24 Hours In The Stone Age

What Would Fred & Wilma Do?

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  This week I want to go a little off topic.  I want to talk a little about Emergency Preparedness.  I know, it sounds like an exciting subject.  However, recently my wife and I found out just how exciting it can be!

Mid adult woman wearing yellow jacket and ski goggles in snowLast Wednesday, the Detroit Area was hit with of one of the worst windstorms on record.  Wind gusts reached close to 70 mph!  For us Great Lakes dwellers, that is the equivalent of a Hurricane!

That evening, my wife and I sat down to watch some TV before dinner.  A short time later, the TV blinked on and off a couple of times, then eventually went out for good.  Along with power to the rest of the house.  This was a unique situation for us, losing power in the Late Winter / Early Spring.

As it turned out, DTE Energy (the main power provider in the Detroit Area) had over 860,000 people without power.  That is over one third of their customers!  It was the largest power outage in their history, and that includes the Midwest / East Coast power outage of 2003!

Since we had no power, we knew none of this.  My first thought was, “Ruh, Roh, Raggy!”  Part of the reason the winds were so high was because of clashing warm and cold fronts that were moving through the area.  The temperature at the time of the outage was 50 degrees and would eventually drop down to 34 degrees by morning.  Not life-threatening, but by no means a picnic.  Even for us born and bred Michiganders!

Woman outside tent with Northern lights, Myvatn, IcelandThe temperature in our house eventually got down to 59 degrees, which is excellent football weather at The Big House in Ann Arbor, but not so great in our living room.  My four guppies were huddled together in their tank for warmth and our dog was looking at us as if we had lost our minds.  We were walking around the house with thick sweatshirts and gloves on.

Thankfully, our period of living in Winterfell lasted only 24 hours.  On Thursday afternoon, we went to go see “Logan”, the latest Wolverine movie.  The power was back on when we got home.  The first words out of my mouth were, “Thank You, God!”

As we found out later, this weather event was a “Perfect Storm” of sorts.  Our much warmer than usual February resulted in the ground not being frozen as hard as it normally would be at this time of year.  Add heavy rain and wind to the mix and you have trees falling over like bowling pins!

Woman in cap, scarf and glovesOur whole weather misadventure got me thinking about what we could have done differently to prepare for this disaster.  I mean instead of just going to the movie theater to get warm!

While researching what to do to prepare for next time, I found an article on the AccuWeather website that covers losing power in the winter.  Since this was a wind-related event, luckily we didn’t have a mountain of snow to deal with.

Thankfully, we did have some firewood in the backyard.  However, since we don’t have a blower insert in our fireplace, it only resulted in the temperature increasing by a whopping 3 degrees!

The following suggestions are from the article on AccuWeather, and common sense, which we were lacking before the outage.

  1. Check your fuses or circuit breakers. This is an obvious thing to check.  However, we were able to determine pretty quickly that our whole neighborhood had lost power.  Still, it’s a good place to start if you’re not sure about the extent of the outage.
  2. Staying warm. The next step is to figure out how you’re going to stay warm.  Load up the beds with extra blankets and break out some additional blankets for your living areas as well.  Grab sweatshirts, fleece jackets, hats, and gloves.  This might seem like overkill, but trust me, you’ll be glad you have them handy if your power outage is longer than a couple of hours!  The article also mentioned blocking any drafts by putting towels at the bottom of exterior doors, closing the fireplace flue, and hanging black blankets on the windows to absorb the heat or put them in the sun on the floor to do the same thing.  That last one seems kind of goofy to me, but whatever.
  3. Stay inside. This seems obvious, unless you are relocating to a residence with power for the duration of the outage.  Otherwise, stay at home if the weather is snowy, icy, or a mix of the two.  Also, don’t use your gas stove as a form of heat.  That can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.  However, this article from eHow shows you how to light your gas stove without power.  That would give you the option of making hot meals in a cold house!  Needless to say, be VERY CAREFUL if you attempt to do this!
  4. CO Poisoning. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is a real danger during these times.  If you are lucky enough to have a generator, please make sure it is kept away from doors, windows, and outside vents!
  5. Food. Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable foods on hand like soups, cereals, nuts, peanut butter, crackers, water, etc.  It is also recommended to have a three day supply of emergency food available, since in most cases, power will be restored within three days.  My Patriot Supply has a three-day emergency food kit available for $25.  You can’t put a price on a hot meal in a cold house!  Flashlights, candles, batteries, and an emergency crank radio are good items to have on hand as well.
  6. Staying in touch. Keep your communications with friends and family to a minimum.  Use a portable battery pack (or packs) to keep your phones charged up.  Don’t forget that many cars can charge your devices and battery packs without running the car.  That way you won’t waste gas or asphyxiate your family!
  7. Kids and pets. Obviously, the best solution is to take them to Grandma’s House, if she still has power.  However, if that isn’t an option, consider a few warm days in a hotel.  Pets can be problematic, since a hotel (or Grandma) may not be willing to let Rover trash the place!  A family member may have to stay in Frigid Acres until the power comes back on.  Or, until you can get someone with power to babysit your dog, cat, or fish.

