old friend. The other 50% of the time, the reason for “greatness” was more “internal.” They had a super productive day, they finished a project or a bunch of errands, or they had a breakthrough solution to a problem or something they should do.
External successes are easy to celebrate with our friends. Internal successes are more unpredictable. What made today a great day and what sabotaged yesterday?
When people had great days, one reoccurring feature was that they started off great. There was no delay between when they got out of bed and when they Unleashed the Greatness. People said things like, “I just got started and seemed to get everything done,” or “I finished up this one thing and then just kept going.”
One of the most productive authors I've known said that got up six days a week at 6:30 and wrote from 7:00 to 9:00 without interruption. Then he kissed his wife good-bye and drove into school and worked there. When I asked how long he had done that he said, “Forever.”
About a year ago, I started toying with the idea that "Your first two hours set the tone for the whole day."
Think of your last mediocre day. Did it start out mediocre? That would also be consistent with this notion.
We can’t trigger every day to be great, but maybe we have more control than we think. If we focus on making our first two hours great, it might set the tone for the rest of the day.
What we need to decide is what we can we do in those first two hours after waking that would trigger an amazing day and what would sabotage it and make it mediocre. For me, it seems writing, exercise, prayer, or meditation are the good triggers, and it seems answering emails, reading the news, or surfing are the saboteurs.
Here’s to you having lots of amazing days. One’s where you can channel your best Clint Eastwood impression and say, “The day’s not over.”
It's been said that the most frequent last words of adventurous, partying males are probably:
1) “Hey, watch this,” or
2) “Here, hold my beer.”
If we heard either of these, we'd probably yell “STOP, Don’t Do That!” But giving well-intended advice in less obvious situations is trickier, so we've grown more hesitant to do so. We’ve all been burned by giving advice and having someone stare a hole through us.
As a result, even as mentors we can we be hesitant to giving a young person advice about their future. We might say “I will give them advice if they ask.” Yet even if they us ask "What do I do?" we can be too carefully non-committal in giving them any advice that's useful (“Well, what do YOU want to do?”).
Last month I had an interesting conversation with a person who said his son had been adrift in high school. It all turned in the right direction for him one day when an adult he casually played chess with said, “If you work hard, you could be a high-school chess champion.” He focused, and it happened. The Dad then said something similar had happened to him 50 years ago. He had been adrift in high school – good grades but adrift – when a someone told him “If you work hard, you could be on the debate team.” He focused, and it happened.
These two mentors (even if they didn't know they were mentors) had each given these young people a specific vision of what they could be: A chess champion and a debate champion. They just didn't say “You’re sharp,” or “You talks good.” They gave a specific direction that an adrift student could paddle toward. They decided to Be the One who pointed at an island the students could paddle to.
It can be easy to say “Good job,” or “You’re creative,” to a young person. Those are compliments, but they don't give useful paddling directions. A student might be earnestly good at school but not see where to take their life other than in the general direction their parents, friends, or placement office talked about.
Suppose we took the risk that those two mentors took, and we told a younger person “You’d make a great ________,” or “Have you ever considered ____; I think you’d be really good at it.” They might feel a bit flattered, but they might also feel a bit motivated to paddle in a direction they hadn’t thought of. Even if they went in a totally different direction, if we motivated them in a hopeful way, we accomplished more than if we would have said, "Well, what do YOU want to do?"
Let’s circle back to last month’s conversation about the two mentors who laid out specific visions to the guy and to his son. Things worked out for both of them. Ten years later, the son had graduated from college, started his own business, and was coaching chess champion hopefuls on the side. Forty years later, the dad had retired as a Fortune 500 CEO to produce a movie. Partly because two mentors decided to "Be the One" who gave them direction.
There's a reemerging movement around this Be the One notion. Although it's sort of aimed at teachers, a surprising amount of it still applies to any mentor who takes the extra effort to say the right words at the right time. You can check out Ryan Sheehy's Twitter for a booster shot.
Can you trick yourself into eating better?
You can easily set up your kitchen (and some habits) that lead to eat better or less. But since you will know what’s going on, you won’t have to feel tricked.
Quartz used this catchy title for a catchy story on my Cornell Food and Brand Lab colleague, Aner Tal. It’s about 3 minutes long and has a lot of eye-opening tips and insights. What’s unusual is how Aner describes why these work in a suave James Bond style and how Quartz cleverly illustrates them. Too cool for school.
Here’s some of what they mentioned:
1. Use lighter plates
2. Use smaller plates
3. Cut your food into pieces
4. Don’t watch TV when you eat
5. No scary movies
6. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
7. Deprivation always backfires
Some of these might sound pretty basic, but it’s Aner's description of how they work and Quartz's funny illustrations that really make them pop.
Aner flew out to visit me from Israel a while back, and we were talking about how people react after they hear about some of these discoveries.
