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


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Slaying the Modern Day Hydra

hydra

Sir Edmund Hillary failed to reach the summit of Mount Everest on his first attempt. One member of his expedition died and his group was forced to turn back, and supposedly he made this proclamation to the mountain: “You defeated me! But you won’t defeat me again! Because you have grown all you can grow… but I am still growing!”

That is why I always teach people that they need to get out of debt. Unlike Everest, debt continues to grow. It is like the modern day hydra. Cut off one head, it will grow back, sometimes with an extra head. You need to kill it off completely otherwise it will eventually overwhelm you.

Some people wonder why I live a relatively stress-free life. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. But I have no long-term debt. I am not an indentured servant to a bank. I can’t lose my car for missing a payment because I paid cash for it. I don’t buy things I cannot afford.

When someone advises me to buy something on credit or layaway or to “leverage” something; I interpret that very simply as “Get something now that you do not deserve to have yet.” that mentality always always always hurts someone. In the case of debt, that person is you.

Compound interest has been called the eighth wonder of the world. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people it is a force working against them. Earning interest keeps wealthy people wealthy. Paying interest keeps poor people poor. Stop paying interest on depreciating items.

Get out of debt. As long as you are in debt, you are not working for yourself and your family. You are not working towards your own dreams and goals. You are just staving off the hydra.

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Your Fuzzy Vision Creates Foggy Followers

clarity

Last post I announced very publicly my vision to positively impact one million people. Still flush with resolve and excitement about pursuing this vision, I continued on to the next chapter of Visioneering entitled “Taking Inventory,” which is filled with important and vital steps that you should take before announcing your vision.

Huh.

In fact the next two chapters were about HOW to publicly announcing your vision and why you should wait.

Oh well.

So maybe I’m not the greatest student. Still, I haven’t given up and I’m not taking my vision back (although you may recall I did reserve the right to revise it later). But I will be taking the time and care to make sure that I am crafting a vision that is clear and focused.

According to Stanley, all effective visions have four components:

  • The problem
  • The solution
  • The reason something must be done
  • The reason something must be done now

It is also important to ask yourself the question “why?” not just once but many, many times through the course of refining your vision. From Chapter 8 “Going Public, Part II:”

Repeatedly asking why forces the dialog to move from the realm of circumstance to one focused on values.

Try it. This actually works with any subject not just divine visions. Start off with the question “Why are you feeding your dog now?” and after enough why‘s you eventually will enter into the subject of compassion and responsibility and nurturing.

I actually have a lot of why material. In fact I have an entire book addressing the issue of why that I was planning to write for my fourth book (but maybe I’ll move it up in the queue to #3 now). But an effective vision statement needs to be concise enough to be compressed into a single sentence. Or a brief paragraph. An “elevator pitch” if you will. Being a part of someone’s vision shouldn’t involve reading his book first; that’s a pretty imposing barrier to visioncasting.

So even though I may have jumped the gun (see my post on Leap Before You Look), 2013 is still my year of Visioneering. I’ll still be posting vision updates here; I’ll still be moving forward; planning and praying and preparing. I will just be spending less time trumpeting and more time revising, refining and redefining. But when I do post on my vision, I’ll try to make sure that my message is clear, concise and (insert another adjective that starts with C here).


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Hurry Up and Wait

hourglassThis may come as a shock, but I am not an expert on everything I write about. When you write a book, there comes along with it the perception of expertise, of mastery, of wisdom. But the fact is I (and most authors) are human; and as humans we are imperfect.

I write about being productive with time, but there are times when I am lazy. I write about taking action immediately, but there are times when I procrastinate. In fact, I used to be an expert at procrastination. Now there is something I could write a book about, but (you know what, insert your own punchline here…).

Today, I thought I’d write on a subject that I am an expert in, and that is: Patience.

Patience has always been one of my strengths; probably because of my quasi-Zen philosophical upbringing and the fact that I don’t have children yet. But I never thought of patience as being something of any particular value until later in life.

1. Patience keeps us focused on the present. We are only impatient because we want something to happen that hasn’t happened yet. The promotion, the traffic light, the bag of popcorn in the microwave. Just realize, that what you are waiting for is going to happen, and very rarely can we do anything to speed up the process. Being anxious or worrying about it will not affect the future, but it will hurt us in the present.

Since worrying about your promotion will not help you, just focus on performing your work right now with excellence and enthusiasm. Let the promotion take care of itself. Since swearing at the red light will not help you get to your destination any faster, why not enjoy the song currently playing on the radio? Since standing next to the microwave staring at it will not make the popcorn pop faster… Actually, that’s a bad example since microwave popcorn requires your attention so you can stop it before it burns. Don’t sweat over your burrito though.

Don’t try to pull the future to you faster.

2. Patience helps provide emotional stability. When we are impatient, we have shorter tempers, we are stressed, we fret. When we are patient, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about things, just that we have the fortitude to wait. (“Patience is passion tamed.” Lyman Abbott).

Patience eliminates a great deal of stress, which in turn allows the patient person to maintain calm and balance even under stressful circumstances. Just recognize that time will eventually overcome a current problem or hardship. Now, I am not advocating inactivity or passivity. Just realize that all we can do, is all we can do; and once we do all we can do, the rest requires patience.

