Do It Every Day!

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

John:    I just got done with a normal workout: 100 chin-ups, 200 dips, 300 pushups, 400 squats. I work out every day, have since I was 13. When I was playing sports, it was about becoming a better athlete, after college, it was about looking good for the chicks, and now it’s about fighting off the grim reaper. I’m 43 and will say, I look pretty good for a 43 year old cat. At least I think so – I really don’t care what others think, except my son, who plays college football and still can’t out-chin me. Anyway, it has become an important part of my day, my Prozac time and why I don’t need therapy. It grounds me. Helps me focus. Centers me. Press rewind and hit play, stop, repeat. I have done this routine over and over for 30 years. It’s normal. Doing something every day represents so many areas of my life now, both personally and professionally, where I am constantly trying, learning, getting it, and once I get it, it becomes so important that I do it every day. In the age of super productivity hacks and abs in 15 minutes, basic hard work is important enough to me that I do it daily. If something is not important, I don’t do it. EVER.

Question for my three friends – what is the one thing that is so important you do it every day?

Jen:  The one thing I do every day is find uninterrupted time to do nothing but think. It can be for a block of 15 or so minutes, or an hour plus, but it must be devoted time. For instance, I can’t do it effectively while driving or listening to music (although that may work for others). I used to call it quiet reflection, others may call it deep thought. I told Trish about it a year or so ago and she happened by an article on transcendental meditation and dropped it on my Facebook wall and said “I’m ready to start doing this!” You can read that article here, it’s called “My Only Regret Is That I Didn’t Find This Practice Twenty Years Ago.” 

One of the things in life I am most grateful for is that I did naturally begin this practice many years ago. I have had it as part of my routine for as long as I can remember, even as a small child. Back then, I thought other people might think I was odd and didn’t really tell anyone. My parents thought I took a lot of naps, but in actuality I just spent a lot of time lying in my bed with my eyes closed thinking. It’s not the same as having an uncontrollable stream of thoughts like some people get during stress or anxiety. It’s a deliberate process of taking all the external input and stimuli from the world around me and then processing it. The first time I ever ran a defragmentation on my computer I remember how I thought – “Wow! This is a great visual to explain exactly what I’m doing in my thinking time – I’m taking all the stuff floating around and reorganizing it, cleaning up, and making space for new information.” In actuality, it’s much simpler, but the results are the same – my brain gets defogged, sharper, and I get a ton of energy. If I miss doing this for more than a day or two my world seems to crumble. At best I lose my ability to reason, struggle to make decisions, or am hyper-emotional. At worst, I literally get sick. For that reason, I will do everything in my power to protect my time, even blocking it on my calendar.

Molly:  I cannot believe I’m sharing this, but the overall message to me is important. The thing that is so important to me to do every day is connect with my husband…by wearing matching underwear (pattern, not style). Yup. You read that right. It started as a joke. We were driving home from working-out and were listening to ESPN Fantasy Football Podcast. There was a commercial for MeUndies (matching underwear for couples). I thought that was odd for that specific radio audience and we laughed about it in the car. I checked them out when we got home since Valentine’s Day was coming up and thought a three pack would be a cute and funny gift. My husband loved it so much he bought us the monthly subscription. Now each morning, we ask each other, “what undies today?” as they also have great names like “Taco Love.” The point is that we connect everyday first thing in the morning (even when we travel) and laugh.

Trish:    For the last six months or so, I’ve started off the day by uttering the same words aloud and with decent volume, “Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!” Now, it’s possible that I am speaking to no one in particular, except maybe the ceiling- but on most days, the dog and my significant other (Marty) are both still in the bed and hear my morning greetings. I’ve learned that no matter how rough of a workday I know is ahead of me, I am starting the day out on a positive note. The mini-routine is this: morning alarm goes off, I shut alarm off, dog wakes (shakes and stretches), while dog is making is slow crawl toward me for his morning pet, I say aloud, “Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!” Marty may let out a funny groan or may even mock my announcement with a childish-nasty teasing version of “Good Morning” that sounds something like “Ged morninnnnngggg”, but the dog is always happy to hear my morning announcement. I’ll laugh, Marty will laugh, the dog will smile, and I’ll jump out of bed with the dog following close behind so that the dog can give his version of morning greetings to the backyard lawn.

As cheesy as this mini-routine is, it has become a very important thing I do every day to create positivity from the get-go. My morning announcement reminds me of a teacher I had in high school that would stand outside of his classroom door at the start of each new class period, and as students would approach to walk into his classroom, he’d smile and say “Be Ready! Be Ready!” He’d clap his hand once while saying this statement or even pat a student on the back as they passed through the classroom door. As a result, he created a positive and joyful start to that day’s American History lesson. (Shout out here to one fine educator and leader, Mr. Paul Gossert previously of Lecanto High School, Lecanto, FL). While some of the students would repeat “Be Ready!” right back to Mr. Gossert, or would say “I know, I know, Be Ready!”, no one could argue Mr. Gossert’s intent to motivate and inspire his students with his simple interaction. Okay, now back to my simple proclamation…

Instead of waking up and immediately reviewing my calendar for the day in my head and adding on to my already long work and personal to-do list, this simple act of expressing upbeat optimism has made a difference in how I approach the day. A little positive attitude, smiles, and laughter can erase whatever negative thing or experience happened the day before and kick-off a new day with brightness and confidence. Sometimes this brightness will last throughout a hard day or helps smooth out the rough edges of the challenges that I may encounter. Consistently, I make a good morning turn into a good day that turns into a good evening and the cycle repeats.