Some people hear about suggestions like these and say to themselves “That would never happen to me,” so they don’t try to do anything different, and nothing changes in their life. Other people say to themselves, “Yeah, that makes sense” but they never do it, so, again, nothing changes in their life.
No one is going to hear about 7 discoveries and make 7 changes in their life. It’s too much. But you can make 1 or 2 of them. After they become habits, you can always come back to the table for another course.
A lot of people don’t look or act their age. We all know 40-year-olds who act a curmudgeonly 60, but we also know people who look and act much, MUCH younger than they actually are. They do it without crazy plastic surgery, crystal meth energy vitamins, Dorian Gray mirrors, or vampire rituals.
We visited some friends like this in Cleveland a couple weeks back. Even though they’re past retirement age, they look and act 25 years younger. They look it – they’re trim and fit. They act it – they’re engaged, curious, interested, funny, and excited about new things.
One night I learned more about their secret sauce. We were at a basketball game, and my friend brought back a bunch of concession food to eat and drink. As he passed them out, he said, “It’s one of the 4 Splurge Days.”
I channeled my inner Homer Simpson and mumbled, “Can’t talk . . . eating.” After I recovered from my nacho binge, I asked what he meant. He explained that when you’re thinking about what to eat when, it’s too easy to think of reasons why you can splurge any day you want. To prevent that, he and his wife have 4 Splurge Days a year.
Wow. Some diets give you one “cheat day” every week. It’s the one day a week where – if you’ve been a good boy or girl – you can eat whatever you want. This sounds great because it means only six more days until you can put on the sweat pants and head back to the buffet.
But 4 Splurge Days a year is extreme.
My friend’s view was that a weekly cheat day or splurge day is the same as 52 splurge days a year. Before long, however, 52 splurge days a year can easily turn into 62 and then into 162. At that point, you can think of a reason why you could splurge on any occasion: “I had a bad day; I had a good day; it’s Friday; it will be a Friday,” and so on.
They call this the Tyranny of the Moment. Any moment of any day, we can come up with a reason why we can do whatever it is we want to do. There is only one thing that is strong enough to defeat the Tyranny of the Moment.
My friend’s 4 Splurge Day rule built a habit of not overeating. It might seem extreme, but it also might help explain why he and his wife look and act so really extremely young.
If only I hadn’t used my 4 Days up last week.
You missed last night’s “Cookies and Carols,” which is the $6 cover-charge fundraiser for our local school band and chorus. They pass 160 trays of cookies up and down the middle-school auditorium rows until the kids run out of songs to sing. This is also timed to when parents feel like they're getting diabetes.
Cookies and Carols is about kids -- and cookies. Normal kids sing and play music. But the cool kids get to take it to the next level. Because they’re too cool for music school, they get to dress like an elf and be a Cookie Monitor Elf.
At Cookie and Carol night, the guy behind me was on a diet. I had a certain sense about this. My intuition was based on 30 years of careful investigation, detailed analyses, and because every time a Cookie Monitor Elf passed him a platter of cookies, he said, “I’m on a diet.”
Yes, this is the season of weight gain. But this is a horrible month to be on a diet. You ruin the JOY for you and the joy to the world. So, what’s a person to do when cookie trays are a passin’ and Christmas Carols are a pumpin’?
We've been running a 4 year study (the Healthy Weight Registry) to discover what perpetually skinny people do to stay perpetually skinny. One thing we've asked them is what they do during the holidays that the rest of us don't do. They do a lot of crazy cool things they need testing, but one that's relevant to us cookie lovers is this: When they were at a holiday party and they tried something they didn't absolutely LOVE, they simply didn’t eat the rest of it. They either didn't take it or they didn't finish it. They left it.
• That no-bake brownie-mix brownie? They left it.
• That gluten-free Avocado Cupcake? They left it.
• That Thumbprint cookie with the real thumbprint? They left it.
When we first read this "Leave it if you don't love it" idea, my researchers and I were all trying to finish up our Avocado Cupcakes so we could be the first to say "That's nothing new. That's totally obvious."
There's never been a cookie in the world that isn't worth choking down, but there might only be 2 out of 10 that are really worth LOVING.
"Leave it if you don't love it." Sorry, Lefty.
When I got back from Cookies and Carols, I had a message from Marcus Sidhu at N1Fitness telling me a podcast chat with me was just posted earlier that that day (links below). It has some ideas about some other things you might want to consider this season to enjoy the cookies and carols while you forget about your diet.
Podcast URL - https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/n1-fitness-podcast/id1303218443?mt=2
Direct Download Episode URL - http://traffic.libsyn.com/n1fitness/Episode_39_-_Mindless_Eating_w__Brian_Wansink.m4a
Permalink Episode URL - http://n1fitness.libsyn.com/39-mindless-eating-w-brian-wansink
Solve & Share
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