Making a Fresh Start…

Like almost all the rest of the people in the world, I find myself reviewing what happened this past year and what I see in store for the future during the coming year. I started this blog just over a year ago in December 2010, as a way to express myself and share what was on my mind. Along the way I’ve tried to provide some helpful information, some anecdotes, some inspirational thoughts and some productivity tips. Judging by readership numbers, its been slow thus far, but I am making some progress!

In just over a year, my Twitter profile @Self_HelpJunkie has grown to 175 followers. I want to thank those who found what I have to say somewhat interesting, and plan in the coming year to continue to publish some good information and grow my followers. I published 26 blog articles this year, averaging one every 2 weeks. That’s not quite as many articles as I had hoped to write, but I’m still pleased that a year later, I didn’t give up on this. It’s funny how working full-time, attending grad school, starting a new relationship and all of life’s other twists and turns, will do its best to throw a curve your way to keep you from doing the things you know you should.

In reviewing my goals that I published January 1st last year, I realized that I didn’t make most of them happen. Though saying I failed to achieve most of my goals for the year might seem outlandish to admit, what I did accomplish that wasn’t planned out, was still significant!

  • I read and/or listened to audio versions of 33 books this year
  • I contributed 80+ hours to Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society, including leading a team for 24 hours during the Relay for Life, in which we raised $3,300+ dollars!
  • I met a wonderful woman named Christine who I have been dating steadily now for 9+ months
  • I will be attending the second annual 3 day “World Domination Summit” put on by Chris Guillebeau in Portland in July 2012
  • I signed up for a Real Estate Coaching Program to grow a business for myself
  • I participated in the inaugural “Make Sh*t Happen” 8 week course taught by Jenny Blake
  • I participated in the inaugural “Location Rebel” online program by Sean Ogle
  • I’ve been a steady participant in Chris Guillebeau’s “Travel Hacking Cartel” since its founding. As a direct result of information I’ve learned from this site, I have earned in excess of 150,000 frequent flyer miles with various airlines, elite status with several hotel chains and other benefits!

So with that being said, where do I see myself going in the coming year. My plans are multi-phase, and in the coming weeks, I should be writing more specifically about what I will be implementing. In the meantime, here’s a short list of what I plan on focusing on:

The greatest danger for most is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.— Michaelangelo

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.— Walt Disney

  1. Contribute at least one blog post a week to this site. This will include the creation of my own “manifesto” based on the lessons and style of such excellent other writers such as Chris Guillebeau’s “The Tower“, “A Brief Guide to World Domination“, & “279 Days to Overnight Success“; Joel Runyon’s “The Impossible Manifesto“; and Jonathan Mead’s “The Zero Hour Workweek” which can all be found here.
  2. Continue to grow my online presence. Increase my Twitter followers to over 500. Increase my blog readership to average over 100 views per day by year’s end
  3. Grow my investment business, my passive investments, and establish an online business, to be earning a minimum of $1,000 per month in income by year’s end
  4. Travel both domestically and abroad this year to at least 6 cities within the United States and 2-3 countries overseas
  5. Continue contributing both time and/or money to charitable organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, United Way and military organizations such as the USO and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
  6. Lately I’ve been finding myself more and more interested in “social entrepreneurship“. I’ll be writing more about this in the near future, but for now let me just say I plan on doing much more to increase this aspect in my life.
  7. Finally, I want to infuse some adventure in my life this year! I’ve been feeling kind of stagnant lately, so I see some adventures coming due in the very near future.

So there you have it! A summary of where I’ve been this past year, where I plan on going in the coming year, and a brief summary of the challenges I’m setting for myself. I prefer not to set New Year’s Resolutions, because statistics prove, the overwhelming number of people who set New Year’s Resolutions, usually give up on them by about the 3rd week of January.

So that’s my plan. More information will be coming in the weeks and months to follow. I hope you, the reader, will come along for the ride, and will also let me know what you’d like to see or hear from me. This site and this life after all is a constantly changing work in progress, and depends on others to make it happen!!!

