Turn Off The News, Don’t Check Facebook, Live Your Life

This past election cycle in the U.S. was one of the more contentious ones. Whether “your” candidate won or lost, there was a lot of stress on both sides of the aisle, and it is reasonable to say that the stress continues today.

A great many people have harmed themselves by devouring the news constantly. It creates unnecessary stress, anger and a host of other negative emotions. It steals your time and your energy, and it doesn’t leave you with anything good in exchange.

The news that you might read on Facebook, Yahoo! or MSN, or watch on CBS, CNN or Fox News is designed to pull you in and to create an emotional rise. That emotional rise, when it occurs continually, is a bad thing for you.

When I think to the news that I’ve read, watched or heard, 99% or more of it has no real significant impact on my life. It doesn’t change how I make decisions. It doesn’t change how I interact with the world. It doesn’t do anything of value except, often, try to make me angry and waste my time, so that there is an additional set of eyes to look at the advertisements. It tries to pull me in so that I’ll develop this urge to check the news and stay current on all of the information that is presented to me, even though that information isn’t really useful.

I think of family members who watch the evening news. This person’s house burned down. This person lost their dog. Someone else ran into a telephone pole and power was out. If I see on the news that there was a drug bust, horrible behavior and someone died but I wasn’t a part of it, it probably has no impact on me.

Think back to all of the time you’ve read or watched the news, and ask yourself 1. “How much do I remember?” and 2. “What did I get out of it?”

If the creek that overflows every time there is a heavy rain does so for the 975th time, I probably already know that. When the creek overflows for that 975th time and floods the local car dealership for the 975th time, it doesn’t matter to me. I already know that that happens. I already know that if I were to go buy a used car from a dealer whose business is located on a flood plain that there’s a chance I might be buying a car that was in a flood.

If people are fighting over politics on the television, it probably isn’t worth my time to watch because when election time comes, I’m going to make my own decision on who to vote for.

Most of the posts on Facebook aren’t significant, and it isn’t important to keep reading what everyone else is doing. It is important to do what matters and what you enjoy for your own life.

The bottom line is this. Most of the news, the social media updates, and the commentary that we consume ranges from useless to toxic. Don’t waste your life reading about other people who are living theirs. Don’t waste your life being made angry by other people who are only baiting you to look at advertisements.

Turn off the news, find the app that disables the news or update feeds, don’t check the websites. You will find that you aren’t missing much, but have much less stress and live better.

People who succeed tend to build that success on their own. People who don’t build the lives that they want can often attribute that to wasting their time and their energy.

 

Take Advantage of Free Education

Do you want free education? I know that there is recurring talk in the political realm about the debate over whether higher education should be free or not, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about the free education that is all around you that you could take advantage of, but that you pass by.

When I was in high school, I was offered the chance to go to a technical school to learn a trade. I planned to go to college, but I saw something good in learning a trade so that I would have employment before I went to college. I went to a vocational technical school while I was in high school, aside from my college prep classes, and learned how to repair computers. That technical training in my junior and senior years gave me a very early start into the computer field. I would eventually complete an undergrad in information technology and then go on to attain an MBA, but I know that I made my career entrance a lot earlier. The vocational education gave me the ability to become a computer technician at the age of 17, and start gaining experience (and income). I did not have to wait until I graduated from college.

Additionally, when I was in high school, I was offered the chance to take college classes at significantly reduced rates (I believe a few were free, and others were nearly free). I chose to take the classes, and they were credits that I did not need to pay so much more for when I went to college.

You might be thinking… “that’s high school. I’m not in high school anymore.”

Well, continue on.

Not long after high school had ended, I was offered the chance to teach a class on computer repair. I wasn’t going to get paid. I was going to have someone help me prepare for the class so that I would know how to format a lesson and teach the content. I decided to do it. It cost me some time, but I learned how to teach in an academic setting. It gave me knowledge and experience for later opportunities when I would teach for local colleges.

