Getting Fit At 50…And Beyond

Been feeling a little “bleh” since the holidays?  Mid-winter blues can take the wind out of anyone’s sails.  Age is a big one, but not one of the more obvious ones.  Once we get into our 30s, our respective hormones are starting to fade.  If we’ve neglected exercise for a long time, age comes up as a secondary reason to not engage; “I’m too old for this.”

When we don’t keep up the maintenance, the fenders start to sag a little.  Into our 40s, the spare tire really starts to show.  The battery doesn’t seem to want to stay charged, and the gas tank empties quicker than it used to.  If it’s been a while since you’ve been active, whether it’s the winter blahs, busyness, or getting older, read on.

Even if you’re under the half-century mark, everyone can benefit from this advice.  My main point with targeting the 50 and older crowd is that it’s easier than you think.  Most of what I’ll describe here benefits overall physical health, and can be applied to everyone.  As with any fitness advice, take it, try it, and tailor it to your specific needs and body type.  Nothing is set in stone.  And, whether you’re 25 or 55, if you apply it and stick to it, you’ll see positive results sooner than you think.

I’ve written a longer article on the topic of fitness after 50, but it’s more tailored to men getting bigger and stronger.  It’s published on LinkedIn and you can find it on my website.  If that’s more your speed, check it out.  With this post, I’ll share some personal experience, cover a couple of main ideas behind getting fit at any age – especially the 50+ category – and hopefully leave you feeling inspired to go out and get pumped.

Can It Be Done?

About 15 years ago, I found this little hole-in-the-wall gym a few miles from where I worked.  It was around in back of an old bowling alley.  The gym and its owner are long gone, but the memories of working out there, even just a few times that I did, will stay with me forever.

The owner was a little 70-something year old guy.  He looked the part, shuffling around the gym, slightly bent over.  He wore a varsity-style windbreaker and a Harley Davidson hat.  He might’ve reminded you of Burgess Meredith’s Mickey in “Rocky”.

He was always sharing advice, ad hoc training tips, especially if you were squatting or deadlifting.  But unlike his famous boxing coach doppelganger, he was a former competitive power lifter, and…well, man!  He still had it.  I watched this guy squat 500 pounds, deep, for 10 reps.  This little 70 year old man!  My jaw hit the floor.  I still haven’t hit a 500-pound squat, even for a 1 rep max!

And he did it…to teach me a lesson.  The lesson was, go deep.  He did not believe in stopping the squat at or above horizontal (when your thighs are horizontal to the floor).  His point was, you won’t hurt your knees by going deep on squats, if your form is correct.  It gets the most strength and muscle development out of the exercise.  And he’s right.  I’ve done it myself, and it works.

“You’re a tank!”

This guy was still training competitive lifters, too.  He had guys in there that were in their 40s and 50s, some who’d never lifted much at all before.  Rank beginners, and he had them deadlifting 400 pounds within a few months.

So yes, it can most certainly be done.

What’s The Secret?

I’m probably not going to tell you anything you haven’t heard before.  What I can offer that’s different is this: I’m not selling any products or programs.  I’m just a guy in my early 50s who’s done these things, and they work.  Period.  I’ve seen the results first-hand.

There are gimmicky programs out there that tell you that because you’re over a certain age, you shouldn’t be in the gym trying to build muscle. While it’s fine to shoot for a lean, trim physique, it’s a complete falsehood that someone over a certain age can’t hit the gym to gain size and strength. If that’s your goal, go for it!

So, where do you start?  What’s the number one key to gaining a fit and stronger physique, even after 50?

Diet!  Of course.  It’s the old tried and true – garbage in, garbage out.  The first thing that comes to my mind is: Do not drink soda, or too many carbonated drinks of any kind.  The carbonation is not good for you.  Cut out sugar as much as possible.  Avoid other junky foods and additives.  Common sense stuff, just start with a general clean-up.  When all else fails, drink a glass of water.

