More Energy And Bigger Results

Want More Energy And Bigger Results? Stop Asking “HOW” And Start Asking “WHO”

“Focus on WHO instead of HOW” — Dean Jackson

There’s a famous story of Edwin C. Barnes, who in 1905 had no money or expertise. However, he was an ardent fan of the inventor, Thomas Edison.

Barnes wanted to become business partners with Edison. He knew that if he became partners with Edison, there would be no limits on what he could accomplish. He took a freight train to New Jersey and walked straight to the Edison Laboratory.

He was wearing musty and scrappy clothes and told Edison he wanted to go into business with him. Edison was impressed by the boldness and made Barnes a floor sweeper.

During the next few years, Barnes did far more than expected of him for little pay. He also paid close attention to Edison, getting a sense of how he thought and what his goals were.

After years of working on his dictating machine — what later became known as the Ediphone that recorded “voice letters” on a wax cylinder — Edison wanted to commercialize it. He loved the invention but none of his staff saw much marketability in it.

Barnes, however, thought the machine was brilliant and saw a huge potential market. He made a marketing plan for how he intended to sell the machines throughout America and shared the plan to Edison. He sought payment only on the success he created himself.

Edison liked what he saw and accepted Barnes’ proposal. Within a short period of time, Barnes had sold thousands of machines and even had to create his own company to handle the demand. While things were growing dramatically, Barnes became known for hiring great people to help him market and distribute Edison’s machine. He didn’t see himself as a boss, but more of a coach and a partner to all of his employees.

Barnes quickly became a millionaire, which back then meant a lot more than it means now. He developed a unique collaboration and partnership with Thomas Edison that became a long-term and highly lucrative relationship.

Barnes didn’t have a plan.

Instead, he had a person.

He had someone he wanted to work with and help.

He didn’t have a HOW. Barnes had a WHO.


Don’t Ask HOW

When most people have goals, they immediately begin thinking about HOW. Billionaires immediately begin thinking about WHO.

The public school-system does not teach people to become WHO-thinkers and collaborators. Instead, the school system teaches people how to become HOW-thinkers, equipped with a seemingly endless amount of generalized skillsets.

Rather than looking for OTHERS to work with, kids are taught to compete against others and look for right answers. There is basically zero training on developing mentorships, collaborations, partnerships, teamwork, and leadership. Even as a PhD student, I’ve been surprised how generalized my education has been. Rather than working with specific WHO’s, my whole education has been a non-stop flow of HOW’s.

Dan Sullivan is the founder of Strategic Coach and has coached more successful entrepreneurs than anyone alive. According to Sullivan, when a person shifts from HOW to WHO, their goals immediately become national or global. Their thinking expands at least 10 to 100 times bigger, because they aren’t the one figuring out the HOW. Someone else already has that taken care of.

According to Sullivan, the entrepreneurs who want to reach 100X or bigger influence and income realize they must collaborate with their competition. The best collaborations are when a idea-generator teams up with a distributor of ideas. This is what happened with Edison and Barnes. Edison had the idea and Barnes took the idea to the masses.

Becoming A WHO-Thinker

“Your network is your net worth.” — Tim Sanders

Most people’s goals are based on HOW. According to Dan Sullivan, thinking about the HOW is daunting and leads to procrastination. Instead of asking HOW, a much better question is WHO.

WHO do you want to learn from?

WHO is already doing what you want to be doing?

WHO is where you want to be?

WHO fascinates and/or inspires you?

WHO do you want to collaborate with?

WHO do you want to help? According to bestselling author Jeff Goins, “Success isn’t about who you know. Success is about who you help.”

There is a clear transition that people make as their vision for themselves advances. They stop thinking in terms of “I do this.” Instead, they shift to either “They do this” or “We do this.”

“They do this” is where you begin thinking bigger about yourself and your time. You realize that when you’re operating in your super-power, your time can actually be worth a lot of money. Therefore, you begin outsourcing and delegating the stuff you dislike about your work to other people and focus only on that which you love. Said YouTuber Casey Neistat, “What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.”

It may seem scary to begin hiring or outsourcing before you feel ready. But the moment you begin doing it, you’ll never look back. The extra time and also the increased rate of happiness and productivity will more than 10X for you, justifying the cost.

“We do this” is a special place held for only those collaborations that make absolute sense to you. This is where you want to start thinking really big about the WHO’s you want into you life. This is what Dan Sullivan was talking about when he said you want to collaborate with your “competition.”

And by the way, competition doesn’t exist for people who know who they are. Competition doesn’t exist for people who trust themselves enough to know they can create continual Blue Ocean’s for themselves, regardless of the situation.

Competition doesn’t exist for people who are abundant WHO-thinkers, because rather than trying to steal the whole pie, abundant WHO-thinkers recognize that:

  • The pie doesn’t belong to them, but to the Universe
  • The pie is not finite, but infinite
  • Nor is the “game” finite, but infinite
  • The more of the pie you can give away, the bigger it gets for you
  • Relationships are the most important currency in the world
  • It’s better to give the piece of pie on your plate to the right person and you’ll quickly get plates back with even bigger pieces

Give Your Piece Away To The Right Person (Even If It’s Your Favorite Flavor)

“Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.” — Joe Polish

Regarding the last point in the bullet above, I recently had the opportunity to co-author a book with one of the SHARKS from the TV show Shark Tank, Kevin Harrington. Several months ago, Kevin’s CEO, Mark Timm, heard me give a talk at a mastermind and felt good about me. He didn’t know what we would do together, but felt like something important was going to happen.

During my first meeting with Mark, I told him the only thing that made sense for me was co-authoring a book with Kevin. I’d been looking for opportunities to co-author books with people at far different stages in their life and career than I’m at.

Within a few days, I got a text message from Mark, “Kevin’s onboard. He loves the idea!”

For the next two months, I worked back-and-forth with my agent on a book proposal. Then, something deep inside me began to feel wrong, like I wasn’t the guy for this job. But at the same time, I knew this was potentially a career-altering opportunity.

In the midst of all of this, I heard back from Dan Sullivan, my dream mentor and the founder of Strategic Coach that he’d also like to co-author a major book with me.

According to Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek:

“The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.”

“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.”

“Remember — boredom is the enemy, not some abstract ‘failure.’”

I realized that, although a golden opportunity, I wasn’t as excited about the Kevin Harrington book. It had becoming a complex and messy situation. But even more, I just felt like something was amiss. I ended-up getting on the phone with Mark to discuss why the project was beginning to stall when it had so much momentum. I began to explain why the situation was getting complex to me and then the idea hit me, “Mark, you should be the co-author of this book!”

I heard nothing for 10 seconds.

“You know what,” he said, “This feels really right. But who would write it? Would you still write the book? I want you to continue being involved on this project.”

“No,” I told him, “I have someone way better at writing than me who can take care of this for you.”

I ended-up linking them with a friend who has a company that specializes in writing books exactly like this. The connection worked-out perfectly. I was able to make the pie a lot bigger for Mark and Kevin. I didn’t need to eat that particular pie with them. I didn’t need to hold that opportunity tightly from a scarcity perspective. I gave that piece away. And now my relationship with them will last long-beyond this one project anyways. This was the right way to go for this project. Mark was the right name on that book. I wasn’t going to get in the way of that.

