Five Incredibly Easy New Year's Resolutions That Will Make a Difference

It's pretty much guaranteed that every year millions will make resolutions that will last a total of four days into the first week of January before they're abandoned. The reason is that most people set incredible goals for themselves ("I will lose 50 pounds by summer!") that are doomed to fail because they require an inordinate amount of energy and attention. However, most don't realize that the smallest, easily doable actions can have incredible impact and in many cases, serve as the gateway to larger actions.

1. Commit to Doing Just One Push-Up a Day
That's it. Just one push-up. Every day. This is the opposite of pushing yourself to too-lofty fitness goals in an incredibly accelerated schedule (which you'll inevitably abandon when you see yourself slipping up). By committing to just one push-up a day, you'll soon get to the point (in some cases almost immediately) where you'll want to do more than just one. Then do as many as you can, but know that you really need to do just one a day. You'll be amazed at what happens -- trust us.

2. Commit to Giving to the Poor Only Loose Change
Many feel guilty when they would like to help others in need but don't have the funds to spare even $20 or so. Here is a simple plan: keep a large empty milk bottle by the front door and every day, when you walk in the door, empty out all the loose change in your pockets into that bottle -- whether that's just a couple of pennies or maybe 75 cents, it all goes in the bottle. When the bottle is full, plug it up with a cork and wrap a bow around it and drop it off at your nearest charity or just give it to someone in need. A standard wine bottle can hold over $50 in change, and that's a chunk of money that can make a difference. (You could try a wine bottle but quarters may not fit into the neck.)

3. Commit to Paying Someone's Toll Once a Month
When crossing a bridge and needing to pay the toll, pay for the person behind you as well. The trick is that you cannot look behind you to see who it is or what kind of a car he or she is driving. You just pay for the person behind you and then put on your sunglasses and drive. The person who was behind you may try to drive up to you to wave thanks or even figure out what that was all about. Don't acknowledge the person -- it will only add to your mystery. More importantly, this will be a great lesson on what it is to give without expecting (or looking) back, and you will like how it feels to commit anonymous acts of decency.

4. Commit to a Hefty Tip on Every Fifth Occasion You Eat Out
Working as a waiter or waitress is thankless and exhausting and tips don't exactly let waitpersons live in the lap of luxury. Assuming that you have no issues with your service, on every fifth occasion you eat out (it can get pricey on a more regular basis, but if you've got it, by all means give it), tip the waiter or waitress 40%. Yes, it's ridiculous, but honestly, the difference it will make to you at most midrange restaurants is about $20-$30 above the standard, but the difference it makes to that waitperson? Much, much bigger. Also, keep in mind that it is a luxury to be seated and to have others cook and bring your food to you and wash your dishes afterward. If you're going to be luxurious with yourself, be so with those who serve you as well.

5. Commit to the Ten-Minute Rule Whenever Possible
Most overriding urges -- whether for food or cigarettes or any other compulsion, seem much stronger than they are because of their concentrated severity. That said, our brains are pretty good at finding new things to focus on if given the time because most urges are momentary. When you have the urge to eat or smoke or do anything else that is questionable for your health, give yourself ten minutes. Know that if, after ten minutes, you are still craving whatever it was, you can have it, but you have to wait ten minutes first. You'll be surprised at how often a compulsion can die down in just that long.

The key is not to go big but to start small and go bigger from there if you want, but know that staying small is not so bad, either.


Bob's Five Tech Trends to NOT Watch Out for in 2013

Our friend Bob Lewis heads a tech consultancy out in the Midwest and has always been our go-to guy for everything from complex industry developments to tech advice and pointers. And Bob delivers it all with his trademark style and wit.

Since everyone seems to have an opinion of what tech trends we should look out for in 2013, I challenged Bob to point out five trends we should NOT follow blindly in 2013.

Here's Bob's list in response:

Trend #1 to Avoid: Trendspotting. Let’s get this straight between us: In business, nothing is worth doing because it’s trendy. It either makes actual sense or it doesn’t. Just think how many companies wasted how much time and money recreating their websites on Facebook, only to discover that while the Supreme Court might think corporations are people too, not very many actual people want to be their Friends.

Trendspotting doesn’t pass the Mom Test. Remember it? When Mom asked you, “If all of your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you jump too?” Following business trends is like that.

Trend #2 to Avoid: Bypassing the IT department: Not only is it fashionable to bypass IT these days, the big research firms have enshrined it as a trend, and it serves IT right because they make everything so hard.

Go right ahead. Bypass IT. If and only if, that is, you (1) are willing to live with a stand-alone “stovepipe” solution that only integrates with the rest of your company’s systems through the magic of your re-typing everything; (2) the application will live in “the cloud,” not your data center; and (3) the only support you’ll need will come from the vendor you’re using.

Otherwise, you’d better call IT first. There’s a reason IT projects are bigger than you’d like, and it isn’t because they’re all idiots, propeller-heads, or budding bureaucrats. It’s because integrating new applications into everything you have is hard, complicated work.

Remember why God was able to create the world in only six days: He didn’t have an installed base.

Trend #3 to Avoid: "Big" Data. There are companies and situations where the amount of data flowing in is truly massive, and being able to gain some knowledge from it will help you make smarter decisions. If you know the questions you want to ask and know how you’ll analyze your data to ask them, go for it.

But for every situation like this there are dozens where all the “data scientist” (what trendy people like to call “statisticians” these days) does is sort through everything, searching for correlations. But as everyone knows, correlation doesn’t imply causation, so what do you think you’ve actually learned? Worse, not all correlations mean anything – many are spurious, for example, the statistically significant correlation between IQ and length of the big toe. Size really doesn’t matter here. Neither will many of the correlations you’ll find mining whatever mass of bits your company has accumulated over the years.

Trend #4 to Avoid: Blaming the consultants. There are times I think companies only bring in consultants for two reasons: To read a script (“Please tell our board of directors we need to make massive investments in Big Data technology. They’ll listen to you!”). Or to take the blame (“Our consultants told us Big Data was a sure thing. So we collected it and analyzed it, and it predicted exponential growth in sheep liver futures. What were we supposed to do? They’re the experts!”)

If you know the answer you want, don’t hire a consultant. Hire an actor. They’re cheaper, there are more of them and they’re more convincing. And if you need a fall guy, call me. I have a whole rate schedule for blame-taking.

But really, don’t. Bring in consultants when you need a fresh pair of eyes on a problem, and a thought process that will give you a different perspective than the one you’re accustomed to. Listen to what the consultant recommends. Understand why he or she recommends it. Then, visualize the result in action in your actual company and decide accordingly.

Consultants know things you don’t, but on the other hand, you know things they don’t. Together, you ought to be smarter than either of you are on your own. Don’t insist on making it the opposite.

Trend #5 to Avoid: Ludditism: “I just want a cell phone that makes phone calls!” is the new “I don’t know how to balance my checkbook!” If that’s all you want, fine and dandy but don’t brag about it. All those other people who like what they can do on a computer enough to want to be able to do it when they aren’t in front of a computer too? Maybe they know something you don’t.

Or maybe they just have different tastes than you do. So if all you want is a cell phone that makes calls, buy one. If you have no need for an iPad, don’t get one.

Just don’t bend my ear about how smart you are for not wanting them, and I promise, I won’t bend your ear about how smart I am for using them.

Follow Bob's thoughts and musings on his blog.