15 Minutes

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


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15 Minutes of Non-Stop Free-Writing

I’m sure everyone that has ever taken a writing course has done this exercise before. Just write for X amount of time and do not stop. Free-writing–or stream of consciousness writing–is designed to get you to start writing, stop thinking through all your filters and just flow.

Like I tell a lot of people: “You can’t think your way out of a writing block; you must write your way out of a thinking block.” ~John Rogers

So, here goes:

Free writing – I’m blank – a blank slate. I have no ideas at the moment, so I am going through the mechanical motions of writing – my mind is tuning with my hand. This is the same process I used when writing my first book – the thoughts direct the hand, I am focusing on the end product – I am generating words – this is my goal – to write. Not to write well, not to inspire, not to become the best in the world. To write, to practice, to prepare, eventually inspiration will come, eventually I will sift through enough dirt and soil to find gold and diamonds – this though, this is just exercise. This is my cardio routine, this is me going through the motions – of successfully filling this page with words I will not publish – this is me revving my creative engine at full tilt – pushing towards the red zone – making a lot of noise and smoke and fire and generating sound and fury and excitement. This is all part of the process. Every day is not scoring a homerun or winning a Pulitzer prize – every day is not Superbowls and marathons. But every day is important. Every day is an opportunity to work on basics. Every day is an opportunity to exercise, to practice, to stretch your legs, stretch your mind, go through the routines that will eventually refine you into a winner. Shake off the cobwebs and put yourself through the motions, overcome inertia, defeat lethargy and defeatism. Don’t try to be great, just be willing to prepare each day for greatness.

So, that was a fun little diversion. I think faster than I write, so I manage to come up with cogent sentences, although the dash becomes my universal punctuation mark while free-writing.

How do you get yourself out of a productivity slump?

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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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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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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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Never Change, Stay Insane

Thomas Watson said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.” We as humans do stuff. When we do stuff, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But no matter the outcome, we can always benefit from it. When we succeed at the task at hand we receive whatever benefit we hoped to get from that task: the contract, the sale, the date. When we fail at it, we have an opportunity to learn.

Notice though, that I didn’t say we learn from failure, just that we have the opportunity to learn from it. There is nothing inherently great about failing.

But when you have a healthy attitude about failing, it is not heartbreaking, it does not lower your own sense of worth, it does not devalue you as a person. As long as you are trying and failing, you are growing. And as long as you are growing, you are becoming greater. You are adding value to yourself as a person.

When you fail at something, and life is trying to teach you a lesson, just remember this: A lesson will be repeated until it is learned. Fail once, maybe you can blame it on chance. Fail a second time, maybe the odds just weren’t with you. Fail one thousand consecutive times, you may want to consider changing something. Always keep an eye out for the lesson so that life doesn’t have to keep beating you with that stick to get your attention.

Many people know about the tens of thousands of failed experiments that Thomas Edison went through in the process of inventing the electric light bulb. And, many people have heard about history’s possibly most positive comment when asked if he was dejected or depressed: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Yes, he kept trying. But the key was that he kept trying different things.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So while persistence is admirable, without the willingness to learn and change, we are not exhibiting determination so much as lunacy.


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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?