Will you please share with me what your plans for your life will be?

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. — Thomas Edison

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Posted in Goals / Fulfilling Dreams, Lifestyle Design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Review of “The Tower” – A Manifesto on Finding Your Purpose in Life!

Life is a series of purposeful choices that can produce great rewards from great effort. Choose to craft your life around creative work that goes up like a tower and out to the world.” – The Tower

I have been a fan of Chris Guillebeau’s now for a few years and find him an incredibly insightful, and fascinating person! His website, The Art of Non Conformity is an educational and inspirational look at everything from building businesses you love, “travel hacking” the world, living unconventionally and living a life of purpose!

Chris’s latest contribution to the world is a new manifesto called “The Tower“. This manifesto was just released today. It’s short (23 pages), but easy to relate to and provides powerful lessons for you about finding your purpose in life!!!

“The Tower” tells the story of a video game he downloaded for a long plane trip across the Atlantic. In it, the player must build a tower and populate it with businesses, residents and restaurants, and whose goal is to continue to build and expand the player’s empire. The game is a metaphor for individuals finding purpose in their lives and building their own legacy “tower” which will long live when they are gone! It focuses on such topics as:

  • Setting clear goals so you have something to strive for
  • Needing rewards and achievements along the way to keep you inspired
  • Having specific deliverables so you stay focused and on track
  • Exercising influence over others to help you with your goal and inspiring them to pursue their own legacy goals

The manifesto advises you to ask yourself every day two simple questions:

What am I making today?

Who am I helping today?

Chris has two other manifestos he’s published over the past few years, which you should read to get insights into the topics of lifestyle design, online entrepreneurship, travel, and giving back!

Some of the fascinating things about Chris and his mission to give back have included the following:

  • Has visited 173 countries and written about them, including such exotic and hard to reach locales as Cuba, Rwanda, Afghanistan & North Korea. More impressive… Chris has not reached his 35th birthday yet!
  • He has created and hosts an event in Portland, Oregon known as “The World Domination Summit“.

*** NOTE *** I will be attending this event next year

  • Released his first book last year also titled “The Art of Non Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Life the Life You Want, and Change the World” which included a 63 city book tour
  • Is currently completing a second book, to be released some time in 2012
  • Publishes to his AONC website twice a week on Mondays & Thursdays, even when located thousands of miles away in places like Africa, Asia or small Pacific islands
  • Is very active on Facebook and Twitter
  • Is the creator of several lifestyle design products, several of which I personally have purchased and can vouch for! His products include:

Chris Guillebeau and his site AONC have had a significant impact on me and my life! I have earned tens of thousands of airline miles and hotel points from following his travel hacking advice. I’ve become a blogger, active Twitter poster (@Self_HelpJunkie), am in the process of starting a business, and will be attending the World Domination Summit next year. His book has served as an inspiration to me, and I’m looking forward to learning from the Empire Building Kit. You can say I’ve become a part of Chris’s “small army”!!!

Posted in Goals / Fulfilling Dreams, Inspiration / Happiness, Lifestyle Design, Travel / Adventure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saying Goodbye to a Genius… Steve Jobs

Today is a sobering day and marks a great loss to the world! Steve Jobs, the visionary genius behind some of the greatest technological innovations in the last 30+ years, died of pancreatic cancer.  Steve Job’s death was announced in a personal letter to Apple employees by current CEO Tim Cook. Jobs, who resigned as CEO of Apple via a brief letter on August 24, 2011, lost his long-time battle at the age of 56. His family said he died peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones, at his home.

Steve Jobs described his condition and gave a very moving and often quoted commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005.

