THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE NEWSLETTER – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2015
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING WITH THE SEINFELD STRATEGY
3. PRIORITIES AND THE ART OF PRUNING
4. 7 THINGS I LEARNED IN 7 YEARS OF READING, WRITING & LIVING
5. NOT RESISTING RESISTANCE
QUOTE OF THE NEW YEAR – RICHARD BACH & FW
Learning is remember what you already know.
Teaching is reminding others they know as well as you.
Doing is proving you can remember.
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
Happy New Year, Dear Friends…
May your beginning to 2015 be a joyous one! Since New Year’s is time to reflect on pasts and futures by playing with resolutions, I thought I’d share four essays that make sense to me – and offer you five emails I make sure to open and read every day. In a way, this is a personal version of the ‘Seinfeld Strategy.’
The hardest thing I’ve found about growing into the person I hope to be is remembering that’s what I mean to do. And since I hope to grow into a good, humble and loving person, I use reminders that come from a number of spiritual traditions, all of which I support and admire. In no particular order…
…the first is doing the daily workbook for ‘A Course in Miracles’ which my friend Dean introduced me to in 1976. It’s made up of 365 lessons, one for each day of the year, and I’ve now repeated this workbook for 38 years – half my life. Clearly it is not new content that I’m looking for, but reminding of what I already know and so easily forget in the hubbub of daily life…
…the second is a daily message from Hazrat Inayat Khan with commentary by his son, Pir Vilayat Khan. They brought the Sufi message and traditions to Europe and the US from their Persian roots. I like to think of then as The Interfaith Spreader of Islam…
…the third is ‘The Daily Good’ sent out by a committed group of volunteers since 1998, and it helps me remember how much good is happening each day, every day…
…fourth is ‘Tricycle Magazine’s Daily Dharma’ reminder of how much more my compassion for all living beings can grow…
…and fifth is ‘A Network for Grateful Living’ which supports the practice of grateful living as a global ethic, inspired by the teachings of Br. David Steindl-Rast and colleagues.
If you need help remembering all you mean to be like old FW, I recommend subscribing to these emails like this so you read them daily, too.
Much love, FW
2. HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING WITH THE SEINFELD STRATEGY
BY JAMES CLEAR, JAMESCLEAR.COM, DECEMBER 31, 2014
“But really, all we need is dedication to small, manageable tasks. Mastery follows consistency.” -James Clear
Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all-time.
He is regarded as one of the “Top 100 Comedians of All–Time” by Comedy Central. He was also the co–creator and co–writer of Seinfeld, the long–running sitcom which has received numerous awards and was claimed to have the “Top TV Episode of All–Time” as rated by TV Guide.
According to Forbes magazine, Seinfeld reached his peak in earnings when he made $267 million dollars in 1998. (Yes, that was in one year. No, that’s not a typo.) A full 10 years later, in 2008, Seinfeld was still pulling in a cool $85 million per year.
By almost any measure of wealth, popularity, and critical acclaim, Jerry Seinfeld is among the most successful comedians, writers, and actors of his generation.
However, what is most impressive about Seinfeld’s career isn’t the awards, the earnings, or the special moments — it’s the remarkable consistency of it all. Show after show, year after year, he performs, creates, and entertains at an incredibly high standard. Jerry Seinfeld produces with a level of consistency that most of us wish we could bring to our daily work.
Compare his results to where you and I often find ourselves. We want to create, but struggle to do so. We want to exercise, but fail to find motivation. Wanting to achieve our goals, but — for some reason or another — we still procrastinate on them.
What’s the difference? What strategies does Jerry Seinfeld use to beat procrastination and consistently produce quality work? What does he do each day that most people don’t?
I’m not sure about all of his strategies, but I recently discovered a story that revealed one of the secrets behind Seinfeld’s incredible productivity, performance, and consistency.
Let’s talk about that what he does and how you can use the “Seinfeld Strategy” to eliminate procrastination and actually achieve your goals.
