15 Minutes

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


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Be The Leader Of Your Own Pack

Leaders are expected to be examples not exceptions. I would rather watch a sermon than listen to a sermon any day. I don’t think that I am unusual, in that I have zero respect for someone that says one thing, but does the opposite.

How often have you heard about people in so-called positions of leadership that don’t think that they have to obey the same rules or laws that the rest of us serfs and peasants need to live by? How much do you respect them?
 
I know right off the top of your head you may immediately think of wealthy businessmen, politicians, professional athletes and entertainment celebrities. Those that are above the law. The “American Royalty” as it were.

But how about you? You are a leader even if you’re not a CEO, an actor, or a relief pitcher. Do your words match your actions around your children?

We tell them to clean their rooms when our home office is a mess. We tell them to be honest, then they hear us tell a little white lie to someone on the phone. We tell our children we love them more than anything else in the world, then yell at them to be quiet when we are watching television.

“Leadership is influence, no more no less” – John C. Maxwell. You are the number one influence on your own children. So make sure that your words match your actions. In the little things, not just the big things. And in front of the little people, not just the big shots.

If we mess up, if we forfeit our credibility with our children, and lose our place as the main leader and influence in their lives; Then who will they end up following? Probably someone in that American Royalty category that you were blaming a few paragraphs back.

Would you want a rock star to take your place as the main influence in your child’s life?

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The Past: A Great Place to Visit But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There

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I am a firm believer in our ability to change our circumstances in life. Prayer, goal setting, dream building, meditation, focused effort; These are all tools that allow us to determine through our own volition how we live our lives. But, no amount of prayer, goal setting, dream building, meditation or focused effort will allow you to change your past.

We cannot determine our past. It’s too late. It’s happened. But we can determine our future. Starting right this moment, you can make a decision that will affect your future. But trying to live in the past will always hurt you.

Maybe your past was awesome. Glory day after glory day. Each day of your present that you spend reminiscing, doesn’t add any additional glory to those days. If you have one entire year of awesomeness, but ten years later, the only thing you have to talk about is that past awesome year… Well, suddenly you’ll realize that the past wasn’t so awesome now that it’s been spread out over eleven years (I’m pretty sure it can be explained by the physics property of diffusion).

Or perhaps your past was terrible. Constantly dwelling on it out of a sense of guilt will sabotage your present happiness and keep you from recovering from past tragedies.

While you are living your today, which direction are your focusing on? Each day, our thoughts and works are either being invested in our future, or wasted on our past. Each day, concentrate on adding to your future value and worth; Because you cannot add to your past value and worth.

Now, I am not advocating memory wipes for everyone. The past does serve a purpose. Your past experiences teach you. It will give you one of two lessons: Do something different next time. Or do more of the same.

Live your today,
using your past as a guide,
to benefit your future.


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15 Minutes of Nothing

A few weeks ago I read Michael Hyatt’s blog on the subject of stillness. He was practicing beginning his day with 15 minutes of quiet meditation, clearing the mind, not thinking or praying or problem solving. Essentially 15 minutes of concentrated on nothing.

I am all about 15 minutes a day to learn or try new things. But, I was opposed to trying out this idea at first, for a couple of reasons. First, is that I just wrote a book on the subject of using your spare 15 minute blocks of time on some kind of “productive” activity; and this seemed like the opposite of that.

Second, I figured this would be a great practice for busy executive-type people that really need to relax, but I didn’t think that “I” needed it (extend the “I” out for a full second when it’s in quotes like that to show my pomposity).

My upbringing was a form of secular Quasi-Buddhist philosophy; And I already had a belief in the power of meditation and relaxation. If you take a look at all of my art projects from University of Hawaii, you will see a definite Zen influence in my work. When I became a Christian, I worried about stuff even less. I’ve had a relatively stress-free life, because I don’t worry about stuff (especially stuff like stress). So “I” (hold it) of course don’t need to practice stillness.

But then I was reading about how pride is the main thing that holds people back from self-improvement. I also just finished re-reading The Magic of Thinking Big, and there was a large section in Chapter 11 about historical figures using the power of relaxation to awaken their creative subconscious minds. So, I thought I’d give it a try.

Day 1: I set my timer for 15 minutes and just sat with my eyes closed trying not to focus on anything or think about anything. Listen inward. One thing I noticed was that it seemed like much longer than 15 minutes. Second was that it felt like I entered REM sleep for a while. I was in a dream-like state but still aware that I was sitting on the couch. Also, just like my actual dreams, I’m very aware in the present moment, but I remember very little once I wake. When the alarm went off it was a jolt to my senses (mental note: use quieter ring tone), like being roused from a dream but at the same time I was instantly alert, unlike waking from sleep.

