15 Minutes

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


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Be Single Minded

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I’m going to expound on the subject of focus from my previous post. I rarely expound in my books so please indulge me.

A huge stumbling block for many people is double-mindedness. The human mind (well, more the human MALE mind) is incapable of focusing on two things at once effectively. Since men tend to be worse at multitasking, trying to complete two projects simultaneously often leads to inferior work in not one, but both.

This is not exactly breaking news. Lion tamers use this principle to safely fend off a lion with a stool. By holding the chair or stool so that the legs are facing the big cat, it becomes disoriented and retreats since it can’t focus on all four points at once. The stool is more important to lion taming than the whip or the gun. (I am curious if this works equally well with a lioness).

There is an axiom of warfare that says, “To confuse your enemy, give them too many options.”

The Bible in James 1:8 states, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

There is an old saying, possibly Japanese, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”

See? All of recorded history agrees with me.

When we have an important task we need to devote ourselves entirely to it to filter out of any distractions. We need to focus on the immediate.

Does that mean we need to rearrange our entire lives? No, but it may mean we need to rearrange a portion of our lives. If you are working on a book, a painting, or a violin concerto it requires focused creative thought and energy. Though, you probably shouldn’t quit your job to work on that exclusively until it’s completed. But you should set aside time to work specifically on that and that alone. Every other lingering thought or distracting phone call or additional rabbit will dilute the focus of your efforts.

Fifteen minutes a day of total, focused effort is superior to two hours a day of watered down, poking-it-with-a-stick think-about-it-a-thons.

What worthwhile thing do you focus on daily? And along the same lines, what worthless thing do you devote your focus to? (*cough* tv *cough*)

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Feed The Good Wolf: Discipline

disciplineDiscipline is the ability to delay the gratification of desire for future benefit. Living a disciplined life means living in the moment but keeping focus on the future.

Discipline is not about denying the self for the sake of denying pleasure. It is about denying those activities that cause long-term harm to the self. It is about having a body and mind that operate properly. It is about improving rather than diminishing the self. Discipline is willingness to deny the lesser for the sake of the greater. It is seeking happiness rather than just pleasure.

A disciplined man is not a glutton. He recognizes that moderation in his diet will prevent a stomach ache minutes from now and possibly an extra inch of fat for the rest of his life. Be disciplined enough to recognize that you cannot eat anything you want whenever you want. Eat healthy foods in healthy portions. There is a saying about the people in Hawaii, “we don’t eat until we’re full, we eat until we’re tired.” That is not discipline. Man eats. Beasts feed.

A disciplined man is not a spendthrift. He recognizes that his long-term financial health can be damaged by irresponsible spending. He recognizes that emotional purchasing decisions are rarely good ones. He knows that pennies saved are not only pennies earned, but that those saved pennies will actually work for him and multiply through sound investments. The disciplined man will save first before he spends; and never ever pay interest on depreciating assets. Earn interest, do not pay interest.

A disciplined man is not wasteful with his time. Don’t tick away the moments that make up a dull day. Don’t fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way; kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown, waiting for something or someone to show you the way. (Okay, I admit that was a paraphrase of the first verse of Time by Pink Floyd, but the message is still valid—and the tune is cool).

Invest your money, but also invest your time. Money investments return more money. Time investments return timeless values if you invest into your own character or that of your children. The disciplined man will do the important things first, the selfish things when he has free time.

A disciplined man does not indulge his bestial nature. A disciplined man is capable of controlling his sex drive. He isn’t compelled to pursue every woman he sees like a dog. Sex is a beautiful act of love between you and your spouse. Man loves. Animals breed.

A disciplined man is slow to anger. A moment of rage can damage a relationship permanently. It’s the small man that raises his fists in anger. Resorting to violence is the last resort of the disciplined man, but an early option for the weak-willed. Yelling at a child or loved one can wound as deeply as a physical assault. Words spoken in anger can cause irreparable damage to a relationship or permanently afflict someone’s self image. There is a reason that profanity is called a curse. Be disciplined enough to control your tongue.

The long-term harm of a lack of discipline is exponentially greater than the immediate cost of discipline. The disciplined man feeds the good wolf and starves the bad wolf.


