15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.

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Failure is Not an Option, It is a Necessity

Everybody fails from time to time. Anyone that has never failed at something has probably never accomplished anything worthwhile. Nearly every mental or physical activity you have ever performed in your life, you failed at it the first time you tried it (except for those things performed automatically by your nervous system). But somehow, when we reach a certain age we become self-conscious and start to view failure as a bad thing.

Failure is not a bad thing, our reaction to the failure is what is important. If we allow embarrassment to overshadow our desire to achieve, then a few early failures will derail whatever you are attempting; whether it is algebra, skiing, or asking a girl to the prom. Nobody likes failing, falling or rejection. But you will live a happier more fulfilled life if you retake that quiz, go back up that slope, and ask another girl out. As long as we maintain the idea that a single failure is a normal part of life, we just view them the same way we view bumps in the road. When you hit a bump, you keep driving. You don’t get out of your car and yell at the bump in the road, and berate yourself for hitting the bump, then blame the bump on your future problems.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Understand this, the opposite of success is not failure, the opposite of success is quitting.

Quitting also becomes a habit. And when we develop a habit of quitting when things get hard, eventually we stop trying altogether. So we try fewer and fewer new things. We stay in familiar territory, we stay comfortable, we stop growing and we start stagnating. “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure till he gives up.”

Try to fail at something this week.

Failure is Not an Option, It is a Necessity


Attack Despair With Gratitude

A funny thing about the human brain is that it is only capable of experiencing one emotion at a time. While people are capable of multitasking intellectually (women better than men), emotions are a whole different animal involving the focus of specific neural pathways in the limbic system of the brain and the autonomic nervous system. If you’ve ever taken a speech class or public speaking class, you may have been taught that you can trick your mind out of fear or nervousness by replacing it with excitement, or enthusiasm, or even anger. You can just roll up a magazine or newspaper and pound it against a wall or a table to get your blood pressure rising and work yourself up into a near-frenzy and presto, you are no longer nervous. I just wouldn’t recommend this before giving a somber eulogy.

So, whenever you are suffering from depression, hopelessness, anguish, dejection, despondency, discouragement, forlornness, gloom, melancholy, misery, ordeal, pain, sorrow, trial, tribulation, wretchedness, or any other synonym for despair… the quickest way to drive it out of your mind and body is with gratitude. Just keep repeating to yourself, out loud if you need to, every single thing that you are grateful for. Even if they are dumb things that you never thought about. Anything within arms reach of you right now, be grateful for. Then just stream of consciousness your way into everything else in your life that you can think of.

I am grateful that I have this baseball cap. I am grateful that I have fingers with which to type. I am grateful that I can feel with the tips of my fingers. I am grateful that I can see. I am grateful that my cat bite is nearly healed. I am grateful for the dull ache in my muscles after yoga this morning. I am grateful that I am healthy and fit. I am grateful for the air in my lungs. I am grateful that I can take deep cleansing breaths that expand my chest and grateful for exhaling the toxins out of my body. I am grateful for grapes. I am grateful for dogs (just sometimes not MY dog). I am grateful for the books I read. I am grateful for the people in my life. I am grateful for the time I had with my fiance. I am grateful that I can choose to have my mind focus only on things that are uplifting me and energizing me and keeping me centered and serene and at peace.

What are you grateful for?


Trick Question: Quality or Quantity?

potterIn high school I wrote a report on Stephen King. Two actually, for my junior and senior year English classes. (Well, one really, and a later “revised edition”). Whether you like or dislike Stephen King as a writer, you cannot deny that he is successful. During my research I read about King’s work habit in an interview. He would write for 8 hours every day, 362 days a year (he took off only three days). On average, he would produce ten pages of work every day, producing a book and a half a year. Take a look at his biography, to see the list of awards, movies, and novels with his name attached.

One more quick story. An art professor teaching a ceramics class divided the class into two groups. Group A, would have their grade based on the total number of pottery pieces they completed during the semester. Group B, would have their grade based on only a single final masterpiece that they had the entire semester to complete. Group A jumped in, churning out ceramics as fast as possible. Group B, planned, studied, strategized then finally towards the end of the semester, built their prize work. And at the end of the semester all the best pieces in the class came out of Group A.

Quality comes from quantity. As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “The first draft of anything is (excrement).” The first group of students developed the most skill and the best quality work because they spent the most time working. Stephen King, especially early in his career probably wrote a lot of work that he threw away in disgust, but he kept going consistently and persistently. (And fortunately his wife, Tabitha, pulled the first dozen or so pages of Carrie out of his wastebasket).

Here is my three step process to producing quality work.

1. Start. Do not wait for inspiration. Roll up your sleeves and work.
2. Keep Going.
3. Go to Step 2.

Then here are two sub-steps to help guide the process, but I wouldn’t add them in until at least 21 days have passed and you have developed a work habit of some sort. Also, these are always in addition to Step 2 and Step 3, never instead of them.

4. Review your work. Make sure you are progressing in the direction you want.
5. Seek Advice. From qualified people.

That’s my five step process to producing quality work. I know I like to keep things simple, but is that too simple? Would you add another step?


Why I Love Superheroes


I readily admit that I am something of a nerd. I love comic book superheroes. I loved them before the relatively recent flood of actual good superhero movies. I was a nerd, before it was cool to be a nerd (and I’m not sure if that makes me more cool, or more nerdy).

I finally figured out the reason why I love superheroes, and why I would like to be one. It wasn’t that I wanted to fly, be super strong or shoot lasers from my eyes (although that would be cool). The first reason, is because when I see an injustice I would like to have the power to do something about it. That’s why I wanted to take Karate lessons when I was a kid, so I could protect people from bullies. Well, and protect myself; Remember: nerd. Even today, if I saw someone get attacked I would probably (and stupidly) put myself into harm’s way.

