The World’s Greatest Self-Improvement Catalog

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The World’s Greatest Self-Improvement Catalog is a book that’s going to be the best, most-read book ever written, but it hasn’t been written yet. Somehow I just haven’t found the right amount of motivation to finish it. There are countless books like it out there already to fill the gap until it is completed, so why try too hard, right?

  1. Something about results—We’ll start with results so people know we’re serious. Every business model contains results. Other models eat a single fish cracker for their daily meal. What does one model have to do with the other? The business model contains the beautiful model. See, we’ll get a beautiful model to sell The World’s Greatest Self-Improvement Catalog and people will be so mesmerized by her beauty they’ll buy the book for sure. It’s all about the sale, dude. Of course, this book won’t go into how to sell. That’ll be our secret.
  2. How to communicate alone—Everyone talks to themselves. Learn how to be an expert. Learn the best places to have introvert conversations. Learn how to talk into your cellphone camera. We’ll cover the basics of self-communication to further your lifestyle. We’ll go into even greater detail of the art of self-communication in a forthcoming book that will be hinted at heavily so you’ll be dying to buy it before it’s even on bookstore shelves.
  3. Know what other people want—Smoldering eyes. Fatness in the wallet. Curb appeal. High power in every machine. Offer them all they want. Offer them the moon. People love to hear what they want. They love it even more in someone else’s voice. Use your voice to offer them whatever it is you think they want to hear. Knowing what other people want is a skill you can only learn from this book. Too bad it isn’t published yet.
  4. Drug-sniffing dogs—It would be really cool to own one. If you can afford it, get one! Take your dog on walks around the neighborhood. Take your dog on walks around the airport. What does a drug-sniffing dog have to do with The World’s Greatest Self-Improvement Catalog? I don’t know. I just want one, so it seemed like a good place to include it.
  5. Problems can wait—Nothing’s so good today that it can’t be better tomorrow. Besides, if you wait, some problems fix themselves. Many problems are conquered by time. Many obstacles are overcome with patience. Patience is a rare trait, afflicting only a small percentage of society. If you could sell patience, I’d tell you to work on it. But I don’t think it can be bought or sold. Hold on there…that’s what this chapter will be about. We’ll talk about patience as if it’s something tangible, and something you can pass around. Brilliant!
  6. Set deadlines…for others—It’s petty and selfish to set deadlines only for yourself. Share. Share the responsibility. Share the pain. Share the determination to improve yourself in every way. How else would anyone make progress? Some members of society have greatness as an innate trait. Others have to learn it. And others have greatness thrust upon them.
  7. Meetings, meetings, meetings—You can never have enough meetings. Have you ever known a productive business without meetings? If one is good, more is better. Productivity is enhanced by sitting around talking about it. It’s a curious thing, productivity. Like balancing eggs, it gets the job done artfully and with purpose. What’s the purpose of balancing eggs? We’ll cover that in the next volume. Catalog number 2, here we come!

Balance for Health

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It has been said before (meaning I’m not the first to say), “People with good balance tend to be healthier than those with poor balance.”

This could be one of those epidemiological controversies. You have to ask yourself, “Are the people healthy because they have good balance, or do people have good balance because they have good health?”

A healthy routine of exercise could possibly contain activities which strengthen the legs and core and increase balance. A runner, a martial artist, or a skier would generally have good balance. But would you credit the balance for their good health, or would you say the balance is a result of the activity? In this case, with only these three athletes in mind, the deck is stacked for the activity, isn’t it?

Okay, so how about a swimmer? Swimming isn’t necessarily a foot-to-the-ground activity. The swimmers I know have really good balance though. Even if I selected only those who do swimming and nothing else, no running or other training on the side, they can still stand on one leg for a long time without falling.

Personally, I’m not convinced either way, especially since I have one friend who is a computer slave. He spends most of his days inventing things like robotizing his toaster oven to open the door remotely or making his doorbell say, “Welcome to the dark side,” in the voice of Darth Vader (James Earl Jones edition). Amazing inventiveness aside, his main source of exercise is walking—and not a lot of walking either. But I tested him, and he has decent balance. (The test consisted of me timing how long he could stand on one leg: “One one-thousand, two one-thousand…”) He has average balance.

I’m still not convinced of which is the side of truth in this controversy. I’m wondering if balance could be exercise in and of itself. To test the theory, I made my very own balance board. My uncle Kim had one of these when I was a kid, so I fell in love with the idea back then. It only served to increase my love of the balance board when I couldn’t play on it unless we were visiting my uncle. His balance board consisted of a small board with a large dowel as the fulcrum (very much like the one in the picture at the beginning of this article). When I made my own, I copied the idea, but I broke the fulcrum not long after the first try. It split right down the middle. While I was staring at this cool thing I made and wondering how to fix it, I realized it could have a single set of skateboard wheels in the middle, metal instead of wood. I tried that solution and it works fine. In fact, it has some motion front and back as well as side to side, so you really have to find your balance to work this creation.

My boy loves to play on it. He counts, “One one-thousand, two one-thousand…” and tries to beat his previous record. I’ve tried it, and so far I can only go for seven seconds before I touch down. The time increases the more I do it, so that has to be good, right? Well, since I’m still in the middle of the test phase, I can’t give any definitive answer on the controversy other than the fact that when I can’t hold my balance board steady for more than two seconds, my boy laughs at me. He laughs, then I laugh. And laughing is such a health boost I think its putting a slant into the results of my experiment.

No one ever said, “People who try to show off their balance board skills tend to have happy children.” But I might.

End of Summer

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It always happens. The cycle repeats. Times change.