I will be exploring this practice for the next month and see how it goes. Spending 15 minutes a day in quiet meditation is much more time-effective than golfing every weekend to relax. Also, I hate golf. More updates to follow.

Question: How do you relax when there’s no time to relax?


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Lessons to Unlearn from School, part II

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Think inside the box

Remember what I said in part 1 about the goal of public schools? Reminder: It’s to create complacent followers not independent thinkers. To teach students what to think, rather than how to think.

Recollecting your school days, have you ever tried to push a project or assignment beyond the parameters of the lesson plan? And been punished for it? More often than not, it’s because the teacher is not qualified to teach outside of their box. They are certainly not incentivized by their government bureaucrat bosses to explore lessons outside that box. And besides, most teachers are the ones that memorized the contents of that box better than everyone else (“A” students wind up teaching…). Their job is to teach the box.

Back in one of my jobs as a barista, I worked with a lot of college students. One of them (attending public university) was showing me a list of available topics for her final paper. Along with each topic was: the thesis of the paper, a list of all the points that must be included to support the thesis, and the conclusion she must end with (I only wish I were making this up). In other words, these students were not being required to come up with their own thesis, analyze data and come to their own conclusions. They were being required to parrot back their professor’s opinions in order to get an “A.”

When I asked her “what if you disagree with your professor’s conclusion?” she didn’t really have an answer. To be honest, when I was her age I wouldn’t have had an answer to that either.

In public schools, conformity assures passing grades. Thinking outside the box will almost assuredly damage your academic record (unless your teacher is Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society). In the real world, conformity destroys individual initiative. And initiative is infinitely more valuable in the real world than conformity.


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Unlock your Victory Badge

We as humans are hardwired for victory. We need to achieve in our lives. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, “Esteem” comes after “Love,” “Safety” and “Biological” needs (like air and food). Esteem comes from achievement, status, responsibility, reputation. Victory may not be as important as air, but it is still an important part of being a healthy human.

Each of us seeks and recognizes achievement in different ways, but the desire is there in each of our hearts. It is this desire that compels athletes, students or professionals to excel.

It is why video games are such an addictive pastime in today’s world. Because you are constantly achieving; Defeat the monsters, gain treasure, gain fame, gain stature. There is some sort of victory to be attained, then once you reach it there is yet another level to pass, boss to defeat, treasure to claim. Video games is a way for people to attain that feeling of victory without having to risk anything in real life. If anyone doubts that video games are addictive, check the statistics. Video games as an industry passed Hollywood several years ago. Why? In a movie you get to watch someone else achieve victory. In a game, you get to achieve the victory yourself.

I’m not going to point fingers and accuse anyone of wasting their lives (since I spent decades playing Dungeons & Dragons), but the point is, we crave victory. And when we don’t get it in life–by succeeding financially, athletically or personally–we seek it out in our virtual life. Or in our kids accomplishments. Or in softball leagues.

I know this metaphor may not be for everyone… But live your life like a video game. Always strive for victory (defeat the boss). When you achieve a victory in your life, set a goal for your next victory (level 65!). When you fail, get back up immediately (call it a “respawn” if that helps).

Remember that victory is inevitable if you keep on playing the game. I’m still talking in metaphor here, quit playing the actual video game and start setting some goals for your real life.

I almost hate to ask this, but here goes: What other life lessons can we learn from video games?


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Victory Begets Victory

I recently returned from a success seminar, what I would definitely consider a “Power Input Environment.” I need to spend a few days to process my notes and figure out how to incorporate the new ideas, thoughts, and techniques into my life (since I’m slightly overloaded right now) then I will definitely share more of those with you.

For now, I just wanted to mention one speaker that stuck in my mind. He was a young man (not even thirty yet if I recall correctly), who built a successful business and retired. What struck me about his story was not the “typical” success story about overcoming adversity, overcoming early failures and challenges, then achieving success. What struck me was his reason for persevering. He did it to be proud of himself.

That was something that I could relate to. Perhaps it sounds shallow or selfish or self-serving, but I could relate to that. Because prior to writing my book I had very few victories in my life.

Even though I have spent years studying success principles and striving to apply them to my life, I had very little to show for it. Owned a small business that earned a moderate amount of money, excelled at jobs that earned me very little money, lost a fiance and never really knew why, knew God but never felt like I was being a good Christian. I wrote a book not just because I wanted to help people add value to their lives, but because I needed a victory myself. I needed to feel proud of something in my life.