  • As far as a particular menu plan, a keto or other low carb plan works best.  Fruits and vegetables, a good amount of protein, and fats.  Don’t shy away from avocados, butter or coconut oil for cooking.  Keep your carbs at 10 grams or less per day.  Carbs take time to break down for energy use, so they get stored and used a little at a time.  Fat is burned immediately by the body for energy.  By keeping the carbs low with a “healthy” fat content, your body will burn the carbs and then dive into its own fat stores for energy.
  • There is confusion about how healthy or not a low carb diet is.  You may have heard that the keto diet isn’t safe to sustain long-term.  With proper management and food choices, it can be safe and healthy for the long haul.  If you’re unsure, try it for a few months, then switch back to a normal carb-loaded diet for a while.  For more details on low carb diets, check this out.
  • I tried the keto diet at the turn of the new year a few years ago, and coupled it with intermittent fasting.  In three to four weeks, I’d dropped 10 pounds and gained lean size and strength.  I kept it going for 3 months.  My energy level was better than ever, and I was sleeping great at night.  It works.

Exercise:  This one is pretty flexible, because it depends on your desired results.  If you want to get lean with some increased muscle tone and strength, you’ll want to incorporate more cardio or HIIT training, with a moderate, higher-rep resistance training plan.  If you want to get big and strong, hit the weights.  Hard and heavy.

  • Try to do your cardio and anaerobic activity in the morning.  Your strength training is better suited to afternoon to evening hours.  Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but research shows these are the optimal times for the respective activities.  You can pair your cardio/HIIT with your strength training, if you don’t want to do two workouts in a day.  Or split up the days, one for cardio and one for lifting.

Sleep:  The last (but not least) piece of the fitness triad.  How much good, quality sleep are you getting a night?  Everyone’s different and have differing sleep behaviors.  But, there are well-established studies and guidelines relating a healthy amount of sleep to good overall health.  This is not a new topic, or new advice.  In general, if you’re an adult, you need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night.

  • I have always been a light, fitful sleeper, so it’s taken some work for me to get at least 7 hours of sleep during the week, when I have to get up for work.  I try to hold close to the same schedule over the weekend, allowing myself up to an extra hour on Saturday and Sunday.  It’s tempting to stay up late on a Friday or Saturday, and sleep in the next day.  But significant changes to your sleep schedule will have negative effects on your sleep quality and health.
  • Your body does the majority of recovery while sleeping.  If you want to get in – and stay in – great shape and stay there, don’t skimp on sleep.

The Big 3 Are Common For A Reason

The “Big 3” – Diet, Exercise and Sleep – are so commonly repeated because they are the core elements for getting healthy and fit.  At any age.  Someone in their 50s isn’t going to be able to go out, at least not right away, and keep up with a 20-something in the gym, or on the treadmill.

But proper diet, sleep and exercise can get ANYONE fit, no matter how old.  The key is consistency.  There’s yo-yo dieting; don’t yo-yo on your exercise, or sleep.  Keep it up.  You’ll always have an off day or two, just don’t let them become slumps for days or weeks.  Get right back in the swing of things and stay on target.

The Pros and Cons of Doing It Yourself

I am, admittedly, reluctantly mechanically inclined.  My DIY career started off in a fitful, hesitant manner.  I did things (as many of us do) out of necessity (translation: save money).  I did not always enjoy working on cars, dishwashers or toilets…actually, I still don’t like toilets.

“Uuugh…”

But I work on them.  I’d rather be under one of my kids’ cars, or unclogging the dishwasher, or even up to my elbows in a toilet tank than call a professional.  I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years buying over-the-counter parts and putting them on myself.  Money can be a big motivator.  Let’s see…have a “certified pro” fix it for $500, or buy $100 worth of parts and spend an hour or two on a Saturday getting my hands a little dirty?

It’s A Nasty Job, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It

Fixing things around the house wasn’t always easy.  In fact, it didn’t really come naturally.  Oh, I could figure out what was wrong easy enough.  I could think through how things had to come apart and go back together.  But, this is the great difference between academic and hands-on knowledge.  Knowing and doing are two very different things.  I learned the hard way that, especially with cars, it rarely goes the way you expect.

Maybe you glanced through a Hayne’s repair manual you picked up at the local auto parts store.  Or you’ve watched a YouTube video.  They make it look so easy.  So you think, “ah, give me an hour and I’ll have both front brake discs and pads changed on my kid’s car.”  That, my friend, is fantasy.  In reality, an hour and a half later when you’re just getting the first side put back together, and you’re muttering to yourself, and the occasional wrench goes flying across the garage accompanied by a much louder, far more emotional outburst, you’re thinking, “what did I do wrong?  This should’ve gone so much easier than it did!”  Welcome to the world of DIY.