I want to re-state the hotel option, since this often gets overlooked until it’s too late.  You need to decide quickly if it is worth it to spend a night (or nights), in a hotel room, or tough it out at home.  With a large power outage local hotel rooms fill up quickly.  You’ll need to move fast if you are going to get one!

What it all comes down to for most people is how much cold is too much?  For me, once the house gets below the mid-60s it’s time to go!  But hey, that’s just me.

I hope these suggestions will help you in the event of an outage.  Obviously, some of these tips apply in summer as well.  Thankfully, there’s not much chance of freezing to death in the summer!

Please do your homework and determine what level of preparedness you are comfortable with and plan accordingly.  After all, Fred and Wilma knew how to survive when it all hit the fan, will you?

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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Discipline

Why It’s One Of The Most Important Traits To Have!

By Jerry Lambert

Hi and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  Last week’s article was all about dealing with Procrastination, eating frogs and other fun stuff.  I apologize if it seemed a little rambling, but I am fighting off a horrible cold/flu and I think it is affecting my writing.

Portrait of a womanAnyway, today’s topic is Discipline.  I’m not talking about the type that leather-clad Mistress Helga dishes out!  Although, if you’re into that sort of thing, I don’t judge.  What I’m talking about is the type of discipline that can help you to achieve your dreams and goals.

As young children, we’re taught self-discipline by our parents.  We, in turn, teach it to our children.  It has been said that the one quality all successful business people have is self-discipline.  Elbert Hubbard said, “Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”  It’s cutting the lawn before heading over to your buddy’s house to watch the game.  It’s clearing the table and loading the dishwasher after dinner, before playing the latest Call of Duty game on the Xbox.  It’s basically doing the unpleasant stuff before the fun stuff!

That Hubbard quote is from another great book by Brian Tracy.  “No Excuses!” is a book that really makes you examine your life.  It’s not so much about a character trait you need to acquire, but about the type of person you need to become.  The book illustrates the differences between disciplined and undisciplined people.  Unfortunately, most people fall into the “undisciplined” category.  In a nutshell, being a disciplined person means being someone that people can count on.  Someone who does the hard stuff.

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However, there’s more to being disciplined than just making sure you work out every day (although that’s a good start).  It is about being a person of integrity.  I don’t throw that word around lightly.  There are far too many people in this world who lack integrity.  Merriam-Webster’s’ Dictionary defines Integrity as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values”. 

In this day and age, having a code of morals and values makes you someone special.  How sad is that?  I don’t want to turn this into a big ethical discussion, but I want to illustrate what being a person of integrity and discipline means.  It means you are someone who can be counted on to do the right thing, every time.

My friend Steve and I have an ongoing discussion about integrity.  We are tired of seeing news stories about someone “doing the right thing”, when they find a purse, wallet, or a bag of cash, by turning it into the proper authorities.  Our viewpoint is that there’s nothing special about doing the right thing.  One day, Steve found a bank deposit bag at work with over $1,200 inside, which he turned into Security.  I said, “I’m not going to congratulate you for doing the right thing.”  At which, Steve replied, “Understood”.

is09ax4hpGetting back to self-discipline, imagine if your doctor told you that you had to lose 25 pounds or you were going to die in 21 days!  You can bet you would spend every second of those 21 days trying to find every way possible to lose that weight!  You would make all the necessary changes to your diet and exercise program to make sure that you lost the weight, so you didn’t drop dead!  Applying that kind of urgency in non-life-threatening situations is what self-discipline is all about.

The reason I chose 21 days in the previous example is because it has been established that anything you do consistently for 21 days becomes a Habit.  Discipline is the trait that will get you through those 21 days.  Developing good habits is essential to becoming a better person.

Discipline is the ability to give up short term pleasure for long term gains.  Having discipline ties in very well with having Goals.  Goals are “long term gains”.  Having Goals causes you to have discipline.  Is your Goal to show up at your class reunion 30 pounds lighter?  Then maybe it would be a good idea to grab a salad, instead of that piece of cake!  And hit the gym tomorrow!

With all the distractions that college life has to offer, it takes an incredible amount of discipline for a student to make it through all four years of college.  My oldest son received two four-year degrees in the same four-year period.  I still don’t know how he did it.  Oh wait, yes I do, massive amounts of drive and discipline!

is09aj7ktPersonally, I have found that having a checklist to stay disciplined is a lifesaver.  We are all so busy with our day-to-day lives, it is very easy to lose track of what is important to you.  That is where an excellent Goal Tracker like Goal-Buddy comes in.  G-B not only allows you to set up Goals, Habits, and Tasks, it has a weekly Dashboard Calendar that lists everything in a checklist format to help you to stay on top of them.

