Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. – Chuck Close

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Take a chance!

Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. – Dale Carnegie

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Walk your talk by tracking your time

Tracking how you spend your time helps you keep on course to your goals.

Imagine hearing a man say his family is his highest priority. You nod in support of a laudable goal. Then you learn he spends his free time on the golf course — without his family. Now what do you think? We know to judge a man by what he does instead of what he says. You might say our erstwhile family man is out of touch with his priorities.

What about you? Do you live in accord with your priorities? Do you need help to discover your priorities? Monitoring how you use your time lets you know if you are on track to your goals. It can also help you discover what is important in your life.

Benefits to tracking your time

Tracking your time allows you to see how you spend your days. You are not tracking what you hope to do, or intend to do. You are discovering the ground truth of how you spend your life. The results may surprise you. I know they did when I first tracked my time. I worried, for example, about ignoring my wife while spending too much time on my hobbies. I was surprised, after tracking my time, to see I spent over half my free time with my wife. My concern transformed from concern over a lack of time to a concern about the quality of the time we spent together.

This example illustrates one of the great benefits to time tracking. Once you know how you spend your time you can make course corrections. If your actions don’t align with your priorities, you can change. Recall what Jim Rohn said, “Either you run your day or your day runs you.” Knowing how you spend your time is the first step to running your day, and your life.

What if you are unsure of your priorities? Time tracking can help you uncover your true concerns, regardless of what you think your goals should be. I wrote elsewhere about what I called 2 a.m. priorities. Whatever is on your mind in the middle of the night is a de facto priority. The same argument applies to how you spend your time. Where you spend your time is a de facto priority. Don’t like the priority you uncover? Change it. You are not a tree. (Jim Rohn again.)

Tracking your time can add a productivity boost to your day by “gamifying” your tasks. Tracking provides a metric you can work to and get credit for. You can, for example, specify a time goal such as writing at least an hour a day. Or you can specify a relative goal, such as having writing being one of the top three activities (based on time spent) for the week. If I see that I’m running in fourth place, I can up my effort to boost my writing into the top three activities, maybe even make a run for the gold!

Above all, tracking your time makes you more mindful of how you are living your life. We often live our lives on autopilot, trusting to daily routines to get us… somewhere, if not to our desired goals. Tracking forces you to disengage from autopilot and see the daily time use decisions you make daily. It’s a key to living a life of deliberate intent.

Pitfalls to tracking your time

There are a few potential pitfalls when tracking your time. Don’t, for example, make the mistake of confusing activity with results. A goal to work ten hours on a project is good. Committing to finish a project on time is better. Monitoring your time ensures you have set aside enough time for the effort, but the result is the goal not the hours.

If you set goals for the relative ranking of tasks, e.g. spending most of your time writing, be careful you don’t short change competing projects. Your goal is to increase your effort on one goal. It’s okay to read less at bedtime and use that time to journal instead. It’s not okay to turn out the light early without reading or writing.

Tracking works best for single tasks. If you are multitasking, you will have to decide which activity is the important one. But don’t cheat yourself. For example, if you are working on a pencil sketch with the television on, then it is okay to log your time as sketching. If, however, you are watching television while merely holding a sketch pad in your lap, you can’t hide your true intent.

You want to be alert to any attempt to “game the system.” All self-discipline techniques require a degree of integrity and time tracking is no different.

How I do it

There are a number of tools available to help you track your time usage. I use the Toggl [] app on my phone as my primary method of tracking my time. I have the phone with me most of the time and can easily switch between tasks. I review my progress with the iPad Toggl app and online through their website. I track my time only on my phone, since switching between apps (starting on the phone and finishing on the iPad, for example) can cause sync problems. Toggl is very flexible and allows you to specify or modify start or stop times, or you can add in a time amount. Toggl tracks multiple projects and provides logs for download as CSV files from the website.

Don’t want to bother with high tech solutions? Pencil and paper works just fine. The key is to pick the method that works best for you.

Be sure to keep things in perspective. Tracking every minute of your life can be a burden. At worst, it can devolve into a disturbing, obsessive behavior. I don’t bother tracking events less than five minutes or so. Nor do I track all my free time. Naps and staring out the window don’t merit tracking unless they dominate my time. I focus on the major activities of my life as well as potentially bad habits such as watching TV. Remember that your are tracking your time to improve your life, not add unnecessary effort. Call to action


Living your dream life starts by knowing what you want. Then you see if you are on course. How you spend your days is the ground truth of your life. Whether you spot check from time to time, or track every moment of your time, knowing how you spend your time is essential to reaching your life goals. Try an experiment. For a week, note how you spend your time. Don’t be obsessive about it. Just note the general direction of your life. Then, at the end of the week, ask how you feel about your life that week. If you are not on track, you are ready for a course correction leading straight toward your goals.

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High achievers

High achievers spot rich opportunities swiftly, make big decisions quickly and move into action immediately. – Robert H. Schuller

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Conquer self

If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self. – Napoleon Hill

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The major value in life

The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become. – Jim Rohn

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What is

If you only look at what is, you might never attain what could be. – Anonymous

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Change it!

If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. – Jim Rohn

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NASCAR is not a blood sport

Safety advances since Dale Earnhardt’s death have made us forget the dangerous nature of auto racing and encourage us to act in dangerous and callous ways in our daily lives.

