Forget It and Get Smart

It’s so frustrating to not be able to remember something.  But it can also be a little scary and maybe embarrassing.  “You’re not as young as you used to be, Ken.”  That’s what they’re thinking!  (Likely not…but this is what we do, right?)

Scary and embarrassing.

Scary because these days we might wonder whether Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia has come to claim us.  Embarrassing because that piece of information is right there on the tip of our tongues and we can’t quite reach it….while people wait patiently (or not) for us to finish our thought.

But what if I told you that forgetfulness helps learning?

Well, according to researchers at the University of Toronto (suspicious Canadian source, I know)…the goal of memory isn’t to hold on to all information, but rather to hold on to useful information and let go of that which is not useful.  This for the purpose of optimizing intelligence.

So if I forget to pick up the loaf of bread on the way home….that’s just me getting smarter?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) forgetfulness is a normal part of aging though folks sometimes worry that it is the onset of Alzheimer’s.  They list a few useful examples of the differences between forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s.

  • Forgetfulness – missed a monthly payment.
  • Alzheimer’s – Problems managing monthly bills.
  • Forgetfulness – forgetting the right word in mid-sentence.
  • Alzheimer’s – having trouble maintaining a conversation.

WebMD has some good tips for improving your memory.  Here are a couple I like and use frequently.  (Let’s see if I can remember them….)

TALK ALOUD TO YOURSELF – I use this one everyday as I pull away from the house in my truck.  “The garage door is closed” I say…because if I don’t say it I end up circling back to check it.  Oh, and by the way, the garage door has been closed 100% of the times I have circled back.

POST REMINDER SIGNS IN YOUR HOUSE – I use this one a lot to….though it would be more accurate to say that my wife uses this one a lot on my behalf.  Lots of post it notes.  “Don’t forget your computer / iPad / snacks / Trash to Curb”.  Sometimes I still forget the “trash to curb”….wink, wink.

MNEMONIC TRICKS– Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey….you get the picture.

EXERCISE MIND AND BODY – regular exercise, reasonable nutrition and a solid sleep plan helps in this area and others.  But don’t forget to exercise that brain muscle, too.  Read, play a musical instrument, trivia games, chess, etc… something fun and sustainable .

That’s all I can remember to say about forgetfulness.  Did I miss anything?  I hope so….

…because according to those Canadians, that’s me gettin’ smarter.


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Seeking The Essential

I have a life….and it has a purpose.

This statement is universally true.  So we go about our days pursuing our goals, seeking truth, growing in our understanding of the world, supporting family or friends, etc. and always pushing forward toward whatever it is we have identified as our purpose.  Right?

Sadly….the answer to that question is often “No, not really.”

Does it feel like life has thrown all kinds of obstacles on the path to pursuing your purpose?  Do you ever feel bogged down by processes and tasks that seem productive but don’t even begin to move the needle in any substantial way?

Are you thinking to yourself…”Ken, are you kidding me? Who has time for pursuing a dang ‘purpose’ for goodness sakes! Get real!”

First of all…quit yelling at me and calm down or I’ll give you ‘what for’….(I’ve never quite understood the meaning of ‘what for’….but that’s what you’ve got coming if you don’t calm down!)

I just glanced over at my iPhone and saw that I have 166 unread email messages.  I can almost guarantee that of those 166 unread messages…..somewhere around 150 of them, based on past experience, are related to things that will not move the needle even one inch in my business purpose.

A mentor recommended a book called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown.  It’s a really good read that I highly recommend.  I’ve read it once and will read it again soon now that I have had a little time to process it.

In his book, Greg argues in favor of the disciplined pursuit of the essential.  One might say that is fairly intuitive wisdom.  It’s intuitive because the opposite would be the undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential.  In other words, wasting your time on unproductive pursuits…..and who would do that?

Well….me for starters as it turns out.  And I suspect YOU too….once you start to really think about it.

I have 166 unread emails to sort through tomorrow morning…..many will be of little or no value toward achieving my larger goals.  But lacking value does not mean lacking cost.  The cost is time…..time spent not focusing on those things that are essential to my purpose.  Time spent working through emails of little or no value is a great example of the “undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential”.

I’ll bet you have your own version of 166 valueless emails in your life.  In fact, I am sure of it.

So here’s the deal…in my opinion, this is a VERY big topic. It’s also a very important topic but I am committed to keeping these posts limited to 500-600 words.  I believe in the power of brevity.

So Essentialism, as a concept captured so well by Greg McKeown, is going to be a recurring area of exploration in this blog.