3. Patience helps to nurture growth. John Maxwell, expert on leadership and personal growth writes that “Leaders develop daily, not in a day.” The mentality of growth by lottery, or sudden inspiration, or through instantaneous quantum leap transformation is a myth not a reality.

To grow mentally, physically or spiritually, requires consistent and persistent activity compounded over time. Impatient people want the results now and maybe they will promise to do the work later. But unfortunately life does not work that way. Patient people recognize the need to put the work in now and reap the results later. This allows them to focus on the immediate work; the process rather than the results.

Those are my thoughts on patience.

“But I never got around to it!” That was the punchline for that sentence. Scroll back up if you don’t remember what I was talking about. Sorry, I couldn’t wait…


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Compulsory Farm Service

There are some people that believe that we should require compulsory military service in the U.S. before you can become a citizen. While I admire the men and women of our armed forces past and present, and I would not hesitate to serve myself if it were required of me, I’ve always felt that a good alternative would be to require citizens to work on a farm for two years.

First, because farmers are some of the hardest working people in the world (read this Hillbilly’s Letter Home from the Army). And second, because it would help to reintroduce some laws of nature that many people raised in the Age of the Internet have never learned: The Laws of the Harvest.

I know the concept of a harvest may need to be explained to the youngsters out there. Here are some general principles behind farming.

1. When you plant corn in the ground, you receive back corn. In other words, you get back, what you put out. This is known as the Law of Reciprocity.

This is a practically universal teaching of every world religion. The golden rule, you reap what you sow, what comes around goes around, karma is a mafia princess (paraphrased). From a purely selfish standpoint, it would be a good idea not to be a jerk. People will treat you like a jerk. If you speak in a way that is energetic, empowering, and optimistic you will live a life that is full of energy, power, and optimism. It’s better to speak words of honey not of bile in case you need to eat those words later.

2. You receive more corn out of the ground, than you plant into the ground. Or, you get back more of what you put in. This is the Law of Increasing Returns.

How viable would our system of agriculture be if for every ear of corn you planted, you received back exactly one ear of corn. Why bother planting it? Just eat the one you have. Fortunately, the earth was designed to provide abundantly. A single kernel of corn has the potential to yield hundreds of millions of ears of corn.

And so does a single act of kindness. Or a single harsh statement. Or a single lie. Or a single blessing. Our words and actions when sown out in the world have the power to multiply and increase in power a thousandfold. Being a little bit of a jerk can sometimes result in you being run over by a busload of jerks.

3. Once you plant the corn, you need to wait for it to grow. You cannot keep digging up your kernels to check on them. You plant seeds, you water them, but you also must wait for nature to allow them to develop a life of it’s own. This is The Law of Delayed Gratification.

You can’t expect to reap rewards without putting out seeds of effort first. That would be like expecting your fireplace to provide you heat before you give it wood. It doesn’t work with inanimate objects and it doesn’t work with people either. Try telling your boss that you will work harder after he gives you a raise.

Also, we need to understand that a harvest completes on its own schedule, not on ours. I may have already spent some time complaining about the microwave mentality that people have these days. But anything worthwhile requires nurturing. Raising children, forming a relationship, developing a talent. Be willing to put forth the effort, even if you don’t see the results immediately. Have faith, that the laws of nature will not make an exception just for you.

These are basic lessons about life and nature, sorely missing in today’s education standards, all because of our lack of agrarian society. (Full disclosure: I’ve never worked on a farm and probably couldn’t handle the physical labor, but the philosophy of the farm I am totally down with).

What other laws of man and nature can be learned on a farm?


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The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

A few years back magazines, businesses and psychiatrists were all abuzz about the concept of “Emotional Quotient.” Whereas “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ measures a persons memory, logic, and problem-solving skills; Emotional Quotient or EQ was supposed to be a more advanced indicator of how likely a person was to actually succeed in life.

Years later, it is now called Emotional Intelligence (EI) and I can’t even find an agreed-upon definition of it.

One aspect of EI (or EQ), is self-regulation (depending on who you talk to I guess). Here is an experiment performed with children that was supposed to measure one aspect of their EQ (aka EI).

Each child is given a marshmallow.
They are told that the marshmallow is theirs, that they can eat it right away if they want to and that there is nothing wrong with that.
However, if they waited until the adult came back, and they still had their marshmallow, then they would be given a whole plate of marshmallows.

I never got to watch the experiment (and apparently this was a rerun of an experiment originally performed in Stanford in 1972). But the video was described to me by a doctor (well, a guy who quit during his residency). But it sounds like an episode of Kids Say the Funniest Things, hosted by Bill Cosby.

Some of them wolfed it down the instant the adult left. Some agonized over whether or not they should eat it. Some sat in the corner and would not look at it to remove any temptation to eat the marshmallow.

I don’t know about EQ, EI, or any ground-breaking paradigms of success psychology. But this to me sounds like a test of an ancient and simple idea: that of delayed gratification.

If you have the ability to turn down an immediate small reward, in exchange for a greater future reward, you are probably more poised for success than those who can’t or won’t. You have greater discipline, greater impulse control.

Unfortunately, many adults are like a four year old child scarfing down a marshmallow the instant the adult leaves. In our world of instant everything, the ability to delay your short term desires probably seems not just unnecessary but undesirable.

Is delayed gratification a desirable trait in today’s world?