Avoid The Snakepits! Having a Peaceful Holiday Without Arguments

snakes

Avoiding The Snakepits

The holiday season can be a very traumatic time. Although most of us love to be with our family, there are many dangers when it comes to this time of year. There is societal and cultural pressure to spend time with individuals that one might not otherwise associate with just because they are family. I feel very lucky that there is no family member that I can think of  I totally dislike. That being said, there are many conversation topics that come up during family gatherings that make my skin crawl.

A major issue that I have experienced in family gatherings and interactions is emotional triggers. Often even a family member that I really enjoy spending time with will bring up subject or phrase, which triggers a defensive reaction. I have seen red faces and tears at several family functions due to poorly placed words or bad timing. Often folks are already a bit stressed or on edge during the hustle and business of the season. This dangerous situation can compound when other folks within earshot start jumping in on the conversation and adding commentary or opinionated interjections.

I recently read a book that had a major influence on my thinking, called “The 80/20 Principle”, by Richard Koch. I can’t stop talking about this book. The point I wanted to share for the purpose of this article is really not the focus of the book, so I won’t go into detail here about the overall concept of the 80/20 principle. I just like to give credit where it is due.

Avoid situations where you don’t shine, and particularly where you do the opposite. Avoid the snake-pits of your life. If you can’t stand traffic jams, don’t commute. If you don’t like waiting, minimize all contact with public services. If you get bad tempered with stupid people, don’t put yourself into contact with people you define this way. –Richard Koch

Now I certainly don’t want to suggest that your family members are stupid people or that you should avoid being with your family. However, there are some extreme examples I have heard of over the years where it would probably better to completely avoid certain people or situations due to predictable results such as an uncontrollable drunk who gets violent every year at parties. Don’t party with that dude, it’s not worth it.

The piece of wisdom that I have picked up is more appropriate for dealing with folks that you DO want to spend time with.

My wife and kids have reminded me many times in the last two years that it is extremely frustrating when I go off on a speech or try too hard to make a point that they really are not interested in. I have been accused of guiding a conversation in a particular direction, away from the initial subject, in order to try and make my point. I have recognized that this is indeed something that I do, often unconsciously.

I will not go deeply into the reasons I have such strong opinions that put me in a place of complete disagreement with most friends and family members because that is exactly the diversion that has caused so much trouble. Let it suffice to say that subjects such as voting, taxes, global warming, politics, and government are all snakepits for me.

After a recent unproductive fight with my wife, it really sunk in just how useless it is to try and make a point and “teach” someone something that I think I know. If a person wants to know my thoughts on a particular subject, they will ask out of curiosity. If I can do enough work or research to prove myself to be an authority on a particular subject, eventually some folks might come to me for advice.

For the sake of conversation and getting along with others, there is really no point in trying to make a point. Adults really do not change their minds easily. Most realizations and discovery comes from a personal journey involving seeking out information or learning on ones’ own initiative.

I have developed an inner alarm system of sorts that begins to sound whenever I approach a snakepit subject. Over the last weeks, I have noticed a vast improvement in my overall well-being. If you are intrigued or want to experiment with my strategy, I have broken down the steps to achieving a peaceful interaction with people you disagree with.

Step One: Define the Snakepits Ahead Of Time

Before meeting with the family, take a few moments to consider some of the issues you have with these individuals. For the most part, we already know where it is that we disagree with most people. What are the subjects that are guaranteed to be divisive? What good can come from getting into the arguments that will likely not be resolved over dinner and especially over drinks? I would recommend going as far as making a list on paper.

Step Two: Prepare Yourself Mentally to Lose

I find that the biggest enemy is really my own ego. I hate to lose. It feels like a loss when someone gets the last word in. It feels like I got beaten in an argument when something is said that defames my moral character and I don’t thoroughly defend myself and make a point to the counter. People that truly love me continue to do so because overall I treat them well and offer value in their lives over time. Whatever is said in one particular discussion or debate can easily be forgotten or dismissed. I have been learning to just let it go. I dont need to win this battle. The true battle is my inner struggle to stay on good terms with people and feel happy and confident. When I’m in a good place, all interactions are easier.