If you’ve only occasionally tried to fix something around the house yourself and had a bad time of it, you’re not alone.  There are those who are truly gifted with their hands.  They can knock out a repair job like nothing the first time through; they can really “spin a wrench”, as the saying goes.  Then there’s most of the rest of us.

But take heart!  Just like anything, practice makes perfect.  Not that we want stuff to break around the house so we can chalk up more training hours, but it’s a simple fact.  Unless you’re naturally talented at something, it’ll take several times before you’re really proficient at general around-the-house repair.

The Benefits of Doing It Yourself

Besides the money savings, if it takes a while to get proficient at it, why do it at all?  Most people have a budget for emergencies, or car repairs.  Plus, it’s so much nicer to have someone take care of it for you, isn’t it?

Believe it or not, there ARE tangible benefits to DIY.  For one, your problem solving improves.  It also aids creativity.  And, if you find that you like fixing things yourself, it can become a hobby and even a weekend side gig.  Not to mention, you’re learning something new and keeping active at the same time.

A former neighbor of mine is a certified Honda mechanic at a local dealership – he can really spin a wrench – and he’ll take several side jobs a month for a little extra cash.  He’ll even go to people’s homes, if they can’t get their cars to him.  He’s helped me out a time or two.

DIY time can mean together time

My current neighbor, who bought the house of my mechanic friend, is a builder and an expert at home improvement projects.  He spent a couple of weekends helping me rebuild our deck from the joists up.  He just loves to stay busy, and he likes helping people.  Not such a bad thing, eh?

The Co$t of DIY

But…don’t you have to have a lot of nice tools and equipment to do a lot of repairs?  No, not really.  It depends on what you’re doing.  Most plumbing jobs require just a few simple tools.

For example, when I work on our slow, stubborn drains, the only thing I need is a pair of regular pliers or small channel-locks, and a long screwdriver.  Our plumbing is all PVC under the sinks, so I can easily hand-loosen the joints to remove the trap and pipe from the sink drain.  The screwdriver is actually used to shove the paper towel through to clear out all the gunk.  You can use a butter knife or any similar long object.

Now, the garage is another story.  I’ve put some money into my tools for car repair.  But…I still did it economically.  I have hardly any name-brand equipment.  The vast majority of my tools, both hand and power, have come from Harbor Freight.  If you haven’t been to Harbor Freight, look up the closest one to you and go wander through.  It’s a veritable toy store for the DIY-er.

Both of my tool chests came from Harbor, as well as my floor jack and my electric impact wrench.  I have an old reciprocating saw that, if you believe the reviews, is cheap plastic junk that doesn’t last more than a few jobs.  But I’ve had that thing for years now…I’ve used it to cut suspension components off of our cars.  And it’s still running strong, for less than half of the name brand competition.

The weaponry of the weekend warrior’s arsenal

Harbor Freight has really increased the quality of their lines of power tools recently, and they have some good quality products that rival Snap-on, Milwaukee and other top brands.  And they’re still much cheaper than the big names.  Everything in my garage was bought at a fraction of what I would’ve paid if I’d gone name brand.

Are there downsides to DIY?  Sure, a few obvious ones.  Such as…

  • You Have To Buy Your Own Tools: If you don’t have many tools, you have to go out and get them.  This is especially true for the car repair side of DIY.  Like I mentioned earlier, this is where my biggest investment is.  And I can’t count the number of times I had to stop what I was doing and run back to the store to get just the *right* sized socket or wrench for something I encountered further in.
  • You Could Make It Worse: Then there’s this elephant in the room – if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re liable to mess it up even worse, which could mean a very costly professional repair (or replacement). 
  • Time Is Not On Your Side: Doing it yourself takes time, especially the first time or two you do a job.  Like I said, you don’t get good until you’ve paid your dues.  I’m much faster now at most around-the-house jobs than I was when I first started out.  But I still sometimes make mistakes that cost time.

Try It, You Might Like It

Despite the few drawbacks, everyone should give some DIY a try.  The benefits outweigh the negatives. The biggest, most obvious benefit is the money savings over having a professional do it.  But the other benefits can be just as positive – learning a new skill, improving problem-solving thinking, even finding a new hobby that’s useful as well as stress-relieving.  You might just surprise yourself and enjoy it.  And, you can use some of that hard-saved cash to spend on something fun.

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Is Reading One Better Than the Other?

