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Get it done when life gets tough: Advice from Julie A Fast

By | authors, books, coaches, MIND | 4 Comments
Julie A Fast, Best Selling Author, Speaker, Columnist and Consultant

Julie A Fast, Best Selling Author, Speaker, Columnist and Consultant

I recently interviewed Julie A. Fast, a five time bestselling author, mental health in the workplace advocate, professional speaker and ePublishing pioneer. Julie has sold over 300,000 books, created her own radio show, was recently interviewed for People Magazine and was the original consultant for Claire Danes on the Showtime series Homeland. Julie does all of this while living with an illness that challenges and limits her work ability.

Julie’s bestselling book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track shares the secrets of her success. I asked Julie, “How can we create a life where we are able to get things done even when life gets tough?” Her provocative and transformative answers changed the way I view my own work and I believe they can do the same for you.

There are people in life who can profoundly change the way we approach personal and professional challenges in a single conversation. Julie is one of these people. Throughout our conversation, Julie stressed the importance of having strategies in place we can use when life gets tough. She added, “Whether you’re going through stressful times due to relationship issues, work related worries and health concerns or even a feeling of hopelessness, your ability to take action and get things done doesn’t have to suffer as well.”

CLICK ON IMAGE TO BUY Get It Done When You’re Depressed by Julie A. Fast

Julie knows this from experience as she had to figure out a way to work successfully despite the limitations created by her bipolar disorder. I asked her how she gets so much done while faced with daily challenges and she shared four of the tips from her book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Life on Track and how we can all apply them to our professional lives.

Julie replied, “You have to create a working world that fits your challenges in life. Because my bipolar disorder affects the type of work I do and the amount of time I’m able to work, I need systems in place that let me be successful despite my limitations. I knew that I had to become super efficient if I wanted to support myself on part time work, so I experimented with new ways to get myself out in the world and when they worked I knew it was time to share the strategies with others who struggle to stay professional and productive on the tough days.”

Julie told me she originally wrote the book for people who are depressed, but after years of comments about how the principles are so universal, she brought her ideas into the business world where she teaches professionals to stay focused and productive no matter what is happening in their personal lives.

I had a great time talking with Julie about her work philosophy. We had a lively discussion about the strategies in her book and how anyone can use them when an extra boost is needed to move forward in life. The following is an overview of how you can immediately apply Julie’s strategies to your life and learn to get things done whether you’re . . .

maze-cartoon

  • going through relationship difficulties
  • facing financial fears
  • in pain
  • low on the mental energy to work at your full potential
  • having focus and attention struggles

Just to name a few!

Here are four strategies Julie shared:

1. Don’t Wait Until You Want to Do Something

Julie’s life changed the moment she realized she could actually work even when seriously depressed. “I kept waiting to feel better to get started on a project. I thought I had to feel like working in order to work. The reality is that you don’t have to want to get things done, feel like working, feel good about your work or even believe you have the ability to do the work in order to move forward with a project. I taught myself to get started and wait for the positive feelings to come out of the work itself. We’re taught to base our actions off our feelings. But if you wait to feel like getting into action when life is tough, you won’t get much done. This always means the work is going to be harder to accomplish than when you’re feeling well, but at least you will have an end product when you work first no matter how you’re feeling.”

motivation-is-when-your-dreams-put-on-work-clothesJulie then explained that in the past on the days when a project felt so overwhelming she didn’t even know where to start, her brain would shut off and she would sit in front of her computer and cry in frustration. One day she thought, ‘What would happen if I just picked up my hands and started to write even though I don’t feel good or even feel capable of working? What if waiting until I feel better and want to write isn’t a good plan?’

She decided that getting something started was the only way to feel better and not the other way around. She realized she often wanted to keep working once the work progressed and that her mood was telling her she didn’t want to work when she actually did.

Julie doesn’t believe in motivation. Instead, she believes that on the tough days we will never feel motivated. She wrapped up this strategy with a statement I believe can change the way we see our professional lives. “I believe that action no matter how you feel creates the motivation needed to keep going. We often get it backwards,” Julie said.

2. Think Like an Athlete

Julie follows professional athletes intensely. She studies how they handle their wealth and personal relationships and yet still manage to get out on the field and do their work. She asked herself how successful professional athletes who are pulled in every direction can perform at a specific place and time under extreme pressure without letting their personal lives get in the way.

“Have you noticed that these athletes can be under unbelievable personal distress and yet still perform? I taught myself to do the same.” Julie realized that professional athletes know how to turn off the psychological noise and let the body do its job. Just like these top class athletes, Julie stressed we can also walk into pressure situations and no matter what we are feeling give the performance of our lives. She uses this technique for the basics such as cleaning her kitchen to the big events such as a keynote to hundreds of people.

