To-Do List 2.0

Until I was thirty, I used the exact same to-do list format which basically consisted of listing everything I wanted to accomplish in every area of my life and in no particular order. This list worked, to a point, until it was eventually lost or until each point on it was no longer legible. However, this was extremely inefficient.

It took working with coaches, reading books, and talking to others in order to collect enough information for the second generation of my to-do list format which I use now. This format works on both a white board with post-it notes or with an app like Trello. The disadvantage of using a white board is that it is not always with you wherever you go (some might see this as an advantage though) and the main advantage is that you are able to more easily notice how much you are accomplishing if you are more kinesthetic.

The basic changes which have boosted my productivity are separating the different areas of my life and business, tracking what I have done, focusing on the most important points for each day, and making sure points have actionable steps included. This might sound like a lot of extra work but it has actually proven to save me a LOT of time and energy when working on multiple projects and businesses simultaneously.

At the moment, because of how mobile my work has needed to be lately, I am only using Trello (but I am definitely going to use a whiteboard again at some point). I have one Trello board which is divided into four lists for the three main areas of my business and one for my private life. Additionally, I have a list of points where I am waiting on someone/something else, a list for what I want to accomplish today, for what I am working on at this very moment, and a list for what I have accomplished this week.

One big surprise in using this format has been how important the finished column is for my motivation. It is so great to see everything that has been done instead of just crossing it out and forgetting about it or swiping left in my old Clear app. At the end of each week, I can clear the whole thing and see how far I have come, and I can also incentivize myself for accomplishing a certain amount of points with chocolate. Another relief has been putting more points which are time-sensitive directly onto my calendar instead of adding them to my to-do list.

There are so many different ways to keep up with what you want to get done. I think the most important thing to do is just use some sort of system so that you can get everything out of your head and be more focused by day and sleep better at night.

Better Sooner Than Later

I think Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said it best: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

In this day and age, it is so much more important to get just something out there for people to see rather than the perfect thing. You could spend your whole life perfecting something behind closed doors but if you do not get it out there and see what people think then all you are doing is improving it according to one person’s perspective.

Yes, it can be very embarrassing to put something out for people to see which is not yet polished enough to look as professional as you would ideally like, but this can always be done later. Take a look at the very first iterations of some of your favorite products, services, and websites and I am sure you will be surprised by how unpolished these started. However, they put these out for the world to see, got valuable feedback, continued to tweak everything, and in the end they had created something that worked extremely well and could take the time at THAT point to make it look and feel more professional and give the first impression they had desired all along.

Recently, I spoke with another podcaster who had recorded enough episodes for an entire year, about fifty interviews. Unfortunately, he still has not published even one of these because he is waiting to make sure that everything is perfect before doing so. It is okay to be your own critic and to be embarrassed by what you publish as long as you actually publish something. Without letting others look at your work you might waste years of your life going in the wrong direction when the answer you needed could have been given to you by friends, colleagues, or even strangers very early on.

And allowing yourself to be embarrassed and to hear regular criticism could help you to be both more grounded and to grow thicker skin which will eventually be very beneficial.

Timing Is Everything

What time do you get up in the morning? When do you eat throughout the day? How long do you wait to call after a first date? When should you unveil your next product? The answers to such questions are key to your success.

It is never a bad idea to begin with your ideal situation and build around that when it comes to daily routines, weekly schedules, and future prospects. I have found, for example, that working on Sundays and spending time with my family on Tuesdays suits our ideal lifestyle much better. Some recent surprises which have also increased the quality of my life are waking up earlier and starting to eat later. These used to (and still often do) sound like horrible ideas, but I find that my life is benefiting greatly by simply having changes the timing of many activities. This does not mean that waking up earlier, waiting longer to eat, or working on Sundays is something you need to do, but you should probably take time to think about when you do what you do and how you could possibly reschedule your life to improve the quality you get out of it.

Many clients of mine report that they never could have reached their current position any earlier since the timing would not have been right. It is very easy to think that you have wasted much of your time leading up to this point and look back on where you would be if you had only gotten here earlier. The reality, however, is that everything you have done before this point in your life has led you to where you are now, and there is no way for you to be the person you are and in the position you are in. Celebrity businessmen such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson have been quoted saying that it takes years to become an overnight success which shows how much timing is actually involved.

I think we are all able to feel when certain stages of our lives are either beginning or coming to an end, and it seems to be extremely important to identify these as soon as possible so you do not miss any opportunities. Just because the timing is right does not mean that it is going to happen on its own!

Work / Life Balance

They say that if you find a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life. What if you do not love your job? Well, most of the time I hear that balancing work and life is most important. And how do you go about doing this? Is such a thing even possible?

A friend of mine once referred to work / life swirling, meaning that it is impossible to separate the two completely since this line will inevitably blur and to make the best of these situations. For some, publishing vlogs to the world about their life IS their job and here the two are pretty much completely overlapped. Others I know have a clear line between the two and shut off both work when they arrive at home and their private lives when they arrive at work.