TO BE honest, I was surprised at what I found when I first started researching this topic.  By searching the simple “reading fiction vs. non-fiction” query, I was inundated with far more results indicating reading fiction was better for you than reading non-fiction.  Yes, I tried reversing it (“reading non-fiction…”); the results were the same.  It seems public opinion – and a good amount of research – leans more toward fiction literature being better for your brain than, say, a biography or travelogue.

In order to better understand this question, we must first understand what we hope to gain from our reading.  We must also understand what each type of literature can offer.

Not Much Of A Reader?  Pick Your Poison, Then.

Before you click away to something more interesting – “I’m really not much of a reader…”, consider this: reading in general greatly improves your brain function.  Reading helps you sleep better, have less stress, and have less mental decline later in life.

With those kinds of positives going for it, why not?  Many of us will do much harder things for the sake of our physical health: Force ourselves to eat things we don’t really like, go to the gym and exercise (when we’d really rather be home relaxing).  Reading is easy, you just sit there and do it!  It takes less willpower and energy than drinking a green, gross super-smoothie or hitting the weights for an hour…AND it can improve your quality of life.

A Tale Of Two Stories

But back to the original question – to Fiction, or not to Fiction?  For those of you looking to expand your intellectual skill set, reading fiction helps to develop empathy, problem solving, adaptiveness and theory of mind, among other highbrow, academic traits.

But…you can’t beat non-fiction for boosting productive brainpower…here’s where type As rejoice.  From learning valuable life lessons to concentration to you’ll just be flat-out smarter, non-fiction is a fountain of educational possibilities.

Non-fiction gives us practical enlightenment.  Fiction provides the abstract knowledge that we need to be real, well-rounded people.  Sixteen years ago, Daniel Pink wrote in his book A Whole New Mind that we had moved from the Industrial Age (factory workers) to the Information Age (knowledge workers), and were moving once more into the Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers).

Employers are putting as much emphasis on associates with creative and empathetic skills as any technical skills.  I’ve personally seen in my own career journey: the practical skills of the job can be learned, but you can’t provide on-the-job training for people skills.  You either have them or you don’t.

Working in automotive quality for 20 years, I’ve had times where I’ve been able to accomplish as much or more with diplomacy and empathy than with statistics and number-crunching.  A phone call, and especially a face-to-face meeting with a distraught customer can do more to defuse a major issue than sitting at a desk and sending an e-mail with a report attached.  Why?  Because they want to know you care.

When you call and they hear a reassuring voice; or better, when you show up and they see your kind, understanding face, you’ve just taken the world’s weight off their shoulders.  You sit down and talk it out with them.  The problem solving is secondary; it happens as a natural part of the conversation.  But it’s the conversation, the contact, that matters.  And reading fiction can help develop those intangible, abstract skills that have become so highly sought after.

My Recommendation

When I was younger, I devoured fiction.  I thought non-fiction was too stuffy and boring.  As I grew, I developed an affinity for “realistic fiction” in the form of Michael Crichton.  If you’re not familiar, think Jurassic Park.  He wrote some amazing novels, usually backed up by real scientific research.  He work was really a fusion of the two genres.

Since about 2017, I’d switched course and read almost exclusively non-fiction.  Now, as of 2021, I’m consuming a balanced diet.  I’ve typically got one to two non-fiction books going, and then I relax before bed with a good work of fiction…currently, a Dean Koontz novel. The non-fiction is educational, for my own benefit. I love learning new things, always have. The fiction is to help me relax, and to (re)develop those intangible skills that make us better people. The world is sorely lacking in creativity and empathy, and we can all do better at developing those traits.

It’s Hard To Find Good Help These Days: The COVID-19 Employment Quandary

I don’t know about you, but my company’s been in a pinch.  Trying to find decent, reliable help has been near impossible.  We’ve been trying to place a temp worker or two for some simple sorting work, and secondary help on one of our bigger machining operations.  For months, the misses have far outnumbered the hits.  You name it, they’ve suffered from it: unreliable, slow, even showing up under the influence.

“I’m gonna need to take a day…”

Help Wanted…Please!

Granted, finding good quality hourly temp workers is more challenging than, say, hiring an engineer, salesman or even a technician on any given day.  But it’s been especially hard since COVID-19 shut everything down last spring.  There have been “Help Wanted” signs everywhere.  Several companies have had signs up since last year offering regular job fairs and walk-in interviews.

