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How To Have More

How To Have More

Do you want more money, freedom, a new job, a new car, a home, or more stuff? I have come to realize that most people obsess over the same things: comfort and conveniences. We are exposed, on average, to 5,000 marketing messages per day! If we want more of anything, we must ignore these persistent and relentless distractions that seek our attention to get more of what they want from us. We must also learn to shut off our prehistoric brain that is hard-wired directly to our nervous and emotional centers. Wild animals have the natural instincts to eat, avoid being eaten, get all they can, and reproduce. Do they have the ability to set goals, control their urges, or manage their emotions? Of course not. You and I have the same primitive, fight-or-flight operating system running in the background at all times. To move away from seeking more and into delivering value, we must learn to use our reasoning brain (prefrontal cortex) instead of our prehistoric lizard brain. How can we do this?

First, accept that you have two operating systems continually battling to control your actions through your emotions.

The lizard brain will constantly and relentlessly pressure you to seek comfort and convenience. The rational brain will work together with the lizard brain to justify being lazy, greedy, and selfish. They are, for most of us, in continuous collusion. The beginning of increasing the value we deliver is understanding and accepting this battle within.

Second, always ask yourself why?

This is an effort to begin understanding your underlying motives. To begin taming the prehistoric brain, we must learn our motives and what we react to versus respond. The difference between reacting and responding is choice. Choosing a response often means that we have allowed the rational brain to consider the best options to ensure a desired outcome.

Third, think about your thinking. 

What is the main driver for how you respond or react? Do you get defensive because you were ignored growing up and are emotionally insecure? This step is all about understanding and self-discovery. Often, our need for validation and significance is driven by our insecurities that trigger our response to every challenge that arises in our lives.

It is essential to conceptually understand that we have two operating systems running the show. Change is most effective when we know what we are changing. If we desire to make better choices, we must understand the rationalization of our decisions. In other words, we need to understand the motives and underlying emotions directing our decision. Like it or not, every decision we make is emotionally driven and intellectually rationalized.

Increase your value to the marketplace.

Let’s conceptualize our value as being a ladder. Each rung of the ladder represents an increase in our value to the marketplace. Remember that the market only rewards value (no points for showing up). It is possible to skip a rung, but the usual progression is one rung at a time. You know what is cool about the ladder? It never ends. There is no top and there is always another rung. The infinite ladder is so exciting because it means there is no limit to the value you can deliver. Another cool thing about the ladder is that each rung gets easier to reach the higher you go. The bottom of the ladder is the most difficult to climb. Why is that so? The gravity of being average. It is likely that you have spent the majority of your life in this extraordinary world being average. The pull toward average makes it very difficult to pull yourself up onto the next rung above average. Each rung requires a new level of mastery to reach.

Consider some of the most successful or impactful people in history, including Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds like them. Each of these people had tremendous success in their area of focus because they obsessed over the details, identified what mattered, and connected the dots to ensure the desired outcome.

Increase your capacity to deliver value.

How many decks of cards could you memorize in order? Dave Fanow had an average memory before he began to increase its capacity. Early in his life, Dave was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and dyslexia. His desire to overcome challenges motivated him to begin working on his memory. He now holds the Guinness World Record for most decks of cards memorized in a single sighting (59). How did he do it? He did it the same way that every person does it: practice. The way we increase our capacity is through consistent practice. Instead of just studying what it takes to improve his memory, Dave did the work by using his memory.

There are two types of learning: active and passive. Studying by listening or reading has only a 15% effectiveness rating when it comes to comprehension. In other words, we only retain 15% of what we put into our brains. Listening and reading are passive learning activities. Students that practice what they have learned retain up to 75% of what they have been taught. Wow! Increasing our capacity is only possible through consistent practice. The next level takes place when we can begin teaching others. When we teach others, we can retain 90% of the learning! Learn, apply, and teach. If you want to elevate the value you bring to the market or even just to your family, share what you are learning. Teaching is so effective because it requires a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Knowing “how” is one thing but explaining “why” is whole another level.

Cultivate your imagination and creativity.

