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

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Step One Action, Step Three Success!

thoughtsLast post I discussed developing a passion for your dreams and goals. Developing mental clarity in your goals is a good start. It helps you to visualize success, it builds your belief and confidence, it opens your mental awareness so that you recognize opportunities. But no amount of daydreaming about your goals will convert them into reality.

Faith without works is death.

Here is a three step plan to realize your goals:

1. Take Action. Start. Act. Move your body. Do something. The biggest objection that I hear from people is “But I don’t know how!” When people say that they don’t know how, what they really mean is that they don’t know how to finish. But everyone knows how to start. I guarantee it.

  • Want to lose weight? First action step: put on your shoes.
  • Want to make more money? Ask someone who makes more than you what to do.
  • Want to marry a pretty girl? Open your mouth and say something to her. If it’s something embarrassing, she’ll probably think it’s cute.
  • Want to write a book? Find a piece of paper and write. I know something about this. I started writing my book, then two weeks later came up with a subject and title.

There is no point in worrying about the endgame when you haven’t started playing. (that’s probably suitable for tweeting)

The second objection is, “What happens if I come across obstacle X?” You cannot anticipate every setback on a new endeavor. Why? Because it’s new. Yes, some force will try to keep you from changing your life. Most of them are minor problems that are given enormous weight through the fertilizer of procrastination. Remember, often our anticipation of problems is worse than the problems we actually face.

“I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” ~Mark Twain

Which is why you are better off just starting with some activity of any kind. As you progress and run into a problem, face it there rather than battling an imaginary future phantom. You cannot beat an imagined problem.

2. Adjust. Evaluate. Aim. Once you start, you develop momentum. Once you have momentum, you don’t stop and re-aim. You simply adjust and improve along the way. Now is the time to seek advice and counsel from qualified people. And the simple fact that you have already started gives you much more credibility.

If you seek advice from an expert in any field, they will have more respect for you if you say: “I’ve started doing X, what do you think…?” than if you can only say: “I’m thinking about starting X, what do you think…?”

Why such a big difference? The world is full of people that have thought about doing something. The expert knows that if you’ve already started–even if you’re going about it in a sporadic, disorganized, possibly crazy method–you’ve already overcome the hurdle that stops most people.

3. Persevere. Keep going. Continue. Never quit. If you move towards your goal, if you adjust your path along the way, then you will reach it as long as you do not stop.

My favorite quote on the subject of perseverance:
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. ~Calvin Coolidge

The good news is that once you reach a certain point (I’ll go ahead and say 21 days), inertia begins to work in your favor. When you first start out, passion is the driving force that gets you moving. Eventually your daily activity becomes a habit. Once you have a habit, it requires less and less energy to keep going.

Yes, people still quit after 21 days. If you feel your energy and enthusiasm waning, then it’s most likely because you stopped doing the thing that motivated you to start the process. Revisit your goal. Are you still thinking about it and talking about it? If you are, you’re not becoming weary. Slogging along for the sake of activity is just being stubborn. Slogging along to achieve is rewarding.

Remember, all of this began with thought. Guard you thoughts because your thoughts become words. Your words become actions. Your actions become habits. Your habits determine your character.

One final observation, if you will turn your attention to the white board. When you change your character, your thoughts will change. Achieving goals itself becomes a habit. Once you are on a track to success, it becomes a track that leads to continual success. There is a reason why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Everyone participates in this process, whether they know it or not. We are always in the process of growth or decay, and the thing that determines the direction we are headed is our thoughts.

Have you made a conscious decision anytime recently to grow in some area of your life?


Passion Overcomes Complacency

A human being will not take positive steps to improve their life for one simple reason: it is easier not to. All improvement requires change, and all change meets resistance. The only time there will be a change in the status quo is when desire overcomes fear and laziness.

Today, I’m writing specifically for those people that have a vague idea that they would like to improve their life in some way, but have not yet taken proactive steps toward that idea. Either because they are scared to attempt it, or not motivated to try. These are five steps to develop a passion to overcome complacency.

1. Have a goal. When you create your goal, be specific. Not: Lose weight, make more money; instead: lose fifteen pounds, earn an extra $1000/month. Not: Be more social; rather: meet two new interesting acquaintances. Little goals are fine. Start small. Everything worthwhile begins with small improvements, and the idea of a “quantum leap” to success is largely a myth.

2. Write it down. And keep it posted someplace where you see it every day. More than one spot is fine as well. The bathroom mirror is a good spot, because it is usually the first place you see yourself in the morning. So is your car dashboard if you drive every day. Your refrigerator door if you eat every day. Keep a copy in your purse or wallet.

3. Think about it all the time. Visualize yourself having already achieved your goal. Experience the emotional satisfaction in having achieved it. If you have to set aside an alarm clock to remind you to think about your goal for fifteen minutes every day, do it. All I’m asking you to do is daydream; even the most fearful and lazy person could do this step.