I hated the idea of being a student of success and not having anything worthwhile to show for it. I’d hate for someone to be able to point at me as an example that “that positive thinking stuff doesn’t work.” So I committed to writing my book regardless of my current situation in life. Publishing it was a huge victory for me. What has that one victory done for me? Earned me the respect of successful business leaders that I respect. It vastly increased my credibility (having your words printed in a book carries with it the same amount of authority as having a Ph.D. according to leadership expert John C. Maxwell). Forced me to try to live up to the principles that I write about, which in turn tripled my productivity in my business. Oh, and I also got a part on a reality TV show—although I don’t think that was related to the book at all. It’s just really cool though.

And that was from 15 minutes a day of work.

What is the next victory you are looking forward to achieving in your life? And will you set aside 15 minutes a day to work towards it?


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Set Yourself on Fire

fireSome people have the wrong idea about motivation and success. They think that in order to succeed, they must first get motivated then they will be able to perform at a higher level. And so they postpone their effort until they are struck by a bolt of motivation from the heavens. While that may happen on occasion, external motivation does not last forever. Also, you are just as likely to be hit by a bolt of frustration and quit if you are waiting for outside forces to move you around.

The way to avoid being manipulated by all these lightning bolts being thrown about is to rely on yourself for motivation. And the way to do that is by giving yourself a healthy dose of enthusiasm. Like motivation, enthusiasm is an emotion; A temporary feeling. But you can create enthusiasm by an act of will. Once you decide to increase your enthusiasm, just follow these simple steps:

1. Act enthusiastic

2. That’s all

What? They don’t all have to be a 10-step process do they?

When you act enthusiastic, you will become enthusiastic. When you increase your enthusiasm you will have more energy. When you have more energy, you gain motivation to get your tasks done. Congratulations, you are now motivated to succeed, all you have to do is fake it (see Step 1).

Really? Yes. (see Step 2).

Enthusiasm will increase your effectiveness at just about any task. Another benefit of your increased level of enthusiasm, is it will increase the effectiveness of the people around you. Enthusiasm is contagious. Your enthusiasm will spread to the people around you at work or at play.

Winning sports teams recognize the power of enthusiasm. One teammate steps up with a powerful move, or play, or score; And the rest of the team becomes energized and starts to gain momentum. An enthusiastic home-team crowd is so important that they are called “the extra sixth player” on the team (well, just in basketball). One player can fire up the crowd, or sometimes a particularly loyal crowd will try to fire up a team that is lacking enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is not limited to sports though. You can inject enthusiasm into nearly any aspect of your life. Get enthusiastic about your child’s role in their school play and they will become enthusiastic about it. Get enthusiastic about your store meeting and force your coworkers that are dragging themselves in to wake up. Get enthusiastic about making a phone call, going grocery shopping, washing your dog and visiting the dentist. Enthusiasm is so important that Norman Vincent Peale wrote an entire book on the subject, Enthusiasm Makes The Difference. Frank Bettger devoted the first chapter of his book, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, to enthusiasm (which helped him not just as a professional baseball player, but also as an insurance salesman).

How has a healthy dose of enthusiasm helped you to thrive in a bleak situation?


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Get Ripped Mentally

This just happens to be on my mind because I’ve been away for a few days and need to get back into my workout habit. Training yourself mentally is not that different from physical training. A lot of the same principles apply to personal development that you would include in your exercise regimen.

1. Vary your workout

How to Win Friends and Influence People is an awesome book that will help you in just about every aspect of life. I recommend that everyone read it in the 4th grade then reread it once a year. But there are hundreds of other books that are available to help you no matter what your vocation or calling. You should be reading from a broad range of books, just like you should work out different muscle groups. Limiting your mental development to one book is like limiting your workout to just the bench press.

Not only should you read, but you should listen to audio recordings of seminars and lectures of successful teachers. Think of that as the cardio portion of your workout.

2. Get a trainer

There is a world of difference between working out on your own and having a personal trainer. Just as there is a huge difference between learning from a book and having a tutor.

You should seek out a mentor to help and guide you. A mentor is like a coach. They can see things from a perspective that you cannot and help you correct mistakes. A mentor can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. A mentor can help you to develop a regimen to maximize your effectiveness and push you or encourage you when you need it.

3. Track your progress

A lot of personal development tools and seminars are targeted specifically for professional sales. One thing about salesmen, is that they tend to measure their success only by their sales, which is why so many of them quit before making a breakthrough.

The problem with only counting sales, is that closing the sale happens at the end of the process. What about progress and improvements along the rest of the steps of a sales call. Tracking allows you to look back and see how effective you were on invite, approach, rapport, rebuttals, etc..

If you’re not in sales, then figure out some other way to track your progress. Many personal development tools come in the form of kits that include DVD’s, CD’s and workbooks.

4. Rest

I think most people understand the concept of working out a muscle. You exercise, you push the muscle to the point of fatigue, then the muscle rests and becomes stronger. Your brain also needs time to replenish. A mind given a chance to rest is sharper, while all work and no play makes Jack into a psycho killer.