Seasons come and go. We might wish we could slow it down, or even bring it all to a standstill. We wish we could make the summer stretch on indefinitely. But then…

…well, not everyone can live on the equator. Could you imagine trying to smash all the people of the Earth into the land around the equator? The closer you are to the equator, the more your year has summer-like weather.

There are changes near the equator too, though. Winds change. Oceanic currents change. The weather turns cold for those who live with thin, sea-level blood. 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the warm weather human feels as though he’s freezing. He wraps up in multiple sleeveless shirts instead of only one or none.

My personal GPS triangle is above the 40th parallel. Here we watch the weather turn trees brown and mountains white. But with summer’s end comes the end of summer sports too. We watch as the football lovers gear up for their pastime, while some of our favorite pastimes get put away.

Soon there won’t be any dry trails. Soon the mountain bikes will be hung in garages. Soon the mountain bike tires will get softer as the air slowly escapes. It will be months before they get hooked up to a pump.

Soon the ski and snowboard enthusiasts will be having their own brand of fun.

I might go down the mountain and hit the beach. Try a little surfing south of the 40th. Play in the warmer breaks. Would you rather do that than go snowboarding? I think I would. At least, this year; the sand seems more inviting than the slopes. Beach is compelling, ski lift is repelling. I’ll go down and play in the waves. Then when the waves get tiresome, I’ll head back home and watch for Spring to come.

 

Laughing Your Horse Off

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There are all kinds of scientific studies that say laughing will make you less hungry, or laughing will help you lose weight, or laughing will keep you healthy. But where is the scientific study about what my laugh does to other people? Does it help other people, or does it hinder them? I mean, wouldn’t it be good to know if I’m walking through a hospital or something and I suddenly laugh really loud, like this: HA! and it makes someone’s condition get worse? I wouldn’t do it if I knew a laugh had negative effects.

This curiosity isn’t baseless. I remember way back when there was this thing called “peer pressure”. In a system of peer pressure there are two ways to perceive a laugh. One is when you’re with a group and someone tells a joke, or does something silly stupid and makes everyone laugh, including you. The other way is if you’re away from a group, outside the circle of hearing or seeing what was so funny, then everyone laughs…which leaves you wondering if they’re laughing about you.

In the natural animal world, there’s this thing we call a “pecking order”. It’s totally real. And it’s a “pecking” order because we get the idea from chickens. Chickens will literally peck the weakest among them to death. Not so funny, except when we humans apply the idea to ourselves. Could you imagine finding someone you think is weaker than you and then smacking them to death with your face? Do you know how long it would take? You’d be face-smacking for a month and you’d probably hurt yourself as much as them.

“Are you dead yet?”

“No, but you have a bloody nose.”

Horses bite each other, but they also kick. They’ll establish superiority by kicking the weak ones. Horses may have taught humans a thing or two. We kick each other all the time.

Another thing that horses have in common with humans is the sounds they make. Horses have a distinctive sound. We call it a neigh. It sounds suspiciously like laughter. Most people know exactly how a horse’s neigh sounds, and find it easy to mimic the sound.

If you lived by a horse pasture and you still felt the squeeze of peer pressure, would you sometimes hear the horses and wonder who was laughing at you? Would you look around for the group of your peers? Would you wonder what was so funny?

Nee-hee-hee-hee!!!

The jokes on you. It was only an animal.

I’d like to conduct that particular scientific experiment. I’d gather a group of teenagers: junior high to high school age. They’d have to be unaware of all aspects of the experiment. They (the teens) would have to be placed in a familiar environment, like a school hallway. Then I’d introduce the horses somehow. Several horses near an open window should do the trick. Let the horses make their natural noises and monitor the immediate reactions of all the teens.

Would the teens suddenly become self-conscious? Would the boys check their flies? Would the girls check their make-up? How would they react? No one knows yet. That’s why we need the experiment: to see what would happen. Sure we could try to predict, but even our experience in the same environments, schools of our formative past, can’t give us all the knowledge.

I mean, I remember a friend of mine laughing so hard he squirted milk out of his nose, the rest of us busting up like we were absolutely made of laughter, and all the heads in the lunch room turning to see what was going on. But a lot of memory is made-up fiction. Most of us remember things, especially when we were laughing, with a cloud of embellishment.

The reality is, I’m curious. I want to know what happens when others hear a laugh. I want to know what’s the worst, and what’s the best, possible outcome. Do the teens get accustomed to the sound of the horses? If we replace the horses with actors performing their most outrageous, contagious laughter, do teens join in with the laughter? Or do they run and hide? Could a pimply, anxious kid become so full of anxiety that his pimples all explode at the same time? Would he view that as a benefit? Would he grow up to invent the Laughter Acne Reduction Program (LARP, for short)?

These are all things science needs to discover. There are teens out there who need fewer zits. There are people out there, teens included, who need more laughter in their lives. There are horses and chickens out there…yep, there are.

Dog Lake

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Distracted by nature.

That’s not so bad, really, is it? You can be distracted by other things, worse things, unnatural things. The cure for all of those is: get out and ride.

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Anyway, on this ride, the point was to race the sun. We ended up coming down the mountain in the dark. On a few of these pictures you can tell it was getting dark. Some of them don’t really show how dark the day was getting. Regardless, the scenery is beautiful.

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Oh, and by the way, dog not included.

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And then it was, “Good night.”

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How we got down safely was the first guy in our line had a light. He said he ended up blinding some hikers that were coming up as we were going down. His light was really bright. But when I passed those hikers, I saw they had their own lights. Headlamps. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the end of the day on the mountain. We weren’t the only ones lighting up the trail.