Business Finish Line

Think like an athlete!

“On some days, especially before I got control of my illness, I would be crying on the way to an event, perform to my absolutely best ability and then go back to being depressed right after the event! I’ve learned to think like an athlete and give my best presentation on schedule. It allows me to perform no matter how I’m feeling. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can perform like a magnificent athlete when required,” Julie told me.

3. Wait to Judge Your Work

Julie told me the story of how she would try to work when not feeling her best and a voice would come up that said, ‘This work isn’t good enough. People will put it down. It’s not professional Julie!’ This created a feeling that the project she had to get finished wouldn’t be of high enough quality, so what was the point of even trying?

“Stress often leads to a self critical voice that will always judge your current work negatively,” Julie explained. “When life throws you a curve ball, you’re almost always incorrect if you judge your work in the moment. This is especially true if your challenges involve depression, anxiety or ADD symptoms. Waiting to judge my work until it was over saved my career. For example, when I have a speech, I remind myself to do my best and let the critical voice just float there on its own until it has no audience and has to leave! When I walk off the stage, I immediately say to myself, ‘Good job Julie. You can go through your work later and see where you need to improve, for now there is no judgment. Go meet your audience and enjoy yourself.”

Julie still hears the critical judgmental voice while she’s working, but it no longer gets to affect her work negatively. “I’ve gotten so good at this that I often don’t even look back at an event with criticism.” This strategy led to what she calls her big writing epiphany. “I realized the work I did when the judgmental voice was raging was just as good as the work I did when I was in the flow. I was depressed for a large part of the time I wrote Get it Done, but readers can’t tell at all. Listening to my judgmental voice while working was pointless as it was mostly lies!”

4. Be Your Own Drill Sergeant

I asked Julie for her favorite in the moment strategy to get things done. She chose 
Be Your Own Drill Sergeant as she told me it works on the worst days when you don’t even feel you can get out of bed and put your feet on the floor. “I’ve experienced severe depression for all of my adult life,’ Julie told me. “It’s great to have big ideas on how to get better, but I needed help on the days I was so depressed I could hardly lift a toothbrush.” Julie stressed that we all have days like this when life gets too overwhelming.

Be your own drill sergeant!

Be your own drill sergeant!

“If you’re going through a breakup or just lost your job, you need a way to keep going professionally. I had to find a way to break through my sadness and inertia in order to meet my contract deadlines and make money.”

Julie told me how many years ago when she was teaching herself to live with her illness she started to replace the hopeless thoughts with the intense and aggressive voice of a drill sergeant. “Get out of bed Julie Fast! Throw off the blankets, turn your body and put those feet on the floor!” This voice cut through the fog and got her body moving.

She then thought of how she could summon up a voice to help her on the days she couldn’t do it alone. I laughed when she told me her favorite voice, Scarlett O’Hara! “Ok Miss Julie. Fiddle dee dee. If I can save Tara, you sure as heck can fight this feeling and open that computer!” She now asks all of her audiences to conjure up their own drill sergeant whether it’s a beloved grandfather or a figure from a movie when they need that extra push to get started with the day.

Get-It-Done

After Julie shared her four strategies, I realized that I’ve also created tips to help myself through the days when my writing doesn’t flow or I feel overwhelmed with all of the work I need to do. She encouraged me to hone these strategies and make them a part of my work life so they will be there when I really need them.

Julie reminded me that her book and her work in general whether it be in a mental health or corporate context isn’t about learning her way of doing things. It’s about finding what works for us individually and then applying the strategies on the days we need that extra push to get started.

In the introduction to her book, Julie sums up the number one benefit of her book: “Getting things done is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself, which is automatically an antidote to depression.”

How to accomplish a BIG GOAL: Get in the right position

When you look through Julie’s book, you can see that her strategies are succinct and short to prevent adding more stress to an already difficult situation. I like that I didn’t have to read the entire book at once and am pleased that I can use her strategies while my life is going well, but I just need that extra nudge to start and stick to my goals.

Julie ended our interview with a final word of encouragement, “Get It Done When You’re Depressed isn’t about getting out of tough times. It’s about getting things done while you’re going through tough times. Then when life gets back to normal you don’t have to go back and repair your professional life. Instead, you can devote your energy to moving forward!”

We only covered four of the fifty tips in Julie’s book so I’m sure you can imagine how much more productive you can be when you learn them all. I encourage you to explore Julie’s other 46 strategies and change your ability to get things done starting today.

