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


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If You’re Failing It’s Because the Universe is Against You

galaxy

Too harsh a title?

Well, here’s my reasoning. The universe was designed to punish our inactivity. Our universe follows certain laws that never change and one of those is a Law of Thermodynamics also known as “Entropy.”

Entropy is synonymous with degeneration. All things that are not growing, that are not in use, that do not have energy being applied to them begin to deteriorate. That is the natural state of the universe.

Ships that remain in port for too long are soon no longer seaworthy.

The athlete that stops exercising becomes fat, and possibly bitterly nostalgic.

A relationship that no one puts effort into stagnates and dies.

When you stop using your mind regularly you lose your smartness (that’s me taking a dig at myself for not blogging for so long).

Before you collapse under the crushing weight of the Universe working against you, there is hope. There is another physical law of the universe known as Inertia. That law says two things:

  1. That an object at rest tends to remains at rest.
  2. An object in motion tends to remain in motion.

It takes an expenditure of energy to create change. But once you initiate change and expend some energy into sustaining it, you shed off part 1 of inertia and become an inertia-2 person.

Your fit neighbor that runs every day. It probably takes her very little discipline to get up every morning and run TODAY. It was hard to start, it took some discipline to keep going, but now it would probably be harder for her to not run than to run. She’s an object in motion that tends to remain in motion. The universe is now on her side.

If you want to change something in your life, the hardest thing for you to do is to start. So don’t think about it, just start. Give yourself a chance to get the universe on your side.

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Halftime Report: How Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Going?

clockIt’s July 1st! The perfect time to take an assessment of how we are doing on our New Year’s resolutions. Did you make any at all? If you did, you have already separated yourself from 25% of the population. Do you still remember what they were? If so, you are probably ahead of another 25% of the population. If you can tell me today what your New Year’s resolution was for 2013, then you are ahead of the average person in the US even if you haven’t even started on them yet.

Before you pat yourself on the back too hard though, keep in mind:

  1. 51% is still a failing grade, and
  2. I just made up those numbers anyway

A lot of authors and speakers talk about looking forward towards your goals (I’m one of them). But we should also take some time to reflect on our past and on our journey. We can often get caught up in the busy-ness of being busy. When that happens we can get off-track and realize that our habits are no longer moving us towards our goal.

A personal trainer friend of mine became so focused on exercise that he neglected proper rest and recovery time. He would push himself to the point of injury (sprain, pulled muscle, stress fracture, etc…), then not allow proper time to heal before pushing himself again. He broke out of that habit when he realized that he had lost sight of his goal in the pursuit of the process. His goal was not to exercise, his goal was good physical health.

There is a young start-up company that I’ve been following on Twitter for quite a while now called Cirion Group. Here is a very simple tweet that they posted that made me stop and think:

“What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned this month?”

Even though I consider myself a lifelong student of personal growth, I didn’t have an answer to that question. That month I had read five books, listened to and attended several lectures. But that simple question stymied me and I told them as much. Here’s the rest of that exchange:

@ciriongroup To be honest, I’m a little disappointed I don’t have an answer to this off the top of my head…

@Matt_S_Law it’s an easy thing to overlook. It’s a great question to add to your calendar/reminder each month

The human creature is designed to achieve, the brain is designed as a goal-seeking mechanism, and we are happiest when we are in the process of fulfilling a worthwhile purpose. But it is easy to forget the “Why” of our activities when we get too focused on the “How.”

So I’m calling a brief time-out for everyone at the halfway point of this year to ask: How are your New Year’s resolutions going?

If you never made one, make one now.
If you haven’t started, then start now.
If you’ve kicked at it on occasion, make a definite commitment of time and energy towards achieving it now.
If you are that rare person that has been striving towards it non-stop since January 1st, then take a day off and ask yourself a few questions:

  • How is my progress? Am I seeing results or am I just doing a lot of activity that is not actually accomplishing anything?
  • How is my motivation? Am I still visualizing my goal on a daily basis? Is my daily activity drudgery or is it inspiration for me?
  • How is my life? Am I neglecting an important part of my life? My business, my family, my health?