My hope for today is that you take a moment and identify a few areas of non-essential activity that costs you time but delivers little or no return on that investment.

…and if reading this blog is on your list of non-essential activity…..well, I’ll be giving you ‘what for’!!!


(Hey! Before you go, answer the new poll question!)

The Happy Life – Magic Word

I work in an office park that is primarily medical offices.  As a result, I see a lot of people who are not doing well from a health standpoint. There are a lot of pained faces, slow moving seniors, slings and bandages, folks who look pretty sad over their lot in life, unhappy about the cards they have been dealt.

I walk by these folks and, as is often the case in society today, there is a great deal of effort to avoid eye contact on both sides of the interaction.

But I have discovered an almost universal truth.

You can almost always change someone’s facial expression with one simple word as you pass by them.  The change is almost always positive!  There are exceptions but they are rare I assure you.

It’s a magical word with powers that stretch well beyond its modest size.  It’s a word that everyone knows but we are sometimes hesitant to use for fear that our intentions might be misunderstood.  It’s a word we fear may intrude on someone’s carefully guarded privacy.

It’s not a vulgar word at all…though some people might not have a positive response to it.  Perhaps an unhappy reaction to the word would say more about the disposition of the receiver than the giver of the word.

It’s such a simple word and it can mean a great deal to some folks….not as much to others.  That’s the thing about this word….it can be like a key that unlocks so many other things if spoken to the right person at just the right moment in their day or life.


That’s it.  “Hi.”  And if you’re feeling froggy you might get fancy and add a “How ya doin’?” for punctuation.

Henry David Thoreau famously wrote “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”  I’ve always been touched by that quote because it reminds me that every person I see is carrying some source of pain in their lives for which most of the people around them are unaware.

A simple gesture, two letters, one word…can make all the difference sometimes.

Take a chance today….and say “Hi” to a complete stranger that you would not usually acknowledge.  Watch their face change…..and if you feel froggy follow it up with something fancy.

You never know….YOUR face might change too.


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The Happy Life – Present

Remember roll call back in school?

Bobby?  “Here.”  Sue?  “Here.”  Jerry?  “Here.”  Cyrano?  “Present”

Present.  Really Cyrano?  Present?  Smart aleck.

I remember thinking how using the word “present” during a roll call had the effect of making you stand out in a crowd.  Being “present” in a sea of folks who were simply “here” made you a little different.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to the conclusion that being “present” is probably still less common than it should be, makes you a little different, but has a value that goes mostly unappreciated.

Consider the case of old Cyrano who claimed to be “present” in that roll call all those years ago.  Cyrano has a thing for a young lady named Rose.  He is sitting on a park bench in New Orleans daydreaming about a recent encounter he had with the object of his affection, Rose.  He thinks to himself…”Dang, you know what I should have said?  I should have said….well, no…I’ll bet she wouldn’t like that.  Maybe next time I’ll….”

Meanwhile, as old Cyrano is busy ruminating about the past, he looks up from his park bench to discover that two of his football heroes, Peyton Manning and his brother Eli, are walking his way along the path in front of his park bench!  Cyrano starts scrambling for his iPhone to take a video, but it’s stuck in his pocket!  The Mannings are now passing in front of him and Cyrano is still dancing around clumsily, desperately trying to dislodge that phone from his trousers!

Peyton says…”You alright, mister?”

Cyrano is beside himself because remarkably, to save his life, he cannot get that dang phone out of his pocket!

“Uh, yeah, I’m fine…Mr. Manning…er, uh…#!+?*#+!’

Peyton and Eli smile and walk away.  They have seen this a few times.

Cyrano said he was “present” all those years ago.  And he may well have been.  But today, Cyrano is rarely present.

He spends his days reliving his past encounters…regretting, re-running scenarios, thinking about ‘what if’, beating himself up, etc.

And then when something really great is happening in the moment he focuses on capturing that moment for posterity on video.  That way he can enjoy the moment for days to come AND probably get a whole bunch of “likes” on his FaceTwit account….maybe even go viral!

You know the problem, of course.  You probably have the same problem.

We all do at some level I suppose.  The problem is that any time spent re-hashing the past or focusing on recording the present for the future is time spent not focusing on what is in front of us….RIGHT NOW!

…and that means we are missing out on a conversation we could be having with our own “Rose” at this very moment.  Or failing to experience the very thing we wish to capture and take with us for future joy.

Cyrano would do well to focus on what is in front of his nose.  Find and appreciate the Roses in your life because yesterday is over and video only captures two of the five senses.

Roses are spectacular when they bloom but they are only with us for a short time.  They are such a prize…..but you have to be “present” to win.


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