Step Three: Replace The Words With The Ear

There is really no winning except realizing that love is the big picture. The best way to show love and prove a point is to listen to someone else’s point and not say anything at all. Just hear them out and let them hear themselves. That actually opens the door to curiosity in some situations, where that person may then ask for your opinion. If so, they asked for it and that’s different. I still operate carefully if it is a snakepit subject. I don’t want to fall in the pit. I don’t like getting bit by snakes.

Real love is listening. Time is the best teacher. Give folks an opportunity to think for a few days on their own. I often think about something I said and realize a day or two later that I was off base. Patience cures many wounds.

So if you are rushing off to a family engagement, take a minute while stuck in traffic or while you are waiting for someone to get their shoes on and define a couple snakepits. Consider today as an opportunity to practice your listening skills. I know you will not regret it.

One more quick tip. If you find yourself getting emotional, red-faced, or starting to get over enthusiastic about something you want to say, take a break. You can always excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. The bathroom is a great place to recalibrate and get your thoughts in order. Consider the big picture and what really matters. Splash some water on your face and come back out ready to listen and love.

Just an idea. Hope your holiday is fantastic!!

 

Chris Jantzen

Richard Koch article, Huffington Post

 

Garage Organization, From Chaos to Productivity

img_2245The Creative Space: Garage Organization

I knew that I needed to organize my garage. I had created a thrown together “office” in the garage with an old desk and a folding table. All around this space chaos crept onto every surface. Every time I looked for something, two or three other things had to be moved or dealt with. I was wasting time and getting distracted on a regular basis. My mind was just as cluttered as the workspace. Something had to be done.

I took a friend’s advice and listened to the audiobook “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This powerful tool for executives and high-powered business people offers an amazing and thorough system of productivity. I gathered some excellent tips and ideas from the book but was left feeling like an ant on a cruise ship.

I’ve never had any real business experience in my life. I’ve worked as a Carpenter and Maintenance Man for most of my life earning a basic wage that has kept my family fed and clothed. Until last year, I never realistically saw myself becoming my own boss. So, as I read Allen’s book, I felt overwhelmed and unprepared for such a massive system overhaul. My business only had one product.

Nevertheless, I gained some valuable concepts from the book and came to the realization that my business workstation needed a rebuild. Although the area still needs more work, I do now have a much more productive space where I can work with a clear head. It occurred to me recently that there are other folks who can gain from what I learned from my garage cleanup and workstation rebuild. Here are some common issues that I suspect many people experience:

  • Notes in different places
  • Piles of papers that vary in importance
  • Objects or items worth saving that don’t have a good spot yet
  • Ideas/back burner items that surface from time to time
  • Sentimental cards/letters/kids’ art sitting around
  • Junk drawer
  • Broken tools or office supplies that need a part or repair

Truth is, I’ve never been the most organized dude. I have a friend who is a mechanic that always makes me so jealous. Seems like everything in his garage has a specific place and there is always room to work. When I compliment him he seems to feel like his place is a mess. I think to myself, “If his place is a mess, mine is a pig sty!”

One week I set a goal to start by organizing one little area, thinking that then I could incrementally keep working my way around the garage. This was wishful thinking. After a few weeks, I realized that what was needed was more severe. This was the type of job that needed to be handled as a two-day project. I set aside the coming weekend and decided that the whole weekend was going to be dedicated to getting the garage organized. Luckily, I had a friend who was willing to give a hand.

As we got started, he suggested just moving every single item out of the garage until it was empty. I took his advice, tossing stuff out as we went, moving everything out then later bringing things back in strategically. I chose to move it all out into the “chicken yard” where our four chickens roam around free during the day. This strategy created a unique time constraint. If I didn’t deal with this stuff quick, it was going to be covered in chicken poop. This was the type of job that needed to get done in one weekend even if I had to stay up late and work morning to night.