For more information on Julie’s work, please visit JulieFast.com. You can join her social media world on Twitter@JulieBipolar and read about her current ways of getting things done on her Facebook page Julie A. Fast. Julie’s books are available at all major bookstores and around the world on Amazon.

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Sick and tired of not getting it done? CLICK ON IMAGE to begin your 90 day mental fitness challenge. You can start living the life you’ve always wanted!

How to write a book in 30 days

By | authors, coaches, education, POPULAR | No Comments

Have you been struggling for years to complete a book? If so, don’t worry. This is a common problem that many writers face. Are you ready for the secret of how to write a book in 30 days? “Go Write and You Won’t Go Wrong. It’s that simple,” says Michael Ray King.

Michael has helped hundreds of writers get un-stuck and finish the books that have been in them for years. Here are some of the tips he recommends to his clients:

Find a good place to write.

Find a place that’s pleasing to you. It can change from day to day. When you purposely go to these places, you’re already starting. On your way there you start formulating things in our head. A lot of creative work is done before you even start writing.

“I like writing in a restaurant because it has a lot of white noise. I can’t write at home because there’s a lot of children noise I can’t ignore,” Michael says.

CartoonWritersBlockKing

Consider your sound environment.

Music is a good writing trigger, as long as you know what genre works best for you. “Music with words can be especially inspiring when you’re writing poetry. I get the melody and it helps me pick up meter. It’s a fun poetry exercise,” Michael says. “But if you listen to songs with music, be careful not to plagiarize.”

Stay with your passion.

This is the most vital aspect of writing any book. You have to love what you’re writing. You can’t do this if you’re questioning yourself all the time. It invites a critic and a judge. You may have to go back and review a few prior paragraphs to refresh where you are, but move on. You need to love your writing from the very beginning, from the first draft all the way through the marketing of it. 

The first draft doesn’t need to have good grammar and continuity. Some people don’t like chaos, but if you’re truly creating from the heart, your words will seem chaotic at first. The stuff you’re writing fresh off the cuff doesn’t match up with the edited stuff so if you try to edit when you write, it feels like there’s a bug in your writing. This can bring you to a halt. Save the editing for later.

Michael allows writers to talk about their issues. Lots of issues come down to the personal judge and critic. “Writers have set patterns like this and that’s exactly what they need to change,” Michael says. 

Use index cards.

“I press people to use index cards. Get a specific pen you identify with your writing,” Michael says. If you have something special you connect with your writing, such as a pen, a desk, or a set of index cards, it’s a trigger to start writing.

Too many people de-prioritize their writing. In order to get your writing done, you have to prioritize it. If not, everything else will take priority over it.

Begin with one card. Write the title of your book. Be creative. You can change it at any time. Working with index cards is an ongoing process. Make a card for each chapter and section of your book. You can continue adding and reorganizing the index cards the whole time you’re writing your book. You can continue to shift them around at any time. Interacting with the cards gives you a hands-on approach allowing you to tap into your internal creative nature.

“When you digitize things, you’re taking out the human element. By using cards, you’re stay in touch with your creativity. There are huge advantages with computers, but they can also distance you from your creativity,” Michael says.

MichaelRayKingIndexCards

Michael Ray King’s index cards for his book on How to Write a Book in 30 Days.

“I’ve had people do the cards in a different way, but that’s ok,” Michael says. He believes that if it works for you, then it’s right for you.

Lots of people take five or more years to write a book. You don’t need that much time to write most books. If you’re writing a historical fiction novel and have to do a lot of research, it’s going to take longer.

Write at least 750 words each day for 30 days.

“You have to get to the point where you want to write the book so much that you’re writing because you want to get your message out, not just because you want to meet your daily word count or complete an index card. For some it may feel somewhat of a selfish priority,” Michael says.

If you’re writing what you know, then you should be able to knock out a first draft quickly.Having a plan for completion is important. That’s one of the biggest benefits of deciding to write your book in 30 days. Michael holds classes and webinars on How to Write a book in 30 Days.

GoWriteAndYouWontGoWrongLogo

Address the critic and the judge separately.

“That sentence isn’t constructed well,” you might be telling yourself. “Who are you to think you can write a book? Who would want to read this?”

“Put these voices in solitary confinement prison until you’re done with your first draft,” Michael says. “These voices just get in the way of creativity. Nuke them. Blow them up. You never need the internal judge. These critics will rob you of your book. If it’s happened to me, it’s happening to other people.”

“I had a coach who put me to the grindstone. I’m a totally different kind of coach,” Michael said. “You can throw everything into your book. Overwrite. If you think it’s cool or if it’s your truth, just put in in there. If you think it might tick someone off and you decide to leave it out, then you’re not writing properly.”