Billionaire Richard Branson said, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” When you have an abundance mentality, and your focus is on giving more than taking, you realize that endless buses are coming filled with endless pieces of pie.

When you operate from abundance, you develop powerful relationships with powerful people and you never run out of opportunities in “The Gig Economy” of which we are now a part. Operating from abundance means you’re humble, people trust and like you, and you’re a master of your craft. When this is the case, you will never run out of gigs in the gig economy.

Never forget the important words of Jim Collins from Good To Great when he said, “It takes discipline to say ‘No, thank you” to big opportunities. That fact that something is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is irrelevant if it doesn’t fit.”

“Stay Scrappy” (Words Of Wisdom From A Very Wise And Humble Man)

Bestselling author Jeff Goins has some really important stuff to say about saying “No” to the wrong opportunities.

According to Jeff there’s a huge difference between people who try to look sophisticated and people who remain scrappy. As he said:

“Sophisticated” people are highly concerned about their image. They care about accolades, recognition, and appearance. In reality, these people look better than they actually are. Sophisticated people really care what others think and tend to compare and compete. They don’t have a sense of their own work and are willing to do whatever has worked for others.

Conversely, scrappy people are far more concerned about the work. They let their work speak for itself. These people are better than they look. Scrappy people stay in their lane. They’re confident in who they are and don’t compare themselves to others.

We live in an age where people really really want to look sophisticated. I’ve seen this so many times. A writer gets their first couple thousand email subscribers and all-of-a-sudden they are now the expert selling courses on the subject. And of course, they are taking all of the credit for their own success.

The words of entrepreneur and strategist, Michael Fishman are instructive:

“Self-made is an illusion. There are many people who played divine roles in you having the life that you have today. Be sure to let them know how grateful you are.”

In the book Give and Take, Adam Grant explained that successful people GIVE others credit while unsuccessful people TAKE the credit. Who wants to have a relationship with someone who takes all the credit? Who wants to have a relationship with someone who isn’t appreciate and grateful and giving?

Those seeking sophistication either wanted fame and notoriety in the first place or they have completely forgotten WHY they were doing their work. Either way is a short-term approach to life and a death-sentence for developing long-term and important relationships.

Create A List Of “Dream Mentors”

When the WHY is strong enough, you’ll figure out WHO!

When the WHO is exciting enough, you’ll figure out HOW!

—Benjamin Hardy’s adaptation of the quote by Bill Walsh

In the book, The Third Door, Alex Banayan tells the story of how he met and learned from people like Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, and others.

Alex was clearly a WHO-thinker. Rather than deciding specifically what he wanted to do, instead he thought of WHO he wanted to learn from. Once he decided WHO, then he began getting very creative about HOW he would connect with those people.

Alex was particularly inspired by Elliot Bisnow, the founder of Summit & co-owner of Powder Mountain Resort in Eden, Utah. Alex wrote down on a piece of paper:

DREAM MENTORS:

He listed Elliot Bisnow and spent the next several hours composing an email to Elliot. He said exactly what he needed to say in that email and got a meeting, which turned into a mentorship.

In their first interview, Elliot gave Alex some “ground-rules” for developing powerful relationships with people:

  1. Never use your phone in a meeting. It “makes you look like a chump.” The more digital the world gets, the more impressive it is to use a pen. And it’s also just rude to be on your phone.
  2. Act like you belong. Walk into a room like you’ve been there before. Don’t gawk over celebrities. Be cool. Be calm. Never ever ask someone for a picture. If you want to be treated like a peer, you need to act like one. Fans ask for pictures; peers shake hands.
  3. Mystery makes history. When you’re doing amazing stuff, don’t post it on Facebook. No one actually changing the world posts everything they do online. Keep people guessing what you’re up to. Plus, the people you’re going to impress by posting stuff online are not the people you should care about impressing.
  4. Never, ever, go back on your word. If I tell you something in confidence, you need to be a vault. What goes in does not come out. This goes with your relationships with anyone from this day forward. If you act like a vault, people will treat you like a vault. It will take years to build your reputation but seconds to ruin it.
  5. Adventures only happen to the adventurous.

Who Are Your Dream Mentors?

Who are your dream mentors?

Who are the people who are WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?

Who are the people who fascinate and inspire you?

Who are the people you want to learn from?

Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network and arguably the most connected man in business, has a list of “rules” that he expects of those whom he interacts with. He calls it his “Magic Rapport Formula.” The principles of his formula are:

  • Focus on how you will help them reduce their suffering
  • Invest time, money, and energy on relationships
  • Be the type of person they would always answer the phone for
  • Be useful, grateful, and valuable
  • Treat others how you would love to be treated
  • Avoid formalities, be fun and memorable, not boring
  • Appreciate people
  • Give value on the spot
  • Get as close to in-person as you can

If you combine Elliot Bisnow’s rules with Joe Polish’s formula, you have a potent cocktail for developing relationships and mentorships with just about anyone.

You don’t need to be the best in the world at what you do. You simply need to get the job done. You need to be able to help your DREAM MENTOR in a powerful and compelling way. Remember Edwin Barnes from the beginning of this article? He didn’t have much by way of expertise. He just had a definite desire to work for Edison.

Wait, no. He wanted more than just to work for Edison. He wanted to be Edison’s parter. He wanted to collaborate with Edison. And of course, he did. It took a little time, but he built rapport and then seized a powerful moment by making it all about Edison’s success and goals.

A Fast And Powerful Way To Get Noticed

Being mentored by your heroes is one thing. But collaborating with your heroes is something entirely different. Sure, shooting emails back and forth, or even getting an interview with famous people is cool.

But developing an actual partnership with a DREAM MENTOR will require that you have something very powerful to bring to the table.

Barnes brought intense enthusiasm and then used that to take Edison’s ideas out into the world. Barnes was what Jeff Goins’ would call “scrappy.” He just wanted to do the work. He got better and better and better at what he did.

If you already have a pre-existing capability, all the better. As Dan Sullivan has explained, the best collaborations are when a creator and distributor come together to take both where neither could go on their own.

WHO is someone you want to partner with?

DREAM BIG HERE! Think really really big.

WHO do you want to learn from?

WHY this person?

Once you have the answer to those two questions, all you need to do is get to work. As Bill Walsh wisely said, “When the why is strong enough you’ll figure out how!”

The HOW will only take care of itself when you have the proper WHO and WHY in place.

The WHO is the first question you need to answer. The WHY must be powerful for selecting that particular person.

Write it down on paper.

Write down WHO you want to work with.

Write down WHY you want to learn from and/or work with them.

Then, and only then, begin writing down HOW you plan to develop the connection. That connection should be built on the basis of service to their goals. In most cases, you’re better-off doing more front-end work than Barnes did for Edison. Although sometimes your spirit and enthusiasm may be enough, in today’s hyper-connected world, people in high places are getting more requests than they know what to do with.

You need to make yourself stick out. If you approach them AFTER:

  • you’ve already been supporting their work in powerful ways
  • it’s clear to them you know what you’re talking about
  • you’re proposing ways you can help them achieve their goals without much work or effort on their part

THEN you’ve got a really really good shot at developing incredible partnerships with your DREAM MENTORS.

