15 Minutes

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


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The Secret of Steady

ImageExpounding on my comments from last week, the reason slow and steady wins the race is because of steady not because of slow. The only reason that slow is of any value is because it makes steady easier.

For example, I did some math because I’ve started running again recently and have been tracking my workouts using a free app called Runkeeper. My average walking pace is about 3.5 mph while my running (jogging) speed was about 5.8 mph. That’s only about a 67% increase between walking and running (sue me, I’m out of shape).

But the difference is, that after jogging for 20 or 30 minutes I’m tired, sweaty and sore. But 20 or 30 minutes of walking is essentially effortless. I haven’t broken a sweat, I’m not tired and I don’t have to worry about being sore in the morning.

That extra 67% of speed uses up 800% more energy (at this point I’m no longer using data from the app, I’m just making up numbers).

That’s why I’m such a big advocate of small, daily changes.

Small, daily changes that are easy to implement allow you to apply steady growth to your life. (tweet that)

And just like with walking, if you do it every day you would be amazed at how far you can go.

I wrote my first book in 15 minutes a day. I also gave myself the intentional limitation that I would not write for more than 15 minutes. So no one could accuse me of cheating.

When I wrote my second book, I finished a lot quicker because I didn’t handicap myself with a speed limit. Now that I’m on my third book, I realized that I’m way behind schedule. Because I allowed myself to become complacent, allowed myself to believe that I could make up skipped time by going fast. After all, missing four days of work at 15 minutes a day, you can make that up in one hour, right? Or if you fall behind two weeks, you can make that up on your next day off and just concentrate on writing for a full day of work, right?

All the chronic procrastinators know the answer to that…. NO.

We tend to over estimate what we can do quickly (my jogging pace is only 67% faster than my walking pace). We severely under estimate what we can accomplish slowly.

So yesterday, after not looking at my manuscript for a couple of weeks, I planned to use my my day off for a marathon writing session. It worked out about as well as running an actual marathon after a couple weeks of inactivity. I was sluggish, I was confused. I had a hard time making sense out of fragments of thoughts and sentences that I’m sure had a point when I started them a few weeks back.

The bottom line is, I need to once again practice what I teach. I need to get back to my 15 minute habit. Walk every day and run when I can. Stop allowing myself to get out of shape.

Slow, steady growth:

  • Is easy to maintain on a daily basis
  • Keeps your momentum going in the right direction
  • Keeps you limber so you don’t pull a groin muscle

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. ~Chinese Proverb

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You Don’t Need To Sprint The Whole Way, But Don’t Stop Walking

Yes, that’s me racing a turtle on a black sand beach. Yes, it is illegal to be that close to a turtle. How do I know this? Because there is a sign posted. Want to know where it’s posted? About ten feet in front of me–facing the water. Which is a dumb place to put that sign because it only warns the tourists as they are LEAVING the beach. Unless the intent was to warn the turtles ahead of time and inform them of their rights.

Everyone is familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race, right? That is not the entire truth. Actually it is steady that wins the race. There is no inherent value in slow.

I’ll defer to another story that I read in elementary school, although I don’t recall the title of the book, but I think it might have been The Great Brain Does It Again.

Kid A was talking smack because his parents bought him a new champion quarter horse. Kid B challenged him to a race with his parent’s broken down nag. Except that Kid B challenged him to a race that was two miles long. For those unfamiliar with the term “quarter horse,” it’s a racing horse that is trained to run short sprints, say… a quarter mile.

Kid A galloped out strong at the start, easily out-pacing Kid B’s old workhorse, but Horse A exhausted itself and eventually stopped despite his owner goading him to keep sprinting. Horse B jogged across the finish line.

Kid B won a lot of money on that race. But being something of a swindler, gave everyone a chance to win their money back the next day. Except this time Kid B agreed to race riding the quarter horse and Kid A could ride the winning nag.

The next day, Kid B won. Because he didn’t race his horse, he paced his horse. Rather than trying to force the champion quarter horse to sprint the entire two miles, he would let him run, then let him rest, let him run, let him rest. He didn’t push the horse past the point of exhaustion. He went at a steady pace and ran in occasional bursts of speed.

That’s my message for you today. In whatever venue you are planning for, whether your finances, your fitness, your relationships or your spiritual walk: Do a little bit every day, but do a lot when you can.