Yes, it is possible to improve your imagination and creativity by practicing every day and giving yourself grace. The best strategy for cultivating creativity is intentionally taking the time to write, speak, think, paint, and improvise every single day. My writing began as an everyday journaling practice. Another strategy for cultivating your imagination and creativity is to study creative people. You will discover that there is no magic to creative genius because those that have it have likely been practicing it their entire lives. Trial and error hone our skills. The media would have us believe that the latest pop star was an overnight success or that the company that is changing how we do business came out of nowhere. Success in creative endeavors is never immediate. It took countless hours of effort to build the skill of creative genius. There are few exceptions to the rule. When you study how others succeeded in developing their abilities, you can begin to apply techniques they practiced to cultivate their imagination.

Achieving mastery is only possible when you decide to stop seeking comfort, convenience, and money; and start focusing on growing your capacity and ability to deliver value in the service of others.

Understand the battle that is continuously taking place in your mind. The higher self and primitive self are always at odds. Your role is to make it easier for the higher self to win more often. Grab the first rung on the ladder that is labeled the “rung of responsibility.” Nothing can happen until you grab that first rung. You will need to grow your ability to pay attention to detail and connect the dots between the details that will lead to the desired outcome. Delivering more value requires that we build our capacity through the use of active learning practices. Take it in and share it to grow your capacity in providing value as a subject matter expert. Lastly, expand your imagination and creativity by implementing a regular practice of thinking freely and building ideas. If you haven’t achieved a level of mastery in your craft, you don’t lack capacity. You might just be losing the battle with your primitive brain. Remember that the market only rewards value, so if you want more, you must increase the value you deliver to the world.

What To Do When The World Is Melting Down

What To Do When The World Is Melting Down

aerial view of a highway

We are in a global test. The test is triggered by something we can’t see with the naked eye. Despite its size, it has created a worldwide panic. I am reminded of the quote, “Every man for himself said the elephant as he danced among the chickens.”

Our world is emotionally fragile and ridiculously self-centered. We assume the worst and freak out, unable to summon the courage to maintain poise.

What to do when the world melts down?

Be Grateful

If you were dead, experiencing life would not be an option. C.S. Lewis said, “Life is a challenge. What are the alternatives?” Be thankful that you have choices and don’t live in a completely propaganda-driven society. Hopefully, you have invested in building meaningful relationships and a support system that will encourage you to believe in a better future.

Stay Positive

Negative thinking will take you down a rabbit hole that is difficult to climb out of. Okay, sometimes things suck, but we must believe in a better tomorrow. The Marines have a saying – “Embrace the suck.” How can we appreciate the good times without the bad? Challenges are opportunities to grow our skills, think through options, make tough decisions, and, most importantly, take action.

Keep Moving

If things go wrong, most people quit. Do you know why? Because quitting is easy. We are wired to conserve energy, so if people are unable to visualize the return on their energy, they quit. We must keep moving forward. Yes, it is hard, and yes, it could take a while, but when things turn around, you will be way ahead of your peers. The rewards of continuing to move forward come first to those that stay in the game.

Consider the Source

When you take in news and information, consider the source. The news media is not out to inform you. The news is about creating fear so that you stay tuned in. Today, there are many ways to consume information. Follow the experts, listen to understand versus confirming your bias. We are naturally predisposed to hearing what we want and rejecting information not consistent with our beliefs. Confirmation bias is ignorance disguised as staying informed. Get your information only from experts, ideally with diverse backgrounds.

Have Perspective

Are you going to die? Seriously, if you are not going to die, why go into hysterics? Don’t panic. Work to protect those most vulnerable. What can you do to protect the people in your life that are most at risk? My intention is certainly not to trivialize a global pandemic but to offer perspective.

Focus on What You Can Control

If you can’t influence it, don’t worry about it. We paralyze ourselves when we obsess over things that are out of our control. For example, we can’t control what the government does, but we can control our response. Remember that the reality is we only control four things:
-Attitude: Yep, always on you.
-Input: What are you feeding your brain/mind?
-Response: You choose a response to every stimulus.
-Effort: How hard are you going to try?

Stay Calm

Breathe through your nose and into your diaphragm to calm your central nervous system. Remember the two questions that should be asked in every major decision:
-What is my desired outcome?
-What is the right thing to do?
If the answers to these questions are not in alignment, you will suffer. Guilt, remorse, anxiety, and other emotional distress will follow. Many people are suffering daily because they acted when the answers to those questions we not in alignment. Years later, they still suffer. The bottom line is that staying calm and maintaining an informed perspective is the best strategy for preserving your sanity.