I believe the focus should be finding the lifestyle you want and creating your working hours and leisure time around this, whether those are two different things or one in the same. Recently, a client of mine left the country to pursue a passion abroad that some would consider a hobby. That does not necessarily mean that she is spending every second as if she were on vacation. There might be many moments when it really feels like a task and she has to do it anyways. But she has decided for a particular lifestyle and then made decisions based on this and this alone.

What do you really want to spend the rest of your life doing? What impact would you like to make in the world and which values and ideas would you like to spread? You do not have to be a politician to create a movement. The other day the salesman at the bakery I went to made as much an impression on me as any person could that day. Although he was doing what many would refer to as mundane, his smile was contagious and every customer who bought baked goods from him left there feeling happier when they came in. You might say he is working as a salesman and you could assume he does not have a very fun job, or you might say he has found a way to both earn a living and spread his values and cheer to hundreds of people every single day and loves the life he leads.

What Is Your Time Worth?

It is quite difficult to put an exact figure on what your time is worth. How would you even begin? Time is one of the few resources which you can not possibly ever get back once it is spent, so how can you possibly put a price tag on that?

One possibility is starting with what you would like to earn in a year and divide that by how many hours you would like to work each year. However, this method usually ends up seeming like a steep price for an hour of labor and could be difficult to present to your clients.

What about focusing on the service you deliver and what that service is worth to your client? The problem here is that it is nearly impossible to perceive what your client believes your service is worth.

I prefer a combination of these two, starting by brainstorming the life I want to lead concerning working time and income level, then predicting what clients would feel comfortable paying, and from these two figures coming up with an average between the two since they are hardly ever the same.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to stick to a price you have decided on once you prove that clients will pay it. I have had too many times in my life where I was delivering the same service for vastly different prices. This is not only hard to keep up with in accounting, it was also constantly on my mind throughout meetings.

I have exactly three prices which I offer now to clients for three different services. There are no more negotiations, there is simply a process of finding people who want to work with me, who are ready to invest these amounts in themselves, and who I would like to work with as well, and then getting started.

Everyone Loves an Underdog Story

What would happen if you starting watching a movie about a character who had a nice life, then in the middle of the movies his life got even better, and at the end his life was even more wonderful? You would probably be bored out of your mind! As human beings, we love to see struggle before success and we love rooting for underdogs to overcome obstacles and finish on top.

I was reminded of this yesterday listening to everyone talking about Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. In my entire life, I have never heard so many people talking about the actual game in the Super Bowl. Usually I hear people talking about the half-time show, malfunctions like nipplegate or blackouts, and funny or stupid commercials. This year was different. Everyone was talking about the football game.

Why was that? Because it was a game full of struggle for the victors. After getting creamed throughout the first half of the game, the New England Patriots came back and won in overtime. They did not start out as underdogs, but being down by so many points in the middle of the game automatically put them in that position which made everyone (besides those who truly hate the Patriots) root for them to win. And win they did!

Every interesting and inspiring hero or leader has to have a journey, a story of struggle, or else they are more difficult to relate to and less admired. Everyone has a story of struggle and overcoming obstacles and by finding this and sharing this, you will be surprised how many people you can touch.

Have You Met TED?

If you have ever spoken with me for more than five minutes then you have probably heard me mention TED talks. TED conferences throughout the world are helping to spread ideas on a daily basis, both to conference attendees and also to individuals around the globe via ted.com. If you have no idea what I am writing about, then please refer to the video below which is an example of a very well-delivered talk at a TED conference:

Not only have I been watching videos posted on ted.com regularly over the past five years, I have also kept up with the TED Radio Hour podcast from NPR and recently have read two books about TED talks, Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo and TED Talks by Chris Anderson. I can highly recommend the podcast since they do an excellent job of finding talks which touch on the same topic and it is very interesting to hear more recent interviews which go into more detail or give updates on what has happened since the video recording.

When it comes to these two books, they are vastly different. Although they address the same conference, they have completely different styles, tones, and content. The first, Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo, is really an analysis of successful TED speakers and a reference book for copying exactly what others have done in order to deliver a TED-like talk. The second, TED Talks by Chris Anderson, tells the story of the man behind TED and addresses the spirit of the conference in addition to ideas to consider when giving a talk in various settings. Both are worth a read, especially if you are a TED fan like myself, and I would suggest listening to the audio versions so that you can hear each author’s voice.

The Best Time to Change

I am a sucker for starting over. Given the chance, if I am in the middle of a project and something goes awry, I usually have no problem at all scrapping an entire project and starting completely over.

Sometimes, beginning with the next round or even a brand new project is immediate. However, most of the time it seems most convenient to wait until a special day, such as New Years, a birthday, or the first of the next month. Statistically, humans look for clear points in time in order to change habits. Search queries for losing weight and giving up smoking, for example, peak on the first of each month as well as the first day following local holidays and school vacations.