Just a few years after high school, I got into real estate investing. As I did so, I found that I needed to learn about wiring receptacles. How did I find out how? I initially got a book from my local library on the basics of home wiring. I read the instructions and looked at the wiring layout and followed what I read.

At another time, when I wanted to learn how to drive a manual vehicle (I needed to buy a truck and I found an affordable one that was not an automatic) I went onto the Internet and looked up “how to drive a manual vehicle.” It might sound ridiculous, but it worked. I bough the vehicle and I knew just enough to get the vehicle home. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but once it was home I had the ability to get better, and in short order I learned to drive with no issue.

Then, I worked for an employer who offered a very small amount of money for workplace training (it was less than $500 per year) but I figured I would take advantage of it and get a certification in my career field.

At another employer, I was offered a larger annual sum for education. It wasn’t enough that I could go get a degree (I had two degrees, and didn’t really want anymore) but it was enough that I could learn a new skill. Looking around, I realized that one of my biggest challenges and expenses as a real estate investor was HVAC work. Since the EPA requires certifications to be allowed to buy refrigerant, and since HVAC services are expensive, I figured I would dramatically benefit my own investing by getting the certification. My employer was paying, but I would reap significant benefits from it.

Lastly, I will mention that most times I go dancing (many of the dances are free) I find that there is a free lesson taught. If you wanted to learn to dance, you could very likely look for places in your area where dances are held and find out which ones are at no cost and which ones have lessons. While I’m primarily self-taught, I did learn quite a few things from the free lessons before dances.

As you read all of this, consider how much opportunity I would have passed if I never decided to take advantage of the free education that was available.

What kind of education are you passing up? Are you in high school and able to benefit from learning a trade before you go to college? Are you working for an employer who offers tuition or education reimbursement? Is someone else willing to apprentice you?

Free education is all around. You only need to start looking and as time passes you will find more and more opportunities. If you have never thought of how much you could benefit by learning without paying, hopefully this has given you a different perspective.

Reclaiming Your Time and Creating Success

In this age of social media, it is easy to think that you need to be plugged in and aware of what is going on around you all of the time. Many people feel the need to check their social media feeds constantly, for fear that they may be missing out on something. You can pull up Facebook and see creative solutions for life problems. You can see new products and new services that people are offering. You can read online news and keep up on current events. You can always be listening to music. Is it good to do all of this?

I will admit that I have experienced the draw of being plugged in all the time. I work in information technology. I have a smartphone and I use it for my career, for my personal life and for my own business. However, I know that being plugged in all of the time is not a good thing. I force myself to turn the electronic devices off completely for at least 2 hours each day. There had been times before this that I would find myself staying up late and being tired for work, or of finding that I had no energy because I was spending so much time with technology.

What I would recommend is to set aside time everyday to unplug. If you find that you never exercise, or have trouble keeping your house clean, or do not get to bed at a reasonable hour, or are not spending time with friends and family or that you are not accomplishing anything in life, then you should find a time to let your mind relax. Your mind should not always be engaged. If your mind is always engaged, you are preventing your mind from discovering solutions to the challenges that you face. If you have never tried this, take a long walk outside and just look around. Don’t go for any specific reason. What will happen? Your mind will start to have idle time with which it can start to think. It will start to wander into the areas that matter most to you or that are limiting you. It will start to evaluate or create options for you to have success in your life.

It is a very unwise thing to spend all of your time time with technology, listening to music, watching television, reading social media updates, devouring the news or anything else that requires you to be constantly engaged. Those things benefit you very little, and they get in the way of the good things that your mind could assist you with if only you took the time to allow your mind to idle. Once your mind idles, it creates solutions. Once your mind has solutions, you will gain excitement and energy to pursue them.

Learning How to Dance

It was by accident that I learned how to dance. I was posting an apartment for rent on Craigslist one evening and feeling really bored. So, I decided to click on the services section just to see if there was anything else out there that would interest me. In doing so, I stumbled upon an ad posted by a woman who was offering dance lessons out of her house. The price was very good, and so I contacted her and setup a first lesson.