Some of the most often-quoted statements from Job’s speech that day include the following:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs was an incredible technologist, visionary, and leader who was responsible for some of the most well known, widely used, and best selling products and technologies of all time! Job’s greatest achievements included the following:

  • Developed the Apple II
  • The Macintosh computer which introduced the mouse and GUI
  • Pixar, the largest animation studio in the world
  • Mac OS X
  • iTunes
  • iPod
  • iPhone
  • iPad

Steve Jobs was a true spokesman for innovation, doing work that you loved, and living a life of fulfillment. Many great quotes are attributed to him, books have been written about his life, and articles describing his philosophy and innovative ability have been published. Some of the quotes, articles and books from or about Steve Jobs that I’ve found most revealing and most inspirational include:

Steve Jobs Quotes:

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” [The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” [1982, quoted in Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987]

“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
Interview with 60 Minutes, 2003

“I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” – said to Pepsi CEO

Books About Steve Jobs:

“The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience”

“The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success”

“Inside Steve’s Brain”

Articles:

“Why Steve Jobs Matters to You”

“The Steve Jobs I Knew”

“The Hidden (In Plain Sight) Legacy of Steve Jobs”

So in saying goodbye to an iconic, if slightly eccentric, legend, here’s a fitting tribute to the man who redefined how we live and work in the world. Here is the ‘Think Different‘ ad that Job’s debuted September 28, 1997 right after becoming the “interim” CEO of Apple again. Rest in Peace Steve!!! You will be missed!

Posted in Biographies, Inspiration / Happiness, Internet / Technology, Leadership / Business / Management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Department of the Treasury…


August 2, 2011

 Dear Department of the Treasury,

I would like to request that you increase my credit limit by $2.5 trillion effective immediately! Though I have maxed out my credit limits, I need more. I realize you tell me that I already make more money than any nation on Earth, and that I should learn to live within my means, but it’s not that simple.

You see, I have to give out money to all my buddies overseas who say they need me. It also costs lots of money to keep my toys, ships and planes in various places so I can use them whenever I need. Let’s not forget the money I loan to people that I know will never pay it back, but say they need it or else bad things will happen! You see I have a lot of obligations to people otherwise they tell me they won’t be my friend anymore.

I know I’m supposed to use the money I make to help the people I live with here at home, but that’s also not that simple. You see there are millions of people who live here illegally and they don’t pay me any money. There’s also millions more in poverty that don’t pay either. So I just take more from those who have it and give it to them. Plus there are lots of people who work for me who have pet projects that they want to work on, so I have to give them some too. I know there’s a lot of maintenance here at home I should be doing with the money I make such as fixing the electric and pipes, improving the roads we  live on and making it safer and easier for other people to get to work, but I just don’t have time for that!

I know a lot of people who live here also think I should live within my means, or even cut my spending, but what do they know! I have dozens of people who work for me and with my banks telling me otherwise, and they know a lot better than anyone else how to manage my finances. After all, look at how well they’ve managed their own finances, housing, the stock market, etc. They’ve made billions while everyone else has been losing money! What does that tell you?

I hope you don’t make me have to play hardball to get my limit increased? I wouldn’t want to have to threaten anyone by cutting off their paychecks, cutting services people say they need, or having their credit score go down. I mean I know I could just re-prioritize to fund those things, but then what would I have left to give away or splurge with?

Anyway, I’m glad you understand where I’m coming from and realize how important this is. After all, what would happen to us if we didn’t borrow any more money?

Sincerely,

United States Congress

The Federal Reserve

President Barack Obama

Vice President Joe Biden

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

House Majority Leader John Boehner

P.S.   I hope you weren’t expecting me to pay off my account anytime soon? What do you think; I can just print money out of thin air?

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Throwing In My Support for Ron Paul for President in 2012!!!

Since it’s been awhile since I’ve updated my blog, I’m going to come back early and clear. I am throwing in my support now for Ron Paul for President of the United States in 2012!!! Ron Paul has been and continues to be the only fiscally conservative, true to his principles, unflinching and unwavering candidate who adheres to the Constitution and will restore America to its financial and social greatness!