4. Self-Talk about it. First you should talk about it with yourself. When you are looking at your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning, you should say to yourself “I will lose fifteen pounds,” “I will earn an extra $1000 a month.” But the next step is the most crucial and the one which will eliminate most people from progressing any further.

5. Talk about it with people that matter. This is the first step that involves anything resembling risk, because someone may tease you. If your passion to achieve your goal is not greater than your fear of being teased, then your future is sabotaged right here. That’s why you should only talk about your dreams and goals with “people that matter.” Who are those people? People that can help you and people that will encourage you. Avoid negative people like lepers. If someone has an attitude that you don’t want to catch, stop associating with them. Period. Does that sound harsh? Perhaps, but why would you want to hang out with someone that belittles your dreams? Small people want everyone around them to lose so that they can remain comfortably losers themselves.

I stole this quote from a businessman named Bob Kummer:

“The Bible states that Samson killed a thousand enemy soldiers with the jawbone of an ass. Every day, hundreds of people have their dreams stolen from them by that very same weapon.”

These are baby steps for developing a passion towards positive change. The more you think about it and talk about it, the more your goal begins to focus into a crystal clear image. When it begins to move from your head to your heart, you will develop a desire to achieve it; and when that desire–your passion–is great enough, it will give you the courage to overcome fear and the urgency to overcome laziness.

All achievement is accomplished twice. First in the mind, second in the body. So talking and thinking and imagining your way to success is not a waste of time. It is in fact a vital first step. Once you’ve gotten this far, you are literally halfway towards fulfilling your goal (and further than any of those negative “friends” have ever gotten).

Next post, an Action Plan to convert your goal into reality.


How Do You Like Them Tomatoes?

When I was in elementary school we had a garden (interesting side note, no matter what you plant in Hawaii you will yield mostly eggplant). My dad took care of it and I, being a kid, I carefully avoided it. From high school until today I’ve only lived in a town house with no lawn space, and have had no particular interest in potted plants so I’ve never grown anything.

A few years back I had the urge to start an herb garden (when I had a turkey and basil leaf sandwich that was really good). And since I haven’t had a normal 9 to 5 job in quite a while, a few months ago I thought I’d try it out. I got some plastic trays, some soil, some seeds and started flexing my farming muscles.

Basil is easy to grow, so those seeds sprouted quickly. Then I decided that fresh basil tastes gross and let them die.

I planted some Rosemary seeds, most of which never broke the soil surface. When one of them finally did I was overjoyed. My next discovery was that a kitten will eat a newly sprouted Rosemary plant right down to the roots.

That brings us to today. Check out my tomato plant:

Not bad for someone that never grew anything in his life. When I actually get my first tomato, expect a five-part blog detailing the process from harvest to sandwich-eating.

Why am I rambling about my mini-garden? Here, I’ll quote from David Schwartz in The Magic of Thinking Big.

Most of us have friends who grow things for a hobby. And we’ve all heard them say something like “It’s exciting to watch those plants grow.”

I’ve read this book several times before but glossed over that section because I never had any personal experience with it. In this particular season of my life though, it was pertinent to me so it jumped out at me.

Now let’s take a look at the next paragraph (of the book and my blog)

To be sure, it is thrilling to watch what can happen when men cooperate with nature. But it is not one-tenth as fascinating as watching yourself respond to your own carefully administered thought management program. It’s fun to feel yourself growing more confident, more effective, more successful day-by-day, month-by-month.

Here are my insights taken from my recent experiences in farming and reading:

  • First, Dr. Schwartz sums up nicely the reason that I am so passionate about personal growth. It’s fun. It’s challenging. And when you are growing yourself, it is significantly more rewarding than having a fresh tomato. (See my past blog on Always Choose Growth)
  • Second, you should always re-read books in your success library. Certain phrases and principles will speak to you more strongly in different phases of your own life. Compare what you highlight in a book today to what “college-You” highlighted the first time you read it. It’s a great yardstick to see how much you’ve grown.
  • Third, great things come from tiny seeds (I mean, just look at that photo! That plant is like 5 cats tall!) Metaphorically, words are seeds. Ideas are seeds. Thoughts are seeds. My life’s ambition is to spend it planting good seed and yielding a great harvest in the form of adding value to people’s lives.
  • Fourth, good seed is timeless. This book was written in 1959, but the wisdom in it is as valuable today as it was then. So is the wisdom found in the Bible. Seeds discovered in Egyptian tombs were found to still be viable after thousands of years. The same is true for principles of success. Policies change. Techniques change. Popularity is fickle. Principles endure.

These points seem a bit scattered to me, so let me try to bring them all into focus with a few questions:

Do you have principles in your life that you value? Of course, everyone does.

What are you doing to reinforce those principles in your life? In your child’s life?

What good seeds can you plant now to yield a great harvest in the future?


The Giant Yellow Spider Trilogy

(This isn’t the sort of story I usually post on my blog, but it’s a true story and deserves to be told.)