When is the best time to change? As the saying goes, there is no time like the present. As difficult as it may be to disrupt ordinary times in your life, there is absolutely no reason to wait any longer. If you would like to lose weight, then why would you spend the next few weeks leading up to your birthday stuffing your face with things you know are leading you in the opposite direction? How could one more carton of cigarettes before the new year possibly be justifiable if you are positive you want to quit?

Unfortunately, there is normally no other person who can force you to be consequent and make changes in your life now rather than later. You have to consider how much better you will feel making these changes now and how much worse you would feel not doing so. It is all up to you.

January Books

Reading books can be life-changing, especially if you read about how to improve in specific areas. I have decided to read (or listen to) at least one book every two weeks. So far, in 2017, I have finished two very interesting books about health and perspective:

The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Jason Fung

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fasting sounded at first like the craziest idea in the entire world. Why would someone NOT eat? Eating is such a pleasant activity and do we not need to eat constantly in order to always have enough energy to perform well?

To my surprise, fasting is not starving. In fact, fasting is one of the most effective medicines, and one of the oldest, for hormonal balance and curing metabolic problems. The word fasting alone encompasses a variety of methods, and while most of these might sound extreme, I have now been doing a specific type of intermittent fasting over the past two weeks, and it not only fits to my lifestyle and schedule, it has actually enhanced my quality of life throughout the day. This could be due to the fact that waiting longer to eat is easier when you are in nutritional ketosis, but now, for the most part, I only eat between 11:30a and 7:30p each day. I think it is important to have exceptions, such as celebrating with friends at weddings, but getting back into good habits as soon as possible after such exceptions seems to be vital.

Randomness sounds like a very philosophical and abstract idea, but we are surrounded by it each and every day. Why are some people successful and others not? How can certain individuals win the lottery multiple times while others would have to wait hundreds of lifetimes?

Perspective, or framing such situations, is key, and Fooled by Randomness outlines exactly how to look at these situations in order to better understand what we think versus the statistical reality. No matter our beliefs, a lot of life is just random, and with billions of people around the world and so many different possibilities playing out every second, we are always going to have both amazing successes and failures which seem like complete outliers but actually make perfect sense when you look at it from Nassim’s perspective.

Frustration & Boredom

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘frustrated’ or ‘bored’? These are two states which most people do not like to be in and do everything they can to avoid. But when it comes to frustration and boredom, there is one important aspect which I believe is very important to remember: Feeling frustrated or bored is something you allow yourself to feel and have full control over changing. No one has the power to make you frustrated or bored without you letting it happen.

Humans have come up with numerous tools in order to stop feeling frustrated or bored as quickly as possible, but there is nothing like being able to get yourself out of one of these states without any external assistance. Especially in this age of constantly being online, we have a drug at our disposal for instant gratification and distraction, so why not just use that whenever we need a change of state?

I think that it is important to have complete control over yourself and to know that you do not have to depend on something else as a crutch in order to get through life. Theoretically, we could survive for quite a long time sitting in one position and depending on the rest of the world to keep us alive, entertained, or even happy, and although this sounds very convenient, the opposite, in my opinion, would lead more quality of life. Not zero dependency, but minimal dependency.

What can we possibly do without the aid of technology to develop this control and keep ourselves frustrated and bored as little as possible. Putting ourselves in these situations as often as possible could be the answer. Getting over stage fright might be best accomplished by getting ON stage frequently, and getting past your fear of failure could be easily solved by frequently trying to do things you know are nearly impossible.

So why not let yourself, or even your children, be bored and frustrated and practice changing your mind? At least there seems to be very little downside and very much upside in attempting such an experiment.

Podcasting

Two years ago I decided to start my first podcast, featuring entrepreneurs and executives from around the world who speak English as a second language yet use English to run their businesses. It was called Business English Q&A. Although there were hundreds of thousands of downloads as well as paid sponsorships and plenty of engagement, two things needed to change. First of all, the focus needed to shift from speaking English as a second language to founding and operating a business. Second, the geographical area needed to be more specific in order to make these professional stories easier to relate to and to create more of an emotional connection.

One week from today, Your Business in Munich with Ryan L. Sink is going to launch, featuring entrepreneurs throughout the Munich area. I believe that very few people understand how innovative and entrepreneurial Munich really is, and the main reason for doing this podcast is to spread the word. Each week, one entrepreneur will share what brought them to or kept them in Munich as well as how and why they started their business.

If you are an entrepreneur in the Munich area and would like to feature your business on the podcast, you can book an interview time here.

Gratitude

There is always something to be thankful for in life, and taking time to give thanks to these things is crucial for perspective and happiness.

List the people, advantages, and abilities you have. Do you have family and friends? Do you have enough food to eat and clean water to drink every day? Do your legs work? Think of what could be worse in various aspects or moments of your life and how lucky you are that these situations are not your reality.

There are many habits I have practiced on a regular basis, but gratitude is one of the only ones which has been immediately rewarding. No matter if I think it to myself, say it out loud, or even tell the person directly who I am thankful for or to, there is absolutely no way to be anything but happy and optimistic while doing so.