On May 13th, I saw something I had never seen—NASCAR safety officials at Kansas Speedway cutting the roof off a car to pull Aric Almirola out. I think the last time this happened in NASCAR’s top series was to extract Dale Earnhardt’s body from his wrecked car in 2001. At any moment, we’re just a lap away from seeing a driver die. I’ve seen too many cases where the cameras pull back, a sure sign something terrible is unfolding before our eyes. And yet we cheer and encourage risky behavior as if death is inconsequential.


Photo credit: FOX Sports

Lessons from death

Earnhardt’s death shocked the world and led to a massive improvement in driver safety in NASCAR. NASCAR mandated a head and neck restraint be used and in 2005 required drivers use the HANS (Head and Neck Support; a shoulder harness with tethers attached to each side of the driver’s helmet). In 2002, NASCAR began using Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers at all its tracks. The barriers add flexible steel tubing and energy-absorbing foam blocks in front of the older concrete walls to lessen the shock of collisions with the wall. In 2013, NASCAR introduced the Generation 6 car design that featured an enlarged and reinforced driver cockpit. The design moved the driver closer to the center of the car and reinforced the doors with steel plates and foam to protect against side collisions. New rules limit when drivers can exit their cars and approach the track. NASCAR has reduced the number of officials standing on pit road and even the flag personnel now wear head protection.

Thanks to these changes, there has not been a NASCAR fatality since Earnhardt’s death. The number and severity of injuries is also much lower than before.

Wrecking as entertainment

Bristol Motor Speedway

Crowds cheer wrecks. Some people admit to coming to see wrecks. Others are happy to witness justice being served on the track as a driver gets even with another driver for past altercations. Or the fans are just expressing schadenfreude, pleased their nemesis has had a bad day. The fan reactions are to the carnage to the cars and ignore the potential carnage to the humans inside.

In the roughly ten years I’ve been following NASCAR, I have seen stunning sights. Cars barrel-rolling down the track. Vehicles airborne and thrown into the catch fences. Cars sliding on their roofs down the track. Violent collisions tearing the engine from the frame, engine block and car carcass sliding side by side in a shower of sparks. Flames engulfing the car.

And through it all, people are cheering.

Danger as spectacle has always drawn audiences. That’s what makes audiences hold their collective breaths while performers risk death on a high wire with no net below.

I know the feeling. In 2015, I was glued to the television watching the IndyCar race at Fontana. Someone was going to die. I was sure of it, but I couldn’t look away. IndyCar officials had mandated an aero package that encouraged pack racing, cars four and five wide at speeds well over 200 mph. This went on lap after lap, throughout the race, as none of the cars could break away from the rest. IndyCar insisted on running the car package over the complaints of the drivers and team owners. Drivers feared a repeat of the 2011 Las Vegas race when Dan Wheldon died in similar circumstances. But entertainment trumped safety.

Perhaps this would be okay if our attraction to danger stayed at the track. The drivers and promoters work to put on a show, which includes on-track banging, pit road fisticuffs, and wrecks. If we could view it all as therapy that it might be okay.

But we don’t leave our emotions behind when we exit the track or turn off the television. Just the opposite. We carry our aggression into our everyday lives. When driving, we emulate the behavior we see on track and assume the drivers’ charmed safety applies to us.

We’re mistaken, of course.

False sense of safety

No one died, or was even injured, in the IndyCar Fontana race. Aric Almirola is today walking about the track as his broken back heals. The near weekly spectacular wrecks in NASCAR seem to underscore the safety of auto sports. Events like Almirola’s wreck are noteworthy because of their rarity. The last NASCAR injury of significance was Kyle Busch’s 2015 wreck at Daytona that left him with a broken right leg and left foot. But he came back. He even won the championship the same year. So everything’s okay. Right?

Wrong. Consider these driver deaths in just the past five years: Bryan Clauson, Justin Wilson, Jules Bianchi, Kevin Ward, Jr. (struck on track and killed by Tony Stewart), Jason Leffler, Dan Wheldon. In the US alone, over 520 drivers have died in the past 25 years, mostly at smaller short tracks that have not implemented the safety lessons since Earnhardt’s death in 2001. NASCAR’s top level has seen 28 driver deaths over the course of its history, with Earnhardt being the last. And this says nothing about injuries, including hidden injuries like concussions. In the macho world of auto racing, drivers suck it up and soldier on when they’ve “had their bell rung.” Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made news when he sat out the final 12 races of 2016 because of recurring concussion symptoms. Perhaps no one else could have raised awareness about concussion dangers like Earnhardt, Jr. did.

NASCAR Is Not A Blood Sport

Auto sports are dangerous. Drivers risk death and injury every time they show up for work. NASCAR deserves credit for the safety improvements it has made. But fans are wrong to forget the inherent danger.

By Jean-Léon Gérôme –,

We are wrong when we think we can drive like NASCAR drivers and get away with it. We are not highly skilled and trained drivers. We are not performing on tracks surrounded with safety barriers. And we are not driving custom-built cars loaded with safety features. We are just poor, dumb sons of bitches in broken down jalopies driving like jackasses.

We are wrong to cheer wrecks and aggressive behavior by drivers. Bristol Motor Speedway bills itself as the Last Great Colosseum, but this is marketing hype. In the Roman Colosseum, gladiators fought to the death for entertainment.

We are advanced beyond that now. We do not seek our entertainment in blood sport.

Enjoy the spectacle of auto racing. But don’t forget that we are watching human lives streak past us each lap. Don’t carry emotions and false expectations with us as we take to the roads. And don’t allow our souls to become calloused as we watch drivers risk their lives for our entertainment.

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Vision without action

Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare. – Japanese proverb

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