Why I decided to stop thinking, and start living…

If you are like most human beings, you are most likely thinking about something the majority of your waking hours. Most us live in a world of thought 90% of the time, and in the present moment 10% of our time.

I’ve adopted a philosophy to do the opposite. Focus the majority of my attention in the now, and think only when it’s necessary.  A famous quote by John Lennon puts it beautifully.

“Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans”

How many times do you find that your thoughts either negative, repetitious, or both? It’s hard to concentrate on the task at hand when you can’t seem to shake a thought. These thoughts usually revolve around thoughts about the future, or thoughts about the past. Very little of our attention goes into our present moment. The present moment is all we really have, the future is a mystery and the past is dead and gone. All we have is right now. So why are we living our lives in our heads, and not in the “real” world. It’s like we are lost in a dream. Many of us don’t even realize how much we think. The mind loves to be busy, and it loves to have a job. Unfortunately, its primary purpose isn’t to make us happy.

Let me put it to you this way, have you ever been driving in a car and next thing you know you are at your destination. It’s as if you went into autopilot. That’s what happens when your mind is lost in thought. Now just imagine if you lived your whole life like that way just with varying degrees of consciousness. Well the truth is, for the majority of us. That’s exactly how it is.

If we are always lost in thought we tend to miss the world around us. We invest very little in the present moment on a typical day. If we stop and reflect a bit, the future is really a collection of many smaller present moments. The more we can catch ourselves lost in thought, whether it’s thinking about the future or the past, the more we can increase the quality of the only thing that really adds value to our lives, the present moment.

That’s why I’ve adopted a new philosophy on life…it’s to stop all the incessant thinking and start living my life within 15 feet. I deal with what I can see, taste, feel, and experience, and less with what I can think or imagine.

I’m not saying that I never think. But I only do so when it’s necessary. When the moment I’m in requires it. What ends up happening if you can train your brain to just take a break, and focus on what’s in front of you is that when you do think, your thoughts are more creative, more peaceful, and in general much more productive.

The best part of it all is that in order to adopt this new philosophy on life, I’m asking you to literally do less. Try and catch yourself when you start to get lost in thought. Don’t judge yourself, or punish yourself. Just be mindful when you start to get swept away, then redirect your attention back to the present moment.

Now I know what you are thinking. If I stop thinking, my life will fall apart. I won’t be able to pay the bills, get that promotion I’ve been working towards; I might even lose my sense of reality. Well the truth is we are not our thoughts. There is so much more to you than just what you think.

When you live presently, you make better decisions; you are calmer, and much happier. You let life unfold in front of you, instead of constantly trying to guess what’s next, or be dragged down by what was.

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the simplest action.

Not only have I become much more productive at work, but my life has a new sense of mystery and purpose. I accept what is, and change what I don’t like. But I don’t ruminate about what will be, or what was. I just am. I’m free.

I challenge you to be mindful when you get sucked into the dreamland of thought, and redirect your attention to the moment at hand. Give every task your fullest attention. What you might find is your life becomes less a means to an end, and you start to savor the journey instead.

Based on the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

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Mom! I’ve finally found true love! Her name is Siri.

Nowadays it seems like everyone is talking about what’s going on with the latest and greatest in technology. It’s almost impossible to go an entire day without hearing something about Apple or have someone gush to you about how much they love their new smartphone.

I would bet that if the majority of the population hadn’t already abandoned their point-and-shoot cameras for their smartphones’ cameras, you would see equally as many pictures of new iPhones as newborn babies on sites like Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my new iPhone 5. Actually if you have a moment, let me tell you what I like about it, and why you should get one…ummm on second thought, I’m kinda busy writing this blog post, maybe later.

Ahhh! See what I mean!? It’s addicting. For some reason, we have this urge to spread the news about our latest technological revelations to any poor soul who is willing to listen. This isn’t surprising considering that’s the core strategy behind sites like Pinterest —  to make it very easy to tell the whole world exactly what projects you started but will never finish. Or sites like Instagram where you can’t help but take a picture of your…well anything, and share it with the whole world.

When it boils down to it, what makes technology so addicting?

Is it the physical object that you hold in your hand that creates this eternal love affair?

No, of course not, it’s the experience that those devices give you and how they can make your lives easier in some ways, while simultaneously making them more complicated in others.

Owning a smartphone is like being in a bad relationship:

  • It remembers everything you tell it and it finds out things you don’t.
  • If you’re not careful, it will tell all of your friends what you did over the weekend that maybe you’re not all that proud of.
  • It never leaves you alone, day or night.
  • It wakes you up earlier in the morning than you would prefer.
  • It costs you tons of money, and in the end, convinces you to spend more.