Your Closest Friends

There are few aspects of your life that effect you more than the people you surround yourself with. It has been shown that your closest friends influence everything from how much money you earn and how happy or stressed you are to the decisions you make, how healthy you are, and possibly even how long you live. We are social animals and community has developed over time to not only give us a status quo but to guide us through life.

Who are you closest to and what kind of influence do you think they might have on you and your life? It is difficult to replace friends who may negatively effect your life with others who have a more positive influence, however, it is fairly easy to prioritize and make sure you are getting as much time as possible with people who are going to make you a better person and as little time as possible with people who are not.

Separating Issues and Individuals

Issues are problems, and these problems are all too often confused with the individuals on the other side. This took me a very long time to realize, but when you negotiate a contract, for example, the contract itself is the issue you are dealing with and the individual or party on the other side is there to work WITH you to resolve this issue. They are NOT the problem. There is no need to view that person you are negotiating with as an enemy but rather a collaborator or partner in this process. In fact, with this perspective, I believe that issues can be resolved much more quickly, effectively, and pleasantly.

No matter whether we are talking about political, professional, or personal issues, there are other people involved and these people should not be the focus. It is much easier to focus on these individuals and to believe that removing them from the picture will help to  resolve the issue, but that is hardly ever the case. When dealing with international issues such as terrorism and bigotry, removing the figures behind the faces of these issues simply leaves room for new thought leaders to emerge and fill that void. What if, instead, we focused on the actual terrorism or bigotry itself, working together as part of a greater whole: humanity?

If you and your spouse have financial problems, how different do you think your struggle with these problems would be if you focused on your spouse as the problem rather than the actual financial problems? How much more time and energy would you need to overcome this hurdle? I think you always have to ask yourself one question, ‘Who are we first and foremost?’ In this case, the answer is clear: a family.

Are you focused on demonizing other political parties or are you first and foremost a citizen of your nation, working together with all parties to maximize your country’s potential? Do you enter business meetings prepared to defeat the person across from you, or are you two people under a larger umbrella with mutual values and aims who could take this opportunity to solve one small problem on the path towards eventually solving even larger ones?

Do not forget what you have in common with those on the ‘other’ side, especially when these commonalities supersede your initial perspectives on the issue at hand.

Minimal Shifts, Monumental Impact

It is truly amazing how much minor decisions can influence your life over a longer period of time. Drastic changes from one second to the next are rarely as influential or even sustainable. Everything from compound interest to mercury intake can seem negligible in the short term, however in the long run this could mean a vast difference in your financial or physical state.

Let’s say that you and a friend start side by side and walk in a straight line for one day, but with a difference of one degree. At the end of that one day, you would still be within about a mile of each other. One year later, however, you would be nearly 500 miles away from each other, equivalent to one of you being in London and the other in Berlin. A decade later, this would be roughly the distance from New York City to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and remember, that is only if you vary by one degree! Imagine, for example, how much more emotional distance there would be between you and your spouse after ten years of less communication. On the other hand, imagine how much better your life could be ten years from now with one minor positive adjustment.

Humans are really good at overestimating what can be accomplished in one year, at underestimating what can be accomplished in a decade, and at predicting how different our lives will be ten years from now, no matter how well we are able to remember how different we were ten years ago. Our values, personalities, likes, dislikes, hobbies, and even tastes in music can be very different ten years down the road.

Change is going to happen whether we like it or not, but we have the choice to make conscious adjustments and to control the directions we go in as well as the choice to align our adjustments with others. We are always changing, either moving forward or falling behind, growing together with others or growing apart. Be conscious of not only how powerful even minor decisions in your life can be over time, but also how much time you have for making major positive changes in your life without having to take radical action.

Remember that even the longest journeys begin with a single step.

Birthday Donation

Two weeks from today, I will have successfully made it around the sun thirty two times 😉 That’s right, it is going to be my birthday. If you know me well at all, then you know that I am not big on birthdays, parties, or surprises. When it comes to gifts, I always smile, nod, and thank everyone for their generosity, but I usually have something else on my mind: I literally do not need or want anything. I already have more than enough.

It is such a privilege to be able to think that.

Much of this privilege is due to hitting the jackpot when it came to growing up in the United States and living in Germany now, two countries with an abundance of resources. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people in other countries who are not able to think that because they truly need more in their lives.

If you feel like giving, no matter if it has anything to do with my upcoming birthday or not, please take the time to use the following link and contribute to my birthday donation to the Against Malaria Foundation! 

https://www.againstmalaria.com/ryanlsink

Not only does this foundation help protect people from malaria, 100% of the funds they receive from the public buys nets! And statistically, one life is saved for every 550 nets donated.

I am positive that my thirty-third trip around the sun is going to be at least as good as the first thirty two, if not better. What an absolute privilege 🙂

How One Crazy Idea Saved My Life

Exactly six months ago, on Sunday, July 17, 2016, I began a very desperate, last-ditch effort to change my health and ultimately save my life.

This might sound exaggerated since I was not undergoing a kidney transplant, having chemotherapy, or even taking insulin , but I was well on my way. My body, thanks to both inherited genes and years of poor nutrition, had started down a dark path.