Be So Good That You Can’t Be Ignored

“If a thing is done well, no one will ask how long it took to do it, but only who did it.” — John Taylor

All of this is a lot easier if you already have developed expertise at something. Cal Newport explains the importance of being “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”

If you understand relationships and if you’re an abundant person… PLUS you’re already really really good at what you do, then it becomes easy to get mentored by and work with nearly anyone you want. If you have rare skills and abilities, you can use those skills abundantly to HELP the people you want to work with. Even more, you can also establish immediate credibility.

Jeff Goins is right about the difference between being “sophisticated” and “scrappy.” Yes you can work with just about anyone if you really want to. But WHY? Is it to make yourself look good? Is it to fuel your ego and pride?

Dan Sullivan says it only takes him a few minutes with a person for him to feel their core motivation, whether that be growth or greed.

If your focus is on growth, giving, and continuing to do the work you love, then partnering with DREAM MENTORS will only catapult you further. But beware of what Jeff Goins calls “The Dark Side Of Success.” It’s very easy to lose your way and forget your WHY when even a little bit of success comes your way.

And if you truly dedicate yourself to becoming SO GOOD YOU CAN’T BE IGNORED, you will become successful. Becoming successful isn’t rocket-science. It’s about serving a specific audience in a way that is highly useful. It’s about developing skills and using them to benefit others.

It’s never been easier to learn and develop skills. We have access to a global world with endless information and connection. We also have distribution channels that allow us to get our work and products viewed by millions of target audiences for either free or really cheap.

Developing mastery is easier than staying clear on your values and WHY after mastery has been developed. Follow Jeff Goins’ advice to stay scrappy no matter how “successful” you become. Always be better than you look. Stay humble and grateful in your relationships and people will love you.

Always make the pie bigger for people. And when you shift your focus from HOW to WHO, you’ll immediately begin thinking 10X or 100X bigger.

LIVING YOUR BEST STRESS FREE LIFE

how-to-let-go

 

Hey there, my friends.  How are you, today? Lately, our household has been extremely busy.  In the past month alone, we’ve been to Ohio twice, it’s an 8-9 hour trip one way. This usually becomes at least a two to three day trip.  I love to travel, but needless to say, these were not really pleasure trips.  In an earlier post, I told you I would soon be an empty-nester.  Well, the truth is, before one can become an empty-nester, there is work to be done. As a homeschooler, there are exams that a child still must complete; there are documents that must be sent to the school district and to the college.  There are graduation ceremonies and parties that must be planned. The list goes on and on and that’s just for one child. When I sit for a moment, I feel guilty because there is still so much that needs my attention.  All the empty-nesters out there, how did you handle this busy period? Eccl 3 1A sweet friend and I were talking about God’s wonderful creation week. In Genesis 2:2, the Bible says that God ‘rested’ from all His work.  We know it was not a necessary or actual sleep rest because Psalm 121:4 tells us that our ‘God does not slumber or sleep’.   Praise the Lord! I do need His attention every minute of every day.  I must be His most exhausting child.  But that’s okay, because He loves me.  Of course, He ‘rested’ to set an example for us, because He knows we are prone to work this frail body too hard, sometimes even to a literal death.  I knew it was time to stop and take a deep breath, when I began to forget what day of the week it was.  Remember this verse, Matthew 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  A day has only 24 hours for a good reason.  Can you imagine what we can conjure, if our day had 30 or more hours? I am convinced we would have much shorter life span!  Praise the Lord for a 24 hour day! I guess our God is pretty smart, huh!  Matthew 6 26 27My favorite down-time activities are;

  1. Read my Bible and talk (out loud) to God
  2. Listen to my favorite music while painting my nails (Mandisa, Hollyn, Natalie Grant and Blanca are a few of my favorites).  My husband says I’m partial to women singers, I wonder where he got that idea from?
  3. Go for a leisure walk. Thankfully my city is literally surrounded by lakes, there are some amazing views out there
  4. Go running/jogging while listening to my favorite music (probably louder than I should, because I don’t want to hear the sound of my feet hitting the pavement). My favorite singers are listed above.
  5. Read a book while sipping white chocolate Peppermint tea from Teavana. It’s actually a Christmas tea, but who cares? It is the perfect blend of chocolate and fruit!

I found myself asking the Lord to forgive me for not appreciating the winter months more.  I definitely should have taken the time to rest.  These are a few of my de-stressing activities.  What are yours? Please do share; I know we can learn from each other.closing1brenda

 

 

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Life – Steps to upgrade your life

Photo by Vinicius Wiesehofer on Unsplash

These 4 Mindset Shifts Will Give You Unprecedented Personal Growth By 2019

4 steps to upgrade your life

“Most people drift through life without devoting much conscious energy to figuring out specifically what they want and what they need to do to get themselves there.” -Darren Hardy

Your level of talent and “potential” is irrelevant if it’s trapped in a mediocre mindset.

Most people don’t put much energy into their fame of mind and how they see the world. As a result, most people are left with subpar mindsets that severely limit their ability to build wealth, develop relationships, and achieve far more than their peers.

But you have the power to choose. If you put in the work, you can change your frame of mind to allow yourself to accomplish incredible victories, very quickly. Sometimes, big changes come in small packages.

Mental visualization precedes physical achievement. Before you can accomplish anything significant, your mind must believe you can first. This is why most people won’t build wealth, won’t have great relationships, and won’t achieve their highest goals.

Here are 4 mindset shifts that will give you unprecedented growth this year if you start developing them today.

A Wealth Mentality (Not a Poverty Mindset)

“Look upon your own mind as a garden. You are a gardener, and you are planting seeds (or thoughts) in your subconscious mind all day long, based on your habitual thinking. As you sow in your subconscious mind, so shall you reap in your body and environment.” -Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

Growing up, I saw my family go through financial ruin. The family business went under, and we lost the cars and the house. My dad had to leave the country to find work when I was 17 because there was no work during the recession. The rest of us had to move in to my grandpa’s cramped 3-bedroom house.

This experience taught me a few things. First, I believed money would always run out in the end. Second, the best I could hope for was a guaranteed salary with benefits, protection from the imminent financial disaster waiting to strike.

This is a poverty mindset, and I had it for many years. I worried excessively about not spending a few extra dollars if I didn’t need to. I focused more on hoarding pennies than I did on earning more income.

The Poverty Mindset believes:

  • “Money doesn’t grow on trees”
  • You’ll never be rich
  • Job security is more important than career freedom
  • Disaster is imminent, you need to be ready
  • Rich people are selfish and oppressive
  • Money is precious and you need to grab what you can
  • Worry about today’s bills, not your legacy
  • Government aid is more important than developing personal financial literacy

In the words of Robert Kiyosaki from his book Rich Dad Poor Dad:

“Most people live their lives chasing paychecks, pay raises, and job security because of the emotions of desire and fear, not really questioning where these emotions-driven thoughts are taking them.”

The poverty mindset is shared by more people than not. There’s an old saying that says if you took all the money in the world and divided it up equally, five years later the rich would be rich again, the middle class would return to the middle class, and the poor would become poor again. The statement obviously a big generalization, but the principle is extremely important:

Most people will remain in their current status as long as they don’t have a fundamental mindset shift.