  • If you have never started saving for your retirement, don’t try to sprint by allocating 50% of your salary and 100% of your discretionary spending starting now. You will get exhausted and you will stop.
  • If you’ve been neglecting your spouse or children, don’t try to make it up by sprinting; by devoting every waking hour of your attention on them. It’s a little bit creepy and clingy.
  • If your relationship with God is not where you want it to be, don’t sprint by wearing a hair shirt, then fasting and praying for 48 hours straight. You’ll hallucinate. And itch.
  • If you want to get in shape, don’t start by racing a cheetah.

Stay steady. Don’t exhaust yourself.

The hare would have won if he just walked the entire race. His crime was that he stopped.

Devote a little bit of time and resources every day towards your goals. That’s your walking. And if you occasionally feel like running, then run.

  • Financial walking is setting aside a small percentage of your paycheck towards long term and short term savings (say $100 a month). Running is when you get a Christmas bonus and throw half of it into your portfolio (an instant $500). Notice though that sprinting is no substitute for steady walking.
  • Relationship walking is eating meals with your family, asking about their day, being available to talk. Running is taking them on a vacation! And I think we all know that trying to be Superdad for 1 week out of the year when you haven’t been around for the last 51 weeks is a little pathetic.
  • Walking with God is reading the bible for 15 minutes every day (I used dailybiblereader.com to read the entire bible in one year for about 15 minutes a day). Running with God is going on a missions trip or building orphanages in the Philippines.
  • Walking for fitness is… well, I guess is actually just walking. And when you’ve built up some stamina you can actually do some running.

Small investments compounded over time yield vast rewards (I think I may have written a book on this subject).

Have planned, daily activities that move you forward in some area of your life. That’s your daily walking; your good habits that make every day a growing day. Even just investing 15 minutes a day will result in huge long-term growth with very little effort.

Then every so often, you will have the opportunity to run. And when you do, you won’t pull a groin muscle.


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Put The Man Back Together

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I’ve heard this story several times in several variations:

An executive is busy working in his home office when his 6-year-old son comes in and starts asking him to play. After much persistence followed by much frustration, the exec pulls out a magazine and opens it to a large fold-out map of the world. Pulling out the map, he cuts it into hundreds of tiny pieces and gives them to his son. “here, son, after you put together this map of the world, then I’ll play with you.” Knowing that a 6-year-old has no idea what a map of the world looks like, he assumed that this task should keep his son busy for at least a couple hours. But ten minutes later his son came back into the office and said “All done, daddy.” The executive thought his son was exaggerating, but upon going into the living room, the entire map was perfectly assembled. “Son, how on Earth did you figure out how to do this so quickly?” “It was easy, Daddy.” the boy began turning over the pieces one at a time, and as he did, his father saw that on the other side of the world map was a photograph of a man. “You see, Daddy. When you put the man together the whole world falls into place.” (that’s profound, you should totally tweet that).

I have a vision to positively impact peoples lives. To help “put the man back together,” so that the world falls into place. Well, women too, but let’s face it men need more work.

I’m not passionate about much, but I am passionate about personal growth. I’m a firm believer in changing the world through changing the individual. But the only individual that I have complete responsibility and control over is myself.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

To be the person I want to be requires progressive, persistent, personal growth. I want to make sure that I am prepared when an opportunity arises to positively impact someone. The only way for me to be prepared is to be always preparing and learning.

I read every day to grow myself, so that I can also write every day and hopefully lift up others. I also hope that in my day to day meanderings through life that I can uplift those around me. I also encourage others to begin their own journey of personal growth.

Always be learning.

Always be growing.

An unwillingness to learn and grow does not equal “stasis” it equals “deterioration.”

Even Leonardo da Vinci, probably the single most talented human ever (if that is indeed what he was) was continually learning new skills, new fields, new methods. He wrote “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”

If you are not moving forward, you are falling backwards. Physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally. It’s not your fault, it’s the universal law of entropy working against you.

There comes a time in every parents life when they can no longer help their kids with homework. Here’s a news flash for you: That’s only partially because the child is progressing.

Invest 15 minutes into improving yourself every day in some way. In some way that is in line with your personal vision for yourself or your family.

What is something specific in your life that you would like to improve upon?


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Imagine You 2.0

The greatest hindrance to most peoples success is a poor self-image. Often when we are ground down by life we allow circumstances to depress us or define us. And that’s a lie; a trick of the enemy. Your worth is not determined by your environment but by your character. Your value comes from what is inside you not from what is around you.