Whatever your vision, goals and habit that you have or have not incorporated into your life prior to today, pause for a moment. Take some time to reflect. Take some time to replenish. Take some time to refocus. Do not lose sight of your vision amidst your daily activity; whether that is activity relevant to your goal or activity that is irrelevant to your goal.

So, one more time: How are your New Year’s resolutions going?


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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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Patience – Preparation – Prayer

Leadership 2011 040

At the beginning of the year I posted several posts on vision and my own visioneering project. You may remember I announced my vision right before reading the chapter on not announcing your vision prematurely. Predominantly because the early stage of your vision is when it is most susceptible to ridicule from your peers. Fortunately, none of my friends and family read my blog, so I was safe from that.

Remember, a vision requires patience. It is just important to remember that patience does not equate to standing by idly waiting for God to fulfill your vision. Proper patience involves preparation and prayer.

So I’ve changed my daily habits over the last few months in order to prepare myself. I’ve added several books by John C. Maxwell to my daily reading queue. John Maxwell is the world renowned expert in the field of leadership. When I donate money to charities, Maxwell’s Equip Ministries is one that I wholeheartedly support. Too often, charities waste money on overhead and expenses and not enough toward the cause they supposedly support. Several well-advertised charities employing C-list celebrities sometimes give less than 20 cents out of every dollar towards those starving children or abused puppies. Equip Ministries applies 100% of it’s donated funds toward supplying biblical resources and material to help train leaders worldwide. When he recruited his board of directors, he shared his vision, then told them that they were paying for all the operating expenses for the ministry. Not only do I incredibly respect John’s accomplishments, but I want to learn what he teaches. Because my vision to positively influence one million people is something he accomplishes literally on a monthly basis.

So I recently finished Talent is Never Enough (because to be honest, I think I skated through life relying more on talent than perseverance). Next on my list from John are Developing the Leader Within You and Developing the Leaders Around You. I never thought of myself as a leader in the past. However, one of John’s most repeated quotes is “Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.” If you want to influence people, you need to be a leader. I think I may have some natural talent in that regard, because most of the jobs I’ve had over the last ten years I’ve been promoted to a lead or management position quickly. But managing a coffee shop is orders of magnitude different from influencing a million people. So to elevate my game, I can’t just rely on talent. (see the strategic path I’m taking with my reading schedule). Also in the queue is Dare to Discipline Yourself by Dale E. Galloway, because I know me and I know I could use more discipline in my life.

So that’s some small changes in my reading habit designed to prepare me to be an influencer. I also plan to start looking for some more venues for public speaking, just because after reviewing my radio interview, I realized I say “uh” a lot more than I would have guessed.

And on the prayer front, I also made a small change before I do any writing for the day. Before I start, I say a short prayer. I ask for the right words to positively impact my readers. Then before I start writing on my subject I first write “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all good things will follow.” Because I want to make sure that my motives remain pure; And God plus me is a much better writer than just me.

Also, if anyone has a recommendation on a great book on the subject of self-discipline, please, shout it out.


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Look at me! Look at me! Look, over here! Look! Look!

distractionI talk frequently about setting your dream and vision in front of you. Make sure it is clearly written out, clearly imagined, clearly visible every day. A second important step is to eliminate distractions from your vision.

Distractions take your focus off of your vision and cause you to focus on something that is unimportant. Some distractions may be urgent, but they are rarely important. If they are not part of your long-term vision then they should be given about as much attention as a speed bump. Unfortunately some people live their lives by stopping their car every time they hit a speed bump. Then they get out of their car to yell at the speed bump. Then complain to their friends and family about how unfair the speed bump is. Then forget where they were going before they hit the speed bump.

Anyway, here are some distractions that can steal focus away from your vision:

Clutter. Okay, I’m guilty of this one. In my bedroom/office there are piles of stuff  that I don’t use often. I have drawers full of electrical cords that I don’t know what they are for (but which I can’t throw away because I might need them someday). I typically have stacks of papers, books, and unfolded clean laundry all over the place. Despite this, I am a firm believer that physical clutter transforms into mental clutter, and having a disorganized desk, room, or car translates into a disorganized mind in which your vision can be lost. I’d upload photos if I could find my camera….

