Saturday, October 31, 2009

Attractiion versus Action

If you read The Secret ] by Rhonda Byrne, the first step in the law of attraction is to decide what you really want and ask for it. In Awaken The Giant Within, Anthony Robbins talks about making committed decisions and taking action on them. While they agree on deciding what you want, Byrne focuses next on believing what you want and while Robbins contends that you haven't really made a decision until you take action on it. Can both be right?

My friend Shawn has a purebred dog born to run. Macy can run long, hard and fast, and loves to do it. Last week, however, she came back from a run with a limp. Thankfully, the injury wasn't serious and she's working her way up to speed again. A dog can't run on three legs. You can't run on one leg. Each leg is there for a reason.

In 2001, Darren LaCroix won the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. In a recent blog article, he talks about this. He did everything he needed to do both in actions and in terms of visualizing what he wanted. He was running on both legs. See his blog.

Even a casual glance at Anthony Robbins shows that he believes in what he wants and has a positive attitude towards his projects..It is equally clear that Rhonda Byrne took huge action to turn her vision into a film.

While it may be possible to succeed with just effort or just the law of attraction, the chances are better and results come faster if you pursue both. Either path starts wit a decision, and we'll discuss making decisions next.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leveraging Facebook with Groups

We all have events in our lies we'd like to invite friends to attend -- anytning from public programs to club meetings to the kids' soccer games. Facebook groups offer a way to make our friends aware of these events easily and noninvasively. Here's how to do so with an existing Facebook group:

First, an administrator should post the meeting as an event on the group's wall. Describe the event in a way that would be of value to members and outsiders alike. From there, you can send the noticeof the meeting out to all members of the group. This may seem almost redundant since it isn't much different from sending an email to those same people. hink of it as a necessary predecessor to the next step.

With the invitation posted, members can like, coment, or share it. Any of these gets a similar note onto the wall of all rheir friends. This is the payback for posting the event. Even if a group has only a dozen members, an average person on facebook has 120 friends. This has the potential to increase the visibility of the event by an order of magnitude if even one perosn does so -- two orders of magnigude if everyone does.

Of course there will be overlap, and of course most of the people reached will be too far away or not interested in the event. Eve so, the message gets out with almost no effort. Maybe more people will ttend the event. Maybe some will join the Facebook group. Mabe someone will talk to someone else. In the worse case, it makes your interest a bit moevisible to people who have an interest in you. Most organizations would take any one of these as long as itis free, which it is.

Try promoting your events this way and see what happens. It's just common sense.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review of Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book ofers the most direct and structured approach to time and stress management that I have ever encountered. It offers a system for managing actions through lists that can be impemented on everything from paper to a PDA. I like the way the book provides a structure for thinking about what you do. In my opinion, the closer I come to a literal implementation of the system, the better it works.

I like the idea of getting everything you have to do, everything you should do, and everything you might want to do into an external trusted system. The framework for this external system is implementation free -- how you keep and manage the lists does not matter. The approach makes a good case for tracking physical actions rather than vague "to do" items

A key idea I like is recording phyciscal actions by context, where context covers the location or equipment needed to perform the action. Calls, at computer, at home, at office and waiting for are good examples. This structure eliminates the need to consider an action when context is inappropriate. For example. a list of calls to make is unimportant if I no phone is available.

Years after my first cotnact with the book, I still apply its ideas many times every day.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Delaware Planning Commission October 7 2009

Delaware Planning Commission October 7 2009

Perkins Observatory supporters were among an overflow crowd attending the Delaware Planning Commission on October 7 to discuss issues on a development project proposed to be adjacent to the Observatory. Over a period of three hours, the Commission heard the developer's concept plan then took comments and questions from the audience. The developer provided an overview of building on the 9 holes of the golf course fronting US 23 while expressing hopes to satisfy the concerns of the Observatory, Methesco, and the neighboring community. Everyone, including the developer, recognized he
Observatory for the treasure it is and desired to keep the Observatory viable.

Brad Hoehne, Tom Burns, Don Stevens, Bill Hurley, Rob Lancia, Charles Biro, Dan Benway, Bill Hurley and Bob Harmon all spoke directly to the issues the Observatory would face. he biggest of these issues is proximity. Bob Harmon expressed that expressed that concern quantitatively, explaining that the
current proposal being four times closer would have sixteen times the impact. Other supporters present but not speaking included Charlie Sigrist, Bill Burton, Gary McCool, Rachel Swetnam, and Jay Elkes. A group of OWU students was also present and spoke on behalf or the Observatory.

Local residents also expressed concerns. Some were concerned about property values. Others expressed concerns about the lack of infrastructure (fire, water, etc.) the development would need. One made a compelling case that the city wold be better served by focusing this sort of effort closer to the
center of town. Development is further complicated because of jurisdictional issues -- the property touches on three townships in addition to the city of Delaware.

The Commission meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 PM in the Delaware City Council Chamber. In the end, the City Council will decide the fate of the proposal. No immediate decisions are expected.For further discussion, please visit the Perkins Observatory Facebook page

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sanity Check Your Big Decisions

The bigger the decision you need to make, the more likely it is that you should take a sanity check. A sanity check is a simple attempt to verify that something makes sense without going through a detailed process that offers certainty. Be patient with the mathematical examples below. There are other applications.