“There’s lots of diversity out there. Not everyone is going to agree with you. If you write vanilla, you won’t get anywhere. Howard Stern and Connie West don’t have filters, but we place filters on our views. Your views have more credence than these guys. Don’t censor yourself when you have truths to put out there. Don’t hold back,” Michael says.

Lots of writers tend to want to read over their stuff before moving on, but avoid it. New writing is going to be rocky at best. Wait until you rewrite and edit before you smooth it all out. 

Calliope - Muse of Epic Song: Writing Tablet

Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry

Welcome the muse.

Some writers say “my characters took over my book,” When this happens, it means there’s some mystical thing going on. “This means that you’ve allowed yourself to let your creativity run wild. When you can do this and maintain it, it works,” Michael says.  

Some writers say, “The book practically wrote itself.” When this happens, it means you’ve been able to get past the critic and let the book out. The muse is a special writing phenomenon. “I’ve even done this with sports or ballroom dancing,” Michael said. “You can get in a mode when you feel like your actions are being channeled. You don’t know where it’s coming from.”

“You can’t induce a muse. But when she shows up you better get to the computer and write because when she goes away, you might not see her again for a while. You can feel great about your writing, but that time with your muse is special. In 14 years of writing, I’ve never been able to force the muse to show up,” Michael says. 

Goodreads has hundreds of quotes from famous writers all the way back to Aristotle and up to modern day people. If you’re feeling stuck, read some qoutes from famous writers. It can help you get un-stuck.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. E.L. Doctorow

“Don’t count on your muse. Even when she doesn’t show up, you need to get to the point where a day without writing is like a day without sunshine,” Michael says.

Don’t talk to non-writers about your book.

When you’re writing, especially a book, do not talk to non-writers about it. They will rob you of your zest. They won’t do it on purpose. If you give them a plot line, you beg the judge to come in. You might think, “that’s so much better than what I was thinking.” If they say “that’s been done before” then that will take the wind out of you. Tell people you’re writing a book, but don’t discuss the particulars of what it’s about. 

Find a trusted writers group.

Find a trusted writing support team with people who are actively writing. If you have synergy, it really helps. “That’s why my clients keep coming to class because it keeps them rolling,” Michael says. “It’s very motivational.”

“Lots of writing groups are social clubs. They’re not progressive. There’s often not enough encouragement to get your book out to market.” Michael says. “You have no business being in a critique group if you’re writing your first draft. If you do, it’s like asking the judge to destroy you. Most critique groups are nothing more than ego stroke groups. People will go in, read, and get feedback. It not only hinders the process time-wise, it handcuffs your creativity. It bottles you up. That’s what I’ve seen and learned. Let your horses run wild and then corral them. If you have a good editor later, that’s all you really need.”

Bridget Callaghan, Michael Ray King, Jeff Swesky and Nancy Quatrano at a Method Writers book launch event in Palm Coast, FL in October 2012

Bridget Callaghan, Michael Ray King, Jeff Swesky and Nancy Quatrano at a Method Writers book launch event in Palm Coast, FL in October 2012

Good writers groups encourage each other. “When I was a part of the Rogue Writers, the energy and synergy in those meetings were off the charts,” Michael said. “It’s a group that started in 2003. People in this group have written multiple books. When you’re around people who are really making it happen, you get caught up in it. That’s a good writing group.”

“You’re either a wanna be, a gonna be or an I am. There was a time when I was waffling between a wanna be and a gonna be. You want to get to that I am place. Write the book so you can say, I am an author. A good writers group will inspire this,” Michael says. “Being able to match personalities is critical. I hand picked people for the Rogue Writers. I wanted everyone to encourage each other and write books. We wrote together. Four of us wrote a novel together and a book of short stories.”

“You’ve got to be able to have fun together and still work. We’d play writing games. We’d laugh until we cried. Four people writing one novel is very interesting. You’ll sometimes see a collaboration of two people, but rarely four. We’d just sit there. We had a big timeline on the wall. If you make it too task oriented, there’s too much opportunity for friction and you squelch creativity,” Michael said. “Our meetings weren’t so much about sitting and writing. They were more about coming together to talk about what we had written.”

“I’m not a big fan of accountability to others. I think writers need to be accountable to themselves first. Set up a spreadsheet to track your word count toward the completion of your book,” Michael says. “I have a friend who posts her word count on Facebook. It’s her own accountability and can be inspiration to fellow writers at the same time. Word count isn’t the only measure, but it can be a barometer.”

Get a writing coach.