Negative Influences. Some people are emotional sinkholes. The longer you can sustain a positive attitude, the easier it is for you to achieve in any area of life. Sometimes you need to surround yourself with people who replenish you, not people who deplete you. Take an emotional inventory sometime and determine which of your relationships are replenishing and which are depleting. Leadership guru John Maxwell says that the person you will become in the next five years will be determined by two things: the books you read and the people you associate with. Associate with people who share your vision or encourage your vision, not with small-minded people that would like to extinguish your light to make themselves shine brighter.

Habitual Activities. Some activities may relax you, and you may enjoy them, but they may take a lot of time away from your vision. Television is the first culprit that I always single out. I think most families would be closer if they would just kill their TVs. Internet games is new on my list of activities that will keep you from accomplishing anything of significance. Any time spent staring at a screen is usually time where your brain is virtually inactive (the one exception is reading highly informative and inspirational blogs…)

Overcoming the Past. There are two things that keep people from moving forward. One is past failures. Some people get slapped down once and never try again. The other is more insidious and that is past success. Some people try a few times, achieve moderate success, then sing their own praises to the detriment of any new success (Anybody remember Al Bundy from the hit show that I recommend nobody watch–Married With Children–where he always talks about the time he scored four touchdowns in one high school football game? Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Yes, you sound just like him when you talk about that one big moment of yours). The past is gone, the future is promised to no one, all you have is the present–so use it to move in the direction of your vision.

This is not an exhaustive list, but more a testimony of the major distractions in my life that I sometimes struggle with. Identify your own distractions and bad habits, then create a plan to cut them out of your life. What’s left behind is what’s truly important in your life.

What are your distractions? What would you be willing to eliminate from your life in order to live a more fulfilling life?


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Breathe Like It’s 1999

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I did something the other night that I’ve never done before. I went outside to get some fresh air. Now, I have been outside before. And I have also breathed air while I was outside. And while I have no direct scientific evidence to prove it, I’m sure a case could be made that the outside air was indeed fresher than the inside air. But this evening I actually went outside for the sole purpose of breathing.

Everyone has probably been told by some adult figure to go outside and get some fresh air. Especially my generation, since the personal computer became mainstream as I was growing up and nerdism became an epidemic.

But that was always advice I never took. Unless it became an order to get out of the house, in which case I sat outside pining for my Apple IIC, not getting any appreciation out of the air.

So what prompted this sudden desire to go outside and breathe? I just finished reading The Science of Being Well, by Wallace Wattles (who also wrote the Science of Getting Rich and The Science of Being Great). The more books I read, the more convinced I become that everything was already discovered thousands of years ago. For example, millions of people were so impressed by that book The Secret, since it was recommended by Oprah Winfrey (full disclosure: I’ve never read it) even though from what I understand it’s essentially the same ideas presented by Napolean Hill in his breakthrough book Think and Grow Rich (read it). Which in turn was mostly information covered by The Science of Getting Rich by Wattles in 1901.

Just like The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach was really a new version of The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason from 1926. For those of you that read my book, in the Foreword I cover the fact that I don’t have any new ideas.

But getting back on point, Wattle talks about the idea of exercise and how we shouldn’t exercise for the sake of exercise. One of the things that we should learn to appreciate and enjoy on a daily basis is breathing. Straighten your spine, put your shoulders back, lift your head and inhale. Learn to appreciate breathing for the sake of breathing. Let it become a habit throughout the course of your day to straighten up, breathe deeply, and let the oxygen replenish your body. This will benefit your posture, your circulation, your core muscles, your energy level and your general appreciation of all things air.

And this was from 1901, before aerobics and cardio classes. Of course yogis have been teaching the importance of breathing for thousands of years before this, so like I said, no new ideas…

Appreciate breathing. If you can’t appreciate breath, have a friend hold you underwater for a while. You’ll appreciate breath.

What other simple things can we learn to appreciate more that will benefit our health?


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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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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?