I encourage you to try something cheesy to communicate to your partner when you wake up, to your child before heading to school, or to your office staff as you walk through the door. I’d love to hear from you how it made you feel and how you observed others when communicating. I bet you’ll promote amazing joyfulness and be cheerful throughout the day. Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!

Originally published on LinkedIN on 9/19/18  see it here

Simplest Way to Improve Your Life

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

 “What’s The Simplest Way To Improve Your Life?

John: The simplest way to improve your life is to change your perspective and do something different. That’s it. You need to have a willingness to walk away from anything that does not suit you or your terms. That sounds selfish, but it is part defense mechanism, and partly because I don’t ever want to devalue myself. I am old enough where I should work with the best people and roll with the best people, in both my professional and personal life. If you are not the best to me, then you can roll with someone else. People are like seasons. Sometimes they leave and that’s okay – they leave room for something better to come. Sometimes they come back and your relationship is even better than before. That’s fantastic. I see myself as the driver of my own fun bus. If you want to jump on, great, you can ride with me. if not, that’s great too. If I can’t give you love, then I need to move it along. Either way, I still win. This is the absolute simplest way I know to make my life better.

Jen:  For me, improving my life simply was not always simple because I didn’t believe it possible. I had to first learn and implement some fundamental principles and then the floodgates opened for me. Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily and serving others is life changing for me. Doing these two things results in immediate fulfillment like nothing else.  Whenever I feel down or upset about something, I seek out opportunities to find someone to thank, give a compliment, or ask if i can help them with something. Sometimes, when larger scale service opportunities are presented I am inclined to excuse myself as being “too busy”, and sometimes I do turn them down. However, I can honestly say each and every time that I have participated in a service venture, I leave wondering how I could ever have considered not going. I have energy, enthusiasm, and feel genuinely good about myself and the recipients.

“Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily

and serving others is life changing …”

Some of my best memories and life-changing moments happened while providing service. My favorite was after Hurricane Katrina, while I was a pharmacy student in Atlanta, there was an opportunity to serve the thousands of displaced families from the areas hit. I worked with a team to temporarily set up a disaster clinic in a shopping center parking lot. We put hundreds of fold out tables and thousands of chairs all over and provided immediate medical screenings and prescriptions. Not only was it fascinating to see the work of many produce life changing (and even potentially life-saving) help, I was able to practice pharmacy in a way I haven’t since. Declaration of disaster laws allowed pharmacists and other medical professionals to practice at the height of our skill-set and beyond what our licensure typically allows. I learned so much in those few days. I went back and forth from doing patient screenings and prescriptions to running into the Kroger pharmacy and filling them. We provided all the services for free and several businesses, including Kroger who was my employer at the time, helped pay the bill. I also recall Chick-fil-a providing meals for everyone. That’s the great thing about service and thankfulness, they are endless as each prompts the other and can cause a domino effect. My few hours working as a pharmacist intern allowed me to serve others, better learn my craft, receive kindness from others such as the food, and thanks from those I helped. There is no feeling in the world like when I handed a mother of a small child anti-seizure medications they had left without, seeing the relief in her eyes and hearing her tearful heartfelt thanks. It made me feel like I changed her world, and it changed mine. If this isn’t life changing at its best and most simple, I don’t know what is.

Molly:  I love the topic “simplest way to improve your life” (as if it was ever that simple.) We all have responsibilities and basic needs that need to be satisfied for survival. With that in mind, my recommendation to improve your life is to surround yourself with positive people and minimize toxicity. For me, that means working with people that share my passion and support me as a colleague and friend. One of the core values in my company is locking arms to achieve goals together. I love that we are there for each other, even if we’ve never met. Just hearing the heart-filled stories about co-workers showing up for each other in times of need can give me the boost I didn’t know I needed. I look forward to our company newsletters to read and see pictures of my co-workers locking arms with each other and the community over and over again. When you work full time, work culture is everything. To improve your life, do a double check to make sure your work environment is the right fit for you and a positive one.

Trish:    I have an ongoing war with my brain trying to figure out just how to improve my life. I’ve been convinced…for a good while now…that if I can simplify my life, it will be a grand show of blissful happiness. My epiphany occurred several years ago when I was working on writing a thank you note and I trashed several versions because I was trying too hard to convey just the right message. I know we’ve all trashed a few thank you note versions, but I take my gorgeous must-be-monogrammed-stationary seriously and messing up even one piece ticks me off! Okay, so, back to the epiphany. My significant other was watching yet another one of my complicate-all-things-in-life-scenarios and he said, “Trish! Just write something simple-stupid!” With that, I knocked out a simple and effective thank you message and didn’t waste one more piece of my precious stationary! I remembered that “simple-stupid” came from a mentor of my significant other. The mentor said that leaders should approach every easy and difficult situation with simplicity in mind. He called the technique “simple-stupid” to remind himself that it is stupid to approach any situation without simplicity first.

As “simple-stupid” as this sounds, I find it hard to remind myself to approach daily life with simplicity. Instead of working hard to remind myself, I made a metallic gold sign that says, “Keep Life Simple” and hung it in my kitchen. I look at this sign daily and it helps remind me that I am not alone in my quest to improve my life and we all struggle with over complicating things. From writing thank you notes, having discussions with poor-performing subordinates, making sure the kids have everything they need for school, to finding time in your own schedule to just breathe for a moment, we must find ways to remind ourselves daily to simplify. Hmmm. Maybe I should ditch the fancy monogrammed stationary for a cute pack of dollar store thank you notes. It’s the simple and meaningful message that counts, right?