If you want enormous success in 2019, you need to start this mindset shift now. If you continue to embrace the poverty mindset — “money doesn’t grow on trees” and are more focused on getting enough government aid than developing your own financial skills — you’ll always stay where you are.

The abundance mindset shifts from the statement “I can’t afford that” to the question, “How can I afford that?

A wealth mentality enables you to think in 100x and 1000x magnitude. Most people are more concerned with getting their next 3% raise; having a wealth mentality opens your creativity and imagination to allow you to discover ways to make 100x your usual income.

What you truly believe about yourself is what you become. If you truly believe in your ability to create wealth, your mind will figure out a means how.

“Belief, strong belief, triggers the mind to figure out ways and means how to.” -Dr. David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Be Open to Correction and Feedback (Most People Aren’t)

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” -Sheryl Sandberg

You don’t have to love it. You don’t have to smile or enjoy it.

But if you want enormous personal growth, you need to open yourself up to correction.

Getting negative feedback about yourself almost always sucks. At best, it’s uncomfortable. It’s exhausting to manage your emotions and instinct to defend yourself and hear how you weren’t good enough.

Back at my old corporate job, I remember insisting to my boss that I was totally open to feedback, and wanted to hear all about my shortcomings so I could address them and make them better. In her wisdom, she graciously responded that every time she had brought up feedback for me, I’d get defensive and sulky and bitter.

I could’ve sworn I was happy and cool about it.

I wasn’t. Most people aren’t. That’s fine. You don’t have to like it. But this mindset shift is one of the most important skills you can develop before 2019. If you want to see enormous improvement in any area of your life — from presentation skills to meditation to communicating with your partner — you need to be open to correction and feedback.

This is the core of Deliberate Practice. In his book Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson wrote:

“Once a person reaches an ‘acceptable’ level of performances and automaticity, more years of practice don’t lead to improvement.”

If you keep doing things the exact same way, you’ll just keep getting the same average result. Elite practice means getting feedback and learning from your mistakes. But naive practice is doing it over and over expecting repetition alone will help you. You need an outside eye to point out what you can’t see.

Here’s something that helps. Don’t take it personally, because it’s usually not. It’s professional. And if you want more money, more sales, more influence, more progress, more satisfaction, you need to tweak your professional abilities.

A mentor of mine once gave a sales presentation for his company. He boldly asked a peer to watch and give him feedback on his performance. After the presentation was over, his peer had plenty of negative feedback and notes to work on.

Most people would naturally get defensive and perhaps even deny the criticism. But my mentor took it in stride by telling himself, “It’s not personal. It’s business. I want to get better — this is how I do that.

He knew that if he wanted to be a better speaker, he’d need to learn more skills and techniques. The best and most efficient way to do that is getting immediate and detailed feedback.

You don’t have to like it. But if you (truly) open yourself up to hearing corrections about yourself, you set yourself up to improve faster than 99% of your peers.

“The right sort of practice can help pretty much anyone improve in just about any area they choose to focus on.” -Anders Ericsson

Focus on Learning and Creating, Not Entertainment and Distraction

“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.” -Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert comics

Most people are distracted right now.

They’re distracted while they’re at work. They’re distracted when they’re with family and friends. They’re distracted at the gym, on their commute, and even in the shower.

The majority of people will continue going through life this way, never experiencing the fullness of a life filled with deep focus and purpose. They use their sharpest focus on the very things that don’t matter, and waste their potential.

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport explained how people with the ability to do deep work — intense focus on important tasks for long periods of time — are exceedingly rare in society at the same time that the necessity of the skill is increasing. In other words, the best jobs, projects, and opportunities are given more and more to individuals who can focus.

Most people don’t prioritize learning and creating. They don’t care enough about any efforts to invest in their personal development and growth. To them, entertainment is more important. Most people have replaced achieving their life dreams and goals with TV, partying, and social media.

As a result, most don’t have close relationships. They’re stuck in jobs they hate, rarely doing work that truly excites them. Their life is on the fast-track to disappointment, and they don’t know what to do about it.

If you don’t want to end up living a life of mediocrity, focus on learning and education. It’s the fastest way to become extraordinary, wealthy, and successful.

Wrote best-selling author Hal Elrod:

“Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

If you want enormous personal and professional success in 2019, you need to shift your focus from entertainment to learning and creating. Your level of success in any area of your life — health, finances, career, relationships — is determined by your personal development.

What you focus on is what you get.

“The goal of life is not to relax on the beach, sipping mojitos all day. The purpose is to find something you love that adds value to the world.” -Ben Foley

Treat Your Loved Ones Like You Actually Love Them

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” -Ernest Hemingway

Low-quality relationships have a negative impact on every area of your life.

If you take your relationships for granted and never take the time to develop and nurture them, every part of your life suffers — your health, emotions, potential, even income.

The truth is, the quality of your relationships is totally in your control. Despite this, most people can’t be bothered to learn how to communicate. This is why most people will never have great relationships — they choose the easy way out.

It’s easier to take relationships for granted, even with those closest to you. But if you want enormous satisfaction and fulfillment in the key areas of your life in 2019, you need to develop your relational skills. In the words of Tony Robbins:

“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.”

You can’t achieve incredible leaps in success without working with other people. I used to think you could go as far as you wanted by yourself; I was wrong. There’s an old African proverb that goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Here’s a personal example. I’ve been writing for a long time. Sometimes, I have great months where I reach a ton of people and get dozens of emails from readers who tell me my writing changed their life. I sell my courses and feel great.

But other months, it feels like I didn’t accomplish anything. No one emails me; no one buys my stuff. I feel like a failure. I feel like I’m not good-enough; I feel like the jig is up, and the truth is revealed — I’m a loser who just got lucky.

This is where relationships save my ass. My wife reassures me that the lies I’m believing are just that — lies. My best friends encourage me and tell me to keep writing. It’s not about what I feel, it’s about what I do consistently. I feel a little better. The month ends, and I feel refreshed and self-confident.

If you treat your loved ones like you actually love them, you receive exponentially more in return than you give. That’s how the world works: as best-selling author Derek Sivers once said:

“The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers.”

This mindset shift is extremely important. If you want to see unprecedented success in 2019, start focusing on this principle now. The quality of your relationships determine the quality of your life.

In Conclusion

“How much you improve is up to you.” -Anders Ericsson

Most people aren’t even preparing for next month’s progress, much less next year’s.

But the truth is, the world’s most successful spend enormous time and energy preparing for their future and improving their mindset. They know this is the difference between making an extra $1,000 this year, or an extra $100,000.

They know their ability to progress and grow is founded on their relationships, and focus their attention on developing and nurturing their relationships.

You need to start planning for the future now, and these 4 mindset shifts are some of the most important ways to do that.

Life – Increase Your Satisfaction and Contentment

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

How to Increase Your Satisfaction and Contentment (upgrade from “worried” to peaceful)

“You can accomplish tremendous things in your remaining years if you will design them before you live them.” -Jim Rohn

I only have 17,374 days left to live.

After calculating the average life span of men from my country, with all available medical history of my genetics, my approximate “last day” is around 17,374 days from now.

Then I’ll die.

This “death clock” idea has become popularized in recent years; some individuals have even placed their countdown on their computer screens, to remind them that life is short. This reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest by the character Prospero: “Every third thought shall be my grave.”