“I managed people for 20 years in retail. What I learned is that it’s a good thing to hire people better than me. I’m a big fan of personal coaches. A woman named Janice coached me in a business and personal way. We’d talk weekly to find a balance in life. She encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. The biggest thing she taught me was that you don’t have to know things intellectually. I know things from internal channels. When things line up, I know it’s right. I’m intuitive. Stop trying to force things and trust your instincts and move forward. When you have your internal talks, just started trusting yourself.  She took me out of programmed negativity and put me in positive state of mind,” Michael said.

“A book shouldn’t feel like a huge monstrosity. Most people can write their first draft in 30 days just by writing for about an hour a day,” Michael says. “It’s simple but not easy. It takes a lot of discipline. If you don’t finish it in 30 days and it takes 45 or 60, you’ll still be happy. I’ve found that about 20-25% of the people who take my class finish in 30 days. The bulk of the people finish in 45-60 days. Some take 90, and a few never finish at all,” Michael said.

After your book is written, it’s time to move on to the editing process.

How to write a book in 30 days: Write the draft before you edit

Michael Ray King is the author of Go Write and You Won’t Go Wrong: Write Your Book in 30 Days! He’s a five-time award winning author. In addition to conducting classes, he is also a personal writing coach. He lives in Palm Coast, Florida.

How to attain authentic happiness in 7 emails

By | authors, HAVE FUN | One Comment

Have you ever said you’re happy when you really weren’t? When someone asks how you are, it’s natural to say you’re “ok,” even though you’re wishing for different circumstances. You want a bigger this or a better that. A lot of people feel this way.

What if I told you you didn’t have to go after a better job or a new mobile phone to be happy?

CLICK HERE TO BUY Authentic Happiness in Seven Emails by Javy W Galindo

“Many people settle for a less than optimal life, one where happiness is occasionally attained by pursuing pleasure. Instead, studies indicate that happiness is more of a choice than a goal to be pursued,” says Javy Galindo, author of Authentic Happiness in Seven Emails.

Javy teaches a course on the psychology of happiness. There are lots of books about how to be happy, but he wanted to write one that was simple. He often has students contact him with questions about his course, so he came up with the idea to write a book about how he might respond to their emails. Here’s a synopsis of what he has to say about happiness:

Email 1: What makes us happy?

Think about things you really wanted and got. When you get something you want, your happiness spikes, but then you forget about it. After a while, you don’t even remember those little things that made you happy in the past.

When people go from extreme poverty to a higher lifestyle, they do generally become happier. But this doesn’t happen to most people.

Your circumstances change throughout life, but your happiness typically goes back to similar baseline. Even people who go through traumatic or tragic life events, such as losing body parts or losing a love one, generally go back to their baseline happiness after the dust settles.

Australian evangelist and motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic, who was born with no limbs, speaks to a crowd.

Nick Vujicic was born without limbs. Because of childhood bullying, he once tried to drown himself. Today this Australian is a globe-trotting evangelist and motivational speaker. He’s pictured here speaking to an audience of 25,000 in Vietnam.

“Altering the conditions of our lives has less influence on our experience of happiness than our choices in thought and behavior. In other words, ultimately, we are what make us happy,” Javy said.

Email 2: Why do we do the things we do?

We do a lot of normal activities such as brushing our teeth or taking a shower without thinking about it. When we get dressed, we just do it without thinking about it. Our voluntary actions aren’t so voluntary. They seem to make us more efficient life-livers. A lot of what we do is unconscious activity.

Have-a-nice-day-getting-dressedIf happiness is a choice, then why don’t we just choose it?

Have you ever been upset when getting caught in traffic or got cut off? Are you thinking about it, or just reacting? It’s a problem when you begin to develop habits that cause you to be unhappy. Your heart is pumping and your internal body is taking care of a lot of activities without thinking about it. The way you think and perceive the world is often equally unconscious.

“Our choices of thought and behavior are often not voluntarily chosen, but are the result of unconscious processing through things such as habits, conditioned behaviors and evolutionary instincts,” Javy said.

Email 3: What is happiness anyway?

Be careful of the cult of positivity. It’s a component, but it’s not everything. Happiness is more than a feeling. Happiness is the state of a life well lived. Emotions are chemical reactions and they fade over time.

“Beyond simply feeling good, being happy also refers to a sense of satisfaction and meaning we experience through our engagement with life,” Javy said.

So get engaged with the activities that bring you satisfaction.

Email 4: Live easy.

How can we live with fewer unpleasant emotions? Choose not to burden yourself with difficult thoughts. Choose to live easy.

