Tag Archives: December 21

What I’m Doing for my December End-of-the-World Improvement Challenge

nichead-oktI’m going to update this every day or two with the excellent improvements I’m seizing the day and making — as part of The December 2012 End of the World IMPROVEMENT CHALLENGE!

Monday 12/10: I helped students with their statistics projects. I had a difficult time thinking about any improvements that I’d made today, but then I realized I’d spent several hours in the lab helping students interpret data, use the R statistical software, and draw conclusions based on the results. I do this ALL THE TIME so it didn’t even hit me that I’d actually spent several hours adding value to others. The lesson here? Sometimes you might not be aware of what you’re improving. Pay attention! You might be adding value all over the place and not realizing it. (I also went to my FOURTH yoga class, ever, in my life. I’ve dropped 6 lbs over the past week, and I can easily put my socks on standing up without falling over, so I guess those are improvements too.)

Sunday 12/9: I started writing my GOOD AT/NOT GOOD AT list. After a video chat with a friend, we decided that in the new year, we want to spend lots of time doing things (at work) that we are GOOD AT and ENJOY, and less time doing things that we are NOT GOOD AT and don’t enjoy. If there are things on one of our GOOD lists that also sits on the others’ NOT GOOD list, then we’ll help each other out. So this is an improvement that should last all year.

Saturday 12/8: I did nothing. What? You mean it only took a week for me to stop improving things? NO! I actually did nothing today on purpose. It’s very difficult for me to stop thinking, or doing, or planning for what needs to be done next. So after my plans for the day were unexpectedly called off, my purpose for today became improving my own state of mind by choosing to do nothing, and enjoying that feeling. It was a wonderful choice.

Friday 12/7: I sent $20 to replace a friend’s stolen laptop. One of the women in our community is self-employed, and starting up a venture that many of us think is pretty admirable. When her laptop was stolen from her car the other day, she posted her anguish to Facebook. Within minutes, people started chipping in $20 each to the cause. Within about an hour, a “leader” had been self-appointed to find a new laptop – and he also agreed to front the money to get it. Within 24 hours, she had a replacement laptop thanks to the help of her community. THIS IS WHAT COMMUNAL EFFORT IS ALL ABOUT. You take care of your community, and when you’re in need, your community takes care of you. In other news, I went to my SECOND yoga class ever today. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to go tomorrow. (Anyone want to babysit for two hours?)

Thursday 12/6: I went to my first yoga class EVER. Sure, people have been telling me for years how much I would love it, how beneficial it would be for me, how they’re so surprised I’ve never done it. Well, I always thought “doing one of those yoga videos” was doing yoga, and quite frankly, it was one of the most boring things I’ve ever attempted in my life. I just didn’t see what people were getting out of it. So on Monday, I was thinking “gee, maybe I should try that Bikram yoga place people have been talking about, since I’m doing the End-of-the-World Improvement Challenge.” I know one of the instructors, and he is a great guy, and I know he wouldn’t be doing something for work that was terrible. A couple hours later, my friend Meredith said “let’s go to hot yoga” and I realized this was my push – OK, we’re going. Well, we WENT! And my friend Angela was there too, surprise! And it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I’m going to go back tomorrow. And soon, I’m going to do gymnastics again. (Not the serious stuff, but you know, back walkovers and other “slower” gymnastics that I haven’t been able to pull off since I was 14. I’m on my way!!)

Wednesday 12/5: I took the trash out. And I made some in-roads into revising a course for Spring 2013 that will involve cohorts of students across multiple topics and class levels. You might think the first improvement is not that interesting or remarkable, however, the back story is that I’ve forgotten to take out the trash for three weeks now. It’s been safe in the garage, but it’s been steadily piling up due to my convenient ignorance of remembering when it’s Wednesday. So it was a HUGE improvement to remember, this morning, that it was trash day – and take immediate action! My second improvement was more of an “aha” moment to plan for my spring classes, but it’s one I’ve been waiting for since October. It really made me feel great to see how the pieces will fit together.

Tuesday 12/4: I learned a very interesting and useful new skill today! It was something new I learned that made someone else REALLY happy. But I can’t talk about it on the internet because it’s just so personal, and so edgy!! But it was super fun to learn, and it’s one of those things that will be able to make me and others extremely vibrant on (hopefully) several more days in the future. (Of course I kind of like the way this sounds too: it was SO exciting I just can’t tell anyone about it. Follow this with a really sensual and secretive laugh. Yeah, that’s the mood I want.)

Monday 12/3: I played with fire in front of experts! This might seem like a weird improvement, but it’s a really significant self-improvement for me. Today I spun fire poi with/in front of a group of experts. It’s really unnerving when you’re doing something for the first time in front of people who REALLY know what they’re doing. But I DID IT. And I am more confident as a result. Go me!!