  • Ron Paul has consistently been awarded 100% in the New American magazine’s “Freedom Index” for his voting record in adhering to the U.S. Constitution
  • Ron Paul has been the sponsor of a bill to audit the Federal Reserve and determine where trillions of dollars of tax payer money has gone! His latest bill, HR 459, was sponsored in the House of Representatives on 1/26/2011, and sponsored in the Senate by his son, Senator Rand Paul, S 202.
  • Was the founder of the not-for-profit, educational Campaign for Liberty, whose mission is “… to promote and defend the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a non-interventionist foreign policy, by means of educational and political activity.
  • Served as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force
  • Is a medical doctor who specialized in obstetrics / gynecology and delivered over 4,000 babies

In addition, some of Congressman Paul’s other key principles have included:

  • He has never voted to raise taxes.
  • He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
  • He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
  • He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
  • He has never taken a government-paid junket.
  • He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
  • He voted against the Patriot Act.
  • He voted against regulating the Internet.
  • He voted against the Iraq war.
  • He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
  • He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

Ron Paul is a lifelong teacher of the Austrian School of Economics. He believes in sound money based on gold, not fiat currency, which is what we currently have under the Federal Reserve system. He has written several scholarly books on economic policy, the Federal Reserve, foreign policy and current affairs. Many of his books are available for free at the Mises Institute website. For his latest information you should checkout his books “Liberty Defined“, “End the Fed“, “The Revolution: A Manifesto” or “A Foreign Policy of Freedom” at your local bookstore or online bookstore.

For some incredible videos, listen to Dr. Paul in his own words! His uncanny ability to predict events years before they happen is incredible. There are so many videos available of Ron Paul’s debates, speeches and televised interviews. For some excellent libraries of clips check out the following resources:

Ron Paul CPAC 2011 Speech

Ron Paul Ad – “Conviction”

The Amazingly Accurate Predictions of Ron Paul

Incredible Ron Paul Video

Posted in Movie / Book Reviews, Politics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Award Wallet Premium Now Available for Free!!!

In a previous post aboutthe Award Wallet website, I wrote about how useful and user friendly this application is. Now it seems it is possible to get the premium service for free.The premium service allows you to do things like download your accounts to an Excel spreadsheet, display expiration notices for your accounts, show additional account properties and display historical account balance changes in a chart format.

Feel free to go to this link http://AwardWallet.com/?r=xxfgueqolu and register an account today. Enter the coupon code WingView6MO which is good for six months of free premium service. This deal is only good for new first time users and is valid only through March 6th! So hurry and join this site and take advantage of having all your airline, hotel, car rental and credit card accounts in one place!

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More News About Battling Cancer

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog article called “Helping In the Fight Against Cancer” in which I talked about an event I would be participating in. I am captaining a team in the Relay for Life to support the American Cancer Society. This event will be 24 hours over a Saturday and Sunday from April 30th – May 1st. It is a worthwhile event and I am looking forward to it!

In the meantime as part of an effort to provide continuous information about research efforts going on in the fight against cancer, I am providing some additional links to articles of interest about cutting edge technology, new diagnostic techniques, new treatment methodologies, etc. So without further delay, here’s some new information about this dreaded disease, and the efforts of thousands of medical personnel, scientists, students & professors, and organizations to effectively battle against it!

If interested in helping support the ACS, please consider donating to my team’s fund-raising effort. All funds go directly to the American Cancer Society and are tax deductible. You can support my team by donating online here.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION…

On-Off Therapy Works in Prostate Cancer

“ORLANDO — Intermittent androgen deprivation therapy guided by cancer-related biomarkers appears to be just as effective for treatment following prostate cancer therapy as continuous hormonal treatment, researchers said here.”

JHU scientists crack genetic code for form of pancreatic cancer

“Scientists at Johns Hopkins have deciphered the genetic code for a type of pancreatic cancer called neuroendocrine or islet cell tumors. The work, described online in the Jan. 20 issue of Science Express, shows that patients whose tumors have certain coding “mistakes” live twice as long as those without them.