Employers everywhere are hard up for good help, and they’re having to make concessions to try and get bodies in the door.  A particular company’s Help Wanted ad mentioned that a drug screen is required, but that they are “THC friendly”. One business owner had enough of not finding good help, and bumped his starting hourly rate far above the norm.  This one was a big hit, and from reports I’ve heard from local colleagues, he’s had a flood of new help knocking at his door.

Why Is It So Hard To Find Good Help Lately?

Shutdowns

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has certainly been a novel virus.  And it’s brought some novel side effects to local, state and national economies.  Nationally, the effects were devastating as early as April of last year, with record job losses across the country.

Michigan’s unemployment rate was at 3.9% in September 2019.  A year later, it had more than doubled to 8.5%.  Shutdowns have crippled the entire economy, but they’ve hit small businesses especially hard.  Restaurants have been the hardest hit, with record numbers of them closing their doors for good last year.  Overall, over 1/3 of Michigan’s “mom and pop shops” went out of business last year.

Nationally, the unemployment rate hovered at about 4% just before the shutdowns.  It spiked to nearly 4 times that in April, and has been on a slow but steady decline since.  Even as recently as January, though, it’s still a full 2 percentage points higher than before the shutdown.

Relief Money

With all of this unemployment and so many productive people out of jobs, why can’t the companies that are hiring find good help?  Enter the financial stimulus packages.  Everyone received either a $600 (individual) a $1,200 (couples) check last year.  Businesses received forgivable loans in the Payroll Protection Act.  Congress dealt out another $600 per person late last year, and they’re looking to fully repeat both individual and small business stimulus plans this year.

Add in the extended unemployment benefits… Michigan citizens received an extra $600 from March 28th 2020, retroactive as needed, to July 31st, and the benefit timeline was expanded an extra 6 weeks.  As of late December 2020, an 11-week extension and a $300 bonus was given for unemployment benefits.

In short, people and companies are being paid not to work.  I’m not implying anything diabolical here, I’m just saying it’s yet another unfortunate side effect of the pandemic.  What was a well-intentioned action on the part of congress has had unintended negative effects on the economy.  Businesses were closed or on very reduced hours; people were out of work, not collecting their normal paychecks; bills, like time, march on no matter what – rent, mortgages, car payments and groceries all needed taken care of.

Fear Factor

There is concern among many that going back to work means exposing themselves to the virus, which has had devastating effects on some people.  Every day for months on any number of news outlets, all you heard about was increasing case rates; increasing death rates; hospitals near or at capacity.  I get it, the point of media outlets is to inform the public on the state of current events.  But another unfortunate side effect of the pandemic is, all of the constant broadcasting about it has created an attitude of fear.  People fearing for their health, even their very lives.

On the other side of the COVID coin, people are encouraged to call in and stay home if they feel even a little under the weather, because it could be the coronavirus.  They’re supposed to go to the doctor, get checked out and get tested.  But the doctor’s offices have been so overwhelmed that, unless the person has severe symptoms, they’re told to go home and treat it like a normal cold or flu.  So they stay home for a day or two, just to be sure.  If they do warrant a test, and the result is positive, there’s the two-week quarantine.

It’s no wonder that people aren’t going back to work regularly, and businesses are struggling to get back up and running like normal.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Pfizer and Moderna were both at the front of the line to release their COVID-19 vaccines, and those are in the process of being rolled out now.  Johnson & Johnson has a very promising candidate awaiting approval, also.  Once the vaccines are fully implemented, people can start feeling safe again and hopefully get back to normal.

Their arrival is not a moment too soon…for the physical health of the public, of course, especially the vulnerable demographic.  But also, for the health of our economy.  And for people’s mental health.  One of the more sinister yet less broadcast side effects from all of the shutdowns and sheltering-in-place have been the marked increases in depression, anxiety, substance abuse, domestic abuse and even suicide.

I believe that a majority of America is ready to get back to normal, and get back to work.  There is a difference between caution and fear.  What we need from our media and our government are words of encouragement and hope.  This can really turn the tide – change the public mindset, and get people fired up again.

Unclogging Those Stubborn Drains: Stop Procrastinating and Just Do It

I was going to write about something else completely last week, but then I got to thinking: I ended my last post about freeing up time to get other stuff done, like unclogging a slow bathroom sink.  As it turned out, I had three of them to deal with, and finally got to them…a week later, just before I started writing this.  And then I thought, “unclogging stubborn bathroom drains” can be a metaphor in itself for procrastination.

