In Search of Remarkable, and the Importance of Discipline

On Thanksgiving Day, I wrote an article about gratitude and giving thanks.

It was good, but in the end I chose not to publish it because it was just another Thanksgiving article about giving thanks amidst a sea of Thanksgiving articles that filled up inboxes and newsfeeds everywhere.

It frustrated me to work hard on something that had little originality (this article has been equally difficult to write), and it got me thinking about what it means to stand out. Sure, I can publish a blog post once a week, but to write something worth sharing, or as Seth Godin puts it, remarkable? How do I do that?

Remarkable doesn’t mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to me. Am I going to make a remark about it? If not, then you’re average, and average is for losers.  – Seth Godin

Hit the Pause Button Please

Don’t worry, I don’t think I’m a loser, but right now I’m feeling very unremarkable. A bit of a mess, actually.

I’m not sleeping much or working out. I’m irritable and foggy, unproductive, and uncreative. My house is a disaster, my kids stay up too late and watch too much television.

But I’m perfectly fine with all this because that’s life with a newborn. You hit the pause button. It’s temporary, of course, and soon enough, I’ll be pressing play and getting my groove back.

The good thing about my little time out is that I have a chance to think about my life, and this blog in particular. I love working on it. I write on holidays and vacations. I write when I’m traveling or tired or sick. Heck, I even wrote the day I went into labor. I’ve committed to this project for 18 months, and it continues to excite and inspire me every day.

So, in my desire to get serious about growing Hackerella in 2016, I can’t help but wonder whether or not I’m doing the right things or picking the right topics. Am I too broad? Too wordy? Too timid? Too generic? Am I spending too little time on marketing or headlines or design? To much time on challenges? Should I be thinking about monetization? If so, how? And, most importantly, how do I create something remarkable?

I don’t have answers to most of these questions and I have more ideas than I know what to do with. That’s why this is the month (December is, after all, the perfect time to think about all of the ways next year will be different and awesome) when I figure out what direction to take it.

Discipline Equals Freedom (Or Must vs. Should)

In the movie Up, there’s a very funny talking dog named Dug who, every time he sees a squirrel, stops what he’s doing and yells “Squirrel!”  You can watch clip here.

 

We all deal with squirrels every day. We get distracted by social media, phone calls, random thoughts, or fighting kids. Maybe we get thrown off track by bad habits or a lack of planning. “Squirrel!” we exclaim as we turn our attention to said distraction, and all of a sudden, we can’t remember what we were working on.

Now that I’m a mom of three (still wrapping my head around that one), it’s not enough to become clear on what to focus on; I also have to define what routines and processes need to be put into place so that I have the physical and mental energy to do the work.

Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL and author of Extreme Ownership, has a personal motto which I quite like: discipline equals freedom. He tells Business Insider:

We had standard operating procedures for everything that we did… and the military’s not always like that.

The more strict we were with our standard operating procedures, the more freedom we actually had to operate faster and more efficiently because everyone knew what to do.

I love that.

I want to lay out some standard operating procedures, where everyone has their set of things that must get done. I say must because it’s a word that offers no excuse or choice to make:

I must go to the gym every day. I must plan my meals in advance so that I eat healthy. I must wake up every morning to write or work or meditate. The kids must make their own beds every morning.

Compare it with the word should:

I should go to the gym every day. I should plan my meals in advance so I eat healthy. I should wake up every morning to write or work or meditate. The kids should make their own beds every morning.

See the difference? Should is a well intentioned word, but there’s no discipline behind it. With should, there’s a choice, an out.

shoulds

I think that we can all benefit from adding some musts into our daily lives. It takes a lot of energy to be creative, focused, and positive, energy that’s not there if it’s spent it making little decisions about what to do, how to do it or whether or not to do it.

My plan is not to turn my household into a full-fledged elite military operation. While I do want to streamline, automate and routinize as much as possible (which will require a fair amount of self discipline), I’ll be starting simple and small, and building from there.

I don’t know that I’ll find answers to all of my questions in 30 days, but I do look forward to my continued “messy” and “must-free” down time with my son where I can reflect, brainstorm, question, journal, organize, plan and begin to lay a foundation for what I intend to make a remarkable 2016!

P.S. If you want to read great Thanksgiving articles about giving thanks, I highly recommend this short blog post by James Clear, as well as this New York Times article on choosing to be grateful.

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