Two and a half years ago, after applying for a life insurance plan to ensure my newly-formed family’s success in my stead, I went to my general practitioner for a mandatory full medical examination. I remember how frustrated I was leaving that office knowing that I would not get the plan I had hoped for and feeling angry at my doctor for not simply overlooking my blood work and approving my application. She had told me that by no means would she sign my insurance request and I felt that she was to blame.

Now, two and a half years later, I am extremely thankful for that doctor’s tenacity. I had been to others who saw the signs and symptoms slowly creeping up but were either too friendly when mentioning these or did not see them as anything really out of the ordinary. Thanks to this doctor, I was forced to make a change in my life if I wanted to be around to watch my children grow up and my friends and family grow old.

From there, I went on to a liver specialist who told me that the ultrasound picture was primarily white, indicating fat, and that my liver seemed to have hardened. She recommend a biopsy which took place one month later. The results came in and I was officially diagnosed with NASH, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is a fatty liver disease. My liver cells contained roughly 80% fat, it had actually hardened to the point of stage two cirrhosis, and the process of fibrosis, or tissue scarring, had begun, causing potentially irreversible damage.

You would expect, with such a shock, to see a quick change in my health for the better in the following weeks or months. Unfortunately, it took two years to find a solution that actually worked and those were two very frustrating years. I followed the first diet for several months, then another for a few more months, another for several more months, then I gave up for a couple of months, I tried eating less and exercising more for a while, then using supplements, and finally, when I felt like giving up for good since nothing seemed to work, I threw a hail Mary pass with a crazy idea I heard on a podcast.

At the beginning of July, I listened to a podcast discussing a very special diet and a few days later I happened to meet a nutritionist who had used this exact diet himself. The following week, I started reading an e-book about it and began listening to a second podcast devoted solely to this type of nutrition. I am not one to make big changes without planning in advance and using multiple sources, so now that I had found these sources, I was ready to give it a go.

On Sunday, July 17, 2016 I weighed 244 lbs (111 kg), had just over 30% body fat, and my blood values indicating liver function were through the roof in addition to my cholesterol being well past the normal range. Six weeks later, I weighed 222 lbs (101 kg), had 25% body fat, and my levels for both liver and cholesterol were back to normal. Now, 26 weeks later, I weigh 205 lbs (93 kg), I have 19% body fat, I have lost nearly 6 in (15 cm) in my waist, and all of my blood work is within the normal range including my thyroid levels (without continuing to take thyroid medicine). On top of that, a recent ultrasound by my liver specialist revealed that most of the fat has been removed from my liver and hardening has reversed, bringing me down to stage one cirrhosis. My energy level is higher than possibly ever before, and eating has now become something I do in order to keep my system going strong instead of a way of keeping myself happy or from being bored. Basically, the only thing it hasn’t reversed or improved is my balding head 😉

What was this crazy idea that reversed my cirrhosis, lowered my weight and body fat percentage, and has given me more energy and focus than I ever had before? Nutritional ketosis.

Nutritional ketosis began for me as a diet, but has now become my preferred long-term nutrition. The only question on my mind now is where I can go from here. Reversing what should have ended up leading me to a life of diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s was step one. Step two is maximizing my health, both mentally and physically, and thus my quality and length of life.

The Future Is Bright

If you have ever spoken with me for an extended period of time, you will surely have noticed that I am fascinated by and eager to see what the future holds. I truly believe that the years ahead of us are going to be increasingly brighter.

There are so many amazing things going on at the moment which will open up numerous doors in the future and we are only now really starting to figure out what life is and how to best navigate it.

Although most news sources would have you convinced otherwise, our world is becoming safer, in fact we are already living in the safest time humanity has ever seen. We are also starting to figure out how to most effectively help those who need it most around the world and technological advances are giving many the opportunity to improve their quality of life immensely.

Current projects throughout the world include making humans amortal, reversing paralysis, giving sight back to the blind, hearing back to the deaf, and even touch back to those who have lost limbs. Scientists and engineers around the globe are figuring out how to automate the most dangerous activities we do such as driving cars, reprogram our genes and those of other animals, and colonize other planets.

Though impossible, I would give anything to be able to see and experience what life will be like hundreds and thousands of years from now. Surprisingly, while recently reading a book about the past and how far we have come, I had a very similar feeling. I can highly recommend Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind which shows a broad yet informative biography of the human race. Going through this book while living in the year 2016 gave me an unbelievable sense of perspective and showed me how lucky we all are to be living in this day and age.

The question of what is still to come is something I often discuss with clients, with guests I interview on my local podcast, family, and friends. No matter what you believe about the past and the present, all signs seem to point to a bright future!

How Busy Are You?

Most people I know tell me how busy they are, and I remember when I used to ‘busy’ all the time as well. In fact, sometimes I still catch myself being ‘busy’, which for me means lacking focus and/or abounding in disarray. Filling your time, both in your personal and professional life, is unbelievably easy, yet managing your time seems to be increasingly difficult.

