Mind Over Aging

“It’s a disgrace in this life when the soul surrenders first while the body refuses to.” —MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.29(*)

I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I began this writing exercise, and indeed, one of the reasons I do Ask Leo!, is to keep my mind as sharp and active as possible as I age. To force me to reflect, focus, think deeply, and perhaps as a side effect improve my writing skills along the way.

I’ve taken, and continue to take, steps to try to improve the chances my body will last, but there’s no doubting that as I age its capabilities will slowly wane.

I’d prefer my mind not follow the same path.

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What I Learned Last Week

(First in a series… I hope.)

Josh Spector of 10 Ideas Worth Sharing asked in his Facebook group “What question would you like to see everybody in this group answer?” – My response? “What did you learn last week?”

Now, of course, I feel like I have to have an answer. In fact, given my recent focus on learning every day, it seems like something I should consider answering every week, even if only for myself.

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When Love is Seen as Hate

In the last many months we’ve heard the word “hate” used liberally, often to describe someone who happens to disagree with a position taken on polarizing issue.

We want simple answers to complex problems.

I’m all about the digital, but this is a case where trying to think in binary is seriously off the mark.

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My Top 5 Books for 2016

I was surprised to find that according to GoodReads, I’ve read over 30 books this year. Honestly, that’s a higher number than I expected. I’ll call a couple of them “also-rans”, meaning I might have bailed early, or given them the “scanning” rather than “reading” treatment, but even so – that the number of “real reads” is even around 25 is gratifying.

So, if Bill can do it, so can I: here are the top five books I found most valuable this year.

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For Suspension of Disbelief Dial 555-1234

In the North American Numbering Plan, telephone numbers all consist of a 3 digit area code, a 3 digit office code (or exchange), and a 4 digit station number. When written the 3 components are typically separated by dashes, or in some cases periods – for example 206-965-9805.

To prevent real telephone numbers from appearing where they perhaps shouldn’t, phone numbers in the range 555-0100 through 0199 are reserved for “fictional” numbers. (Most assume that the entire 555 office code is so reserved, but apparently not.) What this means is that in books, movies or television when a phone number is presented it’s typically a 555 number.

Knowing this, the use of a 555 number immediately breaks suspension of disbelief for many. “Oh, yeah. We’re watching a movie.”

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Grateful as F**k

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. – Brene Brown

Inspired a bit by this post from Erika Napoletano (not the self-doubt part, the “where I’ve been focusing” part), I’ve realized that my writing has taken on not so much a dark tone, but a serious, contemplative, and occasionally “here’s what’s wrong with the world” kind of tone. While those are important perspectives, and I’ll certainly return to them, I also need to bring balance to my thinking.

Heck, gratitude is what part of this exercise is all about.

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If You Were Taught What They Were Taught…

“If you grew up where they grew up, and you were taught what they were taught, you would believe what they believe” – Anon(1)

I’ve used this quote before. Back then I said “If more people understood and accepted that, fewer people would die before their time.”

For some reason in recent weeks my thoughts have been returning to that quote.

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The Illusion of Knowledge

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”(1)

The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there’s a problem to be solved. It’s true for everything from personal issues to the trivial problems of daily living to the gigantic questions of our time. You can’t fix a problem you don’t know you have.

Particularly of late, knowledge itself – or rather the illusion of knowledge – is a problem.

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Exercise is Work. Work? Now That’s Fun!

Several years ago in a business meeting of some sort the topic of health came up. The conversation, as it so often does, circled around to the topic of the importance of regular exercise.

The stereotype of a computer geek spending all of his or her time at a desk is not that far from reality, and several of us in the room met the criteria. Our response? “Exercise is work! It’s our [desk bound] work that’s actually fun.”.

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You Are Not Your Customer

A few days ago I wrote about how Everyone is Not Your Customer – an argument for focussing your efforts on some subset of “the world” so as to better target your message and as a result get a better response.

At the other end of the spectrum is a lesson that’s proven time and time again exceptionally difficult for most entrepreneurs to learn.

Your customers aren’t like you.

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The Power of Profanity

I don’t use profanity a lot, but I’m not averse to it. It has its place. Like any use of words it can make a statement or idea more impactful.

Unfortunately it can also detract, either when used inappropriately, or when taken so.

Profanity, in and of itself, does not offend me. But it does offend some.

And, to be honest, I think that’s pretty sad.

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Bagpipes in the Rain

Memories are funny things. Current research indicates that they’re exceptionally fallible and subject to change over time for a variety of reasons. To my way of thinking the further they deviate from actual events, the less of a “memory” they are.

Some of my earliest memories, for example, are what I’ll call indirect memories: memories of a photograph posing as a memory of the actual event.

I do have one specific memory that may qualify as one of my earliest. I say “may”, because it might have been formed when I was somewhere around 3, or 5 years old, or maybe as old as 18. I believe it to be a “real” memory because it involves some things that a photograph can’t capture: sounds and smells.

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Everyone is Not Your Customer

In a recent Ask Leo! on Business post I discussed several reasons that people avoid writing content for their websites. One of those reasons I’ll refer to here as the fear of not being able to please everyone.

The problem is simply failing to realize that everyone is not your customer.

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We Get Our Information From Headlines

This 2014 article from The Washington Post says it all: Americans read headlines. And not much else. This 2013 post on Slate is entertaining and informative, if you read it all the way through, which apparently you won’t: You Won’t Finish This Article.

As a writer who tries to inform and educate, it’s frustrating. As a reader, it’s completely understandable.

And as a man of a certain age, I’ll also claim that it’s nothing new.

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