“Daaad!  We’ve got a problem!”

Do It Right, The First Time

A slow or clogged drain comes on slowly, over time.  At first, it’s barely noticeable.  Then it gets a little annoying.  But we put up with it, because it’s a pain to clear out a backed-up drain.  We’d rather stand back and wait a minute (or two, or three…) for the water to finally go down than mess with actually cleaning it out.  When I finally got around to doing the job, I got all three sinks cleared and back together in less than forty-five minutes.  I don’t just dump Drano®, or baking soda and vinegar down the drain, either.  The trap comes off, the stopper gets pulled out so I’ve got a straight shot down into a catch bowl below, and I push a wadded paper towel through a couple of times.  If you’ve ever done this – or just go Google “clogged bathroom sink” and check out some images – you know the hairy, gunky, nightmarish mess that comes out the other end.  I want it done right and I’m not waiting on a chemical reaction.  It’s messy, but it’s fast and gets the job done right.

(If you want to uber-clean your drains, as in a total teardown preventative maintenance that leaves them like new, check out these guys.  They’ve taken it to a whole new level.)

So, procrastination…about that.  A funny thing that this post has taken me forever to write.  I’ve been sputtering, stopping and starting for days now.  My goal is to write a post a week.  I did good with the first two, and now…well, I got stuck.  I didn’t want to procrastinate on it, but I just couldn’t get my mind back on topic.

Isn’t it ironic?”

Mmm, yeah.  The irony. Distractions – minor ones like watching a funny video to major ones like chaos in the house – are major sources of delay.  They can throw off the flow, and it can be surprisingly hard to get back on track.  By that time, we’ve got more on our plate to deal with, so decisions need to be made.  What to do…what’s more urgent?  Or easier?  Procrastination is as old a problem as humankind.  There are even verses in the Bible about procrastination: “Whoever watches the wind will not plant, and whoever watches the clouds will not reap”, Ecclesiastes 11:4; or, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth”, Proverbs 10:4.  One of my favorites – certainly a more proactive one – that I’ve called on plenty of times to get me through, is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

How Do I Delay Thee?  Let Me Count The Ways

Why do we procrastinate?  Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always laziness.  There can be a host of other reasons.  It can be anxiety, self-doubt, or perfectionism.  We might be control freaks.  A perfectionist wants the results of the work to be error free, so they delay the inevitable imperfect outcome.  Like that, a controller purposely delays a task so that it can’t go wrong, or out of their control.  Maybe we get overwhelmed at the size of a project.  The bottom line is, most of us care about the work we need to do, and when we procrastinate, we tend to regret it.  When we finally end up doing it, we feel better for it afterward.  In fact, I usually end up wondering, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”  Like with the slow bathroom drains.  I could’ve done them earlier last week.  Granted, it’s a messy, stinky job, but it’s fast and easy.  We generally have the desire to get something done, but there’s that mental roadblock standing in our way.  On the contrary, by definition, laziness is the unwillingness to do work or expend energy.  Lazy people couldn’t care less if something gets done.

Another big reason we procrastinate is disorganization.  We have so much going on around us, and the freedom to choose between so many things, we often lack the self-control to choose the thing that needs done.  So we choose a distraction instead.  Being disorganized plays right into this.  If we’re not good time managers, any and every little shiny bauble will distract us from the task at hand.  Some rely on the old “I work better under pressure” fallacy.  Been there, done that.  Ultimately we find out that less time to meet the deadline often ends up in the project providing substandard results, or it doesn’t even get finished.

Dream It?  Do It

Are you a dreamer?  I hear you.  We’re always coming up with new and fanciful ways to live life, to do the “next big thing”.  The trap of being a dreamer is, all of these wonderful scenarios play out just perfectly…in our heads.  When it comes to putting an idea into action, we get vapor locked.  That great idea that’s been bubbling in our brain can’t seem to get to get from point A to point B, our hands.  As one who’s lived through this, I can say that the biggest culprit is fear.  What if our grand idea doesn’t turn out as good in reality?  How do I even begin to make it a reality?