A gold coin in a pile of cow dung is still inherently valuable. Sometimes it’s just hard to recognize its value because of the smell. Likewise, outside circumstances do not determine your self-worth. Your self-worth is inherently priceless and is not dependent on the approval of your boss, a bank, a loved one or a stranger.

You are unique. No one else in this universe has your exact same thoughts, mind and ideas. You have skills and abilities that no one else has. Emerson said, “Every man I meet is in some way my superior.” The problem is that we rely on our present, what we currently see and hear and feel, and allow that to become our reality of self. If that happens, then we cannot rise above our current circumstances, because we are not just struggling against the world, we are struggling against ourselves.

A couple posts back I described the process of creative visualization as a means of helping you to accomplish tasks successfully. This same method can be used to elevate yourself into the person you want to be. Utilize the power of your imagination to hold a picture of yourself in your mind. The person that you really want to be, not a prisoner of your circumstances, but the master of them.

Healthy, wealthy, wise. Visualize yourself as physically fit, living in a beautiful home, living a comfortable life. Imagine what your life is like on the average Tuesday. What do you do in the morning, afternoon and evenings? Imagine the way you talk to people, the way you conduct your daily activities, the relationships you have. Imagine a life of purpose. What do you want? Imagine it. Hold it in your mind. Allow that image to crystalize into a vision and you are on your way to becoming that version of you.

Once again, I hear the objections, “your advice to people is daydreaming?” Why not? You will be much better off doing that than spending your day berating yourself and complaining about being out of shape, broke, and stupid. Work on you first.

Emerson again: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”


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The Greatest Nation is Imagination

Have you ever seen someone fail badly when attempting something new? Whether it’s a skateboard maneuver or public speaking or trying to de-claw a cat? After they fall, stammer, or get sliced, did they say, “I knew that was going to happen…”?

If you knew it was going to happen, why didn’t you do it a different way?

They didn’t know they were going to fail. They imagined that they would fail, which increased their chance that they would fail.

“Creative visualization” is a tool used by professional athletes and many successful leaders and experts. It is essentially imagining yourself succeeding at a task. Golfers paint a vivid picture in their mind of making a successful putt or drive before they step up to the ball. Basketball players imagine the ball swooshing through the hoop before they take the foul shot.

There has been tons of research and many books on this subject, but suffice it to say, that your autonomic nervous system cannot tell the difference between you physically performing an action and you carefully imagining performing that same action. It’s “virtual practice.”

So by visualizing yourself succeeding at the task before you attempt it, you increase your chance at succeeding. After all, you’ve already done it once before, right? But by worrying, by holding a failure picture in your mind before you execute, you are practically begging to fail.

Because he was worried about falling, the skateboarder wiped out. And because she was worried about being embarassed, the speaker blew her presentation. And let’s face it, your cat can smell your fear.

Imagination is a powerful tool. But if you are not using it to help you, you are probably using it against you.

I always talk about spending 15 minutes a day performing some activity that will move you towards your goals in life. Maybe right now, you don’t have a job or business vehicle to take you where you want to go. But you can spend 15 minutes dreaming. Creatively visualize. Paint a crystal clear picture of the life you want to live and the person you want to be. Write it down, imagine it, envision it. It will help prepare your mind for success and enable you to take advantage of the next opportunity that you come across.

Am I advocating daydreaming as a course of action? Yep. It will help you a whole lot more than worrying about not being able to pay your bills.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw


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Rock Beats Scissors and Consistency Beats Inspiration

rock_paper_scissorsI’ve been slow to update my blog over the last few weeks and I figured out the reason why. It’s because I haven’t been using the same method in blogging that I used to write my book. Specifically, just writing consistently for 15 minutes every day.

Even though my blog posts are not usually very long, they do typically take me longer than 15 minutes to write. In trying to update my blog 2 or 3 times a week, I’ve been trying to block out enough time to write each post from beginning to end. And since that takes me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, I would avoid starting a new post until I could dedicate a complete hour to writing.

So I would procrastinate. Yes, even people that dedicate a portion of their first book to the subject of overcoming procrastination will sometimes backslide.

So, here I am, drawing a line and starting over. This time focusing on consistency. Writing a little bit every day; even if I don’t hit that publish button every day. Consistent and persistent effort is valuable for a number of reasons summarized below in bullet points (one of my favorite way to make points).