Personalizing Cancer Medicine

Over 1.5 million new cancer cases were identified in the United States in 2010, and despite continued advances in cancer treatment, approximately 500,000 cancer-related deaths occurred in the same year (1). For a long time, cancer therapies were a one-size-fits-all, depending on the cancer type. In recent years however, the need has emerged to develop a more enlightened paradigm in which treatments are better tailored towards the individual uniqueness of the cancer.”

Purdue Physicist Creates Cancer Cell Motion Detecting Technology

Purdue University physicist David Nolte has developed technology that can detect motion inside tumors to better gauge the reaction to various drug therapies. “

Tumor Cells in Transit Along A Laser-Lit Cancer Highway

Scientists used infrared laser light to destroy cancer cells lodged in lymphatic vessels, stopping the spread of tumor cells – in mouse ears and pig hooves, for now. “

Chemical Guided Missile Could Be the Answer to Wiping Out Cancer

Deakin University medical scientists have created the world’s first cancer stem cell-targeting chemical missile, placing them a step closer to creating a medical ‘smart bomb’ that would seek out and eradicate the root of cancer cells.”

Mammograms, Now in 3D!

just received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the first ever 3-D digital mammography system for screening breast cancer.”

Slowing Growth of Bladder, Breast Cancer Cells

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered that nitroxoline, an antibiotic commonly used around the world to treat urinary tract infections, can slow or stop the growth of human breast and bladder cancer cells by blocking the formation of new blood vessels. The results, appearing in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggest that nitroxoline shows promise as a potential therapeutic agent. “

Can Pomegranate Pills Fight Prostate Cancer?

“Taking a pomegranate pill a day may help slow the progression of prostate cancer, preliminary research suggests.”

Posted in Health / Fitness, Science / Medicine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Lessons on How to Treat Others

Here are 5 short inspirational lessons on how to treat other people. I found these on Stumble Upon and thought they were worth sharing. Here is the original link to the post.


1. First Important Lesson – “Know The Cleaning Lady”

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.


2. Second Important Lesson – “Pickup In The Rain”

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.

A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3. Third Important Lesson – “Remember Those Who Serve”

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “50¢,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “35¢!” she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.


4. Fourth Important Lesson – “The Obstacles In Our Path”

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand – “Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.”

5. Fifth Important Lesson – “Giving When It Counts”

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Posted in Inspiration / Happiness | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

5 More Ways to Apply Software Engineering Practices to Life

In the first installment of this post titled “5 Ways to Apply Software Engineering Practices to Life, I highlighted some common engineering practices and how they could be applied to virtually any task you do in your life. Examples cited included improving your level of physical fitness, saving money for investing, or planning an exotic trip. In this post I’m going to give you five more engineering practices and how they can also be used for self improvement and lifestyle design. These principles are based on sound, proven practices within the technical community and can benefit you, the “customer” in whatever goals in life you may have.

So without further ado, here are the remaining five principles to round out our 10 ways.

6. Use Lots of Debug Statements to See Your Expected Output

7. Test… Test… Test…

8. Have Someone Quality Check Your Work

9. Automate Whenever Possible

10. Use a Variety of Tools to Do the Job

6) USE LOTS OF DEBUG STATEMENTS TO SEE YOUR EXPECTED OUTPUT

One of the most difficult things about software development is making sure that the values you are expecting to be passed through your code are actually what they should be. To test for this, developers often insert debug statements throughout the code at various points to show the value of their variables. This way you can actually see that what you think is occurring is actually occurring.

That being said, what do debug statements have to do with anything in my life you’re probably asking? Obviously it’s not possible to insert a bunch of “print” statements in your life.  But the idea behind the principle is to know what your personal variables are. Want to lose weight? Well you need to know what your starting point is such as your bodyweight, your body fat percentage or body mass index (BMI). Maybe you’re looking to improve some other measure of your health such as lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure. Well you need to know where you’re starting from so go get a test and show your current output level, so your expectations match reality.