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Always Choose Growth

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Consider two farmers. Farmer John has a thousand acres of land that he inherited. But because he neglected his crops throughout the year, his harvest wasn’t quite enough to cover his expenses, so at the end of the year he sells one acre of his land to farmer Mike. Farmer Mike only has twenty acres of land, but because he produced a bountiful crop, at the end of the year, he used his extra cash to buy another acre from Farmer John.

Which farmer would you say is a better influence on young, impressionable, farmers-in-training? Farmer Mike, right? Go back and read the last paragraph if you forgot which farmer is which.

Even though Farmer John is worth 50 times more, everyone wants to be a farmer, own a business, or play basketball like Farmer Mike. That’s because of the success principle: “where you are is not nearly as important as where you are going.”

We really only have two options. Growth or decline. Stasis is a myth. If you are not moving, you are like water that is not moving. You become stagnant. If you do not use muscles, they atrophy. If you do not use your brain in a regular and stimulating way, it begins to decay.

When we are infants, every experience in life is brand-new. Every muscle movement, every sensory input and every emotion is something that we are learning for the first time. As youngsters, we are placed in an environment where we are assigned reading, math, history. We are learning through our school years. Even when we get a new job, we need to learn new skills, new routines, a new driving route. When we stop learning, we start losing our mental edge. We get bored. We get lazy. That is when we start getting older.

That is why even though Farmer John is worth 50 times more than farmer Mike, we view Mike as the more successful of the two.

Always choose growth. As an adult you have to be intentional about your own growth, since nobody is assigning you learning material anymore. No matter how dismal your current circumstances, if you’re always in the process of growing, you are more successful than someone with much more money that is stagnating.

Stop staring at your feet, start staring at the horizon. <– Tweet that.

What are you doing today, to grow you to a new level a year from now?


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99% Committed = 100% Uncommitted

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Some thoughts on commitment:

  • Commitment creates time. There is no such thing as a lack of time, only a lack of commitment. Anything that we are committed to we will make time for, period.
  • Commit to something worthwhile. Most of us spend time on activities that no one will care about in a few years.
  • Commit to completion. If you are committed to a task or project, you don’t worry about the timeline. You will get it done. You will stay at the task and complete it.
  • Commit to excellence. When you commit to something, you give it your best effort. Leave it on the field. Throw your heart over the bar. You will succeed or die trying.
  • Commitment is all or nothing. If you are 99% committed to something you are 100% uncommitted. How great would your marriage be if you were 99% committed to your wife? Three days a year of infidelity should be enough to get your wife to leave you.

What in your life are you committed to?


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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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Instant Gratification Kills Discipline

Regarding my last article on Stanford and Marshmallows, there was a fairly unscientific follow-up study done of the 4 to 6 year old children that were tempted with the promise of marshmallows. Those that demonstrated the ability as a child to defer gratification, later in life were described as “adolescents who were significantly more competent,” and had higher SAT scores.

I doubt this surprises anyone. After all, the ability to delay gratification is indicative of discipline. Short term thinking is the hallmark of a child. Longterm thinking is a sign of maturity and discipline.

Unfortunately, self-discipline is a rare commodity these days. There are several culprits you could blame for Americans being lazy and undisciplined. Certainly our wealth makes us much lazier than the old days when me and my boys would have to trap, shoot, and kill our own food. In this world of instant coffee, spray-on tans, microwave dinners and movies on demand, we have been conditioned to believe that we can have anything that we want right now.

But I think the main factor, not just in making Americans lazy, but also threatening our very freedom is the villain known as credit.

In the old days, when you wanted a new luxury item like a brand new automobile, you would set aside some money on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Then when you had saved up enough money for that automobile, you would buy it and drive it home.

Enter the world of credit. There was a time when credit was a personal arrangement between a merchant and the customer. Banks commercialized credit making it available to virtually everyone. Suddenly people could play now and pay later. Sure, I can’t afford the car, but I can afford the payment, therefore I can have it now (and instantly lose $10,000 in future earnings).

The reason so many people are struggling with debt and finances is because they are paying today for stuff that they bought months and years ago. We’ve been scarfing down marshmallows without paying the cost (that is a metaphor, although if it were actually the case it would explain why many Americans are fat in addition to lazy).

If you are struggling with finances, here is a helpful video that should help you.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/dont-buy-stuff/n12020/


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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?