Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

Strengthen Your Core

If you’re reading this today, I have a simple question for you: who are you?

It’s something we think we know. We attach a name and a job and an address to our identity but our principles, loves, passions, cares, and dreams can go completely ignored. These accessories to our lives, the “identifications” of our clothes, location, and career are little more than fruit of a tree and identifying our core values, nurturing that tree, leads to healthier, more bountiful fruit. Fruit of confidence, fulfillment, personal accomplishment, and long-term, sustaining happiness.

So, at least for today, consider your metaphorical tree. What ideals and character traits are important to you and which ones comprise you? What truly makes you, you?

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Habits, How-To

Eat Your Veggies

I am big into nutrition right now. I may or may not be depending on how great my craving for cookies is in the next couple of months (seriously, I have less nutritional discipline than a Biggest Loser contestant without extreme external-monitoring) but for right now I’m big into nutrition.

Each day I eat a balance of proteins and fiber, less carbs (gotta look good for bikini season) and plenty of water. It wasn’t until I was enjoying one of my colorful meals with my paramour that I considered: what if the food pyramid could be applied to our time budget?

I often speak about priorities here on CFiST but today I’d like to give you a tool to make that concept a reality. So even though Time Pyramid would make an awesome 80’s sci-fi title, in this context I’d like to harken back to the now retired food pyramid.

The Plan

Start by considering all the different activities you do during the day. For example, my list would look like the following:

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones
  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal
  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write
  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

It’s pretty busy to say the least. Now, here’s how I would break that down, carrying the food analogy:

Grains

The essentials. Require the most servings and form the building blocks of your happiness.

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones

Fruits and veggies

The enriching activities. Substantial, colorful, and tasty!

  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal

Dairy/protein

Essential, but fewer servings. Build mental strength and get some “culture”. Get it? Yogurt joke.

  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write

Sweets and oils

Delicious, but to be partaken of… sparingly.

  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

The result is a coherent metaphor for time “nutrition”; a way to balance out your activities in the best way possible using knowledge you already know. Pretty cool, right?

So how about you? What does your time nutrition look like? List your activities and try breaking them down into these groups and see how many servings you get in an average day. Feel free to post the results in the comments below and think about eating healthier. I have a hunch that you’ll be glad you did.

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Commentary, Philosophies

Ideal Craftsmanship

I’ve been obsessed for a while now with an outdoor goods company called Best Made Company. The enchantment is owed as much to their unobtainability (the products themselves are quite expensive) as it is to the allure of the products themselves. The pictures of each product allude to their quality, not just in product design but in aesthetic. But the question is, what pulls us in about goods like this? What is it about an aluminum, red first-aid kit with a lower case “x” in the middle that gets is hooks in us, rendering consideration for price and competing products a trivial conversation next to their intrinsic gravity?

The answer has to be price. I mean come on, it’s a simple formula: an attractive product with a prohibitively expensive price = instant purchase from anyone with some room on their credit card. We’re creatures who love our exclusivity. We demand exclusivity to the point that even validation of our tastes can result in a dulling of the sheen our objects of affection emanate. We find confidence in our selections especially when no other being in our social circle makes the same selection.

But that doesn’t work. I mean, the first thing I do when I check out the Best Made Co. website is search for affordable options; things I can justify purchasing to myself. I don’t need a $490 set of nautical flags, nor do I need a $300 axe. I don’t find these items any more appealing because they would empty my bank account, that’s just simply not the case.

Well then it’s gotta be the fact that I don’t own these things already. Grass is always greener, always. I don’t currently own a decent first-aid kit, so why not get an attractive one? I don’t own a jug of maple syrup, so I need one. Even if I have one stocking cap, this one is different. Different color, different material, different feel. It’s just different okay? I need it because it’s different and that has to be better.

But even typing that feels ridiculous. I take one look at that stocking cap and think “nah, I already have a stocking cap that’s functional and stylish, I’m good.” Similarly I just can’t add a set of playing cards to my cart, pay shipping, wait several days, and then use them if I can just drive to the grocery store and get the stupid things while finding out the top 50 ways to please my man. Onward and upward.

Presentation. Presen-fucking-tation my friend. Just look at the website for Christ’s sake. Well designed, attractive, the products laid out nice and cleanly, no attempts to hint at a lifestyle you could or could not possess. The imagination can run wild, project, hold the damn ram’s horn cups, fly the hand-made American flag. The whole catalog is my oyster, laid out cleanly and neatly, inspiring confidence and coolness, practically beckoning me into its beckoning arms. (beckoning)

No. No. And no. No. The website is gorgeous, yes. Even the design of the basic products is alluring, but I haven’t made a purchase solely based on a pretty pitch since that dating website claimed that Natalie Portman lived in Des Moines. I enjoy the colors but I don’t feel compelled by them the same way that I do by a Wal-Mart bargain, and we all know that nothing pretty happens at Wal-Mart.

So what is it? What allows me to accept higher prices as reasonable? Unpossessed products as worthwhile goals? A perfect presentation as an accurate description of the goods themselves?

The answer, is honesty.

You see, Best Made Co. is a rare thing in our society. The goods, as you can see by this video, are handcrafted by American laborers. Their quality is unmatched, the spirit imbued in their creation is passion. The website gives pictures of goods, a price, and nothing else unless requested. No spin up front.  Further information is available upon request, but even the information given is a simple description.

For that reason, prices are higher because they deserve to be, they are not lower because of over-farmed land. The location of their creation is known and their customer service team is a group of indivduals with real names, not Peggy in Turkmenistan. There is no pre-amble or editorializing upfront, the antithesis of a contemporary news cast. Their quality is intrinsic to the products themselves by way of manufacturing, thought, and intent, the same way that NPR considers time-honored journalistic principals when reporting political events and your loved ones tell you how wonderful you are to them instead of forcing you to assume and rely on yourself.

The heart of it is that heart counts. Shiny ideas, expensive cars, and well-drawn powerpoints can only do so much; it is only the opposite intersection of all our contemporary marketing fool’s gold that makes an idea worth listening to, a product worth purchasing, and a smile worth sharing.

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