Don’t make things harder than they have to be. It’s not just about being un-miserable. The goal is to be happy. Develop healthy relationships with your joys.

Email 5: Live light.

If you do the same things every day, go back to the same place, eat the same food, or see the same person in the same place all the time, it becomes mundane.

are-you-happy-flow-chart

Are you happy? Do you want to be happy?

What if you continue to rely on the exact same thing? This is what happens with ice cream, alcohol, gambling or other addictive things. You need more and bigger to feel more. This is how you can get on a hedonic treadmill where you never reach happiness. These activities weigh you down and enslave you to dependencies.

So how can you experience more joy? Develop a healthy relationship with variations in small pleasures. Whether it’s flowers or coffee or music or travel, do these little things to bring joy to your daily life.

“We can enhance our experience of feeling good by placing more attention on the brighter sides of life and by being more lighthearted, enabling us to more easily appreciate the simple joys we experience every day,” Javy said.

Email 6: Live smooth.

People are happiest when they’re engaged in a physical activity, such as work they love. People who reach peak happiness get so engaged in what they’re doing that they lost track of time. They got so lost in the activity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re engrossed in a conversation, gardening, working, writing or doing some type of artistic or athletic endeavor. What matters is that it flows out of you. Everyone has a flow state. It’s where you lose yourself in an activity.

CLICK HERE TO BUY The Power of Thinking Differently by Javy W Galindo

“We are happy when we experience satisfaction with our activities. We often experience this when we enter flow states, states of complete engagement with our activity. The interesting thing is that the experience of flow is independent of the activity itself,” Javy said.

Email 7: Live meaningfully.

Many people search for purpose and meaning in life. Some people experience a vibrant life, while others see it dull. You become desensitized to things you see often.

You can always choose how you perceive things. Nothing changes about the world. You choose how you want to see things, positive or negative. This is The Power of Thinking Differently.

“The key is that we can make choices with how we engage in the world to make life feel more purposeful and meaningful. We can choose to participate in activities that involve some form of emotional risk, to give ourselves a feeling that our actions matter. We can pursue endeavors that are altruistic, prioritize building social bonds, and get in line with our virtues and character strengths. And we can choose to be open to new perspectives in order to make life more full of meaning.”

How to get happy now via habits, goals and resolutions

Javy Galindo

Javy Galindo

Javy Wong Galindo is a professor of philosophy, humanities, and psychology in Northern California. He has been a popular instructor at Heald College, John F. Kennedy University, and De Anza College. He is also a proud member of the American Association of Philosophy Teachers, the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, and the Western Positive Psychology Association.

This former electrical engineer and performing arts instructor has had the privilege of working at several high-tech companies including Cisco Systems, Motorola, ViaSat, Tellus Technology, and Northrop Grumman among others.

Javy is now most well-known for his engaging college courses and public talks, his enthusiastic teaching style, and his ability to convey complex ideas in personally meaningful, simple terms. These characteristics are epitomized in his two books: Authentic Happiness in Seven Emails and The Power of Thinking Differently.

Javy is available for talks and workshops on various topics including creativity, innovation, creative thinking and authentic happiness. 

10 Tips from a Silicon Valley author in love with hiking

By | authors, books, Natural Remedies | One Comment

Do you hate to exercise? What if you could find a way to work out for four hours solid every week and not mind a bit?

Miriam Nuney, a transplant from the flat plains of Illinois, has lived in Silicon Valley for decades. Once the hiking bug bit her, she dragged her husband out with her, convinced the exercise would do them both good. After shedding many pounds and getting into the best shape of their lives, they started inviting people to join them to discover the joys of getting above the stresses that technology can’t cure, but nature still can. Here’s what she has to say about hiking:

Ever go hiking with a group of friends?  There’s nothing like chatting the hours away, huffing and puffing up the hills and skipping along the trails, breathing fresh air, and staying blessedly away from all those handy tech-gadgets and cell phones that seem to be running our lives instead of making them easier.

Hikers on bridge Miriam Nuney IMG_2235

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

You’ve probably even seen hiking venues along your commute route and not even been aware hidden paths are calling for you to tread on them next weekend. I should know. You were me.  And boy was I surprised to find dozens of parks and designated open space areas ribboned with public trails just waiting for me to explore. So I did.

After years of hiking in the hills above California’s famed Silicon Valley, where the burning desire to escape confining cubicles and intrusive technology reaches dire levels, I can assure you there is nothing better for your physical and mental health than escaping into tantalizing wilderness and letting your cares and worries drop away for a few hours.