 

Every meltdown and tragedy is an opportunity for growth. Will you panic? Will you consume every new piece of news to justify your fear and panic? The choice is yours. Embrace the chaos as an opportunity to practice steadying your nerves. The world is in a panic, but you realize that panic has zero return. Yes, be concerned, but let the concern be a catalyst for deliberate action. You are alive, so be grateful. You live in a society that allows you to choose your path so long as it harms nobody else. Believe in a better future. My mentor, Jim Rohn said, “You have got to think summer all winter.” Negativity is misery. Get up and do something. Don’t cower. People with weak minds are chewed up and spit out by meltdowns.

Stay informed but only from experts. The CDC has relevant information that will be relatively unbiased. However, they will still have a bias toward a desired outcome. All communication has a motive, and unfortunately, the news only wants you to consume more. They love a good meltdown.

Are you going to die, or just suffer a little? If you have the right mindset, suffering will make you better. Remember that the only way to build muscle is by stressing it. Build your mental muscle, and you will grow your ability to serve your family and community. If you can’t control something, stop worrying about it. You can only affect that which is in your circle of influence. Save your calories for action. Still your mind. Ready yourself for smart action.

Speak the Truth

Speak the Truth

two people walking side by side in daytime

As parents, we expect the truth from our children. As a spouse, we expect the truth from our partner. If we are part of an organization, we expect the truth from our peers or management. When things happen that are not fully explained, doubt creeps in. Trust begins to break down. The more time that passes, the more difficult it becomes to fully trust again. 

We expect the truth from every person unless we think it will be unpleasant. We say we want the truth and become angry when it does not meet our expectations. At times, there are few things more painful than accepting reality. We hear the truth and explode with anger or tears. What we put into the world is what we get back! If you want the truth, you must regulate your response. This does not mean that when your child admits to stealing or smoking, you passively accept their actions. It is wise, however, to celebrate the truth. The truth is rooted in trust. If your child, spouse, or friend trusts that you will be just and civil in your response, they will be more likely to speak the truth.

There are a few strategies that you can take to help encourage others to speak the truth in your presence.

Be Transparent

This is where we most often fall short. We tell some of the truth but leave out the portion that might have consequences or that others won’t want to hear. If you want the truth, you must speak the truth. There is another person you must be honest with if you expect the truth. The other person is you. There is nothing that can release the bonds of suffering like radical acceptance of the truth. We suffer from denial far more than we suffer from anything else.

Ask Questions

When someone comes to you with the truth, seek to understand their situation by asking questions.

What was going through their mind at the time of this decision?

What would have been an alternative response?

Any thoughts on how to resolve the situation?

Asking questions allows the person to work through the situation in their own mind and discover alternatives. It is also an opportunity to listen in an effort to understand what led them to the action they took. The major key to receiving the truth is through a sincere desire to understand. It is through understanding that we can instruct or coach. If disciplinary action is necessary due to the severity of the infraction, it will be easier for the other person to accept when they feel understood.

Regulate Your Response

Too often, we explode when our children come to us with the truth. We say things like “what were you thinking” or “why in the world would you do that.” We question their intelligence and break them down. Why would they tell you the truth? If you want to build a relationship of truth with others, regulate your response. Learn to manage your emotions and temper your response.

Manage Your Expectations 

Often the standards to which we hold others are higher than the standards to which we hold ourselves. It is only acceptable to hold others to high standards if we have clearly shown and instructed them on the standards expected. It comes back to grounding ourselves in reality. We expect people to read our minds. People will respond consistently with your expectations when you articulate and demonstrate those expectations.

Be honest with yourself first. Share the truth with everyone else if you want others to share the truth with you. Listen and ask questions to understand the situation and the other person’s perspective. We must lead by example and be honest in expressing our expectations of others. The more truthful we are with others about our reality, the more likely they will be to share their reality with us.