That might be a bit much. But contemplating my eventual demise hasn’t felt like a disturbing, morbid cloak that suffocates me; it’s made me feel bright and spritzy. I feel lighter than ever.

Here’s the first thing I’ve realized:

Most of What We Do Doesn’t Matter

“I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” -Tim Ferriss

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby ($100 million dollars in sales), once described an important lesson he learned riding his bike in Los Angeles:

I lived right on the beach in Santa Monica, where there’s this great bike path that for 25 miles. I’d go onto the bike path and push it — just red-faced huffing, all the way, pushing it as hard as I could, and I’d set my timer. I noticed it was always 43 minutes.

“But then I thought, ‘Why don’t I just chill? For once, I’ll go at half my normal pace.’ I went on the same bike ride, and I noticed that I was standing up, looking around more. I looked into the ocean. I noticed a pelican flying above me. It was purely pleasant. There was no red face, there was no huffing. And when I got back to my usual stopping place, I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes. And I thought, ‘There’s no way.’”

“All that huffing and puffing and all that red face was only for an extra 2 minutes. It was basically for nothing.

Photo by Jonny Kennaugh on Unsplash

Most of your frantic commutes through traffic, yelling into your phone, and breathless rushes between appointments are for things that, frankly, don’t really matter.

The truth is, most of what we do in modern society doesn’t truly matter. Not that our lives are pointless; it’s that we rarely create truly beautiful things, or practice our art in its purest, cleanest form.

No — more likely we’re meeting marketing deadlines so we can sell more stuff. Most of us aren’t inventing the cure for Lupus, we’re editing our email to our boss. We’re not hyper-focused on our lover’s opal-colored eyes over dinner, we’re posting another picture of our food.

All this red-faced huffing is basically for nothing. Want to increase your contentment and joy? Be be kinder to yourself. It might sounds silly, but relax more. Giggle at your partner’s sexy nose crinkle when she smells something funky. Try to figure out if there’s any object in the world with precisely the same orange hue as tonight’s sunset.

Eminem had a lyric that always resonated with me: “I bully myself, cause I make me do what I put my mind to,” he snarled. Amen, I’d say with a clenched fist in the car. If I want results, I can’t afford to take breaks.

In the past year, I’ve changed my mind. There’s a season for work-hard-all-day, I get it. I’ve been there. But I can achieve almost my goals and still be kind to myself, and increase my joy and peace instead of running on 100% adrenaline as I imagine my darkest fears coming true.

Most of what we do doesn’t matter. Focus on what does, and stop taking yourself so seriously.

“Busyness” is a Disease That Needs to Be Cured

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” -Tim Krieder

Whenever I talk to an old friend or colleague and ask them how they’ve been, the answer is almost always some form of, “So busy.” “Really busy.” “Crazy-busy.”

As Tim Krieder wrote in his essay “The Busy Trap,” this answer is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. We like being busy. It makes us feel important, needed. We can’t have an empty life if we’re busy, right?

Actually, we can. Busyness consumes your remaining days and years, leaving you with nothing but the sinking feeling that it’s all going by too fast. It’s busyness that makes us think, “Wasn’t my daughter just learning to talk yesterday?” at her 10-year birthday party. It’s busyness that makes you dread your own 40th birthday party.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Often times, we’re busy to avoid the very thing we most need to do. If I’m caught up in email replies, I have a small reprieve from the anxiety about an upcoming meeting with an intimidating person. Same goes for checking my bank account that I know needs looking at or having a hard conversation with my wife.

Busyness is not a badge of honor (though most people treat it like one). It’s not proof you’re important; it’s proof you’re lazy. Busyness is a type of laziness; it means you didn’t set boundaries for your time and couldn’t say “no” when you should’ve.

Busyness is a disease. It distracts you from what’s really important and gives you an excuse to avoid the real work.

The most successful performers in the world aren’t “busy,” they’re focused. The busy person performs many tasks with minimal results; the focused person performs few tasks with incredible results.

When I was teaching English in South Korea with my wife, I had made the commitment to focus solely on my writing. Once I did, I was assailed by a sudden influx of (lucrative) opportunities — private tutoring, basketball coaching, freelance gigs, drumming at a local church, etc. I could’ve become “very busy” very quickly.

But I said no to all of them. I committed to my writing. By the end of the year, I had started a viable personal business making thousands of dollars, seeing tens of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of thousands of views.

This is the result of being focused.

Busyness is simply a type of laziness. If you do not set boundaries for your time, the endless stream of requests and chores to do will own you.

Design Your Environment or Become a Victim of It

“If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.” -Marshall Goldsmith

Even the most effective, elite performers in the world have a hard time doing what they need to do if they’re in a bad environment.

Our environment enables (or disables) you to do what you’re trying to do. It’s practically impossible to be disciplined and consistent in an environment that actively encourages you not to.

This was another huge lesson I learned after moving to South Korea. Back in California, I had gotten nowhere with my writing. I was fat, lazy, bored, and instead of staying home writing, my wife and I were growing our beer bellys and breweries and burger joints. There was always something to do (besides work).

In Korea, there were no craft beer bars. We weren’t invited out to dinner and drinks anymore. It was school during the day and chicken breast with bell peppers at night.

The environment enabled massive growth for my writing. I started posting every day, and in a 6 month period, I gained 20,000+ new email subscribers. My writing quality increased mightily. I started selling an online course that made me thousands of dollars. I launched another one making me thousands more.

In the words of national best-selling author and financial guru Dave Ramsey:

“I had to quit telling myself that I had innate discipline and fabulous natural self-control. That is a lie. I have to put systems and programs in place that make me do smart things.”

I’m not a paragon of grit and discipline; even if I was, it would help only minimally. Even the most talented and disciplined people in the world have a hard time following their own advice.

That’s why your environment is so important. It enables even the most inexperienced amateur to achieve consistency and enormous, never-before-seen results.

You don’t need to travel overseas to enter a better environment. But you do need to change your current one if you want more satisfaction and less worry.

In Conclusion

I suppose it’s possible that I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting I hadn’t written more, didn’t wake up early enough, or worked harder and made more money.

But I think what I’ll really wish is that I played just one more round of Halo Reach with Drew, played one more pick-up basketball game with Jeff and Grant, one last belly-laugh with Rebecca.

Life is too short to be busy.

“The largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose.” Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

How to Build a New Habit

How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide

According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.  Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.

But there can be a lot of information out there and most of it isn’t very simple to digest. To solve this problem and break things down in a very simple manner, I have created this strategy guide for how to build new habits that actually stick.

Even more detailed information is available in my free guide, Transform Your Habits, but the basic principles mentioned in this article will be more than enough to get you going.

1. Start with an incredibly small habit.

Make it so easy you can’t say no.
—Leo Babauta

start small habits (build new habits)

When most people struggle to build new habits, they say something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do.”

This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Stanford professor BJ Fogg calls this the “motivation wave.”

Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.

Further reading: Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals

2. Increase your habit in very small ways.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

tiny gains with habits (build new habits)

One percent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one percent declines.

Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.

Further reading: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened

3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.

break down your habits (build new habits)

If you continue adding one percent each day, then you’ll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish.

Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first.