One of the biggest challenges was distracting items that tempted me to stop and look through or fixate on. This is where David Allen’s “two-minute rule” really came into play. I had to just keep moving. I just made some hard decisions and kept moving. Looking back, I don’t regret any of the things I got rid of even though at the time it seemed really hard to get rid of some items. By the end of the weekend, everything had a new home. There was still a shed full of unorganized tools, but at least it could be handled as a separate project for another weekend.

I absolutely love my new garage and workspace. When I go out to work on a project there is plenty of space and my mind is clear. When I want to work at my desk everything is right where I left it. The drawers only contain minimal and useful items. This has helped productivity immensely.

The lesson in this story is the importance of starting with a blank page. When there are unfinished projects, stressful thoughts and random red herrings cluttering my workspace, I just don’t perform very well. When the surfaces are clear and things are in their place, I feel ready to go. Getting from the place where it is all full of stuff and seems like a monumental task to the place where there is open space requires making hard decisions, setting aside a solid block of time, and getting help. I would even consider hiring someone for the day if I had to do it over without my good friend.

I would guess that some people are very meticulous about keeping their space clean all the time. However, for those of you who struggle with keeping things in order or feel stressed and overwhelmed, I suggest setting aside a solid block of time and getting some help. Make some hard decisions and keep moving. Get it done. You will not regret the hard work.

Great resources I recently discovered for finding more organization in your day-to-day life:

Go from Zero to a Fully Functional Productivity System

Getting Things Done

 

 

Hole In The Bucket

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza…old-bucket

It’s so weird how life can bring up the same old subjects over and over. Do you ever feel like you are living in a Bill Murray Groundhog day? The same old problems and issues just keep popping up in slightly different forms. I had a discussion with someone I really care about recently where I wanted to offer some advice, but I knew the way the discussion was going. We were going to circle the same old problem with the same old defensive emotional response. Have you ever tried to give advice to a friend or family member because you care deeply about the person, but you know that it is futile to offer the solutions that won’t be implemented? Let me move on to the screenplay.

Friend: I feel like crap today. I’m depressed.

You: Maybe you should not have stayed up until 3AM last night?!

Friend: Well, you know, I can’t go to sleep well. I just toss and turn if I go to bed on time.

You: Probably would be easier to sleep if you got some exercise during the day.

Friend: What are you talking about? I don’t have time to exercise! I had to run errands and work today!

You: If you get up a little earlier in the morning you will have time for errands, work, and exercise.

Friend: You know I can’t fall asleep. I just toss and turn.

The hole in the bucket is not just a disease or mental issue that exists in other people. This is an issue that we all face which I call the self-perpetuating cycle. There is some bad habit or addiction that each of us deals with that holds us back from reaching our goals and dreams. Some irritating obsession that is the biggest obstacle to the happiness that we imagine. Let me tell you a personal story so it does not seem like I’m just talking smack about my friends and family.

When I was eighteen I was going through an intense rebellious stage. I was mad at teachers, parents, and society. I’m still dealing with these feelings to this day to be totally honest. I started experimenting with alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. Over the years, I have struggled with when is the right time to use these type of recreational activities. Let’s just say there’s been plenty of times where I did not make the right decisions. One thing I have learned though is the importance of honesty with myself.

Just last year I was going through a particularly tough time for reasons I won’t get into here. I decided it was time to go pick up some tobacco. I got back into the habit of smoking. At first, it was just at night before bed. Then it crept into after meals. My mind rationalized and justified multiple reasons why smoking tobacco was a good thing to do. I came up with excuses to explain why I needed the tobacco or why it was helping my situation. Deep down I knew why I quit smoking tobacco years before. It makes me feel like crap and I get into a bad habit that takes over my mind and my cycle of thought. The negative cycles that get set up in the mind for an obsession or bad habit then create their own justifications. My wacky mind will even go as far as creating reasons to get depressed so more medicine is required. Do you know what I am talking about?