To me, the ultimate form of discipline is going on vacation and STILL working on the items on your Dashboard checklist.  I wish I could say that I always succeed in that, however, I do make every effort to stick to my checklist while I’m on vacation.  However, that’s the beauty of vacation.  When you get back, you jump right back into your Projects, Goals, and Habits.  Sometimes taking a break from them gives you a fresh perspective and ideas.

To me, what all of this comes down to is a long-term view vs short-term pleasure.  Would it be more fun to watch the Harry Potter Marathon on FreeForm, than to get my latest blog written?  Sure it would.  But I have made a commitment to myself and to you, my readers.  I will write an article each week, that you will hopefully find interesting and helpful.

That said, hand me the remote!  Hogwarts Awaits!!!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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Goals!

The Road Map To Get Where You Want To Go In Life!

By Jerry Lambert

This week I want to discuss something I have been doing in earnest since I was fired from my job of almost 26 years. Setting and Achieving Goals.  I came across this concept many years ago, and like Journaling it is something that I should have been doing all along.

climber celebrating on snow capped peak
Stay Focused On Your Goals!

To many of you, this may be an idea that you are already very familiar with.  However, I had not run across this concept when I was young.  It wasn’t until I read the classic “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz, that the notion of Goals, as a defined course of action, was presented to me.

All of us are familiar with the concept of setting and achieving goals, but not in such a structured format.  I use the example of learning to tie your shoes.  Every child wants to learn how to tie his or her shoes.  Little Bobby defines the goal, tying his shoes, and he gets to work on achieving that goal.  He learns a series of movements or actions steps he must take to achieve his goal. He pictures himself tying his shoes and with practice before he knows it, he has tied his shoes.

The previous example is a very simple one, but the principle is the same.  To quote that great Jedi Philosopher Yoda, “Size matters not!”.  Regardless of the size of your goal, the formula is the same.  I am going to give you an overview of this concept, along with some resources where you can learn more.

“Psycho-Cybernetics” sounds very robotic, but what it means is “putting your mind to work on reaching your goals”.  Much of the book is about improving your self-image, but I found the part about using your “goal-striving mechanism” or “success mechanism” to chart your course in life very interesting.

I am going to keep this overview very “high-level”.  Listed below are the basics of goal setting and achievement and why each is so important.  At the end of this article, I will list a number of resources that I have found helpful in getting me to set and achieve my goals.  Let’s get started!

  1. Your first step is to “Define Your Goal”. What is it you want? You really need to think about this.  Do you want to make more money?  How much do you want to make and how are you going to go about getting it?
  2. Is your goal in alignment with your Values? Sure, everyone wants more money, but most of us are not willing to rob a bank or knock over a liquor store to get it!
  3. What are the “Action Steps” you need to take in order to achieve your goal? In the example of tying your shoes, put the shoes on your feet (check), cross the laces (check), make the rabbit go into the hole, or make bunny ears, etc. (check). You get where I am going with this.  Every step you take to achieve your goal should be written down, no matter how big or small.
  4. Start working towards your goal! You will find that breaking your goal down into small, manageable steps will make reaching it that much faster.  You will also find just STARTING to work on the goal will often create a series of coincidences (some verging on the weird) that are necessary for you to achieve your goal. Picture Indiana Jones taking the “Leap of Faith” in The Last Crusade.  You have to take that first step!

If you read my article about Journaling, in it I mentioned you should review the previous week’s entries.  This will show any items that may have been skipped on a particular day.  These items may have been Action Steps toward one of your goals that occurred to you while writing in your Journal, but they didn’t make it into your Goal Plan.

One crucial step in the Goal Process I left out is “Defining Your Dreams”.  That is a whole seperate subject, but it needs to be done before setting any goals.  I left it out because it is a much larger concept and I wanted to keep this article about the mechanics of goal setting and achieving.  However, any book or resource about Goals that doesn’t start with Dreams should be avoided!

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“You Miss 100% Of The Shots You Don’t Take!” – Wayne Gretzky

The importance of goals cannot be under-estimated.  I heard about a study, done many years ago, involving recent Harvard Graduates.  They were all asked what goals they had for their life.

  • 84% said they had no specific goals, except to kick back and enjoy themselves over the summer.
  • 13% had goals for their future but they were not written down.
  • 3% of the students had written goals to chart their future.

Ten years later, the 13% of students who had unwritten goals were making twice as much as the 84% who had no goals.  The 3% of students who had clear, written goals were making ten times as much as the other 97% put together!  The 84% of students with no goals are working for students who had written or unwritten goals!