  • Consistency creates momentum. Doing a little bit every day is much easier than starting and stopping every few days. It cuts down on the amount of time it takes you to warm up and start each time.
  • Consistency increases creativity. Being creative (somewhat important for a writer) is much more a result of ongoing disciplined effort than of instant inspiration. Read my guest post at prowritingaid.com.
  • Consistency increases confidence. It provides you with a steady stream of small victories. You don’t need to always swing for a home run, be willing to drive for a few yards on each possession. (I like to mix sports metaphors).
  • Consistency creates habits. And habit is an incredibly powerful force in your life. If you create a habit that you choose for yourself, then you are taking control of your destiny.

So be consistent. 15 minutes of work a day will always be more productive than 8 straight hours of work every month.

What would be a positive habit that you could develop for yourself on 15 minutes a day?


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Revisiting Nothing

Some musings and insights on spending 15 minutes a day on nothing but stillness, a practice I started a few weeks ago. So what have I noticed about myself and my mind since I began this practice?

First, is that it’s not easy to think about nothing. As I grab my timer and sit down, I tend to start thinking about what I was just doing or what I’m going to do next. It takes conscious effort to arrest my attention away from conscious thought (if that makes any sense). Some tricks I use: If there is a lot of background noise, rather than allow the noise to distract you, focus on either your sense of touch or sight (while your eyes are closed).

Second, I can’t always achieve my dream state. The first time I did this, I entered into a semi-lucid waking dream state; I was still conscious, but in an REM-like trance. Over the last few weeks, there were several times when I’ve been unable to reach that state (mostly from thinking too much). When I do get there, it feels like having a two hour nap compressed into a few minutes. So I’ve been trying to schedule my stillness time in the middle of the day, about the time people have a siesta. After all, many cultures traditionally have two sleep periods each day. Maybe I’ll be able to get away with sleeping less during the night.

Third, is that I’ve been remembering my dreams more when I sleep at night. Through most of my life, I rarely have been able to remember my dreams. It seems like I’ve been waking up from dreams more often than normal. This could be coincidence but it’s something I am curious about.

I’m not sure if it’s desirable either. When I wake from a dream, I tend to wake more tired than when I don’t remember my dreams. For example, last night I remember dreaming about myself and two other people searching some kind of underground amphitheater/cavern for a murderer. We kept getting separated, and there were conveyor belts and secret doors and we spent more time looking for each other than for clues or the murderer. The point is, I was tired when I woke up, because it felt like I was busy all night reenacting a Scooby-Doo episode.

Last thing, I’ve been re-reading Grow Rich While You Sleep by Ben Sweetland. It’s about harnessing the creative power of your subconscious mind while you sleep. I’d like to be able to tap my creative mind for new ideas while I meditate. This might be antithetical to the purpose of spending a portion of your day in stillness… Or maybe not, I’d like to be able to shut off my conscious mind at will and tap ideas from the creative mind or universal consciousness if I can. More updates to follow.

What are your thoughts or experiences? Do you think that time in quiet meditation is beneficial?


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Back to Basics (15 Minutes)

The last few weeks I’ve stalled on writing my current book. I have more free time now than I did while I was rat-racing*, but I feel sort of like I’ve replaced any writing progress on my book with blogging, twittering, and booking faces**.

*rat-racing is my new hip slang for being trapped in the rat race.

**booking faces is slang for utilizing the social networking site known as Facebook.

I’m still a novice when it comes to this brave new world of social media. It’s like a shiny new toy, and it distracted me for awhile, but I still have more books that I want to write. So it’s time to refocus.

Am I abandoning social networking? Heck, no! It’s an invaluable tool for a profession that relies on name recognition like, oh, an author… So I’ll still be blogging about 3 times a week, and tweeting, and updating my face’s page. I just need to get back to the same commitment level that I used to write my first book. Which means 15 minutes a day of writing (not including my time spent here on my blog).

Having more free time lulled me into a false sense of security. It made me think I could procrastinate and make up the time later. Here’s a handy tip: Having lots of free time doesn’t necessarily mean you can produce more. People who have lots of free time value their time less and are less productive.

Just like world-renowned efficiency expert, and part-time actress, Lucille Ball says, If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.

So, as of yesterday I’m back on track. No more skipped days. Every day, 15 minutes of writing time committed to my second book; And more when I can (that’s different from my rules of engagement for book 1, where I never did more than 15 minutes a day). My goal is to finish by July 2013.

What are you committing 15 minutes a day, every day, toward?


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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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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?