Hump Day: The only truly perfect time to start a difficult project is now

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

I have a weekly newsletter that goes out to about 600 subscribers. In it, I have a section that includes a number of inspirational and thought-provoking quotes from a variety of business, entertainment, community, literary, government and spiritual leaders. This leads me on a weekly search for some of the best things people have said not only recently, but throughout history.

One quote I used this week struck me. It’s a quote by Alan Cohen and it goes like this: “Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” If you’re like me and like to put off things you’re not really interested in doing,this may speak to you, too.

There’s nothing that guarantees a clean house more like putting off another project I don’t want to start. I’ll tidy up here and there, get some cooking done and then do some work before I tackle the unwanted item. I’ll wander around and do this and that – and that and this – and then a little of this and that again. The house would be spotless and long-neglected chores taken care of, but that one nagging little project is still sitting there waiting to be done.

Most of the time, it’s a writing project and I’m waiting to feel inspired. I hear that from a lot of writing friends. They have to write something, so they clean their house instead. It could be anything, really. Most of the time though with me, it’s a writing task as I wait for some unseen spirit to come down from heaven, stick its cold dead finger into my ear and inject me with brilliance from the great beyond. I wait, and I wait. But alas, I just have to get the job done.

I usually write this column on Monday nights. Most of the time, I have an idea of what I want to write about, but sometimes I’m sitting at my computer wailing like a banshee at 10:30 p.m. because I’m drawing a blank. Then I stare angrily at my pets. Why couldn’t one of the cats have done something silly so that I could write about it?

Why couldn’t the other cat cause some sort of unfathomable horrors to the house like in 2006 when Charlotte, a cat I used to own, did $10,000 damage to the house after she played with the filter on the aquarium and caused 35 gallons of water to overflow onto the hardwood floors and seep through into the basement? Now that was a thoughtful cat! Always happy to help her daddy with his column writing by causing havoc. Although I had to re-home Charlotte because the other two cats – Cindy and Casey – tried to kill her one day (that’s a whole other episode of Dr. Phil!), at least she gave me something to write about.

As for the dog, Milane, well she just sits there and looks adorable. What am I supposed to do with that? So selfish. Give me something to work with! Get possessed by a demon or something. Sitting there looking cute and sweet with those big eyes isn’t going to bring home the dog treats!

procrastination 2Once I start something, though, whether it’s a decluttering project, writing or shovelling snow, it’s never half as bad as I had made it out to be. It feels good to be accomplishing it. And the end result is never has difficult as I had imagined it.

Which brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this column. There’s never a perfect time to start anything. Just start it.

In the past week, I’ve made a bunch of decisions about the administration of my website, email and computer backups. It feels very good to have finally made them. I also got some new graphics designed for my website and newsletter headers. If I told you how long I’ve been thinking about doing just that – well, I’d be too embarrassed to tell you, actually.

Now, at least, all my precious photos and work files will be backed up into what they call ‘the cloud’ and I won’t have to worry about losing it all like I did many years ago when a computer crash led to years of work and memories gone down the drain. It’s no fun having to start over. And these days, there’s absolutely no need of it!

It’s funny. After I read that quote last week, it sparked something in me that got me going on a number of fronts. The timing will never be perfect. Sometimes, you just have to start – and that makes it perfect!

Hump Day: Lying on a beach waiting to die is for sick whales, not people

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

I read an interesting quote the other day by Sanjeev Saxena, the chairman and CEO of POC Medical Systems based in California. “If you don’t know what to do with your life, do something that saves lives. The world is full of people in need. Be the part of their life that fills that need.”

I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that if you asked many people – even perhaps most, “If money was no issue and you could afford to sit by a pool or a beach for the rest of your life, would you?” – that the resounding answer would be yes. We seem to have some romantic notion that permanent relaxation is quality of life.

I’m not saying a nice retirement and doing what you want to do after a 40-year career isn’t earned. Of course it is, but to sit and stare out the window (or on a beach) waiting to die? What kind of life is that?

I’ve talked to people who are barely 40 years old and, if they could, would sit by a pool for the rest of their lives getting a tan. How boring… and what a waste of a precious life. I like the way Mr. Saxena thinks. Perhaps we don’t have to choose to save lives, but the gist of the quote is to do something that matters.

Each person’s perception of what ‘matters’ is different. If you work in retail and love providing good service to people so they find the things they need, that’s great! It’s something that matters. If you work as a cook and love to prepare good food for people, that’s great, too! Doing something with our lives doesn’t mean aspiring to win a Nobel Prize. It just means being happy in your career or making the best of your situation. If you’re not thrilled with your job, then choose some fulfilling volunteer work in your spare time.

There are always choices. The world can be a big scary place. There is illness. There is crime. There is fear. There is illiteracy. There is hunger. There is war. There is violence. It’s hardly a time in history when we can afford for people who have yet to find a grey hair on their head to put their feet up and retire. The world needs you!