THE ”SEINFELD STRATEGY”
Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. In an interview onLifehacker, Isaac shared what happened when he caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”
Here’s how Isaac described the interaction with Seinfeld…
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
You’ll notice that Seinfeld didn’t say a single thing about results.
It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.”
And that’s one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld’s remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on “not breaking the chain.”
Let’s talk about how you can use the Seinfeld Strategy in your life…
HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING
Top performers in every field — athletes, musicians, CEOs, artists — they are all more consistent than their peers. They show up and deliver day after day while everyone else gets bogged down with the urgencies of daily life and fights a constant battle between procrastination and motivation.
While most people get demotivated and off–track after a bad performance, a bad workout, or simply a bad day at work, top performers settle right back into their pattern the next day.
The Seinfeld Strategy works because it helps to take the focus off of each individual performance and puts the emphasis on the process instead. It’s not about how you feel, how inspired you are, or how brilliant your work is that day. Instead, it’s just about “not breaking the chain.”
All you have to do to apply this strategy to your own life is pick up a calendar (here’s an inexpensive one) and start your chain.
A WORD OF WARNING
There is one caveat with the Seinfeld Strategy. You need to pick a task that is meaningful enough to make a difference, but simple enough that you can get it done.
It would be wonderful if you could write 10 pages a day for your book, but that’s not a sustainable chain to build. Similarly, it sounds great in theory to be able to deadlift like a maniac every day, but in practice you’ll probably be overtrained and burnt out.
So step one is to choose a task that is simple enough to be sustainable. At the same time, you have to make sure that your actions are meaningful enough to matter.
For example, researching good jokes each day is simple, but you’re never going to write a joke by merely researching. That’s why the process of writing is a better choice. Writing can actually produce a meaningful result, even when it’s done in small doses.
Similarly, doing 10 pushups per day could be simple and meaningful depending on your level of fitness. It will actually make you stronger. Meanwhile, reading a fitness book each day is simple, but it won’t actually get you in better shape.
Choose tasks that are simple to maintain and capable of producing the outcome you want.
Another way of saying this is to focus on actions and not motions, which is a concept that I explained in this article: The Mistake That Smart People Make
MASTERY FOLLOWS CONSISTENCY
The central question that ties our community together — and what I try to write about every Monday and Thursday — is “how do you live a healthy life?” This includes not merely nutrition and exercise, but also exploration and adventure, art and creativity, and connection and community.
But no matter what topic we’re talking about, they all require consistency. No matter what your definition is of a “healthy life,” you’ll have to battle procrastination to make it a reality. Hopefully, the Seinfeld Strategy helps to put that battle in perspective.
Don’t break the chain on your workouts and you’ll find that you get fit rather quickly.
Don’t break the chain in your business and you’ll find that results come much faster.
Don’t break the chain in your artistic pursuits and you’ll find that you will produce creative work on a regular basis.
So often, we assume that excellence requires a monumental effort and that our lofty goals demand incredible doses of willpower and motivation. But really, all we need is dedication to small, manageable tasks. Mastery follows consistency.
For the last eight months I’ve written a new article every Monday and Thursday without missing a beat. Simply setting a schedule has helped me keep that pace and I plan to keep it as we move forward.
But I also want to graduate my writing habits to the next level and start writing 1,000 words each day. Some of those words will turn into books and courses, and some of will continue to be my Monday and Thursday posts.
My “1,000–words–per–day” chain is currently at 4. (I made it to 5 last week before breaking it for a day.)
You may have a couple false starts yourself, but eventually I’m hoping that both you and I can simply tell ourselves, “Don’t break the chain.”
This article is reprinted with permission. The article originally appeared on jamesclear.com. The author James Clear writes about using behavioral science to master your habits and improve your mental and physical health.
3. PRIORITIES AND THE ART OF PRUNING
BY JAMES CLEAR, JAMES CLEAR.COM, DECEMBER 11, 2014
Gardeners are good at nurturing, and they have a great quality of patience, they’re tender. They have to be persistent. -Ralph Fiennes
What do you do when you have too many ideas and not enough time? Or similarly, what about when you have too many tasks and not enough energy?
