Or Would You Rather Be A Mule?

Would you like to swing on a star?…
Carry moonbeams home in a jar?
And be better off than you are?
…Or would you rather be a mule?

A mule is an animal with long funny ears…
Kicks up at anything he hears.
His back is brawny but his brain is weak.
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak.
And by the way, if you hate to go to school.
…You may grow up to be a mule.

My earbuds are missing, again. My operations manager actually made sure I have 4 pairs, to avoid this from ever happening. Yet, I still managed to outmaneuver even our best laid plans; to be prepared for & avoid, the hand I have now effectively dealt myself; being bud-less.

…I’ve resorted to using my wife’s earbuds while I’m typing this; the crappy ones she keeps in her purse. There’s a rattle in the left bud. Perfect for The Black Keys. Not so much for New York Groove. There’s no rubber — they kinda hurt — but I gotta have tunes to type, them’s the rules. I’m not complaining; but you’d think I’d learn. I thought I had — but here we are.

And, this is (steeped in a lovely irony stew) after reminding my two sons at least 5 times today to “put things where they belong, so you know where to find them next time.” um, yea…

What went wrong in my earbud world?

The short analysis is this, it was three things:

  1. I was multi-tasking.
  2. I didn’t follow my own rules.
  3. I didn’t listen to my gut.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized — we’re weren’t just talking about the earbuds here anymore, were we? I realized these three things were probably the main culprits of my self-limiting ways. In life — and the markets — in business.

1) Multi-tasking Will Kill You.

But now be honest with yourself. How many times when you are reading a book where you have to go back and re-read the page because you were thinking of something else? This is multi-tasking also. Right now, for instance, I’m in the middle of a deal and something happened yesterday that could put the deal in jeopardy. I have no control over it. It was an appraisal on some real estate. So it’s out of my hands and we’ll just see. I could spend the morning thinking about it. Or I could say, “this thought is useless to me” and focus on whatever task is in front of me. — James Altucher

And would you like to know 20 stocks pretty well? Or maybe 2 or 3 really, really well. You have to hand it to Jim Cramer; the man can tell you a lot of about a lot. The question is, how much is really really good? Everyone has a limit. Know yours. If I focused more, I’d space out less.

…And right now, I’d have my pristine earbuds.

2) I didn’t follow my own rules.

I generally try to keep things simple. If I do something that I think is dumb, lazy, or selfish, I try not to do it again (or probably not). But when I’m multi-tasking, my desire for progress — any progress — imbues a sense of urgency that I finally realize, doesn’t need to be there. It’s a conflict I’m creating myself.

Building or changing your life or business isn’t doing a thousand things at once. It’s doing one thing, then the next thing, and the next… (This will be my 100,000th time re-learning this)  It’s also important to stick to the rules you make in life, investing, and love — mostly because they are YOUR rules. I’m always prepared to change the rules in the face of new facts or new insights, but not without a lot of thought, and ideally with a lot of input from people I trust, love, and respect. As a result, rule changes don’t typically happen “on the fly”. It’s probably too stodgy for some, but I can’t help but think about all of the mini-excuses and exclusions I’ve given myself “on the fly”, ultimately in the name of regressive progress. It’s easy to get caught up in the net of complexity, and right now I am a big juicy tuna flopping around.

You don’t like being stopped by the rules you made? Just hold onto that one; push it a little further — you rebel. And, when you finally realize you’re breaking your rule — a rule you made for probably a very good reason —  and not taking some grand stand against “the man” doesn’t it suck? The universe will almost inevitably slap you around. Such a hypocrite. Such a dumbass. How many times do you have to learn? Probably with less money in your pocket too. So selfish. So absent-minded. What exactly were you trying to prove, again? And, still no earbuds…

3) I didn’t listen to my gut. 

Ladies and gentleman, this may sound like bragging — but my gut is awesome. It’s always been that way, I can’t lay claim to some skill I’ve developed. It’s actually been a trumpet in my ear that I’ve actually learned to tune out. If anything, the adult years seem to be more of an exercise in becoming more analytical & using less gut(s). I get the gut reaction, then I over-think it. Then I over-think the over-thinking… Paralysis by analysis is what they call it. And, sometimes, nothing can replace the gut feeling of that spidey sense tingling. Of course, if I am following my rules, I will never bet more than I can afford to lose — so the reality is, I should listen to my gut a lot. Like a lot more.

And if you’re listening, that little twinge will tell you exactly what you need to hear: Slow DOWN. Go for it. Wait a little bit longer. It’s time to leave — No, Don’t…. ah, F#$% it —

Or, maybe it’s just too noisy in your head to hear, “reach into your pocket & slip them into your gymbag/portfolio/schedule/life…”

For me, meditating has helped sync up my thoughts & observations. And I have a rule to do some meditation everyday — but then I get too busy multi-tasking. Too busy with the excuse that I’m taking care of others, effectively short-changing everyone. And, after these last seven months of 2012, it is very clear to me: I should have listened to my gut more, I should have followed more of my rules, and I should have spent more time doing one thing at a time.

Sticking with these three rules really has never let me down, I know this to be true. And the next time you read me, my iPhone eardbuds will be the ones blaring while I type…


One thought on “Or Would You Rather Be A Mule?

  1. Amy Laque

    Very, very true!  I’m always kicking myself for not “listening to myself” (a combination of following my gut and abiding by my own rules).  I weep when I think what I might have been like if I’d been listening to myself all along.  I have a very hard head, but sooner or later, I’ll learn to quit banging it.  Good advice, sir.

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