One place where this strategy comes in handy is a multiple choice question on a timed test. Without doing the math, which of the answers to the following problem can you dismiss?


a 2564688
b 2802154
c 2802948
d 2973168

Answer d is too large because it is more than 2856*1000 =2856000 which can be done in your head. If you estimate taking away 10% of that as 26..... it is clear that answer a is too small. Finally, looking at the units digit 6*8 comes out 8 meaning answer b is wrong. Of the choices offered only c could be correct.

There is a mathematical magic trick where you ask a person to calculate the cube of any two digit number and tell you only the result. In less time than it rakes him to multiply the numbers together, you announce the original number. Cube root calculation is not involved.

One of my favorite places is Perkins Observatory, the heart of which has a large sheet metal dome. As we planned an exhibit on large numbers someone asked if a billion grains of rice could fit in the dome or not. Once we realized that billion items make up a cube 1000 by 1000 by 1000 and that 1 cm * 1000= 10 meters, a cube 10 meters on a side would hold a billion items 1 cm on a side. Our very large dome could do that, so a billion grains of rice would fit with room to spare.

This really can work on much more difficult problems. After NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope they discovered a serious flaw in the shape of the mirror. Since the mirror was designed to work in 0g space, a precise optical test would have cost a fortune. Since the smoothness of the surface was extremely good they concluded the expensive test for shape wasn't needed.

Fortunately the project team was able to sendvup an adaptive camera, basically a corrective lens analagous to a pair of glasses, to save a significant portion of the project. It wasn't cheap but it avoided a disaster.

The footnote here, something the project managers could not imagine, is that the mirror was so far off that a graduate student with simple tools would easily have seen it. Sometimes a sanity check us far more useful than a magic trick.

Sanity checks are not limited to math and physics problems. If you can make reasonable assumptions about your expectations, those assumptions provide the basis for the bounds you define. How does this apply to issues in your life?

Practice estimating upper and lower limits for problems that face you. Sometimes an approximate answer will save a lot.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review of On Writng by Stephen King

On Writing On Writing by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Learn from those who do, and when it comes to writing there are few who do more effectively than Stephen King. part bioraphy, part tutorial on the craft of writing, the book offers advice on writing that a potential author would find very helpful. The points he makes are clearly demonstrated with actual examples.

Since I didn't read this for teh biographical pieces, I found the material on writing itself more intersting and insightful. I didn't find anything unexpected in the material, but the book nicely summarizes writing as a job. You may want to do it or not, but the job itself is clearly descrbed.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Perkins Observtory News Update

One of my favorite places in the world, Perkins Observatory, is being threatened by a project currently being considered by the Delaware (Ohio) Planning Commission.  To be fair, nobody is trying to actively harm the Observatory or its program. A developer wants to turn  a portion of the golf course into housing and a big box department store. While Perkins attracts tens of thousands each year, it is difficult or impossible to compete with the plan based purely on a short term cost / benefit analysis. Perkins measures its success in lives impacted and the Planning Commission would be wise to take this into account.

Start with Christopher Kirchoff, who showed up as a volunteer High School Student and has gone on to many contributions at NASA including a role in the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Erin Shea, another High School volunteer, is now doing graduate work at MIT. Finally, Rebecca Olson has moved from her volunteer days to working at the U.S. Bureau of the Census. With all the opportunities these people could have chosen from, they all volunteered at Perkins while in High School.

Each time Ohio Wesleyan hosts High School Seniors, they are shown the Observatory as something no other school of its size can compare with. In the Observatory's 86 years, there's no record of how many ended up attending Ohio Wesleyan in whole or part because of the Observatory. In years to come, the same opportunity will either be offered to coming generations of students or be unavailable as a result of this decision.

The lights from the store and the housing would end the night time programs Perkins Observatory currently offers. As Delaware contemplates its growth, the Planning Commission needs to take into account that the beautiful old building on the south side of town is home to an institution that is historic, priceless, irreplaceable and fragile.

For more information, check out the following:

Observatory website:

Observatory Facebook Page:

If you are a Facebook member, consider joining the Perkins Observatory  group. Share your story on the Faceook Wall.

Virtual tour:

The Delaware Planning Commission is expected to discuss the current development proposal at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 7 (Wednesday) at City Hall, just south of the intersection of Sandusky and Winter Street on Sandusky.

Attend if you can -- if not, pass this message on to others.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Scene of a Decision

Sometimes even an idea you completely accept is more difficult to practice than you would like. Practice what you preach is somehing we hear a lot precisely because it can be so hard to do.

This time, the true peacher was Anthony Robbins when he said "never leave the scene of a decision without taking some action to implement it." I first heard this advice several years ago and I try to live by it, but sometimes the world arranges things to remind me of my principles. This morning was one such instance.

Early this morning, I realized that the laundry in the hamper would take at least two loads. I realized it would need to be a laundry day and reached for a noe pad to put it on my action list -- another practice I try to follow. A moment later, the current reached my psychological light bulb. I was at the scene of a decision and ptting the decision onto a list wasn't really taking action to implement it. My two principles were having a tug of war, and I was the rope.

When Robbins offered his advice, the context I picked up on was projects with others. Getting the commitment on paper is often vital, but the real payoff comes if you can take a physical action beyond that. This morning's realization was that the relaionship between decision and action is true even if I am making a commitment to myself. Hopefully, this will make me more aware that I've made a decision and more likely to take action on it.

I responded by scooping up the clothes and putting the first load into the wash. My goal, and the lesson here, is to put in enough action that the desired result is harder to stop. As I type this, one load is in the wash and the other is drying.

Over the next day or two, challenge yorself to be aware of decisions as they are made and turn that voice in the back of your brain into a coach. What can you do to put your decision into action?