As an entrepreneur, I feel like I’ve been battling this issue for awhile. There is always another opportunity to chase or a new product idea that sounds exciting. For a long time, I felt guilty about ignoring good ideas that came my way and so I kept adding more to my to-do list.
However, during a recent conversation with Travis Dommert, I learned about a new strategy for dealing with the issue of having too many ideas and projects.
It all comes down to treating your life like a rose bush.
Let me explain what Travis taught me…
IDEAS ARE LIKE ROSE BUDS
As a rose bush grows it creates more buds than it can sustain. If you talk to an experienced gardener, they will tell you that rose bushes need to be pruned to bring out the best in both their appearance and their performance.
You see, a rose bush isn’t like a tree. It can’t grow wider and taller each year. And that means if you never trim away some of the buds, then the bush will eventually exhaust itself and die. There are only so many resources to go around. And if you really want a rose bush to flourish, then it needs to be trimmed down not just once, but each year. 
Ideas are like rose bushes: they need to be consistently pruned and trimmed down. And just like a rose bush, pruning away ideas — even if they have potential — allows the remaining ideas to fully blossom.
Just like the rose bush, we face constraints in our lives. We have a limited amount of energy and willpower to apply each day. It’s natural for new ideas and projects to come into our life — just like it’s natural for a rose bush to add new buds — but we have to prune things away before we exhaust ourselves.
In other words: new growth is natural and it’s normal for tasks and ideas to creep into your life, but full growth and optimal living requires pruning.
WE ALL NEED TO CUT GOOD BRANCHES
I like the rose bush analogy because it brings up something that is often lost in most conversations about productivity and simplicity: if you want to reach your full potential, you have to cut out ideas and tasks that are good, but not great.
In my experience, this is really hard to do.
- If you’re building a business, maybe you have 3 product lines that are profitable. Your business might grow by 5x if you focus on all three, but which product line will grow by 500x if you put all of your energy into it?
- If you’re training in the gym, there are all sorts of exercises that could make you stronger. But which two or three exercises will build a foundation of strength better than anything else?
- If you’re thinking about the relationships in your life, there are dozens of people that you are connected to in some way. But which people bring energy into your life and which ones suck energy out of it?
Most rose buds could grow if they are given the chance. In other words, most buds are like a good idea: they have potential. But in order for the entire bush to flourish and live a healthy life, you have to choose the ones with the most potential and cut the rest.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Gardener and writer Elizabeth Roth says, “Roses that are left unpruned can become a tangled mess of old and new canes all competing for air and light.” 
We can say the same thing about our lives. A life left unpruned can become a twisted knot of ideas, tasks, and projects competing for your limited time and resources. If you don’t prune some of the branches from your life, the important ones will never flourish.
This article is reprinted with permission. The article originally appeared on jamesclear.com. The author, James Clear, writes about using behavioral science to master habits and improve mental and physical health.
4. 7 THINGS I LEARNED IN 7 YEARS OF READING, WRITING & LIVING
BY MARIA POPOVA, BRAIN-PICKINGS, OCTOBER 23, 2013
HOW TO KEEP THE CENTER SOLID AS YOU CONTINUE TO EVOLVE.
On October 23, 2006, I sent a short email to a few friends at work — one of the four jobs I held while paying my way through college — with the subject line “brain pickings,” announcing my intention to start a weekly digest featuring five stimulating things to learn about each week, from a breakthrough in neuroscience to a timeless piece of poetry. “It should take no more than 4 minutes (hopefully much less) to read,” I promised. This was the inception of Brain Pickings. At the time, I neither planned nor anticipated that this tiny experiment would one day be included in the Library of Congress digital archive of “materials of historical importance” and the few friends would become millions of monthly readers all over the world, ranging from the Dutch high school student who wrote to me this morning to my 77-year-old grandmother in Bulgaria to the person in Wisconsin who mailed me strudel last week. (Thank you!) Above all, I had no idea that in the seven years to follow, this labor of love would become my greatest joy and most profound source of personal growth, my life and my living, my sense of purpose, my center. (For the curious, more on the origin story here.)
