Labeling a Winner

Recently I clicked on an interesting blog about a young man who at the age of fourteen set a goal of getting straight A’s throughout high school. It sounded like an admirable achievement so I read on to observe his strategy.

Steven attained success by employing two distinct methodologies. After considerable research and reflection of his past grades, he discovered students who earn lower grades employ last minute study habits. Attempting to tackle assignments at the eleventh hour adds an element of pressure. Kids who do so often end up frazzled and tired when sitting for an exam. What is key to an A student’s approach is immediate learning and processing of new information.

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Okay, that’s not rocket science. Anyone who has ever popped No Doz and pulled an all-nighter can testify to the stupidity of the process. Sure you may end up passing with a mediocre grade, but studies performed at UCLA claim inadequate sleep patterns cause a compounded issue. Habits of cramming and sleep deprivation result in greater academic problems.

The flip side of avoiding last minute cramming into the wee hours of the morning is keeping up with assignments on a daily basis, a process Steven took seriously. Before engaging in playing any video games, he completed his homework. Again, not an earth shattering breakthrough approach, just a matter of establishing an uncomplicated habit.

What really impressed me about Steven’s commitment to earning straight A’s was a mindset shift involving a new label. He began thinking of himself as an A student. 4.0 became more than a goal, it was his identity.

Adopting a new persona was a theory worth testing, and I did. After contemplating this approach, I purchased a new workout shirt that reads: #Fierce. It is pink and cute and something new to wear to the gym a place I dread but am forced to frequent because “The Punisher,” my personal trainer, (AKA Brad Kingsberg of Nutri-Power Fitness) expects me to show up.  But here’s the thing, I now have a new label. When I brand myself #Fierce, I act the part

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performing more like an individual who enjoys pumping iron and strength training than a sleep deprived class C student who can barely make it through the last set of chest flies.

Want to change the way life is grading you? Change your label. You can over-perform in school, at work or on the playing field. Begin by instituting some positive habits, and be sure to create a new winning identity.

Why Life is Like Lasagna

Cooking lasagna

Confession: I am a foodie! Give me the French, German, Asia Fusion, Indian cuisines, I love them all. Recently while dinning at a new Italian bistro, my excitement mounted when I spotted lasagna, one of my all time comfort favorites. It made for an easy decision. Order in.

When the steaming dish arrived, my eyes were in for a big shock. Expecting layered ribbons of pasta sheets filled with creamy ricotta and a mouthwatering tomato ragu, I gave the waiter a questioning look. He just smiled and walked away. Once I sampled a bite, my mouth thanked me for a winning pick. Bingo! On my plate was a deconstructed lasagna, same ingredients, different presentation.

Life is a lot like that. Often when we create a particular goal, our natural tendency is to visualize exactly how the experience will unfold. Here’s the rub. It doesn’t always happen that way.

For example, my friend Larry was ready to climb the career ladder. When the timing was right, he applied for a promotion. Larry ended up deeply disappointed as the opportunity was offered to a colleague. During the same time frame, a more lucrative position hit the job posting board far surpassing the advantages of the so-called dream job. Larry told me he was so busy staring at the closed door; he nearly missed the noticing the career prospect. In haste, he made a last minute application. Human Resources reviewed Larry’s file, scheduled an interview and before my long my friend was offered the job.

This is a perfect example of what can happen when we establish preconceived notions. Larry considered only one avenue to moving up in his field and then nearly shut down when it did not occur as he thought. The lesson learned we can all profit from. Make it a practice to remain adaptable and release your attachment to how things should occur. Learn to embrace the unexpected. Stay committed to your goals,

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but remain flexible in your approach.

What does that have to do with lasagna? Well, a standard lasagna is labor intensive, especially Bobby Flay’s recipe (click here) which takes over 2 hours prep time and promises to make you a rock star. You can shortcut this process and create a deconstructed version in much less time. According to a post on the blog Not Quite Nigella,  food enthusiast, Lorraine Elliot, can make one in 35 minutes. The taste is the same, (well, okay maybe not to identical to the critically acclaimed Chef Flay’s version) only the appearance changes.

Keep that in mind the next time you plan your future.

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Your journey to the goal line may be much different than you ever planned or imagined. With a little luck, fate might hand you a deconstructed shortcut.

 

Aesop and The Mitzvah

Inspirational message - You Make The Difference

Of course I know what a Bar Mitzvah is, but this week when a friend of mine told me a story of kindness and compassion I learned another meaning of a “mitzvah”. Kippy, who lived in Israel for years prior to returning to the United States, spoke about a particular Friday when her city was preparing for a festive Shabbat dinner. Inspired by mitzvah, (which literally means commandment) the word also takes on the meaning of a charitable or beneficial act; she began thinking about the volunteer army and the uninteresting rations they would have for dinner.

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If you ever met Kippy, it would not take long before you realized she is a doer and a giver who is also gifted with exceptional organizational skills. Armed with the knowledge that her community would soon be busy preparing the evening meal, she engaged each household in an impromptu project. Kippy asked each family to prepare an extra meal. All the plus-one meals would be delivered to the nearby troops. Kippy requested an additional action on the part of the donors. She instructed each household chef to include his or her phone number in the food gift.

Homemade potato pancakes

My friend understood it was a common practice to give anonymously, but something told her this act of kindness could translate to more than a Friday night dinner. She was right. Phones began ringing inside this small gated community. Soldiers surprised and delighted with the homemade feasts reached out to share a greeting and thank their donors. What began as a standard Friday evening turned into a circle of goodwill thanks to Kippy’s idea.

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I walked away thinking, just like one of the infamous Aesop’s Fables, Kippy’s story had a powerful moral to it. Although an anonymous kind deed is noble, sometimes we should be up close and personal with the recipient of our actions. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author and Emanu-El Scholar, has been quoted as saying “I think the poor man wants to know who’s giving the gift, and the rich man wants to see the smile on the poor man’s face.”

Studies suggest that givers derive more benefits from the act of giving than from the benefits their gifts generate for others.

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So this week, borrow a page from Kippy’s book. Think about reaching out in person to help a friend, a stranger or a soldier. As Aesop taught in “The Loin and the Mouse,” “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”