Part One:
The first incident happened on my way to theater rehearsal during my Theatricus days. As I was stopped at a red light, a giant, yellow spider started crawling down the front of my windshield. When I say giant I mean it had about a leg-span of about three inches with great, big, fat legs and huge fangs. I kind of freaked out, but only a little, because after all, I was safe in my car… for now (not-so-subtle foreshadowing). After unsuccessfully attempting to dislodge the giant yellow menace with my windshield wipers, I reached the freeway and got my car up to 50 mph. Finally, the beast flew off. Hurrah, no more giant yellow spider.

When I got home I spent a good two hours Googling terms like “giant yellow spider hawaii” and searching through mug shots trying to find something resembling my car spider. I found nothing close to it. And everyone from Hawaii reading this has probably never seen anything like it either.

Part Two:
Eight months pass.

I’m driving on my way to a club meeting and crawling down the front of my windshield along the exact same path is the same freaking huge, yellow spider. Two thoughts shoot through my brain:

  1. “no way, it’s the same freaking huge, yellow spider”
  2. “oh crap, my windows are rolled down.”

Sure enough, giant, yellow spider makes a bee-line for the passenger window and crawls into my car, disappearing on the far side of the passenger seat. This is not okay by any stretch of the imagination.

So I pull over at a service station and spend fifteen minutes searching (tentatively) through my car for the giant yellow spider. Can’t find him, and I’m late for my game, so I get back in and start driving. Once I start driving again, I see the giant yellow spider in my rear view mirror crawling along the back window (to which I remark, “man, that sucker is fast”). I pull over again to try to find him and hit him with a book. Once again, no spider.

I finally reach my destination, driving on pins and needles the whole way, and recruit Luke to help me look for the spider in my car. All we find are a couple strands of web in the back. So I figure, if we leave the car alone for a while, mutant spider will try to build himself a web, then maybe I can catch him out in the open and hit him with a book. Besides, I’m like twenty minutes late already.

Fast forward two hours.

No sign of the giant yellow spider.

My friend Dave needs a ride into Waikiki, despite my warning about the current spider situation. So we get in the car and I start driving. Ten minutes later, something touches the left side of my neck. So after I perform a very manly scream and do a full-body spasm, I can no longer feel anything on my neck and Dave is laughing at me. After assuring me that it was probably just a leaf that blew in through the window, I half-heartedly agreed. So, I drop off Dave, return to my neighborhood, and as I’m getting out of the car, I find a strand of web connecting my shoulder to the dash board.

This time, I spent closer to eight hours on Google trying to find some kind of giant yellow spider in Hawaii to figure out what exactly I am dealing with here. If a mongoose is the natural predator of these things, I am prepared to catch a mongoose and lock it in my car until one of them is dead. But I find nothing like my car spider in the entirety of the internet.

Every day for the next three weeks I spend a good ten minutes searching my car before getting into it. But I never see it again.

Part Three
Three years pass.

I was at the Food, Lodging, and Hospitality Expo where some two hundred vendors are there hawking their wares. As it happens, there was a Terminix booth there, so as I was chatting it up with an exterminator, I remembered about the giant, freaking yellow spider that used to haunt my car. The exchange went something like this:

Matt: “Hey, maybe you can help me identify this giant spider that used to haunt my car, and tell me if it was poisonous.”

Terminator: “Okay.”

M: “It was slightly bigger than this cane spider” (indicating the cane spider pinned to his display). “But the legs were twice as fat and it was bright yellow.”

T: “hurmm…. Was it hairy?”

M: “No, it had smooth legs.”

T: “It didn’t make any webs did it?”

M: “No. Well, actually I found a couple strands of web.”

T: “hurmm…. It sounds like you have a Brazillian Wandering Spider.”

M: “Are those found in Hawaii?”

T: “No.”

M: “…”

T: “What most people don’t realize is that ALL spiders are venomous. Since they don’t have teeth and they don’t have jaws, their only way to feed is by injecting their own stomach acids through their bite, which liquifies muscle which they then drink. Of course some are more deadly than others.”

M: “Okay…”

T: “A Brazillian Wandering Spider is very, very, very, very, very, very lethal.”

M: “Oh… so I probably should have set off a bug bomb in my car right away to be safe…”

T: “That probably wouldn’t kill it.”

M: “…”

T: “You should probably get rid of the car.”

Back to my Google-fu. Of course now that I know the name of my spider, the very first web search pops up an image that causes me to proclaim “That’s it! That’s the spider!” Even though the Wikipedia photo wasn’t a yellow one, like my car spider, I would recognize those giant fangs anywhere.

How close to death was I with this critter on the side of my neck? From wikipedia:
“The Brazilian wandering spiders appear in Guinness World Records from 2010 as the world’s most venomous spider.”

I think that’s good enough to qualify as yet another of my infamous near-death experiences.