Some of this could be a result of believing that the harder and longer you work the better, or perhaps simply due to your desired perception from those around you. Whatever it is, discovering your true productivity and power of choice can keep you from ever having to be ‘busy’ again.

Recently, it has been shown that people on average are happier working than they are ‘enjoying’ their free time. This might be caused by their low or nonexistent state of flow when away from work and lead them to becoming a workaholic. I believe that minor adjustments in your free time to enhance flow make for a much more rewarding life, or at least this has been true in my own.

Continual improvement, however small, enhances the ‘flow’ in my life, helping me to not only see that what I am doing in my free time is important but also allowing me to notice on a daily basis that I am going to bed a better person than the day before (obviously not 100% of the time, but quite close).

All you really have in life is choice. You have the choice to believe what you want to believe and do what you want to do. What you put in your mind and release through actions is your entire reality, your life, and you are in the driver’s seat. You have the power to be busy all the time and get nowhere or be focused, productive, and get wherever you would like to end up.

How busy is your schedule for the week ahead? How much of your time at work will be productive and what could you do without? How are you going to be spending your time outside of work and what aspects of your life would you like to improve slowly but surely? How would you feel a week from today if you spent all of your time outside of work watching reality competitions on television, for example, versus sorting through your belongings at home, one room at a time?

The Most Important Question I Learned in 2016

This is going to be extremely anticlimactic, but trust me, once you start using this question, it is going to be a game-changer.

I went to a seminar last year dealing with coaching and mentoring in positions of leadership. It was very informative and there were plenty of takeaways, yet one tip in particular stood out and has come quite in handy.

Not only is it great, it can be used in basically any situation and with almost anyone you know. So far, I have used it with clients, colleagues, and my wife and children and it has worked exactly as I wanted every single time.

Here it goes: Before you ask someone a sensitive or difficult question, ask them if you can ask them something. “Can I ask you something?” is so powerful and not only does it immediately give you permission to ask whatever you would like, it ensures that the person you are asking will feel obligated to answer since they gave you this permission.

Other simple questions from the same seminar which have also come in handy are “How would you like me to answer that? As your friend/coach/boss/etc.?” and “Can I tell you something?”.

Enjoy 🙂

You Are In Control

You are in control! That is a fact. You are the ultimate decision maker in your life and everything comes down to individual decisions you make. What you do with your mind and body is up to no one else but YOU!

This idea may all sound simple in theory but in practice can be very difficult to implement. We so easily forget that we are in control and that we have the power to decide and steer our own lives rather than always reacting to others’ decisions and constantly being guided.

Here are four decisions I have made and stuck to as much as possible in the last six months concerning my mind and body:

1. News: Positive news unfortunately doesn’t sell as well as negative news and is therefore much less prominent in media. Because of this, I no longer actively check or expose myself to larger news sources. If something is important enough, I still hear about it from friends, family, colleagues, and clients. At first, I thought this would leave me socially awkward, however the opposite is true. People love passing on news they have heard to those who do not already know it.

2. Sugar: It is amazing, yet true, that our bodies do not need to consume ANY carbohydrates in order to function properly and there  is no medical disorder known to man caused by insufficient carbohydrate consumption. What our bodies do need are fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals in addition to plenty of water. This is why I have limited my carbohydrate intake to a maximum of 25 grams each day.

3. Fasting: When I do decide to indulge, I fast most of, if not all of, the following day. This is yet another COMPLETELY counter-intuitive act, but after trying it out and researching the subject quite a bit I must say, it does wonders. Even on a normal day, I usually intermittently fast  which, like limiting carbohydrates and unlike not checking the news, does leave me socially awkward, since people love breaking bread together. However, it is also a great conversation starter, especially when you have lots of time to talk while others are eating 😉

4: Meditation: Being conscious is fairly easy, but being mindful takes practice. This is one activity which I have found to be much more difficult to see the immediate effects of but which I truly believe has already made a substantial difference over a longer period of time. In a nutshell, this involves taking time each day to be more aware of yourself, your surroundings, and the control you have over what you focus on and react to.

Everything Is Relative

It seems that relativity is the key to happiness, and I find this truly amazing. Instead of seeing each new experience in our lives as they truly are, we immediately look at how they compare to past experiences, our status quo, and our expectations.

A book which I recently finished discussed research on divorce in the United States. Surprisingly, the top indicator for the chance of a married couple getting divorced is not how happy they are or how healthy their relationship is, it is simply how good their marriage is compared to their immediate friends and family. In another research study on income, most participants reported they would rather make $60,000 a year with their friends earning $50,000 on average than make $70,000 a year with their friends earning $80,000. That is $10,000 less each year!

And this process of perceiving the world relatively seems to start before we are even born. It has been shown that humans learn quite a bit about the current state of the world around us while still in the womb concerning stress, nutrition, language, and many other aspects of life. This allows us to start comparing as soon as we are born and continue doing so the rest of our lives. As long as everything is at least the way we expect it or better, everything is fine. But if expectations are not met, this can be very hard to deal with.