Serve

Serve

plant on a ledge by a window in daytime

My father battled depression for many years. This drug, that drug, this therapy, and that therapy. He struggled as his enthusiasm toward life became non-existent. He was excited about nothing. The medication seemed to flat line his emotions. We would be planning a fishing trip, and he would be apathetic. Fishing is a passion for him, but not while medicated. Eventually, he was off the meds but still having ups and downs. Then something remarkable happened. His hobby of making pen holders out of mesquite wood blossomed into a service. He began to give pen holders that he had made to servicemen and women. First, it was one here and one there. Over time, it has grown to hundreds each month. He goes to the VA each week to express his gratitude to our veterans and present them with a pen holder. He began to serve others. His transition from depression to gratitude has resulted in relief from the depression that haunted him for years. His regular expression of gratitude toward others lifted his spirits. It gives him purpose. It moved him away from the obsession with his mood. He went from constantly obsessing over himself to serving others.

The greatest gift of serving can be the mental reward the giver receives.

There are some very real psychological benefits to giving. The release of endorphins triggers good feelings throughout your whole body. This helps a person to realize a sense of satisfaction. Giving helps us to be grateful for what we have and our circumstances. As was the case for my father, it diverts attention away from our problems. The endorphins offset the detrimental chemicals released when we are stressed and depressed. Do you want to live longer? Serve more! Studies have proven that people who serve more, live longer. The fact is, altruism or altruistic behavior has significant benefits to both parties. How to give more? You don’t have to give away everything you own. You don’t have to give away anything. To receive the benefits of giving, all you need to do is begin expressing your gratitude for others and your current situation. If you live in America, you have every reason to be grateful. Sure, things might not be going your way at the moment, but the moment you acknowledge the advantage afforded to you in America, your excuses fade. Be grateful for your friends and family. Be thankful for your work. Thank everyone that serves you, from your child’s teacher to the mail person. Having an attitude of gratitude triggers all the benefits of giving, and it won’t cost you a dime. I understand it might be easier to bad-mouth the system, your boss, the government, etc., but you are slowly poisoning yourself. Negativity will physically and mentally infect you. Science has again proven that people with a generally positive outlook live longer and live happier, more fulfilling lives.

My father began giving, and the cloud of depression began to evaporate.

He started to express his gratitude daily to our veterans for their service, and his outlook became brighter. He gained even more momentum when he stopped watching the news. He did not set out to lift his cloud of depression by serving others, but the result was that it has. So be a light for others, and the darkness won’t have a chance.

I Quit

I Quit

person walking away in the snow

Recently, I quit a professional group that I had been a part of for several years. In this group, I had built close relationships with fellow members. The perceived social pressure to continue with this group can be significant. I dreaded the decision. What would my group mates think about me quitting? I was concerned about how the conversation would go. I avoided the decision for several months even though I knew it was the right thing to do, given my availability. Finally, I quit. It turns out nobody gave it a second thought except for me. Their lack of shock doesn’t mean they don’t care that I won’t be with them, but I had built it up in my head as though it would. It is truly a microcosm of life itself. We think everyone is watching us, and we think that they will scrutinize our decisions to serve our own lives. The truth is, nobody cares but us. No one is as invested in your choices as you. It is not as though they don’t care, but their concerns are not our concerns. I realize this is not always the case because, at times, other people are impacted by our decisions to quit. However, if we look at the social choices we make, the vast majority of them have little to no impact on others. We live in our heads and only think our thoughts, and most of us project those thoughts onto others. “They must think just as highly of me as I do and therefore, will be devastated by my decision to quit.” The reality is, they haven’t been thinking much about you because they are too busy thinking of themselves.

How do I know when it is time to quit? Here is my process for making that call:

List your commitments.

Write out all of your commitments, outside of your immediate family. Document the commitment, the weekly time required for each, and (if applicable) the estimated end date.
Here is an example:
Work – 50 hours/week
Little league coaching – 12 hours/week – through 10/1/2020
Toastmasters – 2 hours/week – through 6/1/2020
Life group – 1 hour/week
Home-brewing – 2 hours/week
Run club – 4 hours/week

Invest your time wisely.

Are any of these commitments not serving your greater purpose?
For each commitment, write a few sentences defending why you should continue and then write a few sentences about why you should quit. The most compelling argument wins. This approach might seem like a shallow, self-absorbed approach, but in reality, our time is limited, so investing our time wisely should be a priority for us. Don’t allow guilt to keep you trapped in a situation that is not serving your greater purpose. Society will guilt you into it, and I am asking you to be brave and pivot if it is not working.