It could be that you are someone who has never dealt with addiction. If so, you don’t need to read this. For the rest, let’s discuss the solution to the self-perpetuating cycle. Be honest with yourself. This is the path to freedom. The mistake may happen again, but if you are prepared with the cold truth you will be better prepared for the solution.

My personal realization is that I can’t buy tobacco. I’ll smoke the hell out of it until I’m sick and my throat hurts. If I am in a bad spot emotionally and I feel like doing it, I just know now what will happen. I’ll buy a ten to fourteen dollar bag of tobacco, then I’ll throw it away within three days before things get worse. Why waste fifteen dollars? It has become much easier to say no because I have become more honest with myself about the truth of the situation.

Now that I am writing about my personal story of making a stupid mistake over and over I am a bit embarrassed. However, I doubt I will ever make that mistake again. It will be impossible to trick myself again now that I have publically been honest with myself. Can you defeat your self-perpetuating cycle?

There are many more tactics and solutions that go along with fixing the hole in the bucket. Get a new bucket, for instance. Start fresh with new habits that are healthier. Get help from professionals or people that have dealt with similar issues. Incrementally wean yourself from your bad habit. Meditate. Exercise. Find an accountability partner.

There are many tools and options to change habits. In my experience, none of them will work until you are sincerely ready. Total commitment to brutal honesty about the problem is the primary solution.

Is there a hole in your bucket?

 

What is holding you back from reaching your success goals?​

Listen to the audio version read by Philip Frey:

What is holding you back from reaching your success goals?

I recently wrote myself a list of things that I see as major obstacles to reaching my success goals.

  • Not enough time
  • Not enough money
  • Bad habits
  • Bad health
  • Unproductive Mindset
  • Debt
  • Limiting Beliefs
  • Depression
  • Physical problems
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

I was pretty amazed at how quickly I was able to come up with three or more possible ideas for strategies to combat or overcome each of the obstacles on the first list. Here is an example of some ideas I had for the first item on the list. Just off the top of my head.

Not enough time:

  • stay up later
  • get up earlier
  • stacking-do two things at once
  • help from friend or family member
  • delegate
  • sacrifice something
  • change job
  • less TV or social media
  • move
  • quit a project or postpone

The huge realization I had as soon as I started the lists was that my success goal was not all that clearly defined. I wonder how often that is the case with folks who struggle to set and meet personal goals.

Ask yourself right now, do you have a clear vision of exactly what your success goal is? What does success mean to you? I also had to ask myself what type of success goals I am talking about. There are long term life goals and then there are short term goals and everything in between. Where to start?

When I was about 10 years old my dad found out that I had been totally slacking off in school, not doing any of my homework. I got in big trouble one day in class for not bringing in some paperwork and a variety of other infractions that added up to five or six checks next to my name on the chalkboard which meant that I had to go to the principle’s office. This was pretty scary at the time for me because although I was often in slight trouble before, but this was like going big time and becoming a full on “bad kid”. It all kind of worked out well though, because my dad took the bull by the horns and decided it was time to really make a difference in my life and his relationship with me.

My dad wrote up this two page long “punishment” explanation which included a period of time where I was grounded from fun stuff like playing outside and watching TV. I remember that part of it as being really horrible. The rest of the program he came up with consisted of us getting together once a week for breakfast, and me writing reports on a daily and weekly basis.

Looking back, I realize that his purpose in all this was to get me to really think about what mattered to me in life and to begin to be a conscious thinking individual as well as build our father and son bond.

He gave me these three important questions to answer on my daily “blog” style writings which was part of the program he created for me. After taking a ten or fifteen minute thinking “meditation”, I was supposed to write answers to these questions:

1. Who am I?

2. What am I doing with my life/time? or What do I want to do with my life/time?

3. Why am I doing these things? or  What is the purpose or reason for my decisions?

I remember being so frustrated at first, not understanding even what the heck he meant by these questions. Many days I just wrote humorous answers or silly stuff. The fact that I still remember this all so well just goes to show what an impression he made on me through this process. I really began to enjoy meeting with him every week, and I think over time I did gain an ability to think more introspectively about the things that matter to me and why.