Trying to do 50 pushups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier as you make your way there.

Further reading: I’m Using These 3 Simple Steps to Actually Stick with Good Habits

4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.

The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.
—Kelly McGonigal

never miss habits twice (build new habits)

Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible.

Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.

You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track?

You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.

Further reading: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”

5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.

sustain your habits (build new habits)

Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.

If you are adding weight in the gym, you should probably go slower than you think. If you are adding daily sales calls to your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain.

New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does. 

If you want more practical ideas for how to build new habits (and break bad ones), check out my book Atomic Habits, which will show you how small changes in habits can lead to remarkable results.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Habits: A Repeat Performance by David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn
  2. Special thanks to BJ Fogg, Leo Babauta, and Kelly McGonigal for their research and work on habit formation and willpower. I have learned a lot from each of you.

Improve Your Self-Compassion

How to Improve Your Self-Compassion

Exercises to become kinder towards yourself

Pic by Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

“Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.”— Nathaniel Branden

Self-compassion beats self-confidence anytime, as I wrote in my previous post. I discussed how overconfidence and narcism force us to compare to others, they blind us and make us feel miserable when things go wrong.

Being self-compassionate is like fresh oxygen to your mind.

Here are some exercises for you to put on your oxygen mask first.

1. Reframe your thoughts

When your inner voice is making critical judgments, moderate those thoughts by making them conscious.

Reframe your judgmental words in a positive way.

The above are just examples, use your own words. Find a way to observe yourself through a kinder lens. The idea is not to lower your bar but rather focus on what you can improve — criticism will only get you stuck.

2. The criticizer, the criticized, and the compassionate observer

This exercise by Kristin Neff is inspired on the two-chair dialogue.

You will sit in three different chairs — arranged in a triangle form — each representing a different perspective. Refocus your thoughts and feelings on being supportive and caring of yourself.

Identify an issue. Start at the ‘self-critic’ chair and express out loud your thoughts and feelings. Move to the ‘criticized’ chair — empathize with how your inner-critic makes you feel. Conduct a dialogue between the two trying to integrate both perspectives.

Lastly, take the ‘compassionate observer’ and try to make sense of the overall situation as if you were observing someone else. What does your ‘compassionate-self’ say to the ‘critic,’ what insight does it have?

Reflect on the learning. Check out the in-depth version here.

3. The Compassionate Letter

The purpose of this exercise to write a letter to yourself as if you would address a friend that is suffering and being harsh on herself/ himself.

Writing will help you tone down negative emotions and be more kind to yourself — treat yourself the way you want your loved ones to treat you.

This letter is a space to express what you are going through and how you are feeling — focus on how you’d like to feel. Provide yourself some words of encouragement and some small steps that can move you in the right direction.

Reflect how you talk, and how you would like to talk, to yourself.

You can record yourself and then listen to the recording the following day, or you can read it out loud to a friend. The purpose of listening to your own voice is to take some distance — observe yourself without being emotionally attached.

How I Built a Successful Brand With No Marketing Budget

Picture the scene: It’s August 2017. I’ve just left my job at TripAdvisor and arrived at my next adventure: A building site.

Backstory: I had just joined a brand new company called LABS. The vision was to build a premium co-working space. The reality, however? A building site in a saturated market, with no brand, website or identity.

Damn.

Fast forward fourteen weeks later, and we filled the building — all six floors of it — with nil marketing budget. In less than a year, we’ve hosted events with the likes of Twitter and Spotify, built a recognisable brand, and are now opening our sixth (SIXTH!) building in London.

But how did we do it? And what did I, as a marketer, learn along the way? Here, I’m sharing the six key takeaways the experience has taught me so far.


1. IDENTIFY YOUR ‘RIDE OR DIE’ MESSAGING

It’s official. Research shows that, now more than ever, consumers are looking for brands to court them with transparency, simplicity and evidence.

In short, your brand’s story matters.

Your messaging is your brand’s ethos. Your ‘ride or die’ mission. And, most importantly, your why.

“Every business knows WHAT they do. Many businesses know HOW they do it. But very few know WHY, and that’s the sweet spot. The result. The cause. The belief. The single thing that’s going to make you stand out in a sea of saturation.” — Simon Sinek.

RESOURCE: This strategic messaging map is a great place to start. And once you have your messaging in place? Remember:

  1. Consistency. Every communication — from your homepage heading to your sales brochure — should align with your messaging framework.
  2. Accountability. Make sure every single person in your business is aware of it, and every marketing decision is determined by it.

2. INVEST IN USER RESEARCH, NOT MARKET RESEARCH.

Engaging with your desired customer directly, and placing them at the forefront of everything you do is one of the smartest things you can do for your business. Fact.

My team and I became obsessed with asking our first clients their opinions (and actually listening!). The result? A roadmap that’s driven not by our preconceived ideas, but by the pain points of our users.

And it needn’t cost much, either. For the price of a few coffees, you can gather opinions that will save you serious time and money along the way.

Interview your first clients, your dream clients AND your lost clients. A few of my favourite questions include:

  • What’s your first impression of our product?
  • What’s the one thing you wish we offered?
  • What is your biggest challenges and how can we help solve it?

3. KNOW THAT IRL INTERACTION HAS NEVER BEEN SO IMPORTANT.

Want to know the biggest marketing channel we developed at LABS? Events. Yep. Old school, IRL events.

Why? Because events bring eyeballs. And people bring lessons (on lessons, on lessons, on lessons).

With research showing that 75% of Millennials and Gen Z prefer experiences over things, and event attendance on the rise, events are as an effective an acquisition channel as any.

Tap into your local entrepreneurial ecosystem and work that room. (And if your area doesn’t have one? Create one.) Reach out to people unashamedly. Host product launches or “appy hours”. Partner with aligned brands for sponsorship opportunities. Think about where your target customer is and be there. Consistently.

Show up, share and know that everyone had to start somewhere.

4. SPEND MORE TIME THAN MONEY ON SOCIAL.

“People are so infatuated with what’s next, they don’t focus on what’s actually happening. Don’t worry about voice. Don’t worry about Augmented Reality. Don’t worry about Blockchain. Don’t worry about anything. Attack Facebook!” — Gary Vaynerchuk.

How do you build social with no budget? Through community.

In practical terms, this means ditching vanity metrics and focusing on building a community of likeminded people who care and engage.

Take Instagram, for example.

Identify the best and most relevant hashtags to follow in your industry and do so (a mixture of well-known and lesser-know hashtags works best, FYI). Leave a comment on the relevant photos under those hashtags. Respond to comments. Like, engage, respond, share, repeat.

If you’re still questioning the ROI of social media, don’t. A good social media profile is an invaluable credibility play and one of the most effective ways of engaging with — and learning from — your target customers.

5. CONTENT IS KING, BUT WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING CONQUERS ALL.

It’s 2018 and I’m still all about that referral scheme life. Dropbox, Paypal and Harry’s were all built on referral schemes, after all.

And the best part? You don’t even need customers to get started.

At LABS, we opened our referral scheme up to anyone and everyone. If you had someone to refer, we wanted to hear about them. What’s stopping you from doing the same with your business?

The secret is to make it ridiculously easy for people to invite their friends, give clear incentives and make the messaging benefit-driven for your customers, not for you.