Why do we not constantly notice the veins in our eyes or the rotation of the Earth? Because they are always there and we have muted them out. Why do French men suddenly have a sexy accent when they leave their home country? Friends of mine from America talk about how salty the food is when they come to Germany and friends of mine from Germany talk about how sweet the food is or how the water tastes like fluoride when they go to America.

So what can we do? Well, if our goal is to always be happy, then lowering expectations might help. I would say that so far, what has helped me most in this area has been travelling to new places and meeting new people (that is, as long as you go places and meet people with a lower standard of living 😉 ).

Life-Changing Decisions

Three decisions have improved the quality of my life more than anything else. The crazy thing, looking back on these decisions, is just how unbelievably easy they were to make and implement, although beforehand they seemed near impossible.

Decision #1: Maintaining nutritional ketosis

What began as a diet has now become my standard nutrition. After being diagnosed with a fatty liver disease and stage two cirrhosis, I tested every recommended solution I heard. But nothing really worked, until I entered into nutritional ketosis. What sounded like exactly the OPPOSITE of what I should be doing ended up saving and extending my life, and now for nearly six months I have been eating primarily fat, moderating protein, and avoiding most carbohydrates.

Decision #2: A nontraditional weekend

Every single Sunday my wife and I used to wake up with a list of chores which needed to be done but without the ability to accomplish anything. We were not able to go grocery shopping (or any shopping for that matter), bring our piles of trash to the recycling center, or even finish any repairs or installations in our apartment due to noise ordinances. Sunday was simply a day of accomplishing absolutely nothing, forcing us to overextend ourselves throughout the week to get everything we needed done. That is, until I made one simple change: Now, Sunday is devoted to catching up on office work and afterwards spending quality time with family. Tuesdays are now one of our ‘weekend’ days and there is nothing more satisfying than taking care of errands and going on short trips while the rest of the city is working.

Decision #3: Seeing my family every day

I used to pride myself on being home all week while many of my friends spent several days, if not most of the week, in other cities as consultants, away from their families. However, even though I was in the same city as my family, I was going days at a time, if not much of the week, without actually spending time with them. I would leave home before my children woke up, get home after they were already in bed, and have minimal time to spend with my wife. The month following this realization was spent reducing the number of clients I worked with and consolidating my schedule until I was sure to see my family every single day of the week. And consolidating/optimizing my schedule is now something I do twice a year.

Lessons Learned in 2017

Today is January 8 and although we are only a little over one week into the new year, I have already learned two huge lessons. This is both unfortunate and also the only way that some people like myself will actually make changes.

Lesson #1: Spend more time preparing in order to save potentially wasted time later.

First, in a rush to get my new website and blog online in time to reach my New Year’s resolution of posting five days a week, I sent my domain, ryanlsink.com, to a new host. I acted in haste and then spent a LOT of time making up for this rash decision. Like several people I have spoken with lately, I did not understand that in registering a new domain, I had simultaneously booked a basic hosting service. Although this mistake was noticed in time to reverse its effects, the request was not fully enforced and so my domain was sent off to a new server, leaving me without my main website AND without access to my e-mail for nearly two days. Now, thanks to the lovely support employees at BlueHost, everything is back up and running. (As a side note, 1&1, the other host in this situation, was unfortunately not nearly as helpful or knowledgeable.)

Lesson #2: It is especially important to continue with daily routines when sick.

Second, I assumed that the best thing to do when I came down with a cold was to completely forget about my daily routines and wait until I was feeling better to ‘get back on the horse’. Just the opposite is true. On sick days, it is vital to continue with as many daily routines as possible in order to potentially shorten both the amount of time you are ill and the transitional period back into these routines. Obviously, you can not expect yourself to do everything you normally would, such as exercising, since your body needs to focus most of its energy on getting over the cold, but so many of the things I do every day take little to no energy at all and could only help.

Luckily, I had plenty of time this weekend, healthy once again, to reflect 🙂

Here are the 15 things on my daily to-do list, of which I try to do at least 10 (and at the end of the day I check briefly to see how many have been accomplished):

Meditate 2x

Gratitude 1x

Review 1x

Check social media / e-mails no more than 3x

Check bank accounts no more than 1x

Apply hand lotion 2x

Drink 1l of water as soon as I wake up

Drink water before and after each meal

Smile at everyone

Maintain a calm tone with my family

Floss 1x

Finish my shower with 30s of only cold water

Visualization 1x

Walk for 1h

5-set workout

 

Perspective, Passion, & Purpose

Perspective, passion, and purpose are three areas which I believe are essential to living a satisfying and meaningful life. These also happen to be three areas which are quite easy to ignore and to assume are already in place. I assumed the same for myself, but have recently come to find out that actually getting them in place has had a tremendously positive effect on my life.