Want to improve your financial situation? Perhaps lower your current level of debt or increase your investments? Again you need to insert some “debug” statements and know where you’re starting from and how you’re doing along the way. Obtain a free credit report from one of the three credit bureaus. Look at what credit card and consumer debt you have. Get copies of your banking statements and retirement account statements out and look at where you currently are. You need to know what values you are starting from in order to improve them.

7) TEST… TEST… TEST…

I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” – Thomas Edison

The quote above is what Thomas Edison said when asked how he felt during his quest to invent the incandescent light bulb.  I think it highlights exactly the intent of this step as it relates to lifestyle design. Whether designing software, inventing a new product, or coming up with a new workout, it is imperative that you incorporate testing in your process!

In the software development world, testing usually takes part in 2-3 stages. The lowest level of testing is what is known as Unit Testing. At this stage, the developer tests his small portion of code in his own development environment. All of the variables and the environment are configured to make sure the new and/or modified functionality works as it is supposed to. The next stage of testing is typically Integration Testing in which the developer integrates their code into the working baseline as it exists at that moment in time. The point of this is to ensure that what you’re developing will fit into the current product or current system environment. The final level of testing is typically System or Regression Testing. At this level, once you’re new or modified features have been integrated and tested to ensure they work, you need to backward test the system to make sure none of the previous functionality has been accidentally broken or removed, and still works as designed.

So when it comes to how to incorporate this principle into your life, it is very simple. Whenever you are looking to make a change in your life, whether physically, financially, or career wise, you need to carefully test the changes you are making. First off, unit test the change on a micro level on yourself.  Change your diet for a couple of weeks and see how it makes you feel, whether more energetic or less. Change up your workouts by reversing the order of exercises you do in the gym, or adding in an extra workout per week. Try saving money automatically by having it automatically deducted from your paycheck into a separate savings account that you ignore. Try reading a new book on a career skill you’ve always wanted to learn.

Second, once you’ve tested a small change on yourself, perform the integration testing by seeing how this change affects your life for the better or worse as a whole. If adding an extra workout takes time away from your spouse or children, maybe you need to go back and include them in your physical fitness plans as a whole, rather than just working out alone. If saving $50 per week automatically means you can’t pay your bills, go back and adjust the amount to $35 per week, and evaluate your finances.  If you’re not saving enough, increase the amount and reevaluate. Perhaps you have difficulty learning new skills for your job from a book, but would benefit from signing up for a class at a community college.  Integration testing new changes and how they improve or worsen your lifestyle is very important!

Finally, you need to regression test. With all the changes you are making, do you still have enough time to spend with family and friends, enough money to pay all your bills and yet have a social life? Are the skills you are learning for your job truly relevant and beneficial to your working environment? If the answer to any of these questions is “NO”, you need to go back and retest accordingly your change(s).

8) HAVE SOMEONE QUALITY CHECK YOUR WORK

In software development typically the last person to sign off on anything, whether that is an official test, a formal document or a code deliverable, is the Quality Assurance (QA) representative. QA’s responsibility is to be an independent final check on all work. They have the responsibility of ensuring no steps in a test procedure are short changed or skipped, all the “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed in your documentation, and you don’t miss any requirements in your software deliverable.

With that being said, sometimes the best way to quality check what you are doing is to have someone else act as a “QA” person for you. This person could be a friend, a family member, a spouse, a coach, or a co-worker. Ideally though, it should be an independent person who can evaluate your progress honestly and unemotionally on a given task, whether that be losing weight, learning a new sport or skill, performing a job function, or investing in something, and provide you with feedback in regards to your performance. Have this person write down for you what they observed you doing or not doing. Have them take pictures or video of your performance of a task. Have them provide suggestions for improvement, or if applicable, provide positive feedback and encouragement about your performance! The job of a coach or a “QA” person is to minimize or eliminate errors, and to recommend process improvements so you can do a particular task better the next time!

