Success in Five F Words!

In 1997, I was at a pretty low point. Not rock-bottom-ready-to-commit-suicide low (that came later), but I was not very far away. I was jobless, I couldn’t land an interview, and while I wasn’t living with my parents, we weren’t making payments on our house and likely would have been homeless without their critical assistance. If it hadn’t been for charitable neighbors and the church we attended, I’m not sure we would have had food or diapers, and all three of our children were in diapers. It was truly a messy situation, no diaper pun intended.

The journey from there to today was full of interesting side trips, accidents and challenges and lots of victories large and small along the way. Throughout this journey I have received insight from religious leaders, mystics, teachers and children, books and movies galore. Some of those bits of inspiration have stayed with me longer than others, but five concepts have stayed with me long enough to have become pivotal in my life. They are the things that I choose to build each and every day of my life around. They are the Five F Words, and I believe that they have power to transform life.

Focus is where it all begins. When I was at my lowest points, I had no focus. When I am able to control my focus, everything works better. Long Term Focus and Short Term focus are both important. After all, it is one thing to look down the road and think about what I want to accomplish in the future. It is an entirely different thing to look at today and connect one thing that can be done in the next 5 to 15 minutes that can help me make progress toward that anticipated future. That is what Focus is all about, connecting the now to the desired future in actionable steps.

Fundamentals are basic activities performed repeatedly that form the foundation of success. Every outcome that can be focused on has fundamentals. Whether it is a sport like basketball, a skill like driving, or a project at work, in order to be successful in an area of effort, identifying the fundamentals and working on them regularly sets the stage for the success we desire to see. Whether we know it or not, all of us have already intuitively applied this aspect! Learning to walk, talk, read, all of these things are examples of identifying and working on the fundamentals.

Fine Tuning is the process of making tiny adjustments in the performance of the fundamentals that, over time, yield huge advantages in outcomes. The first time we become successful at something, it might be the result of fudnamentals and enthusiasm. However, if we want to be duplicate the success, over and over again, fine tuning is likely going to be a factor. Fine tuning is what makes the performance of the fundamentals seem effortless.

Faith is all about recognizing that it takes time to se results in any endeavor of significant effort. While it my be easy to see results early in the process as an individual works on the fundamentals, once we enter the fine tuning stage, clear and visible progress becomes more and more rare, often showing up only after long periods of concentrated work. And faith is what keeps us fine tuning the fundamentals in the face of those less frequently seen results. If Focus is the starting point, Faith is the energy that keeps people chasing progress day in and day out.

Facets are a recent growth for me in this framework, but they have provided a needed dimension of clarity. Life for all of us is made up of facets, aspects of life where we have expectations and responsibilities, where we impact and are impacted by others. Poor performance in one facet generally accompanies difficulty in others. Likewise, strong and conscientious effort in an facet can set the stage for simultaneous improvement across the board. They are all connected.

Since 1997, I have been applying this framework to my life, and it has helped things improve. Don’t get me wrong, an understanding of these ideas doesn’t change much. But using these ideas to identify gaps in my performance has helped me immensely. If you think this might work for you, feel free to use it! (For that matter, you are welcome to reach out and contact me if you would like some help going through the steps. Nothing like having a guide take us through unfamiliar territory right?). If not, we’ll, check out the next post. Maybe something there will be more entertaining or useful.

Go forth and conquer.

Breaking Up Ice

Recently in Utah, like many places across the United States, we have seen some magnificent storms roll in.  Last week, as the storms began to wane, I heard a radio report indicating that we had received as much snow in the month as we normally receive throughout the entire winter season and then some.  Along with the snow came shoveling, an activity which I have come to dread.  

On one particular night, my youngest son shoveled prior to my coming home and then together we shoveled again.  Shortly after that, the plow came along our street and deposited a small snow berm between our driveway and the street.  It was late, so my son and I looked at it, mentioned how glad we were that it wasn’t as deep as it could have been, and went to bed.

The next day, instead of digging up the berm, we just drove over it, packing it down and turning previously light and fluffy snow into hard pack.  over several days, this hard pack turned into a sheet of ice.  It was then that I realized that I had made an error, and I enlisted my son’s help in correcting the problem.

We took our two sturdiest shovels and some snow melt crystals and went to work.  And bone jarring work it was.  I took time to teach him the best techniques to break apart the ice sheet, now several inches thick.  The chunks broke apart in a somewhat satisfying display of manliness and brute strength.  After nearly an hour, with the ice diminished but not completely gone, we halted our work for lunch.

Now, several days later, I can’t help but think how much that experience is like so many other things in life.  I often find myself looking at tasks that seem easy, so easy that I put them off for later, only to realize that the best time to have taken care of them was immediately.  When postponed, easy tasks somehow become harder, more challenging, often needlessly so.  By postponing 15 minutes of easy work for another time, we sometimes make for ourselves hours of backbreaking work at another.  

In physical tasks this is easy to see, but it is also true in relationships.  A word of comfort or an apology postponed because it feels awkward may wind up inadvertently communicating disdain or indifference.  And then, the chance to offer support in the future may be summarily rebuffed or ignored. 

I don’t know what my son is learning from this little exercise.  I am learning two things.  The first is that the best time to take care of a problem to advantage of an opportunity is earlier rather than later.  The second is the importance of really good ice melt.