But also, superheroes inspire other people. The best scene in Spider-Man 2 was when our hero stops that runaway train from crashing and that car full of passengers see that he’s just a kid under the mask. When Doc Ock returns to capture him, all those people who were previously defenseless passengers stand up against the super-villain. Of course, they prove about as effective as me with my purple belt in the 5th grade, but still it was an inspiring scene.

Now watch as I make a smooth transition…

In my book, I wrote a section on the power of words. Words have power. A few spoken words can bless or haunt your children for the rest of their lives. The words you use can be postive or negative. Words can spread love or hate. Words have the power to create and destroy. You can speak words of life or you can speak words of death. And in this Information Age, words spread with greater speed and force than ever before. Everyone has the potential for incredible power today.

That’s why I try to be responsible with my choice of words, because I want to use what power I have to uplift and inspire people. Remember, “with great power comes great responsibility.”


A New 15 Minutes

My book It Takes 15 Minutes to Change Your Life, is about improving your life in various areas (financial, personal, spiritual) through the investment of 15-minute blocks of time, repeated daily. Since publishing it and shedding my job it really has changed my life significantly. It used to be I was a full-time employee, using my spare time to promote my business, then with 15-minutes every day, working on becoming an author. Now my full-time job is divided between: promoting myself as an author, writing book number two, and promoting my business, using my spare time to act, but I still intend to devote 15 minutes to some task or project to improve myself in some way.

Currently, I’m spending 15-minutes a day cleaning and organizing. Over the years, I’ve allowed myself to become something of a slob. Not quite as bad as some of those “hoarder” reality shows I’ve seen commercials for, but a detailed list of just the stuff I threw out of my bedroom could have been enough material for a second book. Now, I still have a long way to go, but just in the past two weeks, I’ve actually managed to clear out enough space for a home office, with an actual desk and chair and places for files. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me, and here’s why: My entire first book was written almost entirely away from home because there was too much clutter and distractions (I did most of my writing at work or I would actually have to drive to a coffee shop just to write for 15 minutes). Now, with an actual office space, I can write at home, which saves me the time it takes to leave the house to find a safe writing spot.

Which gives me back an extra 15-minute block of time to work with. Funny how that works, success begets success. Even in little things.

What is something in your life that you can devote 15-minutes a day to developing or improving?

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Attack of the Crab People

crabsI’ve heard many different speakers and authors describe the phenomenon of crabs in a basket. If you put one crab into a basket, it will climb out. If you throw several crabs into a basket, then none of them are able to climb out. Because as one crab starts to climb, the other crabs grab hold of it and drag it back down to their level. A lot of us have social environments that are full of crab people.

My last post was about “mental inertia,” so let’s talk a little bit about “social inertia” (I thought I might have actually coined that phrase but as it turns out it already has a definition at reference.com).

You will rise or fall to about the same level as the people you spend the most time associating with. Your closest friends have the same hobbies, same level of education, probably close to the same incomes. So, you attempting to change any of these things may cause them to get crabby and drag you back down to their level. You are breaking habits when instead of going to watch a movie, you invite them all to a motivational seminar. You are defying tradition by going to night classes on financial planning, rather than going bowling with them on Thursday nights. And they might actually turn negative on you if you start making more money than everyone else.

Your friends might be thrilled to see you driving a brand new Mazda that you financed, but turn their noses up in disgust at your brand new Ferrari.

Not every peer group is like this, but I’m guessing this sounds familiar to a lot of people. The world is predominantly negative, so it stands to reason that most of your friends will be negative, too. Just be prepared, if you have a goal to grow and change your current circumstances, there is the possibility that you will have to separate yourself from the crab people.


Leap Before You Look

There’s something to be said for leaping before you look. Often people are paralyzed by indecision, analysis, second-guessing, procrastination, planning, pre-planning, pre-planning-secondary-analysis-comparison. We wait for perfect organization, the perfect plan, the perfect weather, the perfect social situation, the perfect alignment of the stars and planets.

Here’s a better idea: Just start, then figure it out along the way.

While this advice doesn’t pertain to life-endangering hobbies like skydiving (parachute first, THEN jump), with most of the activities and goals that we have in life, most people suffer from mental inertia. If you remember your Physics 101, “an object at rest remains at rest.” So if you are at a complete stop right now, the hardest part is getting started. But the other half of the law of inertia says this, “an object in motion tends to remain in motion.” Once you start a task, it’s much easier to keep going, to make adjustments to your plan along the way. Ever noticed how much easier it is to steer a car that’s moving compared to one that’s parked? Successful people use the law of inertia in their favor, rather than allow it to hold them back.

So whatever project you’ve been putting off: Start!. In your life, you will regret most the things that you never attempted.

What do you regret never attempting? (That’s an actual question, not a rhetorical one, I’d love to hear some answers)

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Preparing to Launch

My name is Matt, and I just finished writing and publishing my first book. Apparently, now is when the real work begins.

Book publishing 1.0: Author writes book. Author is at mercy of publisher on whether they accept it, print it, and/or properly promote it. Author success is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Book publishing 2.0: Author writes book. Author can publish it just about anywhere. Author is the chief marketing agent for his own book.

So, this is me developing a blog for the first time. To be honest, I’ve been a laggard when it comes to new technology. My phone is not smart. I use a laptop not a tablet. What in blazes is a twitter?

So perhaps preparing to launch after the book has already launched wasn’t the brightest thing to do. But, if you read my book, you’ll see that it’s actually the perfect way to start.

Next time I update, I’ll try to have some real content.