With writing, procrastination can come on very easy.  Two words: writer’s block.  But what is writer’s block except just a mental roadblock like what I’ve shown above?  That’s a whole other topic for a different post.  Writing is like any other task, except those of us who write love to do it, so it’s not generally seen as a chore that we might put off until later.  But it can be just as subject to stress, distraction, depression, perfectionism – some of the same causes that lead us to procrastinate on our work or household chores.

Just as there’s a host of reasons why we procrastinate, there are plenty of good ways to get over that bump in the road and get moving.  Nike made millions starting in the late 80s with three little words: Just Do It.  Simple, but effective.  I used this phrase endlessly with my kids as they grew up.  I used it myself countless times.  Just get up and get moving!  Take a step, even a little one.  If the task in front of you seems too big to take just a little step, break it down.

This is where schedules, to do lists and even diagrams can help.  I went out and bought myself an easel and a big paper pad to make notes on.  I’ve used it to list sources for an article – now turned book – that I started over the holidays.  I also plan to use it for article and blog post outlines, and even make flow chart or similar diagrams to help break a bigger project into more manageable pieces.  If you’re a visual learner like me, having it written or drawn out does wonders for being able to see it, grasp it, and do it.  Schedules and to do lists are great time management helpers, and time management is at the core of a lot of procrastination.  We don’t understand or we lose track not just of time, but the value of time.  Time marches forever onward, and we don’t get one second back.  When you let the urgency of that sink in, it’ll help motivate you to get up and get done today what you could’ve put off until tomorrow.

Leaving Social Media Behind

Oh, 2020, What Have You Done?

2020 was, if nothing else…interesting, and it will be memorable.  It turned our country – heck, the world – on its head with the Coronavirus outbreak and the race to one of the most momentous presidential elections in U.S. history.  The other thing 2020 will be remembered for is a culmination of division.  The division of our society, to the right and to the left.  Vitriol and animosity were alive and well in 2020.  This scary phenomenon reached a fever pitch the closer we got to November.  And it didn’t let up after the election, as accusations of cheating and fraud flew.  Since our newly elected president didn’t take office until a little over a week ago, that left plenty of time to amp up and shoot more political arrows to and fro across Facebook and Twitter

Is It A Boycott, Or An Act Of Self-Help?

I tried my level best to keep up with friends and family, primarily on Facebook.  I have friends on both sides of the political aisle, and for the most part, can dialogue and even engage in a spirited back-and-forth with those opposite of me and come out at the end laughing, okay with each other.  I’m no angel, and I’ve had my moments where I’ve lashed out at someone I felt was being unreasonable.  But generally we each make some minor concessions, ultimately agree to disagree, and both make concerted efforts to reach common ground.  That’s ultimately what’s missing on social media.  It’s a lost art, having a conversation between two people of opposite belief systems, but remaining good friends.  Even though we may disagree on major points, we make an effort at relationship, and even learn a little bit from each other.

With the recent cancellations of accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, an outrage has gone out across the land, and even liberal leaders from other countries have spoken out against Big Tech’s apparent censorship.  It’s been dubbed as “totalitarian” and “straight out of 1984.”  Whether you agree with those charges or not, it is unprecedented for such a large, public forum to have certain people – voices – outright cancelled.  I know, they’re private companies and they can allow who they want.  But at what point does it become discrimination?  If I own a business and choose to not serve certain people simply because I disagree with their socio-political views, I will most likely have a complaint and a charge of discrimination filed against me.  Bear in mind, people on both sides of the aisle are being suspended and cancelled off of Twitter and Facebook.

It’s Not A New Idea

With all of that being said, there are other reasons besides “boycotting Facebook” to get off of social media.  I did it about six years ago for personal reasons. For one, it was sucking me in nearly every spare minute I had.  I stayed off – and really didn’t miss it – until 2018, when I ran into my best friend from high school at my mom’s funeral.  We hadn’t seen each other or talked in years, mostly due to distance apart.  So, I got back on Facebook with the intention of ONLY friending and communicating with close, personal friends and family.  It worked pretty well, for about a year.  Then the invariable sucking-in started happening again.

Most people agree that social media, whether you’re a fan or not, is a huge time waster.  It causes you to multi-task, which experts have determined is not an optimal state to work in.  Abby Schubert says in a recent post, “…the American Psychological Association estimates that trying to juggle multiple tasks at once—such as clicking back and forth between Facebook and an important project—may reduce your productive time by as much as 40 percent.”