Get it right and your customers will do your marketing for you.

6. CUT CORNERS + EMBRACE THE MESS.

“If you’re not embarrassed by your first release, you’ve released it too late” — Mark Zuckerberg

At LABS we made mistakes fast, but learned even faster. We tested obsessively and celebrated our failures as much as our successes, because forward is forward.

It’s that Silicon Valley, Lean Startup-inspired mentality:

Every day, there are new competitors, new threats, new opportunities. Look for the lessons, face them head on and you can’t go wrong.

Life – Right Way to Restore a Relationship

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship (lessons from 15 years of burning bridges)

I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

I’ve done a lot of hurtful things, said hurtful stuff, and was a complete asshole to many people I loved, who loved me back and deserved better. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

At times, I still marvel at how stupid I was. How conceited and profoundly self-absorbed I was. And how I didn’t even see it.

But in the process, I’ve learned how to restore those relationships (some of them, at least. Some people still won’t talk to me).

Years of a severe pornography addiction left me frozen as an immature, whiny brat who would never take responsibility for his actions. It took 5 years of gut-wrenching therapy and brutally honest sponsors in 12-step programs to learn how to truly apologize and restore relationships I broke.

That’s what this post is about: how to restore broken relationships that were broken by you.

Because whether I like it or not, I have major experience with that.

It’s Your Fault. Shut Up and Admit It.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you want them to).

A lot of people have shallow, even ruined relationships. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize. This is a pride thing; it’s a weakness, and it destroys relationships.

If you want to restore a broken relationship into an incredible one…make the first move.

Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

I can’t forget a certain day in 3rd grade. It was during recess.

There was this girl Sandra in my class. She was nice. Both of us were trying to grab one of the few soccer balls from the ball barrel, and I remember accidentally tripping her as I grabbed one.

She fell on the floor. Angry tears welled up in her eyes. I can still remember the look of shock and humiliation on her face.

I should’ve said I was sorry.

I should’ve helped her up. I probably should’ve given her the ball, too.

But I didn’t. I just ran off, leaving her on the floor.

After recess, Mrs. Salinas pulled me and Sandra outside.

Anthony, did you push Sandra onto the floor at recess?” she demanded in disbelief.

I denied it. It wasn’t my fault, I reasoned. It was an “accident.” I didn’t meanto! I wasn’t willing to take responsibility.

Mrs. Salinas forced me to apologize.

Sandra never talked to me again.

Here’s a lesson that took several dozen times to finally stick:

If you did something wrong, shut up and admit it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame someone else. Even if it was an accident — even if you didn’t mean to — that doesn’t matter. If you want to restore a broken relationships, be the first to own what you did.

Otherwise, your relationships will always be strained and mediocre.

The Most Important Lesson About Relationships I Learned From a 12-Step Program

The day after I quit my corporate job before I left to teach English overseas, I published an article that would eventually destroy every relationship I had with all my old colleagues.

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Frankly, it still haunts me sometimes, because many people are still hurt by what I said. Some people still aren’t willing to speak to me.

Basically, I wrote an article condemning 9–5 jobs and essentially called all my old coworkers a bunch of cowards for wasting their life in corporate America. In efforts to be “gritty” and authentic, I was actually just an asshole.

I wouldn’t find out until months later that my entire department read it (what did I think would happen?). I naively emailed my old boss one day from overseas saying hello. I was shocked at her scathing response, informing me neither her nor anyone else wanted anything to do with me, and how much I had hurt them with my words.

There is only one response you can make in this situation. And this still doesn’t guarantee anything.

Make amends.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

I’d never used that phrase until I got into recovery and counseling. Essentially, making amends is a way to take ownership for wrong you’ve done in hopes of reconciliation.

Making amends has a few parts:

1. Write down exactly what you did wrong, and to whom

2. Write down why it was wrong (be specific)

3. Take complete ownership for the hurt you caused

4. Tell the hurt person everything you wrote down in a sincere apology (if appropriate)

The only way I was ever going to hope to restore anything with my old coworkers was to make individual, direct amends with anyone still willing to listen (some still aren’t).

So that’s what I did. I told my boss how awful my article was, and why (it was demeaning, hurtful, and profoundly ungrateful). I didn’t make any excuses — I owned the entire screwup.

Miraculously, months later she ended up forgiving me.

Of course, things can never go back to the way they were. There’s still a divide of hurt that probably won’t ever go away.

When you hurt someone like this, you have to “take care of your side of the street.” Do everything you can to make things right.

Making Amends is the Single Best Way to Restore a Broken Relationship

I’ve gone through the process of making amends more times than I can remember:

  • To my childhood friends for gossiping about them
  • To my old writing hero for accidental plagiarizing their work
  • To my best friend for not giving him credit for his ideas
  • To my old girlfriend for liking another girl while I was still dating her
  • To my cousin for constantly ditching him for my friends

I could write dozens more. Goes to show all the hurt I’ve caused, even if it was unintentional.

But miraculously, I’ve restored many of these relationships, through making amends.

Making amends is the single best way to restore broken relationships. It’s one of the most mature, adult actions you can possibly take.

I know I’m going to hurt people down the road, however unintentional. I’m not perfect.

But I can always make proper amends: realize what I did, why it was wrong, and communicate how sorry I am.

In Conclusion

“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden

The simple truth is, most people won’t have great relationships.

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).

Many people have several strained, even broken relationships with family and friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.

If you want to restore a relationship and experience a deep, meaningful bond with that person, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Send the first text
  • Say you miss them
  • Say you love them
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Organize a hangout
  • Compliment them
  • Thank them
  • Tell them you appreciate what they did

There’s no reason to not restore a broken relationship if it’s in your power to do so.

Life – How to Avoid Divorce

Artwork by John P. Weiss

How to Avoid Divorce and Improve Your Relationship

A Cartoon Tutorial

According to the American Psychological Association, about 40–50% of married couples in the United States divorce. It’s even higher for second marriages.

Stress, financial strain, infidelity, addictions, and personal changes are all factors that can lead to divorce. Yet, despite these challenges, research shows that married couples tend to be happier, healthier and wealthier than their unhitched friends.

Companionship and love are wonderful things, but they require care and attention. Like flowers in a garden, if you ignore them, they’ll wither and die.

How are you doing with your flowers? Are you paying regular attention to your garden? If you want things to bloom and thrive in your relationship, here are a few suggestions.


Invest in the emotional bank account

Relationships are a lot like banking. If you keep taking out withdrawals, your bank account will dwindle and soon you’ll be broke. So it is with a relationship. If all you do is take, and never give, you’ll deplete your partner’s “emotional bank account.”

The solution is to make regular deposits. Random and unexpected acts of kindness and love.

Bring her flowers. Not on her birthday or Valentines day. Do it on a Tuesday, when she gets home from work. Just because you love her.

Surprise him when he gets home by taking him to his favorite sports pub. Then hit the movies, where you bought tickets to the latest super-hero movie (even though you hate super-hero movies).

I talk about this idea, and more broadly about the “bank account of human dignity” in the following blog post:

The point is, it can’t just be about you in a relationship. You need to make deposits in that emotional bank account. Because sooner or later you’ll anger or disappoint your partner, and it’s good to have investments to soften the blow.


Who holds the most power?