The reason I told you this whole story is to highlight the importance of understanding what really matters and why. With the fundamental questions in place it becomes easier to approach the goals and your personal vision for success.

My journey has taught me that I feel best in life when I am serving a purpose that gives me a feeling of pride and satisfaction. In other words, its important to me that I am not wasting my time.

 

 What type of long term goal would satisfy my deeper need to feel a sense of meaning in life?

It makes a lot of sense to start with a long term goal. If I were hiking towards a far off mountain I could use that huge landmark as a guide, looking up from time to time. So lets call the long term goal the distant mountain. In the meantime, the shorter goals would be the nearby hillside or getting across this stream or whatever was in the path to the big mountain. The long term goal helps to define the short term goal. I want to hike to that big mountain. I want to feel that sense of pride and achievement that comes with reaching a goal. For me, helping others is creating an environment where others can better help themselves. So my distant mountain consists of being able to spend most of my time helping other people reach their goals. The hard part is figuring out how to make a living doing that and paying the bills, supporting the household and having some free time to relax or go on a trip with the family from time to time. 

 

I think I had some of this figured out when I was younger. Somewhere on my personal path as I grew up and became an adult I reached a point where I felt very confused and lost. It took me a while to remember where I was going and why. I think most people reach a point like this in life sometimes. Many times. Sometimes the fog is thick or the hillside is blocking the view of that far off mountain. At times like this, it makes sense to stop and “meditate”. To try and remember the reason for traveling. Sometimes it takes a little backtracking or even starting over.

What is really hard to remember in the low points is that there is a solution to every problem and a way around every obstacle. Sometimes we need help from a friend or a tool to climb or a boat to cross a river. There is a solution.

Here is my list of obstacles to reaching goals and some of the ideas I came up with in my brainstorming session to conquer the obstacles.  I recommend doing some “meditation”, making some lists, and overcoming some obstacles. I will keep providing every tool and idea I can come up with to help you. For more ideas and suggestions, check out the link to my podcast where I share personal stories and give more tips to improve your life and achieve your dreams.

Read the full list of tips for overcoming obstacles

The Scritch Show Podcast

Tips For Overcoming Obstacles

I’m not saying these are the end-all solutions. I was just surprised how quick I could brainstorm a long list of possibilities. As I re-read this list I find myself feeling more confident that there is indeed a solution for every problem.

List of Obstacles to Success Goals

  • Not enough time
  • Not enough money
  • Bad habits
  • Bad health
  • Unproductive Mindset
  • Debt
  • Limiting Beliefs
  • Depression
  • Physical problems
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

Some Possible Solutions to Obstacles

Not enough time:

  • stay up later
  • get up earlier
  • stacking
  • help from friend or family member
  • delegate
  • sacrifice something
  • change job
  • less TV or social meda
  • move
  • quit a project

Not Enough Money

  • Spend less
  • Track every penny spent
  • Smaller or more efficient car
  • Shopping LIst and Meal Plans
  • Sell things of value
  • Begin incremental Savings Plan
  • Get into new career or Job
  • Be patient, Scale down your ambitions
  • Plan carefully study accounting
  • Get help from someone

Bad Habits

  • Replace habits with healthier alternatives
  • Don’t buy the product that tempts you
  • Get help from someone who has kicked habit
  • Decrease intake incrementally, keep track
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Accountability partner
  • Admit the truth to yourself
  • Be open about the problem with family
  • Chart your progress on a calendar

Depression

  • Workout
  • Exercise
  • Talk to Loved Ones
  • Ask for Help
  • See a Professional
  • Small Goals, Small Achievements
  • Look At Wins, Put them where you can see them
  • Supplements, Herbs, Drugs
  • Take a Vacation
  • Get a Pet
  • Meditate
  • Listen to Music
  • Give something of Value
  • Help Others
  • Eat Healthy
  • Patience
  • Build a better Environment
  • Listen to motivational speaker
  • Get a new book