I have heard that you can take a homing pigeon, put it in a box, drive a thousand miles in any direction, open the box, and it will circle 3 times, then fly straight to it’s starting point or “Home”.  The only one other “animal” on this planet with this “goal-striving mechanism” is the human being.  Pretty cool, huh?  However, it’s always good to have Google Maps.

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Hang In There Kid!

The one thing I have NEVER been able to understand is why the Goal Process is not taught as a course of study in grade school, high school, or college.  What other subject is more important in helping you get to where you want to go in life?  For some reason, academia has decided that kids will “pick it up” as they go along with their studies.  How?  Have you ever been “educated” on the steps I have listed above?  If we truly want our youth to excel in life, these lessons need to be taught and reinforced at every grade level!

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Here are the resources I mentioned on the subject of Goals:

Maxwell Maltz: He was a Plastic Surgeon who realized that sometimes fixing someone’s face didn’t fix their life.

Brian Tracy: He has written many books on the subject of Goal Setting.  His YouTube Channel is full of priceless info.

Napoleon Hill: He is an oldie but a goodie.  He was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to interview the top businessmen of the age and discover their secrets!  The resulting book was Think and Grow Rich!  The number one secret? Goals!

The University of Motivation put together a list of the Top 100 Goal Setting Books!

The software that I use to track my goals is ToDoList by AbstractSpoon.  It can be downloaded for free at Download.com. It is not a web-based product, but it is invaluable in organizing and keeping track of your goals!  I recently discovered a great website that will allow you to track your goals online, for FREE!  Goal-Buddy is an excellent way to log your Goals, Habits, and Tasks, to keep you on target.  Plus, since it is online, you can access your goals from your PC, Phone, or Tablet. Unfortunately, the website isn’t Mobile on your phone or tablet, but it is pretty easy to use anyway.  I highly recommend it!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

SparkPeople

How To Keep On Top Of Your Health And Fitness Goals!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  This week I am going to talk about something that I came across while I was unemployed.  I am referring to the amazing Health and Fitness website: SparkPeople.

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Get Healthy And Fit With SparkPeople!

After I had been laid off for about 8 months, I was feeling pretty low.  Despite some initial positive interest, my small business startup was floundering.  I needed to do something I could control when so much of my life was out of control.  I decided to take action on losing weight.

After losing the weight, I felt great, but I was stumped on how to keep track of my weight, food intake, water, exercise, etc.  It was crucial to stay on top of my weight after I lost it.  This is where SparkPeople comes in.  I initially discovered the app trying to find a way to keep track of all of the areas I just mentioned.  SP is a Godsend!

The app and website help you to keep track of your weight, food intake, water intake, exercise, and much more.  My only complaint about the website is that it is geared mostly toward women.  However, that doesn’t mean that men won’t benefit from the website.  Far from it!

In addition to keeping track of all of your health and fitness stats, SP has a huge library of articles and videos on just about every health and fitness subject you can imagine.  You can also use SP to track your exercise goals and it can sync with many fitness trackers like Fitbit.

On the front page of the website, you will log all of your daily food and exercise information, plus keep track of your goals.  You can also create groups to make it easier to track your food and exercise.  Below that is the Challenges area.  There are a number of personal challenges that you can sign up for, from Taming Your Sweet Tooth to the New Member Challenge.  Most of the challenges run between 21 and 30 days and are a great way to keep yourself motivated and accountable during your journey.

In addition to the Trackers and Challenges, the front page also has a Community section.  In this area, you can post your fitness journey and get support and feedback from people who are all on the same fitness road as you!

Close up of bucket of fruit
Don’t Forget The Fruits And Veggies!

The best thing about SP is that most of the content on this website is FREE!  You do have to sign up and get a login and password, but there is no fee and they don’t need your credit card on file!  There is a paid option that is very affordable.  It will allow you to use the website without ads, which is a major consideration since the website is very ad-heavy.

But wait, there’s more!  In addition to all that SP already does, there are healthy recipes as well!  There are also more apps!  One is for recipes (SparkRecipes) and the other breaks down the nutritional values of all the fruits and vegetables that you’ll be eating (Perfect Produce).  All of the apps are available on Google Play.  Just type in SparkPeople in the search box.

I only wish that I had discovered SP BEFORE losing my weight.  It would have made the whole process so much easier.  I am probably going to ride out the holidays at my current weight, but after New Years’, I plan on putting together a Challenge that gets me down to around 220.  I should be able to use SP to help me get there and stabilize my weight in the 215-225 range.

In the jumbled chaos that makes up the Internet, once and a while, you find a diamond in the rough.  That diamond is SparkPeople.  I have already shared the site with all of my Friends on Facebook.  This article will hopefully let more people know about the website, apps, and how great they are at helping you live a healthier lifestyle!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!