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Zen Conservatism

How to Achieve

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When a family’s children are small, the family has such unity of purpose. Mom, Dad, and all the kids climb into the mini-van or the SUV and head to the store. From there, they visit her parents. Then stop at McDonald’s on the way home.  If one of the older kids is involved in an organized program, the whole family attends.

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At bath time, the younger ones are bathed in batch.  Everyone eats together. Bed time comes for all of the kids at once, although older ones might get to read a while before turning out the light.

Young families have unity of purpose.

Then the kids get older.  Activities overlap, so the family must divide to accomplish them all. Soon, neither Mom nor Dad can stay and watch Trish’s volleyball game, because other kids need to be shuttled from event to event.

Before you know it, Trish is catching rides with the older kids who have their own cars. In a blink, the kids’ afterschool jobs prevent them from eating dinner as a family. Now, even Grandpa’s 70th birthday becomes a hassle to schedule.  And, yes, life is so complex the anniversary of a man’s birth has to be scheduled around other activities.

This is like any new organization, whether it’s a business startup or a grassroots movement.  At first, there’s such excitement about the next event or milestone or release date that everyone focuses on that.  Then teams get larger, and we divide our attentions.  Some focus on the next milestone, while others engage in longer term planning. Before long, we have not one but three or four immediate milestones, and we’ve divided the labor among specialists.

At this point, we no longer feel the excitement of the startup.  We feel like we’re in a big corporation with titles and departments.  And we notice that we’re missing a lot of targets and struggling for ideas.  Worst, there’s personality conflict and turf battles.  Everything is hard work, and nothing feels like an achievement.  Everything feels like a pain in the ass.

The way to combat this situation is three-fold:

Know Your Intended Outcome:  Have a single purpose around which everyone rallies, and make sure the whole organization understands why you exist.  For example, the first Tea Parties in February 2009 had perfect unity of purpose: Repeal the Pork or Retire.  That message was for Congress.  The pork was TARP, Stimuli I and II, the massive Budget Plus bill passed to redistribute wealth from us to Obama’s largest campaign donors.  That’s why this whole thing came about: government spending and borrowing for things that we never gave government permission to do.

Eliminate the Unnecessary:  Many activities should have been temporary but became permanent.  Kill all of those.  Weekly status meeting that came about because Project Y was behind schedule?  Kill it when Project Y ships and fix the reason it was late.  (Hint, meetings make projects later.) Is one project two generations behind because resources move to the other projects? Kill the feeder project. No one’s interested.  Any activity or project that does not directly address the Intended Outcome needs to stop immediately.

Do One Thing at a TimeThe human brain cannot multitask. Give it up. Don’t ask others to multitask unless you’d ask them to be in two places at once.  Once you’ve eliminated the unnecessary and established a clear, constant reminder of your intended outcome, you should have only one important task before you. Do it.  Then do the next.  Then one after that.  Trying to do two or more things at once will result in two or more crappy pieces of work.

If you feel that you’re busier than ever but nothing’s getting done, chances are you that you’ve taken on too much, lost sight of your intended outcome, and divided your attention among too many things.  Stop.  Write down that intention, write down a list of everything that’s in flight, then cross out every activity except the one that’s most important to the intended outcome.  You make a new list tomorrow.

For more information on achieving your goals, read my latest book, Zen Conservatism.

2 Paths to Focus

Reading Time: 1 minutes

target I had a small revelation yesterday: there are two paths to focus.

One path requires constant vigilance against distraction.  This path also demands great awareness of many things, knowledge, and outlandish tenacity.  This is the path we recognize as heroic.

The other path gets less notice, less acclaim. Those how follow this other path to focus don’t seem to try hard. These are the “naturals.” Things seem to come easy for them.

But the second path requires a lot of work, too. 

The first path focus makes your eye (or eyes) hurt.  You strain to place all of your concentration onto one tiny speck. You squint and squeeze your eyeball. That speck could be a planet billions of miles away or it could be a subatomic particle.  Both require massive, focused concentration. The person achieves this concentration earns praise as a hero and hard worker.