When I met my instructor for the first time, she asked me “what do you want to do?” and I replied “I want to learn how to dance.” That sounds simple enough, right? I had never danced before, and I had no perspective on what dancing was. Sure, I had been to weddings and school dances and other places where there was dancing. A few times, I even went out and… did… something. I never watched dancing. I didn’t know anything about dancing. I just “wanted to learn how to dance” because I saw an ad on craigslist.

Background story aside, here is where things become interesting. My new instructor asked me “what do you want to learn?” and I replied “I want to learn how to dance.” That might sound like it is the same thing, but continue on and you will see that it betrays something very useful that tragically frustrates so many people who dance and who attempt to learn.

When I said “I want to learn how to dance” she did not reply “ok, I’ll teach you how to dance.” She said “ok, I will teach you how to dance Bronze Level American Ballroom Style Cha-Cha.” I was excited to begin. I wanted to know how to dance. She showed me a step pattern on the floor and I began to practice it with her. My first and only private instructor was excellent. There are many good instructors out there in my city, but this one was uniquely a perfect fit for me. For the first two or three lessons, she showed me a pattern and I learned it. After that, I found a ballroom dance website with instructions on patterns and I started taking a list of things I wanted to learn. She merely practiced the pattern with me. I ended up learning a massive number of step patterns very quickly.

My lessons were efficient, but they were also unique. I was very clear that I was not interested in doing anything perfectly—a statement that is anathema to most instructors. She knew what I wanted. I didn’t want to waste time doing something “perfect” because “perfect” might not be “perfect” to someone else. I was interested in finding out how much I needed to learn and I was interested in learning enough to make it so that I could understand any step I saw someone else do, so that I could decide if I wanted to learn it and do it myself. I had asked her “how much is there to learn?” and she said “a lot.” It was very clear to me that no one, not even Google, would definitively tell me “how much” there was to learn. I needed to get a feel for it on my own.

I took lessons from this ballroom instructor for somewhere around 12 months, but only had regular lessons for about 6 months. I started social dancing after about 2 months of lessons. I was not good at it, but I was devouring new patterns everywhere. It took only about 6 months, but I realized that what I was learning was “what” to dance. I began to realize that I wasn’t learning “how” to dance.

I took introductory lessons in all of the American ballroom dances. I danced at ballroom events. Everyone told me I was so good. I knew I was terrible. I knew a lot of steps, but I knew I did not know how to dance. Then, I went to a salsa club, and did not know how to dance. Nothing I knew translated to salsa. I did not even know how to dance cha-cha. I had learned to dance American Ballroom cha-cha and I couldn’t even dance cha-cha in a club setting, because it was different. Since I did not know enough to dance, I learned LA style salsa and bachata. I taught myself to dance the club version of cha-cha. Then I saw a couple dancing Argentine Tango. I knew all of these ballroom styles. I knew the patterns for Latin club dances. I still could not dance Argentine Tango. So, I learned Argentine Tango. Then I went to a West Coast Swing dance. I didn’t know how to do that. Don’t even get me started on the country and modern line dancing. The story goes on and on just like this.

After many iterations, I ended up at a nightclub, but not to dance. I was just watching and socializing. It hit me. I didn’t learn “how” to dance. I couldn’t ask anyone at that nightclub to dance. I knew how to dance Argentine Tango, Foxtrot, Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Swing and many more dances, but I didn’t know “how” to dance. I only had learned “what” to dance. The “what” of my learning was admittedly deeper, broader, faster and less expensive than a great many who had gone before me, but I found it kind of impressive that it was just dust on the scales.

In future posts, I will share more about how I learned “how” to dance, and in the free videos linked on this site and (if you wish) the paid content on Udemy, you will see how learning to dance from the top down rather from the bottom up will make you a far better dancer than most, and in much less time.