Plan your exit.

We should always honor our commitments, and I would never advocate the contrary. Our commitments must align with our mission and vision of the future. When you determine it is appropriate to de-commit, evaluate the circumstances and, if necessary, develop a strategy that maintains your integrity and ideally leaves the situation in a better condition as a result.

Don’t over commit.

Sometimes we declutter and then proceed to fill our calendar back up. Doing this is counterproductive, assuming your goal is to focus more on your vital priorities.

Society would have us believe that quitting is disgraceful, but the opposite is true if it means a better quality of life for you. If you are overloaded and feeling overwhelmed, you owe it to yourself, your family, and others that you have committed to, to assess, prioritize, and quit when necessary.

Day By Day

Day By Day

calendar on a desk

Where does the time go? Do you know? It is as though it never happened, but in the reflection of my calendar, I see that it did. When I get my vacation home, I will be content. When I get my new job, I will be happy. I will enjoy the day when I have what I want. The narrative for most of us is always focused on tomorrow. We live in anticipation of what is to come instead of enjoying this day. Each day lived waiting on the next. What a waste!

I will be the first to admit this is how I have been living. Where have I been? Everywhere but here. I anticipate my vacations and then dread going back to work (this is a stretch because I love my work), but can you relate? What is the continuous pull to the future that disengages us from the present? We lack a deadline. In life, we tend to focus on what will be and fail to realize what is. Today is the sum of all the days that came before it.

We should be using our past as a springboard into the future rather than a ball and chain that we drag into each day.

Our past should serve our better future, but what about today? Did I do my best work today? Did I show up ready to serve today? Stop waiting until tomorrow. I have been struggling with this concept lately and am excited to show some ideas about doing your best work today! The first idea is to set a deadline and work through to the deadline. Want to win a marathon or improve your health? Set a deadline. Want to change jobs? Give yourself a deadline. Want to spend more time w/ your family? Decide on a deadline. Want to master a skill? By what date? Simple, right?

Procrastination in doing the things we desire to do is misery, pure misery. The resistance builds as we waste the day. Tomorrow I will make an effort. More depression, frustration & disappointment emerge from our lack of ability to make the most of each day than any other problems we encounter. Typically, when issues arise, we take action. Action with purpose brings us to life. Day to day, most of us don’t have significant issues we need to resolve. We lack a stimulus beyond a faint desire. So the day passes without intentional effort. Days compound just like interest. Today invested intentionally will make for a better tomorrow. Life is built day by day.

Here are some more ideas to help you live your best day, today:

Be intentional.

Living an intentional life requires that we practice being intentional. How will you show up every day?

Be present.

When you are at work, be at work. When you are with your family, be with your family. Your best work is done when you are present with the work. Eliminate distractions and create space. Your work and your relationships need your attention. It is okay to not immediately respond to messages from somewhere rather than where you are. Where you are is where you need to be.

Have a Plan.

Sounds contrary to the underlying premise of this article, but planning our day will help ensure we make the most of it. Without a plan, we float from one thing to the next without meaningful work getting done. If you have goals, you will have no chance of realizing then if you have not made an effort. Each day, do something that will progress you toward your goals.

Do good work.

Stop doing mediocre work just to check the box. Everything affects every else in our lives. I learned this lesson from my mentor, Jim Rohn. Deep down, you know if you are doing good work. Doing work less than what you are capable of will lead to a feeling of guilt. Guilt will lead to frustration, bitterness, cynicism, or depression. We are here to live our full potential, and when we don’t, it weighs us down.

Be grateful.

Study after study has proven that gratitude is the antidote to our selfish, narcissistic misery. Am I being a bit harsh? Well, we have a selfie-obsessed individualistic culture that is easily offended by any person or institution not aligned with their belief system. The way out of our ego-driven existence is acknowledging others and their value. Be grateful every day for your life because someone out there will take their last breath today. Every day others expire while we are blessed to live. You may not have all that you desire, but remember that the breath you are taking is the envy of the person that has no more.

Life is built day by day. Invest each day into the next by living with intention. Be present with your work and the people that surround you. If you are not happy with your life invest time each day in changing it. You are not a tree. You see, trees don’t have a choice, but you do. What a gift! Be intentional, be grateful, have a plan, do good work, and be grateful for the breath you just took.