I read a quote from a business leader the other day in which he said the thought of going on vacation and doing nothing was repulsive to him. Sitting around a pool? Hanging out on a beach all day? Not for him. He may have chosen other things, but he did not have the ‘doing nothing’ gene. And he’d probably never retire, either.

I can ‘do nothing’ with the best of them, and I certainly appreciate quiet time alone on the sofa with just me and my thoughts. This may sound silly if you haven’t already contemplated the notion, but just the act of thinking is hard work. Figuring out problems. Making life plans. We need to give more respect to the act of thinking during quiet time. Turn off the television. Turn off the music. Find some place to do a bit of contemplation.

sunbathingYes, that’s a healthy thing to do. And yes, even beside a pool or on a nice beach somewhere – but not for the rest of your life! I mean, how much thinking do you need to do? You have to take action to make things happen. No magic genie is going to appear and drop bags of money at your feet.

All I’m trying to say is that the world needs everyone to do their part as long as they can. If you’re 65 and have worked for 45 years, well consider yourself off the hook – up to a point. I mean, 65 is still practically a kid these days. You still have a lot to offer!

But honest to God, if I hear one more person (mostly on Facebook) start pining away for retirement on a beach when they’ve barely hit 40, I think I’ll hand them a garbage bag and tell them to start cleaning up that dirty old beach! Make yourself useful!

There’s way too much going on out there to sit back and do nothing. Each one of us has an obligation to contribute to society as long as we’re healthy and able to do so. The world doesn’t owe us a thing, but we sure do owe it something. At the very least, we owe it our best self, not lying on a beach for 30 years when there are starving children in the world.

Hump Day: Cable providers face a twilight zone if they don’t ‘adjust their sets’

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

It’s a new year and everyone is making resolutions. Maybe one of yours is to watch less television. It goes without saying that most people who make a tonne of money and have abs you could grate cheese on don’t sit in front of the television for hours on end every week.

Television is changing, though, and we’re being given more and more control all the time over what we watch – and when we watch it. When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, you watched what was on the screen unless you literally got up and changed the channel by turning a large knob. We weren’t allowed to change it too fast, though, because we could strip something and end up having to call a repairman.

We had a large black-and-white television that also housed a radio and hifi record player. It was a luxurious set at the time but after 15 years was beginning to show its age. It gave us a lot of pleasure, especially playing albums on Sunday mornings when there was nothing on worth watching except those old Davey and Goliath cartoons from the Lutheran Church.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for old country twang because of that stereo. I could listen to it all day. The television also served as the background of the mandatory nude shot of me as a baby as I leaned up against it just as I was learning to walk.

watch tvIn the late 1970s, things began to change. We acquired a new, more modern television set, one to which we could hook up cable. It also had a remote control. I don’t know about you, but in our house the rule was that whoever had the remote was the one who controlled what we watched. You could be watching something and then suddenly have the channel change right before your eyes as an evil sibling smiled like a ghoul at you just as they were about to announce who the murderer was in the two-hour movie you were watching.

Driving your siblings crazy was not the only purpose for using the remote. The other was changing channels during commercials in order to avoid them. It was the beginning of the end to our attention spans, not to mention a game-changer for the advertising industry. I’m not sure if we were being paranoid, though, because it seemed like every channel went to commercial at the same time, forcing us to watch a commercial of some sort anyway.

As the years passed, VCRs appeared, allowing us to set up timers and record our favourite shows at any time of the day or night. If you could figure out how to get the machine to stop flashing ‘12:00’ over and over, you were considered a technological genius. On a limited basis, we could watch what we wanted and play it back at our convenience – not to mention skip through commercials by fast forwarding.

Then PVRs came along and the Internet, including television on demand and the ability to record several shows at once. Pirate websites now allow you to watch television shows and feature films for free even if you don’t have cable.

All this has resulted in people disconnecting their cable in droves in favour of websites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime (in the U.S.) and myriad other services – some legal, some not. Even traditional cable providers here in Canada such as Bell Aliant and Rogers are now offering their own robust, premium on-demand services through which you can access a number of full series and movies – for an extra subscription fee, mind you.

Where I think Bell Aliant and Rogers are missing the boat, though, is only allowing their current customers to access their services. I, for example, am not a Rogers customer, however would love to try their Shomi service because it has some great content. But I can’t because I’m not a current Rogers customer. (And no, I’m not switching for a variety of reasons.)

Why not allow non-customers to subscribe for a higher fee and access the content over the Internet such as with Netflix? At least you’d be getting $10 out of me every month rather than $0 and exposing me on a daily basis to your brand in a positive fashion.

We binge-watch now. We skip commercials. We watch on our schedule. Companies had better be open to completely reinventing themselves and coming up with out-of-the-box thinking for access to their premium content. Like I said, getting $10 per month from me is better than nothing.