20,000 Days and Counting: An Interview and Giveaway with Robert D. Smith

20,000 days

This is an interview with Robert D. Smith. Robert is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting and a consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, and entertainers. For over 30 years, he has managed the career of New York Times best-selling author and in-demand speaker Andy Andrews. He recently took the time to answer some questions about his debut book and the concept of getting the most you possibly can out of any 24-hour period. The book was released today, and you can learn more about it HERE.

Early on in 20,000 Days and Counting, you introduce the concept of measuring our lives by days instead of years. Can you explain how and why you started doing this?

I started several years ago when I put my birth date into a countdown clock widget on my computer just to see what would happen. It worked the way I thought it might—it showed how many days had passed since the day I was born. And I was astounded. The number was just under 20,000.

Seeing the sheer magnitude of the amount of days you have spent on this planet is truly powerful. It can be a game-changing experience for your perspective on the ways you spend your time.

As people, we almost always overestimate what we can do in the next year, but dramatically underestimate what we can in the next 24 hours. When you become aware of each day, it’s amazing what you can achieve. If this has gotten curious as to how many days you have been alive, I set up a simple calculator here that will show you.

So if we’re in the habit of underestimating what we can do in the next 24 hours, how do we start taking better advantage of the time available to us each and every day?

Something most of us struggle with is waiting for motivation to hit us. We’re waiting to start the next big project until an epiphany suddenly appears.

The reality, though, is that motivation is a myth. Everyone always says they need a little motivation to be more productive when it’s actually the opposite that’s true—increase your productivity, then the motivation will follow.

So how can we start working without any motivation?

Ah, see starting is the hard part. My secret for getting started is focusing on the results. I always think back to a high school teacher of mine who would always say that simply starting a research paper meant you were half finished. You can be halfway to the finish line…just by starting! I love that concept!

I always feel more excited, more pumped up, more motivated after the work has begun. Once you get past that initial nervousness and hesitation of actually starting, you can really get going.

There was a major figure in psychology, William James, who had this same sort of idea as well. He believed that we don’t sing because we’re happy; we’re happy because we sing.

What made you want to base your book, 20,000 Days and Counting, around this concept of counting your days and making the most of each one?

The whole thing started like I mentioned earlier, when I found the countdown widget that told me how many days I had been alive. I wrote an e-mail about the concept of counting my days to over 40 of my closest friends. To my astonishment, every single one of them wrote a lengthy reply full of amazing insights.

About two years later, I began writing out some of these concepts in more detail and was encouraged by some friends to publish a book. Despite my best efforts to say no (I’ve been a behind-the-scenes guy my whole life), I eventually caved.

You talk a lot about living each day as if it’s your last in the book. How do we overcome what has kind of become a cliché and actually apply that to our lives?

Living each day as if it’s your last is a concept that is thought of in the wrong way 99% of the time. Most of us here that phrase and start thinking about all the “bucket list” things we would try to cram into one day. But it’s not about the specific actions you would take; it’s about having a specific mindset that creates a sense of urgency and importance in you every hour, every day.

We have a tremendous ability as human beings to only get serious about life once we know it’s about to end. What “living each day as if it’s your last” is really about is creating that sort of intense urgency well before you near the end of your life.

To create that, you need three things—a sense of your purpose, a sense of awareness that your life will be short, and a sense of gratefulness for the life you have been given. And I aimed to give people those three things with 20,000 Days and Counting.

Thanks for sharing Robert!

To help launch the new book, I’m giving away 4 autographed copies of 20,000 Days and Counting.

Want a copy? All you have to do is:

1. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook
2. Comment on this post. Any comment will suffice, but you might share one thing you have an “urgent sense” about in your life right now. It can be anything. A change. A dream. A relationship. Anything.
3. Make sure I have a valid email address.

I’ll give it a few days, see how the comments are going, and choose four (4) random winners.

If It Worked…I Resolve…

resolve

I don’t make resolutions. They say they don’t work anyway. No one keeps them. So, I guess I won’t. I mean, why try something others say you can’t do? In fact, I read a news report that said a third of all resolutions are broken by the end of January. So, with those odds, better comply with the news. It’s what everyone does. Right?

But, if I did…if I did make resolutions…I’d make some worth keeping. I might even call them goals…or benchmarks…just to feel better about them.

But if I chose to defy the odds…or the popular culture of debunking resolutions…it might go something like this…

I resolve…

To pray more than worry, so I can trust more than doubt.