So if technology is so invasive why do we love it so much?  

It’s the experience that it gives us. It’s the feeling of being connected to something bigger than ourselves. It gives everyone the opportunity to learn by exploring the world in ways — and from perspectives — that would never have been possible. And it does so regardless of age, gender, or national origin. Let me be clear on one point, you don’t need the latest and greatest devices to enjoy this experience, you simply need the curiosity to seek out what you do not already know. Regardless of what device you use, it’s only a click away.

Technology is a part of us, and we are a part of it.

So what can you do to help this encourage innovation at work?

The more we focus on the experience our company gives our customers through technology, the more we will get in return.

  • You can stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest in the world of technology through tech blogs like Gizmodo. You don’t know what you don’t know. So stay up to date.
  • Listen to younger employees who have grown up with technology. Don’t stifle their ideas. They may not know the business very well, but they may know a thing or two about emerging technology.
  • Dive head first into social media, or at least give it a try before you decide to boycott it. If you already have Facebook, don’t stop there! Open a Twitter account, you might be surprised that it’s not ‘just-for-kids’ after all.

Change is tough, and it’s technology’s middle name. The faster technology grows, the faster companies and individuals will need to learn to adapt.

So stay educated, keep informed, and don’t roll your eyes when someone tries to tell you about their new smartphone. You might just learn something.

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Enough about me, let’s talk about User Experience

Nowadays it seems like everyone is talking about User Experience in the Tech Industry.

Let’s add some color to what I mean by user experience. Let’s say you wish to purchase a product on Amazon.com. You go to the website,  and it somehow remembers what products you viewed yesterday.You think…wow that’s weird, how did it remember I liked that egg beater. Anyways  a list of similar products is offered to you immediately in the middle of the page with the ability to read more about it. You see one you want to purchase so you click on it. You read some reviews, and decide you want to purchase it. Gotta beat those eggs. Add it to the cart and your ready to go. You login, and wham! It remembers all of your credentials and you place the order. Two to three days from now you have it in your hand, and your off to the races.

This is a perfect example of what great User Experience should look like. Very minimal leg work for the end user. A site that remembers who you are, knows what you like, and gives you the ability to take action immediately.

Great websites are like bad girlfriends.  You do something once and they’ll never forget it. AND they’ll make you pay for it.  

Some industries like the financial services industry still believe in making their customers do leg work. There is a huge opportunity to revolutionize the financial industry by creating an amazon like experience for the services industry. Many think that this is impossible because of the nature of the “product”. It isn’t something you can hold in your hand, but that’s exactly why an online platform that educates, and sells products quickly and easily with every little hassle is the way of the future for this industry. Consumers want to get in, then get out, when it comes to their finances.

My firm belief is that one day the financial adviser will be a thing of the past. The Milkman. Obsolete.

Companies strive everyday to “educate” their customer base into a buying decision instead of simply taking the time to make it easy to purchase the product through advanced, intuitive platforms.

Platforms are the future my friends. Long gone are the days where you have to search for information, put all of the puzzle pieces together, and then reach out to the business to purchase the product. Next generation shopping will be so easy, it will be even harder not to go into debt.

Now is the time to innovate and re-invent ourselves, not tomorrow, because before you know it you are already obsolete…oh wait…you already are.

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Iowa & ESOPs…Again

owa is a hotbed of ESOP discussion lately. Look at these recent posts:

Iowa Governor Talks ESOPs

Iowa Governor and ESOPs

Guest Post – Iowa and ESOPs

We know many ESOP Association members in the state are working to further the ESOP cause as well. Which is why when we came across this, we weren’t really all that surprised – Legislative Report from Sen. Pat Ward:Help Iowa Workers Buy Into Employer’s Businesses.

Senator Ward is a member of the Iowa State Assembly.

If you’re curious and would like to follow the discussion, the Iowa State bill is HF 2085. More info here.

Do you live Iowa? Are you following the ESOP debate going on in the state?

Digital Strategy- My First Day

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So this is me, a Leadership Development Rotation Associate at The Principal turned Digital Strategist.

The Leadership Program is a 3 year rotational program where the company bounces you around to different business units in order to get a better understanding of the whole company. Once the rotational program is complete, you are placed into a full time role within the organization.

This Digital Strategy rotation will be for a year, and all I can say is that I could not be happier with this new role. Having a IT background, and a Marketing degree has all come together in a perfect storm in my new role as a Digital Strategist. I will be working projects that involve social media, blogging, and website strategy for The Principal Financial Group. This is my first shot at blogging so I hope you like it!

Thanks for stopping by.

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The Principal Blog

Investment management insights and commentary

The Principal Blog

Investment management insights and commentary

The Principal Blog

Investment management insights and commentary

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