15 Minutes

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

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The Problem With Your Confidence-Building Plan

confidenceWe naturally feel trepidation whenever we are confronted with a new task. Well, perhaps “naturally” isn’t the correct word since one-year-olds don’t have the same hesitancy. In fact, that nervousness is something that is a learned trait. Perhaps because we get laughed at or ridiculed when we fail at something as a child. Or maybe because we actually get physically hurt attempting a task. Whatever the cause, we (two-years-old and over) somehow develop this feeling of trepidation when we are confronted with something new.

Because we seek to avoid failing, falling, or fumbling, here’s how we normally seek to confront that mysterious new “thing” in our path. First, we want to build up our confidence. Second, we want to develop some skill. Third, we want to attempt it. Then finally, we achieve the results or success that we are looking for.

The problem is, the real world doesn’t work that way. You never develop confidence in something until after you do it. You certainly don’t develop skill in something until after you try it a few times. So, here’s how that process should actually look:

Step one, start.
Step two, increase skill and confidence.
Step three, results.

Do the thing and you will have the power. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

You need to put the action in first before you begin to develop skill and confidence. Increased skill and confidence can accelerate your passage from step one to step three. But until you actually put some action in to initiate the process, you are just idling. And idling always increases fear and trepidation (I really like the word trepidation).

Sometimes you will fail, fall or fumble. Any failure is a lesson in how to achieve success on your next attempt. Any fall is a signpost on where to step carefully next time. Any fumble is a reminder to keep your eye on the ball. Each attempt increases confidence on the next attempt. The only time that failure is final is if you QUIT.

So don’t try to gain the confidence first to do the thing you’re been waiting on.

Do the thing.

Get the power.

Nine times out of ten, your fear will disappear the moment you start. More of us are held back by fear of failure than by failure. The only thing that can build up your confidence, is action.

Just do it. ~Nike, Roman Goddess of Victory

What have you been postponing or procrastinating on this week?

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Today Is The Good ‘Ol Days

“…of all the ages of civilization, this is the most favorable for the development of the imagination, because it is an age of rapid change.”

This was written by Napoleon Hill in 1950-something. This was before the personal computer, before the internet, before iAnythings. Hill didn’t see ANYTHING in terms of rapid change, compared to what we see today.

Today brand new things innovate, advance, and become obsolete all within our life times. Watching new smart phones come and go is like watching the life cycle of a fruit fly in a lab.

Things change.
Things have always changed.
Things will keep changing.
Things will change faster than they ever have before.

Things change so fast that 2-year old companies that have no product are bought by ten-year old companies also with no product for 2 billion dollars (YouTube and Google for those wondering).

Today, right now, this particular day that you are reading this and inhaling and exhaling and in the process of being alive, is the most favorable day in the entirety of the rest of your life for being a success in any area of your life.

Today is the most important day of your life, for positively changing your life. How can I be sure that it’s today? Take a look at your weekly calendar:


All those days that have past by already? It’s too late to do anything with those days. They may have been unproductive and wasted. Or perhaps they were productive, and rewarding, maybe even spectacular. But they are past now. The rest of your life depends on today.

The rest of your life also can never depend on tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes. That’s how a local pub can get away with posting a sign on the wall that says “Free Drinks Tomorrow.” Tomorrow is promised to no one. Tomorrow is perpetually fleeing from your grasp. Living in anticipation of something that “could be someday” is committing suicide gradually.

Today matters.
Today matters more than any other day.

All of your history and all of your future is made up of a series of todays.

Today, do something to better your life, to bring joy to someone, to grow your self, your family or your community.

But do it TODAY.

If it’s five minutes to midnight before you decided to log in and read this and your today is virtually gone. Then the absolute minimum that I expect of you is this: spend the next five minutes brainstorming some thing that you really wish you had done today. Something you should have said or would have done if you had the time, if you had the insight, if you had the guts.

Then at 12:01 you may go to bed and make a promise that you get that thing done TODAY.

Come back and tell me what you did with your today.

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That First Step’s a Doozy

ImageStep One: Begin

Step Two: Does it really matter? You haven’t taken step one yet.

Step one is the most important step, because it leads to step two. Step one requires more effort than any other steps. It forces you to overcome your physical and/or mental inertia and start moving.

Take that first step on total faith. What can possibly happen?

  • A. You continue on to step two and are merrily on your journey.
  • B. You stumble and fall and have to redo step one, but now you have insight and experience to make sure you aren’t tripped up again.
  • C. You quit; but some day, weeks or years from now, you decide to resume your journey and at least you know what to expect at step one.
  • D. You quit and never try again; but at the very least you can say that you made an attempt at some point.

Every one of those options is better than never taking a step.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t even have to know what step two is at the time you launch into step one.

Just take the first step. See what happens. Impress yourself with your own ingenuity. Stepping into the unknown is better than sitting in complacent inadequacy.

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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?

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Actions Trump Intentions

“You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.” ~Scott Adams

All of us influence someone in our lives. Our friends, our families, strangers that cross our paths. According to one study, even the most introverted person, will influence as many as 10,000 people in his lifetime. So if I were to ask if you were a good influence or a bad influence, how would you answer? 99% of people would answer: good.

Then you would think for a while and realize that 99% of people in the world are not positive influences. In fact, I run into negative people all the time that irritate me and they are definitely a bad influence. Yet everyone thinks that they are good.

Universally most people think of themselves as good. Even bank robbers think that they are pretty good people compared to murderers. And murderers can justify their need to kill and take solace in the fact that at least they didn’t torture their victims first. So not one of us, right down to Charles Manson, thinks that we might be a bad influence on someone.

But very often we are.

In fact, it usually takes something dramatic to bring to light our own shortcomings; to allow us to see what we are doing from outside of that box that we normally live in. Alcoholics call it a moment of clarity.

One successful corporate husband, running along with his wife on a management fast track, one day overheard his daughters as they were “playing executive” in the den. The elder daughter carrying his briefcase said to the younger, “I’m going to be working late tonight. This is company business and company is more important than family.”

That was a wake up call. To outside appearances his family was doing well, living in an affluent neighborhood, climbing the corporate ladder, daughters in private school. But the influence that he was having on his daughters–through his absence–was that his daughters thought they were not as important a part of his life as his boss, his title, his paycheck. All things that a young child could care less about.

People only judge themselves by their intentions. Every one else, they can only judge by their actions. So his daughter saw all the best days of the best years of his life going to a faceless “company.” How could she not think that company is more important than family?

Which is more important, your child or a television? Have you ever yelled at your child to be quiet because you couldn’t hear the television? Just wanted to throw that out there to show that I’m not picking on the corporate guys only.

If we want to influence people positively, we need to do it through actions. And we need to make sure that we are conveying the right message through our actions.

You cannot influence someone for the better through good intentions only.

There is a happy ending to that story about corporate couple X. They left the rat race and started their own business. Even though the hours were equally grueling, this was a family business. Since the husband and wife were now on one track rather than two individual tracks, their efforts became synergistic and before long, she was able to carve enough time out of their schedule that she could home-school their daughters (and have a third one along the way). They were willing to take drastic actions to prove that family is more important than “the company.”

To all you working class folks who want to demonstrate the same thing through your actions, turn off the television in the middle of a program when your child starts telling you a story.

Who has been influential in your life? Do they know it?


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?


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)