The second path to focus requires learning to eliminate everything but the target. Instead of mastering concentration, you master release and surrender.  You let go of everything that’s not the object of your study or the target of your arrow. You think, see, and understand less and less until, at last, there is nothing in your universe except you and the target.

Then you release the arrow. It has no choice but to strike the target, because nothing else exists. 

Following the second path to focus will earn less praise for hard work and genius because it looks easy. But when the paths cross, those on the second path will triumph every time.

Come to Kansas City This Weekend

Reading Time: 1 minutes

The Cardinals are out of town.  The day before Mother’s Day is always boring.  (You don’t want to go into a Mother’s Day Brunch hangin’ like Saddam Hussein, right?) So spend Friday evening and/or Saturday with Dana Loesch, Bill Hennessy, and hundreds of grassroots conservative activists at;

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It’s not too late to register and arrive, and everything happens at the Embassy Suites at KC International Airport:

Kansas City Summit

May 7-8
Embassy Suites KC – Int. Airport
7640 NW Tiffany Springs Parkway
Kansas City, MO 64153

Dana will be a headliner.  I’ll be talking about Zen Conservatism and Liberty Evangelism.  The full schedule and registration is available right here.

See you in KC.

How to Focus for Better Living

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I once thought that focus meant you never got distracted. I was wrong.

A person with a powerful focusing ability gets as distracted as the next guy. The difference is that the Focus Master has learned to recognize distraction and gently guide his thoughts or actions back to the intended task at hand.

That simple skill is rare and remarkably powerful. Pay attention to every word of this two-step process:

1. Recognize that your mind has wandered, and

2. Gently let go of the distraction and return to your intended thought or action

Practice this skill once a day for twenty-one days, and you will gain a tactical advantage over ninety-nine percent of the population.

Here are some practical ways to practice:

At the computer:

1. In a fairly quiet place with your computer, go to http://www.online-stopwatch.com/ and select the countdown timer.

2. Set the timer to three minutes for the first week, and increase by 2 minutes each of the following two weeks.

3. Before you start the time, think of the word that best describes what you need most. Choose a single word, like “freedom” or “perseverance.”

4. During each session, try to feel what it would be like to have what you’re asking for. Don’t think about it or describe it: feel it.

5. Start the time, and close your eyes, focusing on the feeling of your word.

6. As your mind wanders, recognize the wandering. Acknowledge it. Let it go. Gently guide your feelings and thoughts back to the word and the feelings associated with achieving that word.

7. Repeat step 6 until the timer sounds.

8. Open your eyes, silence the timer, and write yourself a short note about the experience.

Variations:

1. During breakfast, try focusing exclusively on every aspect of the food you’re eating. Enjoy the crap out of every bite. As other thoughts intrude, let them go and gently return your thoughts and feelings to the food that fuels your body and mind.

2. While driving, turn off the radio and your cell phone. Concentrate on the act of driving, the sound of the car, the activities of other drivers. Focus on the variety of sensations and driving styles you witness. If you start to get angry or distracted with thoughts of work or home, acknowledge the distraction and guide your mind back to the rich world of driving.

You can probably come up with your own ideas for variations. In any event, practice for three, then five, then seven minutes every day for twenty-one days. You’ll become a master of focus. You’ll make decisions faster and more effectively. You’ll find that you can accomplish more work in less time. And you’ll feel far less stress in everything you do.

Focased Conservatism

Reading Time: 2 minutes

January 28, 2009, could go down as the day conservatives regained their focus.

What the FOCA?:  Some enterprising pro-lifers desiring limited government launched the “What the FOCA?” website.  The site kicks some of the 1973-style slogans from the Right to Life movement, updating themes and memes for 2009.  A great idea, long overdue.  Visit often and donate generously if fighting rampant abortion is one of your action focuses.

A (Republican) House United:  Every member of the Republican House Caucus voted against Obama’s Crap Sandwich.  The bill passed, of course, with all but 11 Democrats voting Aye.  But the real story is that the consequences of this pile of Number Two land squarely on The One and his Girl Friday, Nancy “Blend the Babies” Pelosi.  Remember this in 2010.