I have gained perspective by doing three things: meditating, reviewing, and reading. Meditation is something I practice twice a day for 5-10 minutes, focusing on my breath and recognizing thoughts and feelings. Reviewing takes place at least once a day, usually at the end, and consists of looking back at my day and pointing out what made it great and what could have been better as well as gratitude for everything, both positive and negative. And reading certain books on vast topics such as time and space help greatly to remind myself of the relative length and impact of my life.

Passion has been by far the easiest to improve although I am not very often described as a passionate person. Improving and focusing on passions in my life has meant subtracting rather than adding. Saying no to or removing activities in my life which I do not feel strongly about and spending this time or replacing these activities with others which feel right. With enough perspective, differentiating between these two feelings becomes very simple. As Derek Sivers puts it, everything should either be a ‘hell yeah’ or a ‘no’.

There is nothing I am more sure about than my purpose. My ‘ikigai’ (as many Japanese put it), or ‘reason for being’, is both family and service-centric. This became most evident when I was spending most of my time several years ago away from my family and not helping others progress. I have taken small steps (and some large ones as well) since then to ensure that everything I do now is the opposite.

Coaching vs. Mentoring

In 2016, the biggest lesson I learned, after deciding to start the year off by hiring a coach to help me improve my life and business, was the difference between coaching and mentoring . I was very new to this area and assumed that titles such as ‘coach’ were very specific and always meant the same thing no matter who you worked with. Later I learned that this title is used in very different ways, very much depending on who exactly you work with.

I now know that in coaching, as with every other kind of relationship, it is extremely important to clearly define terms and expectations before things get too serious. On top of that, making sure that both parties understand these terms and expectations the same way is vital. The title ‘coach’ is not protected and can be used by anyone offering basically anything.

Later last year, at a local seminar I attended on leadership, I was taught what I believe to be a very good definition and differentiation between coaching and mentoring. Coaching was presented as working together to find the right path to take and maximizing potential while mentoring was shown as training and supporting someone to follow the path you have taken so that they can get to where you are.

In my search to find the right coach I had actually found a mentor. This mentor had a wonderful life, was at a place where I would not have minded getting to, and was extremely professional. However, in the end it was clear that coaching is what I really needed to improve my life and I eventually found what I would consider an actual coach six months later.

Not only is it important  to remember this lesson when looking for coaches, it is crucial for coaches to remember this difference in order to have satisfied clients with significant results.

Keeping Old Habits

Over the past two years, I have focused on breaking bad habits and building good ones, both personally and professionally. In my experience, this is very difficult to do over a short period of time and very easy to do over a longer time period. On average, I need about twenty weeks to break or build a habit.

Former habits which I have successfully broken over the last two years include popping my fingers and toes, looking away from strangers after making eye contact, checking my phone regularly, and wasting time at work.

Newly built habits which are now a regular part of my life include daily walks and meditation, scrum lists and flexible work hours, eating plenty of fat and drinking water as soon as I wake up, showering with cold water, using hand lotion, and smiling when making eye contact with others.

I can attribute many of these changes to books that I have read and podcasts which I have listened to. I listen to a new audio book every two weeks on Audible and most of the habits and changes above have specifically come as a result of:

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore

The Go Giver by Bob Burg

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

What impacted your life most in 2016? What helped you grow and what held you back? From what you learned last year, what will you keep in mind or put into practice this year?

What about  goals for 2017? What do you hope to achieve and what is going to help you get there? What do you still need to learn or improve to make 2017 successful and how is it going to feel once you get there?

When it comes to reviewing the past year and setting new goals or resolutions for the year ahead, I do not think that I am alone. I used to simply list a few points to improve, but I found that I was not really making any progress. The only question I was asking myself at that point was, ‘What would I like to change?’ and then I would list a few things without giving them much thought.

Now I have a new approach which has worked very well for me so far. First, I review the year before, asking very specific questions (above), and making decisions from these answers on what to continue, change, or improve. Second, I begin implementing these before the new year, the last week of December, which allows me more lenience when messing up early on and which also gives me a running start and momentum going into the next year instead of just waiting to start as I used to.

For 2017 I have three main goals (below) to reach by the end of the year. I also have fifteen minor goals of which I am going to do at least 10 every day.

Main goals:

1 Become ICF-certified

2 Publish 40 podcast episodes

3 Prepare to be location-independent for six months in 2018

Perspective in the New Year

Happy New Year!

There are few things I believe are more important in life than perspective. The way you frame a situation can drastically change the way you feel and act.

Recently, I was reminded of the fact that when we look up at the stars, the light we see is not what those stars look like at the present moment. In fact, the most recent light we see from the closest star is almost four and a half years old. And the ‘oldest’ light we see from the farthest star from us is more than fifty five million years old. That means this star we ‘see’ might not even exist anymore.

If you start looking up at the sky and framing star gazing as looking into the past, your feeling in that situation will be completely different, or at least I have found this to be true. Such a vast perspective on time and space can make worries and ‘troubles’ in your life seem minute and relieve unnecessary stress.

Take the time this year to find perspective, and to look at your life and the world from a different angle or a higher view. Be sure to focus on your values and beliefs, remember what really matters and what does not, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much this will positively impact your life.