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Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

I’ve hiked with people who’ve achieved significant weight loss (we’re talking forty+ pounds!), recovered from spinal and knee surgeries, reduced to the bare minimum medications for chronic asthma and diabetes, and recuperated from bike and running injuries.

All from simply putting one foot in front of the other–again and again.

Walking is a natural human activity, so . . . if you can walk, you can hike.

Hiking generally means getting out into a large park and walking on dirt trails, usually including climbing hills, and occasionally crossing streams and clambering over fallen tree limbs. Yes, nature has a way of reminding us it has an awesome power we can’t control, but hey–humility is good for the soul. Learning to let go of problems we can’t do anything about is one way to alleviate unnecessary stress.

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Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

And don’t make any excuses about being too old–or young.  I’ve hiked with 10-year old kids who had more energy than me at the end of the hike, and a frail-looking 72-year old Chinese woman who carried water from her wells at home to keep fit.

In fact, she had the last laugh on us on one of our more challenging hikes at the Pinnacles National Monument in central California. This hike includes clambering over incredibly steep steps carved into a sheer volcanic mountainside, fortunately with sturdy handrails for those of us with a fear of heights. Afraid she might fall and break her hip, we dogged her every stride despite her protests she was “quite capable, thank you.”  

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Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

We made it safely back to the parking area for a picnic lunch, and wouldn’t you know it–the youngest in our group slipped on a quarter-inch of low-lying water on the pavement and went down on her hands and knees!

A few minutes later we squished together on a picnic bench. I perched next to her on the very end and crossed my legs, only to find myself teetering off bench and onto the ground. Our Chinese friend couldn’t stop laughing at me. Trail hazards be damned!  It was the modern conveniences that got the better of us.

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Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

Before you head off hiking, here are ten safety precautions you should follow:

  1. Check the park’s website for trail conditions, maps, and entrance fees.
  2. Bring one friend…or more!  It’s unwise to hike alone.
  3. Estimate your time on trail–generally you hike at half the speed you walk.
  4. Bring 16 oz of water per hour on trail, and bring snacks such as nuts, granola bars and fruit.
  5. Wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and socks (jacket and gloves as needed). 
  6. Pack a basic first aid kit with bandages, a pain reliever and any special meds you need.
  7. Hike in the daytime. Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk due to bugs and critters.
  8. Check weather forecasts and be prepared for even the slight possibility of bad weather. 
  9. Pack a spare change of clothes and extra water, and leave in the car.
  10. Anticipate making your way out on your own. Most trails do not have cell phone coverage, so don’t assume help is a quick phone call away. 

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Don’t let the unknown outdoors stay unknown for long. Get out there and embrace it!  There is nothing more real than getting out into the hills and meeting head-on the challenges of nature and, best yet, overcoming them.

Hiking Group Picture--Miriam Nuney

Photo courtesy of hiker W. Douglas Lamb.

If you live in Silicon Valley or you’re planning a trip in the area, be sure to check out Miriam’s eBook, 101 Great Hikes Above Silicon Valley, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. To join their hiking group at no charge, send an email to JohnMiriamNuney@aol.com. For comments or suggestions about this blog post or her ebook, email Miriam directly at MNuney@aol.com.

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Book cover photo by Robert L. McQueer.

Michael Mobbs offers 9 tips for a more sustainable home

By | authors, books, eating, gardening, health, laundry | One Comment

Would you like to cut your living expenses in half without giving up modern luxuries? Me too. That’s why I wanted to meet Michael Mobbs and see his home that’s (almost) off the grid in the heart of a big city. On a recent trip to Sydney, I had the opportunity to meet with Mobbs and get a private tour of his Sustainable Home. Here’s what I learned . . .

SusHouseCover2print.inddSince 1996 Michael Mobbs has lived in a unique house in the center of Sydney, Australia. If you rode by on your bike, you wouldn’t notice anything different from the outside. Only a plumber or electrician working on the inside would know the difference. With three other house friends, Mobbs’ total annual water and energy bills are less than $300 AU or about $280 US. His three bedroom home is about a 40 minute walk from the Sydney Opera House.

He has solar panels on his roof. The electric company sends him a check to pay for the clean solar electricity he puts into their main grid lines.

In 1996 he disconnected the water and sewer. He uses rain water that falls on his roof in place of tap water. He treats his own water that flows from his toilets, washing machine and kitchen sink. The system recycles the water back into the house. He uses the recycled water to flush the toilets, wash clothes and hose his beautiful backyard garden. He doesn’t pay any water or sewer bills. In his book, he describes how the simple wastewater system works.

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Michael Mobbs Sustainable Home backyard water treatment garden

The house is still connected to gas. The annual bill is about $200 US.