Looking back today on the thousands of hours I’ve spent researching and writing Brain Pickings and the countless collective hours of readership it has germinated — a smile-inducing failure on the four-minute promise — I choke up with gratitude for the privilege of this journey, for its endless rewards of heart, mind and spirit, and for all the choices along the way that made it possible. I’m often asked to offer advice to young people who are just beginning their own voyages of self-discovery, or those reorienting their calling at any stage of life, and though I feel utterly unqualified to give “advice” in that omniscient, universally wise sense the word implies, here are seven things I’ve learned in seven years of making those choices, of integrating “work” and life in such inextricable fusion, and in chronicling this journey of heart, mind and spirit — a journey that took, for whatever blessed and humbling reason, so many others along for the ride. I share these here not because they apply to every life and offer some sort of blueprint to existence, but in the hope that they might benefit your own journey in some small way, bring you closer to your own center, or even simply invite you to reflect on your own sense of purpose.
1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone.
As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
3. Be generous.
Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
4. Build pockets of stillness into your life.
Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
5. When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.
Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.”
This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
Read the full article: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/10/23/7-lessons-from-7-years/
5. NOT RESISTING RESISTANCE
BY PETER RUSSELL, AWAKIN.ORG, DECEMBER 30, 2014
The building where I used to run a meditation group was on the same street as a fire station; one could almost guarantee that sometime during the meditation a fire engine would come rushing past, sirens wailing. Not surprisingly, people would afterwards complain: “How could I meditate with that going on?”
How often have we felt something similar? There’s an unspoken assumption that the mind can only become quiet if the world around is quiet. We imagine the ideal meditation setting to be somewhere far from the madding crowd—a retreat deep in a forest, a peaceful chapel, or the quiet of one’s own bedroom, perhaps. It is much harder for the mind to settle down in a noisy environment. Or is it?
I suggested to the group that the next time a fire engine came blasting by they look within and explore whether the sound really was that disturbing? After the following meditation, a participant reported how the noise no longer seemed a problem; it was there, but it didn’t disturb her. The disturbance, she realized, came not from the sound itself, but from wishing it weren’t there.
When we accept things as they are, “go with the flow,” there is ease. This is our natural state of mind — content and relaxed. Dis-content arises when we resist our experience. Our natural state of ease becomes veiled by a self-created discontent.
Thus, we can return to a more peaceful state of mind by letting go of our attachments as to how our experience ought to be and accept it as it is.
Upon hearing this, people often ask: Does this mean I should accept injustice and cruelty, the homeless sleeping on the streets, or the recalcitrant attitude of my partner? Of course not. There are numerous situations that we should not tolerate, and each, in our own way, will be called to do what we can to improve the world. “Accepting our experience as it is” means just that; accepting our experience in the moment. If we are feeling frustrated, angry, or indignant, accept that feeling. Don’t resist it, or wish it weren’t there; but let it in, become interested in how it feels.
Even more valuably, we can explore the resistance itself. It can be quite subtle, and not easily noticed at first. So I find it useful to simply pause and ask: “Is there any sense of resistance that I am not noticing?” And gently wait. I may then become aware of some resentment towards my experience, wishing it were different, or perhaps just a sense of tension or contraction in my being. Then rather than focusing on whatever I may have been resisting, I turn my attention to the resistance itself, opening to this aspect of “what is.”
Rather than dividing experience into two parts—the experience in the moment, and thoughts and judgments about that experience—any resistance is now included as part of the present moment. Not resisting the resistance, the veil of discontent dissolves, and I return to a more relaxed, easeful state of mind.
That is what is meant by a quiet mind. Not an empty mind. We are aware of the world just as before. Aware of sounds, sensations, thoughts and feelings. We are simply allowing our experience to be as it is. Not wishing for something different, not creating unnecessary discontent.
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