9) AUTOMATE WHENEVER POSSIBLE

In an engineering environment, automation of processes is a critical part of improving productivity and enabling repeatability of tasks in a consistent manner. Automation can encompass any aspect of the engineering process, whether that is setting up software environments, performing a software build, running test cases, etc. Automation streamlines operations, reduces errors, reduces the need for “tribal knowledge”, makes forgetting to do certain tasks less likely, and ensures people are not pigeon holed into doing specific tasks indefinitely because they are the only ones who know how!

The benefits of applying automation to your personal life should be immediately clear! Anything you can automate which will eliminate the risk of error, forgetting to do something or simply ease the process of doing it is a good thing. Simple examples of this include setting up automatic deposit of funds from your paycheck at work into a retirement account, or even depositing your check itself into your bank so you don’t have to. Hire someone to do chores around your house such as a lawn service, pool cleaner, cleaning lady, etc. so you don’t have to do them on the weekend and are free to pursue other things you enjoy! Set up online or automatic bill paying with your monthly expenses like your mortgage or rent, electric, water, cable, phone, credit cards and anything else you may have so you don’t forget or have to take time to do them each month. Sign up for Netflix, Nutrisystem, or other home delivery services of products you regularly use so you can avoid the hassle of going to the video store, cooking for yourself, shopping, etc. In this online world the list of products and services you can setup from a computer and automate for yourself is nearly endless!!! Use a little creativity and ask yourself the following:

How often do I do this particular task?

How long does it take me each time?

Would I benefit from automating it and/or having someone else do it for me?

Can it be eliminated?

10) USE A VARIETY OF TOOLS TO DO THE JOB

An engineer is like a good carpenter. They’re familiar with a wide variety of tools that enable them to do their job. If one tool can’t get it done, an engineer will find another one that will. Software engineers are familiar with a variety of programming languages, operating systems and more importantly techniques and strategies for developing the product they want to create or getting done the task they need to complete.

Similarly a person trying to reach their goals, better their performance in a skill, or improve their life in some way should have a toolbox full of tools to enable them to get a job done. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony!  For example, when beginning to start an investment program, you’ll often hear the expression “Diversify! Diversify! Diversify!” What this means is you need to use multiple investment tools such as having a 401K or IRA as your retirement vehicles. Invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, real estate, etc. Get your investment advice research from a variety of sources before investing in a particular investment.

When trying to improve your level of fitness, you should use multiple physical fitness tools such as cardiovascular training, weight training, isometrics, etc. Train your body with dumbbells and barbells, circuit equipment, kettle bells or whatever other weight equipment is available. Perform a variety of cardio exercises such as jogging, bike riding, swimming, jumping rope, walking or whatever combination of activities get you moving and keep you interested. Mix up your training into high and low intensity activities. Try dancing, boxing, martial arts, adventure racing or whatever else gets you excited to get out and move! By using a variety of fitness tools and not doing the same thing over and over again, you will avoid boredom, benefit from muscle confusion, keep your training intensity level up and maximize your training performance!

CONCLUSION

There you have it! Ten ways to apply some of the most critical engineering practices to various aspects of your life. Use a little creativity and apply these principles to any goals you may have or areas of lifestyle design you desire. Each principle and the examples included with them are just tools and should be used accordingly to help you build a better you!!! Now go out there and make it happen and do me a favor… let me know how you’re doing.

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Going to See IBM Watson at IBM Innovate 2011!!!

This will be a brief blog post. I just learned via “IBM Innovate” on Twitter that the IBM Watson computer and Chief Scientist Dr. David Ferrucci will be appearing at the IBM Rational Software Development Conference (RSDC) in Orlando in June!

I will be attending the RSDC Conference this year and am very excited to hear about this announcement! I think this will be an incredibly informative and exciting presentation to see and learn from.

For additional information on the Watson computer and the research team which designed and built it, go to the official IBM Watson site.

Here are some interesting videos about Watson from the team that developed it.

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