To choose the healthier food choices when available, and keep unhealthy snacking to a minimum.

To allow my time spent reading to compete against…maybe even win…with my time spent watching television…since I often say “there’s nothing worth watching” anyway.

To value rest and exercise as a vital part of my day, since I know how both impact my productivity and overall attitude.

To keep a close reign on my tongue, saying only those things which bring value to people and make life better for them.

To speak the truth in love, but never be ashamed of the Gospel.

To forgive easily, knowing that a grudge causes me as much harm…or more…as the person I am forgiving.

To use any influence God should give me for His glory and not for my own.

To seek wisdom from those who seek progress, more than from those who only seek to complain.

To speak words of affirmation and encouragement to those God intersects with my life, knowing the value such words have had in my life…often at just the right time.

To enjoy the abundant life, knowing that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

To guard my heart above all things…for it is the wellspring of my life.

What would you resolve…if you actually resolved…and if these things actually worked?

In my next post, I’ll share three steps to set goals you can actually achieve.

An Encouraging Phone Call

My childhood pastor preached for me recently. He is 93 years old and still preaching almost weekly. He continues to be one of my mentors in ministry today.

He called me the following week…It was one of the most humbling phone calls I ever received.

It went something like this:

Ron, I want you to know I’m proud of you. You had some difficult family situations growing up. You’ve come a long way. You had your own obstacles to overcome. But, you’ve allowed God to use them for His glory. I’m just really proud of the man you are.”

Don’t you think I was encouraged? Of course I was! In fact, it was one of those days I needed the call most. I’m so thankful for the people who have believed in me and invested in my life.

It was also another reminder to use my experience to encourage you:

Don’t let trials hold you back. Let them launch you into who God wants you to be.

All of us need encouraging at times.

Who could you encourage today?

Make the call!

How I Kept from Gaining Weight over Thanksgiving

I didn’t gain any weight over Thanksgiving. I know…sounds sad…right? But, don’t feel bad for me. I ate what I wanted. Turkey. Ham. Sweet potato casserole. Pie. All my favorites.

Before you call me a party pooper. There’s a reason for my madness…and this post. Always before I kicked my holiday season off with a few extra pounds and it was downhill from there through the New Year’s celebration. I’ve learned by experience that I’m most productive when I maintain a healthier weight. I always blew that this time of year.

This year I’m trying to be smarter. Trying.

How did I do it over Thanksgiving?

Exercised daily – Everyday, for the four day break, I went for a run and did sit ups. Everyday.

One big meal a day – I could have had two…or three. I had one. Everything I wanted. Once a day. Then chose much smaller, more sensible meals the rest of the day.

Got full and stopped – When I had enough…I stopped eating. I know. It makes too much sense, right? But, I didn’t gorge. I ate, got full, and quit.

Took what I liked, not what I didn’t – I often find myself eating things I really don’t like that much…certainly not my favorites, just because it’s there. And it’s the season. I stuck with those things I especially liked and stayed away from others. I found my plate was not as full as in year’s past, but every bite was a treat.

Quickly back to normal, healthy eating – Monday, following the Thanksgiving break, I started eating in my normal routine. In the past, I’ve allowed Thanksgiving to kick off a month long holiday binge. I always regret it the first of the year. Trying not to do that this year. There will be lots of Christmas events, but as much as I can, I’ll be eating sensibly.

Sounds simple, right? Yea, it was. I’m committed to trying it again through Christmas. I wanted to start the new year off without a lot of extra poundage or the sense of burden that I need to lose some weight. The year will have enough responsibility without having that pressure.

That’s my plan.

Do you have one? Does it matter to you?

7 Measures of Personal Success

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1. Honoring and obeying God with my life.

2. Attempting to realize my full potential.

3. Truly being who I claim to be.

4. Being loved most by the people who know me best.

5. Getting up every time I fall.

6. Making life better for the people around me.

7. Ending at peace with God, my family, and friends.

What are yours?

What experience does for you…

You are never the same…

After a major stretching moment in leadership…in life…you never stretch back the same.

Even if its a failure…it will serve a greater purpose.

You’ve got experience now.

You’ve got a story.

You have more wisdom.

You’ll be better able to stretch the next time.

You may not enjoy the stretching you are currently enduring, but keep in mind…it’s making you someone new.

A better, stronger you.

One Key to a Lifetime of Contentment

Learn to enjoy the mundane.