Don’t Let It Get You Down

Beyond that, social media can affect your self esteem and create anxiety.  When we get caught up in so many other people’s daily doings, we can end up measuring our own life and lifestyle against that of others – keeping up with the Joneses, internet-style.  Closely related to that is the nagging desire to always want to know what’s going on, what other people are saying.  The blogger Cubert sums it up well in one of his recent posts: “…it’s much too easy to fall into the trap of lifestyle comparison…(and) There’s the phenomenon of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that is causing social anxiety among many Facebook addicts.”

Get Up Offa That Thing

Try it, you’ll like it.  Consider it a challenge – see if you can go one week Facebook-free.  Then shut off Twitter, and go another week.  Then Instagram, or whatever else you have.  The peace of mind you’ll have will be priceless.  Not to mention, if you have any kind of side things going on – hobbies, weekend work, charitable or volunteer activities – you’ll be so much freer to do those things.  Go out and live life.  Pardon the notion, but having your nose stuck in a phone or laptop screen scrolling Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is not living life.  Go out and spend that time doing something worthwhile.  Take your sweetheart on a date, play with your kids – in my case, talk to them, since 20-somethings aren’t really in a “play with dad” mode anymore.  Unclog that slow drain in the bathroom.  Do something constructive.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.  I’m going on a week Facebook-free, and I don’t miss it at all.  I’ve got more time to write…and unclog those stubborn bathroom drains.

What’s In A Blog, Anyway?

This is my first official blog post, so…

“Please excuse the crudity of this model.”

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Bill Klubeck

Personal

Introduction (a little bit about me)

I have wanted, needed to get into this amazing world of freelance writing and online blogging. I’ve been working and dreaming of this off and on for years now. I’ve loved writing since I was young – I attended a Young Author’s workshop in sixth grade. But as many childhood dreams go, I tried – and failed – to make a go of it. In high school, I snagged a spot on the school newspaper by getting into the Publications class a year early…they generally accepted sophomores and above, but with some clout from my big brother, the teacher let me join as a freshman.

Problem was, I didn’t know what to write about. Oh, I had a great grasp of the English language, people teased me about my extensive vocabulary. But the creative juices just weren’t flowing yet. My brother was the creative one, I was more technically minded…although I didn’t know that just yet. I bombed the Publications class, set that dream aside and took up other side-track pursuits until I ended up in college for engineering. And so I’ve worked in an 8 to 5 quality engineering role for the last 20 years. A few years ago, beset by stress from my position at a former company, I rediscovered my love for writing. I didn’t jump in right away. Years as an engineer, especially in the quality field, taught me the importance of preparedness and doing it right the first time. I didn’t want to jump in chock full of passion and excitement, but empty on the knowhow. That’s a sure way to bomb out, and if you’re not prepared for rejection and failure, my dream could’ve very well died a second time, for good.

Ready, Set…

So I prepared. I studied copywriting, and have a couple examples of that work on the front page of this site. I even went out and hunted for some freelance gigs, pitched my craft to several local companies. Didn’t get a bite, but that’s part of the deal, I know. And I wrote. I’ve written a couple of articles that I published on LinkedIn (they’re also on this site). I started keeping a Word file journal at the beginning of 2010. I kept entries fairly steadily for about two years, some rough life stuff came up, and I set it aside for several years trying to get everything back on track. I started up again in late 2018, and it’s only increased since. My journaling, up until a few months ago, was nearly daily and between 200 and 300 words per entry. I’ve been writing daily since mid-December, hitting a 700 word average.

Go!

So now it’s time. I know it is. I’ve felt something inside that keeps stirring, not the typical come-and-go fits of inspiration that can fall off as suddenly as they hit, leaving you with days, even weeks of writer’s block and no ambition. I try not to ruminate, play the “what if” game. Sure, I wish I’d done this ten, fifteen years ago. But I didn’t. I was busy working and supporting my family, raising five kids. I am not going to waste time and energy regretting the past, only looking forward.

I’m already doing pretty good. I’ve got a lot done in the last month. I’ve had the WordPress site, but now I’m making it more legitimate with my own domain name (and blog posts). I got the final project of my copywriting completed, submitted and reviewed. Now I’m ready to take the certification exam for that. And reading, learning. Never stop learning.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll be getting more content posted soon. Finding my niche, settling in. Peace.