In 1981, many, many Democrats crossed the aisle and voted for Reagan’s tax cuts.  They knew that the strategy would work.  Most were old enough to remember that Jack Kennedy did the same thing with success in 1963.  Later, when Democrats tried to distance themselves from that vote, Reagan gently reminded the voters that Dick Gephardt and his colleagues rose in support of Reagan’s first two budgets.  They may share in their success, but they cannot say they opposed the bills.

When the economy tanks after a 3-4 month break (as I’ve been predicting since October), the GOP can say, “we told you so.” 

What’s More Conservative Than an Onion?: The answer is, of course, The Endive.  This ingenious and hilarious new satire site equals The Onion in quality and surpasses in originality.  Sid Bridge, editor-in-chief, exemplifies Zen Conservatism by focusing on a single goal:  pillory liberals with laughter.  Bookmark The Endive and email your friends.  This will become THE satire site of the Obama administration.

CNN Ends Pretense of Objectivity:  CNN is selling a sickening, sycophant T-Shirt with prominent banner ad.  I honestly cannot believe that they have stooped to this.  I defy anyone to argue that a wholly partisan press benefits a free country.  I’m thinking of blocking cnn.com on my home firewall to prevent my kids from reading this crap.  Anyone else up for it?

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It Never Was There

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m like a lot of people I know.  We may be very different from you and those you know.  But we’re familiar to ourselves and to each other.

I’m one of those people who tried to get There. 

There isn’t a place; it’s a status.  It’s a moment.  It’s hearing that someone told someone else that you have “one of those” and they should see it.  Maybe it’s the big TV or the cool cappuccino machine.  Maybe it’s a boat or an SUV that costs more than the average American home and is only 3 square feet smaller.

Part of trying to get there is being there now.  You have to play the part if you want to win the part.  You can’t live like a pauper if you have dreams of the Gold Coast, can you? 

So we lived like there was no tomorrow.  We bought the stuff that would impress everyone.  We made it to all the big parties.  We dressed the part.  I had a pair of Kenneth Cole shoes in 2000 a full half-season before the hit the stores.  I was there.

I never felt There, though.  Even more strangely, I never felt here.  I felt . . . scared.  Not only did I not have everything I needed to be There, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for where I was.  Better get more stuff before somebody notices.

I hear people talk disparagingly about the greed and excess and conspicuous consumption of the 80s and of the 90s and of the 00s.  There was a backlash in the early 1990s against the “Reagan eighties.”  It lasted only until the stock market took off on the helium of the tech bubble.  By 1996, we were all buying tickets to There, again. 

In the early 2000s, we decried the excesses of the 90s, though, this time, a president’s name wasn’t associated with the excess.  This time it was the “dot com nineties.” 

Then this.  Credit markets crashed.  Stock markets crashed.  Housing markets crashed.  Job markets.  Name a market, and it crashed.   Being There didn’t help us this time . . . or the last time . . . or the time before that.  Because it never was There.

Now we have a lot of stuff to get rid of.  It’s not as shiny and cool as it was when we bought it.  Even if we bought two month ago.  Everybody has one, anyway, and we only bought it to set ourselves apart.   But we still get a bill for it every month.  We will for a long time, unless we do something about that.

I’m going to try.  I’m going put every penny I can into eliminating every debt I have.  I’ll the utilities, insurance, taxes, car repairs.  You can have the rest, along with the crap it bought. 

Contrary to the lies you hear from Hank Paulson and Barack Obama, the world doesn’t run on credit.  At least it shouldn’t.  Microsoft has no debt, nor does Walgreens.  Circuit City does.  So does Chrysler.  Ditto GM.  And Ford.

Maybe we’d all be better off if Congress had never voted for that panicked bailout in September.  But I’m not taking that bailout.

There is a There somewhere, but it’s inside of us.  It was the original bailout and the only one anyone will ever need.  It was delivered on a cross 2,000 years ago. 

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