The everyday life.

The dishes (You like clean dishes, don’t you? And, you’re thankful for clean water, right?)

Brushing your teeth (Don’t they feel better when you do?)

Mowing your grass (I just love that freshly mowed look)

Smelling a rose (They smell best among the flowers…in my opinion)

Admiring the clouds. (I like Cumulus)

Having a discussion over coffee. (Cheryl and I have our best talks then)

A simple walk in the park (On a sunny, or not so sunny day)

A random thought (Some of my best ideas start that way)

A routine prayer (Okay…nothing mundane about that, but sometimes we take it for granted)

A text message from a friend (At least you have one)

An average Sunday at church (Thank God for the freedom to attend)

We tend to love the grandiose. The unusual. The vacation. The miracles. The shooting star. The celebrations. The once in a lifetime experience.

Those times are great. We love them. We want more. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem is when our happiness is wrapped in those occasions alone. Life is often lived in the mundane. Most of life, in fact.

Get up. Shower. Brush. Shave. (Or not) Dress. Drive. Work. Come home. Go to bed. Do it again. And again. In between those routines are the real moments of life. Even if seemingly mundane…non-miraculous.

Learning to love the mundane times of life, scattered among the routines of life, will help you find a lifetime of contentment.

What’s one seemingly mundane thing in life you love?

Keep a Failure File

Keep a record of the times you’ve messed up.

The times you failed.

Previously I wrote THIS POST about keeping an encouragement file. You need this too.

A failure file may be equally important.

In fact, it could likely be your greatest teaching tool in the future.

I am reminded from the Bible that Rahab never lost her title. She was always known as Rahab the Harlot. Even in the faith chapter. Rahab the prostitute. Rahab went on to be a great figure in Biblical history, yet her past followed her to remind her…and us…of the grace extended to her.

Your failures will serve in the same way.

I’m not saying live in them. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t move forward from them. Actually, I’m saying the opposite. You’ll need to remember how you’ve recovered and what you learned in the process. You’ll need reminding…if failure ever finds you again…that you found your way back, that God’s grace was sufficient, and that you can recover again. The valuable lessons learned in times of failure, will be the wisdom that sustains you in the future.

Let your failures work for you.

Keep a record of them.

How has failure shaped who you are today?

7 Things I Attribute to Personal Success

A young leader asked me recently, “What has gotten you where you are today? When you look back over your life, what would you attribute most to your success?”

Great question. I love people who think.

My first thought was to ask, “What success?”. When I look back at my life, in many ways, I see a life scarred with personal failures and setbacks. But, as I pondered the question for a couple days, I knew God has blessed me greatly, so I came up with a more comprehensive reply. Let me be clear about something, one of my missions in life is to help younger leaders succeed, so that’s why my motivation for answering this question. I am still very much a work in progress, but as I reflect on where I am midway in my life and career, I can clearly point to some things that have helped me succeed personally.

Here are 7 things I attribute to personal success:

God’s grace – I can’t deny it. It’s really all grace. I do not deserve the favor I have found. His grace has been amazing in my life.

Other people – I have had so many people invest in me. Don’t misunderstand. I’ve been intentional with networking and wisdom seeking, but I’ve had great people in my corner to help me along the way.

A little luck – Honestly, I don’t believe much in luck. It IS all grace. I think God is always at work around us, and He certainly has been in my life, but sometimes we find ourselves in “the right place at the right time”. Learning how to capitalize on those times has been key for me.

Purpose – I have usually known what I ultimately want to accomplish. I believe you hit more targets that you have in site. Sometimes that has been a few months down the road or a few years down the road, but I’ve most always tried to keep some direction in front of me…as much as God will allow me to see at the time.

Intentionality – Probably if there were one word to describe how I live my life it would be this one. Since I was in high school, I have intentionally pursued opportunities to accomplish where I felt God was leading me. But, I’ve been intentional in every area of my life, not just in my vocation. I think that is critical to living a balanced life.

Tenacity – I have weathered a few storms…actually, many storms. My list of failures, setbacks and disappointments is long. Every time, again, by God’s grace, I have gotten back up, refocused, learned valuable life principles and moved forward.

Commitment to help others – I genuinely love helping other people succeed. It’s been a pulling force in my life to do much of what I do. The purpose of this blog, for example, is for that reason. My personal investment in others has always returned to me tenfold.

So, there’s my attempt at an answer. How would you answer that question?

What has gotten you where you are today?