Sunday 12/2: I fixed the Internet! We’ve had horribly slow internet access at our house due to the slow, slooooow, slloooooowwwww death of our old DSL modem. Today, I got all the devices in the house routed through the NEW one that’s much sleeker and faster. Everyone who lives in my house is MUCH HAPPIER with faster internet.

Saturday 12/1: I improved someone’s ability to handle stress! We went to a restaurant grand opening, and the place was packed like sardines. Our server was rushing around from table to table, sweating profusely but still maintaining an admirably positive vibe. When he got to our table, smiling with enthusiasm, and asked us what we wanted – I told him I wanted him to close his eyes for a minute, and take three DEEP breaths! He thought this was a bizarre request, but he did it. After all, I was the customer… right? After his third deep breath he said “Wow! I really do feel better. Just that minute of standing still is really going to help me get through this big grand opening night.” He was visibly more relaxed with everyone the rest of the evening. See how easy it can be?

The December 2012 End of the World IMPROVEMENT CHALLENGE

lucy-dec3(Image Credit: Lucy Glover of Lucy Glover Photography, San Francisco CA. Used with permission.)

Hey everybody, remember last month when everyone was posting things they were thankful for in the twenty-odd days leading up to Thanksgiving? (They might still be doing it… I don’t know.) I thought that was a great idea. So I started doing something similar this month that I’ll tell you all about now!!

But as many of you know, the Mayan Calendar is coming to an end, and we’re moving into a new world of completely undetermined proportion. Some predict a doomsday scenario, which means it will be very easy to see what’s changed. Others predict a BIG NOTHING, a non-event kind of like Y2K (well… that one actually had some ripple effects for me. But that’s another story that I’ll post later. I diverge.)

A non-event means IT’S UP TO US TO CHANGE THINGS. So my challenge to all of you for December 2012 is: let’s get in the habit of improving a least ONE thing a day between now and the much hyped “end of the world”. If the world does end, it will end being just a little better than it was at the beginning of December. And if it doesn’t end, we might have 1) developed a new habit or mode of self-reflection that will serve us well moving ahead into 2013, and/or 2) built some very useful social capital that will enhance the resilience of our individual communities.

(Disappointed that you didn’t get to the party on December 1st? Don’t worry! Make your improvement for today to START IMPROVING ONE THING A DAY, starting NOW!)

I’ll toss out some ideas for your own DAILY IMPROVEMENT CHALLENGE at the end of this post.

But in the meantime, let’s broadly consider what would happen to our sociotechnical systems (composed of people, products, processes, and projects) in the event of a massive shift or change (of any variety, “new age” or “old age”!) The products will change. The projects will change. The processes will be adapted to make projects to create the new products, and since we don’t know what the environment will be like, or what the new products we’ll need will be…

… the only STABLE element in this mix is the PEOPLE.

When the world disruptively changes around us without killing us, we’re still left behind. Which means our personal capabilities and our capabilities working together in groups and communities – our social capital – becomes increasingly more important.

My friend Daniel Aldrich, who’s been seriously researching this for several years, has determined that social capital is the number one thing that helps communities revitalize after disasters. So if you think there’s a possibility of a major change, you could prepare by stockpiling food and fuel, or you could just work on building your own self-reliance and the social capital within your community.

So I challenge you to DO ONE THING EVERY DAY between now and December 21, 2012 to accomplish one of the following improvement goals, all of which are related to increasing positive feelings:

  • improve how YOU feel
  • improve how someone ELSE feels
  • improve something about your ENVIRONMENT, as long as it make YOU or someone else feel good/better
  • do something courageous to improve your SELF-CONFIDENCE or self-image (or someone else’s!)
  • improve your AWARENESS of other peoples’ beliefs, situations, circumstances, or beliefs
  • improve your BURDEN by getting rid of a grudge or negative feelings… even if only for a day

Think about the many sources of waste, or maybe read about 5S, to get you started with ideas for where you might begin. Scott Rutherford (@srlean6) also recommends this post  as well as this one for some background on 5S.

(For example, yesterday, I decided to improve someone’s day! We went to a restaurant grand opening, and the place was packed like sardines. Our server was rushing around from table to table, sweating profusely but still maintaining an admirably positive vibe. When he got to our table, smiling with enthusiasm, and asked us what we wanted – I told him I wanted him to close his eyes for a minute, and take three DEEP breaths! He thought this was a bizarre request, but he did it. After all, I was the customer… right? After his third deep breath he said “Wow! I really do feel better. Just that minute of standing still is really going to help me get through this big grand opening night.” He was visibly more relaxed with everyone the rest of the evening. See how easy it can be?)

The world changes when we change. So let’s go!! Let’s start some improvement habits that will spread good feelings and inspire ourselves and others. Let’s use this time to learn how to make it a daily practice.

And post in the comments – tell us what you have chosen to improve from day to day!