“I’m not special, kinda short, have no handy skills and can barely drive a nail. If I can do it, you can too,” says Mobbs.

Even if you do own a home, you may not be ready to generate your own electricity and collect and process your own water. But you can begin with smaller projects. I asked Michael for some tips that almost anyone could apply regardless of where they live. Here are some of his recommendations on how to save money even if you’re renting an apartment.

1. When one of your lights goes out, replace it with an LED bulb. LED lights are much more efficient.

2. Paint interior walls shades of white. This also applies to outdoor areas, such as fences. White reflects light back into your rooms. Avoid dark carpet, walls or furniture. Black eats light while pale colors bounce it around.

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Michael Mobbs Sustainable House

3. Install a water efficient shower head. You can take it with you if you move. It saves the energy that it takes to make the water hot and it also cuts down on your water usage. It can save over 15,000 gallons of water a year in a four-person household. This is especially important if you have one or more people in your household who take long showers. Even if you take short showers, you can relax knowing that the same amount of time will cost less.

4. Get a water and energy efficient dishwasher and washing machine. This can knock up to 50% off your energy and water bills. Efficient ones will use about 10-20% of what the standard guzzlers use.

Laundry Study Shows Americans Have Few Hangups

5. Get the most energy efficient refrigerator possible. It runs 24/7 and is typically the biggest energy-using appliance in your home.

6. Catch rain water if you can. You can use it to water your indoor and outdoor plants. You may be able to do this even if you’re in an apartment and only have access to a small balcony.

SusHouseCover2print.indd7. Grow food you can eat. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can grow mint, garlic, rosemary, lemongrass and other plants suitable for indoor environments or small spaces on balconies. Grow mung beans for your salads in a glass jar on your window sills. Get involved with a community garden if there’s one in your neighborhood. If you have too much of one type of food, swap surplus food with other gardeners.

8. Buy food from your local farmers markets. Fresh produce is always healthier and more nutritious than the store-bought refrigerated stuff.

9. Compost fruit and vegetable scraps to make soil for your pots and/or garden. Even if you don’t have a lot of space you can add worms to your compost and they will turn it into fertile black gold (dirt) in 1-3 months.

Mobbs says a modest meal which includes a small portion of meat puts a much greater strain on the environment than a meal that’s fully vegetarian. We need to think about our overall impact on the environment even outside our homes.

“The energy and water needed to keep me alive is about 20-40 times greater than the energy and water needed to run my house. Yes, my house saves over 100,000 liters (about 20,000 gallons) of dam water a year by harvesting the water which falls for free using the natural stormy energy of the skies. But in ten days of eating the typical Australian diet, there’s over 100,000 liters of water needed to grow, harvest, clean, store, package, transport and refrigerate my food. My little tummy uses far more water and energy than my house,” says Mobbs.

Michael Mobbs Sustainable House with Lorraine

Dr Lorraine Haataia with Michael Mobbs in front of his Sustainable House in Sydney, Australia

The costs, designs, products, materials, tragedies, mistakes, truths, and failures of his house and tummy are spelled out in his two books: Sustainable House and Sustainable Food.

“Plug the leaks in your home. When you take steps to reduce your living expenses and environmental impact, you may ultimately reduce your financial stress and have the chance to invest in new opportunities with the money you save,” Mobbs says.

A few years ago my husband and I traded in our big suburban home with a 3-car garage for smaller living quarters. This freed up both time and money giving us the opportunity travel to places like Sydney.

The next time you’re in Sydney, be sure to tour Michael Mobbs’ Sustainable House or see the scaled down version of his home at the Powerhouse Museum near Darling Harbour.

In the introduction of his Sustainable Homes book, Mobbs offers some of the key lessons he learned through the decisions he made with his own home. If you aspire to create a more sustainable home, look for others in your community who are making changes in their homes and lifestyles. You’ll get there much quicker if you share your challenges, successes and fears with them.

Steven Wright recently moved into an all electric house. One evening he forgot to turn off the lights before he went to sleep. When he woke up in the morning to let his dog out to pee, the front door wouldn’t work. 

Take a look at this candid interview with Mobbs as he explains how he handles some of the resistance he faces as a positive change-maker doing things that seem perfectly logical. His advises everyone to have the courage to say, “I can do this.”

It’s helpful when your cohorts share common factors such as weather, jurisdictions and local suppliers. And even better if they have some professional experience that might help to expedite projects. Mobbs happens to be an environmental lawyer by trade. In 2009, The (Sydney) Magazine listed Mobbs as one of Sydney’s 100 most influential people. See the About Michael page on the Sustainable House website to learn more about him.

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