These are my tips on personal growth and development from the point of view of a personal exercise trainer. Disclaimer: I am not a personal exercise trainer.

Any personal trainers or fitness gurus have anything they want to add or correct?


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Lessons to Unlearn from School, part I

I constantly rip on the public education system in this country, but it is not without valid reasons. For those who think that it is a good thing that our children are required by law to attend 13 years of government school, can you answer this simple question: What is the purpose of government schools?

In case you didn’t know, our school system was modeled after the Prussian education system designed under Otto von Bismarck. The purpose of the Prussian education system was to provide a population of soldiers and laborers; an entire caste of people that follow orders rather than think for themselves. Congratulations, if you got straight A’s through school you are a perfect candidate to be an unthinking soldier or laborer.

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Looks like there is some truth to the adage: “A” students wind up teaching, and “B” students wind up working for “C” students.

The first lesson everyone should unlearn from school is this:

1. Failure is permanent

What do I mean by this lesson? Let’s say in your Freshman year of high school you get 5 A’s and a C in wood shop. Congratulations, you will never be the Valedictorian of your class. Since your grades are part of your permanent academic record, that C has ruined your chances of having a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA. You are tarnished goods.

Just like being sick one day for an emergency appendectomy (either receiving or performing one) will ensure that you will never get an award for perfect attendance. But that’s alright, since that is a stupid thing to award to someone anyway.

Compare these two students. Student A, who breezes through Algebra easily and gets an A without trying very hard. Or Student B, who fails Algebra. But after every single failed test, Student B re-studies all the material to learn why he made the mistakes he did. He then re-takes the test even though his grade is already established, just to make sure he has a firm grasp on it. Then next year, Student B retakes Algebra and gets a solid B.

Student A didn’t lift a brain cell to pass. Student B learned a valuable lesson about persistence and discipline.

Which student received more from the course? Which student is better suited to succeed at life after school?


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Pink Floyd Was Right

(…we don’t need no education)

I’m working on a 15 to 30 minute lecture for high school kids. The idea is to teach them what they really need to succeed in the world that they have never been taught in school. Please read and give me your feedback. Also, I have a well-deserved reputation for slamming the public school system, so if anyone feels that I’m being slightly too belligerent let me know and I’ll ease off. Maybe.

Consider a poll of ten business owners: A mechanic, an architect, an engineer, a restauranteur, a bartender, a doctor, a dentist, a car dealer, a barber, and an art gallery owner. They are given the task of imagining the ideal employee for their company. Not just an average employee that shows up and gets their paycheck everyday. The absolute perfect employee, someone who is so good for business that the owner would adopt them and leave them their company when they retire. When visualizing that perfect employee, write down 5 words that describe that perfect employee.

Consider also a poll of the rest of the 95% of people who are not business owners but employees. They are given the task of imagining the ideal boss. Not just an OK boss that pays you on time and doesn’t make you work overtime. A boss so inspiring that you would volunteer to work hard, to take on extra work and to move into their house with them just to car pool with them. When visualizing that perfect boss, write down 5 words that describe that perfect boss.

Now there are three things I want to point out.

First, is that these lists will end up being mostly the same. Honest. Fair. Fun. Caring. Industrious. Capable. Loyal. Generous. Energetic. Enthusiastic. Encouraging. Respectful. Talented. Reliable. Open-Minded. Considerate. Kind. Patient. Secure. Appreciative. Adaptable. Assertive. Cooperative. Diplomatic. Determined. Ethical. Persistent. Optimistic.

The second thing, is that none of these attributes (with the possible exception of “capable”) are things that are taught to you in our schools. When have you ever been taught the value of Honesty in one of your classes? Even if you are the owner of an engineering firm, which would you rather hire, an honest man that is average at math, or a compulsive liar that is excellent at math? Have you ever taken a class or listened to a single lecture on “Loyalty 101?” Do not get me started on public schools and “Open-Minded.”

The bottom line, is that we are never taught the essential skills to succeed at life in our 13 years of compulsory education. For the most part, those of you who continue on to college will also never be taught the essential skills to succeed in your respective careers. And yes, these are skills, because these are all traits that can be learned. No baby was born honest, or fair, or especially generous (but most are born fun).

The third and final thing I’d like to point out, is that these words don’t just describe the ideal boss or the ideal employee. They also describe the ideal child, the ideal parent, the ideal spouse, the ideal pretty-much-everyone-you-would-ever-want-to-associate-with-on-a-regular-basis type person. Wouldn’t you want all the people in your life to be this list? Well, since you can’t change them, the best thing that you can do is to change yourself, and try your best to be this list.

I’ll probably close by providing a recommended reading list and offer a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People to any student that wants one. Anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?