Healthy and strong relationships are a partnership. Each person brings positive qualities and contributions to the relationship.

Unfortunately, some relationships can become lopsided. One person ends up driving the relationship more than the other.

The late Dr. Gordon Livingston was a psychiatrist and author of several books, including the excellent, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now.

Chapter five of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is titled:

“Any relationship is under control of the person who cares the least.”

Who do you think controls this relationship?

I have witnessed this reality in my 26 year police career, responding to domestic violence calls.

When one person gives up on a relationship, it’s nearly impossible for the other person to turn things around. The one who cares the least has all the power.

How do couples avoid this from happening?


I need to talk with you

You know how sometimes you can tell that she’s mad at you, but you’re not sure why? She’s just a tad distant and snippy.

So what do you do? You play this game of tit for tat. You give her a bit of the silent treatment. Or perhaps you do something that will annoy her.

How stupid is that? Why not walk right up to her and say, “Hey, what’s wrong?” Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

For some reason, our emotions get the best of us and we avoid honest and direct conversation. Maybe we’re worried that asking tough questions will invite an argument. But in reality, letting things fester is far worse.

Little, unattended resentments grow over time, like a spreading cancer. Before long, the relationship is in stage four trouble. The only solution is preventative medicine. And that means having the courage to speak up at the first sign of trouble.

Like it or not, adversity is part of all relationships. Disagreements and challenges will intrude, sooner or later, in each of our relationships.

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
— Epicurus

Happiness in our relationships is not a constant state of being. It comes and goes. Perhaps that’s what makes happiness so wonderful. If we felt it all the time, it wouldn’t be as special.

So, for the times when adversity strikes, have the courage to face it. Don’t be afraid or procrastinate when it comes to difficult conversations. The sooner you address the issues, the faster you can fix them.


The gift of validation

A lot of guys are terrible at this one. We tend to approach problems with logic instead of our hearts. When our partners are pouring out feelings and emotional struggles, they don’t want logical solutions.

All they want is our empathy. Our understanding. Our non-judgmental listening, hugs and, “Poor baby, I can see why you feel that way.”

Why is it so hard for us to simply acknowledge what another is feeling? Why must be always try to fix everything?

The gift of validation is that you recognize and acknowledge what your partner is feeling. Even if you think they are wrong to feel the way they do, it’s not your emotion to comment on. It belongs to them.

Give the gift of validation. Let him or her take the time to talk about how they feel, without solutions or judgement from you. By doing so, they’ll trust you more. Later on, they’ll be more open to your suggestions and solutions.


Stop trying to change your partner

Your spouse is not you, so why do you keep trying to make him/her act like you? We are all individuals, with our own tastes, likes, habits and orientations.

When we fall in love, we are enamored with the uniqueness of our partner. If we were identical, that would be boring.

But for some reason, as relationships march on and the novelty of newness wanes, we change. We stop admiring the uniqueness of our partner and demand compliance with our way of doing things.

This is crazy. By adulthood, people are largely formed. Yes, they can adopt new habits and improve themselves, but the motivation for this must come from within.

Nagging and negative pressure rarely work for the long haul. You may gain temporary compliance, but it can breed resentment.

Positive reinforcement and coming from a loving place is more desirable. Gentle encouragement and honest, open communication go much further than hectoring and nagging.

Yes, sometimes relationships confront a crisis. Maybe his drinking has gotten out of hand, and you have to lay everything on the line. “Get help,” you’ll tell him, or you’re gone.

Sometimes an ultimatum can work, if it comes from a loving and honest place. “I love you, darling, but I can’t tolerate your drug addiction anymore. Let’s get you help. Otherwise, it’s unhealthy for me to continue this way.” That’s an honest, loving statement. It’s more likely to work than endless nagging and yelling.

Of course, in the end, we must always take care of ourselves. If the relationship turns abusive, or our partner is lost in addiction, it’s unhealthy for us to endure such challenges.

Sometimes our exit can force our partner to face the truth of his/her problem. Sometimes not, but at least we protect ourselves from a dysfunctional, destructive relationship.

However, for the day to day struggles of relationships, we must stop trying to change our partners. His musical tastes are different than yours. Your favorite sport is different than his. He likes a firm bed, you like a soft one. So what? Variety is the spice of life.

Still, if something your partner does really bugs you, what do you do?


Embrace the power of compromise

So many disagreements in life can be ameliorated with compromise. Yet, for some reason, we have such a hard time doing it.

Perhaps it stems back to childhood, when we are more fragile and selfish? Some people seem to endlessly battle everything. Their bosses, the morning traffic, sales persons. Everywhere they turn, they have a complaint. They feel put upon and wronged.

Such people lack resilience, and view everyone and everything around them as wrong. They never stop to consider that maybe, the problem lies with them. They are blind to the fact that they are too demanding, unforgiving and incapable of compromise.

And so they go through life miserable. What a terrible way to live. The reality is that none of us get our way all the time. That’s just part of life. However, through open and fair negotiation, we can reach compromises.

“I simply do not think that yelling, swearing, threatening or belittling will get you to the place you want to be faster than kindness, understanding, patience and a little willingness to compromise.” — Rachel Nichols

The beauty of compromise is that we all can get a portion of what we want. That’s called a win/win, and it’s the only sane way to navigate life. And especially your relationship.

If you want to avoid divorce and keep those embers of love glowing, learn to embrace compromise.


Don’t hold on too tight

Freedom to be ourselves is an important thing. Each of us develop our own styles, interests, likes and way of being. Nothing is more stifling than to be in a relationship with someone who denies us our individuality.

Insecure people have a hard time with uncertainty. They feel the need to control everything, including their partners. They hold on too tight.

This is unfortunate, because no one likes being controlled by another. Healthy relationships must allow for one another’s individuality. Two people should complement one another, not control one another.

Possessiveness is yet another manifestation of insecurity. We can never “own” or “control” another person, nor should we try to. We should simply love and respect them.

“Relationships-of all kinds-are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
 — Kaleel Jamison

Forgiveness

We all have some grievances in life to which we are entitled. The question is, what do we do with them?

Some people are endless scorekeepers, always blaming people and institutions for all their woes. As Dr. Gordon Livingston wrote:

“We live in a culture in which the sense of being wronged is pervasive. If every misfortune can be blamed on someone else, we are relived of the difficult task of examining our own contributory behavior or just accepting the reality that life is and has been full of adversity.”

Once we accept that people (including ourselves) are not perfect, we can learn the power of forgiveness. The ability to let go of the hurt, anger and pain frees us. As Dr. Gordon Livingston notes:

“Widely confused with forgetting or reconciliation, forgiveness is neither. It is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves. It exists, as does all true healing, at the intersection of love and justice.”

Learn to forgive others, especially your spouse. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Doing so will help insulate you against divorce, and the unhealthy effects on buried anger.

Sometimes you can do everything right, and your spouse chooses to end the relationship anyway. As with so many things in life, control is illusory. Never the less, the joys of a healthy, loving relationship are many.

Invest in that emotional bank account, share equal power, communicate, validate, stop nagging, compromise, don’t hold on too tight, and most importantly, forgive.

Do these things, and you stand a good chance of enjoying a lifelong, fulfilling and loving marriage. Best of luck!